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Pride

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It is a matter of success and downfall, of life and death, of love and pride.

It's a game only one of us can lose.

And it's not going to be me.


 

 

Prologue

 

 

My hands are trembling.

In fear? No. Of course not. You fucking wish.

They're tightened into fists, ready to land on one of the faces in front of me. The smug looks they give me are very identical to their boss.

Like him, I'll strangle these idiots with my bare hands. I'll keep their boss for finale.

"You don't have plans of stepping aside, do you?" I grin.

"Boss doesn't have time for you, little kid. Go home."

"Tell him I don't have the time for his nonsense either." I say sharply, "You know what, I'll tell him that. Get out of my way."

I took one more step and all of them did the same, blocking my way even more.

"Do I look like I'm fucking playing with all of you now, sick bastards?" I hiss through gritted teeth, "Get out of my fucking way!"

They share glances with one another, taken aback by my sudden outburst. I try to walk in between them towards the door but they still refuse.

Another attempt and I yelp in pain when my bum falls on the floor as they push me harshly.

I grit my teeth harder. Okay. It's okay. Calm yourself...

"Fuck y—!"

"What is that ugly noise all about? I'm trying to work here."

My sharp gaze moves toward the attached speaker on the office door. The voice itself is enough to intensify every bit of rage I have in my system. His fake curious tone won't fool me. I know he's grinning from ear to ear while sitting on his million dollar desk. Probably even paid it with the money he scammed from us.

"Boss, there's just someone making a scene here but we assure you we'll make him leave shortly."

I chuckle sarcastically. Like you can, huh?

"Ah...roaches are really common these days, aren't they?" now the amusement in his tone is obvious, "Make sure to step on them before kicking them out of here, okay?"

How fucking dare him?

Now the guards barely notice how I swiftly made my way through the intercom, almost punching it with my fist.

"You're the only roach here you dumb asshole!" I shout angrily while I shake off all the hands trying to pull me away from there, "Why don't you face me coward?! Afraid I might break your face? Come out or I'll kill you with my bare hands!"

"Through what? The intercom?" he still has the guts to laugh again. Maybe he's not aware that I never joke about my threats, is he?

My chest is already heaving in frustration. I'm not up for any of his games anymore.

Never again.

"FACE ME DUMB SHIT OR I'LL SET YOUR BUILDING ON FIRE!"

I am already shouting at the top of my lungs. Another bunch of security people came to get me out of there. The employees from the other departments are already watching too but it's not something I should worry about. Actually, I don't give a shit about anything anymore.

I'm here to get what's mine and I'm not leaving until this scumbag gives me what I want.

"Do Kyungsoo...still as feisty as you were, huh?" he even emphasized my name. I am utterly disgusted, "Open the door and let him in."

The guards stop pulling me away when they hear this order, sharing glances as if making sure he said it right. They're really as dumb as their boss.

"He said let me in."

"But boss what if he—"

"I'll say something as your signal to come in once he tries to hurt me here. It still depends if I enjoy it too. If you hear him moaning my name then don't bother." he chuckles.

Disgusting.

"You fucking wish."

His laughter becomes a little menacing.

"If he tries to hurt me then make sure he doesn't make it out of here alive." my jaw clenches, "Let him in."

I stand still when I hear the danger in his voice. I never thought his words are the rules here. One wrong move may get me a bullet in the head.

Suddenly, all the bravery in me is nowhere to be found. I stand there as they open the door right in front of me, looking stiff and helpless.

And I hate it. I hate that he can see how his words can control me. I bet he's so fucking satisfied.

I'm never wrong, because he's right there, sitting on his luxurious chair in front of his luxurious desk in a fucking luxurious office like how I expected him to be. My heart frantically beats against my chest. I can almost hear it against my ears. I feel like I dry-swallowed a large pill and it's stuck in my throat. I can't believe I can be this furious at someone.

"To what do I owe you this pleasure?"

I grit my teeth once before taking a step inside, the doors finally closing behind me. I try to keep my composure even when I badly want to strangle him with my free hands. He sees my control and his grin becomes even wider.

"You owe me more than that so stop playing dumb."

He clasps both his hands and leans back even more. Now that I notice, his hair has gotten much longer since the last time I—no...I don't even want to recall. The gray waistcoat over his white polo hugs his figure well but that's beyond my concern. His playful eyes look at me from head to toe, making me feel scandalized. This prick.

"I believe the discussion was long over." his gaze finally settles on my face when he speaks, "I've already talked to your father. He agreed. I already gave my conditions too. Now if any of you doesn't agree, suit yourselves."

"My father was not in his best condition and you pressured him!" I exclaim, "He probably wasn't even in the right mind but you fooled him. After everything he's done for you! You should've just waited for me so I could decide for him!"

He chuckles in disbelief.

"Everyone's time doesn't revolve around his spoiled brat of a son. Whether you were there or not, you wouldn't be able to do anything." he raises his brows, "It's not my fault you're having the time of your life in New York when your father was facing his greatest dilemma."

I knew. I was aware that this will never be easy. This man probably despises me as much as I do to him. But at this very moment, my frustration has reached its highest extent.

I am Do Kyungsoo, and begging this jerk in front of me has always been the last thing I'd do. I would rather kill myself.

But now I'm just desperate. I refuse to admit that he's finally ahead of me, worse is in the most important aspect of my life. I realize that the thing I'll lose to him is more important than the hatred I've kept in me for so long. He knew that ever since. So here he is, trying to use it as his biggest advantage.

I fight the urge to cry because of frustration so I keep gulping. Nonetheless, I maintain a straight face no matter how unconvincing it would look.

"My father owns that."

"He used to own that." he said as-a-matter-of-factly, "And now I'm saving it from its downfall."

"Bullshit." I chuckle as I cuss through gritted teeth, "Saving it my ass. You've always wanted it from the very beginning."

He finally stands up from his seat, lips curved in a taunting smile as he walks around the desk.

"Think whatever you want. I couldn't care less." he says with finality, "I've already given you one last option. Either take that or get lost."

I shut my eyes as both my fists on my sides clutch into fists. When I open them again, I see him looking at me with both amusement and anticipation.

"You want me to work for you in our own company?" I chuckle in disbelief, "Right. Of course you want to use my skill for your own advantage."

"My own advantage? Honey, you'll get all the credit for your works, I assure you that."

"Then how does it help you?" this is beyond unbelievable, "I don't believe you're not gaining something from this. I know you have something up in your sleeves."

His laughter echoes within the room. He seems so satisfied of my responses, convincing me that my hunch is right.

My chest heaves deeply.

"Is it simply the satisfaction then?" I ask in a low voice, "To humiliate me and get the fulfillment of seeing me as your inferior? That's it, right?"

His hooded eyes are directed at me, the side of his lips curved.

"What makes you think I need that?"

I give no response. I'm panting on my spot, trying to make sense out of his proposal while being distracted by his intent gaze.

"Don't worry about my advantage anymore, you won't even be bothered by it, trust me." he takes slow steps towards me, "Just think of that as my gift of gratitude for your family. Your designs will make your father's legacy remain with the brand, isn't that your goal?"

I lose my strength when he said that. I was reminded of the exact reason why I'm here. What I'm desperate for.

Spacing out, I didn't notice him lessening the huge space between us.

"Come on, Soo." I feel a sudden jolt all over me when I feel his hand reaching for mine, "For old times' sake?"

I pull my hand away and pushes him with all the might left in me. He takes a step back and smiles at my response.

"Don't fucking call me that. You have no right."

My heart won't stop rummaging again and it makes me angrier. I can't believe I am affected by that. The room is suddenly so suffocating for me and I need to leave.

"I'll wait for your decision."

With still heaving chest, I needed to face him again to pull something out of my chest that I've been wanting to say for six years now.

"Rot in hell, Kim Jongin. Go fucking rot there!"

I turn away as fast as I can; my biggest dilemma finally dawning on me like a wildfire. I can't believe this. My father didn't do this to me.

"I expected such words of defeat from you, Soo."

I refuse to look at him again but his words are enough to slow down my pace.

"Your pride won't get you anywhere. Forget that and take whatever help is offered." the certainty in his tone irks me even more, "Accept it when you lose in the end. It lessens the damage, I swear."

My jaw is hardened as I throw him one last look. The seriousness in his face pinches something in my chest, and I refuse to accept even that.

I hate him with every bit of me, and I'll never lose. Not to him, at least.

Lose in the end, huh? We haven't even started.
  
 

Chapter Text

 

“You did what?”

Now he’s not sure if he already got this couch before. He probably did, in a different color.

The texture feels rough against his palm, he closes his eyes for a second and tries to remember if this is exactly the same one he had in his Gangnam apartment.

Hmm. Marisol, huh? Button-tufted.

“Quit praying over a furniture, Do Kyungsoo.” his friend hisses behind him, “I’m not here for your kinks!”

His brief internalization is interrupted when his hand on the single couch gets slapped.

He’s buying this one.

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Yes, and I wish I’m not.” he says casually, fixing his glasses on the bridge of his nose before lifting his hand to call the attention of the shop attendant. “Unfortunately, you’re barely a meter away from me so I can hear your mouth very well.”

“Wha—you already have that in your house!” the other man exclaims in disbelief when the attendant confirms his purchase and walks away to process it.

“Yes, but that’s black.”

“It’s the same color for fuck’s sake.” he shakes his head, “Wait. Stop shifting it to your furniture fetish, tell me you were joking a while ago!”

“Baekhyun,” he sighs, “I’m not.”

“Again?” he holds onto the nearby armchair with brows raised at him, “How many times have you broken up since this year started?”

He shrugs and eyes another center table.

“Soo!”

“I don’t know. I don’t have plans on counting.” he says in irritation, “Anyway, this would be the last time. I’m done with his dumb, egocentric, cheating ass.”

He looks up at those chandeliers lined up on the ceiling, a small lump forming in his throat. Nonetheless, he gulps it and casually walks around the shop with the same blank face.

“Soo…” now his friend’s tone has changed. He doesn’t know if it had anything to do with what he just said and he doesn’t care. “But what about your Dad?”

He chuckles, “Yeah, what about him right?” he glances at him with a small grin on his face, “I don’t fucking know, honestly.”

His friend sighs and looks at him with concern. He looks away and raises his hand once more for another piece of furniture.

 

“What can you say about your father’s alleged illegal dealings?”

“You were seen kissing a random guy at the club last week, can you speak about that?”

“Your boyfriend is also a son of a businessman, right? Does he know anything about this?”

“Fuck off.”

“Is it true you don’t want to inherit your family’s company?”

“Do Kyungsoo, how true is this picture of you in the club?”

“Please speak up!”

He slams the door and the camera flashes, the desperate shouts became muffled. The car has already taken off and he’s now engulfed by silence. Yet he finds himself trying to catch his breath.

Do Kyungsoo, why don’t you speak up?

Do Kyungsoo, how true is this?

Would they even believe him? If he says he doesn’t know? That like them, he’s just clueless?

The silence is deafening. His phone only vibrates because of notifications from his “friends” about another party tonight. Another gig. Another prospect to get laid with. Ah, it must feel nice, huh?

He turns off his phone, clutching it tighter in his hands while he waits for the car to arrive at where he’s headed. And even with the big space and comfortable seat, something still feels so suffocating.

It’s tiring more than it is nice.

Being the only son in a chaebol family that owns a big company. Being the best on everything you do; in school, in bed, in talent. Being with such a perfect boyfriend. Having your path declared way ahead of you. I mean, what more could you wish for? Isn’t that so nice?

Scratch that.

Being a queer in a chaebol family that owns a big company that is none of your interest. Being expected to be the best on everything you do—therefore forcing you to try so hard, not a chance for a rest. Being with such a perfect boyfriend, who fucks other people behind your back, thinking you’re dumb. And having a path you never wanted, declared ahead of you. No. No, there’s not a fucking thing nice about that.

So Kyungsoo—he doesn’t speak up because he can’t. He’s trapped in this life he never wanted.

He takes another gulp. It’s like being jailed, and you’re forced to be grateful about it.

“Of course! Ah, you don’t need to ask from me!” he doesn’t blink an eye as he makes his way inside a big luxurious office. The man looks behind when he hears his arrival, the big smile on his face slightly faltering while he holds the phone on his ear. “Though I really need to go now. Let’s have dinner sometimes! Catch up.”

“Dad.”

“Soo, I told you to pass by the intercom first, didn’t I?” he says while ending the call. Kyungsoo watches him walking around his table to sit on his swivel chair, “What is it that you need this time? I heard you bought furniture again.”

He doesn’t answer. He stands there stiffly, staring at his father who’s busily scanning through his files.

“I have visitors in five minutes. You should really get go—”

“What are these illegal dealings I’ve been hearing about recently?”

He sees how his father abruptly stops reading on a certain part before glancing at him through his reading glasses. Kyungsoo maintains a blank expression, anticipating a proper answer or else he won’t leave.

Just as he predicted, the answer he gets is the usual airy laugh from his father that irks him even more.

“Where do you even get that?” he shakes his head, “I told you to stay away from tabloids.”

“People have been constantly asking me about it. Media.” he says seriously, “You’re not actually involved on that, are you?”

“I’m not.” his father drops his pen on his table before leaning back on his chair to look at him properly, “Is that why you came here today? To ask me about that? Are you even done with what I told you to do?”

His jaw clenches as he looks down, taking a subtle gulp before looking up again.

“I’m working on it.”

“No, you’re not.” his father looks at him sternly, “You’re busy partying with your friends, drinking and god knows what—probably getting high.”

“You know I don’t do drugs.”

His father only chuckles, “That’s not what I heard.”

“Then stay away from tabloids.”

His father glares at him, parting his lips to respond when the intercom beeps. From Kyungsoo, his gaze moves towards it.

“Sir, Mr. Kim is here.”

Kyungsoo frowns. Okay, that’s probably not who he thinks it is right? Because why would a mere bodyguard be treated like some kind of investor that needs to go through the secretaries? A visitor? Really?

“Yep, they can go in.”

He’s even more confused. But before he could ask, the door already opens.

“Soo, let’s talk some other time.”

Kyungsoo dismisses his father’s words as he watches the people coming in. His brows crease when he sees his father’s bodyguard. Well, as far as he knows, he resigned. So why is he here, smiling warmly at Kyungsoo like how he always did before?

And the boy is still irked by it, just by the way he maintains a blank face.

But his eyes move to the guy who follows the guard, hands stiffly placed on his sides. His gaze catches Kyungsoo’s, and it stays there for a while.

The latter can’t help narrowing his eyes at him, making the new guy look away. He uneasily looks around the office while the chaebol son watches him with pure judgment. Right from his clean cut hair, tucked in top and slacks.

What is he wearing?

“Jungsu-ah, look at you.” his father laughs airily along with the older man while he gives him a quick hug and a tap on the back, “Is that your son? Really? That little kid before?”

“Well, not so little now, isn’t he?” he looks behind and motions the guy to come closer, “This is Jongin, my son.” he stands there stiffly despite the introduction, “Jongin, come here.

Kyungsoo raises his brows when the timid guy looks at him before walking towards their fathers to bow down in courtesy.

“No need to be so formal kid, your father and I are best pals!” his father laughs and Kyungsoo just had to roll his eyes. Since when did his father become this altruistic towards their employees?

“How old are you?”

Kyungsoo looks away from his father just to catch this boy looking at him again before avoiding his eyes to answer.

“Eighteen, Sir…”

He straightens up when he hears his deep voice, as if it just pulled some unknown strings in him. Yet he maintains a nonchalant face.

“Just a year younger than my son here!” his father raises his brows at him, “Soo? Aren’t you greeting Jungsu and his son?”

The tanned boy looks at him and it irks him even more. He was enjoying his time being invisible here.

“Hi.” he says curtly.

Silence engulfs them. Yet the boy remains looking at him, not bothering to be shy now even when Kyungsoo raises a brow at him.

What?

Their small staring contest gets interrupted when his father sighs, “I’m sure you know Kyungsoo, my son. He’s really a man of few words so pardon him.”

Kyungsoo almost gasps in disbelief when he sees a curve forming on the boy’s lips because of his father’s words.

“Of course. It’s been a while, Kyungsoo. How have you been?” his father’s former bodyguard asks him with a small smile.

But Kyungsoo doesn’t return it, “Good.”

“So I assume you’re in your first year? Soo’s in his second year, and you’re younger.”

Jungsu laughs lightly, “No, Sir. He’s in his final year this coming semester right after his internship programs. He was accelerated.”

Kyungsoo doesn’t react—even when it’s getting hard to fight all this intrigue in him, Accelerated, huh?

“Wow…I think I don’t need to ask how good he must be, huh?” his father nods in admiration.

Jungsu chuckles, “He’s really smart and passionate, Sir.”

Kyungsoo watches the boy who’s sheepishly smiling from where he is, silent despite all the compliment he gets. He chuckles sarcastically; enjoying it, aren’t you?

As if on cue, the boy looks at him again. But being the bitchy thing he is, he maintains the sarcastic look. This time, the boy blinks and looks down.

“He’s going to like it here.” Kyungsoo looks at his father because of this, but he doesn’t get the chance to ask. “Soo, go home first. We need to talk about something important.”

“But—”

“Soo.”

He purses his lips when his father flashes his usual warning smile. He gets his bag from the couch and puts it over his shoulder. Before he goes out, he sees the same eyes on him. He stares back until he walks past them.

He finds himself slamming the door shut as soon as he enters the car. He doesn’t know where all this irritation comes from. On his way home, he thinks about that tall boy with bronze-like skin. His clean cut hair, deep voice and stares. And all those slacks—

Jongin.

“What the fuck was he wearing?” he mumbles unconsciously.

“Sir?” the driver asks.

“Nothing.”

--

 

“Aren’t we going to conduct auditions?” someone asks him from behind while he reads a few possible pieces, “Every org is going to have theirs at the university fest. It would be weird if we won’t.”

He can tell Baekhyun is the one walking towards their practice room just by the way he bounces on his steps.

“We have too many members.” he tells the one who asked him, still blankly watching the petite guy with a beam on his face.

“But we lack singers.” the girl frowns, “We recruited a lot of dancers last semester but that’s it.”

Kyungsoo looks up at her from his seat, “Then what do you call me?”

“You can’t be singing the piece all the time!”

“Yey that’s why I’m here!” Baekhyun smiles, knowing the topic as soon as he arrives.

“Ugh, seriously.” the junior girl groans because of the usual cheerful boy, “Look…I’m thinking, more girl singers.”

Kyungsoo and Baekhyun stare at her. She raises her brows at them.

“What for?”

“We have them.”

They both answer in unison. The junior girl looks so done with them but the two remains looking at her.

“Yes, but no one stands out! We can get some hopefuls from the freshmen. We need auditions!”

“Fine. I’ll think ab—”

“Seriously, Minji. I’m starting to doubt your preferences.” a girl cuts him off as soon as she steps inside with her 5-inches heels. She flashes the usual sweet smile at Baekhyun before settling her gaze at Kyungsoo.

Kyungsoo watches her while she struts towards where they are, combing her hair with her fingers before leaning down to give him a peck on the cheek. He hears Baekhyun murmuring something on the side.

“Bad day, Soo?” she giggles and raises a brow at the junior girl, “Minji, we don’t need new female singers. We have a lot, duh? I’m here.”

“Wow. Of course, Sohee.” Minji smiles sarcastically.

“What? Trying to imply something, mediocre talent?” the taller woman smiles.

The junior girl glares at her but isn’t able to say anything. Baekhyun clears his throat from the corner.

“Minji’s plan actually makes sense. We need a powerhouse female if we’re planning to push through the production this year.”

The girl looks at Baekhyun with the same taunting smile.

“And your opinion would matter because?”

“Ah?” Baekhyun’s lips protruded, “Because I don’t sound like a dying whale?”

The smile on Sohee’s face falters while Minji chuckles. Baekhyun innocently shrugs on where he’s standing while Kyungsoo only watches all of them.

She exhales as the smile comes back on her face.

“Always full of wit, Baekhyunnie.” she chuckles, “Anyways,”

Kyungsoo looks at her when she faces him this time.

“It’s Kyungsoo’s decision after all,” she says meaningfully, “I’m sure he’s going to make a right one.”

“I’m still reviewing all possible pieces. No plans about the final production yet.” he says nonchalantly before turning to look at Baekhyun, “Don’t you have classes? Can you guys leave us for a while?”

Baekhyun opens his lips, “But...I want to ask you some…”

He doesn’t continue when he sees Kyungsoo’s usual stare. He smiles in defeat while looking down. Right then, he goes out with Minji while Sohee watches them victoriously.

“I can’t stand that Byun Baekhyun.” Sohee starts off while looking at the door where the two just walked out, “He thinks he’s really good. Must be hard having no friends.”

Kyungsoo looks at her, but he doesn’t say anything.

Arms crossed over her chest, she walks to the chair right beside Kyungsoo and sits there.

“And I can’t even believe you’re talking to him. Recruiting him to our org was strike one, and now? I thought losers aren’t allowed in this club?” she grimaces, “Wait, don’t tell me you’re starting to be friends too?”

Kyungsoo abruptly stops typing before answering.

“No.” he blinks, “Of course not.”

“Good.” she chuckles, “You have too many good friends and company, Soo.”

He only forces a smile.

“Speaking of friends, why weren’t you at Sunhwa’s party last weekend? Everyone’s looking for you.”

“I was busy.” buying furniture.

“Of course, you chaebol son.” she chuckles, “Too bad, Yifan was there. Minho too. All looking for you while you’re busy adulting.”

He only smiles a little, not finding the interest to talk about any of these men when he has bigger problems.

“But I understand your lack of interest…” she says with a hint of intrigue, “I mean…from what I heard…”

Kyungsoo looks at the smile forming on her lips.

“You’re back together?”

He only chuckles.

“Yeah, like two nights ago.” he answers, trying to sound so happy but fails miserably.

“I bet!” she giggles while shaking his arm, “I’m happy for you, Soo. We can all see how good you look together. I’m glad you’ve forgiven Seonho. Whatever he did, he still proved he’d choose you in the end, right?”

The small smile on his lips slowly fades.

Is that how it’s supposed to work?

“So we’re all expecting you at the freshmen night, later. Like tradition!”

He closes his laptop, “I’m still not sure.”

“But your boyfie will be there!” her gaze travels towards the window while smirking, “Speaking of.”

Someone gently knocks on the glass window, flashing him a boyish grin that used to sweep him off his feet, but now it only makes him cringe. Yet he forces a smile as a response.

Seonho raises his brows and signals him something. He nods once and stands up from his chair.

“I need to go.”

“Alright! But we’ll see you later, huh Pres?”

He chuckles, “We’ll see.”

Kyungsoo gets his bag and walks out of the room where he sees his boyfriend leaning on the wall with his gaze on him. He wants to roll his eyes when he sees the way his eyes travel from his head to toe, particularly on the middle where his eyes lingered.

“You could be a little subtle.”

“Just missed you a lot.” the long arm soon finds its way around his shoulders, “And then I see you looking like that.”

He chuckles sarcastically, “Neat.”

Soon enough, Kyungsoo finds himself being pulled towards the corner while being kissed thoroughly. Instead of pulling away, he goes with the flow. Yet he doesn’t feel the usual fire to bring this further so he keeps his eyes open. He waits for him to get tired until he pulls away while catching his breath.

“Let’s go to the restroom.”

“I can’t.”

His boyfriend scowls, “Why not?”

“I have to go somewhere important.” he says while fixing his shirt, “Next time.”

He hears a forced chuckle, “Now you’re being cold again.”

Kyungsoo throws him a glare, “I don’t wanna suck your fucking dick. Jesus, it’s not that deep!”

“You’ve found someone better.” Seonho declares that made him even more astounded.

He laughs in disbelief before walking out of the hall to completely leave his boyfriend there.

“Now what? You’re running away again?”

“I don’t have time for your pity party. You’re so used to that shit. I need to go.”

Seonho walks after him, voice raising. “Oh so it’s my fault now?”

“Exactly!” Kyungsoo fires back in the parking lot, “It’s certainly not mine, so fucking drop it!”

Someone clears his throat from the middle of the cars that made them shut up. Kyungsoo turns around, his furious expression softening when he sees a familiar guy watching them.

“Your father wants to talk to you…” Jongin stands there, his eyes traveling between the both of them.

Kyungsoo looks at him, still panting. For some reason, he’s ashamed of what just happened.

“Oh is that so?” Seonho’s the one who answered for him, fixing his hair as he steps towards Kyungsoo. “Tell him Kyungsoo’s coming, and my father sent his regards to him.”

Kyungsoo spaces out while his boyfriend guides him towards the car as if nothing happened. He looks at Jongin and something pierces him inside when he sees the taller guy almost glaring at the guy beside him.

He gets in the backseat, subtly watching Jongin and his boyfriend outside who’s still holding on his door.

“Are you a new driver? I can drive my boyfriend there. I think his father would like it better.” Seonho says confidently despite his height barely reaching the tanned man’s eyes.

“I’m sure I can manage.” Jongin says before slamming the backseat door shut that made the other guy almost jump. He looks at Jongin with widening eyes but the latter has already walked the other way to enter the driver’s seat.

Clenching his jaw, Seonho knocks on the window nearest to Kyungsoo. The latter clicks the button to partly open it.

His boyfriend places a peck on his lips.

“I’ll see you later at freshmen night, babe?” he smiles sweetly despite Kyungsoo’s blank gaze.

“I’m not coming.”

Seonho sighs, “Okay…I guess I’ll be my superstar boyfriend’s proxy again, huh?” he laughs but stops when Kyungsoo doesn’t. He clears his throat, “Take care, alright?”

“Bye.” Kyungsoo doesn’t let him finish his next sentence when he clicks the button to close the window.

The car leaves the university premises and the silence is too hard to ignore. Kyungsoo gulps every now and then while his eyes move from the window towards the one driving.

“So…” he heaves deeply when he realized it’s a good idea to break the silence himself, “are you like my new driver or something?”

He raises both his brows when he sees Jongin glancing at him through the rearview, but it’s too fast and his gaze is back on the road.

“No.” he answers and his still lingers in the other guy’s mind, “Simply doing a favor for your father.”

Kyungsoo gulps when they’re once again covered by silence. He doesn’t know where his cool went and he’s feeling so uneasy in his own car.

“Aren’t you from the province? Why would you go all the way here?” he asks, sounding too rude but that’s just how he is.

He realizes he’s taking too much time watching the driver’s hands maneuvering the wheel and he needed to snap out of it.

For a teenager and a weirdo, he has the built, huh?

Who is he kidding? He already noticed that the first time he saw him.

“We already moved here. I’m planning to work here too.” he says seriously without looking at Kyungsoo.

And now someone is slightly offended.

“You don’t really talk that much, do you?”

He blinks when he sees the small curve forming on Jongin’s lips.

“What do you want me to say?”

“I ask and you answer shortly. You don’t even try to prolong the conversation.” he says and looks outside when he sees the same deep eyes glancing at him again.

“You want me to talk to you?” Jongin asks.

Kyungsoo looks at him, shrugging once. “Yeah, I mean…i-it’s traffic. I’m not used to silence. Why don’t you try asking.”

They look at each other through the rearview mirror and Kyungsoo just realized all the shit he said. It’s like he wasn’t even aware of any of it.

They’re covered by silence for a while, making him conclude there’s really no point persuading him when Jongin finally speaks.

“So that boy back there…” he says, sounding carefully casual. “Is he your boyfriend or what?”

Kyungsoo finds himself grinning, “What do you think?”

Jongin shrugs while still looking straight into the road, “I don’t know. Probably a fling, or serious partner.” he glances at the mirror and sees the small grin on Kyungsoo’s face, “That’s why I’m asking.”

Kyungsoo clears his throat and tries to conceal something before answering, “Not a fling.”

Along with the traffic, Jongin’s gaze stays on him for a short while.

Kyungsoo gulps, “Not…serious either.”

He looks outside for a moment, probably to watch the traffic or to calm his nerves but when he looks at him again, he’s still staring.

“What?”

“I’m confused.”

He sighs, “I don’t know how to call it…forced? Arranged? Something like that. So it’s nowhere in your options.” he chuckles, but stops when he sees Jongin looking at him seriously.

Then he slowly nods.

Kyungsoo takes another subtle gulp when the other doesn’t say anything more. He was expecting a continuous conversation with him and now they’re back to being silent. He doesn’t like it.

“That’s it? You’re not going to ask anything else?”

He can’t believe himself right now. Why does the infamous brat Do Kyungsoo seem to be so desperate of company right now?

Jongin doesn’t look anywhere else but the road, “That’s it. You wanted me to ask, right?”

Kyungsoo raises a brow, “That’s all you want to know about me?”

His face softens when his eyes caught his gaze through the mirror.

“That’s all I wanted to ask.”

With a sigh, Kyungsoo doesn’t look away from him. “No opinion? I usually wouldn’t care to ask but I can make an exception now, you know?”

Jongin grins again. And the brat finally realizes what he’s saying.

“Nah…” he gulps, “Nevermind.”

“You look good together.” he says that caught the other one off-guard, “If that’s what you wanna hear.”

Kyungsoo blinks before staring outside, looking so astounded.

No, it’s not.

“We’re here.” he flinches when he hears the same voice.

They both got out of the car and didn’t share another conversation on their way to his father’s office. Kyungsoo watches him through his peripheral vision, but the taller doesn’t spare him another glance.

Fine. It’s not like I’m really likeable.

He finds himself frowning until he reaches the office, especially when he realized he’s on his own since they got out of the lift.

Kyungsoo doesn’t say anything when he walks inside, even when his father throws him a stern look through his reading glasses.

“I’ve never heard any progress on the work I’ve given you.”

Kyungsoo heaves deeply, “You can just tell me over the phone.”

“It’s not working!” his voice raises, “I don’t know how to persuade you to take all of this seriously! This is only your first shot and you’re already failing, Kyungsoo. How am I supposed to trust you with the company?”

He doesn’t say anything. He can’t. Not yet.

His father looks at him with heaving chest. Something is stuck in his throat again that makes it hard to gulp.

“Are you going to disobey me all the time?”

“Give me more time.” he says, “I-I’m…”

He pauses when he stuttered.

“I’m having a hard time doing it, Dad.”

“Not that reason again.” his father sighs, “Everyone in this company can do a simple thing like that! Even Jongin can do it! Goes to show that you can if you want to!”

“I don’t want…it.” he says, clutching on his sides. “You know it’s not w-what I want to do…”

His father rubs his forehead in frustration, “Soo.”

“Why don’t you just take a chance on interior designs? Furnitures? You know that’s where my passion is.” he explains despite the sharp look from his father, “I don’t like big, intimidating structures, Dad. I don’t like landscape architecture—”

“Enough!”

“Why does it always have to be me?!” he snaps back, “Why not Sukyung?! Wait for her to grow up and shove your dreams down her throat!”

“Until you’re under my roof and you splurge the money I’m giving you, you have no right to say no!”

Trembling, Kyungsoo doesn’t respond anymore. He stares at the floor in defeat, with only the sound of his father’s heavy breathing surrounding them.

His father lets out another sigh.

“The three internship slots of our firm are the most sought-after in this country. I’m not giving you one for free. You have to work for it.” he says calmly, yet he’s still heaving. “I’m certain that the other one is taken. Now you still have a few weeks to work on your presentation and portfolio.”

Kyungsoo clenches his jaw. Still the perfect way to resolve everything, huh? Leave him without choice?

“I hope you know I’m going to mess this all up either way.” he says firmly.

His father drops the folder he’s holding on the table and stares at him tauntingly. He places both his hands on his waist.

“If the board doesn’t give you one of those slots then don’t expect me to fund all your expenses anymore. Finish college all by yourself.”

Kyungsoo stares at him in disbelief, his eyes warming.

“Go home.” his father says without sparing him a glance.

He stays there for another moment, waiting for the old man to take back everything he said. He can’t be serious with that, right? He can’t do this to me.

But more than anyone, he knows his father the most. And he should also be the one to know that he’s never joking about this matter.

Kyungsoo couldn’t fight the tears on the verge of falling as he walks outside. When the door slides open, Jongin stands in front of him, catching his gaze before he could even avoid him. He seriously looks at Kyungsoo, making the latter walk away wordlessly.

On his way to the elevator, tears start falling down his face but he doesn’t sob. He tries suppressing it no matter how painful it is in his chest. He feels someone following him so he subtly wipes his eyes before turning around hastily.

“What do you want?” he hisses even after seeing it’s only Jongin again.

“I’m driving you home.” he says gently.

“Mr. Han can do it.” he says curtly before stepping inside the elevator, but Jongin still follows.

“He’s not here yet.” he responds. Kyungsoo remains silent because it’s harder to speak now so he lets it be.

Kyungsoo grits his teeth hard just to keep his composure. He walks ahead of Jongin towards the car where he slams the door shut.

“Why is Mr. Han not here?” he asks coldly when Jongin started the engine.

“I think your father ordered him to do something el—”

“Call him and tell him to go back because he should be driving me!” he shouts, but it didn’t even seem to startle Jongin who only looks at him seriously before driving.

Kyungsoo blinks rapidly. He breathes through his mouth and looks out on the window instead.

“He’ll be driving you again tomorrow.”

He doesn’t respond immediately. He tries to gather his composure before facing Jongin again.

“Drive me back to the university. I’m not going home.”

Jongin opens his lips, probably to refuse. But when he sees Kyungsoo’s cold stare, he sighs.

With his fingers, he fixes his hair as they make their way to the university hall. He watches the people going in and out with party cups on their hands. Kyungsoo spaces out until the car stops.

“Send the car back to the office. I’ll call Mr. Han if I need to go home.” he coldly tells Jongin before hopping out of the car. The loud music is the first thing that greets him, followed by a huge number of people acknowledging his presence even when he appears with the same clothes he was wearing earlier.

“I knew he’d come!”

“Is that Do Kyungsoo?”

“Told you, just overhyped.”

“Soo!” his usual group of friends welcomes him with a loud coo. They’re already looking drunk and wasted. He forces a grin at them and accepts the party cup he’s handed with.

“My gosh, what are you wearing?!”

“Damn, you won’t believe the number of hot freshmen here, Soo.”

He roams his gaze around, trying to find someone when he sees Baekhyun at the corner. Kyungsoo stares at him and he only flashes a timid smile before looking away.

“Where’s Seonho?” he asks his friends.

They share glances with each other, some of them blinking rapidly as if caught off-guard.

“Huh?”

“Seonho.” he repeats even when he knows they heard it well, “He said he’d come.”

“Uhhh we haven’t seen him yet. He probably didn’t, since you said you wouldn’t.” a girl says.

“Yeah.”

“Come on, Soo! Let’s find a freshman prospect!”

“I need to go to the restroom.” he says and untangles the arms around him. He doesn’t see the way they share another nervous looks when they couldn’t do anything to stop him.

He walks between the sea of people, his heart hammering against his chest for an unknown reason. No. Not totally unknown, but familiar.

He dismisses all the greetings he received on his way to the restroom. And when he made sure he didn’t find the person he’s looking for anywhere in the party, he walks inside and locks the door.

When he hears the soft moans and lewd noises, he wants to laugh at how sure he is. He grits his teeth and is close to slamming the door open when another familiar voice stops him.

“He’s a fucking loser, admit it.”

Kyungsoo blinks in shock. But he only stares blankly into space.

“Ah, fuck.” there he goes, “I don’t know why he thinks he’s so special when he’s nothing but a lonely brat who craves attention. Ah, fuck, there. His father can’t even look at him.”

He hears a giggle, “I hope he knows that the squad laughs at him when we’re together. He’s so full of himself.”

“He’s not even that good in be—”

They’re not able to finish whatever they’re doing when the cubicle door gets kicked open. Sohee screams and immediately covers herself while Seonho looks at him with widening eyes.

Kyungsoo’s jaw hardens, “I can’t believe you talk about me while having sex.” he narrows his eyes, “Why didn’t you just ask for a threesome?”

“S-Soo—”

“But yeah, I don’t really like having sex with small dicks and low-class whores, so no thanks, I guess?”

Sohee gasps while Seonho looks like he’s having the most miserable moment of his life.

“You’re the most idiotic scumbag I’ve ever met, Seonho.” he says while shaking his head, “No creativity and all? I literally caught you in the exact same cubicle before!”

Kyungsoo chuckles sarcastically and starts walking out.

“Oh and by the way,” he turns back to look at Sohee, “you fucking sound like a dying whale.”

With chin up, he walks out of the rest room while a few students lined up outside after hearing the commotion. Kyungsoo feels his chest getting heavier with every step he takes. But no, no one will ever see it.

The last thing he’ll ever do is show a sign of defeat.

“S-Soo! Soo…please. I’m sorry!” his dumb boyfriend starts kneeling down in front of him and tugging his pants. He didn’t even bother putting his shirt on, “I just can’t accept you’re starting to fall out of love from me…you’ve found someone better…I didn’t want it to end this way, please…”

The students are all watching them now and Kyungsoo despises it. He grits his teeth before sighing.

“Do you really love me, baby?”

Seonho frantically nods, “I-I do…Soo…I promise I’ll try to understand you better—””

He smiles gently, “You really do, hmm?”

“Yes! please…b-bab—”

The people yell when he cuts him off with a strong punch on his face.

“Then stop putting the blame on me you lying son of a bitch!” he shouts before kicking him hard with every word he says, “You cheat because you’re a cheater. and not. because. of me you fucking asshole!”

He leaves his ex-boyfriend twisted in pain while the crowd watches them, jaw-dropped. Even his supposed “friends” can’t look at him this time. The only one he saw grinning from ear to ear is Baekhyun.

Kyungsoo walks out of the hall without sparing anyone a glance. He maintains his straight face and walks to wherever his feet will take him. Just as long as it’s far from there.

He finds himself sitting on the grass at the back of the other college building. He sits on it, massaging his feet that got hurt from all the kicking he did. He also rubs his knuckles. It was such a hard jaw to punch.

In the end, he tends the one that hurts the most when a loud sob escapes his lips. He tries to shut his mouth but it’s continuous. It’s painful to suppress. And there’s no point.

He then wonders how the people would react if they see him like this; Kyungsoo, who bravely humiliated his cheating boyfriend publicly. Kyungsoo, the son of a rich chaebol that gets everything he wants, is now crying in the middle of a grass field, looking so miserable?

Kyungsoo hiccups louder while he buries his face on both his palms. All in one night. He gets betrayed by his father, his boyfriend, his friends, and his supposedly strong self. All in one night.

He continuously cries when something moves right beside him. He flinches in fear but is soon relieved when he sees Jongin sitting beside him, looking far ahead.

He sniffs, “W-Why are you here?”

Kyungsoo hates how his voice sounds. He’s like a child, asking for sympathy when he’s far from that.

“I decided not to leave after dropping you off…because I’ve nothing to do.” Jongin says, trying to sound nonchalant. When he sees Kyungsoo looking at him in confusion with his big, tear-stained eyes, he sighs.

“And…you looked sad. So I didn’t want to leave.”

Kyungsoo looks away and wipes his eyes and nose. He sniffs before staring at the far distance.

“I’m s-sure you saw what happened.”

Jongin looks down, “Yeah…”

He chuckles, “Don’t worry. This is just for tonight.” he wipes his face, “I’ll be fine again tomorrow.”

Jongin watches him with half-lidded eyes. His arms are placed over his knees while he leans his head on it.

“What?” Kyungsoo asks again.

But Jongin only chuckles, “Nothing.”

Resting his chin on his arms, he looks back in front with a ghost of smile still on his face. Kyungsoo watches him this time, his chest feeling lighter eventually.

“He’s a jerk.” he speaks out of the blue, “Your boyfriend…I mean.”

Kyungsoo grins, “He is?”

“When I said you looked good together,” he tilts his head to look, “I didn’t actually mean it.”

“Then why did you say it?”

Jongin blinks, “I thought that’s what you wanted to hear.”

Kyungsoo smiles and slowly shakes his head. He sits up straight. The fast heartbeat could still be from that adrenaline from what happened in the hall. It should be.

“I actually wanted to know more.” Jongin says, almost a mumble, “Everything, actually.”

The smile on Kyungsoo’s face slightly fades. He’s suddenly afraid of this too easy comfort he’s feeling. It shouldn’t be this way.

“Why didn’t you ask then?”

Jongin chuckles, making him smile unconsciously.

“I didn’t want to sound nosy.”

“You sound nosy now.”

Jongin grins back, “Do I?” he asks, “I thought you were the one asking for a lengthy conversation a while ago?”

Come on, Soo. He tells himself, tell him to fuck off like what you would normally do to another human-being.

Kyungsoo looks at him intently, realizing he wants him to open up. He’s expecting Jongin to see this as a signal, laugh, and tell him it’s a joke. And probably go fuck off.

But this Jongin guy really stares back at him, right into his soul like it’s damn okay.

In the end, Kyungsoo’s the one who laughs in disbelief.

“I don’t think you’d want to hear it.” now don’t insist. It’s the most obvious signal he could give, “It will bore the shit out of you.”

“I kinda want to.” Jongin says seriously, “Go on. Try me.”

Good lord, Kyungsoo thinks while a smile slowly forms on his lips. How fucking dare this guy?

  

Chapter Text

 

"Don't get me wrong..."

Baekhyun is raising both his brows while reading the final production summary.

"I'm really glad you got rid of Sohee... and all your other ex-friends who sounded like dolphins, but..." the president looks at him blankly, "now you want a mostly female-led production?"

Kyungsoo nonchalantly nods, "Yes."

"Uh..." his petite friend sheepishly smiles, "Soo, most of our members are boys. We have a lot of girls too, but they're mostly dancers and coordinators."

The rest of the members only watch him, but he can see the look of agreement on their faces. Kyungsoo casts another look on the paper.

"We'll push through your first suggestion." he says with another nod, "We'll hold an org audition."

He confirms his observation when they collectively sighed in relief. Kyungsoo has always thought about it, yet like the fool he was, he listened to his "friends" before that there's no need for it. He then realized that they were just slowly influencing him to make the organization more like an exclusive sorority or frat. Thank goodness they're gone.

"I almost thought you're gonna make me crossdress." Baekhyun mumbles that makes him roll his eyes, yet there's still a grin on his face.

"But Pres, the school fest is over."

"I already coordinated with the university to use the auditorium one afternoon this week. They already approved our request." everyone nods except for Baekhyun who's subtly smiling from the corner, "Let's do it Friday. Now we need to start preparing announcements, registration desks and sample pieces. Let's split the team."

"Alright!"

Almost everyone goes back to work. Kyungsoo glances back to his phone, pursing his lips when he doesn't see any new message. When he gazes up, he sees Baekhyun standing in front of him with a meaningful smile.

"What?"

"Everyone sees your improvement since you got rid of the toxic company, you know?" Baekhyun says, beaming brightly. Kyungsoo only smiles a little.

"I almost thought you'll be driven by hatred after that, but you weren't. You even seem happier nowadays." he squints his eyes, "What are you not telling your secret friend?"

Kyungsoo is taken aback by this, "What? I am my usual self."

"Nope. Your usual self never bumped into things because of eagerness to go home." Baekhyun sounds taunting, "New love?"

Kyungsoo only narrows his eyes, trying to look so nonchalant even when there's a sudden heat on his face just by the thought of it.

Baekhyun gasps, "Are you blu--!"

"Shut the fuck up!"

Some hitting and kicking were served.

He didn't know how many times he wanted to storm out of the org room whenever he tried to work and finish his portfolio yet he would always catch Baekhyun's teasing grin at him. Kyungsoo remained casual for the rest of the day but his reaction a while ago was enough for his friend to refuse to let it go. So when his phone screen lighted up, he instinctively stands up from his chair and grabs his bag without wasting a second.

"See you tomorrow, guys." he waves his hand without sparing them a look as he walks out of the room. He didn't even notice Baekhyun's playful whistle.

Kyungsoo stands in front of the building, clearing his throat before answering the call.

"Mr. Han?"

"Soo, are you done?" the driver asks him through the line. Kyungsoo blinks once.

"Yeah... are you here?" for a moment, the simple question from the driver gets him bummed for no apparent reason. It wasn't the words he was expecting, that's why.

"Oh okay." the driver says, "I already told Jongin to go there so he must be near. I'm still here because of your father's orders."

He tiptoes to look around, a sudden relief washing over him.

"Oh, is that so?" he sounds so nonchalant even when a small curve is forming on his lips, "It's okay, I guess."

"I apologize--"

"It's okay!" Kyungsoo beams when he spots the Audi driving past the gates, interrupting the driver's words. He clears his throat while still watching it, "I mean... it's okay. Tell Dad I said hello. Bye!"

The car stops right in front of him but Kyungsoo remains standing there. His brows slightly crease, looking genuinely clueless and waiting. It doesn't take too long when the driver goes out of the car, looking bewildered why he hasn't got in yet.

"Oh..." he even manages to fake a frown, "It's you again."

Jongin blinks before nodding, "Yes, Mr. Han has urgent work for your father."

Kyungsoo subtly looks at him from head to toe before shrugging, "It's not like I have a choice."

He walks past him and grabs the door to the shotgun seat.

"Wait..." he raises both his brows and looks behind him where Jongin watches him in confusion, "Aren't you... sitting in the backseat?"

"Why?" Kyungsoo asks, still faking a frown.

Now the tanned boy looks uneasy, "I'm your driver..."

"So?" Kyungsoo nonchalantly asks, "I'll sit wherever I want. Besides, it's colder here."

He doesn't wait for Jongin's approval and hops inside. The grin comes back to his face when the driver walks back to the other side of the car. When he gets inside, Kyungsoo goes back to looking unconcerned again.

Kyungsoo spends the first few minutes shuffling the music from the radio. He side-eyes the driver sometimes, waiting for him to say something. When he doesn't, he rolls his eyes and realizes it's on him again.

He shamelessly stares at Jongin while he drives, from his plain white shirt and faded jeans. Enjoying the way Jongin suddenly becomes uneasy, Kyungsoo scoffs.

"What are you wearing again?" he chuckles that finally earns him a look from the younger. Jongin doesn't even look surprised, nor offended. It seems like he already got used to Kyungsoo scrutinizing his fashion choices. For some reason, this makes Kyungsoo happier.

You see, Kyungsoo never cared about anything for so long. Even his public breakup a month ago didn't matter to him that much after crying it out to a random boy sent to drive him home. After a few days, he didn't give a shit anymore. Suddenly, it's all just about Mr. Han not being able to drive him home to send this random boy for him again.

For some reason, he looks forward to going home.

"You don't know a thing about fashion." Kyungsoo taunts even more when the boy doesn't answer.

"I dress comfortably. I'm not as rich as you are." Jongin says while looking at the road.

"It's just a matter of matching clothes." Kyungsoo says as if he knows a lot by wearing black all the time. He just finds it entertaining to pick on Jongin every time he gets the chance, "Let's head to a coffee shop first, by the way. I need a drink."

He gets the younger's attention this time, glancing at him while slowly blinking.

"And I need a new furniture, so let's go to Kare, too."

"I can't..." Jongin says, almost carefully.

Kyungsoo frowns a little, "Why?"

"I need to go to work." he explains before looking back at the road, "I'm just dropping you off to your house then I need to be there."

"What work? You don't work." he's not even able to conceal the demand in his tone. Nonetheless, the driver only sighs.

"I do. I got a job and it's my first day."

"Why?"

Jongin looks at him again but Kyungsoo remains facing him with so much confusion on his face. He suddenly asks himself if he's really younger than this boy beside him.

Kyungsoo acts like a kid sometimes. At least to him.

"Because I'm not a chaebol kid and I need to work for my expenses." Jongin retaliates with a raised brow, "Happy?"

"Aren't you paid enough in our company? Plus you drive me most of the time!" the chaebol kid certainly doesn't get it.

Jongin huffs in annoyance. It's like explaining to a kid. A spoiled one, if he may add.

"The internship hasn't started yet so I'm not yet under your firm." he purses his lips, "And no... I don't get paid driving you home."

Surprisingly, there's no response from the man beside him. Jongin almost thought he already decided to shut up, yet he looks at him and sees a smile slowly forming on the older's lips. Jongin's lips parted, as if his thoughts and words suddenly get jumbled.

"So you drive me for free?"

The tanned man settles his gaze on the road, "Yes... as part of your father's favor."

Kyungsoo doesn't even seem offended by this. It's either fine for him or he's not really convinced.

He purses his lips, still looking amused while glancing out the window. "I can just tell him to pay you, you know? Easy job. Plus you'll be driving the Audi everyday."

The younger boy immediately shakes his head, "No need for that, thanks. I prefer my actual job."

"Tss." Kyungsoo squints his eyes, "What job did you get anyway?"

Jongin's gaze is fixated on the road, slightly glancing on his side before answering.

"Waiter."

Kyungsoo leans on his seat, still shifted sideways to face him.

"Where?"

Jongin slightly frowns, "Some small diner."

"Which diner?"

He finally looks at Kyungsoo this time, looking irritated and conflicted at the same time. Kyungsoo finds it even more entertaining, only raising his brows innocently.

"Why are you so interested?" the younger says curtly, "You plan on going there now, don't you?"

"Hmm... I get bored sometimes. Who knows? I like trying out food." he's definitely going there.

"It's a small, cheap diner. You won't enjoy it." Jongin seriously says while maneuvering the car.

"Why do you always assume I only like expensive things?" Kyungsoo frowns, but it's more likely because he hasn't gotten his answer to the important question yet.

Before he knows it, the car is already parked in front of the house. Jongin looks at him sternly.

"I'm not going to tell you." he says with finality before pointing to the door on Kyungsoo's side.

Kyungsoo only rolls his eyes slightly before getting out of the car. He's just about to lift his hand to wave goodbye but the car has already moved towards the parking space. He sighs in dismay and walks inside.

He looks around, not surprised by the emptiness in the house. His mother surely went shopping or gambling. Kyungsoo reaches his bedroom and throws his bag on the bed before standing beside his window to watch the car go out of the gates. His lips pursed into a thin line.

Why is it so hard being friends with him?

Kyungsoo finds it absurd, considering he's the chaebol son between the two of them yet Jongin acts like his friendship is the exclusive one. Bastard.

For an hour, Kyungsoo did more research and final touches on his first draft for the portfolio. It was a struggle because of thoughts clouding up his mind every now and then.

After finishing, he lies on his bed, slightly irked for some reason. His phone beeps in his pocket, flashing a text from Baekhyun.

Hey ur ex and ex whale friend r here in our usual club. They r going all flashy about dumping u. Wanna come and wreak havoc? :-)

Kyungsoo spaces out for a moment, a smile slowly forming on his lips.

He types a response.

Nope. I'm busy tonight

A noise of another car entering the gate had him running back beside the window. He sees his father's car, making him grin even wider. Kyungsoo hastily grabs his bag from the bed and walks out of his room. His phone gets another text from his friend.

Hmmmm :-)

He only shakes his head, lips still curved when he puts his phone back to his pocket. Just as he steps down the stairs, Kyungsoo hears his father's voice entering the hall. He keeps a blank expression, intentionally meeting them on his way out.

His father catches his presence in the midst of talking to his former bodyguard, "Soo?" Kyungsoo raises both his brows nonchalantly, "Why are you here? Where's your mom?"

Mr. Kim looks at him, followed by his usual warm smile. Kyungsoo smiles back timidly.

"Good evening, too, Dad. And Mr. Kim." he says, holding onto the strap of his bag. "Didn't see Mom either. I'm leaving again to study for an exam."

"You mean clubbing?" his father scoffs, as if trying to come up of it as a joke. The other man only smiles a little.

"I don't think I'll bring a school bag with me to the club. Is that a fashion sense of yours, Dad?" he says sarcastically, "Anyway, I'm desperate to pass this so I borrowed some of Jongin's notes but he forgot about it, I guess..." he tries looking a little bummed.

Mr. Kim creases his brows.

"He didn't let you borrow?"

Kyungsoo's lips protruded while shaking his head, "Maybe he forgot to give it, Mr. Kim. I kinda forgot to remind him, too. It's okay..."

The old man reaches for his phone in his pocket, Kyungsoo subtly watches.

"I'll call him and tell him to drop by here so he can lend you his notes."

"Oh, no need! I don't want to be a bother... I heard he got a job." he says, and Mr. Kim eventually puts down his phone. "But I can just drop by his workplace... though... I don't really know where."

Mr. Kim slowly nods, "Ah! It's just in a small diner near your university. The one right beside the new convenience store at Wondang? It's there. Though I'm not sure he has his notes with him?"

Kyungsoo beams while nodding, "It's okay! I'll just ask him. Thank you, Mr. Kim!" he smiles and walks past them, then he stops again to face his father with the folder on his hand. "By the way, here's my first draft. You said you'll check it first."

His father raises a brow, looking at the thick folder. "Is this going to make me happy?"

Kyungsoo can only smile at the response given to him. The same response as usual. "I gave my best, Dad, if that's what you want to hear." he turns away even before hearing another insult.

He gets another driver to send him to the place mentioned. When he gets to the street, he immediately spots a diner with LED signage on top. Kyungsoo fixes his glasses on the bridge of his nose, wasting no time as he hops out of the car.

"You can go back, thanks!"

"How will you go home?" the driver asks.

"With my friend?" he says as if it's obvious, "Go."

Kyungsoo waits for the car to drive away before clearing his throat and walking towards the diner. There's a few people going inside but it's not filled either. Kyungsoo does his habit of holding onto the strap of his bag and casts his first glance at the counter. Instead of seeing Jongin, he sees a tall man in his uniform, smiling timidly at him.

"Hi there." he grins in an almost flirting way that gets Kyungsoo internally rolling his eyes, but he walks straight in front of this tall guy, looking around before settling his blank gaze at him.

He doesn't say anything. Kyungsoo only stares at the menu behind the guy, taking too long because in reality, he's waiting for someone to show up. Without looking, he knows the guy is raising a brow because he's taking a while to choose.

So he's in charge of the kitchen?

"Want some help?"

"Do you work here alone?" he asks out of the blue. The man behind the counter looks weirded out, cracking a chuckle.

"No...?" he finally notices the distinct deep voice of this guy, "But depends if you want to keep me company, then yes, I'm alone."

He playfully winks and Kyungsoo just had to flash a forced smile.

"Neat." the shorter hums before gazing back at the menu, finally spotting someone going out of the kitchen in the same uniform as the guy. He pretends he doesn't see, "What's your best-seller?"

Kyungsoo stops pretending when he sensed the person briefly stiffening because of his presence. He looks at him, raising both his brows as if surprised.

"What are you doing here?" Jongin asks him while slowly walking towards the counter.

"So this is where you work." Kyungsoo says, squinting his eyes before shrugging. "Coincidence."

"You have your ways, don't you?" Jongin asks seriously.

"You know this cutie?" the taller guy interrupts them with a ghost of smile still on his lips.

Before Jongin could even answer, Kyungsoo already has his hand reached out to the guy. Unlike before, his smile is friendly.

"I'm his friend, I'm Kyungsoo." the guy looks down at his hand with a grin, but Kyungsoo's arm gets pulled away even before his hand is shaken.

"Hey!"

"Not this one, Chanyeol." Jongin mumbles at the taller guy before pulling him away. He pulls him towards the diner's corner, Kyungsoo smiles to himself.

He tries hard suppressing it when Jongin finally faces him, looking grim.

"I was looking for a place to study so I went here. I wanna borrow your notes too." Kyungsoo explains even if there's no question yet.

"Soo, go home." there's the same tingling feeling he gets just by the small nickname. Most people call him that anyway, this one shouldn't be so special. So? "This is not a coffee shop. It's a diner. A small one, even."

"Why? I'm having dinner here, and I'll try to study for an exam."

"You can do that at home." he says, hand slowly pulling away from the shorter's arm.

The latter frowns because of this.

"But I want to study here!" he shifts into a grin, "I already finished my portfolio draft, by the way. I gave it to Dad."

Jongin's eyes linger on the satisfied smile on his face.

"What did he say about it?"

Kyungsoo shrugs, "He has yet to check." he sounds too confident, "I barely knew about the things you all do so I just did my research. It should be fine."

"Good." Jongin nods once, "Now go home, watch TV or something."

"I told you I have an exam and I need your help because you're a nerd!"

The taller huffs in annoyance, "When's the exam?"

Kyungsoo blinks, "This... Wedne—?"

"Not tomorrow. You don't need to study tonight. I'll help you tomorrow." he says, "I need to work now. Go home, Soo."

Kyungsoo purses his lips, "You don't want me here."

Jongin heaves in frustration, "It's not that—"

"You're ashamed to be my friend." he says without hesitance that gets Jongin speechless. When he only stares, Kyungsoo snaps again. "What? You are."

"I—" the taller gulps before raising his brows, "so I'm your friend now?"

The shorter blinks in awe.

"Well I didn't let you drive me back and forth to my apartment if you're not." Kyungsoo keeps the pride in his tone even when it's suddenly hard to speak, "And... I wouldn't ask you to go furniture shopping... or borrow your notes? Let alone talk to you, what do you think of me?"

His words gets jumbled and stuck in his throat when a small smile forms on Jongin's lips. The latter glances away, looking as if he needs to suppress it further before looking back at Kyungsoo.

"I thought you didn't like me."

Kyungsoo blinks rapidly. What is that supposed to mean? Good thing, he doesn't let his initial interpretation take over or he'll get too obvious.

Jongin still looks at him, "You always seemed so annoyed of me before."

For what, anyway?

"W-Well... most of my friends annoy the shit out of me. I don't need to like them. L-Like Baekhyun." Kyungsoo huffs, mostly because of his own stuttering. "But if you don't want it, then I don't—"

"I didn't say I don't." Jongin says gently, "You easily get mad."

"Tss." he looks away as if finding a seat for himself because he can't seem to look longer into his eyes, "When's your break anyway? Your father said you should help me."

"Let's do it some other day. I can't help you now, I'm working." Jongin says, immediately noticing the way his expression falls. "Is your driver waiting outside?"

Kyungsoo gulps before shaking his head, earning him a frown from the other.

"You drove here alone?"

"My driver sent me, then I told him to go ahead." he blinks when Jongin's brows crease, "I can just wait for your shift to finish so we can get your notes after. Easy as pie."

"You're so stubborn." Jongin says, "Call your driver and tell him to fetch you. I'll give you my notes tomorrow."

"Or I can just wait so we won't have to bother anyone—"

"I'll call Mr. Han and tell him myself." Jongin becomes more serious.

"Fine. Just let me eat first then I'll call him." Kyungsoo says in defeat, his face contorting into a frown. Jongin sighs when his tone changed. He parts his lips to speak but Kyungsoo's phone rings.

He glances at him before answering, "Dad."

Jongin can barely hear the voice from the other line, but he doesn't miss the way Kyungsoo's expression changes. The frown falters, but it's replaced with something worse. His eyes are blank but he's gulping in between listening.

"I didn't rush that..." Kyungsoo's voice is gentle, as if he's ashamed to be heard. Jongin watches him still, making him turn away with the phone still on his ear.

"I did my research and the designs are modern that's why. You don't need to shout at me." he says, jaw hardening. "I'll do it again. You could've just left it in my room. It isn't a trash you can just..."

He stops speaking, probably because the line went off. It takes him a while before finally facing Jongin again, the latter watching him.

"What happened?"

Kyungsoo stares into space before shaking his head, his grip on his phone is tight.

"I'll j-just... eat, then I'll go home." he gulps before walking towards one of the tables in the corner. Jongin watches him until he sits but Kyungsoo doesn't look again. He's staring at the menu list, looking distraught.

Kyungsoo ate one light meal and ordered a smoothie after. In between all of that, he's focused on the sketchpad on the table. The dimmed lighting and random noises of the diner made it hard to concentrate but he's too eager to even be bothered. The piercing words repeatedly ran in his mind; a piece of paper gets crumpled and thrown to the side every now and then because of frustration. He couldn't do it. He messed up.

After his father called the draft he worked on for days a trash, he doesn't seem to know the right thing to do anymore. Kyungsoo will never be good at this, and he's been repeatedly telling that to himself for the past few hours.

"Hello, cutie."

Kyungsoo goes back to reality when a deep voice speaks beside him. His piercing eyes move to the tall guy who was behind the counter a while ago, but is now beaming at him with a plate of brownie ice cream on his hand.

"Woah, I don't intend to bother you, okay?" he blinks when Kyungsoo's glare lingers on him. "You've just been too focused on that for hours so you might need this... you know? Keep things cool."

Kyungsoo glances at his wristwatch and gets taken aback by the number of hours that already passed. He looks back at the waiter with a blank gaze.

"I didn't order that."

"Oh, don't mention it." the tall guy raises both his brows but he doesn't seem convinced, "That's not poisoned or drugged, we're just generous to new customers."

He looks at the plate of dessert and wastes no second by taking a scoop. The tall guy remains watching him.

"Thanks." he says in between eating.

"No probs, cutie."

"You can quit with the pet names. Just call me Kyungsoo."

"Yeah, was able to catch that one. But you're really cute." he's just too thankful for the brownie that he doesn't tell him to fuck off yet, "I'm Chanyeol."

Kyungsoo looks at the hand offered in front of him, giving it a half-hearted highfive rather than a handshake. The waiter chuckles at this and Kyungsoo grins a little.

"At least you cooled down a little." he says genuinely, "You don't seem so happy with what you're doing."

He spaces out again because of what Chanyeol said. He doesn't see Jongin walking towards them. He's still in his uniform but his apron hangs on his shoulder, his brown locks tousled from the cap he wore. The small frown on his face is prominent.

"My shift is over, go back to the counter Chanyeol." he hisses before occupying the seat across Kyungsoo.

"Why are you being so grumpy? I'm just being courteous to the customer. It's not every day you'd have someone go all this way just to draw and crumple sheets of paper."

He chuckles even when the two guys sitting aren't equally amused. Kyungsoo flashes a fake smile before slightly rolling his eyes.

"I'm from the university nearby, so it's no hassle." Kyungsoo states, not expecting a different reaction from the waiter who looks at Jongin.

"Oh... he's from the university where your—"

"Shut up." Jongin hisses instantly, earning him a suspicious look from the boy in front of him. "I said go back. No one's at the counter. If boss finds out, we're dead."

The tall guy casts them a meaningful grin before walking back to the counter.

Kyungsoo looks around, confirming the time of the day because of the few people left in the diner. The street became more silent too. He leans back on his chair and rubs both his palms on his eyes that are starting to feel strained underneath the glasses.

When he opens them again, he sees Jongin observing him.

"I thought you'd call your driver?" Jongin seriously asks, yet it's much gentler. Probably because of seeing the other hopelessly looking at the blank page of his sketchpad.

Kyungsoo lets out a weary sigh. Without looking at the boy in front of him, he reaches for his pencil again.

"I wasn't able to keep track of the time. I'll probably go after... I finish this brownie." he says without sparing him a glance, yet he doesn't draw with the pencil in his hand either. Jongin starts looking through the crumpled sheets beside him.

"Why did you throw these?" he asks while opening each one to look at the unfinished sketches.

"They're trash." Soo responds ruthlessly. His eyes remain fixed on the clean paper he has yet to ruin and crumple. There's no immediate response from Jongin, yet he hears a sigh before the pencil he's holding gets pulled away.

"I'll give you some advice now, then tomorrow I'll lend you my old sketches and blueprints for your guide. Now, you just have to listen."

Kyungsoo opens his mouth to retaliate something but realizes soon after that Jongin is being serious and professional so he ends up nodding his head. The younger catches his gaze before focusing back on his old sheets.

"You have to base your designs on the trademarks of the firm, you just don't sketch whatever you like. Remember, you have your target market and clients." he explains to Kyungsoo, "It has to be a highly modernized structure, yet still pragmatic. Look... this one is good, close to the usual firm trademark... but it's economically hard to manage and maintain. This one..."

Kyungsoo watches him intently while he elaborates details. He tries taking it all in, but it's a struggle. Not when his focus effortlessly shifts to his lips. He cusses himself inside.

"Did you get it?" Jongin looks back at him so instantly moves his gaze to the sketch while nodding his head.

"Yes..."

Jongin's eyes linger on him, looking suspicious because of how distracted he appears. Yet he continues to explain comprehensively, making sure Kyungsoo gets every point. But then for the latter, it's really hard to keep the thoughts professional and wholesome.

"See... some designs are actually good but there's a few red flags. That's what you need to learn. You need to know how the materials will be maximized, also who and what you're designing for." he adds, pausing when he catches the doe-like eyes watching him. "You're actually listening to me, right?"

"Yeah... sorry, I guess I'm just tired..." he reasons out, though partly true. The younger's gaze stays on him.

"Don't let your father's words affect you so much." Soo looks at him because of this, "Harsh criticisms are one of the most expected in this field."

Kyungsoo blinks before chuckling in sarcasm.

"I wish it's a criticism." he smiles but it doesn't reach his eyes, nor does it go unnoticed. "It's fine, though. I stopped taking him seriously a long time ago."

The forced smile falters when he sees a genuine one forming on Jongin's lips.

"You don't have to lie to me, you know?" he tells Soo with a hint of concern, "No need to hide true feelings."

The older gets slightly taken aback. Silence engulfs them, making Jongin realize the words he blabbers.

"Enjoying the friend privilege so much." Soo grins as a damage control. He lazily flips his sketchpad close, "I appreciate the help...and advice."

He clears his throat when another awkward silence follows it.

"Go home, your shift is over. I'll stay for a while to wait for the driver after I call."

Soo raises a brow when Jongin doesn't move.

The younger sighs, "Let's leave together. I'm not leaving you alone here."

A big grin forms on Kyungsoo's lips.

"Then I won't call the driver." he shrugs, "Let's just get a Kakao taxi or something."

He's quite surprised and even more pleased that Jongin only sighed in defeat.

"Fine."

He organized his things and waited for Jongin to change back into his casual clothes before they both went outside to wait, earning a wave and usual grin from Chanyeol who's still on duty. There's a small bench right in front of the diner for waiting customers, so they sat there. It's late night so there's no one there.

They booked a taxi and waited in silence. Based from the cold breeze alone, they can tell another season is approaching. Jongin crosses both his arms over his chest, chilled by the cold wind brushing against his thin white shirt.

"If I ask you to drive me to university everyday..." Soo starts off, sounding a little careful and hesitant. "Will that be fine?"

He earns a look from the boy beside him. Kyungsoo blinks innocently as if his question is purely harmless.

"I mean... with a decent pay. L-Like actual driver... since you need to earn, right?"

He watches how Jongin lightly laughs because of this, getting him briefly lost to his senses.

"So you prefer me as your driver?" he gets to see the rare boyish grin of his. Kyungsoo's becoming a fan.

"Because I can scrutinize your fashion choices, yes?" Soo lamely reasons out, "And I can ask advice about... the internship? Sketches and technicalities?"

Jongin chuckles.

"No need for payment." he mutters while looking at the distance, "You just have to ask."

There's this overwhelming feeling for Kyungsoo, ironically because of him. They've known each other for like, what, a month? Yet here he is, the words of his father that had him so bummed are completely compensated with such simple conversations. Most of them do not even make sense, totally never a thing for someone like Kyungsoo. Someone who never liked wasting his time over simple and modest things.

"Now I'm really assuming that you like going to my university." he playfully squints his eyes, "Makes me think that you're crushing on someone there that's why you like going there so much, huh? Chanyeol almost spilled it a while ago. Makes sense cause there are tons of attractive people there."

Instead of instantly denying, Jongin surprisingly responds with an amused laughter.

"You're an over-analyzer."

"You don't even deny it." Soo is completely intrigued, yet something in him doesn't want to confirm it either. "Who is it?"

Jongin doesn't answer. He only smiles as if he didn't hear a thing.

"Come on!" Kyungsoo exclaims persuasively, "What year or course? Maybe I know her."

"Not someone you know."

Soo doesn't get to respond immediately because of this. When Jongin glances at him, he picks up his smile and casually taunts him again.

So there is someone.

"How would you know if you don't give me her name?" he says with a grin. There's still a hint of smile on the younger's face, "And here I am thinking we're friends..."

"I don't stand a chance so there's no point knowing." he says with a lazy smile lingering on his lips, "Where's the taxi?"

He tries shifting the subject but Kyungsoo is too eager to let it go.

"If you tell me then maybe I can help!"

Why? Why would he even help? Good lord.

True enough, Jongin stares at him. Soo raises a brow like he's actually willing to do so.

"Fine. I'll know soon enough." he sighs when Jongin responds nothing but a look, "But piece of advice from me this time, approach her. It's the 21st century and watching from afar is not a thing anymore. Talk to her and actually flirt, will you?"

Jongin chuckles, "Easy for you to say."

"Because it is easy." Kyungsoo says reassuringly, "If you manage to talk to her then I can give you some more advice after. Being the good friend I am."

The tanned boy shakes his head once while the side of his lips curves.

"Thanks, I guess?" he looks at Soo, "I'm still surprised you seem to enjoy my company now."

Kyungsoo's face relaxes. The taxi arrives so he's not able to answer that. But what would he say, anyway?

What would be something convincing to say?

×

"Next!"

The auditorium is in a buzz. Org auditions are usually just comprised of the org officers that will judge, some members, production and tech staffs and a very few audience. Mostly just the chaperones of the hopefuls.

This one is different. Kyungsoo doesn't know if it's because they conducted a late audition that's why it caused a little noise. Most of the people watching are actually interested and even cheering. It becomes something like a televised talent competition and now the org president wishes he didn't make it an open event.

It's almost six in the evening and they're down to the last few people. Kyungsoo is already leaning his head on his palm while writing down notes. Baekhyun yells another 'next' as enthusiastic as he was when they started. Soo is the only one losing his energy because despite considering a lot of new members, no one stood out for him yet. At least in terms of vocals. He's slowly worrying over the production they're setting up this year.

The crowd goes a little silent, probably because of another unknown auditionee. Kyungsoo lifts his gaze up and sees a pretty girl holding a mic. Unlike the others, she's wearing a simple pants and shirt, and light makeup that's still enough to showcase her well-proportioned face. And unlike the others too, she's not faking a smile. She almost looks bored, but Kyungsoo's wise enough to understand a similar situation. It's normal.

"Hello, how should we address you?" Baekhyun beams.

"Soojung is fine." she says casually, "I'm Jung Soojung, a junior architecture student."

Kyungsoo watches her intently. Aside from being obviously gorgeous, she seems like a normal girl, not trying so hard to please everybody. And although this makes her look cold, she seems genuine at the same time. Something about her is appealing enough for everybody in the same room.

"Can you tell us a little more about yourself?"

Baekhyun does all the talking yet most of the people who auditioned are obviously trying to please Kyungsoo, knowing he's the president. But this girl pays attention to anyone who's talking to her, specifically Baekhyun. That being said, she barely spared Kyungsoo a glance.

"I transferred last semester. My family moved back here from Canada. I grew up there." she says that causes a little stir among the audience, "I can sing, act and dance a little. I can also play a few instruments like the keyboard and cello."

"And why should we accept you in our organization?" another staff asks that almost makes Kyungsoo roll his eyes.

"Because... you need new members?" she cluelessly says and the crowd laughs while some claps, "I mean... because I want... to showcase my ability in this kind of art and I know you'll help... me."

Kyungsoo smiles when she said something forced and unnatural for the first time. For some reason, he's amused.

"Okay, show us what you prepared." she finally looks at Kyungsoo when he wraps up all the unnecessary questions and tells her to start. She looks at someone from the side of the stage before an instrumental plays.

She clears her throat before closing her eyes.

"Here comes a wave meant to wash me away, a tide that is taking me under..."

It doesn't go unnoticed how the crowd goes silent. She continues to sing with her eyes closed, and Kyungsoo subtly looks around to watch everyone's awed faces, even Baekhyun. He taps the pencil on his lips and looks back at her, his lips curving into a grin when he finally finds someone possible.

"Let the storm in, I cannot be broken. No, I won't live unspoken..."

Kyungsoo actually watched the short performance without writing down "notes" on his sheet. The song finished and everyone applauds right after. She smiles timidly, looking at Kyungsoo because of his lacking reaction. He raises his brows as the only sign of satisfaction.

"Didn't you say you can sing a little?"

  

  

"I'm so happy with the outcome. There are so many talented members this year." Baekhyun tells him while they pack their things. Kyungsoo barely hears it because of texting on his phone, earning him a scoff. "May I get your attention please, secret friend?"

"What? I'm listening?"

"No, you're not. And don't tell me you're simply advising your new driver on his love life again because that's the lamest, un-Kyungsoo, excuse ever." Baekhyun raises a brow, "You expect me to believe you're busy matchmaking a middle-aged employee of yours? Just tell me you're hooking up with someone new, I'll understand."

"I'm not. And what's wrong with matchmaking? You always do that." he says that earns him a big frown. Kyungsoo shrugs, "Anyways, I need to go, my driver's here. Make sure you get that girl... Soojung? You know her, make sure she's immediately recruited and make sure she comes on the next meeting."

Baekhyun squeals and walks beside him as they go out. Kyungsoo's thankful that the car is tinted so Baekhyun won't have to speculate every time he's being fetched. They continue going out of the auditorium while some of the people who auditioned are still lurking around, waving them goodbye.

"So she's one of the cast?" Baekhyun excitedly asks, obviously impressed by the girl.

Soo raises his brows while trying to spot the Audi, "Hmm, I'm thinking about lead role." he frowns when he sees it parked on the side. Why would he park? Baekhyun gasps beside him that gets his attention, "What? She's good."

"But still! Lead role?" he asks in disbelief, watching Kyungsoo who's still looking around. "Is this really you? I mean... I get it, but you always said new members don't get instant privilege."

"Not if they're good." he simply says, his gaze falling at the university gate. "Wait."

Kyungsoo freezes on the pavement outside the building, his eyes fixed on someone. Baekhyun casts a look at the same direction.

"What? Oh, is that Soojung?" he squints his eyes, totally oblivious of the unresponsive boy beside him. "Want me to ask her now? But she's talking to someone..."

Kyungsoo blinks.

"My driver."

His friend takes another step to look properly. Kyungsoo takes this time to gather his thoughts, the questions, then his composure that suddenly went off for a moment. So unlikely of him.

"Are you serious?" he laughs in disbelief, shaking Soo's arm. "That's your driver?! He's hot! I almost thought he's her boyfriend!"

Kyungsoo doesn't respond yet again. The driver isn't facing his way so he doesn't see his face. But he knows him by his back alone, his hair, or just the manner of placing his hands in both his pockets. Why would he be mistaken? It's Soojung he sees clearly. Soojung and her small smile.

"Oh... I see!" Baekhyun coos as if he realizes something that adds up, "It seems like your driver is taking your advice very well."

His blank gaze lingers on them, still. He dismisses Baekhyun's remarks beside him. Kyungsoo's trying to process everything in his mind. It's hard to believe.

He's pissed. Really really pissed. He can't believe his car is parked just beside the auditorium building. His million dollar car! He's seething!

Fuck this unpaid driver.

Maybe it's time to take his own advice.

Chapter Text

He doesn't know how long he's been spacing out in front of the same building. His gaze is fixated on the floor, countless of thoughts running inside his mind. Fortunately, Baekhyun is too busy blabbering nonsense while observing his driver and their newly discovered prodigy. Somehow, he doesn't notice Kyungsoo being out of character.

"He's walking back here... he's walking back here..." Baekhyun mumbles as if he's not being too obvious about gaping too much, "Look at him... I can't believe you hid this from me, Soo. We could've been the ones you're match-making."

Soo looks at the boy walking towards their way. The latter's face is blank and for some reason, Kyungsoo hates it. He can smile for all he cares, no need to pretend he wasn't hitting up on some girl.

When the other boy gets closer to where they are, he can't come up with a fake smile. Baekhyun is beaming brightly beside him, nudging him subtly to be introduced.

"Sorry," Jongin starts off, glancing at Baekhyun with a small smile before settling his gaze at Kyungsoo whose face is blank. "I thought I should park the car first since the guard told me the audition wasn't over yet."

"Oh, you're quite early." Baekhyun smiles bigger before lending out his hand, "I'm Baekhyun by the way! Kyungsoo's friend."

Jongin reluctantly nods, looking at Kyungsoo. But the latter is looking somewhere else with the same blank face so he takes the other boy's hand for a friendly shake, timidly smiling.

"Nice to meet you."

"You know Soojung?" Baekhyun asks, completely getting Kyungsoo out of the mood. "She just auditioned and Soo was very impressed. We all are, actually. She may even get the lead role for our production this year." God, Byun Baekhyun is the most talkative shit. "Right, Soo?"

Kyungsoo casually shrugs before fixing the strap of his bag on his shoulder. He can feel the taller looking at him but for some reason, he chooses to dismiss it.

"Probably. I'll think about it." he says curtly before letting out a sigh, "Go home, Byun. We're leaving too."

Baekhyun frowns a little, "But we—"

"Bye." Kyungsoo doesn't wait for an agreement from any of them as he struts towards the car. Jongin's gaze follows him, while Baekhyun only pouts a little.

"Weirdo." he mumbles before smiling at Jongin, "I should go. Hope we can talk more next time! Soo's probably throwing a fit again."

Jongin blinks, "Why?"

Baekhyun only shrugs like it's a habitual thing.

"No one knows. He's just like that." he says but Jongin is barely listening, "Nice meeting you, Jongin! See you again!"

Jongin only responds with a smile before looking at the car at the distance.

It's probably because of the other's shorter legs but he almost caught up with Kyungsoo's pace towards the car. The latter doesn't look behind so he presses the key in his hand to unlock the Audi. Kyungsoo wordlessly gets inside without waiting for him.

When Jongin hops in the driver's seat, his eyes settle on Kyungsoo for a while. The older is already leaning his head against the window with his eyes closed like he's sleeping. But of course, he isn't. At least not yet.

A sigh escapes Jongin's lips before starting the engine. The car leaves the university premises with Jongin glancing at the boy beside him every now and then.

"Want me to open the radio?" he asks, confused as to why Kyungsoo also forgot to do what he always did as soon as he got in the car when Jongin fetched him before; listen to random RnBs. Aside from that, the younger finally has the courage to initiate the conversation this time, trying to figure out the reason behind the spoilt mood.

He doesn't answer immediately, yet he slowly opens his eyes. He glances at the radio even when the driving boy beside him is watching him instead of the traffic light.

"Sure."

Jongin's finger is already on it so with a simple press, the silence breaks. Kyungsoo doesn't speak again yet his gaze remain outside. He doesn't know why but he's pissed. It must be about the car, or the weather. The heavy traffic, maybe.

"Are you okay?"

It's the question, that's it. That's the reason, even if it just came now.

"Of course." Kyungsoo says yet his unintentional frown says otherwise. He hates how the traffic is heavier at the main road today. The feeling of this certain pair of eyes on him makes him feel like bursting.

When the image comes back in his mind, he snaps out of his incoherent thoughts. The bitterness rushes down his throat but Kyungsoo goes back to his usual self; straightening up on his seat while a small curve forms on his lips.

"Sorry, just tired. Auditions were hectic as hell."

What was happening to me? He asks himself in disbelief. I can't believe I just felt that. But what was it exactly that he felt? He's not sure, either. It was something like a small bitter pill in his throat.

Jongin's eyes linger on him for a while, quite bewildered by his sudden shift of mood. But he smiles at the older nonetheless, and Soo feels his chest tightening.

He seems happy, while Kyungsoo feels damned for some reason he can't even comprehend. How unfair is that?

"You look happy." Kyungsoo says, almost casually. When the tanned boy responds with nothing but a small grin while looking at the road, he doesn't notice his own bitter smile while looking back at the window.

"Finally got a moment with your crush, huh?" he chuckles while his finger rubs on his lower lip, "I'm surprised, actually. I must say you got the taste."

He doesn't look away from the cars outside.

"What?" he hears Jongin ask beside him.

Kyungsoo takes a subtle gulp before squinting his eyes at the confused boy beside him, his grin growing bigger.

"Now I know why you like fetching me from the university because you're trying to hit on a transferee." he chortles, "You're a sneaky idiot... thinking I wouldn't know."

He keeps his grin even when Jongin is blinking slowly.

"I don't know what you—"

"Oh shut it, you don't have to deny. I'm not dumb." Kyungsoo almost snaps, yet he's still smiling. He doesn't even try filtering his words anymore. "It's fine. She's a prodigy, a beautiful girl too. Aside from that, I heard her family's not that rich since they went bankrupt when they were in Canada. She wouldn't mind dating you."

The trace of smile on Jongin's face completely falters. He purses his lips while looking at Kyungsoo seriously.

"What?" Kyungsoo raises his brows when the taller obviously gets taken aback by his words, "I'm just saying, if she's an elite girl like anyone else in our school then I don't think you'll have the chance. Good thing she isn't."

He finds himself leaning back on his seat after his words. Jongin looks back ahead, just in time when the traffic light goes green. His jaw briefly hardens before nodding once.

"Of course." he mutters, not saying anything else after that anymore.

Kyungsoo spaces out the rest of the trip. He might've went too far... Actually no, he definitely went too far. He knows.

He's aware of it, yet there's no way he'd apologize. What he said was true, for him.

Soo tries to come up with more excuses. Jongin should've been thankful— he was trying to boost his confidence towards Soojung. He should be used to Kyungsoo's words, he shouldn't even be taking them seriously.

No, it's simply not right to say that and he's a horrible, horrible person. Just like that.

The car stops in front of his apartment and his chest is slowly heaving. It's funny that he still anticipates a word from his driver. Because he wouldn't get out, yet. It's his car, fuck it.

"Don't fetch me tomorrow. I'll be sleeping over at Baekhyun's house." now where did that even come from? Baekhyun better have a room prepared.

He waits for a question, even hoping for a defiance even if it's simply about his father getting mad. But no, Jongin only nods without sparing him a glance. Kyungsoo hops out of the car and slams the door shut before walking inside, huffing out the breath he's been holding in. It's true, he tells himself for the hundredth time, what I said was all true.

Kyungsoo stands still in front of his unit, blinking rapidly. Why should he apologize?

×

The following day seems to pass by slower than the others. Kyungsoo hasn't talked to Baekhyun yet about the sudden sleepover he was planning. He's been spacing out the whole day, even in the midst of the welcome event and meeting with the newly hired org members.

"You look like shit, Pres. No offense." Baekhyun says as soon as it's over, a little annoyed that he had to do most of the work again because of Kyungsoo being dysfunctional.

"I agree." one of his officers said without reluctance. He glares at them and watches the new members timidly smiling at everyone while bidding their goodbyes. Soo knows better; as soon as they get comfortable with the older staffs, then they won't be that shy anymore. He almost flashes a grimace.

"Did the architecture transferee back out?" he asks Baekhyun seriously even if he clearly remembers her name. She didn't attend the welcome event.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you." Baekhyun smiles sheepishly, "She texted me and asked permission. I think she has a very urgent thing to settle today, so she couldn't attend. But she acknowledged our recruitment."

Kyungsoo squints an eye.

"Wow, I'm grateful that she acknowledged us." he mutters, voice dripping with sarcasm. "We should've just adjusted the event according to her sched."

Baekhyun stares at him knowingly, "Soo."

"If she can't even attend our first meeting, then what should I expect from her, you tell me?"

"Stop whining. She asked. She was polite." Baekhyun rolls his eyes. It makes him even more pissed that the other is suddenly siding with this girl, "I can forward her message to you. She was formal, okay. No emojis like me, but I know she has a good character based on her approach. You're judging her so fast."

He can't even make sense out of Baekhyun's words. Kyungsoo is just simply annoyed.

"Do I look like I give a fuck about her character?" he asks with a raised brow, "I want her to attend my errands for this, sing and act good. She can be a disaster outside this org for all I care, as long as she does her job here."

"Shut up, you're being a bitch." Baekhyun frowns as if he's the one offended, "You sound like a tyrant."

"Cute." Kyungsoo fakes a smile, rolling his eyes before going out to answer an upcoming phone call.

"Mr. Do, your father is asking if you're on your way."

Kyungsoo frowns when he recognized one of his father's hundred secretaries, "What?"

"You're supposed to be here for the briefing."

His palm finds its way to his face, rubbing it in frustration. "I'm not aware. What is it for? I'm still at an org meeting."

"Your new driver didn't tell you, then? I think your father asked him to relay the message to you yesterday so you can go together." Kyungsoo blinks because of the sudden mention of Jongin, "You got one of the spots for the internship. You have to be here, now."

He isn't able to answer immediately. Soo finds it hard to decide which one to process first; his father actually chose him? He gave him, his trash designs a chance?

And... Jongin didn't tell him yesterday?

Now the image of the tanned boy's smiling face comes back in his mind. His smile before Kyungsoo decided to be a prick and ruined both their moods.

He finally understands, and now he's even guiltier.

"Mr. Do."

"Yes..." he mumbles weakly, "Yes, I'll be there..."

Kyungsoo spaces out for a while. Did Jongin forget? Or he was too mad that he didn't bother informing him?

He begged Baekhyun to give him a ride to their company building, since he assumed that he's the only one they're waiting. He had to deal with Baekhyun being overly excited for his internship that he quickly came up with a celebration tonight. Kyungsoo didn't even get the chance to say no.

As soon as he enters the building, he already prepares himself to be scolded by his father. More than that, he prepares himself to see the boy who's been in his mind for a while now. If only he's not being so denial.

When he reaches the top floor where he was instructed to go, he walks straight to one of the conference rooms. Being the president's son gave him the privilege to roam around the luxurious building without having to be escorted. He can go anywhere he wants, and no one would dare say a word.

Even without starting the internship yet, he already knows the gossip that will circulate around the company. He doesn't deserve it. He only got it because of his father. Unlike the two other chosen interns in the country, he's not worthy of it. But it seriously won't matter to Kyungsoo anymore.

It's not like he wanted this.

He opens the door without hesitance and sees one of their top architects and a girl occupying the chairs inside the room, her back facing him. Maintaining his blank face, Kyungsoo disregards the slight change of expression from the architect's face before standing up to acknowledge him.

He makes his way to one of the chairs but stops when he gets a glimpse of the girl's face— a face that's also filled with surprise when she saw him.

"Kyungsoo..." the architect smiles formally, glancing at him from head to toe. "the formal briefing starts at five." he says, emphasizing a few words to imply his points.

The petite boy badly wants to roll his eyes, now disregarding the still shocked look from the girl's face as he recovered. He flashes a fake smile at the architect; just say I'm late and go.

"I wasn't told about it until..." he lazily checks his watch, "thirty minutes ago, so I went all the way here without changing. Sorry if it bothers you, architect."

Soojung looks away even when she's clearly uncomfortable by the slightly impolite response from the boy, considering they're with someone she looks up to. Well for Kyungsoo, he's just one of their employees, that's all.

Kyungsoo looks around as if it's not clear enough that there's only the three of them here. He takes a subtle gulp before catching Soojung's eyes on him again, who then quickly looks away when he bluntly stares back at her.

"So this is one of the interns chosen, Jung Soojung. She's a junior from yo—"

"Yeah." Kyungsoo cuts him off, looking at her blankly. "I know who she is. Go on."

The tension heightens when Soojung bravely looks at him, obviously not a fan of his sharp responses. Kyungsoo being Kyungsoo, he stares directly at her without a trace of humor on his face. The girl subtly raises a brow before going back to listening to the architect. Soo fights the urge to chuckle.

"I've already briefed her about the most important details. I'm sure you can catch up on that." the architect says meaningfully, looking a little pissed that he's often interrupted. "Chairman gave me your third version of designs and personally, I think they still need a lot of improvement."

He smiles at Kyungsoo as if he expects him to be offended but the latter only shrugs, almost nonchalantly even.

Soojung looks a little confused. Despite her attempts to maintain her resting bitch face, Kyungsoo knows she's curious. He can still catch her sneaky glances.

In the midst of continued briefing, the conference room door gently opens. The chaebol son's expression softens, watching Jongin make his way inside while continuously bowing at the architect. He's in his simple polo shirt, his hair a little messy, and his work backpack clutched in his hand. He definitely came from his part-time job. His gaze unintentionally falls on Soojung before apologizing to the architect again.

Never on Kyungsoo, though. Not a single look.

"It's okay. You informed almost all the supervising architects regarding your situation so it's fine."

Kyungsoo maintains his composure even when the other boy doubtlessly takes the seat two spots away from Soojung. The girl is obviously glancing at the man beside him, probably a little overwhelmed by his presence.

Jongin looks as casual as he usually is, unaware of his effect just by basically doing nothing. For his age, he looks so matured. His perfect bronze skin and simple gaze, gestures, make him look rough. Though not the kind of rough you would want to avoid. When he smiles, it makes you either want to ride him or bear his child, no in between. Can Kyungsoo blame Soojung and the way she's almost sinking down her seat? Not at all, seriously. Not when he hasn't been in his right mind since this boy came and he couldn't think of—

Wait... jesus.

Wait, fuck, does he like Jongin?

"Kyungsoo."

He snaps out of his thoughts, realizing how much he's been spacing out when he sees the three of them looking at him. Something jumps in his chest when he catches Jongin's eyes on him, staring seriously before looking away when he's caught.

"What..." Kyungsoo mumbles before gulping.

"Do you know what BIM is?" the architect asks him as if it's the simplest question on earth.

Soo blinks slowly, "No..."

He doesn't miss how Soojung tries to suppress a grin while Jongin simply looks at the table.

"Oh..." the architect mutters with a knowing look, "I think I should give you terms to research before the actual internship starts so you can get the background."

Kyungsoo can't even find the chance to be ashamed nor offended. He's still caught up with the realization he just had. Something that seems so hard for him to accept, yet denying it will just prove another point— that he's dumb because it's clear as the sun.

He definitely likes his driver. Can you believe that? A chaebol son is having hots for his driver. This poor boy from a nearby province who's basically here just because his father was the Chairman's old bodyguard.

"I'm sure Soojung and Jongin will help you." the architect adds to depreciate him even more, "I guess that's all for now. We'll give you your handbooks and sample blueprints before you leave. Congratulations again."

The architect shakes their hands, smile becoming raw when he faces Kyungsoo.

"Prove us that you all deserve these internship slots, okay?" he adds, specifically looking at the Chairman's son, but the latter is still a little preoccupied with something else.

The architect leaves the room first, probably to give them a moment to know each other. But the three of them succumbs into silence. Jongin is the only one still staring at the table while the two others throw him subtle glances for entirely different reasons.

When some company staffs come back inside to give them the handbooks they'll need, the agenda for the day is officially wrapped up. Jongin is the first one to leave the room, and Kyungsoo doesn't fail to notice how Soojung follows right after him, obviously planning to approach him for something.

Something tells him to go after Jongin before she could. He doesn't want to admit this little fear in his chest, yet he's here— grabbing his bag before walking out of the conference room. When he proves his point and sees them talking in the hall, he gathers his courage to step towards where they are, but someone blocks his way.

"Excuse me, Sir?" Kyungsoo frowns and the executive employee blinks slowly, slightly afraid of the response she got, "Uhm... your father is on his way to a meeting but he wants to see you first."

Kyungsoo lets out a frustrated sigh, glancing at the two people from the distance before following the employee.

Still slightly frowning, he arrives in front of his father's office where the Chairman is currently talking to some of his executives. When he sees Kyungsoo walking towards him, he signals them to go to the conference hall ahead of him.

"I heard you're late at the briefing." were the Chairman's first words as soon as he got closer. Kyungsoo almost rolls his eyes, barely considering the fact that they're outside the office and he needs to appear as the good son he is.

"I'm fine, Dad, thank you." he sarcastically says, making the old man sigh. "Well your favorite intern didn't tell me there's a briefing today, nor that I got chosen. Oh, and I arrived before him. Does that make me better?"

"Your recent designs improved... but that doesn't mean you can slack off, Soo." he sees the way his son's expression falls but he's not even apologetic for it, "I gave you a chance, work hard for it."

"Anything else?"

"Go home to our house today. Check if your mother's there cause last time I checked, she's drinking so much again."

Kyungsoo creases his brows even more, "Why should I?" he breathes heavily, "Aren't you her husband? Why do I need to take care of her when I've already moved out—"

"Do as I say, Kyungsoo." the Chairman declares once and for all, casting him a stern look before walking past him. Kyungsoo stays on the same spot for a short while, teeth gritted in annoyance.

But then again, it's just another day of checking up on his alcoholic mother because his father is workaholic, on the other hand. And he's never even sure if the latter cared. He should be used to this dysfunctional family.

He snaps out of it when he remembers what he was supposed to do. Walking back to the hall, he's almost sure Jongin already left but when he sees him, standing close to the restroom hall, he's not sure whether he's relieved or disappointed.

Soo watches how his driver's eyes become cold as soon as he spots him walking closer. He keeps his composure despite the sudden tightness in his chest.

"Hey." he casually approaches Jongin, "I... can I talk to you?"

Jongin's brows are slightly furrowed, "What is it?"

Kyungsoo heaves, so he's really mad.

"Will you still be driving me home?"

It takes a lot of courage to ask that question, but Kyungsoo takes this as a chance to just forget whatever conversation they had yesterday. Maybe if he'll act like nothing happened, then Jongin can dismiss it as well.

But Jongin's eyes flashes a trace of disbelief, letting out a sigh when he realized this game the older is trying to play.

"I don't know yet. Depends on time the internship and my job will demand, I guess."

Something bitter rushes down Kyungsoo's throat. He forces a smile while slowly nodding.

"Okay... Mr. Han is there, after all." it becomes even harder for him to keep his cool, "So are you going home?"

He takes in another breath when his driver glances at the restroom across where they are. Kyungsoo figures it out in an instant.

"I'm waiting for the other intern."

He wants to commend himself for still pushing further.

"Date night?" he asks with a raw smile.

Jongin forces a smile.

"Why not?" the side of his lips curves but there's no humor in it, "It's the 21st century, right?"

Soo purses his lips when a familiar line is retaliated. He looks straight into Jongin's testing eyes yet he's not able to say a word even when he feels like bursting.

Jongin slightly tilts his head up, raising his brows.

"Is that all?"

"Are you mad at me?"

Even Kyungsoo is surprised by his own question. He wants to know why of all chances; he finally gets to recognize he likes Jongin just when the latter is having grudges against him. That's just so unfair.

"Nevermind. That's a stupid question." he smiles sarcastically when the younger only squinted his eyes at him, "Just wanna say congrats... for the internship? For your love life? I don't know. I don't care."

Now Jongin is seriously looking at him again. The way his eyes linger on him makes him want to crumble down into pieces. And even before he could, he starts walking past him.

"It's not hard to apologize, Kyungsoo."

Kyungsoo's jaw hardens before looking back at Jongin who's still watching him. But the small smile on his face does something in his heart and he just has to leave.

"Why should I?" he grins before walking away before Jongin can say another word. Before Soojung comes out and he gets an idea where they are off to.

Before the fake grin on his face completely falters.

×

Baekhyun has his ways. So even when Kyungsoo tried hiding in his apartment after checking up on his mother (who's fine now and is actually back to gambling), Baekhyun dragged him out and managed to dress him up before heading to a high end bar.

Byun Baekhyun is probably not the primmest and most proper person he had ever met, but he's definitely rich. Not as rich as Kyungsoo's family, but he's basically a chaebol as well. Yet he's unlike any other wealthy kid in their school, something that makes him an outcast. He's too carefree and wild, too happy, someone that rich kids in their town are not, but is surely what they secretly wish to be.

He's the one Kyungsoo never expected to befriend but it's crazy how it all just happened. And now that he's away from his old fake friends, he realized why they all used to make fun of this boy dancing beside him. He's exactly what they're not, and they're so mad about that.

No matter how annoying Baekhyun can get, he's the only one brave enough to tame Kyungsoo. He's the only one who actually tries saving him from being so miserable on his own. Just like today.

"We're here to celebrate! Stop frowning!" Baekhyun immediately noticed his grim face even before he could sit down.

"You're drunk." he retaliates, trying to pull the drink away from Baekhyun who's already blushing from face down to his neck because of too much drinking, "That's enough."

"What? That's why we're here! To get drunk!" he winces as the hard liquor finds its way down his throat. Baekhyun hasn't even recovered yet he's already filling up Kyungsoo's glass, "Come on, Soo. Have some more!"

Kyungsoo already knows the possible ending of this. Between them, he's the only one with an actual alcohol tolerance. Now he's starting to think that Baekhyun only desperately dragged him here so someone could babysit him once he's drunk as hell.

But then, Kyungsoo would rather be distracted tonight. For the past few hours, he's been able to repress all the thoughts of the same man over and over again. Now that he's reminded of it, he takes another tequila.

His driver's probably having a good time with his first date while he's here, getting drunk because of him. Kyungsoo suddenly acquired a wild imagination, and it's not good at all. What is happening to him? Maybe, if he gives himself a huge hangover then he'll realize that it's a stupid idea liking a guy like that. Yeah, that's probably the best idea. So he drinks more.

Well he deserves this. For being an asshole. For being egocentric.

Fortunately, he's wise enough to inform Mr. Han ahead of time to fetch them by eleven, just in case they're both too hammered to function. Another hour of dancing and dirty grinding with random people on the dance floor and Baekhyun is already slouched on their VIP couch. Kyungsoo takes all of the vodka left in his glass before lightly kicking Baekhyun's leg that is definitely a useless try.

"Baekhyun wake up!" he groans when Baekhyun barely moved from his position. Kyungsoo sighs and takes out his phone to text Mr. Han, asking if he's on his way. As soon as he sent the message, he stands up from his seat despite his sight slightly turning.

He tries waking Baekhyun up with a few more nudges, accidentally glancing at the bar's entrance where a familiar group of people enters. Kyungsoo gulps and looks back to his friend before any of them could even catch his gaze.

"Fuck." he cusses under his breath, having no strength to deal with any more drama today. He pulls Baekhyun up by the shoulders, urgently tapping his face so he would wake up. But his friend only shakes his hand off without opening his eyes. "Baekhyun, let's go."

"Wait... I'm dizzy!"

"Baekhyun, please." he mumbles yet fate seems to be shitting on him when he hears the familiar voices closer to where they are.

"Oh my god, look who's here?" he hears the irritating voice of the girl his ex cheated on him with. Kyungsoo can almost guarantee that the jerk has slept with the most of them since they broke up. Or even way before that.

"Soo... I wanna puke." Baekhyun mumbles, trying to sit up straight.

"Aww, Soo you're babysitting Byun now?" another one of them coos, "You really belong to each other, don't you?"

"We're going home, Baekhyun, stand up." he tells Baekhyun while struggling to pull him up. Because even if Mr. Han isn't there, they can just wait outside. Not here.

"I can't believe how low you've become." Sohee adds while her arms cross over her chest, "Too much for being popular, Soo. You became pathetic."

Kyungsoo finally sees Seonho at the corner, looking at him grimly. All of them look so tipsy, probably because of spending the whole night bar hopping. Their usual lifestyle. Kyungsoo's old lifestyle.

He disregards his ex's intense look at him and proceeds to pull Baekhyun up, together with their things. But some of the boys in their group start blocking his way intentionally.

"Get the fuck out of my way." Kyungsoo hisses through gritted teeth.

"The cab is here, Soo?"

"Maybe they're heading to the nearest motel."

All of them are grinning with each other's remarks. Kyungsoo couldn't believe he used to be friends with these idiots.

"Seonho, he became a top since you left him."

His ex walks to where he is, a huge grin forming on his lips. His eyes are bloodshot, obviously drunk and high. Kyungsoo can't say he's surprised.

"Is it true? You top now, Soo?"

"Fuck off."

"Why don't we try it again? See if you can fuck good?" Soo glares at him when he takes one step closer. As much as he wants to kick him on the balls and get out of this place, he has Baekhyun to think about. "Come on, I bet you haven't had a good sex since I left you."

He chuckles, amused by the irony.

"You left me?" he repeats mockingly, "I wasn't the one begging in front of so many people after being caught red-handed. I wasn't the one on my knees while crying."

Even some of his friends laugh and coo because of the remark. Most of them got bored waiting for a fight so they start going to the dance floor and liquor bar. It's not surprising that they easily pulled some strings when the DJ blasts the music louder as soon as this bunch of assholes shouted in signal.

But his ex remains on the same spot, his jaw clenched in rage. Kyungsoo doesn't even feel any ounce of fear. He only wants to laugh.

"Now get out of my way, Seonho. You've never given a good sex and you know that."

"Sure, you're a good fuck, Soo. That's what you wanna hear?" he asks through gritted teeth, effortlessly blocking Kyungsoo's way with his huge built. "But I still got tired of you. That, you wanna know why?"

Soo grits his teeth, "I don't give a flying fuck, so no, thank—"

"No, actually— why everyone is tired of you, Soo." he steps back when Seonho snaps without hesitance, "You're an egocentric jerk who doesn't give a shit about anyone's feelings. You're selfish, too caught up with the thought that the world revolves around you just because you're rich and you get everything you want without asking."

Kyungsoo blinks in surprise when he sees his ex being so serious for the first time. He's desperately trying to emphasize his words coherently. So that Kyungsoo would hear and understand.

"Wow. News flash." is all he could respond. He chuckles and tries walking past him but he gets harshly pulled back to his place.

"No, you fucking listen to me." Seonho croaks out while pointing a finger at him. Now even Sohee and the other people who can hear him look taken aback by his outburst, "I've always been the bad guy in this narrative because I cheated. Okay, that's given. But I tried. I tried actually being a good boyfriend to you but you just treated me like shit so don't put all the blame on me. Remember when you got kicked out of your house and no one else was there but me? Do you remember that? Those nights I arranged something for you and you straight up ditched me because you were too fucking lazy to come. You're just horrible."

Kyungsoo doesn't know if it's the liquor, if he had too much that he can't find the usual feisty comeback. He stares at him blankly, but he's gritting his teeth hard when he can't seem to redeem himself by having the best response before just walking out.

"Seonho." one of the girls calls him, but he shakes his head while still smiling sarcastically.

"No, I didn't get the chance to let this all out and I just need to. I had so many breaking points aside from that but you didn't hear it from me." he gulps but keeps his intense look at Kyungsoo, "I loved you. I was trying for you, but you fucking loved stepping on me like what you do to everyone else. You could've simply told me you will never treat me like a fucking boyfriend but no, you went on dismissing all my effort and even my presence most of the time. You didn't cheat but you used me for your convenience alone and you're not even ashamed to make me feel that. You think so high of yourself. I'm an asshole, but you're much worse. You're worse."

Now Kyungsoo hates himself completely. He told himself he's done with these people, but here he is, taking in all of his ex's words. Letting them dig into his chest even when he shouldn't even be listening to him in the first place.

Seonho lets out a chuckle.

"Don't blame me if I resorted to this because I was too desperate to actually have you notice. You exhausted me." he tells Kyungsoo, "Your family is tired of you. One day, that friend of yours, everyone, everyone kissing your feet right now will get tired because you just—"

"Soo."

Kyungsoo feels a gentle tap on the small of his back. It's the only time he realizes that his eyes feel warm when he looks at the person beside him, seeing Jongin's face. The latter looks at him seriously before effortlessly helping him pull Baekhyun up.

He hears a few questions around him, a usual response whenever Jongin is present. But his chest feels heavy to even comprehend anything. All he knows is that he's repeatedly gulping. Just by the thought of Jongin hearing everything said to him already crashes him even more.

"Let's go." his driver says while still watching him.

"Now your driver is saving you too, huh?" Seonho chortles when he recognized Jongin. He grits his teeth while lifting his hand once more, "Hey, I'm not do—"

"Stop pointing a finger at him." Jongin says grimly, even before the other man can point a finger at Kyungsoo again.

Seonho chuckles bitterly, "Don't you know who I am, huh driver boy? I'm his ex-boyfriend and I'm not fucking do—"

"You're done since that night you're begging on the university hall." Jongin says with a hint of warning, "You don't have anything to do with this boy anymore, get out of our way."

His ex tries grabbing him, so Kyungsoo's breath hitches when he feels the hand on his shoulder being hardly slapped away. When he looks at Jongin, the latter is sharply looking at his ex while his jaw clenches.

"Don't you ever try laying your fucking finger on him again." he emphasizes every word with a threatening tone, ready to punch anyone just by the way his fists tighten. Seonho isn't able to say anything anymore, "Soo, let's go."

Jongin's words were the last ones said. He made it clear that he's not taking any response from them anymore. Kyungsoo didn't look back at his ex when they made their way outside even when he could feel all their gazes at them.

He walks ahead while Jongin trails behind him, holding the barely conscious Baekhyun in his arm. Soo has his eyes settled on the floor even until they reach the car.

Silence covers them. Kyungsoo doesn't notice Jongin glancing at him every now and then. He's blinking rapidly when he opens the backseat door to help his driver put his drunk friend inside. When they're done fixing his position, Kyungsoo mindlessly closes the door, unaware that his fingers are still holding onto the edge.

"Shit!"

Jongin steps towards him when he lets out a yelp. Kyungsoo holds his fingers with his other hand, shutting his eyes tight when he feels them tearing up. His driver pulls his hand away from his hold to check on it, brows furrowed in concern.

No one says a word when Kyungsoo's eyes glisten with tears. If it's for his fingers, he doesn't know.

"L-Let's get inside." he mutters while trying to swallow the bile in his throat. He gets inside the Audi first, quickly wiping his eyes before Jongin could even get to the driver's seat.

He doesn't realize he's spacing out again while unconsciously rubbing his reddening fingers, nor is the fact that the engine has been started yet Jongin is still watching him from his side.

Jongin reaches for his fingers and holds it with his right hand. He's gently rubbing it with his thumb, his skin feels warm against Kyungsoo's cold fingers. Because of this, Kyungsoo finally gets the courage to look into the eyes he's been avoiding for a while now.

"Does it hurt?" Jongin gently asks and Soo has to fight the sudden urge to break down because of the simple question. What is wrong with him? His driver is basically asking about his fingers.

"N-No..." he stammers, trying to slowly pull his hand away. "It's fine... l-let me put Baekhyun's location."

But Jongin grips it firmly, settling their hands on his leg before looking straight ahead. Kyungsoo blinks slowly.

"Just dictate it."

He says Baekhyun's complete address and Jongin singlehandedly types it on his phone without letting go of his two fingers.

Jongin doesn't say nor ask anything the whole ride. He's just driving with one hand, holding Soo's fingers in the other, sometimes gently fiddling them. Kyungsoo finds peace from it, surprisingly. He stopped being stiff when he began finding it comforting. Now he just lets him hold them while staring outside.

When they reach Baekhyun's house, he gulps before looking at Jongin.

"It doesn't hurt anymore..." he says, yet he doesn't pull it away. Jongin looks at their hands, then to him.

"You sure?"

Kyungsoo simply nods. Even when he doesn't like the sudden feeling of coldness around his hand when Jongin lets it go, he's not going to be so greedy about it. It will only make the feelings he's trying to conceal too obvious.

Baekhyun's alone in the house so they needed to look for his keys in his pocket and his house's security pin. The minimal and modern house only has two floors and all the rooms are on the second floor, including the living room. While the first floor is only for parking and activities.

"Just put him down there. His housekeeper can help him tomorrow." Kyungsoo says as soon as they got inside Baekhyun's bedroom, "He's such a pain in the ass."

After taking his coat and shoes off, they tuck him in his comforter. Kyungsoo goes to the kitchen, nonchalantly getting them glasses of water and an ice pack for his fingers from Baekhyun's fridge.

He sees Jongin sitting on the living room couch, looking around the room before glancing at him. Soo gives him a glass of water as he sits inches away from him.

"Mr. Han didn't come..."

Kyungsoo tries to initiate a conversation by stating the obvious, yes, very much like him.

He wants laugh. He should've realized that he likes Jongin when he starts acting so out of character. Almost like the people who used to make him roll his eyes for making a fool out of themselves because of love or whatever the hell they call it.

"Yes, your father still has unfinished tasks for him so he called me." Jongin says while staring at him.

Soo slowly nods.

"Thanks... for coming."

Jongin doesn't say anything, but he's watching the older as if he's trying to weigh his words. Like he's too eager to know what's going on in his mind.

"Sorry, too." Kyungsoo gulps, "For everything I've said that offended you. I've been used to being a jerk that I say stupid things."

There it goes. It's easy, isn't it?

"Are you saying that because of what happened?" Jongin asks meaningfully, "You think you owe everyone, including your ex?"

A bitter smile forms on Kyungsoo's lips.

"I'm saying sorry because I know I did you wrong. Seonho doesn't deserve any apology from me. I already made up for all the shit he was throwing me as soon as he cheated."

Jongin purses his lips before raising his brows.

"But you're bothered by his words?"

He was trying to shift the topic on something else, but Jongin just knows better. He knows the exact questions to ask, doesn't he?

"Some of them are true." Soo mumbles while looking at his fingers, "He just didn't need to rub them on my face because I'm already aware."

"Which of that is true?"

He looks up at Jongin when he hears the demand in his voice. The younger is staring at him seriously and it doesn't help his heart at all. Kyungsoo takes another gulp while blinking.

"M-Most of it..."

Even if his gaze goes back to his hands, Soo can tell that Jongin straightens up from leaning back on the couch, resting his elbows on his legs to look at him better.

"No." he says firmly, "None of it is true."

Kyungsoo looks transparent this time. Jongin can see the pain in his eyes when he looks back at him, and it only encourages him to continue.

"He was rationalizing his actions by blaming you." Jongin tells him, "It's not your fault that you were forced in a relationship. It's not your fault that he misunderstood your independence as being selfish." he makes sure he's looking straight into his eyes so that Kyungsoo knows he means every word. "All the people, including him, that got tired of you were the ones who did you wrong. Not the other way around. You're too strong for them. And they couldn't handle that, so they try to tear you down."

Kyungsoo grins even when his eyes are rapidly blinking.

"I'm a lot w-worse than you think."

Jongin smiles that has the other taken aback.

"Then why are you here? Bringing your drunk friend home even without assurance that someone will help you?" he asks genuinely, "Why were you passively letting them throw those lies at your face a while ago?"

Like the earlier, Kyungsoo isn't able to answer. Jongin sighs.

"He cheated on you. Your supposed friends betrayed you. Your father often underestimates you. But I've never seen you hold any grudge. You let it all go, so easy and fast. Why?"

Because you came.

"Because you're not bad, Soo. So you'll never be worse than him." Jongin answers for him and he's already getting stuck into something he never signed up for, "The last person you should listen to is your cheater of an ex, and anyone else like him."

He's so drunk, because he badly wants to cry. Kyungsoo is torn between breaking down into ugly sobs or jumping onto the man in front of him. Either way, he'll humiliate himself so he ends up snorting and laughing it out even when he's slightly sniffing.

"Let's hope you never take that back."

Jongin smiles at the response he got. He intently watches Kyungsoo's laughing face while slowly shaking his head.

"Never."

Kyungsoo wipes the side of his eyes before exhaling a deep breath. He unconsciously flashes a genuine smile, unaware of its effects on the person that catches it.

"Thank you... Jongin."

The tanned boy looks at him, smile fading a little when he hears his name from Kyungsoo's lips. The latter realizes it's the first time he ever called him by his name. Even Kyungsoo blinks in surprise.

"Anytime..." Jongin mumbles weakly, glancing down to his lips while looking a little conflicted.

Kyungsoo doesn't realize he's doing the same.

"Anytime?" he asks before getting pulled by the nape. He feels all the effect of alcohol leaving his system when he feels Jongin's lips on his own, instinctively leaning forward to ask for more.

Kyungsoo's mind's in a whirlwind. He's not his usual composed self anymore because he knew; this guy likes someone else. This guy is his driver. This guy— damn him. Yet Kyungsoo willingly parts his lips to kiss him deeper.

He slightly pulls away even when Jongin is basically holding his face still between his hands, "Did you get to use this on your first date with Soojung?"

His tone is testing. He has always felt threatened with the girl, now he admits it. But with all of this happening right now, he knows he has an edge. And he's contented with that.

Jongin breathes against his lips, looking like he got drunk by the kiss. "I sure... hope I did."

Kyungsoo gets pissed by the answer. And when he's pissed, he'd usually tell him to fuck off and never kiss him again but—

"Well you need improvement..."

He stands up.

"What do you suggest I do..." Jongin leans back, watching when the shorter straddles on his lap without much of an effort, "Teach me then."

—instead he sits on top of him and kisses him more.

"Come closer."

He grabs him by the collar and asserts dominance as he gives him another kiss— one that would surely make him go crazy. One that would make him forget someone he likes, whoever the fuck it is.

When he started liking Jongin, he was never the same. He became one of the foolish people he used to roll his eyes at. And for what, in exchange for a hot kiss? Let's hope Baekhyun stays asleep.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"The only time your driver went to my house was when I'm dead drunk and probably drooling myself to sleep." Baekhyun whines while spacing out, "I expected a lot better. I imagined far better scenarios but he saw... me probably looking so stu—"

"Will you shut up?"

Baekhyun looks at Kyungsoo, "So did you leave right after you put me to bed?"

Fixing his glasses on the bridge of his nose, Kyungsoo takes a subtle gulp.

"Of course?" he says, sounding slightly defensive that to his luck, Baekhyun barely noticed.

"You didn't stay for a while?" his friend asks that made him even more jittery when images start coming back to his mind.

"We should go..."

Kyungsoo's the one who pulled away first, putting an end to whatever they're doing when he started feeling a hand on his waist. Because of this, Jongin instinctively pulls his hand away, nodding twice even when his eyes lingered on the shorter's swollen lips. They both casually stood up, fixing both their disheveled shirts. Kyungsoo kept his gaze on the floor, especially when he felt a pair of eyes watching him closely.

"Let's go?" Jongin repeats, following right behind him as they left the house.

Kyungsoo couldn't remember how many times he cursed himself on their way out and no one had spoken a word. He was still shocked, a little embarrassed, too. But for some reason, the heaviness that lingered in his chest for the whole day was gone in a snap.

So when they reached the car and he caught his driver's gaze on him, history repeated itself. Only this time, they didn't have to worry about Baekhyun.

"So?"

Soo flinches a little when he realizes Baekhyun is actually present beside him and anticipating a response for the question he can't even remember anymore.

"H-Huh?"

"I was asking if you immediately left my house right after!" Baekhyun hisses in frustration. Kyungsoo has been spacing out a lot lately and it's not cute when they're the only one each other has for company. "Do Kyungsoo, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

"I'm sleepy." he rubs his eyes, coming up with a quick yet lame excuse for his behavior. "But yes, we left right after throwing you on your bed. Do you think I'll waste a minute staring at you?"

The sigh that escaped Baekhyun's lips is definitely out of relief that he's back to his feisty responses.

"You should've just left your driver there." he pouts, earning him a chuckle from Kyungsoo.

"Stop that shit. You know you're not his type."

Baekhyun slightly rolls his eyes, "I'm a little prettier than Soojung though."

The grin on Kyungsoo's face slowly fades. He doesn't answer Baekhyun anymore and unlocks his phone to keep himself busy instead.

"Soo," an org officer walks to where he is with a piece of paper in his hand, "the members have voted and here are the final two. I know you said we should choose but—"

"That's why you should." Kyungsoo raises his brows, "It's your right, choose the lead."

"We know! But... ugh, it's the first time you asked us. Why don't you just choose anyway? It has always been you who decides about the casting. Why are you throwing this to us now?" he almost rolls his eyes, "Anyway, we can't collectively agree on one person so here's the two who got the most votes. The final decision is now yours. All the members are anticipating for that."

Kyungsoo stares at the two names on the paper. One is a freshman girl who he barely knows and the other is Soojung.

"You're making it hard for yourself when we obviously know who the best option is." Baekhyun tells him from behind, "Seriously, Soo? You literally casted Soojung right after her audition piece, did you forget? What's with this sudden democratic voting for the lead?"

The org president's eyes linger on the same name for a little while before inhaling a deep breath as he shrugs.

"Everyone deserves a chance. You said it yourself, it's too early to give her a privilege."

He doesn't look at Baekhyun but he knows pretty well that the other's eyes are narrowing at him.

"I said it's unusual of you to admit you're impressed with a newbie." Baekhyun says before letting out a loud tss.

It's not like I meant it. Kyungsoo thinks to himself, not bothering to say it out loud because everyone here seems to be in awe of the said girl. He looks at her name on the paper once more. Even at the voting from the old staffs, she's leading.

He's still the head, though. It's his choice who to cast.

And he has always been fair.

Kyungsoo bites his lower lip while recalling the last images he had with this girl. He raises a brow before tilting his head up.

"Alright, I've decided."

  

At 4PM, students flock in front of the Performing Arts office, desperately trying to get a glimpse of a single bond paper posted on the door. Even from the inside, Kyungsoo can hear their faint mumbling. There are coos when some of them found out they're casted.

He's used to it. Their yearly production is quite a big deal because it's usually budgeted and talent scouts make time for it. Kyungsoo barely exerts an effort on other activities, except for this one. And being the perfectionist he is, it has always been a yearly success as well.

This year isn't going to be different. He shouldn't even be convincing himself about that anymore.

He lets out a sigh and checks his phone for any new text, but there's none. Soo's lips protruded.

You just kissed him and you're acting like you're impregnated. Shut it.

Of course.

He's not that clingy.

Kyungsoo stares at the door before picking his phone up, typing a message too fast before he could change his mind. But it's a wrong idea. He should've changed his mind. Now he's looking at the sudden text he already sent and grits his teeth in annoyance.

Are you driving today?

He taps his lips with his index finger, staring at his screen intently. Kyungsoo blinks when a response bubble appear after almost a minute.

From: Kim Jongin

I have an early shift at the diner now, do you need to go home already? I can tell Mr. Han.

A small pout unconsciously forms on his lips, he can imagine Jongin trying to reply in between getting ready for work.

So you're not coming?

He blinks once while reading the text he just sent. It took longer for another response to come, in a form of a call that got him flinching on his seat.

"I need to go to an early shift today." Jongin's voice is as deep as it usually is, yet still gentle. "We'll see each other tomorrow... in case you need help for... designs, blueprints."

Soo touches his lip with his finger. Lips that are pursed in a thin line.

"I'm thinking if Baekhyun and I can tag along today." he suggests shamelessly, "He said he wants to try that diner. We can use the car."

Just as he predicted, Jongin sighs from the other line, obviously against this.

"Is it really Baekhyun?"

"You wanna ask him?" Kyungsoo snorts, even when he's not really sure how he'll bribe Baekhyun into this after using him again. "We'll just eat. Why do you push potential customers away?"

"We can see each other tomorrow." his driver proposes again, implying his hidden intentions.

"But he wants to eat there today! Don't you want us there?" he whines, "Why don't you like it when we drop by your work place?"

Jongin sighs again, "Fine. You'll just eat then you'll go home."

The side of Kyungsoo's lips curves, "He probably will." he smiles a little, slightly clearing his throat. "I need help with a few plates and blueprints so I guess... I'll wait for you to finish."

The satisfaction on his face doesn't go away when Jongin falls silent from the other line. It's either he's used to Kyungsoo's agendas or he's just really too intelligent (and up for it) not to bother defying anymore.

"And they're in your apartment?" Jongin asks carefully, "The blueprints?"

Soo bites his lip, "Yeah..." another smile comes out when he hears a hum as an answer, "it's fine, right?"

"Of course..." Kyungsoo's lips protruded when he hears an underlying tone in Jongin's voice, followed by a deep chuckle. "It's not like I have a choice."

He licks his lip just to stop his grin from getting bigger, leaning back on the chair with a huge satisfaction on his face.

"You bet you don't." he says suggestively, "And this can't wait until tomorrow."

As soon as he dropped the call, the door opens and the huge grin on his face falters. Baekhyun narrows his eyes at him suspiciously, sipping his milk tea while walking towards where he is.

"Why do you look like a Cheshire for two seconds there?" he asks while handing Kyungsoo the other milk tea on his hand. He raises a brow when Kyungsoo only shrugs, "You think you can keep a secret from me Do Kyungsoo."

"Let's have dinner tonight." Baekhyun almost chokes on his drink because of the sudden suggestion. He stares at Kyungsoo wide-eyed.

"You think I don't notice how you're hitting on me for the past few weeks." he wiggles his brows.

"You wish." he snaps back, "We're going to my driver's part time job."

Baekhyun pauses on sipping from his straw to smile at him knowingly.

"So you're officially matching us now..." he teases, earning an eye roll from Kyungsoo before he speaks further, "Kidding. I've completely moved on from him now."

Soo chuckles sarcastically.

Baekhyun flashes a sly smile, "So is Soojung coming with us so he can congratulate her personally?"

Kyungsoo's eyes unintentionally turns into a glare, pursing his lips while watching Baekhyun innocently speaking. But the door opens and most of the org members walk in, disrupting the peaceful ambiance with their loud voices and coos. Some of them are picking on the casted members. They walk to where Kyungsoo is and personally thank him, some are teasing him on why they didn't get bigger roles.

Kyungsoo smiles at everyone. Even those who are for sure, disappointed that they didn't get casted. He walks up to them and gives them a reassuring tap on the back. Yes, Soo can be the bratty, popular chaebol student leader but he's cool with his org members. Their dynamics become so much better, especially since he stopped being friends with the bullies that used to intimidate them. Cause why wouldn't they, when he basically sneak in beers for everyone illegally when they get too exhausted with the events?

The room is in a buzz when the door opens again, revealing Soojung. Most of the people look at her, but her gaze roams around before settling on Kyungsoo as soon as she spots him. He looks at her blankly while she blinks rapidly, looking a little stunned.

Kyungsoo looks back to his phone when someone started clapping and some of them followed. The others cooed, including Baekhyun who even stood up before joining the applause.

"I..." Soojung mutters weakly.

"Congrats!"

"Yey, girl!"

"Your first role is a lead one, how unfair is that!"

Kyungsoo keeps himself busy by texting Jongin when the room is filled with joy for Soojung. A joy that wouldn't be there if it wasn't for him.

But of course, he wouldn't be that petty to emphasize that. He chose her because she deserves it, and he's not that bitter to dismiss that. He has never been the type to let a guy get in the way of his professionalism. He's so much more than that.

As soon as he gets a response, he stands up and excuses himself from the crowd. He bids everyone goodbye even when most of them try stopping him from ditching the celebration too early. Soo tells Baekhyun it's time to go, but being the social butterfly the latter is, he tells him to give him a minute that would probably turn to thirty.

So he leaves the room first, texting Jongin to just meet them at the office so he wouldn't have to go here. He'd like to think it's just because it won't be more hassle for his driver but there's just something else. Fortunately, the latter didn't try asking anymore.

He hears footsteps from behind. Thinking it's probably Baekhyun, he doesn't turn around to look. So he flinches a little when there's a gentle clearing of throat close to him, seeing Soojung standing timidly behind him. Kyungsoo gives her a knowing look, but he doesn't smile.

"Uh..." Soojung awkwardly starts off, looking more intimidated than before. If it's because of Kyungsoo's lacking responses, he doesn't know. "I was surprised when... you chose me for the lead role... but thank you."

Kyungsoo tries to be civil, but it's just so hard when it comes to this girl. He doesn't even want to come close to the thought of insecurity, because he's certain that it's not what it is. Because he never experienced such feeling before. He has always been the standout in terms of everything even without trying.

But at the same time, he slowly realizes that this feeling is completely new to him either, so how can he be so sure of the previous point?

He forces a small formal smile, "No worries. We're all impressed by your audition piece, so it's expected."

Why would he feel threatened with a girl who, like everyone else, shouldn't even come close to him? Why?

"Still... it was your decision. And I'm grateful that you chose to trust me with a big production like this." she says with a genuine smile.

Kyungsoo doesn't know what to say anymore, so he nods.

"And sorry if I didn't get the chance to address you in the office last time." Soojung adds, "I didn't... know that you're the Chairman's son."

Now it makes sense why she looks so nice and careful with her words this time. Kyungsoo wants to grin. Does she think he can kick her out of the internship anytime?

Well he sure can, but it's not like he'll do that.

"I don't go around announcing it, so understandable." Soo chuckles lightly.

Soojung sheepishly smiles, "I hope we can be good friends, especially now."

Kyungsoo looks at her, pursing his lips. Her smile fades a little when he doesn't respond immediately.

How do you say no in the nicest way? He thought.

"Sure." he says, his smile looking more like a wince. He figures out he's acting convincingly when Soojung goes back to smiling, "See you next time, then. I should get going now."

It's funny how people like her seem so familiar to him. He already met a lot of the likes with the same exact approach, and this time he can't be fooled.

He turns around, his face back to blank in a snap. Soo starts walking away even if Baekhyun hasn't come out yet.

"Hey, Kyungsoo?" he stops and exhales a breath when Soojung calls him again. Kyungsoo looks back at her, raising a brow when he sees her fiddling her fingers, "I...uh, heard Jongin's your part-time driver too..."

Kyungsoo doesn't face her completely, but the mention of Jongin's name provokes something in him, especially when it comes from her.

"Yes..." Kyungsoo fakes another smile, "and?"

He's irked by the fact that Soojung doesn't seem to get his simple expressions, or she just doesn't care. She even manages to chuckle timidly.

"I know it's weird to ask, but..." she pauses briefly, "do you know... if he's dating anyone? I-I mean... did he mention anything?"

Kyungsoo subtly grits his teeth. Now he's sure that Soojung likes Jongin the same way, and something bitter rushes down his throat.

"Well..." Kyungsoo smiles sarcastically, "did you ask him that yourself?"

She looks slightly taken aback by his response, but she looks down on the floor as if recalling something unpleasant.

"U-Uh... well, he didn't answer me directly that... one time when he was walking me to the bus station and I asked." she looks so bothered by it and Kyungsoo feels suddenly annoyed.

So she showed signs and Jongin just had to mess up like that? Why didn't he answer a simple no and asked her out straight to the point?

He inhales a deep breath when thoughts of what if's enter his mind. If Jongin gave the right answer then things could've gone in a whole different way. That kiss wouldn't have happened, and that alone gives Kyungsoo a whirlwind of emotions.

Soo wonders what Jongin would do if he's hearing this right now. His crush asking these questions about him, obviously interested. What would he want Kyungsoo to answer?

"Nevermind... I—"

"I don't think he is. As far as I know." Kyungsoo says with an indifferent tone. He doesn't miss the way Soojung's eyes light up a little, so Kyungsoo feels the urge to kill the hope that had just started blooming in her.

"But last time I checked, he was making out with someone." Kyungsoo adds, suppressing a grin from forming on his lips. He feels oddly satisfied when Soojung's smile completely falters, "A lot."

She blinks in surprise, obviously not expecting Jongin to be the type of guy.

"Do y-you know her... I mean..." she gulps, "i-if he's dating her?"

Even the fact that she assumes it's a girl doesn't offend Kyungsoo in slightest way. The smile on his face becomes even more gratified.

"I honestly don't know." he shrugs, just in time as Baekhyun comes out of the room. Kyungsoo leaves her with a few vague words, "Jongin is a very secretive man."

 

×


They used Baekhyun's car to go to their company building, where they plan to leave it too. Even if Baekhyun was completely blabbering nonsense while driving, he responded every now and then, a ghost of smile still etched on his face whenever he recalled the look on Soojung's face before he left.

He may have broken her heart with what he told her, but it's true. And it's not a question for him to answer, so he only responded with the way he wanted. I didn't know she'd be a crybaby. He thought to himself while grinning at the window.

Maybe if Jongin told her the direct answer when she asked, then Kyungsoo wouldn't have to slap her with that fact. It's Jongin's fault.

At least she got the lead role, right? Something good still happened to her today.

Kyungsoo grins at Baekhyun as they got out of the car. The latter, completely thinking that it's a response to his stories, mindlessly continues.

They find their way to the underground entrance, where the VIP elevator is. Kyungsoo has always used this elevator every time he goes here because he doesn't like the unnecessary attention at the main lobby. The brat is here again. He already memorized the employees' look. It's not like he likes seeing them either, so he asked for an access here even when it's supposedly for his father's important dealers and clients.

So when they reach the exclusive parking, he gets taken aback by the amount of tall guards in it. There are also multiple black SUVs parked, almost identical to each other. There are men unfamiliar to him. And even if they're simply standing near the cars, he can't stop the uneasiness building in his chest. Baekhyun slows down from walking, but Kyungsoo heaves deeply and walks straight inside.

A big muscular man blocks his way, looking at him coldly.

"You're not allowed here."

Kyungsoo narrows his eyes in disbelief. Even if he's starting to get irrationally nervous, his curiosity gets the best of him.

He looks behind him where Baekhyun is standing, looking terrified, too. He blinks at Kyungsoo.

"Maybe we should just... use the main one." he mumbles at Kyungsoo while looking at the big men slowly surrounding them. He clutches on Kyungsoo's arm, "Soo..."

Kyungsoo looks around him sternly before facing Baekhyun.

"Go back to the lobby. Wait for Jongin there." he says and Baekhyun frantically shakes his head when he realized he's asking him to leave him here, "I'll call my Dad, Baekhyun. Go."

Baekhyun looks so hesitant but when another man takes a step towards him, he takes quick steps away from Kyungsoo, going back outside while looking behind every now and then to check on him.

When he gets farther, Kyungsoo throws a sharp look at the man who blocked his way.

"Use the main elevator."

"You don't know who I am?" the man creases his brows at him, "What are you doing here and who the hell are you in the first place? Why are you in my building?"

He tilts his chin up with demand. Despite looking so small and frail compared to the men surrounding him, he bravely raises his brow at them.

Soo noticed that they're all in the same black shirts. No one is looking smug like he expected, just blankly looking at him. He gets even more nervous.

And then every rumor that he's been hearing, he's been eagerly trying to repress in his mind, comes back to him in a snap. He looks back to the heavily tinted SUVs nearby, stunned.

"Use the other elevator, boy." the man repeats with the same tone. Kyungsoo's chest heaves deeply, his hand a little shaky as it finds its way to his pocket to get his access ID.

"My father owns this building." he subtly gulps while flashing them his ID, "I'm Do Kyungsoo. I have access to the VIP elevator so get the fuck out of my way."

The man maintains a blank expression. He barely glanced at his ID, but his cold eyes linger on his face. Kyungsoo holds his breath while waiting for a response because now that he figures it out even more, he's cornered by unfamiliar, grim-looking men. He's feisty, but not to the point of provoking them to a combat.

Then the man simply nods once at the men around him, and they collectively take a step back. Just as Kyungsoo lets out a silent sigh of relief, two of them hold him by the elbows while walking inside.

"Fuck—what are you doing? Get off!"

He tries shaking their hands off of him but they're too strong. The man talking to him already has a small smile on his face, without any trace of humor.

"They're just going to guide you to the elevator, Sir." Kyungsoo grits his teeth while still trying to resist but the grip around him only becomes harder, "Strict orders."

Kyungsoo doesn't understand. It's their building, their company, and this is the first time he saw these people here. Yet it seems like he's the intruding one.

As much as he wants to stay clueless and wait until his father clarifies everything, an idea is building up in his mind, and he doesn't like it one bit. It has always been impossible for him, and it should stay impossible.

The SUV from the farthest corner opens, and even if they're already getting closer to the elevator, Kyungsoo manages to take a subtle look at it. His eyes widen, breath hitching with what he saw. He blinks rapidly when the two men holding him grip him tighter to make him face in front, realizing what he's trying to do.

They almost push him inside, causing him to slightly lose balance. Kyungsoo spaces out even when the elevator has already closed. There's no one there but him but he feels suffocated. He breathes through his lips.

What was that?

"Sir?"

A woman's voice brings him back to reality. He looks at the floor LCD, showing that he's on the right floor already. Kyungsoo tries to blink his glistening eyes.

"S-Sir..." the woman stutters when Kyungsoo wordlessly walks past her, taking the hall leading to his father's office. "Sir, the Chairman has an important—"

"I don't care."

Words jumble in his mind, badly wanting to be thrown at his father as soon as possible. Kyungsoo doesn't knock even when the other secretaries try to beg him from behind. His jaw is hardly clenched. He opens the door.

"W-We tried to warn him, Sir..." a secretary starts off, afraid for her job when the Chairman frowns upon seeing his son.

But Kyungsoo looks at the other man in front of his father, wearing the same color as the men from the underground parking. He gives Kyungsoo a smug look before facing the Chairman again.

"That's it for now." Kyungsoo hates how his father sounded so careful. Unlike any of his usual clients, he only nods at this man and didn't say anything else as he leaves. Then he sharply looks at his son, who's following the man with his gaze.

"Leave us." his father tells the stiffening employees.

Kyungsoo stares at him with bloodshot eyes.

"Soo, have you completely lost your manners? Or you just don't respect me at all?" he asks through gritted teeth, "You show everyone how rotten and spoiled you are—"

"What were those... in the underground entrance?" he asks weakly. The way his father's face relaxes into shock doesn't go unnoticed, "I saw guns... lots of cars filled with guns... and— what the fuck was that?"

His father's shoulders heave as he pants.

"Why were you there—"

"The rumors are true, a-aren't they?" Kyungsoo breathes, "You're involved... You're into some illegal smuggling and shit Dad, what the fuck are you doing?"

His father avoids his gaze.

"Stop being stupid, Soo. You're imagining thi—"

"I'm not stupid. I know what I fucking saw!" he snarls back, "Don't try denying it for fuck's sake. How could you even do that, Dad? We're one of the richest families in this country and you still have to be involved with that? You're putting everything we have at risk just because you can't be contented!"

"Kyungsoo!"

"What will happen if you get caught?! What will happen to us? Your wife and kids, did you even think about that?!" Soo doesn't even care anymore. He stares straight into his father's eyes, condemning him for everything. "You're the stupid one here!"

Unlike what he expected, his father doesn't respond anymore. He only watches Kyungsoo while the latter lets it all out, breathing heavily after shouting. For a moment, he thought he's imagining things when he sees remorse from the old man's eyes but he blinks once and it's still there. Kyungsoo grits his teeth while harshly wiping his eyes.

"I-It's all about the money... isn't i-it?" Soo asks shakily, "You never cared about us. It's all about money for you."

He never expected he'd hate his father even more. That he'd hate this life even more.

The chairman stands up, looking at him before exhaling a deep breath.

"You have everything because of the choices I make." he gently tells Kyungsoo, "You're overthinking everything, Soo... One day, you'll completely understand. But right now I don't expect you to."

Another tear escapes Kyungsoo's eye, chuckling bitterly when his father doesn't even bother denying it anymore. A little bit of hope that was left in him completely crumbles down. His father doesn't even bother explaining.

He has everything, it's true. Because he's always been forced to take everything thrown to him, even if he doesn't even want it at all. It's like forcing him to swallow all of it until he throws up. He's tired of it. Kyungsoo has everything he never truly wanted.

And he doesn't even get to complain because he has no right.

Once you're exhausted, you're ungrateful.

"Go home, Soo." his father tells him weakly, walking past him even if he's in the middle of heavy tears.

 

Chapter Text

It’s a surprise that Soo managed to go down to the lobby while looking so distraught. He doesn’t bother sparing anyone a glance, even when he bumped into a lot of employees on his way out.

He doesn’t notice Jongin sitting on the building lobby, his face relaxing when he sees the shorter’s expression. Baekhyun is beside him too, but unlike the former, he’s oblivious of his friend’s odd silence. Baekhyun hisses while walking towards Kyungsoo.

“What took you so long? You didn’t text or call! I thought those goons murdered you!” he frowns as if Soo owes him a lot for worrying, “And Jongin is late!”

Jongin’s gaze lingers on him, looking so worried, before glancing at Baekhyun.

“It’s okay…” he says gently, then looks at Kyungsoo again. “Chanyeol can cover.”

Baekhyun’s brows furrowed, “Chanyeol?”

“My workmate.” Jongin says passively, taking a step towards Kyungsoo. “Hey…”

Soo gulps, blinking rapidly before coming to realization that he’s not in front of his father anymore. It’s time to suppress it all again. He can’t just breakdown every time he thinks of it. He’s never allowed.

But he’s on the edge of failing when he looks up and the first thing he sees is Jongin’s worried gaze at him. Soo feels the strong urge to let out a sob, but he bites his lip hard, until this urge turns to a painful bile stuck in his throat.

Kyungsoo tries to give a reassuring smile.

“Who were those men?” Jongin asks him with creased brows, so he figures out Baekhyun wasn’t really able to keep his mouth shut. Baekhyun comes closer to hear what they’re talking about.

“Soo, the SUVs we saw just left. We saw them just now!” Baekhyun’s voice is still filled with panic, “I almost thought they took you with them!”

He takes another glance at Jongin’s serious face before forcing a grin.

“They’re my father’s clients.” he lies, managing not to stutter in between. “You’re being a drama queen. Come on, I’m starving.”

The three of them make their way outside. Baekhyun keeps rambling about how scared he was with those people, but then he eventually gets over the incident and shifts the topic, much to Kyungsoo’s relief. He almost thought it’s all forgotten until he feels a loose grip around his wrist when Baekhyun walks ahead of them outside, not noticing that he’s talking to himself because Jongin pulled Kyungsoo back.

Soo looks at him, then to his hand on his wrist. Jongin still looks worried. Kyungsoo hates how his usual tactics don’t seem to work on this man. It’s like he knows him more than anyone else.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jongin asks seriously, but it’s hard for Kyungsoo to dismiss his hand holding him.

“Yeah,” he clears his throat, “Of course.”

Jongin’s eyes linger on him. Soo gently pulls his hand away, just in time as Baekhyun goes back to where they are.

“Damn you both, I keep on blabbering and you weren’t there behind me all this—”

Kyungsoo’s palm finds its way to his face.

“Let’s go.” he says, faking a smile while walking outside as if his heart doesn’t feel like jumping off his chest.

 

×

It is probably the hardest pretending he ever did. Kyungsoo managed to laugh and talk throughout the ride, but there was never a second that it didn’t hurt. He always had to be mindful of the expressions he made, or the smiles and laughter he gave. As someone who’s been doing this for so long, he became so convincing. He knows not to overdone it, or else it wouldn’t appear so true.

It has always been the same goal since he can remember; be the carefree, contented, rich kid that everyone expects him to be. Even if he never felt like it, it used to be an easy job. But now, it becomes more and more unbearable. This is something beyond his ability to pretend.

Possible scenarios are already lining up in his head. If someone as big as his father is involved in this, it would be an even bigger scandal once it comes out. He thinks of their company, his mother and sister. It feels like an acid dripping from his throat down to his chest. And even how much he despises it, refuses it, he thinks about his father. Their lives would be destroyed just because of his father’s greediness.

He didn’t even notice that he had to gasp a huge air because of holding his breath for so long. Soo immediately shuts his eyes tight when he realizes they started warming again. He knows Jongin looks at him again because of this, so he tries his best to keep his eyes dry.

“Hey, what happened to you?” he hears Baekhyun behind him, who noticed him as well.

Kyungsoo casually rubs his eyes, then to the bridge of his nose before faking a yawn.

“My eyes are a little tired.” he clicks his tongue, looking outside before chuckling. “And you bore me.”

He wheezes when Baekhyun presses his nape, making sure the latter’s voice surrounds the whole car again to prove him wrong. With that, Kyungsoo successfully drew the attention away from him and just continued laughing. Because that’s what they say, right? Fake it ‘til you make it.

Soo would trade anything just to escape this life.

Baekhyun, being the hyperactive he is, hops out of the car as soon as they arrive. He starts taking pictures of the diner’s aesthetic signage, Soo shakes his head while taking his seatbelt off before looking at Jongin who’s still beside him.

“What?” he asks, eyes rounded while he looks at Jongin.

“Just eat your dinner, then go home.” Jongin says seriously, making Kyungsoo chuckle. But he stops when he sees the same seriousness on his driver’s face.

“Why? I thought I’m allowed to wait for you?”

Jongin sighs, his eyes looking the same as they were back at the company lobby.

“You seem tired.” the grin on Kyungsoo’s face falters a little, “Just… go call Mr. Han and let him—”

“I’m not tired.” Soo cuts him off, “I don’t wanna go home yet…”

He gulps when Jongin’s gaze lingers on his face.

“Are you—”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Soo reassuringly raises his brows, then he opens the door to follow his friend outside. “And I told you my plates can’t wait.”

He grins at the handsome tanned boy before completely going out of the car. Baekhyun is still not done with taking pictures of the same signage, his brows slightly creased while looking for a good angle.

“Come on.” Soo walks in.

As soon as he steps inside the diner, he sees Chanyeol with his blonde undercut hairstyle behind the cashier counter, flashing his usual boyish smile at a customer ordering. The tall guy’s gaze unintentionally glances at them, but it goes back and lingers a little longer. Kyungsoo looks at where he’s looking; his friend cluelessly looking around for a good place to sit.

“Hey man, sorry.” Jongin tells Chanyeol while finding his way to the counter.

“No worries, dude. I can take the counter for tonight.” he says before smiling at Kyungsoo, then looking at the other boy with him.

Kyungsoo grins a little.

“Should we order?” he asks Baekhyun. From his peripheral vision, he sees Jongin’s workmate straightening up.

Baekhyun’s lips protruded while looking at the menu above, “Hmm, sure.”

“Hi.” Chanyeol smiles at them when they walk to the counter, “Looking good today, Soo.”

Soo figures out how he smiles at him with courtesy before looking a lot longer at his friend beside him. He waits for Baekhyun to finish choosing his food before doing god’s work.

“As always,” he jokingly rolls his eyes, then turns to his friend beside him. “hey. This is Jongin’s workmate by the way. Chanyeol.”

He’s not even done with his words and the guy already has his hand offered to his friend. Baekhyun blinks rapidly while staring at his hand, before proceeding to finally take a good look at his face. Right then, his cheeks redden a little.

“Hi, I’m… Baek.” he mutters, a little uneasy when he realized how good-looking the man smiling at him is. He throws a subtle look at Kyungsoo, eyes widening. He takes Chanyeol’s large hand yet immediately pulls away. Soo finally grins genuinely.

Chanyeol narrows his eyes, “Babe?”

Soo can’t even help snorting when his friend doesn’t respond. Kyungsoo has gotten used to Chanyeol because of hanging out here countless of times whenever he waits for Jongin but he’s pretty sure his friend is stiffening beside him.

“It’s Baek.” Kyungsoo chuckles at Chanyeol, guiding them towards a good path. He can almost feel Baekhyun sinking down beside him.

“Oh, sorry. It rhymes.” the tall guy nods once before chuckling deeply.

Soo keeps himself from laughing when glancing at Baekhyun while Chanyeol takes their order, neatly sneaking in flirty remarks that Baekhyun completely falls silent beside him which is unusual. And there he thought Baekhyun was the confident, social-butterfly one, but now it’s like he completely sunk down to the floor.

For some reason, Kyungsoo feels a little lighter. Watching his beauty of a friend had his confidence all thrown out of the window because of a flirting waiter makes him satisfied. It’s funny because they’re not really that different from each other. Struck by guys way out of their league. Hah.

They sat down and Baekhyun glares at him when he gets the seat not facing the counter. Soo shrugs innocently, grinning inside.

This is hitting two stones at a time. Yes, Kyungsoo thought, he’s his friend. But maybe Baekhyun won’t have to pop out of nowhere in between him and Jongin all the damn time if he finally gets busy.

“Is he really like that?” Baekhyun mumbles while keeping his eyes at Kyungsoo, obviously trying not to let his gaze fall on somewhere else.

“Who? Chanyeol?” he gains another glare from the other when he asked the obvious, “Ah, yes. He’s a proud flirt.”

He pretends to dismiss the way his friend’s shoulders heave down a little.

“Oh… okay, so it wasn’t just me…” Baekhyun mumbles, as if it’s a relief.

“Disappointed?” Baekhyun immediately snorts in disbelief, “He’s flirt by the counter, though. So if he’s still looking at you now, then he probably really likes you.”

True enough, Baekhyun looks at the far corner once again, then immediately looks back at Kyungsoo’s face while gulping. Soo doesn’t need to ask. The former purses his lips, as if trying to suppress something.

“Hey,” Jongin walks to their table with a tray on his hand just when they got in another deep conversation, “your order.”

He puts down the plates of their meal, along with a slice of strawberry cheesecake and a bowl of three big scoops of vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. The both of them stare at the extra, although Soo’s the only one quick enough to shrug.

“Uh… we didn’t order these?” says Baekhyun, smiling sheepishly at Jongin. The handsome waiter only gives him a small smile before glancing at the far corner. The both of them turn to look at Chanyeol, who’s currently getting a customer’s order with his usual boyish smile. When he sees them looking, he raises a brow in amusement.

“It’s free. Enjoy your meal.” Jongin says before going back.

Soo starts eating his own food, hiding a smile when he watches his friend staring at the delicious desserts in front of him, blinking slowly.

“Is…this for the both of us?”

“No. You’re the only new customer here, so it’s all yours.” he says while eating, “I got mine long time ago.”

Baekhyun parts his lips, “Ah…so new customers usually get desserts.”

Soo grins at him.

“I didn’t get that much though. I didn’t get the expensive desserts, too. What a bummer.”

“Soo, you know I don’t like playboys.”

He lets out a bark of laughter when Baekhyun went straight to the point. The latter looks at him seriously, obviously conflicted about the free desserts.

“They’re a big bunch of personified headache, high blood pressure and early aging. I never want to deal with them. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know.” he nods once and sips his iced tea, “And you’re not the type to play dumb either. You could’ve told him off sarcastically, because Byun Baekhyun hates playboys. Now you’re acting like a shy schoolgirl—”

“Soo!”

“I’m just saying… Chanyeol is naturally flirty. But I don’t think he’s dating anyone at the moment so it’s not fair to label him as playboy.”

“But that’s how you define a playboy! They flirt with everyone.”

“And you can’t accept the fact that you find him hot and you want to make babies with him.”

“Realistically, that’s not even possi—”

“Oh shut the fuck up, Baekhyun. Fine, you don’t like him. Will you eat? Your ice cream is melting.”

He frowns and starts eating his food, too. Baekhyun subtly glances at the cashier’s way every now and then, playing innocent when he sees Kyungsoo’s eyes on him.

“What if I pretend I’m dating?” he mumbles out of the blue, earning him an eyeroll from Kyungsoo. “Yes, that’s what I’d say if he tries flirting with me again.”

“Sure, whatever.” Soo sighs in annoyance. He finished his food and Baekhyun hasn’t eaten half of his own. Soo takes a scoop from his ice cream and Baekhyun frowns even more. “Or I could just tell him myself that you’re not interested. He’d take the hint, for sure.”

Baekhyun falls silent while chewing his food. His lips slightly protruded while staring at the desserts again.

“Strawberry and vanilla are my favorite though…” he says and Soo rolls his eyes for the nth time since he sat in front of him.

 

×

The both of them stayed until closing because Jongin needed to work for a few more hours. As usual, he insisted they go home first, but being the stubborn kids they are, they stayed and even helped with some packing needed. It’s a good thing they stayed though, because they keep the place from falling into a dreadful silence. Jongin, and even Chanyeol seem so tired for the day that they barely say anything.

Baekhyun laughs with Kyungsoo every now and then but he glances at the tall waiter as subtle as he could, obviously weirded out that he’s suddenly lacking with sneaky remarks. Before Chanyeol can even catch him looking, he’s already focused into something else, seeming nonchalant.

“Hey… can you just drop me off back to your company building?” Baekhyun asks Kyungsoo on their way outside, “I can just get my car there. My house is out of your way and it’s late.”

Chanyeol gives him one last glance before silently waving goodbye at them when he spots his motor on the side. Soo can tell that he assumes Baekhyun isn’t really interested, the reason why he completely stopped flirting. He fights the urge to smack them both on the head.

“Chanyeol!” Soo shouts, not missing how Baekhyun looks at him wide-eyed. He dismisses it and continues to talk to the man who’s in the middle of fixing his helmet, “You’re going home?”

The blonde guy nods at him, raising his brows in confusion.

“You pass by Hannam, don’t you?”

“Soo!” Baekhyun hisses under his breath.

A hint of amusement passes by Chanyeol’s eyes, though he still seems a little reluctant about it too.

“UN Village?” he asks, his deep voice can be clearly heard despite the sound of engine. Soo nods, “Yep, I’m just across Itaewon, so along the way.”

Baekhyun sighs in defeat, almost sinking down the floor behind Kyungsoo.

“Can you drop Baekhyun off?” he smiles timidly, even when he’s sure as hell Chanyeol won’t say no. It’s just his friend, the problem. Baekhyun and his denial ass, “I mean… if it’s not much of a hassle. Hannam isn’t along our way.”

Chanyeol parts his lips in awe, as if he just redeemed the confidence he had when they first entered the diner this evening.

“Sure.” he says with a nod, “If he doesn’t mind my rusty, old motor though.”

Kyungsoo looks at Baekhyun beside him, who looks like he just had the biggest conflict of his life. When he gulps repeatedly, Kyungsoo answers for him.

“No, he doesn’t. Your motor is cool, and it’s fine for him.” he says and catches Jongin’s amused grin beside him, “Right, Baek? Go on, it’s late.”

Baekhyun remains stiff on his spot, contemplating the choices his friend made for him. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to deal with embarrassment for almost an hour just because he’s tongue-tied in the presence of this man and his big sexy motorcycle is not even helping. He’s suddenly thinking of disposing all his sports cars at home.

“Seriously dumbass, he’s being nice. Go, it’s late.” Soo hisses at him under his breath when he doesn’t move.

“Are we pushing through? My little sister’s about to kill me.” Chanyeol raises his brows, making Baekhyun flinch and walk to where he is. The taller suppresses a smile and hands him another helmet. Kyungsoo watches them with a grin while Jongin starts the car beside him.

“Safety first.” Chanyeol says before Baekhyun accepts and wears the helmet. He narrows his eyes, “You’re not dating anyone, right?”

“What?” Baekhyun croaks out with rounded eyes.

“I mean… I just don’t want any conflict in case somebody sees us.” he reasons out lamely, “I had the experience. I just don’t wanna get beaten up in front of your house. Who knows if there’s a boyfri—”

“No,” Baekhyun says with a frown while the helmet almost covers his eyes, “I’m single, and I need to go home.”

Chanyeol laughs lightly, “Good.”

Baekhyun cluelessly hops on the motorcycle, sending Kyungsoo a deadly look. Soo winks at him, causing him to miss another sentence from the taller in front of him.

“What?” he asks over Chanyeol’s shoulder.

“I said hold tight or you’ll fall.” the taller says louder while stepping on the pedal.

“Oh… s-sorry.” he mumbles before reluctantly holding on his waist. The thunderous sound of the engine becomes louder before they completely drive away.

Soo watches them until they’re out of sight, a trace of smile still on his lips. You’ll thank me, Byun.

“Hey,” he turns around to see Jongin sneaking his head out of the car window, “let’s go?”

Jongin doesn’t fail to catch the lingering smile on his face as soon as he hops inside. He starts driving.

“Enjoyed matchmaking?” he asks that Soo only responded with a grin, “You should’ve warned your friend. Chanyeol likes fooling around. He’s got the looks, doesn’t he?”

“Not this time.” Soo answers confidently, “I’m never wrong.”

The huge beam on his face stays longer, Jongin watches it absentmindedly.

“What?” Soo narrows his eyes.

The driver looks back to the road with his lazy grin, “Nothing.”

Kyungsoo lets out a satisfied sigh before looking outside.

“Your crush got the lead part in my play, by the way.” he says nonchalantly, smiling fading a little when he remembers the last conversation he had with Soojung.

Jongin looks at him in confusion.

“Soojung?” Soo raises a brow, and Jongin only blinks at him before looking back to the road. “Her first role is a lead one. Impressive, right?”

“Nice.”

“Yeah, you should get her a bouquet or something. She looks like the type who likes pretty things. Tell her it’s to congratulate her, then sneakily ask her out. Bam!” Jongin looks at him, unamused. “What?”

“Your ways.”

“Why are you such a coward?”

“I’m not a coward.” Jongin flashes a raw smile, “I told you before there’s no point trying if I obviously have no chance on someone. Let that topic go.”

“But what if she secretly likes you too?” Kyungsoo can’t even believe himself and his ability to manage a convincing grin, “Then you’re throwing your chance!”

Jongin only chuckles at him. He hasn’t seen anyone this lazy on pursuing someone he likes. Is it because Jongin is aware he’s hot so he’s so confident to slack off?

“Come on, what if?” Soo leans a little closer to emphasize his point.

Jongin stares at his face closer to him, blinking once before shaking his head.

“That’s impossible.”

Soo forces a grin, something bitter is rushing down his chest while he watches the trace of smile on Jongin’s face while he’s looking at the road. If you only knew.

But then one day, he will, right? He would eventually find out about Soojung’s feelings. And then what happens to them, afterwards?

Actually, no— what happens to Kyungsoo, then?

He leans back on his seat when chest becomes a little heavy. Jongin glances at him because of this.

“God, you’re hopeless.” Soo grins while looking outside, “As hopeless as my driving.”

“That’s why I told you to get another lesson, right?”

“I had hundreds of them and I still can’t drive.” Soo pouts unconsciously, “Good thing I’m rich.”

“You should learn how to drive. It’ll come handy.” Jongin says.

“I know… but I just don’t like it.” he says with frustration, “It’s probably the last thing I’ll be interested to learn. It’s exhausting, plus I hate traffic rules. Learning signages and road colors, it’s dumb.”

Jongin shrugs, “How is it different being on the passenger seat?”

“I just like to watch sceneries outside and I can’t do that if I drive because all you have to do is watch if you’ll hit somebody.” he explains wholeheartedly, “I feel like you have to be so patient and composed to do it, and that’s not how I am. I’ll kill everyone if I drive.”

Jongin chuckles, “Point taken.”

Soo looks at him and smiles back. He just can’t wait to reach home and kiss him senselessly. It’s crazy how random their conversations are and it’s the most comfortable silences in between. Almost like a married couple.

Ah, if only.

“And you still urge me to get a girlfriend when you don’t even want to learn.” Jongin says with so much amusement, “Who’s gonna drive you home if I date someone?”

Kyungsoo almost rolls his eyes. It can be so simple and easy. He thinks to himself but only ends up smiling when he didn’t say it out loud.

“Well, I guess I’ll look for a more handsome driver.” Soo mutters with a hint of smile. He looks outside, “It’s not like you’ll be my driver forever anyway.”

Jongin smiles at the road, “You bet.”

They reach his apartment in no time, carefully walking in the halls because it’s almost midnight. Kyungsoo walks a meter ahead while Jongin trails behind.

“It’s late, do you want to just check my initial draft then the final ones can follow tomorrow?” he asks Jongin who only looks at him.

“Anything you prefer.” he responds in a deep tone.

Soo gulps when he feels the sudden heat rushing all throughout his body. His hand slightly trembles while pressing the pin to his unit. He only asked to initiate a conversation because the both of them know it’s going to be pointless.

He walks inside first, followed by Jongin who closed the door. He turns on the air conditioner, but the remote drops from his hand when he feels a hand on the both sides of his waist. Soo turns around and feels a warm breath close to his face, his knees wobble.

Once he caught his gaze directed at him, his hands find their way to Jongin’s collar— hastily drawing him closer by his nape, then to his hair. He squirms a little when the taller holds him tighter around his waist, clashing their lips together as soon as the air conditioner runs.

His bag drops on the floor and they don’t even bother checking if the door was locked. He managed to drag them to the closest couch without looking, laughing hysterically against Jongin’s lips when they stumbled on it. The taller shuts him up with another impatient kiss, straddling his weight on top of his body.

Jongin slightly pulls away, letting his nose touch Kyungsoo’s while he stares all over his face. Soo looks back with his now half-lidded eyes, biting his swollen lip when he feels like palpitating again.

“And the plates?” Jongin mumbles while placing a gentle peck on the side of his lips. Kyungsoo can’t help smiling.

“They’re fine… somewhere…” he responds breathlessly every time another kiss travels down his jaw, “Too far… from my reach.”

His nose scrunches when he felt a little ticklish from Jongin’s moving lips against his skin. He has this habit of speaking or whispering in between kisses, and he’s pretty much aware of how it makes Kyungsoo crazy. The feeling of his lips moving against him is something beyond explainable. It frustrates him to see the hint of satisfaction from Jongin every time he catches his little reactions.

“Should I go get them?” he raises his brows, tauntingly pulling away. “So we can go to the business—”

“Shut the fuck up,” Soo hisses and pulls him down, earning him a deep chuckle. “just kiss me, driver.”

He parts his lips and lets his tongue in, circling his arm around Jongin’s neck as the latter kisses him deeper. It has always been just making out, whatever’s between the two of them. That being said, Soo couldn’t deny the desire in him growing more and more. He wants everything beyond this. Kyungsoo finally admits it to himself, but he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to admit it to the other.

Something hotter rushes all throughout his body, especially when he feels something hard against his thigh. Jongin’s kisses become hungrier, needier. But when Soo’s hand travels down to his crotch, he flinches a little and pulls away while heaving. He stares straight into the shorter’s half-lidded eyes directed at him, parting his lips in surprise.

Soo has never felt this way to anyone before. It’s like a guilty pleasure that can clearly destroy him if he plays it wrong. Neither of them acknowledges whatever they’re doing, and that’s what scares Kyungsoo the most. Because every single day, he becomes more selfish. He’s slowly wanting Jongin for himself alone.

Before Jongin completely decides to stop, he pushes him away and sits up from lying down. The tanned man watches him, leaning on the couch with labored breathing that instantly hitches when Soo starts unzipping his pants. He straightens up and grabs his hand, eyes slightly widening.

“What?” he raises a brow when he sees the stunned look on his driver’s face. Soo stands up and kneels between his legs, “No sex, I know. I’m just going to help you with this. It looks painful—”

“Soo.” Jongin breathes shakily, like he’s afraid to be caught. The way his hair messily falls on his forehead clouds Kyungsoo’s mind up even more.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a blowjob.” he smiles a little, but his heart starts rummaging when the other’s grip on his hand loosens up, and he’s able to hold his hard on and let it out from his boxers, “You’re gonna love it.”

His throat becomes a little dry with the sight, Soo gulps when he feels himself getting hard underneath his pants. Jongin breathes through his lips while watching his hand moving up and down his cock, drawing in a sharp gasp every time his thumb runs on his slit.

Jongin clenches his jaw while watching him with so much frustration, especially when Soo became too involved with watching his hand on his shaft that he almost spaced out. He gives Jongin a quick grin, running his tongue on his tip before taking him whole in his throat.

“Shit…” he cusses hard, heaving deep when he feels every inch of his dick inside Kyungsoo’s mouth. It doesn’t help when the latter makes a wet, gagging sound when the tip reaches his throat. Jongin’s slightly trembling hands travel onto his hair, guiding when his head starts to bob up and down. He continuously hisses profanities through gritted teeth.

The sight of Kyungsoo’s mouth taking him in so well makes it difficult to hold in. And even if it seems embarrassing, he feels like cumming in his mouth anytime soon. He tilts his head up, eyes shut tight. Soo watches him carefully, grunting against his cock every time he bobs deeper.

“Fuck—oh, fucking hell.” Jongin mumbles helplessly, arching his hips to fuck his mouth. His breathing becomes more labored when he feels himself nearing, “S-Soo…”

Soo dips his head with a faster pace, gripping the base of Jongin’s cock until it twitches in his mouth. He gives another deep bob before Jongin finally comes. He takes some in his mouth, pumping it later on with his hand, staining on it and his chin.

He can hear his driver’s ragged breathing above him. Jongin is still cussing between his breath even if Soo had already finished his dilemma. He flashes a look of disbelief, to which Soo only responds with a half-smile. He lets Jongin catch his breath and walks to his room to get them some tissue, along with the blueprints that are supposed to be dealt with, originally.

When he comes back to the living room, Jongin is already sitting properly, his hand running through his hair. Soo gets from the box of tissue before throwing him the rest so he can clean on his own. He wipes his mouth and hand while standing in front of Jongin, the rolls of blueprints between his elbows. Soo catches a pair of eyes watching him as soon as he finished cleaning himself, making him raise his brows.

“What about you?” he asks so seriously that makes Kyungsoo wheeze. Jongin frowns because of that.

I won’t be easily satisfied, so let’s not bother. Soo answers in his mind.

“I’m used to this. I get over so fast, don’t worry.” he says, talking casually about his boner. Soo doesn’t see the way Jongin’s eyes change.

“So…” he sighs and holds the blueprints in both his hands like nothing happened, “Do you think you should check my initial draft first or?”

Soo protruded his lips when Jongin lazily looks at both of the sheets, taking too long to respond. Before he could even snap at him to come back to his senses, he yelps as he gets pulled down to the couch, dropping the rolls of blueprints in his hands to the floor.

Kyungsoo cusses hard and is about to yell at him but he just… stops. His heart skips another beat when he feels Jongin’s warm breath on the side of his neck, while his arm lazily wraps around Soo’s shoulders. Soo feels his hard chest against his back.

He stares at the rolled blueprints on the carpet, lips slightly parted in awe. The thoughts jumbled in Kyungsoo’s mind, his words stuck in his throat. He tries shifting his body but the arm around him envelopes him even more.

“W-What are you doing?” he gulps when he stutters, “Hey, I just paid you to help me with my sketches!”

“Is that so?” Jongin mumbles in a low voice, making him cuss silently when he shivers. “Then aren’t you sad anymore?”

Soo blinks repeatedly, “W-What?”

“I know you’re not feeling good since we’re in your Dad’s office.” he hears him ask from behind, “What did he tell you again?”

Kyungsoo feels his heart bursting any minute. His eyes start getting warm but it’s not because of getting reminded by everything he found out today.

He bites his lower lip before gulping. So this is what it feels like when someone truly cares for you.

Quite amazing.

Soo is aware that he cannot just tell him everything so easily, but he can’t deny that hearing Jongin ask made him a thousand times better than he was for the rest of the day.

If only he’s mine. Soo curses himself over and over again; oh what he’d give to be on Soojung’s place.

But this one isn’t that bad either, is it?

“N-Nothing…” he chokes between light laughter, “He just told me I’m a brat who can’t draw. I got over it.”

Jongin falls silent and Soo doesn’t even know if he buys it. He tries to suppress his smile before attempting to pull away and stand up, but Jongin wouldn’t let go.

“Jongin, my blueprints…” he groans in annoyance even if his face says otherwise. Fortunately, the other can’t see it, “come on! I sucked your dick for this!”

He hears the taller clicking his tongue behind him. Jongin shifts their bodies sideways for a cozier position. Kyungsoo stops fighting, lips etched into a big smile while holding the arm around him.

“So you just came here to cuddle…”

Jongin hums, “As repayment for what you did.”

“But what I need you to do is check my drafts…”

“Tomorrow… I’ll do it.” he mumbles sleepily against Kyungsoo’s head, “Now I wanna sleep.”

Soo doesn’t say anything else, afraid that his smile would be caught from his voice. He exhales a deep breath, trying to close his eyes even when his crazy heartbeat surely won’t let him.

“Don’t ever listen to your father again.” Jongin says against his hair, making Kyungsoo chuckle. He can’t even figure out if he’s serious, “From now on, you only listen to me.”

Kyungsoo lightly grips his arm, “And who do you think you are?”

Jongin chuckles, placing a leg over him.

“I’m your driver.”

He grins big—no, you’re not. He wants to tell him. Kyungsoo has never been so competitive, let alone over a man, but now he forgets all about it. He doesn’t need to be Soojung, actually. Now that he tries blinking and opening his eyes, seeing Jongin still backhugging him to sleep, he figures out he’s just fine being himself.

Kyungsoo takes a quick, hard and fatal fall into this. So no, Jongin won’t simply be his driver and that’s just that.

 

Chapter Text

Is this the stupid little thing he used to roll his eyes at?

Kyungsoo wakes up one day and the thought hits him even more harshly than before. He’s annoyed with that consistent stupid smile on his face, his brutal remarks finally having an exception, his sudden ability to get flustered over little dumb things— himself, basically. He’s getting annoying.

Because it will never be normal. One minute, he’s throwing his driver advices on how to pursue the girl he likes then the next thing, they’re making out in his apartment. How is that even possible? But being the idiot he is, he prefers this setup than having to confront whatever he feels. Soo decides he can just wait until Jongin gets tired of it. For now, he’ll enjoy.

But is that really the truth? Can he just drop it doubtlessly once Jongin calls it quits one day?

Even before the thought comes close to this question, Soo would repress every bit of it.

“Hmm, good work, actually.” Architect Lee slowly nods, “Can still be improved… but good job, nonetheless.”

Kyungsoo wanted to roll his eyes. The seniors in the company can’t even compliment him completely. It’s like it’s so hard for them to admit that he’s actually doing a good job on this. He’s not sure if his father told them to be so hard on him or everyone just hates him.

“Thanks.” he still responded with a polite smile Jongin taught him no matter how forced it looked. Speaking of which, he catches his amused little grin from the corner. He almost grins back, but he sees Soojung watching them so he acts as casual as he can.

Months have passed and preparation for the play becomes more hectic. It doesn’t even help when the internship becomes demanding too. They just finished their third project for the month and they’re already on their final and biggest presentation.

“I hope you enjoyed your internship.” one of the architects told them when the weekly evaluation wrapped up, “We hope you already started preparing for your own designs for the final presentation soon. You know that one holds your future here.”

No one among them answers. Though unlike the other two, Soo is the only confident one. The architect sees this and speaks to him specifically.

“I hope you don’t become too complacent, Kyungsoo.” Soo raises his brows when the architect told him seriously, “We know you’re the heir and this is simply a training for you, but your father will be bringing the biggest stockholders to evaluate you themselves. Chairman Do is expecting a lot from you.”

Soo feels a sudden weight on his chest from this. But as he is, he doesn’t let this show and only shrugs in response.

“Isn’t he, always?” he asks with a chuckle. The architect only looks at him seriously before looking at the other two.

“Best of luck to you all. I must say, you’re one of the best batches the firm ever had.” he says and Soo doesn’t even have to figure it out too hard that he’s only referring to Soojung and Jongin mostly. It’s fine, though. It’s not like he’s asking for their validation anyway, “I hope to see you as successful architects here one day.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you, Architect.”

The man bids them goodbye before allowing them to exit the room. Kyungsoo walks ahead outside, even when the other two are left to ask more important questions about the final presentation. He may have appeared like an asshole again, but he can just ask Jongin anyway if he missed a detail.

Speaking of final presentation, Soo remembers the two designs he already started weeks ago for it. He has always been the type to prepare earlier and aside from that, he gained so much inspiration lately. Soo is very proud of his first drafts and he can’t wait until his father and all his damn stockholders see them. A grin slowly forms on his lips on his way outside. He’ll prove everyone wrong.

“Hey… uh, Kyungsoo?”

He turns around, knowing whose voice it belongs to. Soojung is walking to where he is and Soo unintentionally raises a brow. The girl doesn’t fail to notice the same response. For months of being around each other in both internship program and play rehearsals, Kyungsoo has never been warm to her. She actually tried befriending him, getting closer to the rest of the performing arts club, but never to him. The org president never seem to like her, for some reason.

“What is it?”

“I’m just… going to ask if…” she gulps, feeling intimidated by the weight of Kyungsoo’s stare. Soojung herself is intimidating, deeming it as one of anyone’s first impression of her. This is the first time it becomes the other way around. If it’s because of the fact that Kyungsoo holds the power on both of things important to her, or he simply makes sure she feels what he wants her to—she wasn’t really sure.

Though these past few days, she’s beginning to have an idea.

Soo raises his brow even more when she pauses and spaces out a little.

“Can I have a few days break from play rehearsals?” she says continuously, sounding hopeful. “I just need a little time to prepare for the final presentation next week. And… um, the rehearsals are consuming most of my time in a week. I think I’ve been preparing well for the role so I’m hoping to focus on this now.”

Kyungsoo looks at her, a hint of amusement is plastered on his face. Now he’s able to closely notice the evident exhaustion from her eyes. So it really is wearing her out, huh? She’s been working hard, there’s no doubt about that. The rehearsals are continuous every week, almost every day, because the producer is a perfectionist. That’s given. So if Soo will be asked if he ever regretted casting Soojung for the lead role, he will say no, without a doubt. She’s the perfect choice.

But then, Kyungsoo smiles tauntingly.

“No offense, Soojung…” Soo starts off, “I know you’ve been working really hard, and I commend you for that. But like you, the rest of the club is working their asses off as well. Everyone wants this to be a perfect production so to interrupt a rehearsal just for the lead actress would be, I don’t know, inconsiderate?”

Soojung’s lips parted a little, she blinks rapidly.

“I-I know… but it’s been more than two months of nonstop preparations, I think it’s just fair if I—”

“I co-produce the play. I wrote the whole shit too, even co-directing sometimes.” Soo raises both his brows, “Did I ever complain? No. Because everyone else is working hard, too.”

She heaves deeply, teeth slightly gritted, “Yeah… like everyone else is singing and acting for more than five hours every day.”

“Honey, the effort you put on stage is just like everyone else’s effort out of it.” Soo chuckles, “All of us get tired, all of us has some other errands, but the club has one main priority; the play. I’m sure you were oriented upon recruitment. Now if we can juggle it all together, then you can, too. The rehearsals do not depend on the lead actress.”

Soojung isn’t able to say anything. But the way her hands are clutched and her jaw hardens, Soo knows he pressed a certain button. Although as if it has been an unconscious goal, he suppresses a satisfied smile.

She gulps before flashing a sarcastic smile, slowly nodding.

“Okay, I understand.” she says with struggle, “I’ll see you at the next rehearsal, then?”

The tone of her question has an underlying meaning and Kyungsoo is even more entertained. She’s obviously implying that she doesn’t see him often at rehearsals, but Soo isn’t dumb to be provoked by it.

“Sure. I’ll be there.” he smiles meaningfully. She walks away wordlessly, smile faltering in a snap without even waiting to pass by him completely.

Kyungsoo grins while watching her walk away. If Soojung has to be everyone’s number one choice for everything then she would have to live up on it. Let’s see if she’s worth all the hype.

It’s all intentional, yes. Kyungsoo considers this as a simple challenge for a perfect girl like her. Who knows? Maybe he’ll eventually see what Jongin saw.

“Hey,” Jongin pops up beside him, brows creasing a little when he caught his small grin. Soo raises his brows and turns the smirk into a sweet smile, “let’s go?”

Maybe then, he can accept defeat. But now, the game is just getting too interesting for him.

 

×

 

“Don’t you dare be late.” he suppresses a grin when Jongin chuckles at him from the driver’s seat, “Bye.”

He grins from ear to ear even when the Audi has already left his sight. Kyungsoo is unconsciously smiling as goes inside the org room. He finds Baekhyun there, alone and spacing out. He catches Kyungsoo’s wide grin before the latter could even hide it.

“You look miserable.”

Baekhyun only narrows his eyes at him. Soo becomes even more intrigued that his friend is unusually moody today.

“How’s my matchmaking? Worked out?” he taunts even more. He sees the frown quickly gracing Baekhyun’s face before he acts innocent about it, “Oh come on.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Soo hisses, “Byun Baek, I’m not dumb. You kept insisting you didn’t like Chanyeol when I introduced him to you months ago but I’m hearing news recently that something’s rekindling. You can’t fool me.”

Baekhyun frowns even more, looking like he’s pissed over something.

“I don’t like playboys. How many times do I have to say that?”

“Someone’s got the panties in a twist.” Soo doesn’t know how he can find humor in everything today. Maybe he’s just in a good mood after that stolen kiss in a car a while ago, “Is he making you jealous already?”

“Shut up. Where did you hear that stupid rumors?”

“I know everything. You can’t fool me.”

“No, you can’t fool me.” Baekhyun retaliates with a demand in his tone. Soo raises his brows, “Do you think I don’t notice?”

Soo blinks.

“Huh?”

Baekhyun narrows his eyes, leaning towards him.

“You’ve got hots for Jongin, don’t you?”

Soo chuckles airily, but he doesn’t give a clear response. Or rather, it’s a clear one already.

“I’ve been noticing it recently… you keep pushing me away when he’s there. You talk like you’re in your own little world. You look at him differently. You’re too jumpy whenever he’s there, or he’s arriving.”

Soo crosses his arms over his chest, coolly leaning back while he’s being interrogated.

“Admit it!”

“I like him.”

Baekhyun’s eyes widen, as if he doesn’t really expect that easy answer. He gasps in shock.

“I knew it! I can’t believe you lied to me!”

“No I didn’t.” Soo raises a brow, “You’re just too dumb not to notice.”

“Still! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!”

He only shrugs, simply watching how Baekhyun goes chaotic about it.

“Does he know?” Soo parts his lips even when he doesn’t know exactly how to answer. Baekhyun speaks further, “I mean… he likes Soojung, right?”

Kyungsoo blinks once, trying to look passive.

“Yeah, and?”

“Ah…so unrequited love?” Baekhyun finally grins, “You’re just second to Soojung?”

Soo narrows his eyes this time, refusing to believe he just got offended.

“That won’t be possible if I’m better in every aspect.” he smiles without humor. He grits his teeth when Baekhyun cracks a loud laughter.

“Oh my god! Am I really hearing this from the great Do Kyungsoo?” he gasps, mouth shaped ‘O’. “You…became competitive over a guy?”

“Like I said, there’s no competition.”

“Wait…” Baekhyun’s smile falters, “Soojung has been under fire lately, especially in rehearsals.”

Soo doesn’t answer.

“Do Kyungsoo, are you trying to sabotage her because of Jongin?”

“Sabotage? It’s all constructive criticism.”

“Oh my god, Soo, you’re terrible.”

He doesn’t answer again, making Baekhyun shake his head.

“I hope you don’t go further than that. Soojung is really nice.”

“I won’t, okay? Why do you make it seem like I’m a bad person?” Soo clicks his tongue, “If she can’t handle the pressure of the production, that’s on her, not me.”

Baekhyun’s lips protruded, “I really hope so.” he mutters, “It’s really low to sabotage someone just because of a man.”

“Tss.” he rolls his eyes. What’s the point of talking about Soojung, anyway? “We’re late for class.”

He mindlessly puts his almost finished drafts on his table.

“Wait, is that your work for the final presentation?” Baekhyun asks while standing up. Soo rolls his eyes at him again, “Why don’t you show it to me? Come on, I want to see! You’ve been boasting about it since forever!”

“You don’t deserve it.” Soo tells him and walks to the door. Baekhyun flashes a pout, “After siding with Soojung? No.”

Soo walks ahead outside. Baekhyun stops at the door, looking back at his table.

“Wait, you’ll just leave it there?” he shouts at Soo, who starts walking at the hall.

“Yes? That’s my table, idiot.” Soo turns to look at him, “Come on!”

Baekhyun glances at the rolled blueprints before shrugging, running after him.

They’re a few steps away from the lecture hall when they spot a familiar person walking towards them.

“Wait…” Baekhyun mumbles even when Soo is already looking at the person blankly, “Soo, it’s Seonho.”

Kyungsoo doesn’t say anything, promising himself to stay that way even when his ex is getting nearer and he’s sure he’ll say something bad again. But Seonho only looks at him, looking unusually cold, then walks past them without a word.

Soo exhales a sigh of relief, intrigued by the lack of confidence from the man that he expected. To be fair, it’s his first time seeing him this close again after months, considering that the last conversation they had ended terribly. He hasn’t been seeing him among his ex-friends too.

“He looks exhausted nowadays, don’t you think?” Baekhyun asks him as they enter the lecture hall, “I haven’t seen him with Sohee and others. He’s always alone.”

Again, Soo doesn’t say anything. To be honest, he doesn’t care anymore.

“Do you think he’s fine?”

Kyungsoo glances at him, “I don’t know. I don’t care.”

He stopped caring a long time ago, remember?

  

It lingered in his mind for a while, only having to shrug it off when his last class for the day finished and he’s rushing back to the org room for the rest of his things because he has a plan (or a date as he likes to call it on his own). Jongin agreed to accompany him for furniture shopping today so he’ll go to his workplace and wait for him to finish. He ditched the play rehearsal for this and there’s not even a bit of regret.

His driver likes saying no to him, even when he’s trying the subtlest way he can to treat him. It’s ironic how Kyungsoo never did this to anyone else before because he’s always the one to be pleased. Now he completely knows how it feels like to score a (date) or furniture shopping, in layman’s term. It took him a desperate guilt-tripping before actually hearing Jongin sigh in defeat, making him promise that he’ll only have to accompany him buy unnecessary furniture even when they’d probably still end up having dinner and of course, making out in his apartment for the rest of the night.

But today is different. He doesn’t want it to be like any other ending. For once, Kyungsoo finally gets the guts.

Reaching the meeting room, the members aren’t there so he assumes they’re already in the rehearsal quarters. Great then, no further explaining.

He grabs his books, frowning when he sees one of his rolled draft for the final presentation lying on the floor. Kyungsoo clicks his tongue and picks it up, holding it close to him as he runs out to the gate where he told Mr. Han to fetch him.

It didn’t take too long before he reaches the diner where Jongin works. He’s so used to it that he casually enters it like his house, gaining satisfaction from the sound of the chimes when he gets in. Only Chanyeol is sitting on the counter, spacing out in an eerily familiar way that makes Kyungsoo chortle.

“Greet your customers.” Soo grins tauntingly when the taller forces a boyish grin. He looks around, finding only a few customers eating since it’s not dinner time yet. There’s no trace of his driver.

“Alone?” Chanyeol raises his brows at him, concealing the trace of hope in his eyes that someone might enter the door after Soo did.

Kyungsoo coolly leans his elbows on the opposite side of the counter, lips protruded. He could’ve asked Baekhyun to tag along but again, he has a date tonight so it’s not very ideal.

“Aw, yes.” he grins and Chanyeol chuckles while shaking his head once, “Disappointed?”

“As you are, maybe.” the taller easily retaliates, “Jongin hasn’t come yet.”

Kyungsoo blinks slowly.

“He has a shift, right?”

“Well he should. But he took a day off because he said he’s accompanying you tonight.” he doesn’t miss how Chanyeol’s eyes squint a little, “I mean…is that like…a date, or something? Cause you know…if I’m covering up for him, I deserve to know.”

Soo gets dumbfounded, a little taken aback by the question. Or rather, he doesn’t know how to fool Chanyeol when he’s basically there to get them busted anytime.

Before he could even speak, Chanyeol chuckles airily.

“I’m just kidding.” Soo lets out a shaky laugh, “Jongin is really hardworking so I don’t mind covering up for him sometimes.”

He glances at the door when two students enter, nodding once as if they’re regular customers. Then he looks back at Kyungsoo.

“You know Jongin wants to be the breadwinner, right?” he says with a smile, but he sounds more serious than he usually is. “He’s the eldest son. His father already retired so he’s working extra hard. Jongin feels like he’s responsible to give them the best life.”

Kyungsoo gulps and finds himself looking at the cookie jar beside him instead. He just realized he barely knows that. He barely knows anything about Jongin. Maybe because it’s always about him, and Jongin has always been willing to listen to any of his bullshit that he just took it for granted. And now the truth hits him hard—he badly wants to know everything about him, too. He wants to be involved in his life.

Is he really doomed now?

“It’s just really good that you became good friends with him. I mean… no offense, but chaebol children don’t really give nice impressions to people so I didn’t really expect to…well—”

“Yes, me specifically.” Soo grins a little, “Don’t worry. I’m aware, and I’m used to it.”

Chanyeol smiles sheepishly.

“It’s good that you’re actually nice after all.” he says with a nod, “At first, I’ll admit I was worried for Jongin when I heard he’s going to be working in your company. But now, I’m glad to see he’s not having a hard time and even gets to enjoy most of the time.”

Soo cracks a smile, “You’re not saying this to try hitting on me again, are you?”

But the taller only laughs lightly, slowly shaking his head.

“No…like really, I haven’t seen him like this.”

Soo blinks slowly.

“Like?”

Chanyeol parts his lips to answer but the door chimes interrupt him. New customers come in so he straightens up and greets them. Kyungsoo needed to step aside as they order, the question still hanging in his mind.

“Jongin doesn’t have a shift today, but he told me he’ll get something here first before the both of you go so just wait for him to arrive, I guess?” Chanyeol tells him while encoding the orders. Soo figures out he already forgot the discussion they were just having so he responds with a nod and walks to his favorite table.

He taps the table, looking at his empty screen. Jongin usually sends him a message every now and then so it’s quite unusual seeing his inbox empty today. Choosing not to mind it though, he ends up watching the people in the diner come and go, expecting that Jongin will arrive soon.

Soo proceeds to think about everything Chanyeol said. About Jongin’s family. He hasn’t met them yet, aside from his father. And as he comes to think about it too, the man has always been nice to him. Growing up, Kyungsoo would always remember his warm smile at him every time his rich father takes him along. Maybe Jongin didn’t have second thoughts on working for them too because his father didn’t say anything bad about their family.

And then he remembers why Jongin got his attention in the first place. Because he had such good relationship with his father. Something far from what Kyungsoo has.

He smiles a little because of the thought. Then he just have to recall it again; his father’s secret. His big, dirty secret that for some reason, bothers Kyungsoo even more than him. He has the burden.

Before he could even think of the stupid plan he came up with just recently, he cusses and gets a grip of himself, grabbing his phone to finally send Jongin a text.

I’m here at the diner. Are you on your way?

He stares at his phone for more than a minute, frowning as he looks around again. He can’t even believe his driver let a minute pass before sending him a response.

You better be on your way.

He rests his chin on both his palm after sending another one. Chanyeol’s lips curve while walking towards where he is, a small bowl of Kyungsoo’s favorite ice cream on his hand. Soo looks like he’s about to throw a fit again.

“I didn’t order that.”

“Jeez, I know you’re aware this is free so you’re very welcome.” Chanyeol says, chuckling when the shorter proceeds to grab the spoon and scoops some into his mouth.

“Baekhyun wouldn’t like it if he finds out.” he says and finally brushes the smug grin off of Chanyeol’s face.

“Give me a rest from that damn friend of yours, will you?” he hisses in annoyance. He looks like he’s about to get the ice cream back.

Kyungsoo shakes his head.

“You both are idiots.” he says while picking his wallet, “Anyway, let me pay.”

“Nah, I said it’s free.” Chanyeol leans on the edge of the seat across him, still standing.

Soo clicks his tongue, “I don’t want your diner to go bankrupt because of me.”

“The owner is aware of the free ice creams.” the taller looks at his drawing tubes where his blueprints are, “Can I just see that then?”

Kyungsoo looks at him, nodding when he sees the interest on his face. Chanyeol reaches for it and pulls out the blueprint from the inside. Soo looks at his phone, still getting no response. He doesn’t see the way Chanyeol’s lips part in awe.

“You made this?”

Kyungsoo nods, raising his brows because of Chanyeol’s reaction that seems to be boasting his ego.

“Is this for that big internship project in your company? Jongin told me about it.” Chanyeol mutters while still looking at the whole draft, “But wow, these are so good.”

Soo chuckles, “Not as good as Jongin’s work, probably.”

Chanyeol finally stops gaping at the blueprints just to look at him.

“That jerk is a prodigy, Kyungsoo. He’s accelerated and has fucking hands of god. You don’t compare anyone to him.” he points at the blueprints Soo is now rolling back into place, “But that’s some very good designs. Well…not that my opinion counts cause I don’t know much about architecture, I’m a music major but…it’s really, really good.”

Kyungsoo smiles.

“Thanks.” he says, genuinely overwhelmed about the praise he got. “I really spent a long time working on these. Maybe because Jongin gave me a lot of good advices as well.”

His smile falters a little when he sees the edge of the blueprints slightly crinkled. He straightens it with his palm and gets them back in the tube.

“Has Jongin seen them?”

Soo grins and shakes his head, “No. You’re the first one to see it actually. I think I’ll just wait for the final presentation this weekend.”

He already thought of the possible feedback he’ll get for his work. To be honest, he barely cares about what the board will say, or his father. Kyungsoo is only concerned about one reaction.

“I’m flattered.” Chanyeol chuckles, pointing at his phone. “Speaking of.”

His phone screen is lighting up, flashing Jongin’s name as an incoming call. Chanyeol meaningfully raises a brow at him and walks away, allowing him to grin as he answers.

Kyungsoo squints his eyes, “You better have a good reason.”

“Soo? Are you—” his grin fades when he hears his worried tone. He doesn’t even know if Jongin heard what he said, basing from his heavy breaths from the other line. “You’re in the diner?”

Soo blinks rapidly, “Yes…where are you? I told you we’ll go to Denseukeu at five. Are you on your w—”

“I can’t go.”

He doesn’t get to answer immediately, yet he can feel the way his heart sinks.

“Why?” he asks with a low voice, “Where are you?”

“I’m at your university. And…there’s an emergency.” he says and Soo barely even comprehends the details, “Soojung had an asthma attack in between play rehearsal. I had to bring her to the clinic.”

Kyungsoo stares at the ice cream in front of him. There’s a lot of questions at the tip of his tongue.

Why are you there? There’s a lot of people there. Baekhyun should be there. They could bring her. Why you? Why are you choosing that?

“Soo, we can do it some other time…if it’s okay.” there’s still a hint of urgency in Jongin’s voice, but he tried making it sound gentle.

No, it’s not.

“Of course…” yet Soo responds casually, even smiling a little as if he can be seen. “Hope she gets well.”

“I can fetch you after your shopping.”

“No need.” he gulps, fiddling the end of his spoon weakly. “I don’t think I’ll go shopping today. I suddenly don’t feel like it.” he managed to say through gritted teeth.

He hears Jongin sigh from the other line, “Soo…I—”

“I think I’ll finish my drafts at home then sleep. I had m-many classes today.” he clears his throat when he stuttered, staring at his already finished blueprints that don’t need finishing. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

When he hears an incoherent voice of a woman instead of a response, he wraps it up for himself.

“Bye Jongin.” he says and doesn’t wait for anything else as he hangs up. Or maybe he did wait for nothing.

Kyungsoo stares at the already melted ice cream in front of him, trying to keep his breathing stable. He shouldn’t feel this way in the first place, for fuck’s sake. It’s petty and irrational if you ask anyone. A decent human being would prioritize a medical emergency over a scheduled shopping. That’s just how it is, rightfully.

But still. Maybe he really is a spoiled, rotten child. Maybe he’s a terrible human being. Because he’s hurt. It’s like the building hope given to him are all crushed, always with the common denominator. The thought that he’s just not that important.

There’s a pang in his chest. Simply thinking about the words he already rehearsed in his head and the perfect way to say them hurts him more than he expected.

“Hey, where are you going?” Chanyeol raises a brow when he walks past him with his things.

Soo only slows down, forcing a smile at him. “Furniture shopping.”

He should’ve known.

Chapter Text

Kyungsoo didn't get to check the time when he first stood near the boat cruises at Han River. He watched people come and go. For some reason, he finds the comfort of being away from the suffocating silence in his apartment or distracting noise in the malls or bars. He never really liked the idea of spacing out near the riverbanks, yet now he seems to appreciate it more.

He finally decided to leave the same spot after more than an hour. The sky is already dark, proving the point of his watch that flashes 8:34. He's been there for almost two hours after the cab dropped him off from the diner, just thinking.

This is why he should never trust himself. Can you believe he planned on confessing to Jongin today? He cusses himself under his breath for the nth time for even considering it a good idea. Soo has never been a good strategist but this has got to be the dumbest plan he ever came up with. Because what did he think? That just because they can't get their hands and lips off each other most of the time, he can assume there's more beyond that?

Did he think Jongin will return the feelings? Because he's dumb, then. It's somewhat fortunate that the emergency with Soojung happened today. At least he didn't continue making a fool of himself when Jongin made it clear where his place is.

Without even starting, Soo is already thinking of ways to move on. How pathetic is that?

Yet that's the only way. Maybe Jongin is terribly nice to him because he treats him like a good friend. After all, it's possible, right? Kyungsoo has made out and even got laid with some of his friends before. This shouldn't be new. Chanyeol's words start finding their way back to his mind. Jongin is kind and hardworking for his dream and his family. Telling him about his stupid feelings can mess things up, especially for Jongin.

The boy will surely keep a distance. He would have to give up a lot of opportunities just because a stupid, rich kid confessed about having feelings for him. Even if it hurts him deep into his chest, he can't take the risk.

Soo finally understands. Right then, he commends himself for trying.

As the night sky becomes darker, the bile in his throat becomes harder to swallow. Soo realized that this is the first time he ever felt this towards someone. It's understandable to be a little hurt. Ask questions. Or maybe this is karma. He chuckles to himself. For what he's done, to people he hurt. Maybe he deserves it.

Now all the weight in his chest is back, and it seems heavier than before.

An hour before Kare closes, Kyungsoo roams around the whole shop with a few other customers left. He slowly walks around the sets of furniture, dismissing the lady that follows him while asking what he's looking for. When he didn't answer after multiple attempts, she leaves him alone, looking a little pissed.

Well for the record, Kyungsoo doesn't know what he wants either. He'll probably end up buying a new lamp, or a swivel chair. Something he doesn't need. He just has to wait until he's dead tired of walking, then he'll buy something and go home, where he can finally sleep because of exhaustion.

He's blankly staring at the features card of this one big lamp when he senses someone walking to where he is. Through his peripheral vision, he waits for the person to get closer before he finally looks. He stiffens a little when he sees his ex-boyfriend.

Seonho stops when he's about a meter away from him, his hands are in his pockets. Up close, Soo can still see the exhaustion he saw in his eyes this morning. Although his eyes are not as cold as they were a while ago, his ex is a little off-putting without his usual confident grin and nasty remarks. He rather looks like he's suppressing something as he's face-to-face with Kyungsoo. He seems to be keeping in the words.

"What do you want?" Soo finally asks when it got too long without any word. Seonho gulps while blinking consistently.

"Nothing..." he says and Soo will be lying if he says the sound of his voice after a very long time didn't give him nostalgia, both good and bad. "I-I...just...how are you doing?"

Soo blinks once, a little taken aback.

"Why do you wanna know?"

Seonho takes another gulp before forcing a small smile.

"I just...want to know if you're happy...that's all."

Kyungsoo still doesn't know how exactly to react. They look at each other, probably not mirroring the same emotions, but both tired.

"And I don't see why it should concern you." Soo responds, trying to remember all the terrible things this guy told him months ago when they last talked. He constantly tells himself he's not up for his games anymore even when he's beginning to get intrigued by his actions.

Seonho chuckles lightly, nodding. "Of course." he says and finally looks straight into Kyungsoo's eyes, "I just...want to tell you how sorry I am."

The usual and natural response would be a sarcastic chuckle before walking out. He shouldn't even bother hearing a single word out. But here he is, staring at his ex while his chest heaves. He doesn't know if it's the overwhelming emotions today, but the ingenuity in the other's voice brings him close to tears. Soo tries to keep a stone cold face.

"I fucked up so bad, Soo. Everything in my life is a mess and I dragged you into all of it. I don't deserve another chance, but I still..." he grits his teeth as he pauses in between, "I want to sincerely say sorry for everything I've done and said. You don't deserve all of it."

Kyungsoo gulps, trying to come up with words to answer.

"You don't have to say anything. I just wanted you to hear me out. I really..." Seonho pauses gently, as if reconsidering his next words, "l-loved...you. And I had my own insecurities and...other bullshit, but you didn't have anything to do with them. I hope one day you can forgive me, Soo..."

Even with his now glistening eyes, Seonho smiles when Kyungsoo simply stares at him, unreadable like he has always been. But he knows he's surprised.

"Is this a prank?"

He breaks into a light laughter when Soo finally breaks silence with this. Kyungsoo ends up smiling, too, even if he can't believe it. Even if this is surely not how he expected to handle it.

Soo watches the genuine smile on Seonho's face after he laughed.

"It's not a prank, Soo." his gaze falls at the far distance behind Kyungsoo, smile slowly faltering. "I'm really happy I got to talk to you again today. I've been gathering the courage for a while now."

Kyungsoo still doesn't answer. He's afraid to ask. He knows something's up with Seonho but he doesn't want to push him into telling him as well.

They were together for a long time, both from rich families. And it's not a secret to Kyungsoo how Seonho was treated by his parents as well. An investment. A business deal. They're having it the same way that they clicked together, even just as friends. Now his heart hurts while realizing how hard it must be for Seonho these past few months. He had always admitted how Soo is much stronger than him. He was alone through all of this.

"I really hope you're happy." he tells Soo again, "It might be a long time...before I see you again."

"Where are you going?" now there's a clear hint of concern in his tone and he didn't bother concealing it.

Seonho purses his lips before giving him a reassuring smile.

"Just...away, for a while." he nods slowly, "Probably to fix myself on my own. I think I really need it."

Hearing this somewhat gave him a whole lot of realizations, as if he doesn't have enough. He gulps repeatedly and stares at Seonho again. Now he knows why the exhaustion in his eyes seems familiar.

"A-And your father allowed you?"

Seonho sighs, still wearing a sad smile. "I don't need his approval anymore, Soo. I'm doing it for and by myself now, or else I'll be ruined completely."

At that moment, Kyungsoo admits Seonho is stronger than him now. Because he hasn't found this courage yet. The courage to escape the leash of their families.

He bites his lip and reaches out for his hand, gripping it firmly as he looks at him seriously.

"I'll a-always... be your friend." he gulps and blinks his eyes dry. Seonho looks at him in awe, even after he lets go. "Take care, okay?"

"Soo."

His breath hitches when he hears a deep voice behind him. Kyungsoo turns around and immediately catches Jongin coldly staring at the man he's talking to. He gulps and looks back at Seonho who's meaningfully smiling at him.

"I'll be going now, Soo." he says, glancing at the other man briefly before going back to him. "Take care, too..."

Seonho walked away yet his feet seem like they're still pinned on the floor. He shuts his eyes tight for a second as a way of gaining back his composure. He finally looks at Jongin who's been watching him sternly.

"W-Why are you here?" he asks and it doesn't seem to amuse the taller even more, "It's late... you should've gone home and rested."

Jongin intently stares at his whole face for a while before answering. He can't even look at him the same way. Simply seeing his face makes him want to let out all the damn tears he's been keeping in for today.

"I called Mr. Han and he told me you weren't fetched from the diner." he says seriously, "Did you take a cab? You know it's not safe for you, right?"

Soo takes a subtle gulp again before smiling.

"Well, I'm h-here safely, right?" he says, trying to sound casual but Jongin doesn't smile back at him.

"I-I'm tired, actually. I wanna go home."

He walks out of the shop ahead of his driver, gritting his teeth hard so he could suppress it, even just until he reaches his apartment. Once they arrive, he can just close and lock the door in front of Jongin's face. Or probably tell him instantly in the car to drive away immediately. For sure, if he uses his authority, Jongin wouldn't have any choice because he basically just works for them.

Yeah, that easy.

No one speaks even when the both of them settled on their seats in the car. Soo blankly stares outside even when his heart feels extremely heavy. Jongin glances at him, lips pursed into a thin line. He looks like he's desperate to say something, yet holds it back and proceeds to drive even when the darkness never left his eyes.

He almost thought they'd never exchange any word when Jongin speaks firmly after a whole journey of silence. A minute away from his apartment. It seems like of all the words in his mind, he ends up uttering a few, safe ones.

"What did he say to you?" he asks, eyes fixated on the road. Only his one hand holds on the wheel. When Soo takes a while to respond, he looks at him with his clearly frustrated gaze.

"Who?" Soo mutters lowly, playing dumb. Jongin doesn't buy it so he drops it instantly, "Seonho? Nothing. Just asked me how I've been, that's all..."

Jongin's jaw clenches a little as he drives inside the apartment gates.

"You seemed to be in a longer conversation when I arrived, though."

Still looking outside, a sarcastic smile unconsciously forms on Kyungsoo's lips when Jongin said this. There's a pang somewhere in his gut, because he doesn't get the point of the question when he didn't even demand an answer when his driver went to Soojung today.

And what for? When will he stop giving Kyungsoo false hopes just to let him down again the next minute?

Soo finally decides to tell the truth, hoping he can get it over with and save himself within the next few minutes.

"He said he's hoping I'm doing fine..." he says casually even when the urge to get out of the suffocating car becomes stronger. Simply hearing Jongin's voice triggers something in him, probably the sound of concern in his voice when he was talking about Soojung over the phone earlier today. It's been stuck in Kyungsoo's head ever since, "and that he's sorry. Sincerely."

Jongin stares at him because of this, so he remains looking passive. He hops off the car as soon as the engine is stopped, and before Jongin could even say a word.

Seonho's words echo in his head repeatedly. To fix myself on my own. He wonder if he can do that, too. Soo wishes it's that easy for him.

Soo stops concealing the exhaustion on his face when he walks inside his apartment. Just as he expected, Jongin follows after him. He smiles to himself when he finally understands.

To keep an eye on him. To make sure he's safe and not fooling around. His father's orders, as always.

Kyungsoo keeps himself preoccupied. He hears the door closing as he puts his bag on the couch, walking straight to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water. He drinks it on the spot even when he knows Jongin is standing at the corner, watching him.

He gulps it down 'til the last bit, along with the bile in his throat that's already too painful to keep. Kyungsoo finally looks at Jongin who's still watching him seriously. The water didn't seem to help him make everything look casual, but he still tries.

Soo raises his brows, "Do you want to drink?"

"What did you say to him?"

He gets a bit taken aback. Jongin sounded rather crucial about it.

"What?"

"What did you say when Seonho apologized?" he asks seriously.

Why does it matter? Kyungsoo wants to retaliate. But he can't find the courage in him to be feisty as he usually was. He lost it long time ago when it comes to this man, no matter how crazy and hopeless it may sound.

"Nothing..." he mutters weakly, looking at the floor. "You came right then so I just didn't answer."

"Do you believe him?" Jongin takes a step closer, "Do you think he's sincere?"

Soo chuckles humorously, yet Jongin remains unamused. Kyungsoo's smile turns raw.

"I don't know, okay?" he says with a smile, "Whether he is or not, I've already forgiven him. I don't like holding grudges."

He wants to cringe at his own words. It's far from the truth. Because if he doesn't, then he won't be here, getting bothered by some stupid thing.

His ex just didn't matter to him that much. This much. Simple as that.

Jongin seems so frustrated over something. Kyungsoo drowned into his eyes for a short while until he needed to look away. He walks past Jongin to go to his room but his arm gets caught.

"What if he asks you to get back with him?" Soo can feel his heart thumping erratically. He lets out a laugh that sounds so nervous he wants to sink on the floor.

"You're crazy." he tries to leave but the grip around him won't let go.

"Will you say yes? If he tries to get you back?"

It's an overwhelmingly difficult feeling when strings of hope start igniting within your chest yet you strive to kill them yourself at the same time. That's what Kyungsoo feels right now. It's so hard.

He bites the inside of his cheeks, trying to understand what it meant—what Jongin's eyes are trying to say, try to make alibis for it, so that he'll help himself from completely falling into the depths of hopelessness. That would be even more difficult.

"No." he shakes his head while still smiling. He gently shakes Jongin's hand off his elbow, "An ex is an ex. I don't get back with past boyfriends, Jongin. Everybody knows that."

This doesn't seem to relieve Jongin. He looks even more irked by the mention of it.

"But you got back with him before..." it's almost a mumble. Kyungsoo's smile falters a little when the conflict becomes more prominent from his tone. "Seonho...I heard you got back with him a lot of times before that night at the party hall."

Soo grits his teeth. For once, he wants his driver to stop talking. At the same day, he made it as clear as the sun that his priority will always be the girl he likes. So to be fair, he doesn't have the right to ask these questions. Questions that are mercilessly playing with Kyungsoo's heart and mind.

The point is becoming clearer to him. His life is already too messy. He doesn't want to completely fall for someone that can never love him back. Soo's already had enough of it.

"That's because my father was basically throwing him to my face. You know Dad." he tries shaking his hand off again but it only travels down to his wrist, "Jongin, for fuck's sake, let go of me."

Jongin shifts him a little so he can face him, his eyes testing.

"What if your father tells you to get back with Seonho? Will you follow him again?"

"Let go!" he snaps and successfully yanks his hand away, "Just go home, will you? You're starting to get in my nerves!"

"Answer the question, Soo."

"Why does it matter to you anyway?"

The taller's gaze softens. Kyungsoo takes in a deep breath, blinking continuously before exhaling.

"Fine. To answer your question, I don't know. I don't give a shit either." he forces a grin, "I've always been my powerful father's puppet. He probably even has a list of rich and influential people he'd marry me off with one day. Welcome to my life."

Jongin doesn't get to answer. He looks like he badly wants to say something, yet keeps his lips pursed.

"It's not bad, though. My dream in life, live and die rich." he adds with a chuckle that sounded so painful, then he gulps. "Go home, it's late."

He takes large steps towards his room, proceeding to his walk-in closet where tears finally fall from his eyes. Kyungsoo's chest feels heavier. He prevents a sob, biting his lip as he shuts his eyes tight. He takes his shirt off to get a new one when he hears the sliding movement of his door, subtly wiping his face with it.

Soo takes another big gulp and looks up. Then he turns around, "Jongin, I told you to get your fucking ass out of my house."

Jongin stands up right at the door of his closet, leaning to his side. His arms are crossed over his chest.

Kyungsoo throws him a sharp look, "I'm close to firing you."

Trying to maintain a passive face, Jongin walks closer to him.

"I don't work for you."

Soo glares at him but it doesn't make him stop, "then I'll pay another driver." his foot takes one small step backwards when Jongin stands a few inches away from him, "What do you want? Go back to your small house."

Jongin takes this as a petty insult, not even bothering to be offended as he slightly tilts his head sideway.

"I can't."

Soo clenches his jaw when he wasn't able to make Jongin bat an eye, "Why not? Go home ugly, poor boy. I'm tired of your face. I can't stand you."

"Is that supposed to offend me?"

"Go home!"

"You haven't kissed me yet."

It was enough to silence his pathetic, little self. Soo shivers a little. He tries to internally argue that it's because he's topless and the air conditioner is close to them, but when Jongin flashes a little smile because of his reaction, he feels it again. And it's just pointless to deny.

"Kiss me and I'll leave."

Was that supposed to be a bargain? Soo will lose in the end, either way. Once he does it, he wouldn't want him to get away, he knows it. Jongin knows it, too. He's taking full advantage of it.

This is the first time Jongin becomes this vocal about initiating. Ironically, the feisty one gets tongue-tied. Especially when he feels an arm around his naked waist.

"You're taking too long." Jongin whispers and lightly kisses him on the lips. Soo blinks rapidly, looking straight into his orbs. "Part your lips."

Kyungsoo doesn't, but he relaxes his pursed lips. Jongin takes it his way and kisses him deeper, letting his tongue savor the inside of his mouth before nibbling on his lip. Soo grips on his shoulders. His breath hitches when Jongin's hands travel from his neck, down to his chest. He pulls away and lets out a shaky breath when Jongin pins him against the closet, his fingers find their way to his nipples.

There's an occurring pain in between his legs; a sign of danger.

He bites his lip, unintentionally whimpering when Jongin kisses him on his jaw, then down to his neck where his kisses become more demanding. Soo blinks drunkenly when the hard nibbling gets down to his collarbones then to his chest, surely engraving marks.

"Still want me to leave, Soo?" the tanned boy asks as he goes back to his neck. The way Kyungsoo's arms possessively wrap around his shoulders is more than an answer. He leans against the pile of clothes behind him, parting his legs so Jongin can stand in between.

Jongin kisses him back on the lips, placing Kyungsoo's hands on his hair like what he always does when they're making out. He likes it when Soo brushes or grabs his hair with his hands, almost like a sign that the shorter is satisfied by him, and just him.

His lips went down, not stopping until he reaches Kyungsoo's abdomen. He places a few light kisses there before kneeling. Jongin reaches for the hem of his pants and effortlessly pulls it down with everything underneath. Soo feels even harder now that he's completely naked, especially in front of the man that makes him crazy.

Jongin pulls it off from his ankles, throwing it to the side before looking up at him. Soo huffs through his lips, breathless by simply the sight of it. His knees wobble when Jongin kisses the side of his hips, then to the insides of his thighs where his teeth gently tug his skin.

"J-Jongin, please..." Soo finally croaks out when Jongin starts touching his erection, kissing anywhere else but it. His hand does the job by rubbing against his precummed slit. Kyungsoo's breathing becomes even more ragged.

His driver flashes a small grin under him.

"I'll help you this time. It looks painful..." he quotes Kyungsoo's words whenever he gets the assistance before. The basic response is to cuss at him, but Soo is too distracted by the jumbling thoughts and mild palpitations he's currently having to even process it.

Jongin licks his tip before completely taking him by the mouth. Soo had to arch his hips up and desperately hold on to the closet behind him. Everything is in a blur. The fact that his cock is being sucked by the same man whom he was just pushing away a minute ago is... a lot to process. It's even harder to believe the fact that his driver is doing it so well that he's having thoughts of him doing it with someone else. It's too much to fathom.

"F-Fuck... Jongin, Jongin, stop..." he blabbers incoherently. Jongin tauntingly stops for a second, "N-No!"

Jongin chuckles deeply before sucking him again, this time more keenly. Kyungsoo swears his whole face is in a deep shade of red. A lot of boys he's been with had never even made him like this. He hates how virgin he acts.

He easily reaches his peak, shoulders heaving as soon as his gut tightens. Soo weakly pushes Jongin away from him before he cums inside his mouth. The former watches while he finishes it with his hand, letting a grunt as soon as he spills it out on his fingers and the floor.

With still heaving chest, he stares at Jongin, a trace of shock on his face when he realized what they just did. Jongin doesn't look the same. If anything, he even looks more satisfied. Soo blinks rapidly and weakly picks up his shirt from the floor to wipe his hand. Aside from that, he tries covering his dick before it becomes obvious that it wants more. That he wants more.

But it seems like his effort is futile when his slightly trembling hand drops it again as soon as Jongin stands up from the floor. His eyes are darkening as he takes another step closer. The sight is more than enough to have Kyungsoo gulping hard; Jongin's messy hair, wet lips and the way his gaze pins on him like a target.

So Kyungsoo's breath completely hitches when the taller gets too close to him again, not taking his sight away from Soo as his hands reach to his back for the hem of his shirt. Jongin takes it off— beginning from the back and that alone is enough to make the chaebol son hopelessly crazier.

He barely knows what's happening anymore. This is probably the reason why they decided to keep their clothes on whenever they were making out before, and why it should stay that way. Kyungsoo's own body can't decide whether it'll go stiff or frail. His mind is in complete chaos, not knowing what to coherently process first. If it's Jongin's broad shoulders, well-sculpted body or his perfectly bronze complexion, his eyes—or the fact that he's just totally fucking perfect that it's suddenly overwhelming for Soo. For the first time in his life, he's intimidated.

It's totally understandable to have hots for him. Suddenly, all the fantasizing he was eagerly denying before becomes rational.

He doesn't have the time to be even more embarrassed when the tanned boy lifts his chin with his hand, parting both his legs with his knee so he can completely occupy the smallest space between him and Soo. Jongin's other hand hold his nape, as if making sure he won't escape. Then he kisses him again, without limitations.

Soo grasps on his waist, shivering with how his fingers feel so cold against Jongin's warm body. He lets out a moan when Jongin bites on his lip, a little harshly. He kisses him deeper until Soo can barely breathe. Without letting him recover, he pulls away. This time, his eyes burning.

"Do you want me, Soo?" he asks with a hint of demand. It's as if he's only open for one answer.

Soo can feel his heart beating up until his own ears. It feels like he lost his ability to speak, partly because he didn't know what to say either. He has always wanted him, so bad. But never in a million years did he imagine this to happen. The thought of going beyond kissing with Jongin gives him inexplicable emotions he can't contain.

And now the taller's gaze becomes even more demanding. His hand is settled on Kyungsoo's bum, making sure he's pressed right against him. Right then, his other hand finds its way back to his cock, making it harder for him to gain his sanity back.

"Say what you want." he whispers when Soo only whimpers against his chest while both his hands grip on his shoulders, "No? Want me to stop?"

Soo looks up at him with half-lidded eyes, pleading, yet still filled with so much impatience. The side of Jongin's lips curves.

"P-Please..." he breathes, completely disregarding all the dignity and pride left in him. His driver grins bigger with the response.

"Good." he mutters before wrapping the petite boy's legs around him to lift him up. Even the dimness of the room doesn't make him stumble into anything on their way to the huge bed. Jongin lets their weight fall, hovering above him as he crashes their lips again. Soo can't stop arching his waist and rubbing himself against him, eager for his warmth. Jongin's kisses on his face, neck and body become more relentless, almost desperate not to leave any space untouched.

Kyungsoo lets out a shaky breath through his lips as Jongin finally pulls away, standing on his feet while he lays down the bed. He spreads his legs apart, not taking his eyes off of the tanned man while the latter finally gets rid of his pants and everything else under them. It's becoming clearer to Soo and he would be a bad liar if he denies the churning in his stomach because of so much adrenaline and elation.

Dipping a knee on the edge of the bed, Jongin strokes his own cock, his lips pressed in a thin line. His eyes are fixed on the boy crawling to his bedside drawer to get a lube, patience being tested in the pits of hell while watching the small, beautiful smile on his face.

"Want me to prep myself?"

Fuck. Jongin cusses under his breath. He thought he's finally getting the upper hand and now it seems like the chaebol son regained his confidence, a danger to his poor little plan to go gentle on him.

His cock twitches against his hand while staring at the way Kyungsoo effortlessly drips some lube on his fingers alone, making it look so sinful without even having to try so hard. The young driver fights the urge to kiss him again even if it's futile. His unintentional little smiles are everything that's his weakness.

Jongin lets out another cuss before crawling towards him. His eyes are dangerous as he grabs the bottle away from Kyungsoo's hand to stop him in between fingering himself. Soo looks at him with so much anticipation, accepting his kisses without any complaint. His back falls on the bed when Jongin presses him down, hooking Soo's leg on his arm to lift it to his shoulder while his own fingers make their way to Kyungsoo's lubed hole. The chaebol son parts his swollen lips, eyes tightly shut when two of his fingers dig in.

"Ah..." he moans in between shortened breaths, "m-more..." he croaks out and Jongin immediately obliges as he adds a third finger, stretching him well enough for him. They share the same intensity of gazes when Soo couldn't utter any word anymore, simply rocking his hips against Jongin's fingers. Kyungsoo holds both his legs close to his chest to give him more access.

"M-More, Jongin, p-please..." he desperately calls out. Being finger-fucked isn't enough and he knows that. He wants Jongin to wreck him whole but he's too proud to beg until now, "J-Just..."

His eyes are settled on Jongin's dick, huge and hard against his abdomen. He wordlessly pulls his fingers out of his hole and topples over him for a hungry and wet kiss, his tip rubbing against Kyungsoo's puckered hole as he spreads the shorter's legs even more.

"Please..." he repeats when Jongin's lips went to his chin, "Now, please...j-just f-fuck me..."

His pleading eyes catch his driver's fiery gaze underneath his messy locks. He places another peck on Kyungsoo's lips that's completely unfit in the moment, yet is enough to make his heart flutter.

"I won't." he mumbles. Without getting the context, Soo almost throws a fit while rubbing himself against him, still so desperately.

"I-I need you..."

Jongin lets out a deep chuckle and he swears, his tummy did a fatal flip.

"I know." he says huskily, tilting his head to speak against Kyungsoo's cheek. "Took you long enough, Soo..."

To say, yes. But he already knew for a long time. When the son of his father's former bodyguard came into the picture, his life was never the same. That's why having his lips all over him, his skin against his skin, Soo gets introduced to more feelings he never even knew existed.

If this is love, then he's doomed for sure, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

Exhaling a shortened breath, his arm hooks around Jongin's nape when the latter finally enters. His movements are slow, despite Kyungsoo's impatient whimpering. His face is firmly pressed against his neck while he thrusts swiftly. After Soo's continuous begging, he increases his pace and rocks his hips faster.

"Fuck... f-fuck, Jongin, please..."

Jongin slightly pulls away, getting a full sight of what a mess he is under him. He breathes through his lips then holds onto the bed's headboard, thrusting deeper. Soo feels his whole system convulsing along with the bed, face contorted with pleasure as tears pool in his eyes.

"A-Ah! I c-can't... I'm..."

His head is spinning with the overwhelming feeling building upon him. Jongin immediately gets his signal and fucks him even more vigorously. Kyungsoo's knees tremble in his hold, his voice breaking between his moans.

Jongin huffs harshly, "Go on, Soo..."

Even with his mind in a whirlwind, Soo manages to come up with something else. Jongin looks at him in awe when he pulls his own weight up, letting the cock slide out of him even when he's too close to his release just to sit on Jongin's lap instead. Now he straddles on top of him, holding Jongin's dick to fill him up again before swaying his own hips back and forth. Jongin's moans against his ear become more prominent, intensifying every suppressed feeling he has.

One arm grips around Kyungsoo's waist, guiding his movements. The hold is almost possessive, but he can't say he hates it. In return, Soo holds his jaw, kissing him hard until he has to pull away to scream in his release.

Jongin places a few wet kisses on his neck and his chest until his own climax. His thrusts become sloppy, considering that Soo already has his face buried on his neck while he breathes in exhaustion.

The silence comes back shortly. Soo finally feels the heaviness on his lids. He remains on the same position, hugging Jongin while his eyes are closed, his face on the crook of his neck. Soo only feels a light peck on his shoulder blade before being laid down the bed. He doesn't look at Jongin emptying him, nor the way he cleans him afterwards before covering his bare body with the comforter.

He plays it all in his head, making sure he was right. That he wasn't dreaming. It's all real. Right then, he finally cracks a genuine smile.

When he feels Jongin's weight right beside him, he doesn't stop himself from wrapping an arm around him, placing his head comfortably on his chest. Kyungsoo gathers all his courage to open his eyes and look up at him, even when he almost gets a heart attack when he catches his gaze.

He gulps, closing his eyes again when a bile suddenly forms in his throat. Jongin's hand on his hair calms him down just a bit.

Soo stares into space.

"What are we?"

The hand on his hair stops for a split second, almost pulling Kyungsoo's breath along with it. Now he doesn't know why he even asked. When he doesn't get a response right after the question, his heart almost falls. Maybe he's just being discontented, he tells himself.

"Nevermind." Soo adds and settles himself back in the warm embrace.

"Whatever you want us to be."

Kyungsoo looks up at him again, his eyes rounded. Jongin simply stares at his face.

"Do you mean that?" he asks for assurance. Soo wants to stop hoping anymore. For once, he's finally sure about someone. He's willing to take a risk, if he's given a clear sign.

The side of Jongin's lips curves, "I mean everything." he says, making Soo smile even more.

You do, he badly wants to agree. For Kyungsoo, he does.

 

Chapter Text

“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.

 

 

Chapter Text

The intriguing looks from the other employees went unnoticed to him on his way to his father's office. His breathing is still unstable from all the shouting he did, along with the frustration bottled up in his chest. When he reached the huge office, his father is already sitting behind the desk, both palms on his face. It travels down the bridge of his nose as his eyes fall on Kyungsoo.

If it is any normal child, he would've begged in an instant. Beg for his father to do something. But then, he's always been a different case. Kyungsoo knows the man wouldn't move a finger to help him. So he keeps mum because there's no point speaking anymore.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with you anymore." his father starts off when he doesn't say a word, "Are you really going to embarrass me all the time?"

"If you didn't hear what I said back in that room, I didn't steal anything. Those are my designs." he says with certainty, "That woman is the thief, not me."

"Then where the hell is your proof? Why did you stand there looking so stupid then, Soo?" the Chairman grits his teeth, "Being a mediocre talent in this field is more acceptable than stealing. You could've settled there!"

Kyungsoo chuckles in disbelief, yet there's a clear pain that flashed through his eyes.

"How ironic..." he says weakly, a bile forming in his throat. "I bet you were praising Soojung when she presented, weren't you? I bet you thought her designs were good."

He takes a step closer, looking at his father with testing eyes.

"It's good, after all. It's good that she neatly stole my work and made you believe it's hers because I bet it would be so difficult for you to accept if it was from me." he seethes, "I bet you'd be angry, Dad. That you were wrong all this time. I bet your ego would be so wounded if you see me succeeding."

The chairman lets out a deep breath before looking at him in defeat.

"How could I let someone like you take over all of this one day? Everything I've worked hard for?" he coldly asks without even taking Kyungsoo's words into consideration. It's like he didn't even hear him at all.

Soo hastily drops a folder of his work on the floor, his eyes piercing through the man in front of him.

"You know what? Forget it, Dad. Forget I asked for a second chance from you and your stupid panel. I don't fucking want it anyway. Shove this goddamn company of yours along with your illegal businesses down your throat!"

This seems to pull a trigger for the older man, who walks around his table to take big steps towards his son before grabbing his collar. Soo doesn't bat an eye as he looks directly into the Chairman's angry face.

"Say that again." he seethes, gripping his collar tighter. "Say that again, you ungrateful bastard!"

"I don't fucking want your company or your name! I'd rather starve on the streets than take over this hell hole—"

The harsh sound of a hand heavily landing on his face echoes within the room. Kyungsoo almost gets thrown away if it wasn't for his feet quickly keeping his balance. There's a stinging pain all over his right cheek, but he swallows all of it. He swallows all the pain and bitterness stuck in his throat because he's not going to cry again. He makes sure of that. Not in front of his father, at least.

The Chairman looks equally stunned of what he did, watching him with heaving chest. But when Soo looks at him again with the same strong eyes, his jaw hardens.

"I'm going to say this for the last time, Do Kyungsoo." his father hisses through gritted teeth, "If I don't have a choice, then neither do you. You'll be working hard to be worthy of this firm whether you like it or not." he says with a finger pointed straight to his son's face, "I don't care how long it takes. If I have to put you in every internship program and every fucking position in this field, I'll do it. If that's what I have to do to pull you out of being a big disappointment, then so be it."

He doesn't respond anymore. Soo only grits his teeth hard and keeps a driven face even when he knows it's the last thing his father wants to see. So the old man slaps him again, but this time, with the harsh truth.

"You can rebel all you want but you can never escape this life, Kyungsoo." his father says, calmer yet with the same certainty, "Just like how I can't escape having no other choice but you."

Soo gulps hard because of this. His chest feels like bursting any minute.

He has always thought that he got used to the Chairman's ruthless words. He thought he's over with the phase of taking them seriously but now, reality proves him that they will never cease to crush him. He's just good at suppressing, but one can only take so much.

"Get out of my office." his father commands, straightening his suit while walking back to his chair. "Go home. Come up with an apology both for the board and for Miss Jung. Then make new and original designs. I want them all this week."

He stood there, fists tightened on both his sides. Soo looks at his father with so much rage, yet he doesn't utter another word. As always.

The Chairman clicks his intercom, "Get this kid out of here. Prepare for my next meetings." he says and doesn't spare him another glance anymore.

He walks out of there before a secretary leads him out. Unlike his chest, his mind goes blank while slowly walking in the hall. Kyungsoo feels some sort of relief when he spots a familiar tall man from the distance, but it's all short-lived when he sees the little commotion behind Jongin.

Seeing Soojung being surrounded by a few employees while she tries to catch her breath through her inhaler doesn't give him the slightest sympathy for her. If anything, he wants to go over there and strangle the shit out of her. If it isn't only for the people around who've been kissing her ass constantly.

As if Jongin heard his spiteful thoughts, the tanned boy turns to his direction, his face relaxing when he spots Soo standing in the far corner. He mumbles something to the secretary assisting Soojung before walking to where Kyungsoo is.

He doesn't say anything even when he's already standing in front of him. Neither is there a smile on his face. Fear slowly succumbs in Kyungsoo's chest, as he blinks rapidly and forces a small smile at him even if it's the hardest thing to do right now.

What is he afraid of? Why is it just completely resurfacing as soon as he faced Jongin? He did nothing wrong. There shouldn't be anything to be scared of.

Even if everyone thinks otherwise. And by everyone, he means...everyone.

"S-Shall we go now?" he tries to sound casual, eagerly praying that Jongin would smile and nod as they leave this place. That it would be that easy, because it's not.

There's a bitter thought swirling around his head—how often does people let him down? Because Soo can't find the urge to be optimistic about anything anymore. He always expects the worst responses, worst outcomes, constant rejection.

Yet when Jongin lets out a sigh, it doesn't hurt any less.

"Mr. Han will be driving you home today, Soo." he says seriously, "I already gave him the keys."

He didn't even ask what happened in his father's office. He didn't even ask if he's fine.

"Why?" Soo forces a small smile even when the reason is eventually becoming known to him.

"There's an emergency."

"And you need to be there?" now the distaste in his tone can't be concealed, "It's more important than getting me out of this place?"

Jongin looks straight into his testing eyes.

"She needs to be brought to the hospital, Soo." he says with a hint of disbelief as if Kyungsoo's words just sounded too inhumane for him, "Are we seriously going to argue what's important and what's not?"

More employees call for assistance to attend to Soojung, gaining back Jongin's attention as he looks behind to check. But Soo just needed to ask. He needs to hear it straight from him.

"You don't believe them, do you?" he asks even when his voice is close to breaking. Jongin looks at him again because of this.

"What?"

There's huge bile reforming in his throat, but Kyungsoo swallows it down to repeat his question.

"You don't believe that I stole those designs..." he pauses to take another gulp, "right?"

He wants to crush his hopes himself. That way, maybe the pain wouldn't be this much. It wouldn't hurt as much as seeing Jongin taking a while to even give him a response.

Despite hearing approaching footsteps behind him, his eyes never left the same man. Even when his question was never answered.

"Sir."

"Soo, Mr. Han is here." he tells the shorter while glancing at the company driver beside him, "Take a rest for now, okay? I'll see you the soonest I can."

If only he can laugh at himself because of how stupid he looks. He even has the guts to watch Jongin run back to the girl he hates with his whole heart. Despite his eyes warming with tears, he grits his teeth hard to prevent them from falling.

Gasping another breath, he successfully keeps them at bay after blinking repeatedly. Mr. Han simply trails behind him on their way to the elevator. And even when they reach the car, the driver doesn't say anything, as if scared to pull some trigger.

The huge shrine in front of their building stands proudly. It's one of the most well-known trademarks of their stand in the country. The tall sculpture looks like an abstract art the first time you look at it, but if you watch closer—those are all the famous landmarks and buildings the firm designed for the past years, as if molded into one. Their family's empire. His father's 'hardwork.' Kyungsoo smiles bitterly as his glistening eyes linger on it.

The car has been moving for more than a minute, with Soo spacing out the entire time. Although Mr. Han almost hits the brake when he suddenly speaks. Fortunately, he didn't do it or else they could've caught an accident.

"Wait!" he looks apologetic when the driver looks at him through the mirror, chest heaving from the sudden interruption. "Sorry...c-can you drop me off at the diner? I'm not going home yet..."

The man still looks jumpy when he nods at him. Kyungsoo couldn't believe he just remembered it now. They agreed to meet at the diner after the presentation. He was too preoccupied of everything and Jongin must've forgot to remind him as well. At least he hasn't reached his apartment yet.

Despite looking a little reluctant, Mr. Han drives him there without any complaints. Soo appreciates the peace and silence he lets him have. He might be scared first and foremost, but he also seems to know it's what the chaebol son needs after all the chaos this afternoon.

He sends Jongin a text on his way, but he doesn't receive any response yet even after reaching the diner.

"I'll just park the car while waiting for you, Sir—"

"No, you can go back, Mr. Han." Kyungsoo tells him, "I'll be fine here."

The driver blinks at him, "How will you go home?"

He smiles at him reassuringly, "I'm meeting Jongin later so we'll go home together."

Mr. Han still seems to be reluctant about it, "Are you sure, Sir?"

"Yes. Don't worry. Thanks." he says with the same smile. He doesn't wait for his response and walks inside. True enough, Soo hears the engine of the car as it drives away.

Chanyeol greets him with the same cheeky grin, though it slowly falters as soon as he noticed how forced the one Kyungsoo gave him is.

"Hey..." now his greeting tone rather sounds worried, "you okay?"

Soo beams bigger, "Yeah." but the gulp he makes after doesn't go unnoticed, "Chanyeol, I can wait here right? I'm meeting Jongin."

"Of course..." the taller's gaze is still filled with concern, "though he didn't mention it to me beforehand. He always gives me heads up first if he's dropping by outside his work schedule."

"Oh...we just talked about it today, that's why." he assures Chanyeol with the same smile.

"Ah. Of course, you can wait here." he smiles back, "How's the final presentation? That's today, right?"

His smile drops again when he sees the quick shift on Kyungsoo's expression, but the shorter shrugs casually, not dwelling on it even further.

This should be his burden alone.

"Fine." he says without looking at the taller, "So...I'll just order when Jongin comes—"

"Wait..." he blinks rapidly when Chanyeol walks around the counter to look at him closer, "what happened to your cheek? It's red..."

Kyungsoo quickly moves away before he could look closer. He gulps before smiling at Chanyeol again, who's now looking even more worried.

"I fell asleep in the car. Bad position. That's probably why." he says with a shrug, "I'll go there now."

The forced smile eventually leaves his lips as soon as he turns around. He picks the usual table and sits there. Chanyeol is still watching him even after settling himself, so he gives him another smile.

He checks his phone and sees the same wallpaper on it. No new messages. With a heavier chest, he types another one.

Hey, I'm here now. =) Chanyeol's on duty tonight, though I told him I'll wait for you before ordering

He sends it, continuously blinking before sending another one.

Send me a message if you're on your way, okay

Kyungsoo waits for a few more minutes, looking around the place even if there's a sharp pain in his chest. Even without holding his phone, his glance drops on it every now and then, as if he's not crushed enough to see nothing new coming in.

Inhaling deep breaths every now and again is becoming more difficult to do. What is he doing? He's seen this thing. It used to make him laugh, and now he's doing it. Being pathetic had been the last thing he'd bring himself to be. But what now?

This is a scary thing, after all. Because despite the strong urge inside him to leave, his own voice yelling in his head that he's waiting for nothing—Kyungsoo remains on the same spot, dismissing everything with the same forced smile and gritted teeth.

There were a lot of internal conflict, but he listens to this one gentle voice of him instead of all the other rational ones.

It's okay, Soo. He tells himself, he'll come. Just wait.

 

 

"Kyungsoo?"

Soo flinches from the gentle tap on his shoulder, hastily tilting his head up from his arms just to see Chanyeol standing in front of him.

"S-Sorry..." he mumbles weakly and grabs his phone in a heartbeat, "Did I nap too long?"

He checks it and tries to conceal another disappointment that could be shown through his eyes when he sees the same last messages sent by him alone. No response.

"No... just probably around thirty minutes ago when I saw you checking your phone." Chanyeol says in a low voice.

Kyungsoo chuckles lightly, "I thought it was a long sleep..."

Chanyeol tries to smile back but it doesn't reach his eyes. He sits in front of Kyungsoo, who's obviously exhausted from sitting and hoping for hours and hours.

"Kyungsoo-yah..." he calls gently.

"Are you closing?" Soo asks when he looked around and realized there's just him now, "Should I move outside?"

"No...it's still an hour before closing." Chanyeol says, looking conflicted.

"Ah...then I can stay here 'til then, right?" he asks with a relieved smile. The taller sighs because of this.

"I don't think Jongin's coming..." Chanyeol tells him, "You've been messaging him for the past four hours. I tried texting and calling him, too. You should go home and rest now, Kyungsoo. It's been a long day."

Soo swallows before shaking his head, smiling a little.

"He went to the hospital so maybe he just got stuck in traffic. Phone battery drained. You know Jongin...he often forgets a charger." he chuckles despite Chanyeol's serious look at him, "He knows your closing time, so he'll probably try catching it. He'll be here."

Silence engulfs them when Chanyeol simply stares at him, both in awe and disbelief.

"I don't know if I should laugh at you or be concerned, you know?" he tells Soo with a sad smile.

Soo chuckles again, but the way he clutches his own hand on his lap implies otherwise.

"He told me we're meeting here. He'll come." he says again, holding on to nothing but words.

Chanyeol lets out a sigh, "Just one more hour. And then go home, please Kyungsoo?"

Soo looks at him, swallowing hard before nodding.

"Just one more hour, promise."

And so it passed.

At 10PM, Soo hugs himself in front of the closing diner. The breeze of air is colder than it usually is, but he doesn't complain. He watches the almost empty street with a hollow feeling in his heart.

For another time, he checks his phone. When he sees the same emptiness he's been seeing for the past few hours, he ends up putting it back in his pocket, finally deciding it's time to stop.

Maybe he forgot. He tells himself, maybe he needed to fix some things, and his phone got drained so he totally forgot. Yes. Repeating it over and over again, for sure he'll be fine.

Chanyeol comes out of the diner with his helmet and keys on his hands. He gives him a small smile before pulling the roller shutter down. When he completely locks it, he faces Soo, waiting for him to say something. But the shorter only stares back at him.

He wants to cuss at Chanyeol. He realized he prefers him to be the stupid playboy he is, because he'd rather see the smug grin on his face rather than the same concerned smile he's been sporting since this afternoon. It pierces something in his chest.

The tall, blonde guy wordlessly hands him the other helmet. He remembers it from the first time he introduced Baekhyun to him, which was quite a long time ago. Kyungsoo didn't even realize how fast time had gone.

"Are you sure? I'm not on the way." he grins a little but Chanyeol is already hopping on the motorcycle to start the engine.

"Someone will strangle me to death if I leave you here." he says while putting his own helmet. Soo chuckles with humor. He'd like to think it's either Baekhyun or Jongin, but after everything that happened today, maybe not.

"Don't worry, I don't think they'd care that much." he mumbles while hopping behind him. He doesn't know if Chanyeol heard, but the latter doesn't respond immediately.

He tugs onto his shirt when they start moving.

"I do, don't worry." Chanyeol tilts his head a little to tell him even from underneath his helmet, "Now I know you're tired, but try to hold tight, okay?"

Soo can only nod, because speaking would've gotten him busted. He feels like a hormonal fourteen year old all over again. How can simple and harmless words from Chanyeol make him want to break down?

It's his first time riding a motorcycle but it's one of the rides he appreciated the most. It's different from the small, confined spaces of his expensive cars. For the first time that day, Soo felt like he could breathe. The harsh wind against his face made him braver to let go of the tightness he's been keeping in his chest, allowing him to tear up because no one would see. The wind will quickly dry them up anyway.

Chanyeol subtly tilts his head to the side every now and then, sometimes glancing at him through the mirror. The helmet makes it hard to see the shorter's face but he can tell something's up just by the way Kyungsoo's grip on his shirt tightens.

They reach the village of his apartment, with Kyungsoo slowly hopping off. The exhaustion is evident on his face, as if he's sick of the façade and finally frees himself from pretending most of the day.

Chanyeol watches him while he takes the helmet off.

"I'm gonna try calling Jongin again as soon as I get home."

Soo looks at him before shaking his head, "No need. Maybe's he's asleep now, just let him rest."

The taller chuckles without humor, "Then I'd like to do it even more."

"It's fine, Chanyeol." he says, voice strained, "Maybe he really just forgot. It happens. I make him wait for me every day so it's not a big deal."

Chanyeol nods once, even if the last few words are far from believable.

"Take a rest now." he tells Kyungsoo, "You deserve it more than anyone. Stop thinking about it too much, okay?"

Soo nods with a small smile, "Thank you."

"Good night, Kyungsoo."

He lets the chaebol son enter the apartment building first before leaving. Soo hears the motorcycle driving away before taking the elevator.

When he reaches his dark and empty apartment, the awful feeling latches onto him even more. Soo couldn't find the strength to do anything else. He lets his bag drop on the floor before falling on his bed without bothering to change his clothes.

He stares at the ceiling for quite some time, hoping that the weight in his chest could finally subside now that he's in a much more comfortable position. But it stays there like a heavy block, making him take and release continuous deep breaths through his lips.

His gaze doesn't leave the dark ceiling as he reaches for his phone in his pocket, gently tossing to the side when he sees no response at all. He blinks rapidly when he feels it all coming up again.

Kyungsoo tries to figure out how his day perfectly started, just to end in a complete wreck. For the last time that night, he tells himself that Jongin didn't intend to forget. He won't purposely hurt him like that. He repeats it over and over again until weariness consumes him completely. And with his heart heaviest than it has ever been, he falls asleep, hoping it would be a much more bearable day when he wakes up.

×

The weight seemed to settle itself under his eyes when he woke up the next day.

Like him, his phone is drained when he got up. He fell asleep last night without charging it, but it's not like it mattered because he hasn't received the message he's been waiting for since the previous day. Soo stares at his screen and unlike yesterday, the feelings arousing in him today are more unrelenting rather than hopeful.

So what was so hard about contacting him? What's an acceptable reason to have him waiting like this? Because Jongin better have a good one.

Probably because he feels sick ever since he got up, it's like all the burden has made him too exhausted to even move a limb. But he pushed his luck and was able to take a shower and go to school despite his throbbing head.

When he got there, it seemed to get worse.

When he stepped inside the meeting room, there's a loud buzz over something. Although it's too quick to die down when his presence gets known. He looks around at everyone but most of the org members either avoid his gaze or share meaningful glances. There's not a single joke or enthusiastic greeting that welcomed him.

Since he's not in the mood, he doesn't ask about it. Soo proceeds to putting his bag down on his table and the people take this as a chance to leave the room immediately.

One person remains on the same spot, however.

"What's happening?" Soo looks at his friend who's only watching him seriously, "What is the fuss all about?"

Baekhyun only exhales a heavy breath. The way his jaw hardens doesn't go unnoticed to Kyungsoo, but he takes this as a sign to urge him even more.

"Baekhyun."

"They heard the news, too." his brows crease, unable to figure out what Baekhyun is pertaining to, for a moment. Baekhyun slightly raises his brows, "About what happened yesterday."

"Wh—" he chuckles in disbelief. He finds it ridiculous that the word has spread that fast when it only happened yesterday. When it's not even true, "Who told you about it?"

Baekhyun only stares at him blankly but Soo isn't having any of it anymore. He's asking, yet he already has the idea who possibly did.

"The word was just spreading as soon as I arrived today." now the sharpness in Baekhyun's tone becomes even more noticeable, "The members have been talking about it since this morning."

The thought of Baekhyun giving vague details just to keep Soojung away from the conversation comes across his mind. It pinches something in him, and everything they've talked about before the presentation is making its way back to him as well, as if it's not enough.

"So that bitch went on to badmouthing me as soon as she recovered." Kyungsoo grits his teeth, "She's actually multitalented, isn't she?"

Baekhyun stares at him with the kind of look that he doesn't like. So he looks back at him with testing eyes, as if challenging him to speak his mind. But Baekhyun stands up from his seat and shifts away from him.

"I'd do the same."

His back is facing Kyungsoo now, but the latter heard the words clearly. There are only the two of them in the room to be mistaken.

"What?"

Baekhyun looks at him again, his eyes squinting this time.

"I'd do the same, if my work was stolen."

Kyungsoo blinks before letting out a sarcastic chuckle, "I can't fucking believe this."

He grits his teeth hard in between smiling. Kyungsoo doesn't bother saying anything else as he hastily grabs his bag from the table, but Baekhyun blocks his way even before he could step out.

"Soo, what has gotten into you?"

"I don't want to talk to you anymore, Baekhyun."

"You've become desperate for a man!"

It felt the worst. Kyungsoo could take tons of mocking words and insult from other people. But seeing the look on Jongin's face that day, and now hearing Baekhyun's words crushed him even more. He thought having a very few people to trust will save him from heartbreak, but he realized he should've just settled for none.

"Shut your fucking mouth."

"It's true. You badly wanted Jongin that you resorted into this!" Baekhyun heaves, like he's hoping to get some sense into Kyungsoo's head. "There are so many ways...too many of them, and you...you came up with stealing?"

Soo looks away with the same sarcastic grin on his face. But in reality, he takes this time to swallow the lump forming in his throat. He takes this time to ask how hard it must be to hear his side without any judgment. No one seems to be capable of doing it.

"I worked hard for those designs." he pauses when he feels like being choked around the neck by something so sharp, "She's the one who stole them while I helplessly watched them humiliate me. But then again, why should I bother explaining to you? You've already chosen a side."

"Then where's the proof, Soo?" Baekhyun asks him desperately, "Why does she have all the legit evidence? You make it so hard to believe."

Soo only wanted a little more time. A little faith he could pull some strength from. He's willing to prove them they're wrong but reality finally hits him. It was his last straw.

Because even the people he loves have always seen him like this. No matter what he does, they'd see him as a bad person. That's just how it is. Trying to change it wouldn't be worth the try.

"I would've bothered investigating." he says, his smile shifting into a weak one. "But for whom shall I do it for? For the panel who mocked me? For my father? For you? When you didn't even think twice to believe all her lies?"

Baekhyun's eyes are glistening, his chest heaving. He looks at Kyungsoo with so much conflict in his eyes like he doesn't know what to believe anymore. But for Soo, he already made his choice.

"I am very worried about you. I have always been. It's the reason why you keep hearing this harsh truth from me. You didn't need to stoop this low, Soo. If you felt like there's no other way, I could've helped. But I always felt like you're reluctant to trust me with your true feelings." there's an evident pain in his voice, "I thought...I was your friend."

Soo has completely felt his heart sinking on the floor. Baekhyun blinks rapidly when he sees the transparency in Kyungsoo's eyes. The chaebol son looks completely pained and disappointed, and he doesn't bother concealing it anymore.

"I thought so, too." he says with shortened breath, "I thought you were my friend, Baek. But when you judged me that quick, I..." his voice breaks so he pauses briefly, still trying to keep that damn smile on his lips.

"I realized I was wrong. It's you who didn't trust me, so stop with this fake concern, please."

Baekhyun's shoulders droop down, unable to retaliate. Soo fixes the strap of his bag on his shoulder so that his trembling hand won't be noticed, then he looks at Baekhyun for the last time.

"Go on and kiss Soojung's ass. You're no different from the people I trusted before." now the spite in his tone comes back, "Chanyeol was kind enough to send me home last night, by the way. Maybe I'll just fuck him to get over my desperation over Jongin. What do you think?"

He forces a little grin even when Baekhyun's eyes rounded with what he said. Soo doesn't wait for his response anymore and storms out of the room.

Catching heavy breaths on his way out, Soo decides not to push through attending his classes anymore. The heaviness in his whole body is almost too much to bear. He exhales shortened breaths while keeping his tears from falling. No way he's going to cry over this. He's not going to shed a tear over anyone again today.

His tears actually pull themselves back when he sees a different driver waiting for him. Mr. Han isn't there.

Because of his consistent headache, he doesn't bother asking anymore.

"I'm going back to my apartment."

The driver opens the door for him before he even could.

"There's an order from the Chairman, Sir." he says sternly, "He instructed to bring you back to the mansion in case you're going home."

Kyungsoo frowns. He doesn't have the time for anyone's stupidity but he tries to keep a proper response.

"I'm going back to my apartment because that's where I live." he says sharply, "Now, go."

"He already had some of your things brought back to the mansion." Soo finally stiffens because of this, "Strict orders, Sir."

"What?" he tries not to panic, but his father doing this has to mean something. He shuts his eyes to keep the tiny bit of patience left in him, hoping he could fix this all within the day. He's not sleeping in that big cold house.

"Drive me to his office then."

The driver complied without hesitance, making him think if his father actually expected him to react like this.

Throughout the ride to the firm's tower, he's in deep thought. Kyungsoo thinks of possible reasons as to why his father would throw him back home. He would've mentioned it right on their last argument and be done with it yesterday, so why now? Why does it have to be so sudden?

He's afraid, for some reason. He's already suffocated by everything recently, going back home will completely take his already limited freedom.

Soo shuts his eyes. Everything is piling up for him and his head hurts even more. Let it be over.

The driver hops out of the car as soon as they arrive, but Soo doesn't wait for him and opens the door himself. He doesn't need anyone to do that for him and they should know that. This is why he prefers having the same driver for himself. Without another word or glance, he enters the building with big steps.

As soon as he reaches the top floor, he's swiftly blocked by a secretary.

"Sir—the Chairman is in a meeting..."

"Get out of my way." Soo gave the employee a dangerous look that made her look on the floor. He nonchalantly walks past her. Although he hasn't opened the door for an inch when the voice inside becomes recognizable to him.

"—advised me to rest, but I needed to tell you that." he pursed his lips tight when he confirmed it's Soojung, "Thank you for letting me speak to you, Sir."

"No worries, I hope you fully recover." his father says. Opposed to his stern tone whenever he speaks to Kyungsoo, he sounds more approachable to the lady. "As for your presentation, they all liked it. Expect to hear from my secretaries soon, you and Jongin."

Soo clenches his jaw, his chest heaving.

"I hope you don't mind that I brought Jongin's other documents myself. He was still asleep when I left."

This time, his grip on the door tightens. The mention of a certain name stirs shit up in him. His father's meaningful chuckle doesn't even help.

"It's okay." Soo needed to pull the door a little so that it won't be that opened to be noticeable. He still makes sure he can hear what they're saying, "You're all tired from yesterday, it's good that he's getting a rest. His service isn't needed as of the moment, anyway."

It's never his hobby to eavesdrop on anyone's conversation but he made an exception for Soojung. The woman has already made enough lies about him and she's very much capable of making more.

"Yes. About that, Sir..." even the timidity in her voice infuriates the hell out of him. He's reminded of the time when he's one of the people she easily deceived, "that's also one of my concerns today."

She pauses briefly and Soo feels the urge to listen even more intently.

"Jongin has been telling me about the opportunities he's been receiving from you and he's grateful." she sounds so hesitant based from the slow pace of her words, "But since he's graduating, and he landed a position in your firm, he doesn't really need to do extra work for your son, right...Sir?"

Kyungsoo looks down on the floor, his breath hitching. He's scared. He has a strong feeling that he'll hear something that will scar him for life, and therefore he needs to run before she could even continue. Yet here he is, listening to more of her words without his eyes blinking.

"I took the courage to ask you because he doesn't know how to tell you himself. He thinks that you'd probably take it the wrong way if he says that he doesn't want to continue the favor you asked him regarding your son. You've given him a lot in return so he doesn't want to sound ungrateful." he can tell she's sporting her fake kind smile that gets everyone, "But if he can repay you now by working in this firm, he doesn't really need to worry about that anymore, right Sir?"

No. Soo tells himself repeatedly. No.

"Ah..." his father responds considerately, "Yes, I understand."

"I hope you consider, Sir." now Soo is completely still on his spot, "Jongin has always been kind and he never complained about it even when he obviously wants bigger opportunities. He never took the payment you've been giving him for granted."

She's a liar. Kyungsoo needed to convince himself harder that this is the same woman who stole his hard work and manipulated everyone. He shouldn't believe a word that slips through her lips. Jongin will never lie to him like that. Never.

But maybe that's just naturally how he is. Because he remembers how long he waited for nothing yesterday. Those times when he was confused of the vague signs he's getting from Jongin. The hesitance on his face when he asked him if he believed those people who mocked him. He remembers them all. And just like that, he feels short of air.

Bigger opportunities— he thinks about all the ambitions Jongin has for himself. He had never seen himself included in those. Soo only realized it now when he's already been planning a bunch of his goals with him in it.

He never really learned.

"I totally understand, Miss Jung. Tell him he doesn't need to worry about it. I can get someone else to do the favor I asked him." the Chairman says casually, unaware of his presence at the door. "I'm aware how difficult it is to deal with my son."

Soo inhales a deep breath, collecting himself when he realized the conversation is being wrapped up and she could go out anytime soon. It's not like he cares about being caught listening. What he doesn't want is to look bothered by it. It would be another win for her.

"Thank you so much, Sir." he hears Soojung saying, "I should get going now."

"Alright. Thank you for telling me your concerns."

Kyungsoo remains standing outside his father's office when the door opens. He sees her brows raising at the sight of him before the side of her lips subtly curves.

"Good morning." Soojung smiles, not even shaken by the intensity of Kyungsoo's gaze.

"Where's Jongin?"

She completely smiles this time, making it look like a harmless one.

"Resting." she sighs, "He had a long day yesterday."

This got Kyungsoo's lips pursing into a thin line, adding more satisfaction to the girl.

"Understandable." he nods with sarcasm, "Dealing with a lying bitch like you must be tiring."

Soojung chuckles, and Soo just had to fight it. Fight the strong urge to pull her down by the hair until she couldn't breathe again. Soojung looks at him in disbelief.

"Are you going to make a scene again?"

He takes a step closer, gaining courage from all the pain she has caused him for the past twenty-four hours to look at her straight into the eyes.

"Once I get the evidence that you stole my work, I'm going to give you so much worse than a scene."

For a moment, Soojung loses her smile. But she gains it back and squints her eyes mockingly at him.

"Then find the evidence." she tests him without blinking an eye. Soojung starts walking away but stops again to look back at him, "Oh...and don't ask for Jongin. He doesn't have anything to do with you anymore."

He forces a grin, but she gives it back as if she can see through him very well. She can see how her words affect him right into his core.

"And I should listen to you, because?"

Soojung crosses her arms over her chest before shrugging.

"Cause you're probably there long enough to hear everything I relayed to your father." she smiles sweetly, "And you probably heard his response. You're a difficult person. Jongin and everyone else think the same."

His hands balled into fists.

Soojung grins, "See you at school?"

She fixes her hair and completely walks away, leaving him out of breath because of the rage he tried to keep in.

But he can't take it anymore. He needs answers.

With teeth gritted hard and his chest still heaving, he goes inside his father's office. The man is standing up from his seat as if he's already on his way to a meeting, interrupted once again by his favorite child.

"Tell me the truth." Soo speaks right into the point.

"I didn't call you." his father starts off and completely disregards what he said. He goes through his files, "Don't you have classes?"

"What was the favor you asked from Jongin?"

This made the Chairman finally look at him, noticing his slightly clenched jaw and tightened fists.

"What are you—"

"I heard everything so please just answer my damn question."

Chairman Do sighs in defeat.

"I asked him to drive you every now and then." he says like it should be a normal thing, "Look after you and report if you're doing anything stupid."

Jongin's words are coming back to him, crushing his heart more and more.

"A-And..." he breathes, "And you've been paying him?"

"Why is it a big deal, Soo?"

"Please, a-answer."

His father narrows his eyes like he doesn't get the point of the conversation. But the desperation in Kyungsoo's voice intrigued him. It's not really common to hear the boy pleading him for some truth.

"I've been shouldering his school fees and allowances in return." he creases his brows when Soo began biting his lip, "Is that so surprising? I asked for his service, he should be paid. The boy didn't even want to do it when I first asked so I had to make negotiations."

The last sentence hits him harder than anything else. Things start to make sense now and he doesn't know how long he could keep himself standing. Everything is breaking him in a hard, merciless way.

"No need for payment." he mutters while looking at the distance, "You just have to ask."

Soo breathes heavily.

"And he's been telling you everything I do?"

"You would go wilding everywhere if you're not monitored, so yes." the older chuckles, looking impressed with a thought. "And quite frankly, he did a good job keeping you on a leash. I could've paid him more if I knew he was a tamer."

He blinks hard, not being able to speak now. Soo thinks of all the things he told Jongin. Every little secret he trusted him with. All the doubts he never considered when it came to him. Everything real about him.

Among everyone, he trusted him the most. He showed him his complete, raw self and there's a tiny hope lingering in Soo that Jongin wouldn't betray him like that.

His dumb, pathetic self hopes Jongin wouldn't.

"And Europe, huh?" his father says humorously that gives him another turning point, "You're really that hopeful to escape your responsibilities that you think about running away?"

He breathes through his lips, his voice finally breaking.

"H-He told you...about that, t-too?"

That was his only hope of escaping.

His father shakes his head in amusement, not showing any sign of sympathy. Tears are finally brimming in Kyungsoo's eyes.

"You could've been smarter, Soo." his father says, thinking that he's devastated over his busted plan. "I had your apartment closed this morning and I limited your cards. You're going back home and do everything I say. So you can kill that Europe dream of yours because you'll stay here for good."

He bites his lip, hard enough that it could bleed just to suppress an impending sob. His father's intrigued yet amused expression was the last thing he saw before storming out of the room. Soo can barely see the path he's taking because of his blurred vision, bumping into some employees while keeping his head down so no one would see how miserable he looks.

"I don't want you to think...that this is what I'm after."

He reaches an empty cubicle in the restroom, finally breaking down into loud, heavy sobs. Soo weakly leans on the door behind him while gritting his teeth hard to control his tears, but it only becomes worse. This time, he can't stop them anymore.

"I don't want you to think that you need to give me things like this just to keep me."

When those certain words made their way back into his mind, his crying becomes silent. But it isn't less agonizing.

Kyungsoo lets it all out in a cold, empty restroom, hoping that it would eventually falter. But if there was something he learned throughout this hellhole he's been living in, it's that the pain never subsided. He would only repress it deep down his heart again and again, until it would resurface when it's too much to handle.

But it never goes away.

This has got to be the worst he's ever been. He has always been good at keeping everything in, not allowing anyone to tear him apart. Jongin did everything so easily. He effortlessly had him wrapped around his fingers, gained his trust and even his heart, just so he could step and spit on them so mercilessly.

It all makes sense now. Why he befriended him. Why he always seemed so patient and understanding. How stupid was it for Soo to think it was all genuine. Worse—to think that he possibly feel the same way he does for him. He thinks of the times that Jongin seemed really concerned and how he encouraged him all the time when no one else did. The instances where Soo was almost sure it was never Soojung. That maybe it was him, after all. Jongin made it so believable. He was almost sure it's real. So fucking stupid. Soo repeats it under his breath while his heart shatters, so fucking stupid.

It was never right to think someone could genuinely care for him. After all, he's a mean, spoiled rich kid whom everyone hates. But Soo just had to hope. Jongin made it so convincing that he could trust his raw, real self to him. That his secrets will be secured and safely kept. And that someone will love him back, for who he really is and not as the manufactured person this life made him to be.

And now Soo pathetically cries while catching his breath, telling himself that making an exception was never a right choice.

It was all a joke. A sick and ruthless joke he wished he never went along with.

 

Chapter Text

Two days later, Kyungsoo went back to the university to fix something after being out of sight for the past few days.

He's sick, he told the school administrator. And he's probably going to be sick forever so today, he walked out of the university admissions office with a familiar envelope in his hand.

That happened.

His eyes still feel quite heavy, but he stared at the big promotional poster of the play. His name appeared on it multiple times, ironically how Soojung's silhouette graced the majority of it as the lead actress. The side of his lips curled into a bitter smile before going out of the university with a cap and mask covering most of his face.

It was one of the hardest things to give up.

But then, there's really no point pushing himself through it anymore.

A familiar tinted red car signaled with its headlamp when he reached the side of the university building. Soo looked around before hopping in to the passenger seat.

"Did you do it?" the man nodded once while giving him a bulky Manila envelope. He scanned through the content before reaching out for the wrapped money in his bag.

"No one will know about this, is that clear?" he said and the man simply nodded again.

That happened, too.

And now Soo is sitting in one of the cafes nearby where he went to as soon as the car left. He got himself his second cup of coffee while in deep thought.

Some people recognize him, basing from how they stare at him and sometimes murmur with each other. But the chaebol son remains looking lifeless while slowly stirring his cup. He's not going home, yet. As always. He'd rather endure their intriguing gazes than go back to the mansion.

He's just waiting for ten more minutes. Ten minutes before the class of a certain someone ends, at least from what he can remember from the schedule he looked for. Right then, he can try his luck and call him.

But for now, Soo opens his phone that has been dead for the past three days. They were just a big blur to him that even charging his phone became pointless, too. Now he finally gets the strength to charge it while waiting, and that's where he sees the messages that have been coming in, from the previous days and today.

He hates how his heart feels like jumping off his chest when he sees Jongin's name on it, with the most number of unread messages. The last one he sent was just twenty minutes ago. Funnily enough, Baekhyun comes second. The others are from his classmates and org members but he doesn't bother opening a single text.

Soo blankly stares at his screen, going to the settings to block incoming calls. And then he tosses the phone to the table.

What's really surprising about that? Of course the man is back to his job. He'd check on him again because he needs something to report. Soo grimaces with the thought.

He feels like an empty shell every passing day, and he can't wait to finish all his plans. He can't wait for them to be over.

When the time finally comes, he picks up the phone again and dials a number he already deleted long time ago. He never thought it'll come handy again, and now his fingers feel cold. He's ashamed and guilty, he hasn't even started yet.

It gets worse when it gets picked up just after the second ring.

"Hey." he gulps when he heard the familiar voice that answered, "I-It's Soo..."

"I know, silly. I still have your number." Seonho laughs lightly but he can tell he's quite taken aback,"You called."

"I just..." he forces a smile as if the guy can see him, "can we meet? Tonight?"

"Oh..." now his ex is definitely taken aback, "Sure. Where?"

"Bugsy's."

"Bugsy's?" Seonho chuckles, thinking it was a joke until Soo responds with a silence. "You want to meet at a bar?"

Kyungsoo retaliates nonchalantly, "Yes, why? We used to always go there."

Seonho briefly pauses from the other line.

"May I ask why?"

Soo spaces out a little. He expected Seonho to be surprised by the invitation but he didn't really expect him expressing his curiosity.

"I...just want to catch up. You told me you're leaving. And we're good now, aren't we?" he was able to deliver his made up alibi so convincingly, "Don't you want to?"

"Is something wrong, Soo?" Seonho asks seriously.

Soo slightly clenches his jaw. It's the question again. He's not struggling to act so casually just to be asked with that.

"I just want to get drunk, Seonho. Simple as that. Now are you up for it or not?"

His ex-boyfriend chuckles when he replied with the usual sass. He's well aware that asking another question would lose him the chance.

"Fine." he sighs,"When did I ever say no to a boss?"

Soo tries to smile, hoping he'd be forgiven for this.

 

×

 

Seonho is watching him intently, he can tell. A little grin forms on his lips as he runs his fingers through his hair, shifting it to a sweet smile as soon as he gets closer. The tall, handsome guy flashes him his known charming smile.

"Hi."

Soo doesn't think twice when he gives him a peck on the cheek, "Hi!"

The smile instantly falters from Seonho's lips as his eyes rounded.

"Woah."

Kyungsoo grins, "How are you?"

"You're freaking the shit out of me."

He dismissed this and shamelessly reaches for his hand. The taller blinks even more because of this but Soo only smiles slyly.

"Let's go inside. Come on."

 

Same old Bugsy's; loud and just so intense. If you'll ask anyone, this isn't the best place to catch up when you can barely hear each other because of the loud beat of music that thumps against your ears.

But then, Soo didn't really go here to catch up.

This is a place to have fun and get as crazy as you want, that's probably what he planned. Or the one beyond that.

Seonho has been speaking continuously since Soo initiated a question. They're sitting at their favorite table at the corner. The music isn't deafening here, but you still have to raise your volume if you need to be heard. His ex is unintentionally leaning closer to him while telling stories. Kyungsoo is very much aware that it's harmless and unintentional but he watches his face closely, drinking every now and then while a hint of smile lingers on his lips.

"...so yeah, I had everything settled last week." Seonho finished, finally shifting away from him to reach for his glass on the table. Soo tries to give an interested smile.

Don't get him wrong, he was listening. Or at least he tried to. But he can't help spacing out when bitterness starts consuming him up again. He can only conclude one thing from the man's words and it's that he's doing fine just like everyone else.

Soo is really just the only one in the pits of hell.

"Wow. Nice to hear that." Soo drawls while leaning his temple on his knuckles to watch him, still. "So you're really good to go now, huh?"

"Yes. Just waiting for my flight." Seonho nods and finally noticed his unusual silence since they got in.

"I've been blabbering a lot about myself and you haven't spoken." he smiles genuinely but Soo subtly avoids his gaze by finishing another glass, looking at the crowded dance floor instead. "What's up lately? I didn't see you around the campus for a few days."

"Nothing much. Just fixed some things." he shrugs nonchalantly as if he doesn't want to talk about it, "So...have you been seeing anyone lately?"

Seonho chuckles.

"No..." he says as if it's ridiculous, "I'll be leaving anyway."

"So?" Soo intriguingly raises a brow, "I can't believe you stayed single for that."

"It won't work if I'll be packing my bags too soon."

He squints his eyes when Soo flashes a lazy grin at him. Seonho stiffens when Kyungsoo draws closer to him, gently placing a hand on his thigh.

"Hmm...so it's about working out a relationship now, huh?"

"It should've always been." he purses his lips tight when the shorter's lips curve into a more playful smile, his hand not-so-subtly holds on him, "Soo..."

"Don't you..." Soo's eyes are hazy, sporting his usual technique that he knows no one can resist. "wanna get laid before leaving?"

He knows it's working when Seonho exhales a labored breath and looks away. Licking his lip, Soo suggestively grips on his thigh and leans closer.

"What are you doing?"

"Why?" he asks innocently when he gets a serious response from Seonho, but the latter pulls away to look at him properly. "Just like the old times, right?"

"Something's wrong." Seonho says that erases the smile on his face, "You're not like this."

To be fair, he didn't expect this to be difficult. He thought luring Seonho would be easy as pie considering how he did it so easily before when they were together. Soo barely thought that he could see through him that fast. Not at all, even.

He thought he can give him the kind of fun that could possibly save him even just for a night. Soo never expected to be attacked this way.

So he takes a subtle gulp before regaining his façade. He chuckles sarcastically and lets his fingers trail on the other man's arm so he wouldn't have to stare right into his eyes.

"Nothing's wrong." he grits his teeth when his chest starts tightening again because of Seonho's gaze at him, trying so desperately. "I'm asking you to have fun before you leave. Isn't this what you've always wanted before, too? That I let you fuck me in your own terms?"

He tries touching his face but Seonho catches his hand, urging him to look at him properly.

"Is this still what you think of me, Soo? After everything I've told you?" there may be a hint of offense from his tone but what pulls the trigger is the obvious concern from him. Soo completely loses the smile and looks at him with his now bloodshot eyes.

Seonho lets out a deep sigh before taking the glass of whiskey from his hand.

"You can use me to lessen the pain. But not like this..." he says pleadingly, "Not like this, Soo."

It probably went with the alcohol taking effect. Kyungsoo tries biting the inside of his cheeks but he ends up crying, again. Now the carefree vixen façade is replaced by his true self— a big, hopeless mess.

Seonho pulls him by the arm to hold him closer, and probably to avoid intriguing looks from anyone that could pass by and see. Kyungsoo's face contorts while his tears flow continuously. Everything is coming back again.

"I-I'm sorry..." he rambles against his shoulder, "I-I'm so s-sorry... I'm j-just too desperate. I-I can't do t-this anymore..."

"Sshh..." he hushes, "you can always let it out. I'll listen."

Soo pulls away to hold his hand desperately, his eyes swollen and face flushed from crying.

"S-Seonho..." he croaks out, "Let m-me go with y-you...please."

"Soo...I don—"

"I-I want to escape...h-help me escape." he breathes, "Take me with you, p-please. I-I'm begging..."

Seonho looks at him in defeat, looking so conflicted. Soo's hopeful and pleading gaze makes it hard for him to refuse.

"I want to understand first." he says gently, "Tell me everything, Soo."

Kyungsoo wipes his face and stares at the table instead. Does he really want to recall them again? Even the thought of Jongin's name gives him an unbearable pain, would he really be able to say it without completely being dysfunctional?

"J-Just..." he decided that telling Seonho would only worsen it, resorting into a more obvious and known reason. "I've reached the goddamn limit. You've always known how I hate my life here."

But then the other guy's look implies more.

"Are you sure that's it?" he asks with a reassuring tone, as if he wouldn't judge Soo whatever it might be. "Nothing in particular pushed you hard to do this?"

Soo exhales through his lips, stopping the tears on the edge of his eyes to try to calm down.

"I'd do it all by myself if I just could. B-But I really need help...to leave. My father is too powerful in this country." he says without answering the question, "I won't bother you once we get there, I promise."

He looks at Seonho's serious face.

"We'll be getting into so much trouble, Soo. You know that."

"Please..."

"Soo, I don't know..." he sighs, "if you could just make me understand what's happening. It's the first time I'm seeing you like this... it's scaring me."

It takes a while before Kyungsoo responds, and he can't even keep his eyes away from the empty glass of liquor.

"I'm just..." he picks the most vague yet real words to describe his situation, "I'm really tired...that's all."

Seonho watches him spacing out, his heart twisting. They would always tell each other and even joke on how shitty their lives are. But Soo would always be the one with the bigger grin while on it. This is the first time Seonho ever saw him like this and for a moment, he tells himself how he should've stayed. He shouldn't have been such an asshole because things would've gone differently.

It's always a late realization.

"Kyungsoo?" they turn to see a bunch of people they know, "Hi! Oh my god, I knew it's Seonho with you."

"We didn't know you guys are back together!"

Soo forces a smile while Seonho scratches the back of his head. They should've seen this coming. It will never be usual to see them together again without anyone assuming that they're dating.

"Uh..."

"It's Mihae's birthday so we're celebrating! Join us please?" most of them are the people they partied with before, having met in the same bar they're in. "We miss partying with you. We got the drinks covered!"

Seonho starts smiling sheepishly, preparing to decline. Soo only stares.

"They're on the dance floor now." a girl points at the others who are already having fun in the center, "Come on!"

"Yeah, maybe ne—"

"We're in." they squeal when Soo stands up without a doubt. He smiles and looks at Seonho behind him, who's still sitting and looking torn. Soo grabs his hand and holds him close as they walk to the dance floor.

Seonho mumbles, "Soo, we're still tal—"

"Later. Please, I want to party."

There are moments when Kyungsoo feels like he's back to his old self. That boy who didn't care about anything and anyone but himself. Like when a bunch of people happily welcomed him on the dance floor with encouraging cheers, he realized what he missed all those months just to settle for something much simpler. If he only knew how it would end up, then he would've stayed in this kind of life.

They continuously danced with the others. Well, Kyungsoo did. Seonho is only going along whenever the shorter sends him a look, but most of time he only watches over him and keeps track of the glasses he's been filling in.

When the chaebol son starts perspiring, he completely stops receiving more whiskey. Kyungsoo wipes his sweaty temple and shoves him another glass but he shakes his head.

"Come on!" Soo grumbles, almost incoherently. "Why don't you drink it?"

Seonho stares at him seriously before shaking his head again.

"I had a lot."

"Tss." Soo rolls his eyes and drinks it himself, eventually bumping onto his chest as he still tries to dance to the beat. One of their party buddies hands him another shot of tequila while laughing hysterically. Kyungsoo grins back before taking it.

"Soo, you drank too much already." Seonho grabs the glass away from him, "That's enough."

The shorter groans in disbelief. And now that Seonho noticed it, he's starting to grind against him again.

"God, Seonho..." he says tauntingly, "We just broke up and you have become so boring."

His ex parts his lips to respond but Soo doubtlessly wraps an arm around his nape to pull him down for a firm kiss. The situation becomes clear to him when he hears a collective coo around them and some are even whistling. It started out hard, with Kyungsoo wasting no time as his tongue makes it in his lips.

Seonho holds both his shoulders to gently push him away but someone harshly does it for him.

"Shit."

There's a brief silence around, if it wasn't for the bar's loud music. The people around watch the scene in shock, while the others do not bother looking, as if they're used to the chaebol son being the subject of hot men. Seonho almost loses his balance because of the hard push against him, making him cuss when he bumps into other people.

"Stop! What are you doing?" Kyungsoo gasps drunkenly even without completely realizing who did it. When he finally gets held by the wrist, he gets a good look of the same man that brought him all his misery, staring at him in rage.

Soo becomes stiff.

"We're going now." Jongin pulls him without too much effort he's giving to resist.

"What the fuck are you on?!" the shorter shouts on the top of his lungs when Jongin successfully drags him towards the exit where there's fewer people.

"I'm taking you home!" he says through gritted teeth.

"I'm not going with you, you sick fuck!" Soo desperately escapes his hold.

"I'm not asking you." he tries to kick him so Jongin grips both his shoulders to keep him still, "Kyungsoo!"

"Let go of me!"

"Did you forget what he did to you?" his chest heaves deeply when Jongin asks him angrily, "Do you fucking want me to remind you?!"

Soo badly wants to return the question. He wants to ask Jongin if he forgot what he did to him. He never forgot what Seonho, nor what everyone else did. But they would never come close to how Jongin broke him apart.

With all his might, he takes his hands off of him.

He loved him, more than willing to give him his whole heart like what he never did to anyone else. And what did he get? What did he get in return?

But he'd rather not ask his questions. This man will only play with him again and again— that's what's running in Kyungsoo's head. Jongin's well-played words will make him crumble and give in.

"No, because I don't care! Who do you think you are, huh? You're just a stupid driver so you can't go around dragging me like you fucking own me!"

He can't give in again, please.

Jongin's eyes soften after his response. He looks shaken by Kyungsoo's sharp words, trying to reach out for his hands even when Soo remains hostile.

"I'm sorry..." he mutters weakly. For a moment, Soo thought he saw fear in his eyes. "But you're drunk now, please...let me take you back home. Come on, Soo—"

He harshly slaps his hands away and Jongin's shoulders finally droop down.

"No. You go home, Jongin. Go back to kissing my father's ass! Go back to your thief of a girlfriend, I don't fucking need you here." Soo lets it all out without blinking an eye, making sure he returns all the pain they've been constantly giving him, "I don't need you tailing behind me all the time! I'm so fucking tired of you!"

He knows the words can never be enough to compromise for what Jongin has caused him, but it was the least he could do. Before he succumbs back into his own messed up situation, he'd like to try lessening the weight in his chest even if it may seem futile.

"Don't say that..." Jongin takes a step closer. Soo frantically shakes his head and shifts away, "I know you're hurt, come on now, let's talk properly..."

He despises the gentleness of his voice. The way he looks at Kyungsoo as if he's his weakness. As if he's not capable of wrecking him to bits, Soo fucking despises it all.

"Do I need to pay you, too? To leave me alone?" he grins bitterly when he catches Jongin slowly blinking, "How much do you need?"

"Please stop this, Soo." Jongin says firmly while looking straight into his eyes like it would change a damn thing, "You know you don't need to pay me anything. I'm not leaving yo—"

"Lose the words. Lose the goddamn words!" his voice finally breaks, fists tightened on both his sides. "You really t-thought...you could fool me, didn't you? You thought you finally got me so hung up with you just because I sucked you and you fucked me. Is that it?"

Jongin eagerly shakes his head, looking so hurt that he can't even reach to hold him anymore. And Soo would've believed it if he hadn't learned his lesson yet. His driver is indeed good at this.

But he can be better.

"Well just so you know, I let anyone fuck me. I suck everyone's dick, you're not so special." he smiles mockingly, "I could've been kneeling in front of my ex now if you didn't interrupt. You really thought you could tame a spoiled, rotten rich boy like me who likes whoring around? Please."

Jongin shuts his eyes, obviously bothered by the idea but chose not to acknowledge it. With pleading gaze, he takes Kyungsoo's hand again.

"S-Soo..." he mumbles shakily, "What's the problem? If I did something wrong... then I'm sorry. Let's go now, please?"

"Get off!"

Something pierces his chest when Jongin's eyes begin to glisten. But no, Soo's far from done. He'll end this once and for all.

"What? Still don't get it? Fine, I'll elaborate." he exhales a deep breath and flashes his casual smile, "You're an experiment. Get it? Flavor of the month, whatever the fuck you want to call it! And now I realize I actually prefer rich, fun assholes who can give me thrill—you're not it."

Jongin looks at him, not batting an eye. Yet his Adam's apple bobs up and down from continuous gulping. Soo had to grit his teeth hard before speaking further.

"Do you understand, Jongin? I prefer someone with loads of money, like me. My father would love that anyway, don't you agree?" now something else completely takes over in Jongin's eyes. He slowly blinks while heaving, watching the taunting smile on Kyungsoo's face. "You and Soojung deserve each other, you're both ambitious peasants, anyway. So don't ever touch me again. I don't want to be associated with you. You're just a poor, pathetic guy whom my father pays good money because he couldn't control me. What makes you so entitled of bossing me around, huh? Go back to wherever shithole you came from."

Soo finished it this way. He made sure he didn't stutter. When Jongin's gaze fell on the floor, he knew he succeeded.

The tanned boy hardly clenches his jaw, his breathing deep and heavy. When he lifts his gaze up to Kyungsoo again, his bloodshot eyes are cold, driven by something so strong.

"You're going to take it all back." Soo shivers from the way he said it, but he doesn't let it show. Jongin nods reassuringly, "You will."

Kyungsoo uses the last bit of strength in him to fake another grin.

"Make me."

Jongin nods again, taking two simple words as an accepted challenge. He looks at Kyungsoo one last time before turning away to leave. Soo keeps the same smile on his face until it hurts. Until he's sure no one would be there to convince anymore and that's where it all falls upon him again.

That's it. He did it.

It's over.

When he's completely left alone at the bar exit, with only a few people coming out while sending him weird looks, the bitter smile finally leaves his lips. He stares at the direction Jongin had gone to, face slowly crumpling in tears. He's gone for good, and it feels like he took a big part of Kyungsoo with him, so cruelly.

He doesn't know how and when, but Soo finds himself slowly walking out of the bar towards the cold parking lot right beside it. He sits in between the huge cars, knees wobbling as he breaks down crying. He hugs his knees and buries his face between them.

This should be the last time.

The last damn time you'll waste your tears for that man. So let it all now, Soo.

"I guess I was right, after all." he hears a familiar voice behind him, but he doesn't turn around to look. Or at least he doesn't have the strength anymore. "Meet me at the airport on Friday, Soo."

He's too dizzy, too hurt to even comprehend what he was just told.

Seonho squats down beside him to caress his back, urging him to cry even more. He's pretty sure they look weird sitting in the middle of the cars they don't even own, but Seonho joins him anyway.

"I can't watch you like this. If this would be the result of staying here, then I guess you need to run away more than me. More than anyone else." Soo looks at him because of this, face flushed and stained with tears. Seonho sadly smiles at him, "We will leave. I'll help you, alright?"

Soo tries to smile, but more tears pool in his eyes. No matter how much he wants it, he's not happy.

But he should be used to it, right? Maybe he'll be happy one day. Maybe it was never meant to happen in this place.

"But for now, can we get in the car." Seonho stands up and reaches a hand out for him, "let's get you a better place to cry."

 

x

 

Everything's almost done.

This may have been the most efficient he's ever been for a long time. Preparing everything he needs within a few days only proved that you can really make things possible if you're desperate for it.

So for the final and hardest step, Soo can feel his hand trembling while placing the folded paper in front of the vanity mirror in his mother's room, getting a glimpse of himself who seems to be unrecognizable. It's been days since the last time he bothered checking himself. Just as he expected, he looks terrible. So he looks away.

His next destination is only at the following room but he finds it so difficult to do. He knew this would never be easy. But then again, it has to be done.

"Hey, Soo?"

"Hey." he smiles while leaning on the door of his sister's room, "Where's Mom?"

He asked as if he doesn't know. As if he hasn't gone there just before this.

"Still sleeping, I think?" his sister answers without looking at him. She's too focused on sketching while slouched on the bed, "She only went home this morning, drunk from the dancing event last night."

This made Kyungsoo smile. Talking to his sister has always been so fascinating because of how grown up she sounds even for her age. She's an introverted kid, just like Soo was when he was younger. It pains him that his strong need to be liberated while growing up has caused him to be distanced from the people important to him.

"Going somewhere?" Sukyung asks when she sees his clothes. Soo sits on the edge of her bed to look at her sketches.

"Hmm." he hums without directly answering, "Those are really nice dresses."

"They're for my dolls, what do you think?"

Soo smiles at her, gently running his fingers through her hair.

"You're very talented." he tells her while she draws, "What do you think about being a fashion designer one day, huh?"

His sister looks up at him with the same doe eyes that resemble his own.

"Do I make my own dresses there?" the hope in her tone sends a pang in his chest, "I think I'd like that."

Just the thought of his sister experiencing what he went through is enough to crush him into pieces.

"You will be." he tells her with so much certainty, "If Dad tells you no, don't ever listen to him, okay? Do what you want to do."

"But he's our Dad..." her lips slightly protrude, "he'll get mad."

"Doesn't mean he's always right." he looks straight into her eyes, "If you don't like what he's telling you to do, don't force yourself."

Kyungsoo would want her to fight for herself. As early as now, he wants to open her eyes that it's never wrong to do such thing.

"Okaaaay." she coos casually. And somehow, Soo is relieved she doesn't immediately take it seriously. She's just seven. He realized he wants her to take her time, after all.

He repeatedly swallows the bile in his throat, caressing his sister's hair while she cluelessly draws.

"Sukyung-ah..." he starts off despite the difficulty to speak, "Take care of Mom, okay?" Soo needed to pause again, "Tell her not to drink too much. Tell her to take her vitamins."

He forces a smile even when his eyes feel warm. Sukyung stares at him in confusion.

"And y-you..." he fails to keep himself from stuttering, "Study hard. Don't ever get sick, o-okay?"

"Are you crying?"

"No." he laughs lightly even when his vision is already blurred by tears, "Just... promise me, you'll t-take good care of yourself and Mom. That you'll be a good girl."

Sukyung blinks before slowly nodding her head, "Okay..."

"And Dad..." he gulps and gently wipes the corner of his eye where a tear fell, "I-I know he's not really that kind, but look after him too. Tell him to get a rest if he's working too much..."

His sister looks so confused by his words, but she nods nonetheless, as if hoping it would make him stop crying.

"Promise...?" she says without being sure what it's all about.

"Come here." he pulls her closer for a tight embrace, "I love y-you. Soo loves you a-a lot. Do you understand?"

His lips tremble in between hugging her, warm tears trailing down his cheeks. It hurts him that leaving would make everything harder for his sister. It hurts him more than anything. But Soo needs to be selfish now. He needs to choose himself before getting broken beyond repair. He could only just promise himself that if Sukyung decides to do what he's doing once she comes of age one day, then he'll do everything to help her escape this life as well.

"Hmm. I love you too." she mumbles against his chest, "Ah—can I draw now?"

Kyungsoo pulls away, sniffing and wiping his face while he nods.

"O-Okay."

He stares at her for a moment when she goes back to drawing while gently humming a song. He never wants this peace to leave her sister. But as he looks at her one last time, he could only just hope.

As silent as he could, he takes out his luggage and bag. The two maids he asked assistance from share glances with each other. They badly want to ask, he knows. Even when he goes out, the drivers and guards look at him the same way.

"S-Sir, whe—"

"Don't ask." he tells the driver firmly while opening the compartment, "Take me to the firm."

He hears a commotion from the door and his heart skips a beat when his mother comes out of it. The house staffs all went silent, standing on their respective spots while waiting for what's about to happen. She's still in her robe and her eyes are still swollen from the deep sleep.

"What's going on?" she blinks continuously while walking towards him with bare feet, "Soo, what..."

He lets out a sigh, "Mom..."

"Where are you going?" she starts breathing erratically when she sees the amount of things with him, "What are these luggages for? What's happening?"

Soo holds her arms to keep her still, but he wouldn't meet her questioning gaze.

"Where are you going?!" his mother becomes more frantic when he responded with nothing but silence, "S-Soo, where a-are you going?"

He swallows hard, resorting into rubbing his Mom's arms to calm her down when she began sobbing loudly. Explaining again will only make it worse. He doesn't have much time anymore.

"Sshh. I explained e-everything. It's on your table, Mom. But now I-I don't really have much time. I need to go..."

"N-No...Soo, is this about your Dad? I-I can talk to him. Don't leave—" she hugs him tight, sounding so afraid because she knows it's something more serious than leaving the house. Soo never thought he could break even more just by her pleads, "D-Don't leave..."

"I-I'm sorry...I'm sorry." he embraces her tight while apologizing repeatedly, since it's the only thing he can do. "I need to go, M-Mom. Take care, a-alright?"

He pulls away and gently takes her clutching hands off him. Soo can't look at her again and turns away immediately to walk towards the car. The sound of her cries pierces him right into his soul. It's like the first time running away all over again.

"Soo...d-don't leave..." she begs while her hands are clasped against her lips. The car starts, nonetheless. "S-Soo!"

Kyungsoo keeps his gaze in front, refusing to look at the scene. "L-Let's go."

He lets out huge puffs of air when the car leaves the property. His neck, down to his chest starts hurting from keeping in everything. Soo lets a few silent tears, but he wouldn't cry hard. He doesn't want his eyes swollen once he faces his father. Weakness won't be the last thing he'll show him.

When they get near the firm tower, he's just blankly staring outside the window, putting the thought about his mother and sister at the very back of his mind.

Unlike his usual pace when he goes to this building, Soo walks so much slower today. He realized how much this place made him so anxious every single time he's here. There wasn't a single good memory, as far as he can remember.

This is the first time he ever took the time to actually look around to clearly see how big of an empire his father had created. Too big to just be ruined by his own stupidity. He finally gets a good look of how people stare at him as if he's unworthy of it all. He never really paid attention to it before, but now he sees the implied meaning of their gazes. Partly, he's grateful that he gets to see it for himself. And that it would be the last time.

When he reached the top floor, he noticed the subtle murmuring of his father's secretaries. They didn't stop him like before. Good, he smiles to himself. At least the Chairman isn't busy as of the moment.

He enters the office without knocking, standing in the middle of his father's luxurious office with a small, meaningful smile on his face. The old man looks at him from underneath his reading glasses, looking back to his paperwork with a grim expression.

"Your mother called me. She's hysterical." he starts off when Kyungsoo doesn't initiate, "Didn't I tell you to stay at home? You're not allowed to go back to your stupid apartment, is that so hard to get into your brain?"

Soo smiles wider when he gets the response he expected.

"I'm not going back there." his father takes off his glasses to look at him directly.

"Then why did you pack all your things?" he sighs in exhaustion, "I'm not up for any of your stupid games, Kyungsoo—"

"I'm leaving the country." Soo cuts him off, "For good."

The Chairman stares at him intently before chuckling.

"You've gone completely mental, haven't you?" he says with narrowed eyes, but Kyungsoo only shrugs. Maybe he did go mental. "What makes you think you can do that?"

"Because I can, and I will."

"Stop wasting my time and go back to the mansion now." his father looks pissed this time when he sees how composed he is, "You're making a fool out of yourself by dropping by here just to prove how dumb your plan is. No, actually even if you run away without telling anyone, I'll be able to find you and bring you back to where you should be."

Soo smiles, "I know that."

Of all people, he knows that too well. So he came prepared.

His father looks at him because of this, brows creasing. Kyungsoo takes one step and puts an envelope on his table. The Chairman looks at this then back to Soo, who's so casually back on his spot.

"What is that?"

Kyungsoo raises his brows—I thought you'd never ask.

"All the records of your illegal transactions. Actual evidences that you're involved in some smuggling cases." he smiles innocently, "Freshly compiled."

His father stares at him, stunned. When he continues to blink, he grabs the envelope himself and looks at the content inside, the color leaving his face.

"W-Where..." he mutters weakly while going through the specific evidences, "Where did you get all of these?"

"Oh, I don't know...probably stole it just like Miss Jung's designs."

"This is not funny, Kyungsoo." his father grits his teeth, "I'm going to give you one last chance to take all of this back and go home."

"And I'm going to give you the same last chance too." he retaliates and the Chairman fumes even more, "What do you think will happen if this goes out to the media? To the investors. You being exposed by your own son. Your own heir."

"You can't do that."

"I can, Dad." he nods once with a grin, "You've pushed me hard enough to be capable."

His father stares at him in disbelief, hands tightening on his table. Soo doesn't bat an eye and shows no sign of remorse.

"W-What do you want?" the older seethes, "What do you fucking want?!"

"Disown me."

It's so much more satisfying than he expected. Those were the words that he dreamt of saying for so long, imagining different scenarios on how he'll finally set himself free from this caged life.

Soo captures it perfectly— how his father gasped in disbelief. How he tried his hardest to grin even when fear gets too evident from his eyes. He knows Soo is far from joking, and he doesn't have any other way out.

His son finally gets the upper hand.

"That's what I want, Dad." Soo repeats it clearly, "Let me leave this place and don't ever bother me again. Untie your fucking leash around my neck and find another successor. Someone who won't disappoint your standards."

"Y-You're impossible..." his father shakes his head while standing up from his seat.

"Force me into coming back and I'll publish all of this myself. I can even testify against you. Do you think that's all I've got?" now the older takes big steps to where he is to grab his collar, but it doesn't stop Kyungsoo from continuing. If anything, he grins even wider.

"Let me leave and I'll take this all with me. I won't let your precious legacy crumble right in front of your eyes just like what you did to my life and dream."

And with this, Soo drops on the floor, yelping when he gets punched on the cheek. He lets out a dry spit when the pang travels all over his face. But he still managed to chuckle when his father grabs him up by the shirt again. Soo watches his face flushing in anger.

"Ungrateful bastard!" his jaw hardens, "You can't do this. Y-You can't fucking do this!"

"Sir, is everything okay?"

The Chairman looks at the intercom speaker, still breathing frantically. Soo looks at him with testing eyes.

"Say a word and your secret will be out before this day ends, Dad."

His father purses his lips in a thin line, not responding to the secretary because of the threat. His eyes are glassy, frustration obviously pent up. Soo can clearly remember being on his place for the majority of his life— abiding by all of his rules because of the continuous threatening.

"Now you know how it feels?" he tells his father with a sarcastic smile, "That's what you did to me every single day of my life. That's what it's like to be ruined."

The Chairman weakly lets go from gripping on him. He stares at the floor while his shoulders heave, not able to redeem himself. Soo fixes his shirt and starts walking to the door.

"I don't care what alibi you come up with, as long as you make it clear to everyone that I'm not going to be the firm's heir as soon as possible." he says while his father continuously falls into his dilemma, "And again, I don't want to hear anything from you again wherever I'll be going."

He's about to open the door when he hears his father's breaking voice.

"Y-You won't be able to survive without me, Soo." he tries to threaten as if it would easily change his son's mind, "You'll starve to death. Y-You won't be able to be on your own for too long."

Kyungsoo chuckles, "I can manage. You've trained me enough."

The desperation is prominent in his father's eyes while looking at him. It's the perfect last image to keep in his mind, really. He looks like he badly wants to beg, but of course, why would he? It's not like Soo wants him either. He can try, but the latter will respond with nothing but a victorious smile. The one he's already wearing now.

"Fix your suit, Dad. Don't worry about it too much. You still have your firm, your money and name. Those are the only ones that matter to you, anyway." he says humorously, but his eyes look so driven to crush all of his father's hope for him. "All the suffering you've caused me is over. I'm ending it all today."

Soo hears a weak call of his name as he walks out of the room. He doesn't look back. He walks out of the building with the biggest breath he's ever let out after so many days of storm.

The shrine stands proud in front of his eyes on his way out, opposed to how his father is currently crumbling into pieces. Soo is certain he'll get over it soon enough. He was only shaken by the evidences he got but the fact that his disgraced son is leaving will surely compensate for it. With a bitter smile, he looks at the tall marble shrine in front of their tower, feeling glad that he'd never have to worry about living up to it, nor seeing it again.

When he gets to the airport, his steps become a little heavier. There's a lot of things going on, both in his mind and heart. He chooses to focus on those that won't make him back out. Kyungsoo reaches the waiting area and spots Seonho waiting for him with his luggage beside him, and the jitters get worse. So he recalls the last look on the faces of the people he's leaving here, along with the thought that doubts should be unwelcomed, for this is what he's always been waiting to do ever since.

Seonho looks up and finally sees him, giving him a small encouraging smile as if he's aware Soo needs it. When the latter gets closer, he stands up from his seat.

"A little wound on the lips, bruised cheek..." his smile turns into an amused one while observing Kyungsoo's face, "I actually expected a lot more so you can say I'm relieved."

Soo lets out a light chuckle, shaking his head once when he remembers how much his father wanted to hurt him more. "You have no idea."

They look at each other. There are no words, but they know exactly what runs in each other's mind. Seonho sighs deeply.

"So, this is it? We're really sure about this?"

Soo takes a subtle gulp. He once again thinks of the realization he had a few days ago. He's really leaving. Not to the place he had in mind and not for the reason he wanted to, but he'd rather be anywhere else but here. Any place, even if it's not home or the dream, he'd take it.

"Give me that." he snatches the tickets from Seonho's hand, earning him a big smile. "No turning back, Seonho."

They walk to the check-in counter, sharing meaningful glances in case one of them still backs out. Whenever they catch each other, they would chuckle humorously. Because who would want to step away from finally being free?

"Finally, huh?" Seonho looks at him sideways with now an adamant smile. "Our long overdue escape plan."

Kyungsoo thinks about what he's been through, relief washing over him as he looks at the place he once called home for the last time. He thinks of the one person that he thought would make him stay, but turned out to be the driving force of his flee. He won't have to go back here again, or deal with something that would kill him just like this one did. No matter what happens.

"Finally."

Or so he thought.

Chapter Text

"Hey, babe?"

The blonde guy turns to where he is, but he continues to pour the vodka into the glass as if he doesn't notice.

"My shift ends in ten. Are you on your way?" he smiles despite the confused response of the man from the other line, "Hahaha! Oh I love you, you're so funny. See you."

He drops the call with the hint of smile on his face even when there's really nothing funny. As always, it seems convincing enough when the said blonde guy already looks disappointed.

"Black Russian, Sir?" he smiles and serves the drink on the counter. The man only responds with a nod, contrary to his aggressive flirting and cocky smiles a while ago.

Soo turns back to his mixing station while slightly rolling his eyes.

When his watch beeps to signal his ending shift, he swiftly takes off the pin on his shirt. He taps the shoulder of the guy who just came in to start his shift, though he ends up cussing under his breath when he sees the manager walking towards him with his usual big smile.

"Kyungsoo! You going home?" he forces a smile while nodding firmly, "It's just nine o'clock! You should stay for a while."

"Oh man." he fakes a disappointed grin, "I'd love to Jeremy, but I need to go."

He confirms his theories when he sees another acoustic band setting up on stage.

"It's an early Friday night! Are you gonna stay lonely in your apartment?" the American guy grins at him before pointing at the stage, "Maybe you can try playing again. The band loves jamming with you."

Soo looks at the entrance, wishing for his human alibi to appear.

"Come on, I've been pleading you for some time now. Please?"

He couldn't think of a more direct way to say no so relief washes over him when he finally sees him entering the bar, looking around the crowd.

"Babe!" he calls and smiles when Seonho spots him, wearing a small frown on his face. He turns to his manager again, "Sorry, boss. Date night."

He grins when the taller comes closer. Soo immediately reaches out an arm to cling onto him.

"Hi, Seonho!" Jeremy greets, "I was just asking him to sing again but it seems like the first time was also the last." the manager sighs in disappointment, "Where are you guys off to, anyway? Maybe you can just date here and convince your boyfriend to stay and play a song or two?"

Seonho looks at him but Soo is already staring at him with wide threatening eyes. The taller beams charmingly.

"Oh I'd love to but..." he turns to the other guy again, "we have so many plans tonight. You know...Friday...and we missed each other so much."

Soo subtly glares at him but the taller wiggles his brows suggestively. He always resorts to the dirtiest excuses.

"Oh..." the man gapes in awe, grinning afterwards. "that's why you're so eager to go home, huh Kyungsoo?"

"Oh you have no idea." Seonho winks before he could even respond. He started pinching the skin of his arm out of annoyance, "So we should get going now and start our night work out. Soo will definitely sing next time, he just—"

"Yep, that's enough! We're off now, bye Jeremy!" he sheepishly smiles and completely drags Seonho away from there before he could promise anything.

Seonho's breathy laughter becomes louder when they got outside, with Soo hardly hitting his arm.

They reach the car and Seonho's still laughing over dumb things despite him frowning.

"You filthy fuck. They're not gonna let me live peacefully now."

"Well, you asked for it." he shrugs as he starts driving, "As long as you keep this fake boyfriend going on, you should expect this typical outcome."

"You don't have to say anything, you know? You just have to stand there and flash your stupid charming smile."

"I think the fuck not. I'm not getting anything from this emergency boyfriend deal, might as well have fun with it."

"Yeah, and humiliate me while you're on it."

"Yeah."

The streets of New York look much more alive during a Friday night. People are out of their homes, having fun and fooling around. It should bring life to anyone who witnesses it all the time, yet for some reason, Soo feels so confined.

From watching the people outside, he hears the stereo being played. When a familiar RnB song starts, he glances at it.

"I hate that song." Soo mumbles while looking at Seonho. The latter only glances at him before looking back to the road with a shrug. Soo takes this as a signal to switch it to an EDM song he has never heard. It sounds awful to his ears, but he ends up settling for it.

Then he looks at the window again, quick enough to dismiss the feeling creeping in his chest. He doesn't notice Seonho sparing him another glance.

The apartment they share is only a few minutes away from Vanguard, the place where he bartends every other night. It's been snowing in the city since the month began, thus requiring them to have at least two layers of clothing when going out. Soo's half running towards their door while Seonho only watches him with a small smile, especially when the shorter whines at him for holding the keys and being so slow.

Kyungsoo goes straight to the couch, knowing too well that Seonho will turn the heater and lights on for him anyway.

"If you don't mind, young master, we don't have dinner yet." the taller lazily takes the spot next to him, "Maybe you should've just accepted the offer of singing there once in a while. We could've had free dinner."

"You sound like a beggar." Soo mumbles against the couch pillow before sitting up, his hair sticking out everywhere that Seonho needed to comb it back with his fingers. "Let's just get pizza again, I'm too tired to cook."

They did get pizza, but that didn't stop Kyungsoo from cooking anyway. He made a pesto with the remaining pasta from the fridge. He curses every now and then because Seonho won't stop asking if he's done every minute, starving and riling him up at the same time.

"Here you go, now will you shut up?" he hisses in annoyance but Seonho only beams brightly while taking a lot to his plate, "We're eating it in the living room. My rule!"

They succumb into silence when the pizza delivery arrived, with only an episode of The Office playing in the background. Soo focused on his food, responding to the guy beside him when it's needed, or simply grinning from the joke of the character that's already so familiar to him.

Seonho finished first and is now starting to drink on the wine bottle itself. It would've grossed out their old selves— sharing a drink directly from the bottle. But growing older made them lazier, and if they have to wrestle against each other over who's washing the dishes, then they'd rather reduce the use of them.

"Jeremy kinda reminds me of Michael Scott sometimes." Soo blabbers in between eating his food, staring at the TV.

"So he's the world's best boss?" Seonho responds nonchalantly, "And you're finally gonna sing there next time?"

"No, he's annoying." he grumbles, "I literally sang there once, and I was drunk. I couldn't remember shit. Since then, he won't let me live my life peacefully."

Seonho nods once, "So you're like his Pam."

Soo shrugs, ending up smiling because of their stupid show references. "And you're Jim."

The other guy squints his eyes at him, putting the wine bottle down. "Is that supposed to be a flirt?"

Kyungsoo grins bigger, snatching the bottle of wine to have his part.

"No. You both just look dumb all the time."

His roommate doesn't even get offended, flashing him an even more annoying smile that resembles the said character. Soo lightly hits his head with a couch pillow.

"What's our plan on Monday?"

With creased brows, Soo sips from the bottle first before looking at Seonho in confusion.

"Monday?"

Before a proper response, he gets a harder pillow hit on his head.

"Aw! You fuck, what's that for?"

"Stop fucking around." Seonho cusses back, gasping in disbelief when Soo remains looking bewildered, his hand on his head. "It's your birthday! Dumb fuck."

Soo blinks in awe. Right. It's not like he's always aware of the date.

He chuckles lightly, "I know. I was just joking." he thought it's still December, "Nothing. I have to go to Parson's to get some designs. Then I'll be at Vanguard after."

"What a fucking bore you are."

"I am successful and booked. Sorry about that, broke bitch." he smiles cheekily when Seonho stares at him, "Nah, I'm just kidding. Please don't kick me out."

"I'm about to kick you out soon." Seonho says while kicking his leg away, "I can't date properly because of you. I can't bring hookups home. I hate it."

"You know I never mind! I'm always out, but you can have sex even when I'm around. I can always go incognito." he wiggles his brows but the other only frowns, "And basically, you can't kick me out. Who will cook for you? You'll starve to death."

"I've thought about that. Why d'you think I've kept you for more than eight years?"

The man scoffs, grimacing hard when Soo leans closer to embrace his arm like a kid.

"You can't live without me, Seonho."

"Get off!"

"You can just ask me, though." he looks up with a sly smile, "Just use the right word."

"Ugh gross!" Seonho groans before standing up to get him off his arm, Soo pouts a little while following him with his gaze when he walks to the kitchen with the dishes.

"You're acting like we never dated and had sex before."

"Yeah, like a hundred years ago?!" he comes back with the same disgusted cringe and a pitcher of water in his hand, "I can't even remember it now. Yikes."

"You're mean."

"Soo," Seonho sighs, trying to be serious. "We can't date or sleep with each other. You're busy so you will always leave me alone. We're twenty eight now, I need someone who can love me wholeheartedly, you know?" he explains animatedly despite the smile slowly forming on Kyungsoo's lips, "Pick me over his career? Be always there when I need loving?"

He slowly nods and sees the concealed grin on Seonho as he drinks water.

"Or... you're just afraid to starve if we argue once."

Seonho purses his lips when he finally chortles, "Actually."

Soo looks back at the television with a ghost of smile still on his face. Seonho spaces out beside him for a while before clearing his throat once again.

"Why don't we go to a vacation?" he smiles a little even when Soo looked back at him seriously, "We haven't left this place yet since you got your masters from Parsons last year. Why don't we take a break from our jobs for a while, especially you decided to go freelance. Let's go out of the country!"

Soo only gives a small grin, shaking his head as he drinks again. For some reason, he doesn't find it comfortable talking about leaving or taking a rest. It only brings him some unnecessary feelings all at once but of course, he won't tell Seonho that.

"You know it would cost too much money. We're saving."

"Uh, we're very much aware that we can afford it now. We're earning." Seonho says as-a-matter-of-factly, scooting closer. "Soo, come to think of it— for the past eight years, you haven't really left New York for vacation. You've always told me you were busy when I ask you to come. Now you're not studying anymore! You've reached your lifelong dream! Don't you want to take a rest and travel first?"

Soo wants to smile bitterly; who said he already did? Was this everything he dreamed of?

"I'll treat you to any country as a birthday gift. Come on, just go." it even feels worse when Seonho sends him an encouraging smile.

Soo gulps before smiling.

"You know I personally don't like traveling." lie, "I'm a home person and going out takes a lot of effort for me." lie, "I just don't want to spend money over things I don't really like." another one.

Seonho's smile eventually falters.

"New York is the best place for me! I love it here." he adds enthusiastically.

Damn lie.

The taller only responds with a nod, but it's clear that he's not convinced with anything that he said. Seonho basically knows him more than anyone, maybe even more than himself. Pretending won't be that easy for him.

"Whatever you say." Seonho sighs heavily, looking at the television with a bummed expression. "Sometimes I think about using Code Red just so I can successfully drag you out of here. I'm actually reconsidering it now, even if it's only January." he smirks but Kyungsoo knows there's a hint of seriousness in it.

"It's completely up to you. But remember we can only use Code Red once a year, each of us. If you use that for my benefit then you proved me right about what an idiot you are." Soo shrugs casually, pulling the reverse card so he can successfully escape the possibility, "Especially between us, you're always the one who needs to use Code Red most of the time because you're clumsy as fuck."

"Now that's not fucking true!"

"And if you use your Code Red to force me into traveling, then I'd use mine to fuck you. How does that sound?"

He smiles innocently when Seonho glares at him. It has always been one of his effective threats.

"Fine, I won't." he hisses, "Will you stop with your fucking me jokes because you're starting to scare me."

"Who says it's a joke? I'll sneak in your room later and tie you up."

"Soo!" he groans and Soo begins laughing hard, burying his face on the pillow. "I'm going to kick you out."

He continues to let out a breathless laugh, cheeks flushing because of it and the wine. Seonho looks at him sharply despite the concealed smile on his face. He shakes his head and finally shows it when he glances back to the TV.

Soo exhales a deep breath when he stopped, "But seriously, you can go. I have to deal with manufacturers and potential clients once in a while so it's not really good to leave." Seonho looks at him in defeat so he flashes a little cheeky smile again, "And you've always traveled everywhere without me, what difference does it make?"

"Yeah, but you know I've always asked before." his smile fades a little when Seonho lazily mutters, "Now, I figured out I just had to try again. But you always say no." he shrugs and glances at Kyungsoo, "I'm just gonna travel on my own again, I guess."

With only a forced little grin, Soo chooses not to respond anymore.

Somehow, the silence that follows is a little uneasy. Soo stares at the TV with the wine bottle still in his hand, not finding himself laughing at the hilarious scene from the show.

"Just rest once in a while, yeah Soo?" Seonho tells him meaningfully, keeping his eyes on the television. His voice almost gets drowned by the volume of the sound from the TV, but they clearly make their way to him, still. It's ironic how the gentleness in his voice draws a sharp pain deep in his chest, "We didn't escape then just to be suffocated again."

Soo nibbles his lower lip while intently watching the television, as if the words didn't just hit him right on the bull's eye. Seonho stands up from the floor they're sitting at and picks up the almost empty bottle of wine.

"Aaaaah I'm drowsy. God how many percent of alcohol is in this wine?" he groans casually while lazily walking towards his bedroom door, just right beside Soo's. "I'm going to bed now, night night Soo."

Soo is resting his temple on his palm while watching him, "Nighty..."

Like the rest of his usual days, this one has been a long one. Kyungsoo invests so much of his time on being productive; may it be on his job or client meetings, he likes working until he can barely stand.

And yet here he is, an hour after Seonho went to bed, still on the couch. He already switched the living room light and television off. There's just the lamp light and intense silence for him to delve in. With his back laid flat on the couch, he stares at the ceiling. The ever so interesting blank ceiling.

Where does the catching up start? Oh, right. Maybe that day when they landed at New York with his eyes swollen because of sneakily crying in the plane thinking Seonho wouldn't notice. It was a clear deal after all, once they arrive at New York, they'll part ways. Seonho only helped him fix his applications and money transfers for leaving, but he didn't want to get involved with his plans. They were part of each other's past already, something that isn't entirely nice to remember.

But a gentle knock on the door of his hotel room changed a lot. Soo was already breaking down, mentally and emotionally. He was panicking because he didn't know what to do, where to start. He was in a vast, foreign city with nothing but baggages. Everything was unclear for him so it was not surprising how he sobbed in relief when he saw his ex standing in front of his door with a sheepish smile on his face.

"My apartment is nice and warm." Soo clearly remembers his reluctance despite smiling, "Wanna... live there... for a while?"

It surely wasn't a while, because since then, the person he used to hate became his biggest companion in this one heck of a journey. It's like starting over again, without having to bring up all the things they've done to each other long ago. The pain they've caused. Throughout the years, they've been with each other consistently through highs and lows.

Eight years ago, if you tell Kyungsoo that his cheating, douchebag of an ex will be his best friend one day, he'd definitely fry you alive. Funny how life really works out. They've grown a completely platonic relationship that he will always be grateful for. He wouldn't have done it without Seonho, and it relieves him that it works the same way for the other. They're basically a puzzle part of one another, thus the reason why they managed to survive and stay sane after so many years.

One day, they just figured out that they might be meant for each other, but never in a way that they were forcing themselves to believe before. They met so many new people in life, new friends. They dated and fooled around with others, just to come home at the end of the day to either swoon or rant over it together. Sometimes, they have the best laugh when they recall their past thing, eventually turning it to a harmless joke that also became their closure. They're young and foolish selves—why wouldn't it be so amusing?

Still, it's the only thing they can bring up easily; the past that only involved the two of them. Other than that, nothing.

Seonho drew a firm line a long time ago. Because every time he mentions anything close or related to home and the people left there, Soo will completely shift into a whole different mood.

He never dared to ask. There's really no need to, anyway. He moved on, but Soo did not. No matter how much he tries to appear he did. He is happy now, meanwhile Kyungsoo barely had progress from their starting point. He changed, yes. But he's still lonely and too desperate to forget, and Seonho knows it. He completely understood, because nothing comes close to what Soo went through from the lives they escaped. It scarred him, and even Seonho's own predicaments could never compare. So for so many times, he feels terrible just by simply seeing Soo faking it most of the time just because a simple reminder comes unintentionally. Sometimes, he even thinks he's the one reminding Soo of his old life so he travels away every now and then to give the other a breathing space for himself.

So surely, being his best friend still did not give him the right to understand what really happened to Soo before they left. Or about the boy who seemed to have caused him to be an entirely different person he is today. Seonho doesn't ask, for Soo buried everything deep under the ground with no intention to dig it back up again. But god knows how much he wants to. If letting it out will diminish this pretentiously smiling person from his used to be feisty yet real friend, then he can risk it. He's tired having to deal with it every day.

But he never really knew how Soo thinks of the same face every night. The same words run into his head. For something that happened almost a decade ago, it's still perfectly clear in his mind. He never knew he would be so traumatized that repressing it the whole day will be utterly useless. And then once the same train of thoughts is over, he'll think of it again, and again. Clearly. Perfectly vivid and unmistakable.

Still, he'd rather feel lonely every now and then. It's normal. At least he's free. He's done almost everything that used to be beyond his reach when he was in his old life. Dreams are far more important than his feelings, if he is to be asked.

Just like tonight, while Soo lays down on the small couch— he thinks of him again. Turns out he himself is also the one who digs up the memories he tries to bury. He does it until his head and chest begin throbbing in pain. Until he's completely drained out of energy to finally sleep and hopefully wake up to wear himself out for another day. That's what he does.

This is his life now.

 

x

 

"ON CUE! 3, 2, 1! HAPPY BIRTHDAY—"

Instantly flinching on his bed, Kyungsoo's deep sleep gets interrupted by a very loud and annoying singing. It's Monday morning for Pete's sake, and Seonho's already ruining the entirety of the day with his voice. With a few annoying scratches on his neck, Soo refuses to open his eyes and rather lies sideways to face the opposite side.

And then there's jumping on the bed.

"Kyungsoo-yah! Kyungsoo-yah! Happy happy birthday! Kyungsoo-yah! Kyungsoo-yah—!"

"Oh for fuck's sake!" he kicks against the air with hopes to hit wherever the taller is but the jumping only gets worse.

"Wake up! I have a surprise!"

"God... you're a prick." Soo groans heavily because of frustration over his lost sleep, "I wish you would date again so you'd leave me alone... fuck you, really." he mumbles against the pillow.

"Hey, I heard that!" something nudges his back, and realizing that Seonho's voice is still above him, it must be his foot. "But I'll let it pass today. Anyway—Soo! I cooked!"

With this, Kyungsoo sits up in an instant, looking at Seonho who's flashing him his set of perfect teeth with his two thumbs raised. Now that he gets to see the bits of flour on the man hovering over him, Soo's gaze is sharp.

"You what?"

Afraid he'll come to see a huge fire, he jumps off the bed with his hair sticking out everywhere. Soo proceeds to running to the kitchen where he sees a huge damn mess, with a small chocolate cake in the middle of the counter.

His shoulders droop down, his eyes begin warming.

"Ta-da!" he quickly wipes the side of his eyes when Seonho jumps from behind. He gets the cake with the same cheeky smile before offering it in front of Soo, who's struggling to keep a blank face, "You're teary, do you like it?"

"It's from all the dirt you made in my kitchen." he says while wiping them again, "And you did not cook, idiot. You baked."

"If you apply heat, it's cooking." Seonho retaliates, "Anyway, I'll light this up so you can make a wish and finally eat my specialty!" even the enthusiasm in his actions tugs something in Kyungsoo's chest. He smiles a little.

"That's stupid. Don't bother." he pertains to the wish even when it's completely useless because Seonho is already lighting up a bunch of candles around the cake, "And I'm afraid to eat it..."

Seonho lets out an offended gasp, "How dare you, I got that from Tastemade! And I woke up at five for that!"

Soo smiles genuinely when the candles lit up in front of his face, making him look brighter. He stares at it and doesn't try concealing his glistening eyes this time. It's an overwhelming feeling, somehow. There's only the two of them, no cameras, no noisy friends or anyone to share the moment with but for Kyungsoo, it's more than enough. No one ever went to such extent for him like Seonho does.

"Thank you." he lightly laughs, earning a sloppy grin from the taller. "Really... you didn't need to. But thank you for making this."

"We're not stopping here. We have a long day." Seonho assures him, "Now make a wish before the candles melt on it and make it taste worse!"

He squinted his eyes on him before actually closing them. His hands lightly clasp together below. It was a quick wish, yet undoubted. Kyungsoo exhales a sigh of satisfaction before blowing all the candles.

Just let me be happy now, please.

 

The cake didn't last long, anyway. It became their breakfast because Soo got too lazy to cook something again and he wasn't having it either when Seonho offered. Another attempt after baking this cake will surely result into a fire. It's not like the cake tastes bad. It's not as great as his cakes but it's surely good as well. He's actually impressed, but he won't let it show. Especially when Seonho won't stop picking on him about it.

"Just admit that you love it, Soo. No need to hide your true feelings." he says even when Soo maintained a blank face all throughout breakfast, gasping against his knuckles. "I'm going to fucking cry."

"I don't. There's some hair in it." he lies, just to tease him back.

"Oh please, you wouldn't last one bite if you actually didn't like it." the taller adds cockily, "Now, look at the cake— oops, you've eaten all of them. Hah." he grins proudly and Soo only has to roll his eyes, "Can't wait to brag about this on Chase and Suki at the birthday party tonight."

Soo clicks his tongue, "I told you we're not partying. I have a lot of client meetings today and tomorrow, even one with Kati Curtis. I can't get drunk."

"That's why we're doing it at Vanguard! On your shift!" the other insists, "If Jeremy remembers it's your birthday, he will surely let you party. You don't have to drink too much, we'll do that for you. You can just celebrate and dance and brag to everyone about having a fake boyfriend like me."

"Tss. Do whatever the hell you want. I'm not going there until my last meeting ends." he grimaces, "And if you pass out again because of drinking I am definitely gonna leave you there."

Seonho only responds with a snort, "Whatever." he says with a hint of grin that instantly falters when he seems to remember something. Soo doesn't fail to notice how he subtly gulps while falling completely silent.

He pauses from drinking his water and gives Seonho a knowing look.

"What?"

"Uh...your mom called me, by the way." he pauses reluctantly when Soo stiffens a little, "She said happy birthday."

Soo gently puts down the glass on the counter, blinking rapidly.

"Oh..." he tries to smile a little, "maybe you should change your number again."

The taller guy sighs heavily.

"I did that so many times but it's useless. She finds a way to plead my Mom when they meet, I can't keep changing my contact number, Soo."

Kyungsoo nods without looking at him directly, "Ah, you're right. I'm sorry about that." he nods once, "Is she bothering you a lot? You can just ignore her calls."

"You know I can't do that. She's very kind to me." he says that finally makes Kyungsoo stare at him, "She's not a bother... just calls me every now and then to check on you. I don't tell her too much, don't worry."

"Okay."

Seonho purses his lips before continuing, "Have you heard about what's happening? To the firm?"

He feels suffocated when Seonho successfully dragged him into the topic. Unlike any other circumstance though, he doesn't get to walk away this time. Soo tries to keep up with it, hoping it's a good first step to acknowledge some things he should've moved on from years ago.

"The decline?" he shrugs casually when Seonho's eyes rounded, "I mean...it's not like my father's firm wasn't the top architectural firm in the country, Seonho. I've heard news. But that was quite some time ago, maybe he already had it fixed."

As long as he could, he stayed away from it. It's been years since he had any social media or anything that can be used to monitor him. He doesn't let himself become curious and find news, solely just living his own life away from the estranged identity he left. But he also knew he wouldn't be able to escape it completely, given how powerful the old man was when he saw him last.

But he won't forget about the news he unintentionally heard more than two years ago; his father's biggest empire declining in the market. He remembers how he stopped for a moment, feeling a familiar punch in his gut. He tried to look for the satisfaction he had always expected to have, yet it barely came.

"Well..." Seonho starts off reluctantly, "it's not really the top company anymore, Soo. It's been replaced since last year, and now it barely keeps up. It's not doing any better."

For a while, Soo becomes completely silent from this. The familiar bitterness rushes down his throat. It ends up into a smile that doesn't have any humor. What happened? For the first time, he's asking. I thought it can never go wrong without me in it?

"Ah..." he mumbles, not really knowing what to say. "so who's on top now? Your father's corp?"

Seonho looked a little shocked by his lack of response about the firm's news, but he gets his phone and answers anyway.

"No, the old man wished." he scoffs while looking through something, "It was a big news in Korea, years ago. It's a breakthrough company, growing incredibly fast. Now from what I've heard, it's number one, both in architectural and construction fields."

Soo barely comprehends, focusing on the chocolate icing instead. "Hmm. What's the name?"

"KJI Industries?" Seonho creases his brows a little while reading an article on his phone, "You've heard of it?"

Kyungsoo shakes his head nonchalantly. Not even familiar.

Seonho ends up eating the leftover icing with him while still reading, "I've always heard about the founder, though. Always see him in headlines. People are basically crazy over him, but I haven't seen him yet so I don't understand the hype." Soo glares at him when he kept on talking while messily licking a chocolate, "Kai...? What? Is that his name?"

"Stop being gross." Soo tells him because of the chocolate but continues to eat in satisfaction now that they've drifted away from the topic about his father, "What kind of name is that, anyway? And why would people go crazy over a middle-aged or seventy year-old CEO? Is that the latest trend in Korea?"

Seonho shrugs exaggeratedly and Soo is starting to shake his head while looking at his chocolate-stained face that he doesn't seem to care about, "Might google now to see. Maybe I can pretend as his long-lost son."

"Tch." he rolls his eyes and jumps off the kitchen stool to drink another glass of water. When he finishes, he turns to see Seonho frozenly staring at his phone screen now. "Hey, I'll shower now so I can leave before lunch."

The man doesn't seem to hear him because he's still statued on his seat, not blinking.

"Oi!" he throws him a nearby placemat that finally gets him flinching. Seonho still lacks color when he starts blinking rapidly at Soo, "What the hell happened to you? Huh? What's that? Let me see!"

Soo gets shoved away effortlessly when Seonho stands up and walks to his bedroom without sparing him another glance.

"Hey idiot, I want to see!" he exclaims but Seonho only waves a hand.

"It's a seventy year-old man... I-I'm going to shower." he says before slamming his bedroom door shut in front of the confused boy.

 

x

 

It went on to be the best day for the celebrant. Soo wraps up his last client meeting for the day, managing to get multiple deals with big manufacturers and even a known designer. Most of his works were praised, even his startup furniture designs. Now he gets more motivated to actually pursue it along with interior designing.

Vanguard is still packed even on a Monday night. The dimmed lights of the bistro emphasize the huge beam on his face as he enters. He looks around and tries to spot Seonho and their other friends, not being able to see them because of the sea of people. He glances at the counter and sees Sharon bartending tonight with him. Soo decides to attend to his friends later and begin his shift first. He makes sure Jeremy isn’t near before putting his bag under the counter of drinks. It’s not really allowed there but he has never been caught, so why put it in the locker room?

“Kyungie!” Sharon walks to where he is with a huge frown on her face. She has a wine stain on her white shirt and Soo immediately cringes.

“What happened to you?” he asks and grabs her hand when she tried wiping it with a napkin that caused the stain to spread even more, “Don’t do that, geez. Go to the restroom and clean yourself!”

“Can you get the drinks first?” she asks with a pout that doesn’t match her high sleek ponytail, to which Soo only rolls his eyes jokingly.

“I can take charge. Go, your shirt looks awful.” she playfully hits his arm before walking away. Soo flashes a smile while taking a woman’s order that seemed to be interrupted by Sharon’s little fiasco. When he starts making her drink, he sees an already made liquor on their mixing counter. So he looks around to check if there’s a guest that hasn’t received his order yet. From the corner, he sees a man facing the other side of the bar, preventing him to see his face when he tried.

Soo takes the Aperol Spritz, quite intrigued because it’s not really a cheap drink someone would casually want to drink. He clears his throat while still wearing the same professional smile.

“Excuse me?” he barely noticed the slight stiffening of the man leaning on the counter, “Hi Sir, did you order Aperol?”

His broad back is still facing him, and Soo finally gets the chance to evaluate the man from his quite longer hair that is brushed back sleekly, the velvet shirt he's wearing and the luxury watch around his arm.

It made him swallow hard.

“Sir?” he asks again when the man doesn’t move despite his approach. Soo creases his brows in confusion and is about to tap his shoulder when Jeremy pops up beside him.

“For fuck’s sake, Jeremy, stop scaring me like that!” he gasps while holding on his chest, “Geez…”

“Hey, no cursing your boss!” the man teases even more, “What are you doing here, Kyungsoo? Your boyfriend is right there!”

“What do you think I’m doing? I’m working!”

“God, it’s your birthday, you make people think I’m a bad boss.” he pulls him away from the drink he was about to served, “Join them. Sharon and I can manage.”

Soo looks at the unserved Aperol right behind the man he was approaching, “But—”

“No, buts! I’ll serve that and Sharon is going back soon.” he lightly yanks him away when he won’t move, “Stop being such a bore and celebrate being twenty-eight, God!”

Soo slightly frowns, “Fine... I don’t even know why you know my age.”

“Your boyfriend has been spreading the word right there.” he shrugs and points behind him, “Speaking of.”

The shorter hasn’t even turned around completely when someone starts hugging him tight. Suki gives him drunk kisses on the cheek while Seonho only rolls his eyes watching them.

“Oh, my lovely birthday boy.” she purrs drunkenly. Kyungsoo clicks his tongue but ends up grinning anyway.

“Your fake boyfriend is spreading rumors that he baked for you.” Chase squints his eyes on him, “Please tell me it’s a lie and you still have your apartment.”

“He loved it, I even took a picture of him eating it like a cow.”

“He didn’t filter the flour but it’s the effort that counts, I guess.” Soo taunts at him, “Now I thought we’re here to get drunk? Why are y’all settling with beers?”

“Oh my god, he’s actually treating us!”

The three of them collectively shout in happiness, so desperate for free drinks. Soo only shakes his head in embarrassment. Seonho is even faking tears like how he usually does when Soo’s being nice.

“I’m going to fucking cry.” he says while wiping his eyes.

“Shut up. Now order whatever the hell you like before I change my mind.” the other two wasted no time and immediately made their way to the bar counter after giving him a hard, teasing kisses on his cheeks. Seonho naturally wraps an arm around his shoulder while holding a bottle of beer in his hand where Soo casually drinks from.

“You’re a lot nicer than the usual.” the taller raises a brow when he smiles, “Care to share what’s making you so smiley?”

“Well…” he flashes a cocky expression, “I closed a deal with two manufacturers today, including Decorilla.” he grins even more when he sees the impressed look on Seonho, “And did I also mention Kati Curtis? No big deal, really.”

“Wow.”

Soo’s cheeky smile is blinding, “They liked my furniture designs too, Seonho. They said they’re willing to negotiate if ever I pursue.”

“That’s fucking awesome, Soo. You’ve always wanted that, didn’t you?” he faces him, looking so in awe. Soo prevents his smile from getting bigger but he just can’t help it, especially when the taller hugs him tight. “I’m so happy for you.”

He buries his face on his chest despite hearing the teasing whistle from Jeremy who walked past them being lovey-dovey. He has such an overwhelming feeling all over his body as if it’s flying high. This is what he has always wanted to do. And now he’s actually beginning to get appreciated for what he’s truly passionate about.

“Yes, so we should celebrate tonight then—” he looks up at Seonho and sees him intently staring somewhere, “Seonho?”

“Stay here.” he says and pulls him away to run to the exit. Soo doesn’t get the chance to react fast, watching in surprise until he’s out of his sight.

He’s still spacing out when his two friends walk to where he is, probably after seeing Seonho left, too. Soo starts blinking rapidly.

“Where did he go?”

“I don’t know.” Soo shakes his head.

“Maybe he needed to take a call. He’ll come back.” Chase assures them casually.

“No… I don’t think so.” Kyungsoo becomes uneasy, “Should we check?”

Chase reassures him again and Suki’s already a bit tipsy. Soo doesn’t feel less worried so he decides to check by himself.

“I’ll be back.”

He quickly walks out of Vanguard, trying to look for Seonho in front of the bar entrance. He gets nervous when he doesn’t see him. Then he walks around, sighing in relief when he sees the taller at the street side. He’s standing still while staring at the end of the road where cars continuously pass by.

“Hey, what is it?” he flinches when Soo appears beside him, “What’s wrong?”

Seonho glances at the same way before shaking his head, offering a little smile.

“Nothing. I just thought it’s someone I knew.” Soo’s brows furrowed at this.

“From work? Old colleague?”

Seonho rapidly blinks, “Yeah, yeah, from work.” he says and rests his hand on his shoulder, “Let’s go back…”

 

They did have a blast, anyway. Aside from Seonho looking around the bar every now and then, nothing weird happened for the rest of the night. His birthday was finally complete and well-spent. At past 1AM, the four of them decided to go home because they all have work a few hours from now, even joking about which of them would possibly end up ditching it because of being hammered.

Chase volunteered to drive Suki home. So they directly went back to their apartment with Seonho driving like usual. Except this time, he seems to be more silent.

“Hey,” he starts off when they stopped in front of their apartment building, “everything’s fine, right?”

“Yes…” Seonho says while staring at the wheel, failing to convince him even more.

“You look dumb.”

“Yes—I mean, Soo—let me ask you a question.” he says incoherently while looking so conflicted. Soo shifts sideways to face him, “So I have this friend, right…”

“You mean you?” he grins when he recognized the usual situational question. Seonho shakes his head frantically.

“No! As in a work friend of mine…” Soo finds it ridiculous, to be honest. But he tries to be serious and hear what he has to say, “and she has an ex.”

“Which ex is it?” he asks, still insisting it’s Seonho.

“No, come on! I said it’s not me! It’s my friend.” Seonho frantically explains that gets him chuckling, “Be serious, Soo. It was a…you know, bad breakup. Disastrous. Catastrophe. And then…” he gulps in between, “they see each other again.” his breath hitches when Soo simply looks at him, confused. “What do you think she should’ve done?”

He exhales, “Seriously, Seonho…this is ridiculous.”

“No, just—try putting yourself on her shoes.” Soo raises a brow, when Seonho seems to be so desperate for answer. “What would you do?”

It takes him a while to think, putting himself on the situation. But he immediately regrets it when it gets connected to one person in the past that seems to make it more relatable.

“Well…” he looks down and Seonho doesn’t blink because of anticipation, “I think—”

A phone call interrupts his response, earning an annoyed cuss from Seonho when he gets it from his pocket. Soo continues to think about the question on his seat when he heard a gentle answer.

“Auntie?” he looks at Seonho and the taller is already staring at him with his phone still on his ear. Kyungsoo feels the urge to hop off the car and walk ahead of him inside, until he hears the worry all over Seonho’s tone. “What’s wrong?”

Soo watches him, lips pursed in a thin line.

“O-Okay… I’ll tell him.” he starts shaking his head, even without Seonho saying a thing yet. But he still tries to hand Kyungsoo his phone despite the latter refusing it, “Soo, please... She’s crying hard. Maybe something happened…”

With his heart beating frantically against his chest, Soo glances down at the phone. He will never be ready to talk to any of them again. But he still can’t help being afraid when he heard about his mother crying, so getting strength from Seonho’s encouraging eyes, he takes the call.

“Mom…” he tries to keep his voice firm even when he starts shattering into pieces because of his mother’s painful crying, “No, I told you, I’m not going back.”

And then he freezes, hearing his mother’s words that completely takes his already shortened breath away.

“W-What?”

He looks at Seonho beside him, whose eyes begin widening when he sees the tears forming in Kyungsoo’s eyes.

 

Chapter Text

"How is he now?"

With still a stinging pain on both his eyes, he tries to lift his gaze up from having his face buried between his palms.

"Still unconscious..." he mumbles, voice a little hoarse. It's now past 2AM yet all the lights in their living room are on, with both Seonho and him sitting across each other in an agonizing silence.

The taller is sitting straight on the couch, looking serious and conflicted as he is. Soo feels even more guilty. He should've been resting now but he's getting dragged into his mess.

"It was his second attack, but it was fatal this time. The doctors said the effects would be observed further once he wakes up."

"Your Mom and sister..." Seonho rests his elbows on his thighs, looking more attentive. "Where are they staying?"

Soo swallows hard just by the mention of it, feeling his heart crushed into pieces.

"The bank had let them stay in the mansion for now because of what happened. But the notice was just on hold." he tries to keep his voice firm but it ends up shattering once again, "I-It's terrible... I f-feel so fucking terrible."

"Soo, it's not your fault." Seonho reassures him for another time. He doesn't feel comforted by it so he remains silent, biting his lower lip while hot tears still form in the corner of his eyes.

He hears a sigh from Seonho before he feels him close, kneeling on the carpet right in front of him while his wrists get taken into his warm hands.

"Stop blaming yourself. No one wanted it to happen."

"I-I never cared to know about my family going bankrupt or the firm's downfall... my own father almost died of stroke, Seonho. And now my mom and sister are begging for a place to live because even our own house is paid for a debt!" he croaks out desperately, getting pulled to a tight embrace as he heaves. "They're the ones suffering for what should be my father's consequence. And where am I? I'm on the other side of the world... I-I should be there with Sukyung, with my Mom..."

Seonho couldn’t give an instant response. It’s like he doesn’t know what possible words could comfort Soo this time, and it’s totally understandable for the latter. This is just too fucked.

"But you don't have to force yourself to go back if you still can't." he mumbles gently after slightly pulling away, "I can go there and fix some things. Maybe my parents can help the—"

"N-No... don't." Soo immediately shakes his head while sniffing, "You've done too much for me. I don't want this to be your burden, too. Let me."

"I thought we already talked about not counting favors?"

"I know that, Seonho. Still..." he sighs in between hard gulps, "T-This is different. I should be the one acting on this now. I want to stop hiding." he says even when it’s too hard. He isn’t ready to go back and they both know that, "I can't let them do this to my family... especially to my sister. For fuck's sake, she's still a minor. I can't fucking believe Dad even considered that option to save his falling empire."

"Soo..."

"Just goes to show how he never cared about us."

"Come on, Soo... I know you're mad, but that's not fair." Seonho seriously tells him, "I'm sure he never wanted it. He was desperate and blinded by these dirty offers. We don't know if he really did agree or not."

Kyungsoo can’t help looking at him sharply, carried away by his emotions.

"He's going to make Sukyung marry some middle-aged businessman just to save his glory! To even fathom that idea is sickening to me!"

Without trying to argue, Seonho only falls silent. He stares into space, in deep thought about something while Soo fails to notice.

"Did... your Mom mention any other company offering a deal?" he asks while slowly blinking.

"Yes..." he mumbles that gets Seonho looking at him intently. He becomes extra attentive, "But I didn't get to ask further. All she was able to detail was that absurd marriage deal and risky stock investments."

"Ah..." the taller looks at the carpet while slowly nodding. "did she mention which other company is that?"

"No..." Soo doesn’t understand the sudden curiosity from the other but he’s probably just looking into some other ways like him, "but she mentioned it's a huge one. I didn't ask the name. She said that one was still private and uncertain because that was my father's last meeting a few days before he collapsed, so no one really knew except him and his advisor." now he sees how Seonho’s eyes slightly widen for a moment but he’s not sure if he’s only imagining things, "I'll probably find out about that one once we talk to his lawyer or once he wakes up."

"Okay..." he finally looks at Seonho’s face that seems so bothered.

"Why?"

"Nothing..." he forces a reassuring smile, "So... when should we book a flight?"

The little smile he has eventually falters when the shorter lets out a heavy sigh.

"Seonho, you have a job." Kyungsoo says, "I'll go on my own."

"Soo, I'm not letting you go there alone! We've talked about this—"

"We are not applying any of our rules here anymore, okay?" he declares without any hesitation, "I'll be even more burdened if I know that you're wasting your time for my problems."

"I want to do that for you so it's not really wasting time."

Soo shifts sideway to face him properly, looking straight at Seonho’s frowning face.

"I've been depending on you for the past eight years, Seonho." he firmly points out, "It's time to do things on my own again. I can do it. Please... let me."

With the determination and certainty in his eyes, Seonho shakes his head once, defeated.

"You always win." he leans back with drooped down shoulders, "Now, when are you leaving?"

He can never prepare himself for what he’s about to face, so might as well do it as soon as he can.

Get it all over with, as soon as possible.

"I guess I won't wait for this week to end."

x

 

 True enough, Friday of the same week comes and Kyungsoo’s already in JFK, waiting for his flight to be called. Seonho trails behind him while pulling his small luggage.

When he’s almost boarding, he finally smiles at the taller boy who’s looking too serious. For the past week, Soo has tried to loosen up about it, but Seonho seems more uptight than ever. It kinda amuses him.

"Make sure you call me once you landed, okay?" he says with a very worried look on his face that Soo can’t help grinning at, "I'm serious. I know you don't use your stupid phone most of the time but I want you to change that habit now. You have to respond every time I call and text or else I'll be worried."

Kyungsoo shakes his head while chuckling, just to tease him further.

"I'm serious, Soo." Seonho hisses before rolling his eyes, "Anyway, I'll probably file for a leave and follow you there anyway."

"Now don't you dare do that." Soo utters threateningly, yet there’s still a trace of smile on his lips to reassure his best friend for the nth time. "Seonho, do you see my luggage? It's not even a quarter of my closet in the apartment. I won't take too long there. As soon as I fix this mess and made sure Mom and Sukyung are fine again, I'll fly back in an instant."

"Yeah, right."

"I'm serious, too." he doesn’t even know why Seonho seems doubtful about it. He’ll come back here soon, he’s sure. "This is where my life is now. I'm going back whatever happens."

When his flight gets called, he finally smiles cheekily at Seonho who can only pull him for a tight embrace.

"I'm going to miss you." the taller tells him with his softie tone exclusively for Soo, "I guess I'll have to live with food deliveries from now on..."

"It's okay as long as you stay away from the kitchen." he pulls away while scrunching his nose when he sees the worry still etched all over Seonho’s face, "And Seonho, don't forget to clean the house once in a while, please. Wash your dishes you lazy fuck."

"I will, as long as you don't drive."

He chuckles dryly, "Do you think I'd try? I don't know shit about that."

Seonho pouts a little before pulling him for another half-assed hug.

"God, see how much we need each other?" he groans and finally gives him a gentle push when his flight gets called again, "Go on now before I hold you back completely. Don't forget to call me, I'll help whenever I can. You don't even have to use Code Red if you want me to fly there."

"Shut up, I need to go." Soo yanks his luggage away, "Never have sex on my bed. I know you'll try because my room is cleaner but I'll know it and I'll kill you."

"Ugh, whatever you sex-deprived ass." Seonho waves a hand at him, trying to conceal his sadness with a grin when Soo begins stepping away. "Bye for now."

Both their playful smiles falter when they turn away from each other. Soo can completely worry now, without having to reassure Seonho that he’ll be fine even when he’s not really sure about it. He hasn’t even entered the plane and he’s already having severe anxiety.

Seonho on the other hand, looks at the luggage Soo is pulling away, hoping that it’s indeed enough.

x

 

It’s almost six in the evening when he landed at Seoul the next day. Kyungsoo was restless for the majority of his flight, not able to sleep for too long because of overthinking. Now that he’s here, walking towards the exact same spot where he and Seonho were standing almost eight years ago, his head starts throbbing from unwanted memories.

He already acquainted himself with the reality of his new life. He’s not Do Kyungsoo from a chaebol family anymore. He won’t be welcomed by a bunch of security personnel and have his baggage carried. There’s no exclusive landing area, or private jet. He flied economy in his old baggy sweater that’s quite small for him now.

No luxurious car and driver waiting, so he hails a cab outside the airport, giving the address of the house that he memorized.

Soo goes back to spacing out. He still doesn’t have an idea on what he would say to his mother once she sees him. He decided not to tell her he’s coming back now because knowing his Mom, she’ll overprepare for it. Soo would rather have her focused on taking care of his Dad.

He doesn’t want his arrival to be much of a big deal. He won’t stay for too long, anyway.

Kyungsoo didn’t even realize that the firm is along the way from the airport. So when the taxi passed by the tall tower with a huge marble statue in front, he finds himself staring at it for too long. A bile begins forming in his throat, so he needed to look away from the window even when the car gets farther from it.

He allows his thoughts to wander back to the boy he was eager to keep in his repressed memory. For some reason, seeing the tower made him remember every single thing about him. Every single question he had for the past eight years— how is he doing? Where is he now? Having such a big imagination, Soo has always envisioned him to be a successful architect now. He’s probably far from this place, especially that the firm he used to look up to is now failing. Bigger companies probably gave him more opportunities. He’s probably happy now with his life.

Good for him, Kyungsoo thinks.

The taxi stops in front of a familiar gate. Soo doesn’t notice the taxi driver watching him through the mirror while he gets a bill from his wallet.

"I've seen this mansion from the news." the driver tells him when he gave the payment, "Do you know the owners?"

Soo blinks slowly, "Ah..."

"You're the business tycoon's first child, aren't you?" he sounded nosy while squinting his eyes, "The one who rebelled and ran away? You resemble him."

Badly wanting to roll his eyes, Soo just decided not to take it too seriously. He’s probably another bored netizen waiting for a gossip.

"No, I'm not. I'm applying as their security guard." he seriously says that makes the driver even more confused. Kyungsoo hops out of the car before the man can even ask another question, "Thanks, keep the change."

It took a while before someone opens the small part of the gate for him. The security staff looked confused for a moment upon seeing him, but as soon as he figures out why the petite boy looks familiar, his eyes widen. The employee shifts to the side to make way for him.

The big house is already quiet, but the few remaining staffs become speechless because of his sudden presence. Last time he was here, every corner has a staff standing by. Now, he can only count them with his hands. Most of them aren’t even familiar to him.

"Sir..." an old caretaker of theirs finally greets him when he got inside. He gives her a timid smile before looking around the almost empty house.

"Where's Mom?"

"At the hospital, Sir. She left with Sukyung this morning." he slowly nods and awkwardly watches another staff taking his luggage to his old room. He looks at their old caretaker who’s still watching him in awe.

"Is there an available car and driver to bring me there?"

"Uh..." the woman smiles sheepishly, "The only car left was used by your Mom, too, Sir."

He slowly nods and even his quick approval seems so surprising for them.

"Okay." he gets his phone to get a Kakao Taxi instead, "I'll just take the cab."

He endures the next few minutes of attention from the employees, especially the new ones he hasn’t properly met yet. After all, no one’s expecting his arrival. But when he starts getting annoyed with the subtle looks, he chooses to wait for the taxi at the village entrance instead.

When he got inside another taxi for the day, the look from the driver is already too familiar to him. Soo badly wants to groan while taking his earplugs out for a few minutes of pretending.

"Are you the son o—" he shoves both pieces in his ears and acts like he didn’t hear a thing.

x

 

"Do Kanghyun." he told the hospital receptionist who easily found the room information because of the familiarity of the name.

"Private room 412, Sir."

Even on his way to the said room, he’s still trying to come up with words to begin with. It’s too hard. He never thought this will happen too soon, or maybe even at all.

He stiffly stood in front of the same room for almost a minute, gulping repeatedly before finally knocking. Kyungsoo uneasily clutches his hands when he hears a muffled sound of footsteps approaching from the inside.

Mrs. Do opens the door for him. But her blank face shifts into a shock one upon seeing her son after so long. The moment stops, yet he’s still able to see the exhaustion from his mother. Her beautiful, long hair stuck in his memory is now cut shorter, and her usual glow before is gone now.

It’s suddenly hard to even open his lips.

"O-Oh my god..." she gasps with tears pooling in her eyes, "S-Soo?"

Soo tries to blink his own. Hearing his mother’s breaking voice hurts him in so many ways and the only thing he could do when he finally gains the courage to move is step forward and allow her to pull him for a suffocating hug. His mother quietly cries against his shoulder, probably not to break the silence in the room. But by the way she desperately grasps his shirt, it’s enough to imply how much she’s been yearning for him.

She pulls away, face still stained with tears while she holds both his cheeks. "A-Are you really back? I'm s-so happy... I m-missed you terribly, Soo..."

He had to grit his teeth harder upon seeing his father on the bed, with machines around him while he’s in deep slumber. Soo quickly looks back to his Mom when it became unwatchable for him.

"I'm sorry..." Soo tries not to cry while shaking his head, but it takes a lot of effort without having to avoid looking at his mother. "I'm so sorry..."

"It's okay..." she smiles before giving him another quick hug, "Y-You're here now. I'm just happy you're here..."

He lets her hold him until she’s satisfied, until she’s finally convinced it’s real that he’s here. Right then, she finally pulls away.

"Where's Sukyung?" he asks when he observed every corner of the room without seeing anyone else with them.

"O-Oh... she just bought food for us outside. I'll text her to buy you some as well! Wait..." Mrs. Do becomes panicky because of his presence, walking around the room to fix things she doesn’t really need to. While wiping her face, she taps the nearby couch and makes sure it’s neat for Kyungsoo, "Come, sit here... I'm sure you're tired from your flight... H-Here..."

He watches her in confusion, "Don't you have someone to do that for you?"

"W-Well..." she wipes her hands on her sides while forcing a sheepish smile, "We don't really have much staffs left. We had downsizing recently to cut the expenses short..." now Soo finally recalls the very few staffs left in the mansion, "I told most of them to stay in the mansion so... they can guard it there. B-But... it's okay, Sukyung and I can manage here."

He gets a better look of her, finally noticing her big weight loss. His mother uneasily looks away.

"Have you been taking a rest?" he asks while watching her turning away to fix the table, "You don't look fine to me, Mom."

"I am..." she chuckles without even looking at him, "I'm okay, don't worry."

He sits on the nearby chair instead, "So how is he?"

"Oh, I forgot to mention! He woke up the other night." he hates how she tries sounding enthusiastic about it. Because to be honest, it didn’t lessen their piling problems, "Your father finds it difficult to speak s-so he's still under observation. But it's fine, right? A-At least he woke up."

"Mom." he sighs before speaking with complete honesty, "I didn't come here to expect good news. You don't need to sugarcoat things for me, I can take them. I'm here to help you so I need you to be honest."

When she realized there’s no point lying to her son, Mrs. Do weakly sits on the edge of her husband’s bed. Her shoulders heave.

"I'm j-just... so desperate, Soo." she bites her lower lip and shakes her head, "I-I don't know what to do anymore. Everything's falling apart. As m-much as I want to crumble down and give up, I-I can't... Sukyung needs me. Your father needs all of us with him this time."

The exhaustion from the long flight begins kicking in. Soo rubs the bridge of his nose.

"Who holds the firm now?"

"Your Dad's VP is handling the processes for now." she replies, "But most of the board members and investors withdrew when the smuggling news got out. Now there are so many onhold projects and client deals that cost a lot of money. Most of the stocks are out in the market but no one's really interested on them now... which is understandable." Mrs. Do briefly pauses to take another gulp, "Your father was trying to work on it all night until his attack. That's why majority of the decisions for the firm were put on hold."

He can picture it very well, his father desperately working the whole night in his office until he got into this situation. All alone, while using all his strength to save the firm from its downfall. It doesn’t help his throbbing head.

"Is he going to jail then?"

His mother cringes when he didn’t bother lowering his voice for the question. Before she answers, she glances behind to check if the Chairman is still asleep.

"I don't know... He stopped getting involved with that syndicate almost eight years ago... and the leader had also been caught. But that's not enough to clear his name. The police are coming every now and then even before he got in the hospital. Along with his debts, they're pushing him to cooperate on solving open cases involving those smugglers." his mother shuts her eyes, obviously worried. "I-I pray that he doesn't... your father worked hard to change these ways long time ago. He doesn't deserve to be in jail given this situation..."

Kyungsoo leans back while processing everything he just learned. He can barely think of a definite solution.

"So what are our options? What can we do?"

Mrs. Do blinks a few times before looking at him.

"Your father is desperate to save the firm... no matter how hard it would be."

Soo chuckles sarcastically. Of course, he is. It shouldn’t be surprising, right?

"So marrying his only daughter off to some rich businessman is one of his options?" acid drips from his voice this time, "Mom, did you agree to this? Do you know how old is Sukyung?"

"They promised not to force it until she's of age and she decides on her own. But—"

"You barely know the man!" he straightens up again out of frustration, "And it's still more than two years until she comes of age, do you think they won't take advantage of her 'til then? I can't believe this is even considered!"

His mother lets out a deep sigh, but it’s obvious that she understands where he’s coming from.

"Soo... I didn't agree." she gently tells him, "And I know your father didn't, too. He was having the hardest time so he was confused of his options. I'm sure he will never do that to Sukyung."

"Yeah, right." he leans back, choosing to drift away from the topic before he snaps again, "And how about the big company you also mentioned? Although I know all these businessmen offering us deals are up to no good, maybe they have a more reasonable offer."

"Like I said, it was your father's last meeting before this happened." she explains, as if she’s desperate to know everything about it, too. Because it might be their only hope this time. "His lawyer isn't back to Korea until tomorrow, he'll go straight here to discuss about it."

Kyungsoo doesn’t ask anything else anymore. For now, he can only hope that this unknown offer will be reasonable unlike the rest. They are desperate, yes. But it shouldn’t give anyone a right to abuse their situation.

He would have to wait until tomorrow to confirm that.

"Soo..." he stops spacing out when his Mom walks to where he is, reaching for his hand. "I know the past years weren't good between you and your father but I'm begging you again..." she speaks with so much hope, "Please be more patient with him this time. He's not well. I don't want you hurting each other again. I don't want to lose either of you, please."

Soo doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t want to break her heart again, neither to give her any false hope that it would be that easy.

Things will never be the same again, how does he tell her that?

"I'm just here to help." he mutters without looking straight into her encouraging eyes. He can’t promise anything because even the help he could give is uncertain, too.

But seeing the happiness from his Mom now that he’s here, Soo allows himself to be relieved even just for a bit. He feels like he’s doing something right, at least.

"I'm sure he'll be happy to see you back. I know that." she says with a reassuring smile. Kyungsoo grips her hand back.

He looks at his father on the hospital bed, with tubes attached to him while he sleeps soundly. Soo doesn’t speak anymore.

x

 

That day, he didn't wait for his father to wake up for his presence to be seen. When his Mom offered him to take a rest at home, he didn't try saying no. After all, the atmosphere among all of them is not setting in yet.

Sukyung only acknowledged his presence with a blank face, receiving the embrace awkwardly. She's far from what Soo had imagined her to grow up. She seems very mature now, taking more of their father's features. That's why she looks more unapproachable and avoidant.

Soo didn't try forcing into more uneasiness, deciding to explain everything he'd done and apologize once he gets a proper moment with his sister.

The next day, he decided to go to the hospital before lunch, giving Seonho the details he knew first thing in the morning. The said man seemed to be eagerly waiting for his call even when it's probably late at night in New York.

"Did you already ask which big company is that?" was his first question.

"Oh, I forgot again." Soo responded while standing in front of the village's gate, waiting for the Kakao Taxi. "But Dad's lawyer is coming today, so he'll discuss about that. I'll tell you after."

"Ah..." he paused meaningfully, "Soo... remember not to trust easily even if their offer is good, okay?" his brows creased when Seonho sounded too crucial about it, "I mean... any of the companies that offered you... remember that."

"Of course." he chuckled while opening the taxi door, "Why are you so serious?"

He arrived at SNUH just in time for lunch. Soo casually enters the hospital room, only stopping on his tracks when he sees his father sitting up on his bed, awake while his Mom prepares his lunch.

Soo immediately avoids his gaze, but he didn't fail to catch the way the old man's eyes changed upon seeing him. An uncomfortable silence engulfs the room. He even caught Sukyung's eyes traveling between the two of them.

He chooses to walk towards the chair in the corner, trying to escape the situation until his mother gently calls him.

"Soo..." she looks at him with an encouraging smile, "your Dad."

Kyungsoo slightly grits his teeth. What exactly does she want him to do? Wait for him to be acknowledged by the old man? Embrace him? Act like a son?

Once again, he looks at his father who's been staring at him now. He looks so frail and thin compared to the last time he saw him. The usual cold eyes are now slightly glistening, yet Soo can't still figure out what he's thinking. Many years ago, Kyungsoo secretly wished for moments where they're complete as a family. Isn't it funny? It's happening now, in a hospital room with nothing but a deafening silence.

The man that used to make the most out of his words to hurt his son is now completely mummed because he finds it difficult to speak or even move his lips.

It's ironic how Soo feels a pang in his chest because of it.

He almost exhales in relief when a knock comes on the door. Soo takes initiative to go and open it so his mother will finally get the clue. He sees a short man in his fifties holding a fruit basket while timidly smiling. Soo figures out that the man must be his father's lawyer so he holds the door and makes way for him.

The lawyer greets them all before gently tapping his father's shoulder. Chairman Do is back to looking stoic this time, like how he always is when someone else is around. As if he always needs to be in business mode.

"Attorney." Soo's mother gently reaches for his arm to pull him closer, "This is my eldest, Kyungsoo."

"Oh..." his lips part in awe while slowly nodding. Kyungsoo noticed this and blinks in confusion, "Of course. I'm glad you're back."

He clears his throat and raises a brow at the lawyer who's still observing him, "Shall we talk now?"

Mrs. Do blinks a few times, glancing at her husband on the bed before sheepishly smiling.

"Uhm... it's better if we do it outside? There's a café at the second floor." she suggests, not waiting for their response as she turns to Sukyung. "Sukyung-ah, look after your father."

The young girl simply nods and takes over feeding her Dad. The three of them walk out of the room, with only Mrs. Do talking nonstop. Soo only tries to listen and grasp some information behind them until they reach the said café.

As they settle down and order their coffee, the lawyer clears his throat and speaks.

"So Chairman Do agreed to a deal before this happened." he starts off, "He and the President had already come to terms in a single meeting."

"What company?" Kyungsoo asks.

"KJI Industries."

The name rings a bell in his head, but he doesn't really know how. His mother's surprised gasp catches his attention before he could even recall it.

"It was KJI?" she makes it seem like a big deal while Kyungsoo barely has an idea what it is.

"Yes."

"They offered to help?" she asks with slightly widening eyes.

"I'm sorry, I haven't really heard of it." Soo interrupts while slowly shaking his head, "Can you enlighten me?"

"It's the top architectural firm in the country now. They built a lot of high-end buildings around the world in only a few years. They also began expanding into construction, engineering and more chains of businesses." the lawyer explains. It got his brows raising in intrigue, "The CEO's offer was too good, probably why your father agreed."

Ah, that seventy year-old man Seonho was looking at Google a week ago. Now he remembers.

"What was the offer?"

"Aside from helping you get your mansion back, he already bought the major stocks of the firm." he says, "And his plan is to make it a subsidiary of KJI."

What? A small frown graces Kyungsoo's face. How is it still an offer when it's already done, anyway?

So the only thing left is the payment...

He's not feeling good about this.

"And how is that a good offer?" he can't help saying, "He basically took the firm and made it his own."

"For now." the lawyer declares as if it could assure him, "But despite that, he won't be changing the name. It still carries your father's mark. He'll be using it to launch an interior and furniture designing company that will expand not just here but to other countries."

Soo remains looking skeptic. It doesn't sound right to him in a slightest bit.

"But why?" his mother expresses the same thoughts, "KJI is massively successful. Why would they want to use the firm for a step so big? Isn't it risky?"

"I know, but I wouldn't underestimate the CEO. He never failed on this. I don't really understand as well but it seems like Chairman Do trusts him so much." he then elaborates, "He promised that once the launch becomes successful, he'll give half of the major stocks back to your family and will let you gain your control back over the firm. I guess that's what enticed your father the most."

There's a brief silence among them, but his mother gasps in relief this time as if she's completely enchanted with the offer.

"Wow..." she mutters in awe, "That's a relief, right?"

No, it's not a relief, Kyungsoo thinks. A huge favor like this only means one thing.

"What does he want in return?" he can't help sounding doubtful this time, earning him a look from his mother beside him but Soo doesn't budge. "There has to be something... right?"

The lawyer raises both his brows as if he remembers something.

"Ah, speaking of that." he pauses briefly, his gaze settling on Kyungsoo. "I was relieved that you were easily convinced to go back."

Mrs. Do giggles jokingly, "Does he want to marry Soo this time?"

"Mom." Kyungsoo scolds. He can't believe the idea of having her son marry some old CEO seems fascinating to her.

"Just kidding, honey. But I won't really disagree if ever, I mean..." she coos as if she's clearly picturing a beautiful image. She stops when her son sends her a serious look, "Sorry, I'll keep quiet..."

Soo looks at the lawyer again, anticipating whatever he's going to say.

"He only wants you to be one of the founding designers for the launch." now his face contorts into a more visible frown, "That's it, he wants you to work for the firm's relaunching."

"He wants me to work for him, you mean?" he blinks, still confused. "Wait. How did he even know I'm a designer?"

Now even the lawyer seems bewildered by it, too. "Ah..."

Soo accusingly looks at his mother beside him, "Mom, did you tell?"

She shakes her head. Now he's even more baffled by this deal.

"Well maybe he's heard of you before?" the lawyer proposes.

In response, he firmly shakes his head. That would be weird. His career in New York was only starting. And if he really heard of him and found his works, why was he curious in the first place? Why Kyungsoo?

"That doesn't make any sense." he sighs after slightly spacing out, "When is the launch, by the way?"

"They're planning it second quarter, next year."

"What?!" he exclaims and some of the people nearby glances at them, "I can't commit to that! I don't live here. I have a job at New York, clients that—"

"Honey, calm down." his Mom grasps his arm when he started stiffening. She looks at the lawyer and tries to make amends, "Maybe Soo can work overseas every now and then. He only needs his designs, right? He doesn't need to actually..."

"Well... that's the problem, I guess." the lawyer says sheepishly when he sees the panic all over the younger's face, "He needs to work full time for the firm, every day, on every project. They're willing to provide anything you may need; a closer unit, materials, allowances and good pay, anything. But you have to fully commit on the job and provide the designs demanded."

Kyungsoo hates how they try to make him feel like it's a good bargain, and that this company is a huge deal for him to react like this. Maybe it is. But he didn't work his ass off for so many years just to be recognized because of his father's downfall. He wants to build his own name and career because of his talent. This setup will surely not let him do that.

"What are his other conditions? Maybe we can compensate on that..."

His shoulders droop down when the lawyer shakes his head, "He only wants one thing. That's it."

He gasps in disbelief.

"Well I can't do that! Why me? I'm not leaving my job at New York to stay here for so long." Soo frantically shakes his head when frustration consumes him, "There has to be another way!"

His life isn't here anymore. And in a snap, he'll be forced to stay here for more than a year? Without any assurance that he can leave after? This is absurd! He didn't begin a new life successfully just to be dragged back to the place he already escaped.

"I'm afraid we don't really have any other choice..." Attorney Son sighs, "The CEO sounded so firm about it, and your father already agreed and signed a contract."

Now all his hope has crumbled down to the floor. Soo can only chuckle in disbelief. It was all decided without him. Without him who will do all this shit.

"So I didn't even get a say on this when I'm the bait! I can't believe this... Dad really had it convenient, huh?" he clutches his hands into fists, "Then what if I don't comply?"

Mrs. Do remains silent on where she sits, conflicted and afraid to either lose everything they have or make her son drift away from them again.

"Aside from another breach of contract..." Attorney Son gently speaks, "He'll take back whatever help he's given, including the firm and your house."

His mother shifts to face him, reaching for his hand. "S-Soo..." she can't help pleading.

Soo finds it hard to gulp so he clenches his jaw. Realization dawns upon him— he doesn't have a way out on this. His mother's begging eyes make it even clearer. He knows he chose to help, but not this way. Not to be stuck in a helpless situation.

He wants to laugh bitterly. His father did it again. Nothing really changed because he’s back to where he started— being controlled.

"This is so damn unfair... I wasn't even consulted on this shit." he mumbles, badly wanting to cry. "And now he's threatening us?"

"All or nothing, really." it seems hard for the lawyer to break it to them, too. "But that's how he's winning on business, I guess."

Soo doesn't give a shit on how good he is in business. The man basically manipulated his conflicted father and took them hostage with all of these favors. The only bottomline of this deal is that it sucks and he wants to fucking kill himself now, or maybe take that cunning old businessman with him.

Silence comes in again. The two elders can only watch him while he buries his face on his hands, thinking hard about it. Soo thinks about his job, Seonho, their friends, their apartment, bartending, every fucking thing this will cost him. He's aware he doesn't really have a choice but he just has to let it sink in.

When it takes him a while, Attorney Son clears his throat. "So..."

"I wanna go outside." he declares with a heavy breath. He doesn't wait for a response from any of them as he stands up, "Let me think about this for a while, it's too much to take in."

"Soo..." his Mom stands up as well and touches his wrist. She tries to give him a reassuring smile, "You don't have to force yourself, o-okay? We'll think of some other way if you don't really want to..."

"Uh, there's really no other way." the lawyer interrupts that gained him a sharp look from Mrs. Do herself. It's absolutely an insensitive thing to say right now but he's not wrong either.

His Mom turns to him again to smile and oppose what the man said, "I'm sure there is."

Kyungsoo stares at her in defeat. He's reminded of why he's doing this in the first place. For his Mom. For Sukyung.

"Maybe Dad wouldn't have sold me like this if there is, Mom." her expression softens when Soo flashes a bitter smile, "I'll go out for a while."

He walks out of the hospital and finds himself in a small convenience store nearby. Soo buys himself a pack of cigarettes. He doesn't usually smoke, only a stick or two when he's too stressed over work or deadlines. Now he feels like he needs a whole pack to relieve himself from all the fiasco he got himself into.

Kyungsoo sits on a pavement of an empty smoking area near the hospital parking. With a summarized version of what happened, he messaged Seonho. He doesn't expect a response because it's already past midnight at New York, he only felt like letting it out at least. But then five minutes later, he gets an incoherent reply.

From: Seonho

WAHT?

Soo puffs another smoke, trying to imagine the taller sitting up from his bed with his exaggerated widening eyes. This makes him smile a little.

To: Seonho

Makes me think what if I listened to you and didn't go back. For once, I admit you were wiser.

God, no offense to my father but HE'S A FUCKING PRICK

He grits his teeth and sends it. His father is currently sick, yes, but he just has to say it. And before he can even forget, he adds more.

AND THAT CEO OF KJI WHOEVER THAT OLDIE IS

A PRICK

It takes a moment before he receives a bunch of texts from Seonho. He already finished a stick, thinking that his dumb friend already fell back asleep when his phone continuously vibrates.

From: Seonho

OH MY GOD IT'S

WHAT

WHAT?!?!!

I'M GOING TO CALL YOU. WAIT

Kyungsoo only had to chuckle because of Seonho overreacting. He probably got interrupted in between sleeping that's why he's extra weird. Soo dismisses more of his frantic texts and goes back inside the hospital. He's decided. He'll try speaking with the businessman himself and try to bargain once again. Maybe he can make amends.

To: Seonho

I'll just go back inside and call you instead. The signal is better there

Soo reaches the hall where his father's room is, but even when he's at the opposite side, he instantly noticed a bunch of security men lined up in front of the room. His brows cross.

From: Seonho

NO I NEED TO CZLL NOPW

"Hey," he doesn't respond to Seonho's even more incoherent messages and makes his way to the nearby nurses station instead, "what's going on there? Why is there a security?"

"I think a big businessman came in, Sir..." one of them answers despite looking uncertain, "Not really sure who it is, though. Do you want us to check?"

Kyungsoo's lips part in awe before timidly shaking his head.

"No...it's okay, thanks. I'll just go see it myself."

He already had an idea and it only gets confirmed when he hears it from the other people passing by, who happened to know the visitor too well. Soo hears the same familiar name— KJI.

His phone vibrates again.

From: Seonho

ANSWER THE PHONE N LITSEN TO ME????

He takes a moment to send Seonho a reply.

To: Seonho

Wait, geez. My father has a high-profile visitor, probably the freak CEO. I'll just check then call u back after

Not even ten seconds passed and an eager response comes in.

From: Seonho

NO

He chuckles a little before locking his phone. He lifts his gaze up and sees the security men preparing to leave. Soo takes another step forward, hoping he could talk to the important person before he completely leaves the hospital. But then all his courage shatters down when someone familiar, too known, finally comes out of his father's room.

He freezes on the same spot.

With his heart rummaging too hard against his chest, he still managed to hide himself in the nearby corner. His widening eyes are still fixed on the same person even when his phone vibrates from an incoming call. Soo doesn't notice it. He barely noticed anything else when the sight of the man completely gets him shaken to the core.

"No." he breathes, shaking his head. "F-Fuck me... f-fuck fuck."

Because even with an aura that screams too much formidability, a completely different and intimidating look, he knows he's not mistaken. He might look taller and bigger now, he might be in those designer suit and has a much longer hair, but he knows him too well. He spent so many of his years trying to erase this image in his mind but it only becomes too known to him. So Kyungsoo knows he can't be wrong. He wishes he is, but it's impossible.

"It can't be you... i-it can't." he turns away and walks anywhere far from there while continuously mumbling under his breath, almost bumping into people because of staring only on the floor. "It's not him, Soo... you're mistaken... he's poor. He c-can't possibly... fuck."

Maybe he's not who he thinks he is, Soo tries to reason out. Maybe he's assuming things. Maybe he's an assistant, representative, anything else other than the person Soo wishes he isn't. This can't be happening, for Pete's sake. Please don't do this to me, he begs.

Piece by piece, the puzzle starts making sense. His father easily trusting him, everyone being crazy over him, the success and manipulative ways, fucking KJI— of course. He can't believe he didn't figure it out. If he realized it earlier, then he could've avoided any chance of going back to this place.

Soo finds his way outside the hospital, typing on his phone with trembling fingers. The site instantly directs him to the articles related to the name he searched. His jaw clenches hard.

"No... no." he sits on the side of the building when the photos shown by the site are images of the same damn man, "FUCKING HELL."

He breathes heavily through his lips, eyes pooled with tears from both frustration and anger. His phone vibrates again with Seonho's call.

"Soo, don't go ther—"

"FUCKING HELL SEONHO."

The man on the other line pauses in shock, "W-Wait did—"

"THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING TO ME!" the people around start throwing him weird looks when he shouts in anger.

"Soo calm do—"

"I CAN'T FUCKING CALM DOWN I'M SO MAD I'M GOING TO KILL HIM." his knuckles turn white from clutching his hands too tightly.

"W-What?" Seonho stutters, not able to finish his sentence when Soo began being deaf for anything else but the rage in him. "Soo, don't do anything stupi—"

"I'M GOING TO KILL HIM RIGHT THIS INSTANT!" he shouts again and lets his feet take him towards the taxi bay.

"S-Soo—!" he harshly ends the call and signals a taxi drawing close. He's still seething, yet he managed to search for an address of a certain building.

He's not wasting any time. When the taxi starts moving, Kyungsoo looks at the distance with his bloodshot eyes, teeth harshly gritted.

"F-Fucking driver boy..." he croaks out while breathing heavily.

 

Chapter Text

 

“I was supposed to tell you, okay?” Seonho’s worried tone resonated in his ears while he buries his face in between his knees,“I just knew that you’d react like this so I didn’t know how to start.”

More people start passing by the pavement he’s currently sitting at. It’s probably almost the end of lunch break. Kyungsoo continuously gains weird looks because of the way he’s sitting on the sidewalk, looking so defeated.

Turns out Seonho had already known about Jongin owning this big company even before he left New York. Soo figures out why he looked so bothered when he looked up that supposedly old tycoon. Until now, Kyungsoo finds it hard to believe.

How did he manage to come this far? When he left this place, that man was just the son of his father’s old bodyguard. He was serving in a small diner. He even used him to gain some amount of money. How did he become like this?

And then Soo comes to think of it— it’s been eight years. That’s too long. Jongin might’ve played his way up within that time and considering the talent he has always possessed, it’s not really impossible.

Because of his silence, Seonho lets out another sigh from the other line.

“Soo, don’t be mad at me for this, come on.”

“I’m not mad, I’m just— I mean…” he heaves while rubbing the bridge of his nose, “not at you.”

He can’t go pointing fingers at anyone right now. It’s no one’s fault but that manipulative jerk and his father. They’re responsible for bringing him into this situation.

They’re the reason why he’s doomed.

“So what happened?” he asked, and being reminded of it makes him even more frustrated. “Did he talk to you?”

Soo lets out a bitter chuckle, “He enjoyed stepping on my dignity, I think.”

“What’s your plan, then?”

“I don’t know!” he exclaims, sounding even more discomfited. “I don’t know… I don’t want to do this. What happened today was already too much, Seonho. If I need to go through that kind of hell every day, I’d lose my goddamn mind.”

Seonho doesn’t say anything anymore. It’s like he’s worried that any word will make him more upset.

Kyungsoo stares at the ground, the realization that hits him only gets harder to process. He’s stuck, and there’s nothing he can do about it anymore.

“I can’t believe Dad did this to me again.” he mutters bitterly, “Wait, technically… he signed the contract, right? If I say no to this deal, then it would be his breach of contract, not mine. Maybe, I’ll just do that.” he says with so much determination but the words fail to make him better even for a bit.

“Really, Soo?”

“What? If he goes to jail, then he deserves it. He chose this.” Soo speaks relentlessly, “Maybe he thought he can make me pity him so he could go back to controlling me again like some sixteen year-old.” he grits his teeth and proceeds to convincing Seonho that it’s a feasible way. But they both know he’s convincing no one but himself, “If he goes to jail, I still have some savings left. I can use that to get my Mom and Sukyung a small place somewhere. I can provide for them. We don’t need him.”

“You can do that…” Seonho responds gently.

“Yeah…”

“But do you want to?” he adds that has Kyungsoo speechless,“Will it make you happy if you do that?”

The tone of his voice, and probably the words themselves made him gulp. He ends up asking himself the same question as well. Because can he really do it?

“Of course.”

The man from the other line doesn’t respond immediately, once again. He can very much picture Seonho’s expression even without actually seeing him. He always has this look whenever Soo does something impulsive or stupid (because it rarely happens, between the two of them at least). He won’t disagree or anything because he lets Soo follow his own choices, only barging in when it’s done to say I told you so.

“You know what I think? I think you should stop coming up with decisions for now. You’re mad. It won’t do you good.” he suggests with the same gentle tone, “Go back to your house now, sleep, then think about it once your mind is clear.”

It made Kyungsoo smile, at least. He suddenly realized how much he misses him, even wondering how he managed to last almost three days without the guy.

“When did you start bossing me around like a pro?” he asks, managing to turn the conversation into something lighter. It’s just half of the day and the strength in him has completely been drawn out by what happened.

“Since you decided to barge into a big tycoon’s office and make an embarrassing scene.”

“Argghhhh!” he groans as soon as he’s reminded of it. Seonho is indeed a pro of ruining a good momentum.

“Go on. Stop thinking about it for now.” he says like it’s easy,“You weren’t consulted on this. For sure, they won’t pressure you to immediately decide.”

 

Well, that’s what he thought.

Because it’s only Monday, and Attorney Son is back to their house to deliver another demanding news. As if his hourly phone calls to ask for Kyungsoo’s decision aren’t enough.

“They’re almost done with the restructuring of the firm.” Soo badly wants to roll his eyes again but he’s been doing it constantly for the past few days, “They need you to sign the contract now.”

He nonchalantly shrugs before sipping his coffee, “I haven’t decided yet.”

Both his mother and the lawyer share glances across the dining room. Before Attorney Son could even speak again, Mrs. Do clears her throat.

“Attorney, can you ask them just a few more days?” she asks for Soo, “This isn’t just any decision someone can easily make.”

“I’ve told them that, but they’re persistent. His representative told me that everything they do is consistently fast-paced so this shouldn’t affect it.” it’s obvious how the man tries keeping his tone from becoming condescending. After all, he had tried everything he could and anything they are yet to suggest, “They’re not really accommodating, you know? Everyone is meant to adjust for something like KJI, most of the time.”

“Well, I’m not everyone.” Soo speaks without hesitation, “I need more time and they should’ve thought about that before deciding for me.”

“But the CEO—”

“The CEO, Attorney, can go fuck himself.” he can’t help snapping back with a venomous smile on his face.

The lawyer’s shoulders can only droop down in defeat because of his hostile response.

“Soo…” his mother calls him, tone reprimanding. Kyungsoo finally leans back and only continues to drink his coffee, “Please, Attorney?”

Despite the obvious frustration, he nods at Mrs. Do’s request.

“Fine. I’ll see what I can do.”

He dials something on his phone as he walks outside.

Before his mother can scold him further, Kyungsoo stands up and goes back to his temporary room which is by the way— Sukyung’s room. His sister shares a room with his mother now because of him. Turns out his father decided to renovate his old room into another office when he left before, to bury everything that will remind anyone in the mansion of his rebellious son.

It’s not like it was necessary to do that but Soo appreciates the effort.

Pretending to keep himself busy with his unpacked luggage, Soo hears the door creaking behind him. He doesn’t flinch, hoping his utmost silence can help him escape another conversation about the dreaded topic.

“KJI only started a few years ago, but they already have hundreds of remarkable designs in and out of the country.” he slows down when his mother starts off with this. Her tone is reluctant, yet she proceeds. “I heard they also have the best designers and employees in all chain of businesses. They’re also said to give the best treatment and benefits out of any corporate setting here. Most of the nearby countries are seeking for their architectural and engineering services because they’ve set the standards and trends—”

“Mom.”

“Honey, I’m just…” she mutters while fiddling her hands, “trying to help you with this. I understand that you’re shocked but what’s not clear to me is your obvious doubt for the company. I think they won’t be as bad as you think. Well… not as bad as the others.” Soo looks at her when she stands right beside him, “If they mistreat you in any way, I’ll be the one to get you out of there and probably raise hell. But right now, I don’t see any reason not to give it a chance so I feel like I need to assure you, Soo…”

He avoids her confused gaze, subtly gulping while going through his things.

“You don’t understand, Mom.”

“Why?” she asks persistently, “Is there a reason why you don’t like KJI?”

Every damn reason there is, he wants to tell her.

“I just don’t.”

“Is this about your Dad, then?”

He clenches his jaw and heaves deeply. His mother blinks rapidly because of the reaction.

“Did he forget the day I left, Mom?” he asks sharply while staring at her again, “Was it too vague for him to remember? Because this is the exact same reason why I did. I escaped because I didn’t want to be controlled anymore. But then again, I haven’t even stepped on this country yet and things were already shoved down my throat. It’s unfair.”

He doesn’t say anything else when he catches the pain that flashes through her eyes. Kyungsoo only goes back his things that are even more disorganized than fixed because of his mindless unpacking.

It took his mother a while before speaking again. Soo almost thought it’s another talk that would end vaguely, so he gets taken aback when he hears an unexpected response.

“Then don’t.”

He blinks before looking at her. She’s staring at his luggage but the conflicted look remains on her face.

“What?” he asks.

“Don’t do it. I can talk to them, m-myself…” she smiles reassuringly but Soo isn’t stupid to figure out she’s simply saying this to make him feel better again. Give him false hope that there is indeed, other way out of this mess, “I’ll be the one t-to look for other ways… I’m sure there is.”

His jaw hardens even more. But instead of frustration or anger, it’s out of guilt and pain because of simply hearing his Mom talk like this.

“I just don’t want to lose you again. I was in so much pain within those years you weren’t here, Soo.” she says desperately, “If being away from us makes you happy, then… go back. Don’t worry about us.”

And then he’s reminded of it again— the situation he was in at Jongin’s office days ago. He remembers how he stiffened and got stuck into a helpless state despite badly wanting to fight back. He recalls the reason why he was sure that man had the upper hand and why he left from there losing.

Because of his family.

Soo slowly blinks when he feels his eyes getting warm. With a gentle sniffle, he shakes his head and tries to focus back on his messed up things.

“No. I came back for you.” he tries to keep his voice from breaking. He doesn’t want his mother to hear any doubt from him from now on, “I’m… not your coward son who’ll run away. I don’t want Sukyung to experience what I-I’ve gone through.”

Mrs. Do reaches for his arm to stop him from mindless fixing. This time, she gets to see his glistening eyes and she can only smile in defeat, gently holding his face between her hands. Soo shuts his eyes tight before finally giving a firm answer.

“I’ll do it…” he says and manages to give her a determined look. His Mom smiles bigger before hugging him, gently running her hand through his hair.

“T-Thank you.” she mumbles against his shoulder, “Thank you, Soo… for doing this for us.”

He doesn’t say anything anymore, allowing himself to just be comforted by the warmth of her hug so he can stop himself from changing his mind again. He needs to do it, no matter what.

His mother pulls away with a relieved smile, and even if he can’t do the same, it’s enough for him to see.

“This will be the last time your father does this, I’ll make sure of that. Even if you’re here, I want you to make your own choices and do whatever makes you happy.” she assures him, “And… if you get mistreated… back out, okay? I’ll be here to help you, always.”

Soo gulps before forcing a smile, “O-Okay.”

Their little moment gets interrupted by a knock on the door. They didn’t need to open it when Attorney Son does it himself, still holding his phone with a distressed look on his face.

“I’ve done everything. They wouldn’t agree.” he says. The tone itself is pleading Soo for a resolution, “The representative already called about the house, too… they won’t sign unless you do.”

His mother turns at him.

“When is the contract-signing?” Kyungsoo asks calmly.

The lawyer’s expression relaxes because of his simple question, “They… said they will schedule it as soon as you give your answer.”

Soo sighs deeply.

“Tell them we can do it this Wednesday.”

Attorney Son isn’t able to answer immediately, looking shocked by his sudden change of heart. It also seems like his biggest dilemma got magically solved by the way his eyes light up.

Soo raises a brow at him.

“Oh… okay! I’ll call them again.” he exclaims with a smile and types on his phone before the younger can even change his mind again.

A thought crosses Kyungsoo’s mind, and he just can’t help asking.

“Who will be there?”

“I’m not sure about the briefing and company introduction, but for the signing,” the lawyer goes through a message that seems to be from the company’s representative, “it’s a closed door meeting with the CEO himself.”

Soo badly wants to groan. Not again.

“You’ll be there with me, right?” he asks, but his tone doesn’t seem to give the lawyer any other choice. He’s not going to be in a closed-door meeting with that asshole alone.

“Well, I hope they—”

“You should be.” he declares with finality. Attorney Son can only gape at him, “Let’s do this, then.”

x

 

The days after that passed by too quickly and didn’t give him time to prepare himself. Well technically, it should’ve been enough time but he’s too busy suppressing any thought related to this deal that reality just slapped him across his face when Wednesday morning came and he realized he’s going to face that man again.

“Architect Junmyeon told me about your little scene last week at KJI’s main office.” Attorney Son starts off while they’re in the elevator of their family’s former firm, “I beg you not to do it again…”

Instinctively, Soo would always respond with sarcasm. But seeing the serious and almost narrowed eyes of the lawyer at him, he only rolls his eyes slightly.

“I was carried away by emotions, okay?” he says with a grimace, “And he’s a jerk, Attorney. If you only knew.”

“Please just try not to talk to him.” Attorney Son tells him while walking in the hall. As they reach the door of the conference room, he briefly faces Kyungsoo with a serious look still plastered on his face, “We can’t lose before even starting, alright Kyungsoo? Have some patience. He’s very powerful, everyone knows that.”

Powerful my ass.

“Whatever.”

The lawyer shakes his head once before opening the door for him. Inside, there are already two people conversing. Both of them are definitely in business mode and Soo had to take a quick look at his casual outfit and compare himself to them while standing behind the lawyer. The other petite man in a suit noticed this, suppressing a little smile as he reaches his hand out.

“Good morning.” his eyes crinkle when he smiles, “I’m Kim Junmyeon, I’ll be the Operations Manager for this firm.” he glances at the other woman he was talking to, who looks more serious and uptight. “This is Attorney Ahn, one of KJI’s legal representatives.”

“Attorney Son, nice to meet you.” the older lawyer is smiling big as if he wasn’t just scolding Soo outside, “This is Do Kyungsoo, Chairman Do’s only son.”

Junmyeon gives him a knowing look that makes him raise a brow.

“Nice to finally meet you.” the said man smiles at him while offering a hand, to which Kyungsoo reluctantly shakes. “Make yourselves comfortable, please. Kai will be here in a minute.”

Soo frowns a little. What’s with the pet name?

They walk around the long table to sit across KJI’s representatives. Soo almost sits on a certain chair but is quick enough to realize that it’s right beside the end chair so he quickly taps Attorney Son to exchange seats. The other two people watch them in silence, though a little bewildered.

Kyungsoo pretends not to notice.

It’s fortunate that their family lawyer is sociable enough to kill the awkward silence among them. He talks to the other people and allows Kyungsoo to have his own peace, looking around the room while the other three talk business. When an unpleasant thought enters his mind, he spaces out. Suddenly, his chest feels tight because of the realization.

The last time he was in this room wasn’t… really a good memory to remember. He wonders why they really have to do it here, of all places.

And then he chuckles to himself. Of course. Why wouldn’t he want to do it here?

The door opens and disrupts their ongoing conversation and Kyungsoo’s momentary thoughts. Speaking of the devil, the businessman in suit enters the conference room with a stoic look on his face, gaze flashing some underlying meaning when he sees them. Him. Just like that scandalous event in his office, his slightly lengthy hair is styled well while the first few buttons of his shirt are open beneath his suit.

Soo pretends to check his phone when their eyes met.

“Good morning, Architect.” the other three greet him first. Attorney Son even stood up to be even more polite despite his client being nonchalant beside him.

“Ah, please sit. It’s nice to see you again, Attorney.” his voice is enough to ruin a certain someone’s mood and it seems like he knows it too well when he addresses him specifically, sounding a little amused. “Mr. Do.”

Soo doesn’t notice the way the other three people anticipate his response, especially his lawyer who looks a little nervous of his possible answer. But Soo only glances at Jongin’s curved lips before dismissing his greeting.

“Shall we get into it?” he says coldly and looks at the representative instead. He hears a soft chuckle from the other man before he completely takes the seat beside Attorney Son. Now Soo has his eyes glued in front. There’s no way he’d mindlessly spare him a look when he’s barely a meter away from him.

And no, he’s not afraid. He just doesn’t want to look at him. That’s different.

“So… for today, we’re just going to ask a few questions, and then we’ll get to the terms of agreement.” the woman starts off after that awkward scene, clearing his throat before speaking further. “Any agenda aside from those that may suddenly come up completely depends on the President himself.”

Attorney Son nods every now and then, too enthusiastic about it. Meanwhile, Soo lets his silence speak for himself. Unless he doesn’t interrupt or shake his head, they can continue blabbering.

“Alright!” this Junmyeon guy seems to be trying to lighten up the heightening tension in the room as well, “So… where did you get your background for designing again, Kyungsoo?”

Soo purses his lips first, thinking of a way to answer their questions without giving away too much at the same time.

“I… finished Industrial Design for bachelor’s degree at New York University.” he says formally, “A year or so after that, I took up my Master’s degree for Interior Design at Parsons.”

“Ah… so you’re more into Interior Design then?” Junmyeon adds and nods in awe while the lawyer girl takes down some notes, “Did you have any experience designing furniture?”

Yes, he’s not looking. At all. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t notice the man he’s eager to avoid from his peripheral vision, leaning back and watching him while a finger trails on his chin.

“I was just starting… so professionally, I’m more inclined to Interior Designing.” Soo doesn’t even know why it’s suddenly hard to speak. He was never the type to get nervous over nonsensical things.

“How many years have you been designing professionally?”

“Three years? More or less.”

“Sir?”

He blinks when the two representatives turn to their boss as if giving him the floor to ask this time. Soo doesn’t even know why it’s necessary. These two can clearly do this without him here.

But Jongin slightly tilts his head to the side, as if thinking of something.

“Hmm.” Soo doesn’t know if he’s the only one who can notice the slyness from him too. Maybe because it is meant for him, he’s not sure. “And where were you living while studying abroad?”

He tries to keep his professionalism, yet clearly fails on staring at the said man alone. His gaze remains fixated on the table. “I moved twice… but both apartments were in Brooklyn.”

“By yourself?”

Kyungsoo gulps, “With… a roommate.”

“Same roommate?” Jongin asks without hesitating, “Even after moving houses, you had the same roommate?”

Now he looks back at the tycoon, getting to see his testing gaze while waiting for a response. Soo narrows his eyes tauntingly.

“Yes. It’s a very good roommate.” Seonho won’t forgive him for using an indefinite pronoun.

“So you were, basically living in with someone?”

Soo grits his teeth, the nerve of this guy.

“I don’t see how it’s related to my professional background, Sir.” he tells him with sarcasm. Jongin doesn’t even look shaken. If anything, he’s convincing enough to shrug and appear innocent even when he was clearly implying something.

“Just wanna make sure you can handle being on your own from now on.” he says and Soo catches the way the corner of his lips curves again. He glances at his representative, “I mean… it’s part of the agreement, isn’t it? Attorney?”

“Ah…yes, so as one of the first part of the terms,” the lawyer shows them the page for Attorney Son to browse their respective copy, “you need to live in a nearby unit, closest to the firm once you start.”

Jongin looks at him knowingly and this time, Soo had to pause briefly.

“I thought it was optional.” he says with slightly creased brows, “Why do I even need to do that, anyway?”

The lawyer smiles formally, “We don’t tolerate any kind of tardiness in the company. And since you won’t be under any probationary period, we decided not to take risk and give you everything that will assure a good work performance and output.”

“Tardiness…” he mumbles with a chuckle that erases the smile from the woman’s lips. It causes his lawyer to nudge him by the elbow, “I’ll look for a cheap one, then.”

“No need, Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon tells him, looking the most patient with him among everyone in the room. Well, not to count the CEO across him at least, who seems to be amused the more he gets worked up. “As mentioned, we will provide everything, it’s included. We got you somewhere only ten minutes away from the firm, so don’t worry about it. That’s the closest.”

“But what if it’s too expensive—”

“We got that all covered. All you need is come to work, sketch, be a good employee.” Jongin speaks before anyone even could. Everyone falls silent and Soo needs to control his temper even harder. His cold look becomes a sharp one and the tanned man smiles because of this.

Junmyeon clears his throat before something bad could escalate.

“Uh… well you see, Kyungsoo, we have a lot of big clients, most of them are international clients, too. So most of the time there are sudden demands for designs. Most of our designers do it at home when they’re tasked to do so out of the blue.” he explains with a reassuring tone, “So we need to make sure that the place you live is equipped with a necessary area to work at.”

Kyungsoo chooses not to respond anymore. Saying something might get him into trouble so he ends up agreeing, again. He hates getting more favors from him but he can’t defy either, it’s hard.

“And we can also provide a car for you, since—”

“No.” he responds quickly, was able to stop himself before he could elaborate that he can’t drive at all. That would be embarrassing, “I mean… it’s fine, thanks. I don’t… need it.”

He sees the bewildered look from them. Because it’s a car, and anyone would want a free one. But when their boss surprisingly doesn’t insist on it, no one dares from the both of them.

Soo avoids looking at Jongin even more when he feels him watching.

“Okay…” Junmyeon nods. The lawyer shows him the finalized contract and when he gives a nod, she starts explaining the terms.

“Right.” she sighs, “So… we only have a few simple rules; starting on Monday, you’ll be an official employee of KJI. You’re going to provide designs for existing clients and for the launching project as well. If it’s a priority project, you’re expected to commit extra hours and effort to meet deadlines. All of your works will be evaluated and approved by the President himself. He has all the right to reject or demand changes in any way he sees it fit.”

He tries to maintain a passive expression, preventing himself to be transparent like he usually is. But it seems like he’s failing terribly when Attorney Son nudges him every now and then whenever he unconsciously frowns.

“The duration of agreement will be fully dependent on the success of the launch. You’re not allowed, in any way, to be associated with other companies or clients outside KJI. You’re not allowed to resign. Hence, terminating the contract will also cut the agreement with your father. When that happens, legal action will be taken and there will be no turning back. You…” the lawyer pauses when she reads the next line, as if she’s also unaware that it’s added. She continues, nonetheless. “are also not allowed to go out of the country, unless approved by the company management.”

“What?” he can’t help the reaction this time, “I need to go back to New York some time after this so I can fix my unclosed deals and get my things!”

Attorney Son starts to gear up beside him, preparing himself to stop him in case he makes another scene.

“About your past clients,” Junmyeon starts negotiating when he saw his response, “I’m sure we can do something about it as soon as possible.”

Soo remains frowning, “What about my things?”

“Well w—”

“Have your roommate send them in a package.” the CEO speaks again, voice dripping with sarcasm this time. “It’s a good roommate, right?”

His hands clutch into fists on his lap, ready to retaliate something nasty when Attorney Son frantically nods beside him.

Exactly! A package! We will have his things brought by a package, Architect that’s a brilliant idea. Right, Kyungsoo?” he asks with a stupid smile and Soo glares at him. The lawyer nods at the woman to completely dismiss him, “Please, continue.”

The woman had to catch a deep breath before proceeding. Soo leans back while still sulking in defeat.

“The firm still carries its original name but it’s now an official subsidiary of KJI. Technically, you are under KJI. So like any other employee, there will be no special treatment in the office. You are expected to work the same hours and have the same working space. Respect for the higher-ups is necessary, especially for the board members and the President himself. Remember, any attitude complaint may cost the contract itself.”

They look at him in between explanations to entertain any question, but the boy doesn’t seem to be too interested by it.

“Basic office rules, too. Proper attire, no tardiness or complacency. No—oh…” now, she definitely hasn’t gone through this one yet. “Uh, no office relationships, too.”

“Right.” Soo barely even listened to it. He can just go over it later on, when he’s not preoccupied of wanting to murder someone one seat away from him. “Is that all?”

“For now.” the lawyer glances at their CEO before reading the end of the contract, “Any changes in the rules will completely be dependent on Architect Kim Jongin, CEO and President of KJI Industries, if he deems it necessary.”

“Fine.” he sighs, “Can I sign now?”

Junmyeon and the lawyer seem taken aback by his fast compliance. The former even asks him about it.

“Uhm, do you have any question or clarification about the terms?”

Soo heaves deeply before looking at all of them, a lot faster for the last guy, though.

“My family will get the properties and half of the major stocks back, right?” it’s the only thing that matters to him, to be honest.

“The properties’ papers will be fixed before this week ends.” the lawyer answers him, “And regarding the stocks, yes, as long as the launch ends up successful.”

He nods firmly before getting the contract from Attorney Son’s hands.

“Where will I sign?”

“Here—”

“So you completely agree with all of the terms?” Jongin’s voice makes them all stop, especially when the challenge in his tone becomes too evident. “Sure?”

Attorney Son mumbles beside him, “Soo, we should go thr—”

“Can I say no? Not really, right?” he dismisses the older lawyer and looks straight into the eyes of the man he despises with his whole heart, “I want to get this over with so let me sign it now.”

Kim Jongin grins at him, as if it’s a starting point of something that only him, knows about. Soo would be lying if he denies the sudden panic in him upon seeing the victorious curve on his lips.

“Good.” he declares meaningfully, “At least we’re clear.”

Kyungsoo tries to dismiss it. It’s probably only his natural aura and tendency to be a complete jerk, so he doesn’t need to worry about it. He gets the pen from his lawyer’s hand and signs everything before he could even feel like backing out again. He doesn’t notice how the little grin firmly situates itself on the CEO’s lips, hiding it with his fingers while watching the other man continuously signing.

“Done.” he puts down the pen, looking disinterested than ever. “What now?”

“For now, that’s it. You can move to the new unit anytime before Monday, we’ll give you the address and access cards.” Junmyeon says, “You’ll be introduced and oriented with the other new designers on Monday so you should be here before 8AM. The department heads will meet you.”

“Cool.” he shrugs.

“We’ll see you on Monday then?” all of them stands up when their boss starts checking his wristwatch, as if it’s enough for them to conclude that the meeting should be wrapped up. “Welcome to the company, Kyungsoo.”

Junmyeon warmly said that, so he forces a little smile back. He’s not that awful to act like a complete brat to everyone. But it’s just not an ideal situation to be in, either.

Jongin stands up from his own seat, back to looking stoic and formal. But compared to the moment he got in the room, he seems to be more satisfied this time.

“Thank you, Attorney.” he nods once at the Do’s family lawyer, offering a little smile before looking at the man beside him who’s still seated on his chair.

“Always a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Do.” he says, swiftly raising a brow despite a sharp gaze piercing through him. “See you around?”

He didn’t wait for Kyungsoo’s response. The businessman fixed his suit as he walked out of the room ahead of everyone. No one got a glimpse of the ghost of smile not subsiding from his lips even when he stepped out of the room, or even in those small idle moments in between important meetings within that day.

 

x

 

“Will they be shouldering the shipping fee?”

He checks his watch while waiting for the driver who’s been repeatedly trying to start the engine of their only car. He’s been doing it for a couple of times that Kyungsoo begins to worry. For god’s sake they only have one car left, it can’t give up.

Not on his first day.

“My goodness, you’re such a dick.” he tells Seonho when the latter refused to pay for the shipping fee of his packages, “It’s just a couple of bucks!”

The engine started and he had to let out a sigh of relief. The younger driver slightly smiles at him from the rearview mirror, but immediately looks away when he catches him.

“It’s not in my budget!” with only another click of his tongue and Seonho ends up whining in defeat, “Fine! I’ll add it up to your bill. Pay me once we see it each other.”

He rubs his forehead in frustration, “Jesus.”

“You need to go now. Good luck on your first day!” he doesn’t miss the tease in the other man’s voice and it pisses him off perfectly, “Call me if you make it out alive! And and, Soo— also, do a house tour when we video call! Your mom said your new apartment seems expensive as hell, I wanna see!”

It’s forty-five minutes before 8AM and it’s not even helping that Kim Junmyeon messages him every now and then to remind him about the orientation. He hates to be an early bird but he makes this another exception. If getting into trouble will cause him to see that bastard CEO again then he would have to avoid it at all cost.

They barely left the main highway when a weird sound comes out from the car’s engine. Soo looks up from texting on his phone and the first thing he sees is the escalating panic on the driver’s face that gets him feeling the same. When the car slows down and completely stops in the middle of the road, they stare at each other through the mirror, wide-eyed.

“Shit…” Soo mumbles, “what happened?”

Now with a sheepish look, the driver winces at him. “The engine has been like this for days now, Sir.”

“And you didn’t have it checked yet?” he asks in disbelief. It can’t be like this now!

“Your Mom told us it will be fine…” now the younger boy seems to be nervous of his reaction. Soo doesn’t even know why he’s one of their drivers left after the downsizing. He looks like a minor to him. His lanky and awkward posture kind of remind him of someone.

They both went outside to check the wheels and upon seeing that they’re completely fine, they concluded it’s really the engine that’s malfunctioning.

“Wow, fucking cute.” he cusses sarcastically as they get stuck in the middle of a road that’s still a few kilometers away from the firm. The driver simply falls silent beside him, just as clueless as he is when it comes to car fixing.

Soo looks so devastated while they push it to the side of the street, briefly squatting on the floor after it because of distress.

“Ugh. What are we gonna do?” he runs his fingers through his hair out of frustration, “It’s my first day, goddamn it.”

The young driver watches him from the side, looking around the place for a possible help before reaching for his phone when there’s none.

“I have a contact of the nearby automobile repair shop.” he timidly suggests and anticipates any response from Kyungsoo who’s still sulking, “Maybe they can help towing the car to their garage. Do you want me to hail you a cab for now, Sir?”

“Just Kyungsoo.” Soo tells him mindlessly. He doesn’t even notice how the kid blinks in awe, “And no need. I can come with you so I can pay the repair first.”

"Okay! I'll call them then, Si— Kyungsoo..." he smiles while blinking continuously. Soo simply stares at him blankly and the younger boy gets the sign as he starts dialing for the shop’s number.

It’s not even ten minutes before a towing truck comes by and helps them get the car off the road. Soo repeatedly checks his watch while on their way to the shop, not even bothering to look at the sign of the truck that’s carrying their malfunctioning car. It’s past 7:40 when they reach the said shop and Soo is now watching their only car being parked alongside other broken ones.

The humid inside isn’t really nice. The workers are walking around like they’re used to dirt and sweat so he prefers to go back outside and wait there while the driver talks to the mechanic. A small frown is still situated on his face, looking around the road before sighing heavily when he realizes it’s futile to wait for a cab to possibly pass by soon.

Kyungsoo begins opening his Taxi app when he hears an eerily familiar voice near where he stands.

"Just put it right there."

In an instant, he recognizes it without having to see the person yet. But when he does, he can’t help blinking in awe while looking at the tall man who’s in his working tank top and baggy jeans while speaking with two mechanics. Nostalgia seems to punch him right in the gut.

"Chanyeol?"

The said man immediately turns around with the mention of his name. His slightly creased brows relaxes as his eyes widen in shock.

"Holy...." he smiles in disbelief, "Oh my goodness, Kyungsoo?"

Kyungsoo returns the smile when he gets over the surprise. He gets the chance to look at Chanyeol properly while the latter makes his way towards him with the same boyish grin. Unlike his dyed blonde hair when they were younger, Chanyeol settles for the natural black this time, a few strands of it falling over his forehead. He seems more fit now, too. The top his wearing emphasizes his bigger arms while a few tattoos grace them.

"It's so nice to see you again! How have you been? When did you come back?" his tough appearance still contradicts his warm and playful personality. He’s one of the people Kyungsoo never forgot when he left this country. Probably because he was the only one that ended up being nice to him.

"Just last week." he answers with the same beam, having to look up when Chanyeol got closer. "Are you working here now?"

"Ah... sometimes. My father owns this shop but he's not well lately so I had to take over." while gently scratching his nape, Chanyeol sheepishly looks around like he doesn’t want to elaborate about the said business anymore. Soo doesn’t try digging up, either. "Are you going somewhere? It looks like you're about to get a cab."

Soo remembers his briefly forgotten dilemma. When he checks his watch, his shoulders droop down in defeat.

"It's my first day at work. I need to be there before eight..." he forces a smile, implying how impossible it is now considering it’s less than twenty minutes.

Late for the first day. What a great way to make an impression.

"My..." Chanyeol smiles a little before looking at something behind Kyungsoo, "would you mind getting reunited with her?"

Soo also looks behind to see, slowly grinning when he figures out the suggestion upon reuniting with an old friend.

x

 

"We made it."

With an eager movement, Soo hops off the big motorcycle while removing his helmet. Chanyeol has taken his own off before he could, smiling a little cockily.

"Still impressive, isn't she?" Soo responds while looking at the big, rusty motor. It’s five minutes before the time and they managed to get through the traffic, "Hey, so about the car..."

"My staff will get into it. It's done before the day don't worry." Chanyeol reassures him, chuckling lightly. "You won't have to use your countless other cars."

The shorter forces a smile because of this, realizing that Chanyeol isn’t entirely aware of their situation. There are no other cars, unfortunately.

"Ah... that's a relief." he nods slowly, "How much will it cost then? I can pay in advance." he gets his wallet from his sling bag but Chanyeol is already waving a hand.

"Don't worry about it."

"But—"

"Friends don't pay."

Soo blinks in awe. Chanyeol looks so definite about it so he doesn’t push it anymore.

"I get the reference." he smiles, "But thank you."

The taller simply nods and glances at the building behind him.

"You should get going now. Don't worry about your car."

Soo nods back and turns around to walk away, momentarily stopping before facing Chanyeol again.

"Hey..." he reluctantly calls, "Can I just treat you lunch? I really want to return the favor."

Chanyeol’s eyes crinkle when he lets out another light chuckle.

"Still hates getting a treat until now, huh?" he says that makes Kyungsoo smile again, "But sure, lunch is good. I'll be exactly here then."

The shorter slowly nods, stepping back towards the tower’s entrance. Chanyeol puts the helmet again while watching him in amusement.

"See you, Chanyeol."

x

 

The helmet made his hair a little messy. Before someone could even misunderstand and think that he just woke up and only rushed to the orientation, he fixes it on his way to the floor lobby. He sees Junmyeon standing in front of the architects’ office, typing on his phone to probably send him another message. His face relaxes when Kyungsoo appears beside him while panting a little.

"Sorry... the car broke down on my way here."

"Oh no worries. I think they started just now." he points to the office in front of them, "Follow me?"

The designers’ lounge only has a few people; probably those who are already old employees and those who were able to keep their jobs when his family still owned the company. Soo doesn’t recognize anyone, but it’s not really surprising considering the amount of years he haven’t been here.

"So this would be your working desk by the way."

He sees a line of working cubicles in the office, with all the necessary materials needed for the job. Kyungsoo’s eyes linger on his working space. Something bitter rushes down his throat for some reason. It’s ironic that he was raised to expect to be working in a luxurious office once he comes of age. And then just like that, his fate goes around. He ends up being among the people that only used to be his family’s employees.

It’s not like he would want to be the chaebol son he used to be. But if he is to choose, he would rather be free and become his own boss. Do what he loves and have his own preferences. That’s what he was working on for the past eight years. And just as he’s about to reach that dream, he’s pulled back here, back to zero.

Junmyeon catches the way he spaces out upon seeing the cubicle. The said man clears his throat and tries to drift his attention from it for a while.

“I think the heads and managers are almost complete in the hall.” he points the big conference hall beside this office, "You can put your things here first before we go there."

So he did. Junmyeon walks with him until the hall’s door, offering him an encouraging smile.

"Go ahead." he nods once, "My office is just across this hall if you ever have a question."

"Thanks, Junmyeon..." the said manager taps his shoulder and walks away.

Soo stares at the door for a few seconds, taking in a deep breath before silently coming in to keep his presence unnoticed.

"Architect Song, Engr. Zhang, and Architect Lee are this firm's project heads for major international clients." he bends his head down while a person speaks in front to introduce the bosses. Despite the difficulty, he spots the crowd where the new designers are and makes his way there, standing beside a girl with a high ponytail who offers him a cheeky smile. "You'll also be working with them closely."

"Oh hey, haven't seen you back there." the said girl mumbles at him, pursing her dark red lips when Soo simply gives a timid smile back, "Did you just arrive?"

"Ah...yes, just now."

"Don't worry, it's just the introduction of bosses." she continues even when the man obviously isn’t up for a lengthy conversation, "I'm Mia Kwon, by the way."

He looks at her offered hand, contemplating whether he’ll take the risk of introducing himself in fear of being recognized because of his name. When he sees her anticipating look, he reluctantly shakes her hand.

"Kyung..." he does it briefly and pulls his arm away right after, "Just call me Kyung."

"Ah..." the girl slightly looks bewildered because of his expression. He looked like he’s not sure of his name either, that’s why.

Thankfully, the girl doesn’t say anything else after that. She seems too preoccupied of the introduction happening, so is everyone. Some of them are even taking notes. Kyungsoo on the other hand, thinks this is an utter bullshit. He knows he won’t be able to remember all of their names anyway so he doesn’t bother. He stands there, wishing it’s over.

"Aside from that, we have the executive members, too. Most of them are major stock holders of KJI's other business chains. The company's main marketing team will be working in this firm for the launch project so I'll introduce them to you as well."

He subtly rolls his eyes just when he thought the introduction event is over because everyone in the Architecture department has been introduced, but another department of the company has been started off. This time, it’s even more pointless to him when this isn’t even related to his job anymore.

Soo starts playing a game on his phone. He turned it silent first and he’s at the back so there’s nothing to worry. Although he can see the Mia girl and the others near him giving him looks every now and then. But then in Do Kyungsoo’s vocabulary, you know it’s just no big deal.

"And of course, most of you might know him. A very busy person, too but he took the time to meet you all today..." he almost doesn’t notice the collective whispering around him because of the lack of interest, "KJI Industries' Marketing Director himself, Mr. Byun Baekhyun."

Stiffening, it takes him a while before finally looking up in front to see another familiar face. His breath hitches and the game he’s playing has completely gone unattended.

"Shit..." he cusses under his breath when he confirms it after staring at the said man for a while.

Mia Kwon looks at him in confusion, "Hmm?"

Soo blinks rapidly, shaking his head without removing his eyes from the person that comes haunting him back from the past.

"N-Nothing..."

It’s really him. Baekhyun. He’s still as petite as he was, and the way his eyes crinkle when he beams is still exactly the same.

"Good morning, everyone!" he greets enthusiastically and most of the people give the greeting back. He seems more important and known now than before. He has always been charming, but now, it’s like a whole new level.

Almost unfamiliar to Kyungsoo.

But hey, who is he to talk? His ties with this person was cut off long time ago.

"He's an obvious socialite, isn't he?" the same girl beside him mutters with a chuckle, "I heard he just had a big party last weekend. With all the important people. Tch, social circles."

Soo only responds with a forced smile. Turns out he assumed right, after all.

"Mr. Byun will be leading the advertisements and promotions for potential clients like what he's been doing for the company for so many years. In short, he'll be working with you, too, every now and then." the host adds.

Baekhyun jokingly rolls his eyes, "You make my job sound so boring, Architect."

He makes most people in the room laugh. Kyungsoo tries going back to the game he was playing to divert his attention but he ends up stopping to just space out again. Byun Baekhyun proceeds to his witty speech and finishes the introduction of the rest of the Marketing heads before wrapping it up after what seems to be forever.

"Oh—looks like another executive surprisingly made it today. She just came back from London and went straight here to welcome you all, too." Soo badly wants to roll his eyes again. How many bosses are going to make surprise appearances in thi—

"Oh my god..." he looks at the girl beside him who seems so excited now while staring at the door, fangirling. For some reason, Soo can feel his heart skipping another beat despite being clueless.

"Architect?" his eyes linger on the door when the host smiles at someone from the outside, "Everyone, meet one of your direct superiors for this project. KJI's renowned designer for international market..."

He will be lying if he says he didn’t imagine this as a worst case scenario. But as it comes to life, it’s everything that is hell. Bad. Just freaking… bad. Catastrophe.

"Good morning." a woman enters with a formal greeting and smiles at everyone in the room.

"Architect Jung Soojung."

Soo finds himself smiling, gritting his teeth harder in disbelief.

"You've gotta be fucking kidding me."

x

 

He throws the folder of blueprints on his table, feeling drained from the orientation that just finished. Aside from listening to all the nonsense, the most tiring would probably be the struggle to hide himself among the crowd.

And also listening to this girl beside him, who thinks they’re already friends. Apparently, she assumed Kyungsoo is a big fan of Miss Jung Soojung too because of the way he cussed upon seeing her. She doesn’t know it’s for his fucked up situation. He cussed because he’s doomed.

“Oh my god, I was fangirling so hard. She’s like, one of my favorite designers.” she continues to fan herself even when the man doesn’t look so amused anymore, “And isn’t she so pretty? I love her hair right now, it’s—”

“I would have to fix my working table first. If you don’t mind.” he finally flashes a deadly smile and it’s just as useful as it was with Seonho when the girl shuts up and walks back to her area. Seonho had always called it the ask-again-after-two-hours smile. It works.

Soo keeps himself busy by messing up his working table so he can fix it again and have something to do until lunch. Everyone starts doing their own shit when someone from the office’s door clears her throat.

“Hi, everyone.” he slows down from fixing the pencils in the holder when he recognized the voice, refusing to turn around and look. “How are you liking your working areas so far? Any concerns? We made it bigger for each of you but don’t hesitate to tell me if you have any issue.”

After hearing some satisfied responses from the enthusiastic designers, Soo almost thought it’s over, only realizing it’s far from done when he smells an expensive woman’s perfume near him.

“Hi, Kyungsoo.” Soojung stops right beside his cubicle with a big smile on her face, “It’s been a while.”

He fakes one as a response, “Yup.”

“Never thought I’d see you here.” she adds when Soo continues to focus on the fake-organizing without sparing her a glance, “Well, I mean… this was your father’s firm but still…” no matter how pissed it makes him by hearing her talk about his situation, he tries to keep his composure. She’s just the same as Jongin; not worth his time. “I thought you were out there living your best life.”

“Oh, I was.” he casually tells her with the same grin, “I could still be having fun right now if I wasn’t here. What a waste, honestly.”

Soojung sighs as if she finds it too bad, as well. Kyungsoo almost forgot how good of an actress she was during college. The talent stayed.

“Right.” she pauses and tries to look sincere. Kyungsoo badly wants to wheeze out loud, “Hey look, whatever it was between the both of us, it’s a long time ago. I hope we can get along from now on, because… well, technically I’m your boss now, right?”

“Sure.”

“And god, it’s been eight years, can you believe that? I’m doing so great now and I think you are, too. Right?” she says meaningfully before her eyes travel all over him, “You look healthier now, anyway. You’ve… nevermind. That’s nice.” she smiles nicely but Soo isn’t dumb not to know what she tried to imply. It’s actually pretty lame, if you ask him.

“Ah, I gained weight from having fun for so many years. I couldn’t help myself, you know? It comes with it.” he shrugs and decides to play along with her for now. It’s just his first day, nothing much to do anyway. “But how about you? You look a little unhealthy, though? Have you been starving yourself? You need to eat between working, too.”

Satisfaction runs all over him when he sees the smile faltering from the woman’s lips. He manages to keep himself from grinning, maintaining a concerned look on his face.

“Just worried about you.” he gently adds with a nod as his smile becomes a little taunting.

Soojung’s smile returns as a sarcastic one. She parts her lips to respond when her secretary calls her attention.

“Architect?” her eyes linger on Kyungsoo’s testing ones before looking at the other employee, “President Kim is here.”

“He is?” she sounds a little more joyful this time before sweetly smiling at Kyungsoo once more, “Excuse me, I’m needed there. But it’s nice talking to you again, Kyungsoo.” she says meaningfully.

Soo watches her back as she walks away, lightly flipping the side of her hair with her fingers. He realizes he’s been staring at the same door for too long when an unknown feeling becomes more emphasized in his chest. When some vivid images start forming in his head. Kyungsoo clears his throat and faces his table again.

Of course.

He had to endure everything for another hour before lunch finally comes. Before anyone could even approach and make him pretend again, he rushes his way out of the office. It’s only halfway through his shift and he dreads this day already. There’s really no need to ask why.

Soo quickly walks to the elevator before most people do. He gets lucky sharing it with unfamiliar employees from entirely different departments who don’t seem to know him either. Nonetheless, he avoids prolonged eye-contact with anyone just to be sure. He doesn’t know how long he’s going to be like this but right now, he just has to.

When he reaches the ground, he turns left to take the exit where Chanyeol dropped him off this morning. He doesn’t expect to see Baekhyun there, judging by the way he stops and stiffens when he unknowingly takes the way where Baekhyun is currently talking to some other directors. It’s too late to retreat when the latter obviously spots him, his smile fading. Soo maintains a blank face and manages to casually turn the other way without looking back at him again.

No, he won’t let himself be bothered by this. It’s a normal scenario from now on, he tells himself that.

But his steps are still a lot bigger than usual until he reaches the building’s exit, as if running away from someone. He only slows down when he sees Chanyeol who’s now in different clothes while waiting for him on the same motorcycle.

“I know you prefer this baby so I didn’t bother bringing your car now.” his deep voice greets Soo while he makes his way towards him, “But it’s already fixed so I told the kid driver to bring it back home instead.”

Soo flashes a smile, repressing what just happened in the utmost depth of his memory so that he can enjoy this very brief lunch break with an old friend before he comes back to this hellhole.

“You even changed your outfit. Makes me think you’re assuming this is a date.” he grins at Chanyeol after taking the helmet he offered, “Hate to burst your bubble.”

“You should’ve told me you prefer my sweaty and dirty working clothes.” it makes him feel lighter that they seem to effortlessly go back to how they were eight years ago— casual jokes and teasing, “I’m here to get my lunch treat. Hate to burst your bigger bubble.”

He chuckles and mindlessly glances at the direction he went out from, but Soo stops on his tracks when he sees Baekhyun close to the exit door while watching them. When he realizes Kyungsoo has seen him, he blinks rapidly and turns around in an instant to go back inside. Soo looks at the same spot even when he’s out of sight.

“Kyungsoo,” Chanyeol’s deep voice calls him back to his senses. He looks at the taller and sees a forced smile etched on his face while keeping his gaze settled on the shorter’s face, “let’s go?”

Before he could even ask if he saw him, Chanyeol starts the engine and clasps his own helmet.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

They didn’t order desert after the meal. Chanyeol looks so confounded by everything he said. He even repeatedly sipped from his glass of water and Kyungsoo can only watch him.

“Please say something.” the shorter gently says, “You’re making me worried.”

“Sorry… I just…” Chanyeol forces a chuckle of disbelief, “I can’t process what you’ve told me. I’m shocked.”

“That our once multi-million firm is now bankrupt and I have to fix its mess?” Soo leans back to his seat, crossing his arms on his chest. “I don’t blame you.”

“No, not— I mean, probably. But what I couldn’t believe the most is the fact that Jongin bought it and he really offered you a job there?”

Soo blinks a few times. That one is indeed the most surprising. Even now, it hasn’t sunk in for him either.

“Didn’t he ever mention it to you?” he asks that gets Chanyeol raising his brows slowly. Soo shrugs, “What? Well, understandable. He had it weeks ago and now it’s like everything has adjusted for him in an instant.”

Chanyeol maintains the same expression before finally breaking into a light laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“How can you not figure it out?” he asks with a hint of smile and Kyungsoo is even more confused, “I wouldn’t be so shocked upon hearing it from you if we’re still friends.”

His doe eyes rounded even more.

“You’re not friends with him anymore?”

“Hmm, you can put it that way.” Chanyeol’s lips purse for a little sad smile, “I never really heard from him again after he resigned from the diner. Then after so many years, I just heard about him from the headlines and news. Imagine how my jaw dropped to the floor. One of the youngest successful magnate. Damn.”

Soo wants to roll his eyes but is able to stop himself. He’s had enough of everyone in awe of that jerk.

“Maybe working for my father opened so many doors for him, after all.” he ends up shrugging. Chanyeol chuckles even more.

“You’re really clueless, aren’t you?” he looks so shocked on how little Kyungsoo’s knowledge about it is. He stares at him but the shorter remains looking bewildered, “He never worked there.”

Kyungsoo stares back at him this time. He’s taken aback, judging from the way his clutch on his pants tighten a bit.

“What do you mean? I was there when he got the big internship spot.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t really push through.” Chanyeol tells him seriously, “To be honest, everything was very vague for me that time. I never heard from you again after that day I drove you home. Jongin didn’t come to the diner for a week and when he got back to working… he was just… I don’t know, different? He wasn’t really that friendly anymore. Sometimes, he would just snap at anyone. I preferred leaving him away from the counter work. He preferred to be alone, I noticed.”

He hates the sudden curiosity rousing in him. He survived eight years without hearing any word about Jongin, why should this moment be any exception? These questions will soon drown themselves because he shouldn’t care any less. Not anymore.

“Why…?” but then he still asked.

This shouldn’t change anything. After what Jongin did to him before, it’s not possible that he had anything to do with those changes and decisions Chanyeol was telling him. He probably just wanted more than what Kyungsoo’s father could offer, that’s it. He was never contented.

“Like I said, I was equally confused.” Chanyeol sighs, “Jongin wasn’t as chirpy as I was, but I knew he was kind. He used to find happiness in the littlest things. But then, that time he just changed.”

Soo looks down to the table. No matter how much he wants to be the person who’ll disagree with what Chanyeol said, the last few words are enough to suddenly suppress all the retaliation at the edge of his tongue, it comes along with the slight pinch in his chest.

“I never really knew what the deal was between the both of you so I couldn’t conclude the correlation of you leaving. And so it freaked me out when I found out he turned down the job offer from your big firm and chose to work full-time at the diner and probably had some other jobs, too. When we graduated, he resigned, bid me one goodbye and a hug, then bam, never heard from him again… until a few years later, I guess.”

“Then where was he… in those years he was unheard of?” just this time, he seeks for some answers. Maybe hearing them could finally help some of his sleepless nights.

“I personally didn’t know the whole details. But when I heard his name from the news, I tried researching to make sure it was him no matter how dumb it seemed. I think he topped KAAB’s licensure exam the year we graduated and basically gained a lot of offer from multiple companies. And then he worked on his Civil Engineering units and license, too.” it’s funny. All those years, Kyungsoo thought he already imagined the utmost success Jongin could possibly have but he really exceeded everything, “He preferred to work in a much lesser known firm than the bigger ones, I heard. The likes of Valle and, uhm… your father of course.”

Despite how convincing all of it sounds, he prefers to respond with a sarcastic smile.

“Well, who would want to work in a company you badly want to overthrow, right?”

Chanyeol only smiles before shrugging.

“I don’t know. I don’t think that’s the reason he had.” Soo’s little grin falters because of this. He takes another subtle gulp before casually drifting to another question.

“So what, did he acquire that firm he worked at, too?” he asks with so much sourness in his tone, “Turned it into his huge empire?”

“No, he built KJI from complete scratch.” Chanyeol continues to look awed by it, earning him a slightly sharp look from Kyungsoo. “I think he had so many renowned clients from the firm that they were more than willing to follow him when he decided to build his own. It was said KJI was solely just an architectural firm while he was studying his MBA in the US. And when he finished, he came back and not even a year passed and he expanded it into a wide variety of businesses. It was wild.”

Once again, Soo blinks a few times before swallowing.

“W-Where in the US?”

“I can’t really recall, but it’s a big school, probably.”

For some reason, the thumping in his chest reaches up his throat. He tries reasoning out with himself; America is a big country. There’s nothing to worry about.

Chanyeol fails to notice the way he spaced out from the last revelation. The taller gazes at the glass wall beside their table with the same gentle smile.

“To be honest, I’m still not used to seeing him on the headlines, television, or even hearing his name attached to some kind of power. I would always come across to some press photos of him, looking like a complete package with his playful smiles and some famous hookup rumors but as someone who felt like I genuinely knew him when we were young… it feels weird, you know?” he says with a tone expressing so much nostalgia, “Jongin has always been hardworking, so the success he has now isn’t surprising. But the persona he appears to be in the public is just the polar opposite of the person I knew him as. Sometimes, I feel like he’s faking it, almost.”

The dismayed smile he has reflects on the other guy in front of him. Some blurry memories start coming back into Kyungsoo’s head. They cause the clear bitterness in his voice upon saying the next few words.

“Maybe the one you knew was the fake one. His current persona fits him too well.”

Chanyeol looks at him with a hint of curiosity and some other underlying meaning in his gaze. It’s his turn to lean back and gently cross his arms over his chest.

“I don’t know… what do you think?” he asks Kyungsoo, “You know him so much, too, right? Even more than me, or anyone.”

Soo forces a grin, chuckling afterwards as if it’s ridiculous.

“How would I know?” he asks and Chanyeol raises a brow in intrigue, “I don’t think I ever knew him deeply. He was just my father’s part-timer.”

And did he lie?

Soo firmly stands by what he just said. For him, he never knew Jongin at all. The guy he fell head over heels with was nothing but a façade to deceive him.

The taller man nods once, glancing sideways as if he remembers too many things that make it even harder to believe. With that, Kyungsoo tries to maintain composure.

“So there was never… something special between the both of you?”

“That’s ridiculous...” he chuckles again and shakes his head, “He was my driver. That’s all.”

The way he rambled for words doesn’t go unnoticed to Chanyeol. His eyes linger on Soo that the latter has to reach for his almost empty glass of drink and sips from it just so he can escape.

“I see.”

“So… how about you? Do you work full time at your Dad’s repair shop?” he clears his throat while still not looking at him directly.

“Nope. Just lending an extra hand recently because of his condition.” it relieves him that Chanyeol went along with the sudden change of topic, “I’m an A&R coordinator at a recording company.”

“Oh, yeah… I remember you were a music major before.” Soo’s lips parted in awe before smiling, “That’s really nice to hear, Chanyeol.”

“Hmm, though it’s not exactly what I want, I guess I just have to settle.” Chanyeol shrugs before flashing a lazy grin, “I’ve always wanted to actually produce music, you know? Even before. But it’s been years and nobody bothers to give it a try. Maybe it’s not really for me.”

With a snort of disagreement, Kyungsoo encourages Chanyeol before the dismayed look could even settle on his face.

“That’s ridiculous. You should try again. For sure, you can have a shot on it.” he says and smiles when he remembers a certain moment, “I actually kinda like the ones you made before. I remember listening to it in the car with Bae—” Soo immediately pauses before he could even complete the name but Chanyeol’s already looking at him so he could only cuss internally, “Yep… t-they’re good.”

“Must be nice working together again?”

It’s not obvious how it took some courage to casually welcome the topic, but Chanyeol does anyway. He’s gently smiling at Kyungsoo but the latter can clearly see something beneath his eyes.

“Not really.” he honestly says, pertaining to Baekhyun. “But… you? I think you saw him there a while ago as well. Didn’t you two…”

He confirms something obviously happened when Chanyeol only fell silent. Soo knew that he also saw Baekhyun earlier, but the reason behind the avoidant response to it is the one he’s most curious about.

What happened to them?

He remembers what the people in the office were saying about Baekhyun. He’s described oppositely to how Kyungsoo knew him before. The one he knew wasn’t concern on pleasing so many people. That wasn’t who he saw back there.

He can’t help thinking whether Chanyeol has anything to do with it.

“What happened, Chanyeol?” he instantly regrets asking when he realized it must be the last thing Chanyeol wants to talk about, “I’m sorry. I’ve been really nosy since we got he—”

“It’s okay, silly. I know you’re curious.” he cuts him off while giving a reassuring smile, “Well, it’s been years since I last talked to Baekhyun, too.”

His last argument with Baekhyun is the first thing that comes across his mind. Right then, Soo earnestly wishes he had nothing to do with their fall out.

“Why?” it might have been a long time ago, but Kyungsoo was fully aware of how much Baekhyun liked Chanyeol then. It’s hard to imagine what could’ve happened, considering he never knew if they ever became official. “I remember you really clicked but I wasn’t really sure about it, either. Did you guys ever date? Like before or after I left?”

The casual smile situates itself on Chanyeol’s lips but his gaze won’t settle straight into Kyungsoo’s.

“We did.” he pauses and looks at the table this time, “At least… for me. I don’t know how he ever considered it. But it seemed like an official relationship for me, you know I’ve always liked him, right?” he glances at Soo with a shrug, “I don’t know. It just became messy eventually.”

“Messy?”

After another brief rumination, Chanyeol finally lets out a heavy sigh.

“I never really liked talking about it in depth, but I know I can trust you.” he says like he’s finally allowing himself to let everything out to someone after so long. Soo listens intently, “Actually when you went away, Baekhyun wished to see me more and more, surprisingly. We hang out a lot, fooled around. Basically I was there whenever he’s bored and needed some entertainment. So I thought it would be something serious.” he chuckles lightly, “Don’t get me wrong, I could see he was trying when we started, too. But then after that, it was like all games for him. He began having crazier lifestyle, partying and friends. I don’t know, I felt left out. Worst was I couldn’t even complain because I don’t know if I was ever his boyfriend.”

Kyungsoo isn’t able to say anything. He finds it hard to process. Baekhyun? Doing all of that?

“It’s pathetic, honestly.” Chanyeol tries to smile when he sees Kyungsoo’s serious look at him, “I felt like he would just call me then… for sex or whenever he needed some reassurance when he was insecure, then after that, I’d go back to tailing behind him again. I got tired of it, eventually. I don’t think I could ever keep up with the life he was embracing then. I probably was just a fling for him, too, so I just stopped.”

Soo can’t help hurting for Chanyeol. He seemed like he was really willing to take a shot with Baekhyun so hearing this now is a little upsetting. He can’t believe Baekhyun could be like that.

“Did… you ever talk about it?”

“I did, when I wanted it over. He didn’t really take it well, though.” Chanyeol tries to look like it’s only a funny memory he’s eager to bury, “It was just a blurry memory to me. But he was shouting, right at my face, not minding if I get humiliated in front of the other socialites around him.” Soo creases his brows because of this, but the taller continues. “Maybe he was really pissed about me standing up for myself. He even mentioned you while on it, telling me I probably wanted you instead even from the start. It’s funny now that I think about it, I didn’t know where he was coming from… at all.”

And there his guilt gets worse when he confirms his thoughts a while ago. His impulsive words really affected Baekhyun somehow that it ended up affecting their whole relationship. Great. He feels like he just ruined them and it’s horrible.

“I do…” he admits to Chanyeol, “I-I’m sorry. I probably had something to do with it because I dragged your name when we last argued… I probably c-caused everything… I’m sorry, Chanyeol.”

Chanyeol blinks at him, parting his lips to say something then purses them again. He briefly stares into space while a bitter smile trails on his lips. Then he looks at Kyungsoo again.

“It’s done. It’s a long time ago, don’t worry about it. It was still his choice, so no need to take the blame.” he says instead, refusing to ask more about it and possibly open wounds. “Years passed, it’s just normal that… we don’t have anything to do with some people anymore.”

Soo can’t even look longer at his reassuring expression, guiltily shaking his head once.

“I just wish some things had gone differently for you…”

Chanyeol blinks rapidly before staring straight at him, gently nodding despite the pain in his eyes after having to recall everything again.

“Everything was never really the same, Kyungsoo.” he tells him truthfully, “Especially after you left.”

Kyungsoo smiles bitterly and looks outside instead. He instantly shakes off the feeling that began rousing in him upon hearing that. No. They’re the last people he’ll feel bad for. He’ll never forget that.

Those people do not have the slightest right to make him feel guilty about what possibly happened to them within those years.

They scarred him the most, they deserved all of it.

x

 

When Friday of his first week came, Soo already feels like giving up. The demand of the job is no joke because of the amount of clients closing deals consistently. The first week of the firm being under KJI is only about to end but he thinks it’s close to being out of bankruptcy already.

Maybe he’ll die along with it soon enough, though. He hasn’t taken a decent rest and he’s been having overtimes almost everyday. A big project is already given to them after being split into two teams. Despite that, they still need to work individually for the designs and even if Soo has always liked what he does, it comes to a point that he badly yearns for a rest because of too much exhaustion.

On his first week.

Today is the only exception he made from overworking. Right after his shift, he goes straight to the hospital because of his mother’s request. As much as Soo wants to decline and take the time to rest instead of seeing his father, he’s not able to decline his Mom’s plead again.

He can only hope he won’t be forced to interact with the old man. He’s already drained out of life and energy.

“Hey.” he closes the door behind him and looks at Sukyung who only gives him a glance before continuing her sketch, “Where’s Mom?”

“Went home for a while to get some clothes.” she mumbles with her gaze focused on the glass garden she draws.

The girl doesn’t even bother looking at him whenever she answers. It’s been more than a week since he arrived but he feels like there’s no progress on the relationship between him and his sister. She’s not cold nor hostile, but her indifferent behavior doesn’t worry Kyungsoo any less.

When silence takes over, he glances at their father who’s sleeping before walking to where Sukyung is. She doesn’t even bat an eye even when he stood right beside her.

A memory of his seven year-old sister drawing doll dresses on her bed comes into his mind. Now, he often sees her sketching tall towers and modern parks. It’s crazy seeing how much she improved. Sukyung is into a field that their father was shoving down his throat many years ago, but it doesn’t upset him at all. Instead, it even makes him happy.

“Wow… that’s really good.” Soo tries to initiate a conversation and it’s the only way he could think of, “I didn’t know you’re into Landscape Architecture. I thought you like Fashion Design.”

Sukyung erases some mistakes on the side before muttering a response.

“Kids like that.” she says nonchalantly while going through her other pencils, “I’m no longer a kid.”

Soo went silent because of her response. He clears his throat before retrieving another smile.

“So… is that what you’ll pursue in college?”

Sukyung chuckles a little sarcastically, “College... Yeah, right.”

“Why?” his smile completely falters this time, “Sukyung, the firm went bankrupt but that doesn’t mean you can’t study anymore. That’s why I’m here. You can pursue whatever you want.”

His younger sister simply glances at him blankly, not bothering to give a response anymore. No matter how hard it is, Kyungsoo tries to keep composure. He has to be patient and not let his exhaustion get in the way because it will only make things worse.

“We haven’t talked properly since I came back.” he says rather gently this time, sitting down on the other side of the couch. “Are you mad?”

“Why would I be?” Sukyung looks at him in confusion.

“Just…” the older gulps, “I’ve always wanted to explain why I needed to leave and I hope you will let me.”

“No need.” Sukyung pauses for a while to shrug, “I’m aware.”

She goes back to what she’s doing, dismissing the way her brother’s eyes remain on her expectantly.

“You are?”

“You hated Dad.” she says casually like it has always been a known fact, “That’s it, right?”

“It’s not just that.”

“And you hated being rich. Being an heir.” the side of her lips curves a little, “Right?”

Kyungsoo stares at her in disbelief. When she doesn’t bat an eye and simply goes back to drawing, he gulps and speaks.

“I did what I needed to do.” Kyungsoo says firmly, “And I came back because I don’t want you to experience what I’ve been through before. I want to save you and keep you away from being a bait on this mess.”

Sukyung narrows her eyes in confusion.

“Why would you think I needed saving?” shaking her head once, “I’m not some damsel in distress.”

“You’re okay with being married off to someone you don’t even know?” he questions demandingly.

“I’m rational enough to welcome the logic of it.” his sister gives him an immediate response that gets him even more astounded. “I’m not stupid. I know what I’m doing and I’m not marrying some horrible person once I’m of age. What’s so wrong about trying to see every solution of the problem instead of running away from it instantly?”

“Can you hear yourself? You can marry someone you don’t even love?”

“I can get to know someone and decide whether I can marry him or not. If I don’t want to, then that’s where I’ll fight for myself. By then, I know I have an even stronger reason.” Sukyung puts down the pencil this time to look at him straight in the eye, “That’s how I deal with any problem. I don’t need someone else to decide for my choices before I could even try them.”

Kyungsoo’s chest starts heaving, but he can’t find the right words to retaliate. Or maybe he has some but the courage isn’t there.

He can’t be hearing this from his sister. His teenager sister who was the main reason why he came back to suffer all of these for. He doesn’t deserve to hear this.

“You’re lucky you have choices on what to do then.” he gulps before gritting his teeth beneath his smile, “I never had that here.”

“You just feel like everything’s against your will all the time.” she says directly, not sounding sharp nor mocking, but the honesty in her tone makes it even worse.

“What?” Soo hisses under his breath when the words’ effect on him starts getting out of hand. The last thing he wants is to fight with Sukyung but she doesn’t seem to get the hint at all.

“Do you think I never noticed? You’ve always been a rebel, at seven I already knew that.” his lips purse into a thin line when Sukyung sits straight to speak continuously, “Our Dad is controlling, yes. But I’ve always seen how you mindlessly defied him whenever you got the chance, some are not even for your own choice or happiness, but to piss him off, I guess.”

“You don’t know anything, Sukyung.”

“Don’t I now…” she mumbles with a light chuckle, “Am I really wrong? Before he even came up with something, you already counterattacked it. Probably why you felt like everything and everyone were always against you. Try to think about it, brother.”

“You didn’t and still don’t have any idea what I’ve gone through that time. You don’t get to talk.” he’s not aware how his eyes start glistening, out of exhaustion and pain from the words thrown to him. Sukyung sees this, urging herself to finally stop and end the conversation.

“I didn’t say I did.” she says with the same neutral tone like she didn’t do anything that had the other so worked up. But she doesn’t look at her brother this time, packing all her materials instead. “It was just a mere observation. Sorry if I offended you.”

All the emotions are just too much to handle. Soo badly wants crumble and break down on the spot, not just because of the words from his little sister, but also from the frustration that has been pent up for the whole week. He stares at the floor instead, teeth gritted hard so he could collect himself for a while. It has been too much for him.

“I’m having dinner at the cafeteria.” Sukyung leaves her materials on the table and goes to get her pouch. Her older brother remains clutching his pants firmly as he tries to blink his tears away and clear his throat.

“My wallet’s in m-my bag…” he tries to tell her despite the difficulty.

“No need, I have a few bills left.” she calmly says and walks to the door. Soo grabs this chance to wipe the edge of his eyes, “Do you want anything?”

He only shakes his head and hears the door closing afterwards.

Soo remains on the same spot for another minute, breathing in and out to successfully hold it back again. When he lets out one last heavy breath, he glances up and sees his father’s eyes on him, as if watching him all this time from where he’s lying down.

The old man’s eyes are still cold and a little hard, as usual. They’re too vague to be read. And he’s reminded of why the last thing he would want to do is shed a tear in front of him. He’s not giving him another satisfaction.

So he keeps a blank face, subtly swallowing the lump that settled in his throat. Kyungsoo stands up and moves to the other couch behind the bed curtain, where they won’t have to see each other, at least until his mother comes back.

After a few minutes of mindlessly reading on his phone, someone knocks on the door.

A hospital staff politely bows at him with a cart in front of her, “The patient’s dinner, Sir.”

Immediately recognizing his dilemma, Kyungsoo blinks continuously.

“H-He didn’t have it yet?”

“Dinner’s at six, Sir.”

He sighs deeply before pulling the cart inside and signing the record. The cart of food stays beside him even after closing the door, he actually considers texting Sukyung to see if she can come back and feed their Dad herself. But he can’t be suddenly acting like nothing just happened and she’s probably just in the middle of her own dinner. Way to ruin their relationship even more if ever he decides to interrupt that.

God, when is his mother arriving?

Even if it’s not on his own accord, Soo brings the food and stands up beside his father’s bed to get it over with. The latter needs to take his medication, so his pride might just cost them larger hospital bills. They don’t need to be civil, anyway.

He wordlessly adjusts the bed without sparing the old man a glance. The machineries are the only noise source in the room. He pauses briefly before finally holding onto his father’s shoulders to help him sit up.

“Sit up, you need to eat dinner.” he tells him when the weight makes it difficult for him.

His father’s hard gaze contradicts the lack of color on his face. He looks so weak, and food might be something that could help. But he won’t even open his mouth properly when Soo began feeding him.

“Open up more.” Kyungsoo says it firmly, still trying to sound calm. “Come on, you need to eat.”

The food starts dripping down because of it. Kyungsoo’s head becomes even heavier. A part of his father’s face is paralyzed because of the stroke but he knows he’s capable of eating properly. But now he just won’t cooperate.

He purses his lips while cleaning the mess that was made. Soo doesn’t say anything anymore, nor does he look at his father’s cold, taunting eyes that are directed ahead. If he lets it get to his nerve, it won’t end up well.

Just a little more, Soo. He tells himself, just wait a little more and you can leave and finally take a rest.

Kyungsoo puts a napkin on his father’s collar to make the process better. But as he tries again, the old man still won’t try enough.

He shuts his eyes tight before heaving deeply, gripping the spoon in his fingers.

“Please.” he mutters. He gently pushes the spoon again but now his Dad would barely part his lips.

And there, he’s pushed to his limits. Kyungsoo’s jaw hardens as he feeds him more forcefully. The older starts shaking his head in defiance, looking at him sharply.

“Mm-hmmph!

“God fucking dammit.” Soo finally drops the spoon on the tray while a harsh breath escapes his lips, “Fine. You want to starve yourself and die? Go on!”

The agonizing silence engulfs everything again. His father looks taken aback by his outburst, although his expression remains hard. Kyungsoo’s ragged breathing can be heard, and he can’t control the tears of frustration forming in his bloodshot eyes anymore.

“I’m not going to fucking keep up with your bullshit, Dad! Have you seen what you did to Sukyung and me? Are you satisfied seeing us like that?” his father looks at him because of this, his gaze softening. But the anger, weariness, you name it— they’re all pent up and became an uncontrollable outburst for Soo that he just had to say it. Say what he’s been keeping in since he got sacrificed into this cruel deal between the worst men in his life.

He harshly wipes his face and swallows hard.

Fuck… it’s like y-your sole purpose in life is to ruin everything f-for me... You did it again. You successfully brought me back h-here to suffer for all you did. Aren’t you satisfied?” he says with so much weight. Tears began forming in his father’s eyes as well but Soo shakes his head frantically, “I can never fucking forgive you. So piss me off one more time and I won’t think twice about leaving again to let your goddamn company rot in hell!”

He stops there because it becomes harder to speak in between crying. He shifts sideways to let it out silently, like a child in heavy tears while trying to catch his breath.

When he finally gets the courage to stop for a while, he wipes his eyes and faces the bed to continue his task. His father is now looking down, shoulders slightly heaving while blinking rapidly. Soo dismisses it all and keeps a straight face while lifting the platter of food once more.

“Eat.” his voice is still raspy. His father actually parts his lips wider this time, eating what he feeds him while his gaze remains on his own blanket. Kyungsoo swears he’ll storm out of here once he’s done. Or even when someone comes. His chest doesn’t feel lighter and he fears that he’d end up showing weakness again after another trigger anyone could pull.

They’re only halfway when he hears the door opening. He gently puts down the tray, earning him a look from his father. But Soo lets out another deep breath and decides that he’s done. At least for today.

“Soo?” he hears his mother’s voice and he doesn’t think twice about leaving the food there. He grabs his things from the couch and doesn’t say anything anymore even when his mother has seen him preparing to leave.

“S-Soo, where are you…” he kisses her cheek gently and wordlessly goes out.

On his way home, he dismissed the looks he got in the bus because of silently crying on his seat. They didn’t know who he was anyway. The fatigue was just so sickening already. Sukyung’s words and everything else made it heavier that he was not even able to at least reach his unit.

He was never counterattacking anything without trying. He always tries.

x

 

The following weeks aren’t any better. A day after the project’s deadline, they’re gathered in a closed door meeting with a few project heads, operations manager and the CEO himself. It’s to evaluate the designs of both teams for the big client.

One thing he noticed about this company is how everyone goes uptight whenever Jongin attends the meetings. It’s like everyone has their lives depended on it if something doesn’t go smoothly. He doesn’t see him around too much because technically, he’s staying in his main company office which is KJI. That’s why after knowing that he’ll be attending this evaluation meeting, Kyungsoo fights the urge to roll his eyes in front of Junmyeon. He’s been doing well without seeing the guy’s face every day and they just have to be in the same room again now. What a waste of air.

He didn’t worry about his own designs and even his teammates’ because most of them are impressive. If they reject them then the project heads are clearly a bunch of idiots (he didn’t include the CEO in this because for Soo, he already is— an idiot). He went in the conference room with too much confidence about their output, not even welcoming the possibility of criticism.

But of course, they’re clearly inevitable when he’s involved.

“We gave you the objectives you need to follow. The designs are good and intricate but half of these aren’t even met.” a project head starts scolding them upon seeing the first design that belongs to one of his teammates. Their presentation barely even started and they’re already shaking their heads. Soo narrows his eyes on his seat.

The architect standing in front starts blinking rapidly.

“U-Uhm, I just followed the modern style the client wanted, Architect… I didn’t know the specific things—”

“We gave you a certain list of objectives. That’s what the company thinks the client would prefer based on the previous meeting we had. As junior designers, we expect you to follow that.” Soojung gently tells her while going through the same folder seriously. Kyungsoo can’t help looking at her with distaste.

“May I see that list, Architect?” Soo finally speaks on his own seat in attempt to reason out for their whole team. The room becomes briefly silent when he asked one of the project heads. Jongin looks at him from across the table.

Another project head responds to Kyungsoo while looking confused.

“What do you mean? You should have your own copies of that. We sent it out to both teams.”

Soo suppresses a sarcastic smile, immediately figuring out what could’ve happened. He glances at the corner where the other team is sitting after their successful but mediocre presentation. Mia’s smile is obvious on her dark red lips.

And he thought sabotage is long gone from this damn building.

Kyungsoo chooses to deal with it professionally, looking back at the project heads once again.

“Maybe the client would want to see the designs we made, too.” he proposes when no one in his team was brave enough to try. They’re just watching him expectantly, not having the same courage. “If they only specifically asked for modern and patterned, then they can probably consider checking if they like these.”

“We will not show them to the client unless you follow the said objectives. That’s what we do.” the same architect heading the project tells him with finality.

God, they’re really trying hard to be edgy in front of this jerk, aren’t they?

First of all, this is just unfair and stupid. That’s what Kyungsoo can make out of the situation. They worked hard for the designs and these people won’t even give them a chance because of a list that’s not even completely based on the client, but from their stupid company standard. He’s not being paid as much as these architects, but he clearly uses his rational logic more than them. It’s a shame.

“We will work on the revisions, but I think we can still include these in the portfolio for the upcoming meeting with them. Even just for consideration if ever they would want more options.”

Everyone in the room is looking at them, anticipating the next thing to happen. Some are even looking at him with distaste, wondering how such a lowly employee insists his belief into these renowned people around him. Kyungsoo couldn’t care less. They’re obviously being anything but reasonable.

Even Soojung is looking at him with her professionally considerate look on her face like she’s not capable of doing anything nasty.

Kyungsoo gladly raises both his brows at her, and she finally looks back to the portfolio.

“Sir?” the architect sighs and all of them turn to Jongin’s direction for the final decision, except Kyungsoo who prefers to focus on the more desirable looking— his designs.

“Meet the objectives. We’ll send the other team’s designs first.”

With a look of disbelief, Kyungsoo finally glances up at him. But the CEO is simply looking straight ahead, almost testingly.

“Okay, Sir.”

“But the client can possibly like some aspects of the designs we made, too.” Kyungsoo can barely notice how his own tone changes a little now that he’s talking to him directly, “If they won’t like them, then fine. But I think they can get more ideas if there are more options. If they could come up with more specific preferences, then we can apply it to the revisions to meet what they actually like. Both teams.”

Jongin sits up straight and stares at him seriously, as if testing to make sure if he’s really willing to cross the line in this very meeting. But Kyungsoo being Kyungsoo, he keeps his ground and looks at him without batting an eye.

“The objectives we proposed were already standardized. Meaning it’s the closest criteria to what the client wants.” the side of his lips curves with sarcasm, emphasizing his words with the power he knows he holds. “Revise your designs.”

“But it’s not the exact preference of the client, right?” Soo isn’t even shaken despite some of his team members sending him subtle signals to cut it off while looking slightly horrified, “I just think the process shouldn’t be too manufactured. Both clients and designers deserve freedom to their creativity. I don’t think it’s how things should wor—”

That is how things work here.” Jongin snaps with a merciless look in his eyes, “If you’re used to getting everything you want from where you came from, then you should know it doesn’t work like that in this firm anymore. We don’t spoil anyone here.”

Now everyone is agonizingly silent. Most of them even look down out of fear on what’s about to escalate.

Kyungsoo purses his lips tightly, harshly brought back to his rightful place that he knew he’s not allowed to retaliate anything else anymore.

Soojung flips the portfolio with a small smile forming on her lips.

“I set the terms, and you follow.” Jongin raises a brow with every word escaping swiftly from his lips, “Is that so hard to understand, Mr. Do?”

Now he’s sure almost everyone in the room shared shocked glances. The surname surely rings a bell in their heads.

Subtly gritting his teeth, Soo formally smiles before shaking his head.

“Not at all.”

“Good.” the CEO’s gaze finally leaves him as he stands up to look around everyone, the stoic look making its way back to his face. “We dismiss it right here for now. Revise all of these. Make this your priority.”

Straightening his suit, he looks at Kyungsoo a little longer even when the latter is back to silently fixing their portfolio.

“I’ll see you around, everyone.”

The rest of the employees went out of the room after Junmyeon wrapped the meeting up. Their team was the last one left to pack their dismissed portfolios and presentation materials. No one really spoke about it, or at least to Kyungsoo. He could hear some occasional mumbling not just from the employees going out, but also from his own teammates.

When he finished what he needed to fix, he went out ahead of them. Some executives are still outside, crowded around someone for what seems to be after-meeting inquiries. Kyungsoo walks to where one of the secretariat is. On his way, he finally gets a glimpse of Jongin seriously talking to the said executives. Soojung is also there, standing right beside the CEO as if it’s where she naturally belongs. Before any of them could even glance at him, he looks away and dismisses the sight. He doesn’t see the pair of eyes that follows his way afterwards.

“Hi.” he approaches the secretariat who stares at him awkwardly, “Were you the one who sent out the objective memo for this big client? May I ask when you handed them?”

“I gave them out to both teams, last last week, I think?” she squints her eyes as if trying to recall exactly when, “I went to your department, around lunch time.”

His lips purse into a thin line when he confirms his theory a while ago.

“Thanks.” Kyungsoo doesn’t wait for the secretariat’s response and walks back to their office where the members of the other team are already going back to their own cubicles with victorious smiles that surely have some underlying meaning. Soo directly walks up to the one closest to his cubicle, who’s shamelessly taking a selfie with her phone.

“Mia.”

She takes another one before completely facing him, smiling big.

“Oh, hey Kyung.” she nods once, flashing her awe. “That was a big revelation back there, I didn’t know you were actually the former Chairman’s son.”

“Were you here when the memos of project objective were distributed?”

She raises both her shaded brows innocently.

“You mean the one you didn’t follow?”

“Magically, our whole team didn’t get one, so yes.” Kyungsoo intentionally implies something with his smile, “I’m just wondering if you saw them. They probably flew away from our tables while we’re out for a lunch meeting.”

“Of course, I did. It didn’t fly away, though. Thanks to me.” she sassily makes her way to Kyungsoo’s cubicle and pulls something out from his bulk of unrelated files, “Here, I was nice enough to put it in your files so it would be safe. See?”

Some of Kyungsoo’s team members arrived a while ago and were able to hear this. They look into their own and find their memos in the same places, looking back at the woman in disbelief.

Soo intently stares at Mia.

“You folded it, and put it in the bulk files of our tables?”

“Mm-hmm. I know it was nice of me.” she sighs and casually smiles again, “Oh hey, it’s lunch. So you guys are going out or what?”

Her question obviously has some pun intended in it. One designer from her team chuckles upon hearing this, to which she smiles in return.

Soo takes the memo from her hands, still keeping the same smile despite his teeth gritting. He breathes and gathers enough composure.

“Later, I guess.”

“Okay!” Mia shrugs before sneaking beside Kyungsoo to reach for her pouch, “Don’t stay out too long for lunch, though. We only have an hour.” she blows them a kiss before walking out.

His hands clutch into fists while watching her leave. Realizing he can’t do anything about it anymore, Kyungsoo lets out a sigh and puts the memo back on his table.

“She’s fucking crazy.” Kim Dongwook, one of his teammates, is already standing beside his cubicle with a look of disbelief on his face. Now that he gets to notice, Minji, Gidu and Seojin are also standing nearby, too astounded by what they figured out. They still look bummed by their failed presentation that the revelation of their team member’s identity briefly gets forgotten.

“I can’t believe their team is actually up for sabotage. They’re that desperate?” Minji leans back on one of the cubicles with a gasp.

Soo looks at them, “Maybe we can speak about this to the higher-ups. We didn’t get the objective list.”

“No. More drama will only get us less work done.” Seojin says seriously. She’s not speaking to him directly but Kyungsoo isn’t dumb to know where she’s coming from, “Haven’t we learned from the meeting back there? If the CEO didn’t get too pissed, I don’t think we need to revise all of our designs.”

No one speaks. It’s lunch so they are the only ones left in the office. His other teammates’ silence is enough proof of agreement to what she said.

“Is this about what I said?” Kyungsoo asks them, “I was just trying to make a point—”

“We still think it wasn’t right to talk back to Mr. Kim like that.” Seojin cuts him off. Now she’s obviously pissed by what he did back there and it shows, “You don’t have the upper hand here anymore, Kyungsoo. He owns the firm now, I hope you understand that we don’t want our jobs to be on the line.” she says before walking back to her cubicle. They all look at him, still awfully silent.

Meanwhile, his jaw almost drops in disbelief. Kyungsoo can’t believe they’re thinking about it this way. He didn’t do it because of the thought of being superior. He was the only there who fought for their work.

When he remains speechless, the others eventually go back to their own places, too. Dongwook is the last one left, offering an apologetic smile before tapping his arm.

“We’ll get even with that high-ponytailed girl.” he nods reassuringly before leaving for lunch, too.

 

 

He wasn’t able to talk to any of them again within that day. It’s not like he could. Their whole team was drowned into revisions, while the other team barely had anything to do and wasn’t considerate enough to let them work peacefully by how much loud they laughed and talked to each other. It even felt like an intentional distraction. No, it’s actually intentional, surely.

Thankfully, they went home on time and their team was the only one left after five. They stayed for a few more hours, Dongwook and Kyungsoo cracking the lead of every pencil in Mia’s holder in between short breaks. The others were too focused and preferred not to be involved. The two brought the lead back on the ends to make the pencils appear normal then went back to their tables with a huge grin. Small steps of getting even.

When the sky got darker, they eventually went home one by one. Only Soo was left past nine o’clock, deciding it’s enough when his eyelids felt heavier from all the work he had done.

He walks past the lobby to take the elevator with two of his heavy bags, one on his back while the other slings on his shoulder. The floor is almost empty because junior designers usually prefer taking their work home as one of their privileges. Soo begs to differ, though. He has always been the type to finish everything in the workplace, even while still in New York.

While waiting, he’s actually wishing someone would come and take the elevator as well. He hates being alone in it. Seonho would always tease him about being afraid of elevator ghosts but to be fair, Kyungsoo simply hates the idea of being stuck all by himself.

It finally reaches the floor he’s in. And in between mindlessly stepping forward, he quickly stops when he sees the only person in it.

Jongin casually looks at him, waiting for him to step inside, but Kyungsoo remains standing one step away from the elevator. A part of him is panicking inside and wishes he just took the stairs to be sure (he’s on the 28th floor, if you must know), while the other part is subconsciously waiting for the elevator to simply close again so he could take the other ones.

But all of them are useless because Jongin simply clicks the button to have the doors opened until he gets back to his senses and finally come inside. Telling him off would definitely make things worse and Soo is already thinking of that. So despite feeling so unfortunate, he accepts his fate and goes inside the elevator. The CEO is standing in the middle so he had to push himself at the very corner to keep a distance.

He begs heavens that someone would take the same elevator from the next floors, almost audibly praying it, even.

Oh how much he’d give to just actually be stuck in an elevator alone.

“Are you going home?”

Kyungsoo glances sideways when he hears him asking. As much as he wants to play dumb, it’s obviously for him because no one else is there and the man isn’t in his phone either.

“Yes.” he says coldly, trying to be professional because they’re still in the firm’s property.

“Where’s your car?” how could he speak to him so casually like he didn’t humiliate and expose him in front of everyone this afternoon? How much guts does he have?

“I don’t have one.” Soo answers and bluntly stares at the LED screen to see if they’re close to their respective floors, “I’ll take the bus.”

“I’ll give you a ride.”

Blood pumps all over his system. He hates it. No matter how much he tries to maintain a cold façade, it’s too obvious how he got speechless.

Kyungsoo gulps hard and looks straight ahead.

“I don’t think so.” and maybe over his dead goddamn body.

“Come on, it’s late.” Jongin looks at him, “Your bag looks heavy.”

“No, thanks. I like walking.”

The businessman chuckles this time. Kyungsoo narrows his eyes at him, getting a closer look at the amused grin on his handsome face that he barely hears the sound of the elevator.

“What?” he hisses at Jongin.

“Nothing.” he says while still looking at the shorter. Then he points in front, and Soo figures out that the door is already opened. “It’s the ground floor. Aren’t you taking the bus?”

Kyungsoo’s glare lingers on him for a little bit more before stepping outside. The big frown settles on his face even when he’s already stomping outside the tower’s exit. It even gets worse when he hears the loud rumbling from the sky. Kyungsoo curses hard and walks quickly to the bus stop.

He’s the only one there again, and the rain starts pouring as soon as he got under the small roof. He looks up and heaves in frustration, trying to estimate how long the rain could possibly go on. He doesn’t notice the big, luxurious Range Rover slowing down in front of him. Kyungsoo instinctively frowns at it even before he could see the driver, and when the window slides down, it’s only right that he did.

“It looks cold out there.” Jongin tilts his head sideway to grin at him, “Still prefer the bus?”

Sarcasm is all over Kyungsoo’s face, smiling back disingenuously.

“I will always prefer the bus.”

Jongin shrugs, “Alright. Suit yourself.”

The way he swiftly drove away didn’t fail to infuriate Kyungsoo, as well. He whispered a bunch of profanities dedicated to the arrogant businessman alone even when the strong raindrops drowned them. The next bus finally comes and Soo grumpily takes the farthest seat at the back.

It’s not even a minute of scrolling through Naver yet and an article already catches his attention, specifically the collaged headline photo of that insolent jerk and an attractive… modelish woman… kinda.

Did Hanseoh Group Decline Working with KJI Industries Because of the Past Romance Issue between the Said Chairman’s Only Daughter and Kim Kai Himself?

He goes through the article without hesitance, snorting upon seeing nothing but boring business histories. But then a lightbulb moment comes and Soo slowly smiles while staring at the window. A little creepy, actually.

Going to his speed dial, he’s not wrong when barely two seconds have passed and Seonho immediately answers. He knows his lazy hours.

“Hey, I need your connections and detective skills.”

“Oh hoho you came just right in time, Do Kyungsoongie!” he rolls his eyes up to the back of his head when a lame Santa impersonation greets him. How fucking bored is he? “I’m so bored in the office, what’s up? Let’s do it.”

Terribly bored. That’s good.

“You can dig up some big tycoon’s past issues and scandals, right?”

“…”

The sudden silence makes him gasp.

“Talk to me, coward. You promised you’ll help me.” he hisses at him.

“What are you up to this time, Soo? I don’t want to do something nasty.”

“I just need information.” he says like it’s the simplest thing to do. Well for Kyungsoo, it is. He’ll do the rest once he gets it, “Detailed information. I need all the names of the people who got into some hookup rumors or scandals with this big CEO of KJI Industries. Easy as pie.” he smirks.

You’re not as sleek as you think you are, Kim Kai.

“No!” he can tell Seonho is already aware of his plan. Not his usual dumb self.

“Why not?” Kyungsoo spites, “Come on! He’s too famous, anyway. It’ll be easy to get deets! If there’s a hundred of them, you can just send me… at least, fifty.”

“And for what? You’re curious about his sex history?” Seonho starts talking fast under his breath, it means his boss passed by. “I don’t want to be involved in this game you want to play with him, I’m busy.”

“You just said you’re bored!” he squints his eyes like the other could see him, “Do I need to use Code Red for this, Kim Seonho? Because I will.”

“You promised me you’ll be focused on your job and getting your company back! This is getting yourself into trouble.”

“Well, he fucking humiliates me every time he can so I think this isn’t much of a big deal.” Kyungsoo spoke too fast because of anger but it’s enough to silence Seonho briefly.

“He what?” this time, Seonho’s tone sounds concerned. It pisses Kyungsoo even more.

He shakes his head and dismisses it to urge him more, “Come on! Just do it, please? I’m just really curious. I won’t drag you to any of it after, promise.”

“Fine. But I’ll send you an email anonymously, to be sure.” now Soo is already smiling victoriously. He always knew the pleading voice never failed to poke Seonho’s weak spot for him, “My boss is calling me, I need to go.”

“Send it to me as soo—”

“Bye!”

He snorts once Seonho ended the call. It’s obvious he took this chance to escape before Kyungsoo could even ask another big favor. But it doesn’t stop Soo from forming his plan in his head, smiling dangerously because no one could see him at the back of the bus. He needs his moment.

It’s on, arrogant, rich, hot… jerk CEO.

He hops off the bus stop near his unit. Going inside, he starts texting Seonho again for the full instructions. That’s why when he gets to the tower lobby, the familiar pair of shoes is the first one he sees before he completely glances up to confirm once again.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Jongin fakes a surprised face when he approached him with such hostility. He obviously saw the shorter beforehand, loosely basing on the hint of smirk on his face.

“I see, no boss-employee courtesy anymore?”

“We’re not in the office. I’m not your damn employee.” Kyungsoo tells him abruptly and Jongin looks even more amused, “I asked you what you’re doing here.”

The tanned man simply flashes him a charming smile. God knows how much he wants to wipe it off for good.

“Stalking some new prospects? Visiting a hookup’s unit? What?” he continuously asks, recalling the article he read in the bus.

Jongin coolly looks around before answering him.

“I live here.”

“Hah. That’s bullshit.”

“You can visit the top floor, sometimes.” Soo parts his lips in shock when he instantly figures which unit it is, “I have a nice pool. You can have a dip if you want.”

“The… penthouse?” he barely even heard the suggestive offer because of imagining the dreamy penthouse on the highest floor. He’d seen its design from the internet and has been daydreaming about it sometimes.

He shakes the thought off when he sees the satisfaction from Jongin because of his awed face, “You have a big mansion in some expensive villa. Why are you here?”

“Keeping up with my house details now, aren’t you?” he grins and Soo glares even sharper, “But which mansion are you pertaining to, anyway? I have plenty. I can list you all the addresses, if you want.”

Arrogant jerk.

“If until here, you’re planning to get to my nerves with your tactics, I’m filing a complaint.” Soo tells him threateningly and Jongin raises his brows in amusement, but he’s not joking, “I’m not going to be your inferior employee every hour of the day, Kim Jongin. I don’t care if you blind them with your big CEO money, I’ll get you kicked out.”

It gets worse when the businessman laughs loudly, earning them a look from the receptionists nearby. Soo fights the urge to punch him on the face.

“Oh… Soo. Chill pill.” he lifts his hand up as if attempting to pat him but Soo is quick enough to slap it away, not letting it land anywhere his body. Jongin simply shrugs, then. “Tell your complaint to the reception desk, then. And they’ll send you to the tower owner. Maybe he can talk it out with you and compromise.”

He takes the VIP elevator beside them and Soo remains watching him in confusion. He’s still blinking, unable to figure out because irritation has clouded his mind. Jongin gives him one last meaningful grin as the elevator slowly closes.

“Night.” he says huskily, leaving Soo while the latter remains standing there— still imagining the cool penthouse. It better only be rented for the week, he thought.

 

Chapter Text

 

From: anonymousiamunknown@gmail.com

Attached here is the list you've requested

I am a robot

Soo had to roll his eyes because of the message attached. Did Seonho really think someone would track this and hunt him down? It's just a list of names, for Pete's sake.

A list that can cause a scandal for one of the most powerful businessmen in the country right now. It's not risky at all.

His eyes are directed to his laptop screen while the file downloads. No matter how dumb Seonho is most of the time, he's very reliable when it comes to these inside sources.

He can definitely use this.

Once the file opens, Kyungsoo feels a slight disappointment upon seeing fewer names than he expected. It's more than twenty, from what he can approximate, but he honestly expected almost a hundred. But then he shrugs and takes it as a blessing in disguise. The fewer they are, the better and faster he can investigate.

He's familiar with the names of some people in the list. They're either known socialites or celebrities. As a former chaebol kid, he even interacted with some before. And needless to say, he's beyond shocked that these people would even consider dating someone like Jongin. He expected better from them.

The list is comprised by both women and men. Soo's gaze lingers on the latter. It's a long moment of both disbelief and intrigue. A part of him finds it hard to believe that Jongin would be openly bisexual even when it comes to his rumored relationships and hookups.

Wow. Good for him.

Seonho included the year and duration for each of the involved person. Basic denominator is that all of them didn't last long and most were never even confirmed. For sure he paid a good price for it, Kyungsoo thinks. That bastard CEO knows his image is a big factor to his success.

But he can't silence everyone with his money. Soo's lips contort into a little smile before going through the list again. Tomorrow, he's spicing up his boring, overworked life here.

x

 

"Whoever did this to my pencils, I will make sure you'll pay for this."

It's only Monday morning and Mia is already whining on her seat for everyone in the department to hear. Soo suppresses a laughter. She was too dumb to realize the first time Dongwook and him messed with her pencils so they had to do it again. After the third time of breaking all the lead, she finally figures out she's being pranked.

Took her long enough.

"I swear, this will literally reach the higher-ups-"

"For fuck's sake, it's a broken lead. You literally have a sharpener in front of you, Mia." Seojin says from her cubicle that gathers a lot of chuckles around.

"You think it's that simple?" the said woman gasps in disbelief, furious that the response is coming from the team she initially sabotaged and no one from hers even tries sympathizing. "If you can sabotage my pencils like this, you can literally poison me, too."

"Yeah, literally, we're trying to work here." Minji pops up her head from her cubicle just to show Mia her rolling eyes. Soo can't help chuckling this time. He appreciates the fact that his project teammates easily go along with it even if they don't participate on the actual pranking.

"Okay," Mia shrugs and looks at Kyungsoo's direction after hearing his amused chuckle, "I already have an idea who did this anyway."

Soo shifts his swivel chair to lazily face her side, playing his pencil in his fingers.

"Me too." he says seriously that Mia's face relaxes, "Want me to help you file a complaint? Oh, I got you a company format sample by the way."

"Where?"

"In between your bulk files." Soo answers with a blank face even when his teammates laugh from their places because of this, "I sneaked it."

Mia fumes with anger again, especially when Dongwook faces her too.

"It almost flew away Mia. I saw it. God, it was magical." Dongwook says with a mocking hand gesture, now even the other people hearing them are already amused.

"You're ganging up on me!" she yells loudly that makes it even funnier. How is she crying over her pencils like that when she's the first one to sabotage their actual project output?

"What's happening here?"

Everyone seems to rush back to their work upon hearing an intimidating voice. It's suddenly all the sounds of paper and pencils, too afraid to get involved.

Soo can hear the high heels walking past behind him, towards Mia's desk. He still has the hint of grin on his face even when he's back to sketching.

"Who did this?" Soojung asks seriously. Silence is the only response she got.

Mia's murmuring proceeded. It's only a matter of time when Kyungsoo hears the steps walking back towards him.

"Mr. Do, can I talk to you?" Soojung stands beside his cubicle. God, even her perfume is intimidating. Scary. "Do you, by any chance, know who might-"

"You think I did that?" Soojung raises a brow when she got cut off so casually.

She chuckles in amusement, "Well... I didn't say tha-"

"I did." now she falls completely speechless when Soo doesn't even bother denying it, "You're right, I did."

It's Kyungsoo's turn to raise both his brows when the said architect finds it hard to form a response. He's quite disappointed, actually. Among everyone, she should be the one to know how unpredictable Kyungsoo is.

"Okay..." Soojung sighs, trying to maintain a professional smile. "First of all, we're all grown-ups in this office. This is such a childish thing to do."

Soo looks around and sees everyone watching them subtly. He nods politely, then.

"I will apologize to the pencils." he says before the side of his lips curls up.

Soojung looks at him intently.

"Are you going to take this seriously, Mr. Do?"

He looks at Mia, who still looks victimized but is totally enjoying the sympathy given to her.

"Sorry... Mia." Soo almost sounded so genuine that he catches the way Dongwook raises a brow at him, but then he gives a little sinister smile. "I won't target the pencils again..."

Mia's eyes widen from the subtle threat, gasping and looking at Architect Jung for help.

Soojung simply smiles in sarcasm, and Soo looks at her straight in the eye.

"It naturally occurs on you, doesn't it?" it's kinda priceless seeing Soojung suppressing her irritation, "Making a scene. Even before."

Kyungsoo tilts his head, chuckling.

"Why are we bringing up the past, suddenly?" to be fair, he doesn't expect this response from a professional boss over a simple pencil issue. Is she that worked up? "Isn't that a childish thing to do?"

The architect shrugs and meaningfully looks at everyone.

"Oh... I don't need to bring it up. Everyone here already has an impression of you about that..." she says that causes Kyungsoo's smile to falter a little, "...I think?"

Soo glances around him, catching some people whispering at each other. Some avoided his gaze.

He stares at her testing smile, trying not to show the sudden confusion. What does that mean?

"Anyway, I'll let this one slip for now. But anyone who tries a stunt like this again will surely not go unpunished." Soojung shrugs when she finally saw the reaction to satisfy her, "I hope you realize some people here, like me, aren't simply your boss but also major stockholders. We have all the right to dismiss you from this company, in case you're disturbing the office peace." she seriously tells everyone even if the last few words were obviously emphasized for a certain person alone. She looks at Kyungsoo, "Understood?"

Soo nods once, "Officially intimidated."

She pauses and smiles a little threateningly.

"I can easily let this reach Kai, too."

It amused Kyungsoo even more. He raises both his brows while faking a shock.

"More intimidation. I'd love that." oh, how much he loves watching Soojung so pressed about his natural sarcasm. Soo feels like he'd love it more to see her burst one day, "Will you let him know about the pranks, Architect? Let him decide about my punishment... I think I deserve it."

He'd want her to tell her boyfriend about all of this so they can humiliate him in front of everyone next time. Now that would be a duo. Getting publicly scolded by either of them is getting boring now for Soo.

"The CEO is too busy for unnecessary things..." she says with a sly smile, "and people."

Soo nods in awe. Just look offended so she can finally be happy.

"Get back to work, everyone. No more pranks." she struts out, obviously having enough of Kyungoo's feisty responses, "I'll let Junmyeon monitor you here every now and then."

The junior designer shamelessly grins.

x

 

"How d'you know about me and Kai?"

This bistro is a lot classier than the one he went to last Friday. This lady knows a good taste, or maybe she's just richer than the first two.

Kim Kai's taste was consistent- gorgeous, intelligent and rich people who for some reason, still easily get fooled.

"Mmm... it was a topic before among my employees." for tonight, Soo is a charming boss, too. His fashion choice seems to intrigue the said model that it wasn't hard for him to lure her into a conversation, "That's why I recognized your face. They thought you were really pretty."

And also the drink he ordered. It was an unusual combination that surely attracts anyone who hears it. It's a sexy mix, he's never wrong. But then again, he was bartending in New York. That's how you make use of your work experience.

"Well... do you agree?" the model grins at him.

"Of course." he looks at her while casually resting his chin on his palm, "That's why I was shocked upon hearing it then. I mean... that businessman isn't really worth the hype, isn't he?"

He sounded like he already made his mind about it. But then, he really did, right?

The woman chuckles in disbelief, shaking her head even. "Oh, gosh... you have no idea."

"Why? I wanna hear it." he asks after a sip and the model's eyes widen as if the truth is already too obvious to still speak about, "Ugh, he sucks on bed, does he?" she blinks when he sounded certain again so he clears his throat subtly, "I mean... he must? I think?"

"Are you kidding?" she gasps and Soo can feel another dilemma coming based on how her smile becomes too dreamy. Just like the others, "He's like the best fucking man I've ever met. God, I'm just reminded of my terrible fate of not ending up with him."

"Wait...hah..." he forces a chuckle and starts praying that at least one useful negative information comes up. Please, just one, "What I heard was you guys hooked up..."

"Yeah, we did..." she looks up like it was the best time of her life, "Gosh, you know when someone's such a beast in bed but is like a total prince charming outside?"

Soo grits his teeth while keeping a smile.

"But... I'm sure he's a bit of an asshole too, right..." now his chuckle sounds so hopeless, "I mean, that's what I heard people saying..."

The model shrugs proudly.

"Well they didn't hook up with him. They didn't try sleeping with him in his enormous mansion and experience being taken care of by such a big, hot businessman like a complete gentleman that he is." she takes a sip from the drink she ordered, which is the same one he had. "You know, I'm kinda mad that they make him appear like a total jerk with these rumors and press because he's such a total dream guy. God, what a babe."

What a jerk, you mean.

"You do realize that maybe he did that to play with your feelings, right?"

"Oh no, Kim Kai never hooks up with someone without making it clear there's no strings attached. Just pure fun and bliss." she simply responds. Kyungsoo squints his eyes because of this, "I mean... I wasn't looking for anything serious either when we went out but now that I think of him, I may have considered marrying him. It's too bad I heard he's starting to get serious with someone now."

He lets his glass touch his lips before speaking.

"With whom?"

"I heard he has some serious thing with one of his business partners." Soo falls silent, thinking about one girl everyone would agree upon. "Lucky woman."

He doesn't answer anymore, too occupied by the last few words more than the actual purpose of this conversation. He only looks up when the model starts waving at someone from the entrance.

"Hey, I need to go there now. What's your name, again?" she flirtingly touches his arm while smiling.

Soo doesn't bother looking at her anymore now that everything has gone pointless, "Kyung."

"Wait." she shifts her head sideways to look at him properly, "You know what, you kinda look familiar?"

Before she could actually recognize him, Soo keeps his gaze down and looks at his phone.

"Oh no, my driver's there. Need to go, too. Enjoy dancing!" he stands up and cuts off whatever she's about to say to storm out of the place.

Realizing there's no driver or car to actually drive him home, Soo furiously taps on his phone while crossing the street to grab a cab from the other side. It's been days of working on this goddamn plan and he doesn't have anything useful yet! How is that even possible? One of them has to have something awful and true to say about that damn magnate.

Come on, at least one honest person!

"You. Are you even sure of this list you gave me?" he hisses as soon as Seonho picked up the phone, "Are you sure these people aren't just a bunch of liars?"

"That's what my insider gave me. Why? What's the matter?"

Soo brushes his fingers through his hair, grasping it with frustration.

"I don't trust everything they're saying." he grits his teeth when he remembers all the disgusting words they used to describe that jerk, "Ugh! It's already my third prospect and it's still the same!"

"Huh? Why? Are they denying involvement with the CEO?" Seonho asks in confusion but Soo simply groans, "What? Soo."

"They're all saying he's a gentleman or that he's perfect, prince charming, nice and caring like-" he cringes when the words escape his own lips, "and- basically a freaking sex god I mean... that's bullshit, right?"

"We both know that's obviously true."

"Shut up!" he snaps in exasperation, pursing his lips while his chest heaves deep. "You know what I can conclude from this?"

"You're on the third person out of thirty and you already have a conclusion?"

"That he pays them directly!" he declares, dismissing the mock from Seonho's tone. This is the only explanation he can think of, "Yes, what I wise guy he is! Why would you even risk paying the media to stay silent when you can easily fool and bribe your prospect instead? Right? And oh maybe the sex is so good that they disregard the fact that he's a complete asshole!"

Seonho responds with a heavy sigh after everything he said, like he's tired of it.

"Remember when I told you this is pointless?"

Soo gasps at him, "He's a scumbag and he deserves to be exposed!"

"This won't go anywhere." Soo can tell he's munching from the other line and it infuriates him even more. How could he eat so casually? "My insider told me yesterday that... actually, I don't think I should tell you."

Kyungsoo's eyes rounded.

"What? What is it?!"

Seonho briefly pauses, "You've becoming too obsessed with this exposing Kim Kai thing."

"Tell me!"

The man from the other line lets out another sigh of defeat, like the information is useless for him anyway.

"The daughter of Hanseoh Group's President is kept away from the public because she's pregnant. Unmarried."

Soo falls speechless for a while.

"Who's the father?"

"No one knows." Seonho casually answers like it's not a big deal. He doesn't know how Soo's lips began curling into a sinister grin, "They never respond or talk about any of it."

"Ah..." he responds meaningfully.

"Soo, you are not sure that Jongin is related to this. God, this is why I didn't want to tell you."

"I think I got it..." he smiles with the thought.

"No, you don-" he gets cut off when Soo basically drops the call, back to the game with just a simple and vague information. But no, he can feel that there's something more about this. And he'll find that out.

Kyungsoo has always known all the places rich people always go to. That being said, he has an idea where a pregnant woman would spend her time if she's hella rich, and if she's desperate to hide from the public.

Again, being a chaebol once had its perks and they come handy sometimes.

x

 

"Those are such cute designs."

The pregnant woman checking out the onesies looks at the man that spoke beside her. He said it so randomly that she had to blink a few times before finally smiling when he seems to be harmless.

"They are..." she smiles more when Soo finally flashes his irresistible cheeky smile. He knows pretty well how to play.

"First baby? How far are you?" he asks after glancing at her huge baby bump, and then chuckles sheepishly. "Sorry, if I'm being nosy. I just easily assume someone's a new mom when she's pregnant. You kinda have that glow."

The woman laughs lightly because of the simple compliment. Soo subtly takes a good look at her and compares it to the image he saw from that online article headline. It seems like it was taken such a long time ago.

A little sly smile situates itself on Kyungsoo's lips. The daughter of Hanseoh Group's president is indeed very pregnant. It's much more interesting because according to the list Seonho gave him, she's one of the most recent people Kai was linked to. And now she's suddenly this close to giving birth? Hmm.

"Ah... you're right. It's my first baby. I'm due next month."

"Wow... that's so nice! Congratulations." he says genuinely although he doesn't stop from outlining his plan in his head to eventually get to the point, "It explains why you're doing all the shopping now, huh..."

She nods while checking another pink onesie. Soo observes it and gets an idea.

"Yeah, it's getting harder and harder to do things."

He carefully looks around, "Is your husband with you?"

The way she pauses a little makes him stop, too. Soo examines the way she forces another smile that turns out uneasy. Aha.

"I-I usually shop on my own..." she stutters a little that gets him nodding slowly, "He's a very busy man."

With his lips pursed as he maintains a neutral expression, Kyungsoo's eyes linger on the clothes she continuously chooses from.

"Ah..." he smiles again, "Since it seems like you're having a girl cause of the clothes you're choosing, I hope she gets your features. She'll be really pretty."

The woman laughs gently, caressing her tummy with a genuine beam on her lips.

"That's very nice of you, thank you..." her gaze falls to it, "I think I won't mind if she gets a lot from her Dad, too... she'll be even more beautiful, if ever."

Kyungsoo smiles bigger when he gets closer to the point he has to make. This is quite easier than he expected.

"Really? Why, what does he look like?" he asks, sounding too curious that the girl looks at him. He needed to elaborate, "I mean... like, what features of him do you want her... to have?"

She glances up dreamily, eyes crinkling with joy.

"Hmm... probably his eyes? His skin tone? Also probably his face structure..." now Soo can't help himself from raising a brow in intrigue, "Those are some of what I could think of..."

Kyungsoo looks so much more amused. What are the odds that all the said traits actually matched someone he's thinking of? He tries to suppress a smirk.

"Wow... I can tell she'll be a beautiful baby." he nods convincingly, giving her nonstop compliments that seem to make her talk more. "Then I assume you're more talented than your husband because those are all physical traits?"

"Oh hell no... he's so much more talented than I am." she laughs airily as she speaks further without really minding it, "If our baby grows up getting his talent then I'd be the only one of us who can't draw."

Soo smiles even more.

"That's interesting..." you are so busted, Kim Kai. "Then I guess your husband is an architect?"

Her eyes rounded in surprise.

"That's right. How do you figure that out?" he shrugs casually so he won't be too suspicious, "And he's not... actually my husband. I mean... not yet. But hey, you're such a good observant."

"Mostly instincts." he smiles proudly.

"So how about you? Do you have your baby, too?"

"No..." he quickly comes up with an alibi on why he was here in the first place, "But uh, my best friend had her first baby, so I'm looking for a christening gift."

"Ah..." she nods slowly while looking at him, "I almost thought you're already a dad. You seem to know a lot about babies."

Soo simply flashes a timid smile. It's the first time he hears about being a father material. He wants to respond that he's simply desperate for information that he can be anything. Never in his life will he ever like babies. He hates babies.

He looks at her big baby bump again.

Hates them.

"Gosh, I've searched every shop in this area and I didn't find any crib I like." she sighs in frustration and an idea immediately strikes the man.

"Actually, I think I can help you with that." he tells him when he finally comes up with a concrete plan on the same spot, "I know a place that does customized furniture, including cribs."

He knows he's still as convincing as before when she doesn't hesitate knowing about it.

"Really? Oh my, can I get the address?" the woman says, too relieved about the solution on her dilemma. "I've been looking for a good shop that does customizing!"

Soo doesn't waste time on putting the address of this furniture shop he knows by heart on her phone. She beams big when he gives it back.

"Here. I really recommend this because I've been their customer for so long. Excellent service." Soo suppresses a sly smile, "Piece of advice though, they're always packed. The only day the shop is almost empty is lunch time of Wednesday. They can accommodate you better." he slowly raises a brow when she slowly nods, "So that's tomorrow... will you be going?"

"Yes, of course! I can drop by cause I'm not busy." she sounds too excited that Kyungsoo can guarantee this will not go wrong. He simply needs to get another person there tomorrow.

"Is your husband going with you?"

She blinks uneasily again.

"Uh... I don't think so." Oh, but he is. Soo smiles a little, "But hey, thanks for this again. I didn't even get your name!"

He parts his lips and thinks of the most random name he can lie about. For some reason, Chanyeol is the first person that comes to his mind.

"Chan...hyun." he says and blinks upon realizing where the second half came from. It's okay, right? It's just a made up name, anyway.

"Soojin." the woman offers her hand and Soo accepts it with a nod as if he's not aware at all, "Thanks for this Chanhyun! I owe you a lot."

Soo's lips curl into a smile. You're doing me a favor.

"Don't worry about it." he tells her and hands her a cute onesie he found that has her eyes widening in happiness, "Enjoy crib shopping tomorrow."

  

The next day comes by so fast and before he knows it, he's in their only family car even before 8 AM. Taeyong, their young driver, weirdly stares at him through the rearview.

Soo carefully watches the cars coming in the parking lot entrance, trying his luck if he'll spot the CEO's car. The young driver remains silent while waiting for whatever he'd ask him to do, but he sure is weirded out by Kyungsoo's fidgety state.

"Kyung-"

"Sshh!" he hisses at the boy before sinking lower to his seat when he finally sees the familiar Range Rover, as if he'll be seen from the outside of a tinted car. He's panicking too much that he suddenly lacks common sense, "There he is!"

"Who-"

"Taeyong, give me your phone."

"Why-"

"Just give me it!"

The young boy gets afraid by his snapping that he quickly pulls out his phone from his pocket and gives it to the impatient man. Soo takes it and mindlessly composes a message to be sent to the number he got from his own research.

Hey, this is Soojin. Can I meet you this lunch? I have something very important to say.

Here's the address. Please don't ask. I just need you to come.

He bites his lip while finishing the message along with the complete address of the furniture shop. He had to make sure Jongin arrived at the firm first because then he won't have to dig further and will actually wait for the time and place agreed upon.

Kyungsoo barely blinks an eye until the driver's phone rings for a call. It's Jongin's number.

"Oh my god..." his eyes widen while staring at the ringing phone. He didn't actually expect him to call! He just had to reply to his text, goddammit.

Taeyong looks even more confused by everything that's happening, but he stays silent on the driver's seat, watching his boss furiously tap on his cell phone once the ringing stopped.

Soo slightly perspires while typing another text, afraid that Jongin might call again and he'll accidentally answer it. Or worse is if he's already tracking the device now. This is why he should stop being friends with Seonho because he acquires his paranoia.

It's about the baby. I can't answer right now. But just meet me at this shop.

He anxiously nibbles his nails after sending another text, hoping that Jongin would just buy it. If he doesn't, then Soo would have to reconstruct another plan all over again!

The young driver finally clears his throat.

"Uh, Kyungsoo-hy-"

"Sshh!"

"O-Okay..." he looks down in defeat.

Soo straightens up on his seat when a message comes from the businessman's number.

I'll come.

He finally sighs in relief and smiles a little. That's it. No change of plans. Kyungsoo doesn't reply anymore to avoid saying more suspicious things.

"Hey, so don't ever text this number... or answer his calls, you hear me?" he tells the young driver who's frantically nodding, "Forward me his messages if he texts you. Or send me one if he calls. Go back here at exactly 11:30."

"I can't..." he frowns when the young driver defies through a low mumble, "I have a class until 1PM, hyung..."

"What?" he exhales in frustration but Taeyong simply nods. Now that he's looking at him, he's reminded of the same person again and he's even more annoyed, "Tsk. Fine!"

"I can cut classes, though..." the driver timidly smiles.

"Absolutely. You should do that."

"But I have a favor... to ask, hyung..."

Soo creases his brows in disbelief. Is this driver actually bribing him for a favor?

Taeyong blinks upon seeing his reaction, "I-It's school related..."

He rolls his eyes, "Fine! What is it?"

"Can I ask some of your sample blueprints? It's for my interior designing subject..." he says sheepishly. Soo's expression relaxes a little, "and maybe if you can give me some advice, too for finals... because I really like your designs..."

The young driver looks a little afraid when he falls silent for a moment. Something hits him hard that he needed to clear his throat before answering.

"What's your course?" he asks, finally intrigued about the boy that's been driving him back and forth for a couple of weeks now whenever he comes to the mansion.

"Architecture... like you." Taeyong answers timidly, "I'm actually accelerated."

Soo purses his lips before gulping.

"I didn't ask." he rolls his eyes before giving his phone back, "Fine, I'll lend you my portfolio. Just make sure you're here by 11:30 later." he says and catches a glimpse of a smile on the driver's face before he goes out of the car.

"Thanks, hyung!" he hears the boy yelling but he doesn't look back, dismissing every memory that for some reason, won't stop coming back to him.

Soo just basically did an half-assed work until 11:30 came. When it did, he finally stood up with nothing but his phone so he wouldn't get too much attention... or suspicion. Taeyong has texted him, saying that he's already downstairs and that Jongin never texted or called again. Which is good, right?

It's just really unfortunate because he just had to be noticed by one of the senior designers on his way out. He tries to maintain a casual smile.

"Hey." his boss raises his brows, "Are you going out for lunch? It's not twelve yet?"

Soo chuckles lightly.

"I asked Junmyeon..." he says and prays hard Junmyeon won't actually show up from somewhere, "My Dad's getting discharged from the hospital. I need to go and settle the bills."

The designer looks preoccupied that he easily lets it go with a shrug.

"Oh... alright. See you later!"

For fuck's sake, his father has been discharged almost a week ago.

He exhaled a huge breath when no one else noticed his flee. He got out of the office and was driven by the same driver, who actually did cut classes for this, and drove to the address of the said furniture shop.

For the record, he wasn't lying when he told Soojin that the place barely has people on a Wednesday noon. It's always empty, actually. Not all people want to go luxurious furniture shopping every day. Except Soo, probably, if he isn't broke.

He strictly ordered Taeyong to stay in the car even when he brought the boy's phone with him inside. After carefully looking around, Soo managed to make his way towards the corner near the baby area. He didn't have to wait too long because he sees a familiar pregnant woman walking along the said hall after a few moments.

Kyungsoo remains on the same spot and tries not to be noticed. He shopped here before and knows that people barely go to this area. It should be safe. From here, he can clearly see a shop saleslady talking to Soojin, probably for the customized crib she'd like. Both of them smile when she starts caressing her tummy with the same gentle smile like yesterday.

He grins a little even when there's a noticeable tug in his chest. Aww, Daddy's on the way, little girl.

Once the public and some major investors find out that KJI's CEO knocked up some girl and is secretly hiding her and their child because he's not willing to commit, that would be a major effect on his image. It'll surely happen soon. Most traditional businessmen hate irresponsible people, they don't trust them. As someone from a former chaebol family, he already knows how their minds work.

The driver's phone vibrates a few minutes past twelve.

I'm here, where are you?

Soo swallows hard, glancing at Soojin before typing a response.

I'm along the babies' section.

He fixes his face mask, not having to wait too long when Jongin appears near Soojin, who also seems taken aback by his sudden arrival. From where he is, he can see the businessman saying something to the shop employee before she bows politely and walks away. Now Soojin's back is facing his direction but he can see the worry on Jongin's face.

Soo smirks beneath the cover on half of his face, pulling his own phone out to click the camera. He knew it. This is Jongin's little secret, huh? Well, not anymore. Soo will definitely send this to Seonho first, just to let him see how wrong he is.

He zooms in to get a clearer photo but stops when another man comes to the picture, wearing a suit just like Jongin. Soo puts down his phone, brows creasing when the said man gives the pregnant Soojin a tight hug, placing a kiss on her hair.

His jaw almost drops to the floor.

"What the..."

No, no, that can't be possible.

Soon enough, the man becomes known to him as one of KJI's stockholders and Jongin's friend, Ravi. Soo knows him because he leads some big projects in the firm.

And he's... he's the...

Jongin fondly smiles at them, but there's a clear conflict on his expression. Soojin is also shaking her head every now and then, probably telling them that she didn't send the messages at all.

My god, Do Kyungsoo- the idiot that you are!

Kyungsoo heaves exasperatedly and moves to the corner to text Seonho. He's still shocked from the revelation.

To: Seonho

OH MY GOD HE'S NOT THE FATHER

Seonho is probably on his bed, playing some stupid online game in New York because he instantly replies.

From: Seonho

You're the only one who assumed

His response is nonchalant, like he already expected Soo to figure it out sooner. Meanwhile the other guy is still frustrated, looking back over his shoulder to see if they're still there before typing a reply.

To: Seonho

I SET THEM UP AND THE ACTUAL FATHER ALSO SHOWED UP WHAT AM I GONNA DO

From: Seonho

WHAT? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU DO KYUNGSOO

Now he calls him by his full name. He's surely mad. Understandable. Soo slaps his head especially when another furious text comes from Seonho.

LEAVE WHEREVER THAT IS BEFORE THEY SEE YOU

Afraid that he'll mess up again if he doesn't listen to him, Soo actually starts walking back to the shop exit. He makes sure he's keeping his head down so they won't notice him until he successfully goes out.

"Hi, Sir! How may I assist you?"

Fuck, seriously. A saleslady enthusiastically tries assisting him. Too enthusiastic that her tiny voice is surely audible even from the distance. Kyungsoo mumbles continuous profanities while shaking his head frantically. He quickly steps out of the shop, praying so hard that no one recognized him from that little fiasco. He didn't know how a certain gaze follows his way.

As soon as he got inside the car where only his driver waits, he pants heavily and tosses him his phone back. Taeyong simply watches him with concern, but Soo looks at him and he has no choice but to immediately drive away from that place.

Seonho calls him for the second time, and Soo stares at the screen after ignoring the first call. When he realizes he actually needs a scolding, he finally answers.

"Did he see you?"

"N-No..." Soo stutters because if he is to be honest, he's not really sure of that. "I don't think he did..."

"What the fuck, Kyungsoo?! What were you thinking?!"

Seonho was really fuming. It was indeed a solid lecture.

Kyungsoo ended up treating his young driver for lunch at a fast food chain along their way- both for the purpose of clearing his mind and avoid suspicion from the people in the office if he goes back looking so distraught and pale. He barely even touched his food and Taeyong could only give him an awkward glance, preventing himself eagerly from asking what went on.

Before going back to work, he made sure to wear his jacket and zip it until his neck to cover the shirt he was wearing in that shop. He was doing well on acting so normal until his knees just had to wobble a little when he saw the senior designer discussing something with Junmyeon and Jongin as he got out of the elevator. The pace of his feet slowed down, but he forced himself to sneakily walk past them even if the CEO already saw him.

"Hey, Soo!" and it just had to be the senior who caught him earlier, too. "How's your Dad? Is he home now?"

Junmyeon is casually smiling at him, but their big boss... is watching him seriously, his brows slightly furrowed. Soo avoids his eyes and forces a smile at the said designer.

"A-Ah..." he chuckles nervously and comes up with the most basic lie, "No... the discharge got postponed because he needs to be observed for... a few more days." he says and waves at them before someone could even ask anything else. He sits back in his cubicle with heart raging against his chest. Damn, that was close.

 

From: Seonho

That was the last one, Soo. Stop with this shit already

Soo stares at his screen for a while, then back to the list of details on his laptop. It seems like Seonho really shares the same brain cells as him and he knows everything he's up to.

Because right now, he's looking at this one specific name from the list. The only one he actually knew before. His only chance. Hara Jeon is an old acquaintance of his because she was also from a rich family and they were in the same social and party circles before. Soo believes he's close to what he wants, and Hara is the best person that could give him that.

To: Seonho

Okay

He'll get her to spill the beans. If he doesn't, then that's where he'll stop. Soo wants to promise Seonho that, but he doesn't want another lecture for today. He decided Seonho will just have to know when it's done, when the secret is here.

He will never be the type to give up so easily.

"Hey." Dongwook walks to his desk in the middle of his break from designing for a few hours. He has this sly smile, "She told me my spiderweb lockscreen is disgusting. So look at what I did..."

Soo laughs silently and glances at Mia, who's applying another layer of lipstick on her lips. They chuckle silently and looks at the realistic insect drawings by Dongwook himself, which seems to be the one that kept him busy for the past few hours.

Recently, he found an equally prankster workmate in his team and they've been having the same target since then. It's the only fun thing he's ever done here that's the same when in New York. Seems like Seonho was never the Jim Halpert between the both of them, after all.

"Pft- that's awesome..."

"I saw this prank from the internet... we'll do some on her cubicle napkins and under her table lamp." Dongwook says and Soo grins even more, nodding his head frantically. He could already imagine her reaction.

"What about on the corners of her windshield?" Soo adds a suggestion.

"Yes!"

Kyungsoo's big smile fades a little when he sees someone standing at the door near his corner. Baekhyun is there with a hint of hopeful smile, while his assistant stands behind him.

"Hey, guys!" he calls everyone even when his eyes linger at Kyungsoo before everyone else, "Can I have your attention for a minute?"

Everyone pauses from what they're doing to listen; talk about being Byun Baekhyun. His little friendly smile is just so charming, but it's obvious how he blinks a few times when Soo focuses on the pen in his hand instead of watching him like everyone else.

He speaks nonetheless.

"You've been working really hard for this project for the past few weeks and KJI hasn't properly welcomed you. Like, the fun way." he chuckles and tries his best to be as convincing as he can even if he doesn't really need to, "So... we prepared a small party for you later at the event hall on the 20th floor. We got everything covered. All you need is to have fun and take a break from working!"

Some designers gasp in disbelief while others are already mumbling to each other about going and whatnots.

The marketing director looks at the only one who's back to working on his designs.

"It's gonna be fun!" Baekhyun adds and expectantly waits for more reaction.

"Mr. Byun, will there be hard drinks?" Dongwook asks shamelessly, still leaning on Soo's cubicle. The latter had to look up because of this to gently shake his head in disbelief but he accidentally meets the director's eyes instead.

"Every freaking drink you want, you name it." Baekhyun gulps and continuously reassures everyone when someone remains looking passive, "You can also bring some other friends. The more the merrier!"

"Damn... getting drunk on a workday?" Dongwook mumbles at Kyungsoo with an impressed look on his face, "I love this company..."

Soo only forces a little smile. This party will be the last thing he'll ever consider wasting his time for. He was never here to have fun, nor to satisfy an old friend's ego by having more interactions with him.

He remembers what Chanyeol said about the drastic change on Baekhyun's lifestyle. On Baekhyun. Now, he's starting to see more of it.

Baekhyun looks at the excited employees before settling on Kyungsoo.

"So... everyone's coming, right?" he says while blinking for a couple more times.

"Of course, Sir!"

"We'll be there right after five!"

He nods at the other's response and timidly smiles at Dongwook and Kyungsoo.

"Guys?" he asks even if he's obviously waiting for the response of one of them. Soo casually glances up from his sketches.

"I'm coming!" Dongwook tells him before wiggling his brows at Soo beside him.

Baekhyun has this hopeful look and Soo doesn't even know what it is for. If anything, he wants to chuckle sarcastically at this. He surely learned a lot from the friends he chose, huh? Acting-wise.

"I think I'll pass..." he says with a formal smile before going back to his designs. He doesn't see how Baekhyun's expression falls a little.

"Huh? Why? It's gonna be fun!" Dongwook tries convincing him too but he gets the same answer.

"I need to go somewhere after work." Soo would choose this important plan over anything.

How dare he turn down Byun Baekhyun himself? His fun party? Soo will always be professional while he's here. He's his boss. But he doesn't want anything to do with him anymore, and that's just that.

Baekhyun blinks rapidly when he doesn't show any sign of changing heart, "Okay... uh, so I'll... see you guys later?"

"See you, Mr. Byun!"

Dongwook has gone back to his cubicle and Soo can still hear the buzz around him in the midst of working. Everyone seems to have gone dysfunctional after a simple welcome party invite. He's not even surprised hearing Mia's intriguing voice among them.

"I can't believe Byun Baekhyun is inviting me to a party."

"It's the company's welcome party for us."

"Still! Have you seen the parties he always has?"

"We can finally add it up to our CV." he shakes his head and works on actual productive matters before partying tonight, but with Hara Jeon and the secrets he'll finally find out. That will surely be way more fun.

Five o'clock and most of the employees are already preparing themselves, getting ready for the said party. Some of them even went back home to look for better dresses, whining because they should've gotten the memo and prepared beforehand (read as: Mia and the girls she influenced).

Soo was the last one to stop working. He was one of the few people left in the office because everyone has gone downstairs. He thinks about going home first to change clothes before going to the bar where he could certainly find Hara. On his way out, he sees Junmyeon and Baekhyun talking with low voices. Junmyeon is the first one to spot him and smiles cheekily, while Baekhyun doesn't look as enthusiastic as he was before.

"Kyungsoo!" Junmyeon calls him when he was just pretending not to see them, "You're really not coming?"

Soo smiles sheepishly and shakes his head.

"No, sorry... next time."

Baekhyun has his lips pursed into a thin line, mumbling something before Junmyeon speaks again.

"But why? It's a big party." the manager says with dismay, but Soo simply shakes his head again. "Do you need to meet someone? You can just invite him here, too. It'll be fun!"

Kyungsoo looks at Baekhyun after this, but the latter has his gaze somewhere else. Soo flashes another apologetic smile at Junmyeon again.

"I need to go back to the hospital." he effortlessly uses the same old alibi, just to get over it. "Sorry, Junmyeon. Next time, I guess."

He doesn't owe anyone a good explanation, he tells himself. And besides, he has a secret to dig tonight.

x

 

Hara Jeon is wearing her silvery low-neck dress, strutting across the dance floor towards where Kyungsoo sits. Her body is to die for, and she knows it just by the way she smirks at everyone. Soo hides a sarcastic grin. What do you expect from rich heiresses? They have all the time in the world and majority of them spends it by getting wild in the clubs or working hard on their figures in the gym. Hara Jeon does both.

And she's also a lawyer. So you can say Kyungsoo was really bewildered upon seeing her name in the list of people that hooked up or went out with Kim Jongin. She wasn't usually the type to be easily impressed. Her standards stoop lower and that's the only explanation, Kyungsoo assumed.

He remains looking at his glass of whiskey, until he feels her presence beside him when her husky voice tells the bartender about her order.

"Hey." Soo simply says before casually looking at her.

She glances at him, a little bit taken aback by the greeting.

"Hi, there." she simply greets back before her eyes widen in surprise when she finally recognizes the man, "Wait... I know you!"

Kyungsoo chuckles.

"You should. Those parties years ago were too wild to forget."

Hara gasps.

"Kyungsoo?" she smiles big, still looking shocked upon seeing an old friend that shared the same habits before. "Oh my god, it's really you! How have you been? Where were you for so long?"

Soo shrugs. He already prepared his vague responses to all of this.

"Same old, same old. I studied in the States for a few years." he says, starting to figure out how he'll eventually get to that point of conversation. "And you?"

"Ugh, I am the same old, same old! Still here. Partying hard every other day." she rolls her eyes jokingly like she's tired of it. Who is she kidding? "You look so good. Let's go there to our table! Meet some of my friends!"

He smiles meaningfully, relieved that the woman is the one prolonging the conversation. He's sure he'll get what he came for.

"Sure..." he says even when she's basically pulling his hand towards one of the VIP tables where a lot of her unfamiliar friends sit. Most of them are guys, some foreigners. Kyungsoo fakes a friendly smile while Hara enthusiastically introduces him to them, probably thinking that he's still as rich as he was before.

"Sorry if I'll be rambling! I'm soooo tipsy now." she starts off once they sat on the couch while the others are having their own conversation, "But let's catch up? How's the US? Are you dating anyone now?"

Soo chuckles, "No... I enjoy being single."

"Oh god, same." she agrees without doubt, even lightly rolling her eyes. "Some men are just so shitty."

With a suppressed grin, Soo fakes an intrigued tone.

"That seems to come from an actual experience, huh?" he takes a sip in between when she only shrugged, "I heard you dated KJI's CEO?"

Hara squints her eyes, as if bewildered by the sudden mention.

"Kai?" she blinks when Soo simply nods, "I guess we went out a lot before."

Kyungsoo tries not to look so curious about it, roaming his gaze around the crowded bar while asking further. She's a damn lawyer. His actions should be a little subtle, at least.

"And was it awful?" he cringes a little like how she did when she was talking about shitty boyfriends, "I mean... based from what I heard from everyone. He seems like such a huge conceited, asshole."

She takes a sip from her vodka before smiling in amusement.

"They say that?" she laughs lightly, even shrugging to add more suspense. "Well... what do you think?"

What does he think? Kyungsoo tries smiling. He thinks he needs to be exposed after tonight.

"Personally?" he sighs and pretends to think, "I think he has the tendency... I mean, he's a rich playboy. But you... you dated him so I assume you know a lot more than anyone."

Hara is focused on her phone, only glancing at him when he finished talking. She has a small smile on her face.

"So everyone thinks he's a jerk... that's interesting." she hums and slowly nods, "Point taken."

Soo watches her sly expression, genuinely confused this time. Why is she acting like a smart lawyer now? Just when he's close to getting clear answers?

He blinks and forces a smile when she doesn't say anything else anymore.

"So... it's true then?"

She subtly glances at her phone on her lap before cheekily grinning at him.

"Why do you wanna know?"

For fuck's sake. Soo cusses internally. He actually starts getting concerned by her responses. Is he being obvious now?

"N-Nothing..." he stutters, actually considering to back out. "You know how curious I am sometimes."

To be fair, he thought Hara will be the easiest person to get some answers. She was usually drunk and an easy talker. But now there's slyness in both her actions and words that Soo can't even figure out whether it's a good or bad thing. But she can just simply answer if she has the same thoughts like the others, right? Say that Kai is also prince charming slash sex god. But she doesn't. And that's what's keeping Kyungsoo from stopping. He feels like she knows something they don't and with just a few more good push, she'll spill it.

He probably wants to prove Seonho wrong, too. He'll expose that CEO after tonight.

"Ah, Kai..." she sighs deeply before looking around their table, "You know what? I'll get us more drinks."

"I'll go with y-"

"Stay there with my friends! Find a hot one you like." she stands up and winks at him before walking back to the sea of people.

Soo is starting to get impatient. He thinks of simply waiting for her to get wasted from all the alcohol to easily get information, but how long will it take?

"Hey." one of her friends actually tried starting a conversation with him, but being too disinterested and frustrated, Soo simple fakes a smile before going back to constructing a plan silently. The man leaves him in defeat, slightly weirded out.

"All on me baby!" Hara comes back with a waiter behind her, holding a case of new drinks. Her friends coo because of the treat while Soo continuously tries to think of a plan.

Hara took a few photos with her other friends before sitting back beside Kyungsoo. She has a hint of smile on her face.

"Hey, Kyungsoo... actually, I have a lot to say about Kai." he tries to keep a normal reaction but he couldn't stop his eyes from lighting up upon hearing it. Hara shakes her head with an amused laugh and Soo is even more intrigued.

"Really?"

She purses her lips before looking back at him, raising both her brows suggestively.

"So have you heard about this scandal he's been trying to cover up since last year?" Kyungsoo draws closer when her voice becomes lower, "Gosh, if the media finds out, that would be chaos."

"Scandal...?" he mumbles, looking absolutely curious. "You know about this?"

Hara's lips curve slyly.

"Hooking up with one of the country's biggest magnate had its perks." she says with a nod, then she stands up and offers a hand to the bewildered man. "Come on, let's talk about it."

Soo looks at it but she ends up reaching for his hand and pulling him to the VIP stairs past two bouncers that didn't bother questioning them.

He gulps and looks back to their table while going up, "Where are we going?"

"Upstairs. I have another spot there. It's more quiet." she tells him with her hand still around his wrist. They stop right outside one of the tinted VIP rooms when Hara finally faces him, looking serious.

For some reason, Soo feels his heart raging against his chest. "Hara-"

"Sshh." she cuts him off, gripping his hand firmly with an intent stare that makes him gulp. "If this secret ever goes out, we're both done. Will you promise not to tell anyone?"

Soo frantically nods, his desperateness to hear what he wanted finally resurfacing.

"Of course!"

She smiles.

"Great."

Hara opens the door and pulls him inside, where the lights are a little dimmer than downstairs. He squints his eyes a little, but they don't get the chance to adjust upon seeing a man watching him darkly.

"Wha-" his breath hitches, pulling his hand away from the woman who's smiling victoriously. Soo swallows hard, "W-What is this?"

She flashes the same smile at Kyungsoo before taking a few steps towards the other man in the room.

"Why don't you ask him about the secret yourself?" she tells Kyungsoo before placing a peck on Kai's cheek, "You owe me." she winks at the businessman before walking back to the door, giving Soo one last glance before closing it.

She just fucking set me up. The words repeatedly run in his head when reality wouldn't sink in. When it does, it's even worse because he only comes to realize there's no other people in the small room but the two of them.

With blood rushing exaggeratedly throughout his body, Soo barely moved an inch. He simply looks at Jongin, who's still in his office polo with sleeves folded up to his elbows, a few top buttons undone. The CEO grins a little, but the grim look remains in his eyes as he sits on the couch in front of the table of drinks. The room has become so suffocating, all of a sudden.

"W-What are you doing here..." he tries sounding brave but the way he stuttered is enough to show he's aware of his impending doom.

"Catching up with some old friends." Jongin casually answers while filling some glasses with liquor. Then he looks at Soo calculatingly, "And you?"

Even Soo's chuckle has a bit of trembling in it.

"How is t-that even possible w-when there's no one here but you..."

Crossing his legs, Jongin leans back on the couch watching him completely.

"The party's downstairs." he says, smiling a little. "This room is for privacy purposes."

Soo isn't that dumb. The way he watches him intensely is enough to figure out that he knows everything he's doing and all the shorter could do now is to deny with all his might and save his dignity.

Jongin taps the space right beside him and Soo stiffens even more, "Sit down here, Soo."

"I don't think so..." he replies coldly despite the rapid blinking. He gathers the strength to begin stepping back, "I'm leaving..."

"Sit here or you lose your fucking company."

He stops in no time, completely stunned by the lack of mercy in the man's voice. Jongin's lips are still curved into a small smile but his teeth are obviously gritted. His eyes won't leave Kyungsoo when the latter got no choice but to make his way towards the couch.

Soo sits on the farthest edge, preferring the possibility of falling on the floor instead of being too close to the CEO even when they're already a few inches apart.

Jongin gets the other glass from the table and hands it to him, "Here, drink this."

Soo exhales shakily, "I don't want to!"

"Drink." Jongin declares again and Soo is now glaring at the glass before accepting it out of defeat. Possibly being drugged or poisoned is what runs in his mind but he doesn't seem to care anymore as he gulps it down once, wincing after. Jongin watches him in amusement before taking the empty glass away from him back to the table.

Drinking it in one go was probably to help him calm his nerves, too. God knows how chaotic everything is within Kyungsoo right now. This is the closest he's been to Jongin after so many years and it's making it hard for him to keep himself together. He almost thought the effect is long gone, but here it is, stronger even.

It should be long gone.

With that, Soo lets out a ragged breath and refills the glass he drank from. He doesn't care anymore.

"So did you get what you want?" Jongin watches him finishing the second glass while leaning back.

Soo gulps down the liquor without looking at him, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, you know it."

Soo grips the glass tighter when he feels the shameless shifting beside him. He could almost feel his breath on his ear so he retorts with a sharp side-eye.

"Move a-away..." he mutters threateningly but Jongin goes deaf for it.

"Did you get the scandals you're desperately looking for?" he mumbles suggestively, grinning at the sight of both Kyungsoo's hands fiddling on his lap, "Cause I assume you got the same answer from everyone."

Soo bravely turns his head to look at him sharply despite the close distance.

"That you're a fucking asshole?"

"That I fuck good." Jongin says without batting an eye, smirking when Soo frowns even harder. "So good that they can't even recover."

No one could ever compare to the sight of Kyungsoo seething in anger despite his cheeks flushing into deep shade of red.

"You're so full of yourself..." his eyes widen when he shifts closer and a hand runs from his nape down to the small of his back. Kyungsoo harshly pushes Jongin's leg that is already brushing against his own, "Stop moving closer, Kim Jongin. T-This is harassment!"

"You want to bring this to the court?" Jongin tilts his head, smiling even when his eyes become more and more dangerous as he shifts closer. "So I could tell them how you're trying to sabotage your own boss?"

Soo falls speechless this time. He could only glare at the table in front, not bothering to deny it anymore.

His heart feels like jumping off his chest when he feels a hand squeezing his thigh, a hot breath touches his ear.

"I know what you're up to, Soo. I always know it." he assures him grimly, feeling satisfied the more Soo stiffens with his touch.

"G-Get off..." his trembling hand slaps Jongin's hand on his leg, but the other shamelessly trails down on his lower back.

"What are you gonna do about it?" the businessman asks tauntingly, his eyes lingering on Soo's face alone.

Soo feels something dangerous rousing in him. Before it could even escalate, he bravely looks at Jongin right in the eye.

"You'll get what you deserve one day, Jongin. I assure you that." he says through gritted teeth and gets to see how the CEO's jaw hardens.

"Is that a threat?" he chuckles menacingly, "Are you threatening me now, Soo?" he asks, gripping the shorter's leg once more.

Soo starts feeling the pain in between his legs so he harshly slaps him across the face and stands up to walk towards the door. He yelps loudly when he gets dragged and pinned against the wall, strong legs trapping his own.

"S-Stop!" Soo yells at him angrily, "Get your fucking hands off me. Y-You don't have the right-"

He tries slapping him again but Jongin grips his approaching hand and traps it down, his other hand grasping his jaw to keep him in place. All of Soo's other attempts become futile when he feels a warm lips harshly clashing against his own. He whimpers against the taller's mouth and tries to shove his shoulder away with his other weak hand. Jongin effortlessly tilts his face with a single hand to let him access more of his mouth with his tongue. Both of Kyungsoo's hands start shaking uncontrollably.

Jongin kisses him deeper, harsh and unforgiving. He parts both of Soo's weakening legs to settle himself in between, rubbing their bodies even more.

"F-Fuck! Go away-!" Soo harshly breathes through his swollen lips when Jongin briefly pulls away to let him gather his breath even if it's barely possible.

It becomes more difficult for Kyungsoo to fight back when his hot kisses travel down to his jaw, down to his neck. His hands aren't even keeping Soo's clutched hands still anymore. They've traveled behind to his bum, gripping them hard that it seems like Jongin is basically fucking him with their clothes on.

He despises himself. He's disgusted by how he starts kissing him back, equally yearning like he's been deprived of it for years. But then technically, he was, right? There was a time of his life where he couldn't get enough of this same man kissing him, and he'd be lying if he says he never thought about those moments even when he was supposed to be moving on. When he was almost certain that this will never again. That's probably why even after more than eight years, he still lacks self-control when it comes to Jongin. His body craves for him wildly.

"You're right..." Jongin mumbles against his jaw, his big hand making its way in between his legs. He smiles unapologetically when he feels something hard against his hand, even before Soo pleadingly draws it away in shame.

"I'll get what I deserve soon. Even more than that..." his lips touches the shorter's ear as he grinds against his hard-on. Soo bites his lip when a weak groan unconsciously escapes, firmly gripping on Jongin's shoulders. "and I'll make sure you fucking watch while it happens."

Jongin rubs against him again that Soo can feel his head swirling out of ecstasy. Soon enough, he'll lose every bit of control left in him and he'll give in. Just like that, with all the pride and pain he fostered for so many years thrown out to the window. Just because he wants him so bad.

"S-Stop..." he moans breathlessly in between another deep kiss. But the way it sounded seems to plead otherwise.

Jongin only pulls away when Kyungsoo's hands travel up to his locks, as if it's an enough trigger to pull the both of them back to reality.

The businessman clenches his jaw when Soo tried to capture his lips for more, his half-lidded eyes looking at him in confusion. It woke something in him up that he needed to resort back to his rage before he completely does anything stupid one more time.

"Don't you try pulling that stunt again, you hear me?" he hisses even when Kyungsoo is still frozen from everything that happened. Jongin smiles without any humor, "You have nothing against me now, Soo. Meanwhile I can fucking ruin you. Don't you cross the line again."

He steps back and sees the mess he made properly. Soo's plump lips are all red and swollen, his clothes disheveled while he tries to close his thighs even when his knees are still wobbling. His boner is now too evident that he starts tearing up in embarrassment. For himself, and for all the things he was willing to give up mindlessly. He keeps his eyes on the floor.

Jongin runs his fingers through his own messy hair while he stares at him coldly from head to toe. The side of his lips curls up, looking satisfied upon seeing the usually feisty man clutching the hem of his shirt down while gulping repeatedly.

"I have everything you're desperate for." he says right after proving it, chuckling without remorse as he opens the door to leave like nothing happened. "Go home."

 

Chapter Text

 

This is precisely the reason why he hates arriving exactly on time.

Don’t you just hate it? It’s 8 in the morning and people around you are already buzzing and laughing with each other. It hurts your ears. Mornings are supposed to be solemn and peaceful.

Now his day barely even started and Soo already has a deadly look on his face, annoyed about everything. Everyone.

If you think he got over that worst week prior to this, then think again.

Kyungsoo glares at the two girls going out of the elevator. They’ve been blabbering nonsense that he already knows the full arc of their gossip. Other than that, he checks his phone one more time and sees no response from Seonho. That idiot hasn’t been responding to his messages and calls since last night, pissing him off even more.

The elevator stops at eighth floor.

“Good morning, Sir.”

Soo looks up when the people around him collectively greet someone. His gaze immediately falls down when he sees the person stepping in, keeping it that way even when he feels him standing close behind him.

Ironically, he finally gets the silence he’s been wanting because all the employees in the elevator seem too intimidated to make a noise. The elevator stops continuously at the following floors with the same scenario; people reluctantly bowing when they see the man’s presence in the lift they’re about to take.

“Good morning, Architect.” says every employee entering, having the CEO standing next to them in the elevator. And Soo can definitely confirm that majority of the employees here notice how disrespectful he is for being the only one not giving a shit.

If you think he forgot about the last moment they were this close, think again. Because recalling it still affects him the same. It’s too clear in his mind to simply shrug it off, haunting him every chance it gets. And he’s not acknowledging this jerk’s presence for all he cares. But then for some reason, he starts sweating a little.

You know what’s the other thing he hates the most about arriving at 8AM? It’s that the elevators are always packed and he can feel Jongin standing right behind him, almost intentionally breathing close to his nape. Soo had to clench his jaw while keeping himself collected. He can’t even do anything to move away because every space is occupied. He hates having chills just by thinking how close their distance is and that he’s obviously tormenting him purposely.

It reminds him about what he had to do when he got home that night, just to keep himself sane.

Once he reaches the floor of their office, he storms out of the elevator, too eager to get away when he can still feel the cold sweat lingering on his body just like the gaze that followed him.

Before lunch, he already called Seonho for the nth time. Kyungsoo began getting both worried and annoyed. Seonho doesn’t usually become unresponsive unless something’s wrong. And by the way he’s being out of reach right now, Soo is certain that there’s something going on. He already contemplated if he said something offensive when they last spoke but he can’t remember anything aside from his usual jokes and insults.

What is going on with that guy, then?

“Okay, we admit, this is indeed a rushed project.” Architect Bae says in front of everyone in the important meeting, “This client is known for that. But they’re a big deal and other companies do not satisfy them as much as KJI. Now, President Chang moved the launch of their Pocheon villa plan and design next week. This is a top priority project and the designs need to be approved by Saturday.”

“Jesus…” Soo hears Dongwook mumbling worriedly beside him. Everyone is too focused on the presentation about one of their biggest projects of the month. Most people are here including the CEO himself, so everyone keeps their lips sealed while taking notes as the project heads introduce how much of a big deal this is.

Soo keeps texting on his seat, on the other hand.

“We need you to come up with good designs by today based on the objective list.” there are more gentle gasps around from the junior designers because of the relentlessly short working time, “And instead of the project heads, President Kim will be the one to directly approve your work.”

Dongwook sighs again, “This is it. I’m going to lose my job.”

Soo simply glances at him being problematic about the project before typing another text to his lost friend.

“The project heads will only be responsible of relaying your designs to the CEO and also the revisions and improvement your designs will need.” Soojung adds, looking at everyone. “We expect nothing but great output from the best designers in this country.”

Kyungsoo frowns upon seeing that Seonho had already read his messages, yet he doesn’t get any response or even a sign of him typing. This bitch.

“Any questions?” as soon as the project heads gave the floor for discussion, a lot of designers raise their hands to ask and clarify things. This is the closest deadline they had, anyway. And considering it’s also a well-known client and project.

The man in the far center of the room keeps his eyes on the only employee with his head down, unfocused.

To: Seonho

Why weren’t you answering my calls

Soo types furiously even when the people around him are having interactive conversations regarding far more important things.

And now you’re leaving me on read. What the hell is happening Seonho

“Isn’t it clear that I want everyone to take this project seriously?” everyone falls silent when the CEO speaks from where he is, but this one doesn’t seem to get the hint. “Because I don’t think all of you understand when I said I want full attention in this meeting and not on something else.”

The project heads in front look as pressured as the employees sitting when they hear the stoic tone from their boss.

Dongwook elbows Kyungsoo when he noticed the other texting. Soo mindlessly looks in front, not even realizing what’s happening.

The project heads try smiling to ease the tension for the intimidated employees.

“Uh… yes, so again, you’re working individually but this will still affect your respective teams because it will be presented to the client that way. That’s why it totally depends on you if you want a certain dynamic for your team as long as you follow the objectives. Some clients prefer a certain pattern, so if he likes one, then he might end up choosing all of your team’s designs.” Architect Zhang tells everyone cheerfully as if it will make anyone feel better, “We need all outputs, before this day ends.”

Soo looks down to his lap when his phone finally vibrates.

From: Seonho

I’m fine

He almost snorts out loud. Who is this guy kidding?

“Is there any more question?” the project heads ask once more, but the employees become more reluctant. Like they’re afraid of even asking in front of the stoic CEO because their questions might’ve been discussed already.

To: Seonho

No you’re not

Soo doesn’t wait for a response before adding another text.

Stop making me feel stupid, I know something’s up. Are you mad at me???

He’s too focused on waiting for Seonho’s response that he fails to notice the agonizing silence around.

From: Seonho

I’m not, Soo.

“How about Mr. Do?”

Soo instinctively looks up when he hears his name somewhere, not even sure who said it. Everyone is suddenly looking at him so he turns to the project heads in front for clarification.

“What?” he asks cluelessly.

Soojung is raising a brow while Architect Bae reluctantly answers him.

“Uh… President asks if you have any questions regarding the project.”

Kyungsoo looks at Jongin, whose lips are protruded while looking at him, obviously unamused.

“No, I don’t have a question.” he shrugs before subtly typing on his phone again. Everyone fearfully anticipates the CEO’s response to this.

To: Seonho

Then tell me what’s wrong please

“Okay, great. Then it’s clear for everyone, then.” Jongin stands up, looking around with unsparing gaze. “No one’s going home unless all your designs are approved today.”

The room becomes more awfully silent as if it wasn’t agonizing enough. It’s like one tiny thing can infuriate the said boss and shorten their deadlines even more.

“All your other questions will be answered by the project heads. They will be hands-on to you throughout the day.” he coldly speaks, gaze lingering on someone. “Dismissed.”

Even standing up is a lot more silent. Meanwhile, Soo decided to call Seonho again. Getting his responses through text won’t get him anywhere. The man obviously needs more persuasion to spill.

Seojin calls him when he’s about to go out, “Hey, Soo. We’re having a short meeting now.”

He blinks, quickly coming up with a reason.

“Uh… can I go to the restroom?” he smiles at his teammates sheepishly, “This won’t take long, promise.”

He quickly goes out of the conference room as soon as someone nodded, walking towards the empty corner near the restroom. The employees are all busy with the said project, even the bosses, so no one’s really passing by. He can make a quick phone call, just to get this over with. Damn Seonho.

Soo squints his eyes when the phone rings longer than usual. He’s not planning to ignore his calls again, is he?

“I don’t have much time, I have designs to work on.” he says when the man finally picks up, “Now, what is this all about? Don’t you dare say it’s nothing, Kim Seonho.”

He doesn’t fail to notice how exhausted his sigh sounded from the other line.

“I just needed some time to think.”

Soo’s expression softens. Just by hearing him talk makes him realize how serious it is more than it seemed.

“What happened?”

Seonho pauses again, only his breathing is heard.

“I resigned from my last job.”

He doesn’t respond right after, more like not knowing what to say exactly. So that’s why.

It only occurs to Soo that he doesn’t even know too much about Seonho’s recent job. How is he supposed to say something comforting?

He’s a terrible best friend.

“From… that car company? Or…?”

“No, the recent one. Telecommunications.” Seonho forces a chuckle, “See how much I’ve been hopping from one to another that you don’t even know where I work…”

Soo bites his lip, gently slapping his forehead because it seemed like he really made Seonho feel worse.

He already noticed this before, Seonho jumping from job to job. When they were starting, he simply thought that the man only wanted to explore different careers. But as years passed by, it became much clearer to Soo that Seonho never settled because he was never happy in any of it. No matter how much he forced himself to be.

He only became vocal about it now, but Soo has always known.

“You don’t really tell me about it that much.” he mumbles, sounding suddenly embarrassed. “So are you going to apply for another…”

Who is he kidding? He already has an idea what the main problem is and simply confirms it when Seonho finally lets out another deep breath.

“Soo, what am I doing here?” he asks desperately and Soo becomes more speechless, “I already tried didn’t I? I tried living normally when we moved here and be passionate about the jobs that I do… but…”

Soo stares at a certain spot on the floor, knowing exactly what the other man is trying to point out.

“You don’t want it.” he says, “You want one thing, like I do.”

He already knows him so much that he knows exactly how ingenuous his chuckles are.

“I hate myself. Why am I constantly giving satisfaction to my father?” Seonho pauses, “Maybe this is what he meant when he said I won’t truly make it once I leave.”

“Hey, you’ve always wanted business and that’s not because of your father.” Soo tells him even if he can tell that Seonho is shaking his head while smiling in dismay, “We want these things but that’s not because our crazy fathers are right about constantly shoving it down our throats before. We’ve always deserved the right to choose. Don’t feel bad about it.”

“But we’re already happy here, Soo.” he sounds so conflicted and Soo can’t even disagree to what he’s saying, “Maybe not career-wise for me, but I got the freedom I’ve always wanted when we moved to New York. Am I going to give it up just for the career I truly want?”

It’s true. He falls a little speechless after that. It hits him how true it is because he recently had to give up all of those when he was forced to come back here.

“We had the best years in New York… we both know that.” he gulps before smiling sadly, “But are you going to wait until you’re sick of everything about it? Just because you keep on doing things you don’t like?”

Seonho doesn’t answer, and he knows his words are taking effect.

“I know you’re worried… and I understand. But you’re not going to end up like me right now.” Kyungsoo chuckles on his own misfortune, “I know your father won’t be able to do anything to force you anymore. You have all the right to decide what you want. If anything, they need you more than anyone because we’re the only bastard sons, right? Your company is still there, waiting for their idiot heir, while mine has gone down the hill.”

Seonho sighs, “Soo…”

“I’m serious!” he despises how he has to try sounding cheerful about it, but then his best friend doesn’t need more negativity right now. “Apply for another job in New York if you still want to explore or go get that company waiting for you. As long as you do what you fucking want and whatever you think will satisfy you. Do that. As long as it’s completely up to you, Seonho. Then, if any of it doesn’t work then we’ll go back to settle in New York and party until we can’t pay the bills.”

He laughs lightly at his own words. Soo badly wants to make Seonho feel better. It’s enough that he’s the only miserable guy between the both of them.

“Sounds ideal…” Seonho mutters after chuckling, “I don’t know… maybe I’m just afraid that they will constantly rub it to my face how much of a disappointment I am if I go back. I’ve escaped that for more than eight years. I don’t want to go back to that again… feel helpless.”

His expression falls a little after hearing this, but before Seonho could even notice, he hisses at him jokingly.

“Then what do you take me for?”

Soo leans on the wall before speaking again.

“Hey, you know I love you, right?” he tries to be serious now but Seonho simply lets out an airy laughter, “It’s not funny, Seonho. I’m serious. I’m here… we’re long done with the phase of caring about what our parents think about us. I love you and I’m just here for you.”

“I know, Soo…” he coos, finally feeling better because of Kyungsoo’s unusually sweet words. The shorter rolls his eyes because he can tell that he’s smiling from ear to ear based from his voice, “And you have white wine allergy…”

“Get over that white wine allergy, for fuck’s sake, I’m being serious here.” he shouldn’t have really told this idiot about that.

Seonho sounds happier now, “But I’m the only one who knows that… you told me about your white wine allergy, just goes to show you really love me.”

He hears a movement from the corner behind him so he turns around, brows creasing upon seeing nothing but people from the distance. Soo shrugs before speaking again.

“Fine.” he snorts at Seonho who won’t stop blabbering about his wine allergy, “Now, remember your birthday three years ago when you got drunk and cursed your father nonstop.” he hears a giggle from the other line even before he could finish, “Then I recorded it and threatened to send it to them but you simply said you didn’t give a shit if I did. I want that spirit back.”

“Okay…” Kyungsoo finally smiles when he hears the lightness in Seonho’s voice, “Okay, Soo.”

“Think about what you want.” he tells him seriously, “But don’t you dare ignore my messages and calls again. I’m going to strangle you.”

Seonho sighs once more, but it sounds more relieved this time and it’s all that matters to Soo.

“I love you Soo.” he coos lovingly, sounding like his usual dumb self and Soo finally feels accomplished.

“Gross.” he rolls his eyes while smiling.

He ended the call, relieved that Seonho obviously feels better. Soo doesn’t want their distance to be a reason for him to become a useless friend. It eventually became easier anyway, because Seonho would easily lose it when Soo is forced to tell him sweet things no matter how out of character it is for the said boy. As long as it makes him feel alright.

The things you do for some idiot in your life.

“What’s going on?” Soo mumbles at Dongwook when he walked past the employees who are all looking at the project heads discussing something in front of the office. It’s awfully silent. And now that Soo watches the people everyone’s staring at, he sees the distraught on their faces, as if they just came out from some havoc or something. Soojung surprisingly doesn’t seem like her usual overconfident self either.

“Man, they look pale as paper.” Dongwook says with a cringe, as if he didn’t hear Soo’s question. “Did they all get fired?”

“I don’t get it. Architect Jung could’ve done something.” he hears Mia saying from her seat.

“Kim Kai is the CEO and no one can tame him.” says another.

“I know, but duh? Isn’t she his girlfriend, or something?” she huffs like she’s totally making sense. Soo gives her a side glance, “If my boyfriend gets mad like that, I’m going to be the only one he’ll need, for sure.”

His brows crease upon hearing this. Did Jongin scold the project heads? They look certainly mortified.

Soo ends up rolling his eyes with the thought, choosing to start on his designs instead. What is the jerk’s tantrums all about today?

“Why is everyone gossiping?” one of the project heads enters when he noticed the designers watching their dilemma, causing him to displace the frustration on the lowly employees. “We have a project to finish today!”

Everyone quickly goes back to their jobs, realizing how much time they wasted from their already short time. Soo gently shakes his head. No offense, but most people here have to sort out their priorities.

The project heads enter the office, mumbling with each other while still looking frustrated. Kim Kai really had it bad, huh? Soo thought after glancing at his bosses. How furious is the guy that these well-accomplished architects and engineers look like scared children after exiting his office?

“Okay, I need you all to listen carefully.” Architect Zhang bravely starts off after them pointing one another, “President wants all of your first draft by three in the afternoon. Completely compiled.” he sighs exasperatedly, realizing to himself how close to impossible it is, “Jesus, this is…”

The violent reaction becomes more prominent. The designers are all sitting straight, protesting on the given deadline.

“Three in the afternoon, guys.” Soojung tells everyone with finality, “And whoever fails to submit all ten designs by then is fired.”

“What the hell…”

“How is that even possible?”

“Fired? That easy?” most of them don’t mind complaining to the bosses now, “B-But Architects…”

“We know, but remember that we’re just relaying the CEO’s order. He wants it then, so you better start working now.” Architect Bae obviously finds it difficult to calm everyone down, “We won’t be fully hands-on from now because we’re given our own big task as well. So we’ll be going back here for your first draft submission before three.”

Soo smiles in sarcasm. How convenient is it for that asshole that he’s not the one receiving everyone’s wrath for his merciless orders? Must feel really good being the boss.

“Remember that this is a big project, so it’s only understandable that we’re demanded this way.” Soojung tells everyone, making it sound rational. Soo watches her talking, not really surprised by her words. “We still want great outputs and it’s better to expect changes on the CEO’s instructions. That being said, we all better start working now.”

Everybody is still complaining, but the project heads already went out, probably to start their own work. Soo wonders if Soojung was given the same workload as everyone. But then he instantly shrugs off the unimportant thought.

“How furious is he?” Dongwook asks with distress, “He was fine back there in the meeting!”

“Maybe he’s being pressured by the client, too.” Seojin mumbles hopelessly, “We better start now. Remember our team’s objective, guys. Good luck!”

As expected, no one really went out when lunch time came. People were also half-running in case they needed to go to the restroom. After hours of nonstop sketching, Kyungsoo can already feel the pain all over his hand and neck. There were also some occasional sighs from every corner of the room. Every second counts.

He’s onto polishing his last design when a project head yells from the door. He finished more than the required number just to be sure. Fortunately, he had a lot of ideas that matched both the project and team objectives.

“Thirty minutes left, everyone!” no one responded but most of them are either at the edge of crying or vigorous erasing. “At quarter to three, we’ll be collecting your portfolios. Completed.”

“Fuck…”

Soo looks at Seojin, who’s already sweating while sketching. She looks extremely pressured. Looking at her current sketch, she’s not even midway yet.

She completely went on the verge of crying when the project heads came in at 2:45.

“Okay, I’ll be going around to collect this team first. And then, yours.” Architect Bae goes to the other team’s area, and the designers start handing out their compiled designs. “Please start with your other designs as we wait for the approval. In that way, you’re already preparing a replacement for unapproved designs.”

Soo looks at Seojin who’s still struggling to sketch on her place. She seethes when Soo subtly pokes her shoulder, but the anger on her face falters upon seeing the man sneaking in two finished designs over her table.

“Here.” Soo mumbles.

Her eyes widen, hands trembling with both exhaustion and shock. “W-What—”

“Just take it, come on. They’re my extra.”

Soo nods once and looks in front like nothing happened when the Architect comes near them. Seojin’s gaze lingers on him before closing her parted lips, gulping hard as she puts Soo’s designs among her finished ones.

Most of them let out the hugest sigh as soon as the project heads went out with everyone’s designs. Some remain seated while looking traumatized; Seojin for example.

“Fucking hell, that was the most intense hours of my life.”

“Those designs better be approved.”

Soo simply smiles at Dongwook cracking jokes in between complaints. Their other teammates ride along and try to lighten up the atmosphere. Seojin remains silent, still distraught over the fact that she almost lost her job. She glances at Soo every now and then, as if wanting to say something but just couldn’t.

The designers straighten up when the project heads come in after an hour with the same portfolios in their hands. The room becomes awfully silent again, everyone anticipating to see the result.

“Okay, so… President Kim has gone through your designs.” Soojung speaks while the other heads go around to give everyone’s portfolios back, “He wants all the revisions and new designs by today. Please check your portfolios.”

Soo receives his own and skims through it, blinking a few times.

“Tsk. I have four revisions.”

“I need to start over three! Fuck…”

“Kyung, what d’you got?” Dongwook tilts his head up to ask him when he fell silent.

Soo keeps his gaze on the portfolio on his table.

“All of it…”

“All approved?” Minji gasps.

Soo looks at her, gulping.

“Unapproved.”

His teammates fall silent this time, obviously taken aback.

“Man…” Dongwook mumbles, sounding horrified for Soo.

Minji grabs his portfolio to see it for herself and her mouth gapes in shock. While Seojin watches him with fraught, swallowing when Soo looks back at her, then to the sketches on her table, spotting the designs he gave her.

Both approved.

Soo blinks rapidly before looking away.

“But these are good designs!” Minji exclaims in disbelief. Mia hears the conversation and grins from ear to ear.

“You’re spoiling your team member too much.” she says while menacingly smiling at Kyungsoo, “If it’s way below the CEO’s standards, then isn’t it telling you something?”

“Shut up, Mia.” Seojin hisses at her, “We better go back to working, most of us are not done yet.”

“We still have time, Kyung.” Gidu smiles reassuringly before going back to work.

Another couple of hours passed and Soo can already feel the heaviness in his eyes. It became harder to focus because of the increasing noise around him, given that the others already finished revising. He had to take a few deep breaths when his second batch of designs gets submitted along with his teammates’ few revisions. The sky is already dark.

“I’m done.” Seojin says after the project heads return the second drafts.

Minji sighs, “Oh thank god, me too. Dongwook?”

Dongwook nods before looking at the man who’s already staring into space while his second drafts are spread out all over his table.

“Kyung, how about you?” he asks but Soo doesn’t respond anymore, simply closing his eyes tight. His teammates look at each other because of this and then start flocking around his cubicle.

“Let me see.” Gidu picks up some of his designs with the same stamp, “All unapproved again? What the hell… are they mistaken?”

Mia laughs while standing up from her seat, causing them to glare at her.

“President Kim himself mistaken? Unlikely.” she shrugs and sighs teasingly, “Sometimes, you just gotta feel like you don’t belong somewhere, would you?”

“Mind your own fucking business.” Minji snaps at her but she only chuckles again.

“Tsk tsk.” her posh bag slings on her shoulder. She walks past them with a smile, “I gotta go. I have to rest now cause all my designs are approved.”

“Good for you!” Minji hisses sarcastically even though the woman has already strutted out of the office.

“This is crazy…” Dongwook mumbles. They’re all watching Soo, who seems to be sleeping now if it isn’t for his unstable breathing.

“Should we try talking to him?”

Minji frowns, “Have you seen the project heads after they tried this afternoon?”

“But that was hours ago. Maybe he’ll be in a better mood now.” Gidu tells them, “This can’t possibly be right! It’s late and Kyung needs to revise all of these? I don’t even see what’s bad!”

“I think we should all go there and—”

“Guys…” they all turn to Soo as he straightens up from his seat, forcing a smile at them. “It’s okay… I can do it. You should all go now.”

“But—”

“It should strictly be an individual work, right?” he insists, “Our team will get into even more trouble if they find out you’re helping me. I can finish this tonight and complete the team’s portfolio before the client meeting tomorrow.”

They remain reluctant, but Kyungsoo nods at them reassuringly and starts preparing his materials again even if he can barely feel his hand now.

“Okay…” Minji mutters, concern etched all over her face. “we’ll just tell the receptionist and security to check on you.”

“Yeah, be careful going home, Kyung.” Dongwook taps his back, “Send us a message if you’re done.”

“Will do.” he forces another smile, “See you guys tomorrow.”

His teammates repeatedly look back at him on their way out.

“Bye, Kyung!” he waves back at them, but the smile instantly falls as soon as they’re gone.

He stares at the unapproved designs he’s been working on for the whole day, then around the office that is slowly emptying.

Soo slowly feels a familiar emotion rousing in him. His jaw hardens along with his hands. This is how fucking dirty you play, Kim Jongin?

His eyes start warming when the bottomline hits him hard— there’s really nothing he can do about it. So with another heavy breath, he grabs his pencil and starts over again.

A few minutes later, a delivery arrives for him, making him realize how hungry he is after not eating properly the whole day. Soo reads the note that came along with the food.

Thank you for today, Kyung. – Seojin

He smiles a little, glancing at his ongoing sketches before deciding to abandon them for a while to eat his dinner on the floor and think of new ideas even if his head is starting to get heavy from weariness.

The office is already empty by 9:45. Soo went out to buy a big cup of coffee for something in him feels like he’s about to stay longer and he needs it.

But when the project head on shift hands out his third batch of design, Soo can still feel the world crumbling harshly onto him.

“He approved two…” Ravi tells him, sounding apologetic. “The rest are…”

Soo has a small smile etched on his face despite his teeth gritting hard.

“Okay, can I… just talk to him?” he says while holding his unapproved designs close to his heaving chest, “I know he’s busy, but I just really want to ask the exact revisions he wants me to make.”

Ravi lets out a sigh, also conflicted by his situation. Soo remembers what he did to his pregnant girlfriend just a week ago, and now he feels even worse.

“He went out for a very important client meeting, Kyungsoo.” Ravi tells him remorsefully, “I’m really sorry…”

Soo reassuringly smiles at him, but the gulp he makes doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Alright…” he nods at Ravi, turning away to walk back to their office. He hears another sigh from the man.

“Kyungsoo!” Soo looks back, seeing the architect’s hesitant face. “I’ll try calling him. You can finish the revisions at home and just email the drafts to his secretary on-duty.”

Soo doesn’t find this comforting in any way. Ravi should be the last person to feel guilty for his misery. And it also won’t be surprising if Kim Kai pulls out another stunt when he finds out someone is helping him. He’s had enough of that. Of everything, actually.

But he’s not giving Jongin the satisfaction of seeing him back down. Never.

“No, it’s okay. I don’t want to get you involved.” Ravi’s face relaxes upon hearing this, “I’ll finish them here.”

“A-Are you sure?”

“Yes. Thank you, Architect.” Soo walks away, keeping his stature still. But as he gets in the empty and dimmed office, his shoulders droop down. He weakly sits back on his chair.

It feels the heaviest staring all over the designs he made, as if something sharp is stuck in his throat. And even though it’s the last thing he wants to feel right now— it seems like all his self-confidence and drive went down the drain. Maybe his designs are simply terrible. A part of him wants to start sobbing, but his whole being is so exhausted that even doing that takes a lot of effort.

So he takes his pencil again, rubbing his eyes before focusing them on the blank paper. Then he starts sketching.

At 3:18 in the morning, fighting for his consciousness is already harder to do. He has to repeatedly blink his strained eyes, brows creased as he intensely focuses on it, just for the sake of keeping himself awake and coming up with a decent design.

“Two more, Soo. Just two.” he mumbles to himself after gently tapping his cheeks. He can hear the security staff checking on him every now and then, probably either annoyed or sympathetic. There’s nothing else to feel after all, right?

Before five, he’s starting his last design. But he’s also close to passing out, and his hand is already stiffening from nonstop drawing. Soo starts feeling emotionally vulnerable because of lack of sleep and being so worn out.

“One more…” he huffs, gulping hard when he starts getting dizzy too. “Come on…”

Soo really tried. But his whole body is giving up and in the middle of barely focusing on his last design, he decided to finally take a short rest.

“Thirty minutes…” he weakly sets aside the materials on his desk to slump his head on it, “Just thirty minutes…” he mumbles again and lets himself drift off to what should only be a very quick nap. At 6AM, someone turns off the lamp right above his head.

 

x

“Soo?”

There’s a voice right beside his bed. The first thing that comes up in his mind is the fact that he lives alone in his apartment. This makes him slowly open his eyes, the light being blocked by someone’s figure.

His former bestfriend’s figure.

“Soo…” Baekhyun watches him worriedly, looking fresh and styled as opposed to how he is with his cheek pressed against the hard desk.

And then the word finally enters his floating head— deadline.

“Oh shit.” he cusses hard while straightening up from his seat. He’s not on his bed, or anywhere comfortable. His body is aching from top to bottom, courtesy of the uncomfortable position and very sudden movement he did. “Sorry… shit…shit.”

Baekhyun blinks continuously.

“Did you sleep here?”

Soo rubs his whole face with both his hands, cussing himself nonstop for oversleeping. He’s not yet done with his last design, so with still incoherent thoughts and confused movements, he tries to spot the sketch he was doing.

“I-I need to finish something.” he huffs out without looking at Baekhyun. Given that he’s here and employees are starting to arrive too, it’s not hard to figure out that another work day is starting, but Soo’s still here— caught up with the task of yesterday, close to having a breakdown because of oversleeping a few hours before the client meeting.

Baekhyun looks so confused and worried about his state, “Why di—”

“Kyung?” his other teammates walk to his cubicle, drowning Baekhyun’s supposed question. The director has no choice but to step away when Kyungsoo’s team members flock around him to ask the same thing, “Oh my god, you’re wearing the same clothes. You didn’t go home?”

Kyungsoo barely looks at everyone, only seeing Dongwook’s gaping mouth when he glanced up for a split second. He starts sketching again.

“This is crazy! How many times did he make you revise?” Seojin asks.

Minji clicks her tongue when Soo doesn’t respond anymore, “That’s just terrible. Come on, we’re helping you now.”

“N-No…” Soo frantically shakes his head without removing his gaze from the paper, “I have one design to finish. I-I’m almost done…”

“But Kyung—”

“Please let me just finish my work.” he firmly says and all of them couldn’t respond. Kyungsoo sighs heavily as he continues, “I’m okay.”

Soo didn’t lift his pencil up, nor pause to rest. He drew, almost furious at himself, at this deadline— at everything. He could hear the mumbling of other employees when they walk past him and realize that he’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Mia also gives him taunting words every time she gets the chance, but he doesn’t give a damn anymore. He needs to finish this in case the CEO rejects all of them again. In that way, he’ll be able to do more revisions just before the client meeting.

That’s what he does— Soo equips himself for more and more rejection. He prepares for it, because that’s what he’s been getting for the past twenty-four hours that he became immune.

Soo’s teammates did not bother him within those hours. They would only look at him every now and then, worried and waiting if ever he needs some assistance. The designer’s frequent deep breaths and harsh erasing sometimes get a bit alarming. But then he wouldn’t spare anyone a glance, making them certain that help is the last thing he needs.

“What’s this?”

Someone mumbles nearby. Soo didn’t pay that much attention to it until someone puts a coffee on his table. He looks up and sees one of the secretaries smiling before putting more coffees on other designers’ tables. He frowns a little, setting it aside without taking a sip to continue working.

“Good morning, guys!” Baekhyun cheerfully announces from the office door, “We have some free coffee for all of you, courtesy of President Kim himself! There’s also a big breakfast buffet set up at the lobby, so you can get something to eat there now!”

There’s another buzz around, some even standing up from their seats to get themselves food instantly.

“Is he trying to make up for what he put us through yesterday?” Gidu asks inquisitively, “A whole ass breakfast buffet?”

“Ugh, how about us on a diet?” Mia whines from where she is, “Fine.”

“What a drama queen.” Minji hisses in annoyance, throwing a sharp look at the woman who’s on her way to the said buffet anyway, “Hey, Kyung, do you want something? We can get food for you.”

Dongwook butts in while looking awed, “Yeah, I checked, it’s a fancy buffet!”

Soo polishes a part of his design, taking a while before responding.

“No…” he simply shakes his head in between sketching, “Go on.”

The others share another glance with each other, looking like they want to insist but end up not wanting to bother him as well. They went out together for the said buffet and Soo is left alone, working without batting an eye.

The first thing he wants, is to finish and have all of these designs approved. The last thing he wants, on the other hand— is a breakfast paid by that fucking asshole who put him in this position. That is as clear as the sun.

His teammates cooed when Kyungsoo finally stretched both his arms out after tossing his pencil down. He still doesn’t look amused but at least he’s not a ticking bomb anymore, like how he was in the previous hours.

“Hi. Is there any project head in the office?” Soo asks the receptionist through the phone. He can go there and check but he’s too tired. Moving a limb is pure torture.

The secretariat checked the project heads’ availability, telling him that someone will go to his cubicle to pick up and pass his portfolio.

He genuinely hoped it was someone decent, though.

“Hello, Kyungsoo.” Soo exhales silently. He was just imagining this as a worst case scenario, “You need me?”

Desperate to get it done more than anything, Soo faces Soojung and hands in his compiled designs.

“I’m done with my designs.” he tells her with his usual blank face, keeping professionalism. “I’m wondering if you can bring it to the CEO for him to check.”

Soojung casually shrugs and checks his portfolio.

Pursing his lips in a thin line, Soo stares at her blankly. If it’s any other project head, they would’ve taken the portfolio and walk to the CEO’s office to submit it like a normal human being. Soojung is indeed a different breed.

“Hmm…” she hums, sounding a bit critical. “You stayed up all night for this, right?”

Soo fights the urge to give a both sarcastic and threatening smile. Now he needs more patience than sleep.

“Yes.”

Soojung glances at him, lips protruded.

“It looks a little rushed to me.” she says sheepishly, “No offense. I mean… as project head, I can still see a lot of room for improvement.”

Soo stares at her intently, but the woman doesn’t back down and gives him the same look in the eye.

“Architect?”

Soojung sighs when a designer from Soo’s team speaks and therefore she needs to be the first one to look away. She looks at Minji, who flashes her a polite smile.

“Can President Kim possibly check them himself?” Minji bravely suggests, as if they all read the scary things in Kyungsoo’s mind.

Soo only drifts his gaze away from the architect’s face when Baekhyun appears behind her.

“Hi. You know what, I’ll bring this to the CEO.” Baekhyun says formally, pointing at the portfolio in Soojung’s hands while looking unusually stoic.

“That’s very nice of you, Baekhyun.” Kyungsoo’s gaze travels between the both of them when he sensed something different. Now it lingers on Soojung’s obviously fake smile, “Although I’m the project head so I should bring this.”

“Okay.” Baekhyun shrugs, “I’ll just come with you, then. I have some matters to discuss with the CEO, too.”

Soojung doesn’t look amused, but Baekhyun keeps a firm ground and smiles casually.

“Alright.” the architect struts out ahead of him. Baekhyun glances at Soo’s point blank expression before following.

To be honest, it’s quite flattering that his teammates are more restless than him while waiting for the decision. Soo simply has his head pressed on his unapproved designs over his desk. Although he doesn’t sleep because he’s expecting a feedback anytime soon. If Kim Kai hears he’s sleeping he would definitely reject everything again. The designers rolls his eyes with the thought. Soo would breathe and the CEO feels like he has to be punished.

“Ugh, what’s taking them so long?” Seojin hisses, tapping her pencil on her lip. Gidu did the honor of going out a while ago to follow Baekhyun and Soojung, saying he’ll be the undercover to bring the news about Kim Kai’s decision on their sleepless teammate’s nth revision.

“Kyung!” he calls him under his breath while running to Soo’s cubicle, “It’s all approved! Whole team’s designs will be presented to the client this lunch!”

His lips part in awe, feeling an overwhelming relief running within his system. A part of him is shocked, too.

That’s it?

Well— it’s not like he wants to be rejected again, but… if Kim Kai is capable of approving his decent designs, then why did he have to disapprove them over and over again first? To make him suffer?

“Finally!” Minji claps happily, despite the man spacing out on his seat.

Soo isn’t as happy as he should be now that he thinks about it. He should be relieved but the thought of being intentionally tormented for someone’s satisfaction spoils every good feeling he should be having.

“Great.” he forces a smile, not wanting to spread any more negativity to anyone. “Thanks guys.”

Soo ended up doing some random doodling while waiting for lunch. He’s not in the right state to start any work-related thing anymore. He’s not sure which among being too sleepy or spacing out over some negative thoughts is better. Thanks to the CEO for ruining his two days in a row. Ruining his life in general seems to be not enough for him.

“Hey Kyung, are you feeling okay?” Dongwook asks him when lunch time comes and he’s still doodling on his good but unapproved design, “We’re going out for lunch, want to join us?”

He wearily smiles at them.

“No… I’m going home for lunch to take a shower. Maybe I’ll buy something to eat before going back here, too.” he reassures them when he sees the concern on their faces over his bizarre silence, “You guys go ahead.”

Kyungsoo waits for them and the others to leave before halfheartedly packing his things to go home too.

“Hey, Soo…”

Soo turns around when someone gently calls him just as he stood up to go. Baekhyun fiddles his hands, looking down when Kyungsoo’s gaze settles on him.

“You don’t… need to go back immediately.” Soo doesn’t instantly get his point, urging him to elaborate it timidly. “I-I mean… take your time. Have a nap. Eat lunch… I can talk to Jongin.”

Soo nods once, offering a small formal smile.

“Okay.” he simply tells Baekhyun as he starts walking away, not giving back the same warmth. “Thanks…”

 

x

“Congrats to your team.”

Kyungsoo is the first one to shake Architect Zhang’s hand, then he turns to look at his other team members who have the same expression as him— lips pursed tightly and obviously suppressing a huge grin.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you Architect.”

They all obviously have the same thought in mind; wait for everyone, especially the clients and project heads to exit the room. When it happens, they immediately shut the door of the conference room with nothing but their small team inside.

“OH MY—”

“Oh my god! Oh my god!”

“We did it!”

The excited squealing reverberates around the room. They start giving each other congratulatory hugs, almost teary-eyed for the success of their team.

Just in time after coming back from his apartment, the meeting started after he arrived and finished very quickly as well. The client representatives all ended up with the same preference. He can still visualize Mia and her team’s look of both horror and disbelief when none of their works got chosen. It was a priceless moment.

“We fucking did it!” Minji wouldn’t stop cussing in so much happiness, “That Mia bitch can suck it up!”

“Our team got the client!”

“I wanna cry…” Seojin fondly looks at all of them, “That was such a big project, guys… and a pain in the ass, too. We deserve this!”

“Kyung, it was you…” she adds and Soo hasn’t even shaken his head yet when all of them nod in agreement.

“No, don’t even start.”

“It’s true! Your designs were the first ones they saw and something about it captivated them that they ended up liking the pattern of our team’s output.” Dongwook grins at him, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You earned it, after being kept all night to do a bunch of revisions? Fuck, I’ll embrace that victory, if I were you.”

It’s true. Surprisingly, his portfolio was the first one handed by the heads to the clients and they immediately liked it. But he wouldn’t take the credit all to himself.

Though it’s indeed satisfying to see his hard work being instantly paid off like this. It was a sleepless night, he surely deserves it.

“You know what this calls for?” Gidu wiggles his brows, “A celebration.”

“A wild fucking party.”

“It’s a victory on a Friday, bitches!”

Seojin gives a reluctant look at Kyungsoo, “Wait… Kyung hasn’t slept properly, yet.”

“Nope, don’t worry about me.”

“But we’re not doing it without you!” Minji insists, even frowning because of the idea.

Soo raises a brow.

“Who says I’m not coming?” his lips curl into a sly smile, “I lost sleep for this goddamn project, I’m not turning down a party for that too. Hell no.”

They return the same grin when it eventually gets decided.

“Oooohhh yeeees.”

“Let’s get fucking hammered.”

He’ll make up for that lost sleep once he’s done having the fun he deserves.

 

x

“This is so fun!” Minji yells, trying to be heard from the loud music. “How the hell did it take so long for us to hang out?”

Seojin squeezes herself in the couch, right beside Kyungsoo. She finishes two consecutive tequila shots and shamelessly raises her hand for more.

“Tequila shots, three for each please.” Soo grins while looking at her.

Dongwook laughs from he sits, “Wow… this night is far from over, huh?”

“Absolutely far from over.” Seojin fixes the strap of her dress and prepares another shot of tequila for herself, “Lick, Sip, Suck before the next batch, come on!”

“Oh my god, Seojin, are you tipsy now?” Minji gapes at the woman, who doesn’t even blink an eye while drinking. “For the record, I didn’t expect you to be like this.”

Seojin manages to frown at this right after wincing from another tequila shot. Soo is actually amused. Is this the same girl who would sharply look at her teammates whenever they have fun in the office?

“Like what?” she snorts at Minji, “To get drunk and wild after a deadly week from work? How dare you?”

“You always seem so uptight in the office.” Gidu adds, and then looks at the man beside her. “But okay, for the record, it’s Kyung that I mostly didn’t expect to hang out with.”

“Me? Why?”

“Pft—Seriously?” Seojin grins at him. Soo looks even more confused.

“Everybody’s talking about you since you got exposed as the child of Chairman Do himself from that meeting.” Minji agrees with Gidu. Soo blinks rapidly when all their attention shift towards him, “Never in my whole life did I imagine to be friends with a chaebol son.”

Kyungsoo remains looking clueless. He’s curious about what they’re talking about but a part of him is scared to hear it too.

“Same.” Minji shrugs, “And everybody had a lot of things to say about you, you know? It was intriguing.”

“Minji.” Gidu’s tone is scolding.

“It’s fine, I wanna hear it.” Soo nods at them, “What were people thinking about me?”

He doesn’t miss the way they share brief glances first before responding. This better be worth his time.

“Well, personally… I heard you ran away years ago.” Seojin starts off as soon as her most awaited batch of tequila shots arrived.

Dongwook’s brows furrowed, “Huh? What I heard was Chairman Do just hid him from the public eye as, you know, his next heir.”

“I heard you were actually dead!”

Soo begins smiling again. This is more amusing than he thought.

“What else?” he asks and drinks another shot.

“And this whole Architect Jung conspiracy.” Minji says that gets him pausing briefly, “Quite shocking to see you interact in the office sometimes.”

“Why?” Kyungsoo asks, brows creasing. “Wait… what’s with Architect Jung and me?”

“Well… you know Miss Jung is quite an it girl, even to locals, right?” she adds, “If she wasn’t an architect, I’d think she’s an influencer.”

“Gosh, give me a break from those magazine and show interviews.” Seojin butts in sassily.

“Exactly! Now anyway, she had this interview from a big magazine years ago when she told something about her struggles in the Architecture industry when she was younger.” Minji elaborates it, but Soo is already spacing out. A horrible memory starts coming back to him, “She mentioned about fighting for her designs when a powerful person tried stealing her ideas.” he takes another shot so he can gulp without anyone noticing, “It’s crazy because she specifically mentioned how she struggled immensely because the said person is the child of the firm owner himself so she didn’t have anything to protect herself then.”

His stare lingers on the table of drinks in front of them. So that’s the story she told everyone, huh?

“And then…?”

“I think most people know that she was a former protégé of your father’s firm…” Minji becomes a little hesitant at this part, “And that you were in the same school and internship program before. It’s not really hard to figure out.”

That bitch. Soo thinks despite the smile he’s flashing them. Stealing his designs weren’t enough and she really had to fabricate the whole story to be the victim? What a complete lying bitch.

And Kyungsoo thought he’s over it, a long time ago. But hearing about this now got him seething with rage again. It’s the reason why everything turned out this way, and now he realized that he may never be able to forget.

“In other words, we didn’t really care until Mia sent the article to everyone in the office and linked your name to it.” Seojin rolls her eyes, “That crazy girl.”

Soo takes another shot before looking at each one of them.

“So do you think I stole Miss Jung’s designs years ago?” the side of his lips curls up, “Like what she said?”

“To be honest?”

“You really want to know?”

His teammates consecutively asked. Kyungsoo gets a little conscious by this, but he keeps a cool façade and nods.

“Yes, of course. I promise not to take it personally.”

Dongwook is the first one to respond with only an airy laugh. Then the others follow with the same answer.

“No.”

“Hell no.”

His face relaxes, quite shocked by their firm answers. Soo isn’t able to say anything right then.

“I mean, no offense…” Seojin licks her lips before turning to look at him, “but I don’t really believe that bitch. She seems to have a superiority complex or something and like, her designs are not even that good.”

Minji laughs hysterically, probably because of the liquor too. Soo feels a gentle tug in his chest, somehow.

“I love it when Seojin always starts with no offense then proceeds to say the most offensive things after!” Minji points out with so much amusement, “But, yeah… people like Mia are the type of bimbos who love Miss Jung.”

“Are you just saying that because I’m with you?” Kyungsoo asks them a bit jokingly.

“Okay, Kyung… let’s put it this way.” Seojin tilts her head to look at him inquisitively, “Did you steal her designs?”

He doesn’t even blink.

“I didn’t.”

“That’s it.” the woman shrugs casually, asking no explanation just like the others. “Which idiot would be so hung up over some bitch’s fabricated article interview? Mia probably.”

This makes him feel a lot better. If only these people were there eight years ago. He needed them then.

“We believe you.”

“And duh, there have been numerous issues about Architect Jung ripping off other people’s designs. If she isn’t in KJI, she’d be screwed long time ago.” Gidu shakes his head in dismay, and then his eyes widen in realization. “Now that I’m talking to Kyung, I realize that maybe she’s the one who’d steal your work, between the two of you.”

The rest of the team simply chuckled at this, not noticing how Kyungsoo’s gaze slowly falls down. There’s a hint of smile on his lips.

“Maybe.”

He won’t stoop down to that woman’s level and open wounds that should’ve been healed long time ago. Speaking about it will only dig unwanted graves.

“She’s one hella lucky woman though…” Minji pouts before whining completely, “I don’t understand President Kim!”

“Uh… okay, Miss Jung is gorgeous?”

“Still! I think some of his other hookups are totally better.” she hisses bitterly, “Have you even seen Hara Jeon? The lawyer?”

Soo looks at the dance floor, attempting to escape the conversation. Hearing Hara’s name immediately links his mind to that night and he’s suddenly dysfunctional. Fortunately, the other boys barely catch up with the topic of the CEO’s love life. It’s only Seojin and Minji that won’t let it go.

“But I heard they’ve already had a thing since college.” Seojin curiously ponders, “Probably each other’s first love that’s why it’s solid?”

“You knew them in college, right Kyung?” Minji turns to him and catches him off-guard, “Were they together then?”

Soo blinks while gulping, “I don’t really…”

“Fuck, speaking of the devil…” Gidu slightly slouches down from his seat while looking at the door, “Devils, I mean. Look!”

They all turn to look. Everyone except Kyungsoo groans upon seeing the people of interest from their conversation. Along with Soojung and Jongin are the other bosses in KJI, some familiar architects and engineers present. It’s amusing how the crowd they pass by unintentionally glides to the side, the businessman effortlessly captures every single person’s attention.

Soo blinks one more time and faces the table again, taking another shot and earnestly prays they won’t see them even if that’s close to impossible because their table is near the dance floor.

“Shit, is it too late to hide? Did they see us?” Minji asks with her head down.

“Now, they do.” Seojin puffs a deep breath, facing the table again. “God, and I thought we can get hammered without being inferior employees for a night. Just great.”

“Look at that.” they didn’t have to wait long enough and the beautiful architect they were just talking about is already standing beside their couch, “Celebrating now, aren’t you?”

The team collectively lets out a fake, enthusiastic laughter, acting like they’re surprised and thrilled to see the bosses that were just enslaving them for the past few days.

Meanwhile, Soo simply stares at the bunch. He doesn’t show an ounce of emotion even when he catches the CEO’s eyes on him.

Like he said, he doesn’t have to pretend outside the office.

He can only hope that the fake catching up won’t take too long and they would find their reserved private room far away from here.

“Hehe.” Soo looks at Minji because of her forced chuckle, “Good evening, Architects! Engineers! President Kim, good evening!”

“Good evening, Sir!”

“President Kim.” the team mostly greeted the CEO alone. Soojung doesn’t seem to mind because she’s his arm candy anyway. It’s like a package deal. Soo wants to roll his eyes to the back of his head but instead flashes his usual formal smile at everyone. Everyone except that man.

“It’s nice seeing you all here.” Jongin kindly smiles at them, “Are you having enough? Go have some more drinks.”

“Oh no, Sir, it’s okay!”

He glances at the only person not watching him before speaking again.

“No, you deserve it guys. For working hard for the project.” he tells them, “Order whatever you want for the night, it’s on me.”

Minji blinks in awe, “You’re already treating us since breakfast, Sir…”

“I insist.”

“Should we get the tables upstairs?” Soojung says to the CEO, just enough for them to hear. “Less crowded.”

Soo keeps his eyes on the very interesting tequilas in front of him. He can’t wait to gulp every single one of them.

Jongin glances at her then calls for his other friend, who seems to know exactly what to do even if his boss doesn’t say a single word.

“Yixing.” the said man nods and guides the others, along with Soojung, to the private room upstairs. Soojung looks a bit bummed by this, but she can only follow without complaining.

Jongin remains standing near the designers’ table. He gets something from his wallet and hands it to them.

“Here you go. Buy everything you want here. My treat.” he smiles at them and walks away then.

The group is speechless for a while, gaping at the credit card in Minji’s hand.

“Let’s go?” Dongwook slowly starts off like they were just given some magic powers.

“Wow.” Seojin gasps in disbelief, grabbing the credit card to hand it to the man beside him. “Kyung, go start on it.”

Soo stares at the luxurious-looking card presented to him. He shakes his head with a polite smile.

“I think I’ve had enough drinks.”

“No you haven’t!” Minji insists while giving him a threatening gaze, “Among all of us, you have the biggest right to abuse the CEO’s credit card and he willingly wants you to do it, come on!”

Soo shakes his head again so Gidu grabs it from Seojin’s hand. Anytime soon, one of them would break that card impulsively, and Soo would actually love to see that.

“Guys… I can’t believe we’re holding Kim Kai’s limitless card.”

“Let’s get this party started again!” Minji calls for the nearest waiter, multitasking as she raises a tequila shot with the other hand. “CHEEEEERS!”

 

 

The night felt a lot longer than usual, with the bunch freely drinking everything they want, every mix of liquor they can think of. Soo promised himself he’d be controlling the amount of drinks he’s having, but it’s proven useless when he’s with people yelling at him to have fun every now and then, shoving shot glasses at him. It’s also a factor when all of you don’t have a payment to think about.

Pretty sure the card isn’t limitless now.

Seojin frowns hard while they’re dancing in the middle of a huge crowd. The music became wilder, along with the lights in the club. The famous DJ is already having too much fun with the music and throws water at the crowd every time a beat drops. Everyone doesn’t seem to mind except Seojin who’s obviously too drunk that her sassy office persona is resurfacing again.

“Ugh! He drank from that bottle and now he’s throwing the water to us!” she grimaces while wiping her flushed face, “Gross!”

Kyungsoo laughs loudly, too amused by the situation because of the running alcohol in his system. Minji waves at the DJ at the extended stage.

“More! More!” she yells at the DJ who waves back at them. Then she points at Seojin, causing Soo to laugh even more. “DJ, she wants to get wet! Throw us more!”

“No!” Seojin yells but gets hit by some water again, “Yuck!”

The huge smile on his face eventually fades when his eyes start hurting. Soo squints them and looks around, realizing how his surroundings seem to move around. His head feels like floating and his eyes are tricking him.

“Kyungie, where are you going?!” Minji drunkenly yells at him, still dancing.

“Couch!” he stops in the middle of the dance floor to keep his sight still but it won’t stop moving with all the dark lights around, “I need couch! My head… swirling… the lights are swirling it!”

“What!” Minji slurs while laughing. Seojin doesn’t even notice him because she’s already dancing with some guy, “What are you saying!”

Soo simply waves a hand and walks back to their couch. The others are at the counter nearby, still trying out different drinks available. He lets his body slump down the couch and then shuts his eyes, trying to rest them for a while.

God, how drunk is he?

“Kyung, what are you doing! We’re getting more margarita jello, wanna come?” Dongwook says while nudging his legs.

“Let me close my eyes…” he mumbles drunkenly, arm placed over his closed eyes. “Five minutes… I’m dizzy…”

“Okay, we’ll be back!”

Kyungsoo hears a movement near him after a few minutes of dozing off, so he mumbles the same thing to his friends even when he’s basically beginning to pass out.

“Five… minutes…” he feels a shifting on the edge of the couch he’s in. He wants to whine at Dongwook or whoever to take a different couch but he’s too drunk to form proper thoughts.

“Kyungsoo! Oh my god… is he sleeping?” Minji seems to sober up from the way her gasp sounded, “Sorry President… I think… he’s drunk, hehe.”

“It’s okay.” someone beside him answers, “I don’t think you guys should drive.”

“I didn’t drink much, Architect…” Dongwook says, “I’ll drive all of them home. Don’t worry, hehe.”

Now Soo is obviously besotted, unresponsive as he dozes off without knowing how his new friends are crowding on the other couch while looking in awe or confused. They look at their handsome boss who’s now alone and sitting beside their hammered co-designer, for some bizarre reason.

“Okay, that’s good to hear. Thanks Dongwook.” Jongin gives them the same polite smile, glancing at the sleeping boy. “Although we have to go ahead.”

The team falls silent. Dongwook couldn’t even stop his eyes from widening.

One of them tries chuckling, “Oh! U-Uh… Kyung is going…”

“Yes, I’ll be driving him home.” Jongin simply answers, dismissing the way the other designers share a confused glance. He starts reaching for Soo’s arm to pull him up and wrap it around his neck.

“Okay…” Dongwook looks at his drunk teammates who’s clearly gaping at the sight and have forgotten basic courtesy to their big boss, “D-Do you want me to help you carry him out, President…”

“I can manage.” Jongin nods with assurance, “Enjoy the rest of the night. Drive home safely.”

“Okay…Sir.” Minji answers, attempting to wake her friend up as consideration to the CEO trying to pull him up, “H-Hey, Kyung…”

“Five minutes…” Soo groans.

“Soo…” Jongin gently taps his face and now the team is even more astounded than they already were. They seem to sober up because of this alone, “come on, let’s go home.”

“There you go…” Gidu chuckles sheepishly when their boss finally pulled Kyungsoo’s weight up, “Sure… you don’t need help, Sir…?”

“Nope.” he shakes his head, smiling politely even when a drunk man is clinging to him. “Good night, guys.”

The group of designers are left on the same spot, sporting the same look of awe on their faces even when the two are completely gone. What the hell just happened?

Soo gains a bit of consciousness when they’re walking in the parking area, still refusing to open his eyes completely because of his spinning vision. The area around his eyes is throbbing, he starts whining again.

“My head… it’s swirling…” he whimpers at the man he’s holding onto, “I… need Ibuprofen…”

He doesn’t get a response. Soo looks around, feeling a little better that the lights aren’t that intense anymore. But his head is still hurting and he feels like stumbling down soon even if he can walk decently right now.

“Code Red! Seonho… I need Ibuprofen… fucker.” Soo huffs with annoyance. What’s wrong with this man? He would usually give him Ibuprofen from his coat pocket whenever Soo needs some.

“Where are your glasses?” Soo dismisses the completely distinct voice and actually taps his jacket where he put his glasses before partying. Ah! That’s why my eyes are hurting…

“My pocket…” he giggles sheepishly while showing it. The reason for his spinning vision finally makes sense. “I look cool without them…”

“You have Astigmatism.” Jongin pauses close to his car just to help the drunk boy put them back, “Wear them.”

Soo cheekily smiles when he gets to wear them again. His vision is still blurry but he won’t tell Seonho that. He would insist that he’s drunk.

The man opens the front door of a beautiful car. Soo weakly leans on its sleek exterior and watches him— picturing a tall, dark and handsome man once again. He falls silent. He’s terribly drunk.

“Get inside.” he covers Kyungsoo’s head and guides him inside so he won’t bump onto anything.

“Whose car is this…even…” Soo mumbles almost incoherently, looking at the interiors, then to the man currently close to him. He’s reaching for something beside him with a frown on his face, Soo pouts a little. “Seonho… why’re you being weird…?”

“Stop calling me that.” the man even smells nice that Soo shamelessly sniffs his perfume, dismissing the coldness in his tone. “Put your seatbelt on then sleep.”

The door beside him gets closed. Soo can see the other’s figure outside, walking to the driver’s seat. He looks around again and this is definitely an expensive car compared to Seonho’s old, rusty one. His eyes hurt after trying to look around, urging him to lean back and slightly shut them again.

“This is a nice car…” Kyungsoo murmurs when he hears the engine starting, “What if I puke…”

“Do whatever you want.” he slightly tilts his head to watch the driving man with his half-lidded eyes. Despite the blur, he can tell he’s holding the wheel with one hand, jaw prominent while he stares at the road. It’s still him in Kyungsoo’s mind. But then he’s also too used to it whenever he’s drunk so he simply smiles.

“Seonho…” he mumbles, weakly chortling. Leaning makes him drowsy again, but he goes on. “It’s funny… I’m so drunk… I think? I feel funny…”

He can hear the deep sigh beside him, “You are. Now take a nap to sober up a little, Soo.”

The man has his eyes on the road, giving Soo an opportunity to watch him better. He wants to reach his hand out and touch his face. He feels the strong urge to do it every time. It always ends up like this, so he would simply smile at the image, knowing too well that it’s not real and Seonho would only make fun of him again once he sobers up. Like always.

“You’re starting to look… like him, again…” he mutters before finally closing his eyes, unaware of how the man turns to look at him in between driving because of this. “That’s funny…”

 

He fell asleep. And for a brief moment, Soo opens his eyes and the heaviness all over his head and body is surprisingly gone, but it seems to linger in the deepest part of his chest. He seems suddenly sober, and the ambiance around the car is different. Turning to look beside him, he sees Jongin there, still. But instead of giving him the usual cold look and playful grin, the driver smiles boyishly— wearing his simple shirt and pants. He doesn’t say anything, nor does Soo.

He’s smiling back. But for some reason, Soo begins to feel heavier every second. Jongin draws his hand away from the wheel to reach for his own, intertwining their fingers.

Soo looks down to their hands and bites his lip, earning him another glance from the man driving.

“I’ll see you at the diner later?”

It happened. That one was real, many years ago. But now that he’s terribly drunk and things are never the same anymore— it’s only a dream. A terrible one, to even haunt him in his nap.

“Soo…” now his headache is back and the car isn’t moving. Soo feels a tap on his arm, “wake up.”

The first face he sees upon coming back to reality is the same face from his dream. This time, he’s not in his old, plain tee anymore but an expensive clothing. His warm and expressive eyes are now a hard gaze watching him intently.

Soo gets an intense panic and flinches from where he sits.

“Fuck…” he pulls away and mindlessly tries to escape the car despite his still spinning vision, “Fuck— OUCH!”

He drops on the floor outside after hitting his head against the low opening of the sports car. Soo lets out a pained groan, holding the top of his head after the audibly hard bump it made. Now he’s slumped on the concrete floor while Jongin rubs his eyes in frustration.

“Stop moving too fast.” he squats in front of the shorter to check on his head, “Jesus… are you trying to get a concussion?”

Soo doesn’t stop crawling away despite being in pain. Jongin watches him with so much exasperation, trying to stay calm.

“Let me see your head, Soo.”

“Go away!” Soo shouts at him, lifting his one palm to signal the businessman while the other continuously rubs his painful head. “Don’t come close!”

Kyungsoo looks like a child whining on the floor. He becomes even dizzier because of the small accident. Despite everything, he’s still convinced that he’s hallucinating about seeing Jongin instead of his best friend. It only makes more sense now because he hit his head badly.

The shorter boy has his eyes closed now, still slumped on the floor and obviously impaired to walk on his own. Jongin has enough waiting for him to get his shit together and takes another step closer once again.

“I s-said don’t come close!” Soo shouts in annoyance when a hand tries pulling him up by the arm.

“You’re drunk and you hit your head, now you want me to leave you here?!” Jongin can’t help seething when Soo shakes his hand off again. His raising voice seems to scare the other man effectively, “Stand up!”

“Don’t come close…” Soo whimpers, his head throbbing again that he unconsciously mumbles his dilemma. “I can’t stand up…”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” the businessman cusses hard, but he reaches for Soo very carefully. “Come on, Soo. We need to get you an ice pack.”

Soo is left with no choice but to let the guy hold him again on their way to his place, even when he’s not entirely sure if he’s still hallucinating or what. This is an entirely wrong timing to be sober again and for once, he wishes he’d just feel sick and pass out completely, wake up in the morning and forget about this night. Then he’d laugh about it with Seonho while dealing with severe hangover.

If this… is actually Seonho.

“Am I having concussion…” he mumbles sloppily while being almost carried along the hall, “Tell me you are Seonho…”

“I’m not.” they reach the door and Soo feels like dropping on the floor again. The concussion was pretty bad, “Hold onto me while I open the door.”

“My access card… in my pocket…” he seems to be sane enough to know about needing an access card to open the door, but it’s no use when the door beeps with an unlocking sound after the man presses random numbers on it. “W-Wait, how do you know my unit pin?!”

Jongin looks at the drunk boy he’s pampering whose doe eyes are rounded while staring at him. He doesn’t indulge with details anymore. He can see the horror slowly becoming prominent on the shorter’s face upon realizing that this is too much for an imagination already. Jongin never tried denying anyway.

“W-What… y-you’re not…”

“I own this tower, Soo.” he tells him after a sigh, but Soo still responds with a stubborn shaking of his head. “Now, let’s get you inside.”

He needed to lift Kyungsoo up inside because the latter is eventually desperate to fall down without reaching the couch yet. Jongin makes him sit on the couch, making sure he’s not lying down. He pushes back the strands of hair covering Soo’s eyes that are already attempting to close again.

“I’m getting you ice.” he only hums back, “Stay awake.”

It’s not like Soo understood. Because as soon as Jongin comes back from the kitchen to get an ice bag, he’s already lying down comfortably on the couch.

“Soo, don’t sleep!” Jongin immediately pulls him up again even if the shorter barely obeys him, “That’s dangerous. You need to stay awake…”

The CEO sits right beside him, holding the ice bag against his head. The coldness against his head makes him partially open his eyes, seeing Jongin watching him attentively.

“This is getting a little crazy…” Soo murmurs while blinking gently. And then he chuckles, “I can still see him on you… I think I hit my skull… so bad.”

Jongin remains serious.

“How is it crazy?” his gaze lingers on every bit of Kyungsoo’s face while trying to form words, “Is it so impossible for Kim Jongin to bring you home?”

“You look realistically the same…” his face relaxes when the grin on Kyungsoo’s face slowly falters, “You make me feel the same… same way…”

Jongin stares right into his eyes, but Soo interrupts it with another whiny complaint about the ice bag on his hair.

“Mmm, it’s cold!”

“How does Jongin make you feel?” the businessman asks him firmly.

“Angry…” Soo looks at the ceiling this time, unaware of what he’s saying. “and tensed… and craving… but mostly, angry…”

A part of Soo is already certain that he’s actually talking to Kim Kai and not Seonho… or anyone else, but then the alcohol running through his system and the swirling vision of his surroundings make him clueless about the words he’s blabbering. If his sane self would’ve seen this coming, then he should never have drunk that much.

If he only knew his drunken words would be so interesting to someone.

“Craving for what?”

“I’m dizzy…” Soo huffs with irritation, “stop playing with my head now and go to your room, Se—”

“No, you’re not fucking calling me with another man’s name again.” he blinks when the man beside him speaks with so much demand, as if he’s had enough of it and he better hear what he wants this instant. “Answer the question, Soo. How do I make you feel?”

Kyungsoo starts blinking nervously. What did he even say, exactly? He can’t remember it now.

“N-Nothing…” he continues to deny like what he said was just a bunch of bullshit words, “Just angry… I said…”

As if he’s talking to an idiot who isn’t much more sober than he is, exactly.

“I see.” Jongin smiles menacingly before placing the ice bag on his hand, “Hold this on your head.”

“What a-are you doing?” Soo gulps hard when the man moves down to the floor, kneeling right in front of his legs.

“Taking your shoes off.” Jongin says nonchalantly even when his gaze means a lot and the way he grips on Kyungsoo’s leg is enough to make the latter shiver.

“S-Stop…” he heaves deeply, embarrassingly sensitive from the simple contact with the man in front of him. “What are you doing…”

“What?” Jongin’s lips curl, raising a brow tauntingly. Panic starts consuming Kyungsoo again, “I’m not doing anything. Just taking your shoes off.”

Soo slowly shakes his head. His breath starts to shorten when Jongin settles in between his parted legs.

“Go away…” he mumbles, voice filled with so much conflict. “You shouldn’t be this close… to me…”

Jongin watches him, tauntingly resting his hands over Kyungsoo’s thighs. The shorter flinches from this.

He lets out an audible ragged breath.

“Why?” Jongin straightens up a little, still kneeling on the floor between his legs. “Does it make you angry when I’m this close, Soo?”

He shifts closer, body lightly pressing against Soo’s crotch. Jongin tilts his head a little while leaning towards him, his lips curving while watching how his littlest actions could affect the other.

Soo expects himself to be even more anxious, but then his mind suddenly goes blank when the CEO leans closer to him.

This time, Soo eventually puts down the ice pack, face relaxing upon seeing Jongin’s face clearer because of the shortened space.

He loses sense of control, if it’s out of the liquor or the concussion, he doesn’t know. Because instead of pushing him away, he slowly lifts his hands from both his sides to let them touch Jongin’s face.

He must’ve really lost his mind.

Barely noticing how Jongin stiffens, Soo crouches to lean closer. His hands lightly trail on the businessman’s face.

A few seconds ago, he was just panicking because of the short space between them. But now, his yearning becomes much more uncontrollable. Soo simply goes with the flow. Whether he’s dreaming, drunk, or if it’s real. Whether Jongin tortures him in the office again because of this— he just doesn’t care anymore.

He figures out that his heart felt that heavy in that car dream a while ago because he’s been wanting to do this for so long. Soo missed being freely able to touch Jongin and maybe now that he’s supposed to be drunk and impulsive— he can finally do that.

Jongin’s jaw hardens as he watches the shorter intently, so Kyungsoo mindlessly traces it with his fingers, too. As if he treasures every harsh bit of him as well.

He used to do this to his first love a long time ago. Just like this.

“Driver boy…” Soo mumbles under his breath even though he’s obviously out of reality.

Exactly like this.

His half-lidded eyes are settled on the CEO’s features, as if blinking once will cause the sight to fade away. He’s reminded of the dream he had in the car. For some time before, Soo would’ve given anything just to see him again. It was just so close to impossible. But now, in his very drunk state, he can hold Jongin like his own again. His heart starts twisting with both joy and pain. Just like the old times.

Jongin’s playful grin is long gone, just by Kyungsoo drunkenly caressing his whole face, as if longing for something. Someone.

Soo flashes a soft smile when both his gaze and fingers linger on Jongin’s lips, and the other has completely lost it.

“My driver boy...” he croaks out, still a bit senseless.

Jongin’s gaze is hard now, too. But he betrays his own self when he starts blinking rapidly, chest heaving simply because of the mumbled words and the soft hands all over his cheeks.

It was brave for him to think about affecting the shorter too much when the latter’s harmless and even drunk actions already have him losing his whole self. Kyungsoo’s drunken state is much more dangerous than he expected, and he should’ve known.

The shorter remains too heedless on whatever he’s doing, until the businessman finally grips his wrists to put them down. For the sake of both their sanity, even though it seems to be completely useless now.

“Kyungsoo.” Jongin breathes out harshly.

Soo seems to be taken aback by the way he was called that he starts blinking, realizing what he was doing— realizing that he’s not imagining things at all, because Jongin is still here, very much real and furious over something.

Kyungsoo swallows hard and pulls his hands back, thinking that he might’ve gone too far. “I-I’m sor—”

He gets cut off when Jongin grips his wrists to keep him still, kissing him firmly. He returns it then without hesitating. Soo wraps his arms around his neck while the sunkissed man is still kneeling in between his legs.

Soo parts his lips as he desires for more. He starts clutching onto the man’s shirt, but Jongin briefly pulls away, staring right into his eyes. He wants to make sure this isn’t entirely because of the alcohol Soo consumed, or the fact that he hit his head. He wants to be assured that Soo will remember most of this tomorrow in the most vivid way. When the shorter stares back at him with so much desperation and no trace of hesitance, he places a quick peck on his lips and sits back on the couch to let Soo straddle over his lap.

The couch seems so big for the both of them, with Soo swiftly grinding himself against Jongin. He keeps the businessman’s face between his hands, kissing him hard without limitations. Jongin returns the favor by slipping a hand in his pants. His rough fingers rub against the skin of Kyungsoo’s bum that has the latter whimpering.

Soo has completely been blinded by his desire, refusing to stop even if he’s aware of what this could end up to. He reasons out with himself with the lamest alibi— he’s drunk and he’ll get over whatever happens tonight. Plus, this business magnate is used to quick hookups anyway, what makes this one different?

Jongin digs deeper when the kiss on his lips became more demanding.

“T-Take this o-off…” Soo moans on his lips, pressing himself against Jongin's fingers.

“Do it.” the side of his lips curves when Soo immediately complies and starts unbuttoning his shirt while placing some brief kisses on his lips.

The CEO watches him intensely, but Soo proceeds to his own pants anyway, unzipping and slightly pulling it down so Jongin would touch him better.

“Mmhh…” Soo huffs against the skin of Jongin's neck, “M-More… I…”

“You want them inside, Soo?”

He could only respond with a frantic nod, his hole begging to be filled more after a finger digs in. Soo briefly stops responding to his kisses just to take his shirt off and let the CEO's lips freely travel to his neck.

“M-More…” Soo moves his hips desperately against two of Jongin's fingers, not sated by the man's teasing movement. “More, please!”

Jongin watches his pleading eyes, intentionally waiting for him to beg.

“P-Please! I want more…” he can't even recognize the persistence in his voice, submitting completely to the other. Jongin smirks when he begins to unbuckle his belt, “T-Take this o-off, please…”

“Not yet.” he hates how he immediately stops as soon as he's told. The businessman wraps one arm around his waist to pull him closer while the other hand continues to finger his ass with increasing pace, “Why don’t you fuck yourself with my fingers first, hmm baby? Show me how it’s done.”

Soo breathes heavily as he moves his hips. Jongin kisses him from his neck down to chest.

“Ah! M-More! Put all of it… please… please.”

“Fuck…” Jongin curses in awe when he dug in four fingers and Soo expertly sates himself by riding the fingers alone, too eager to be filled. “Oh, Soo…”

He can feel his boner aching underneath his pants but he prioritizes the boy on his lap, holding Soo's cock to finish him off while his other hand fucks him in the ass.

“A-Ah…” Soo slumps his head on the taller's shoulder as he cums, exhaling deep continuous breaths. Jongin doesn't wait for him to recover, being the more impatient one this time as he shifts Soo sideways so he can completely take his pants off without leaving his lap.

“Take this thing off and hold onto me.”

“I d-don’t—” Soo doesn't move a bit, blinking in reluctance after finishing. But Jongin surely isn't having it now.

“You were begging to be fucked and you’re gonna get just that, you hear me?” he tells him through gritted teeth and takes off Kyungsoo's pants himself, “We’re not yet done, Soo.”

They go back to kissing in no time, with Soo barely noticing that he's already being carried to his room. The fluttering moment simply gets interrupted when Jongin hastily throws him to the bed, obviously not up for any waiting game now.

“AH!” he yelps angrily, earning him nothing but a grin from the businessman who's now taking his clothes off. “Fucking hell! I just had a concussion!”

"My bad." Jongin grins before pulling his pants down.

Despite seething, he can tell he's gaping at the sight as well. He can see Jongin's toned body and his cock standing proudly. Soo swallows hard, the fervent drive running all over him once again.

“Where’s your lube?” Jongin dips his hands on the bed, his gaze directed at Soo.

“No… let me… let me first…” the shorter couldn't even properly finish his words but Jongin is already smiling slyly.

“What?” he raises a brow when the usual feisty boy simply gulps again, "Wanna suck my cock now, don’t you?” he's even more amused when Soo doesn't hesitate nodding his head, “Come here.”

Soo obeys like a child, crawling onto the edge of the bed where Jongin stands. He reaches out for the treat with one hand before letting the tip glide in his mouth. He looks up, seeing Jongin watching him grimly. It only urges him to take his cock in completely, gagging when it reaches the roof of his throat.

“Open up more.” Jongin grasps Soo's nape while he bobs his head, “Go on, baby, gag on it… just like that, fuck.”

Soo looks more sinful than ever— with his hair messily falling on his forehead, eyes glazed and perfectly taking in a cock in his pretty mouth. Jongin forgets all the plan to go easy on him.

“Ah, fuck… enough.” he says huskily when he quickly feels himself nearing release, pulling his cock out even if Soo stares at him expectantly, “Back on the bed.”

Soo weakly crawls back over it, ass forwarded while his chest and cheek are pressed against the sheets. If he's going to remember all of this in the morning, he will make sure it's mostly just the pleasure. Not some vivid images that will haunt him over and over again. This is just a usual drunk sex, anyway.

He feels the bed dipping below him.

“No.” he shuts his eyes when Jongin holds his ankle, just as he expected. “Lay on your back and look at me when I’m fucking you.”

“N-No…” Soo protests against the sheets.

“Do I need to repeat myself, Soo?” the CEO lets out another cuss before harshly flipping him over for testing his patience, “You’re so fucking stubborn, aren’t you?”

Soo doesn't get the chance to complain further, receiving a deeper and much more demanding kiss from the other while his coated fingers trace his hole. It continuously gets rubbed with a rough palm, until he’s pathetically whimpering at the action that Jongin finally stops and rewards him with what he’s been asking for.

The man lifts his thighs up and slides his cock inside as soon as he began pleading again.

“A-Ah…”

He takes the moment to stare at Kyungsoo's face while his cock slowly fills him to the brim, catching every bit of pleasure that gets etched on the face of the boy under him. As soon as he enters him completely, Jongin dips down to kiss him on the lips, feeling a pair of thick thighs wrapping around his waist.

“Still so tight, baby…” Jongin whispers against the side of his lips, moving swiftly. “So fucking good and warm…”

Even the simple word sent him chills all over. Soo clutches onto his toned arms, breath hitching from the friction made in his ass while Jongin slowly fucks him with his cock that’s barely coated with lube. Soo tries to be in control this time, moving his hips when the pace began testing his patience. But the businessman grips his waist to keep him still. He doesn’t allow him to take over and starts pounding in him faster, surrounding the room with a lewd noise of skin slapping.

“Is it this one, Soo?” he roughly asks before placing a kiss on the other male’s moan-filled lips as he thrusts deeper, “Is this what you crave for?”

He’s starting to feel the sharp pain on his limbs and thighs, caused by the exhaustion from working and partying nonstop. It won’t be too long before they give up on wrapping themselves around the body hovering over him. Soo can’t utter any coherent words to respond with anymore, but his begging cries and ragged breaths are more than enough for Jongin as an answer.

The CEO is obviously taking advantage of the situation, with Soo all spread out on the bed begging him for more. The latter knows it. But he’s in so much inexplicable high that he lets him, anyway. Soo desperately lets himself submit and pulls him closer as if there’s still space between them that’s yet to be explored. He never lied. He’s craving for his arrogant, asshole boss so much… even more than how he craved for him when they were just foolish young boys before.

Shit, Soo…” Jongin cusses when he eagerly meets his thrusts in between lapping on his lips, too. “Fuck, baby you’re biting my lip…”

“P-Please, Jongin!” he huffs, spreading himself even more when the taller slowed down briefly. “M-More… more, don’t stop, please…”

His wrists get pinned on top of his head when Jongin sets all reservations aside to pounce in him even more. The bed squeaks with its hard edges marking against the wall. A high-pitched gasp escaped Kyungsoo’s ajar lips when Jongin repeatedly hits a certain spot. He can feel his head swirling deliriously upon nearing his release. The man above him places another hard kiss on his lips, his gaze as dominating as his movements.

“I’ll give you everything, Soo…” Jongin whispers in between kisses. His words almost get drowned by the other boy’s moans but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re filled with nothing but certainty. “until you’re crawling back to me. Remember that.”

Stilling for a moment because of this, Soo tries to open his eyes and look at him, but gets distracted by another wet and demanding kiss on his mouth. Jongin clasps his arm under his thigh to pound in him better, until the shorter begins to quiver and splatters his cum all over his torso. Proceeding with a few more thrusts, Jongin grunts under his breath and fills him soon after.

Soo remains panting heavily, eyes shut closed. So many things keep ringing back in his mind while he’s still caught up from the ecstasy. The soreness all over his body becomes more prominent, and he doesn’t move a limb even when he feels himself getting cleaned up underneath. He starts having another bunch of thoughts that he barely knows what to sort out first so he just pretended to doze off.

After a while, there’s a shift on the space right beside him. Soo convincingly keeps an act even when Jongin gently pulls him closer to his bare body, so the shorter snuggles onto his chest to avoid suspicion. If he’s going to act from his impulsiveness, he’s going to make the most out of it. Soo refuses to engage to more questions. He’ll deal with this tomorrow, where he can finally put an act and reason out for what just happened. Right now, the last thing he wants is to talk about why he’s so desperate to be held by the man he’s supposed to despise.

And those words. Those words while fucking, what was that? Soo may be drunk, but he’s not dumb. The words were very clear to him— even when he was supposedly drunk and in the midst of being fucked, he didn’t miss them at all.

“Soo?” Jongin calls him with the gentlest voice. He knows the deal and doesn’t respond, keeping his breath stable to be more believable.

He wanted to know what he meant. Even if he’s probably going to forget it the next day anyway, he wanted to know.

“Baby, I’m just starting…” he hears a low whisper against his hair, too hushed to be heard by someone sleeping, so he stays still and pretends to do so. “and this isn’t going to be hard.”

Still being embraced, there’s also a tender kiss placed on top of his head while a gentle caress traces on his back. Probably to lull him into a deeper slumber.

But Soo opens his eyes and blankly stares into space, completely sobered up and awake for some reason.

The words just wouldn’t leave his head, and there’s some sort of fear that comes along with them. It lingers.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hey…”

Four pairs of eyes are watching him intently. Soo proceeds to his cubicle, doing one of his many talents— pretending not to notice.

“Morning.” he gives a simple greeting for his teammates. He then starts organizing his table, unaware of the subtle glances they shared.

Dongwook tilts his head to try catching his gaze. When Soo finally looks at him, he sees a sheepish smile on his coworker’s face.

“Was able to get sleep back?”

“Mm-hmm.” Soo nods, unintentionally catching Seojin’s eyes when the latter kept watching him too. “I literally passed out as soon as I got home from that party.”

The other man doesn’t say anything else. More like— he doesn’t know how to sneak in the question. One of the girls widened her eyes at him but Dongwook shakes his head, urging them to ask instead of him. He already initiated the conversation!

“So last Friday…” Minji slowly continues for them, smiling in a very unusual way.

This made Kyungsoo pause for a moment, but he doesn’t make it obvious. He glances at her with his usual blank gaze.

“What about it?”

Kyungsoo looks around and finally gets a better look at his teammates he was just drinking with a few days ago. They were all watching him attentively, but quickly retreat back to their own work when he began looking at them one by one. Minji sheepishly laughs.

“President Kim… brought you home…”

He raises a brow, trying to maintain a straight face even if the memory brings him so many unwanted feelings. Kyungsoo has been dodging any chances of recalling that night. He never thought someone else would actually be that curious to make him dig it up. His whole team, actually. It’s useless to hope they’d forget about it since they were drunk, too. Cause then again, why would someone forget if that happens? Your boss insisting to take one of your coworkers home when he got too hammered?

Indeed sketchy.

“He did?” Soo pretends to narrow his eyes as if trying to recall, “Can’t remember. I was too hammered.”

Who is he kidding?

Should he tell them how he got fucked by the man he despises the most? Literally and figuratively? Should he tell them how he got sobered up by simply overthinking a few words said that night, then still overthinking as soon as he woke up the next day because he’s alone in bed? Like a fucking toy left after a one night stand?

He probably should tell them that. That’s what happened, anyway.

Soo unintentionally crumples the side of the sketch pad he’s holding. He rubs it on the surface of his table to straighten it again while a small bitter smile situates itself on his lips.

“So does he… usually do that?” Minji reluctantly asks further. Soo even caught Seojin looking down on her sketch but was obviously listening. He never expected they’d be this curious. It quite makes him nervous about what Jongin possibly told them that night. Most of the memories aside from the sex are still a big blur in his mind.

He will never ever drink that much again. After that night, Kyungsoo appreciated Seonho so much more. There was a reason why he never let him drink so much when they were in New York. He’d always get himself in trouble and Seonho was very much aware.

Look what happened when he was deprived of guidance.

“I forgot to mention.” he fiddles his pencil in his hand while looking at Minji, “We live in the same building, that’s why.”

Soo faces his working table again, as if it’s a signal to finally end the conversation about it. Talking about that certain topic makes him more fidgety.

“Maybe CEO Kim saw him drunk on the couch and got concerned so he offered.” Dongwook butts in when Minji remained looking unsatisfied for her curiosity.

Seojin finally speaks as well, “Yeah, and you guys knew each other in college, right?”

Soo keeps his eyes on his working sheet, beginning to draw even if his focus wouldn’t get to it. It’s like his body is intentionally torturing him when he began feeling the way he was handled again, so clearly. The feeling of the hands and lips all over him.

He swallows hard and blinks a few more times.

“Yup.”

 

x

Soo hasn’t been feeling well for the past few days that went by. Not in a sense of sickness or what, but he seems so worn out, easily pissed and sucked out of life. With that, he tried cheering himself up by pranking Mia.

Maybe or not, you’re curious why— he doesn’t exactly know either. It all just occurred to him after that night, so many questions snatched his focus and productivity. He would sometimes space out while Seojin kicks his chair. When he gets home, he would succumb into another session of overthinking whenever his phone calls with Seonho end.

Kyungsoo refuses to believe he made it so easy. He gave in that fast after years of holding himself together. It frustrates him so much— how an overflowing amount of liquor and a concussion beat him into doing it. Now, he’s being tortured by the aftermath that’s much longer than the brief pleasure it gave him. And for what?

Meanwhile, the subject of his thoughts and haunting dreams didn’t show himself after that. Soo heard he’s busy because of more companies acquired by KJI recently. Junmyeon made sure everyone is catching up with the news, even if a certain designer would only roll his eyes subtly while he’s making announcements in meetings.

He’s surely happy for the CEO. At least he has a lot going on to distract him from thinking about that, too. Bitterness consumes Soo whenever he reaches that certain train of thought; or maybe he doesn’t need a distraction at all because he never cared?

It’s not like Soo’s so desperate for an explanation. If it was indeed a one night stand, then great. Better, actually. At least he’s still having good sex while he’s suffering in this place, right?

Now he’s slightly scowling while washing his hands under the faucet. It’s the middle of working hours so the restroom is empty. That being said, Soo barely noticed the person stepping in, also slowing down upon seeing him.

“Good morning.” he slightly flinches after being greeted. Kyungsoo sees Baekhyun through the mirror, timidly smiling while making his way to the other sink to wash his hands, too.

Soo only responds with a formal smile before going back to scrubbing his hands. It’s stained by ink from Mia’s pens that he sabotaged.

Baekhyun clears his throat and tries to initiate a conversation, “How’s your parents? Sukyung?”

The designer is a bit taken aback. After months of working here, he hasn’t really talked to Baekhyun like this. It’s not like he wants to, actually. If anything, this is one of the many things he avoids.

“They’re okay.” he answers shortly, not removing his gaze from his hands even if the other male watches him from his place.

“I’m sorry about your Dad, by the way...” Baekhyun blinks a few times. Soo badly wants to loudly chuckle but he doesn’t want to be rude. At least not yet. He’s still his boss, after all.

Instead, he only shrugs. “He did that to himself.”

It’s obviously difficult for Baekhyun because of his short responses. Soo wants him to take a hint. He doesn’t want them to talk, but it seems like the former is too eager to keep their conversation longer.

“I’m sure they’re glad to have you back.”

“I guess so.” Soo forces a grin, relieved that the stain is completely gone from his hand and he could finally leave. He adds a sarcastic note, “What can’t a rebellious son do to save the day, right?”

He pulls some paper towels out to dry his hands while Baekhyun remains on his post, gulping upon recognizing the hint of sarcasm in his response. His lips are pursed, like he badly wants to say something more to his old friend. When Soo wordlessly turns away after finishing, he finally calls him again.

“Hey, Soo?”

He had to take another gulp when Kyungsoo looks at him blankly. Still, Baekhyun tries to smile hopefully.

“Do you wanna have coffee sometimes…?” he blinks when the other simply stares as a response, “O-Or later… if you don’t have any plans?”

Soo momentarily remains silent before raising his brows in confusion.

“Why?”

“S-Sorry?”

“Why should we do that?”

Baekhyun parts his lips even if he isn’t able to instantly form a response. Kyungsoo’s uninterested gaze seems to intimidate the usually confident socialite.

“To… catch up. Talk about things…” he responds timidly, “I know it’s been a while since you’re back but I didn’t really have the chance bef—”

“Why?” another question from Soo shuts him up, “Why do we need to catch up?”

The other male rapidly blinks, “I-I…”

Kyungsoo’s lips finally curve into a smile.

“We don’t have to, Baekhyun.” the said man finally purses his lips in shame when he hears the sarcasm dripping from Soo’s tone, “There’s no point doing that.”

Baekhyun’s soft smile finally falls. He could only stare at Soo, looking crumbled.

“We don’t need to catch up. That’s something friends do.” Soo starts speaking straight from his emotions.

He convinced himself that he’s long over their fallout and he couldn’t care less about him anymore. But right now, Kyungsoo seems to be saying all of this to get even. Like he’s been keeping in these words deep inside him for so long, hoping one day he could throw the pain back. And so it comes.

“I appreciate the offer, but go ask others. Architect Jung, probably?” he speaks further without remorse even if Baekhyun’s obviously hurt enough, “Maybe she’s free.” then he left.

 

x

Just when he thought he got out of that restroom scenario with a great satisfaction, it only proved his life is a big joke. Because hours after that conversation, it never left Kyungsoo’s mind.

The satisfaction got replaced by guilt and all the other bad feelings a bad person like him should feel. He couldn’t get the image of Baekhyun close to crying out of his head. It stayed there and punched him straight in the chest and gut whenever he recalled. To add more to that, he didn’t see Baekhyun for the rest of the day.

You know those chances you get wherein you realize you’re actually not a bad person and you feel relieved? He wanted the other way. He wants to be completely horrible. By then, he wouldn’t have to be so guilty about saying things that deserved to be said.

“This isn’t as demanding as our other projects so we only chose the three of you. But it’s still a big one.”

And then just when he thought his day couldn’t get worse, they’re called into a closed-door meeting. In the CEO’s office with Architect Zhang, and yes, the CEO himself. Before Soo completely goes crazy, he decided to focus on his notebook instead. He was never the type to take notes but it has been an effective escape mechanism whenever he doesn’t want to focus. He takes notes even if it’s completely unnecessary. In that way, he’d look ridiculous but there’s nothing really they could do.

“Our client is building an office at Amsterdam.” Architect Zhang says while the two other designers frantically nod their heads. Soo writes every word down, “That’s all you need to know.”

The CEO looks serious while watching the only designer writing down.

Seojin asks, obviously thrilled by the said project. “What are the client’s preferences, Architect?”

“Nothing. You have all the freedom on this project.” he glances at the CEO behind the table before continuing, “We will provide you the blueprint of the building and it’s completely up to you. The client will choose afterwards.”

“Freedom… you mean…?” Minji blinks her rounded eyes.

“The client wants your personal touch for the designs.” Jongin answers her this time after watching a certain male for a while, “Design it like how you visualize your dream space. You’re given the full creative freedom.”

“When is the deadline?” Soo mindlessly asks without removing his gaze from his notes.

Jongin stares at him, raising a brow. “Deadline?”

“For the designs.” Soo fixes his glasses on the bridge of his nose.

It surprisingly took a while for them to answer such a simple question. Architect Zhang looks at the CEO again, who simply nods to give him the signal to answer this time.

“The client can wait until the end of this month.” Architect Zhang smiles at them, “Take all the time you need for this.”

Seojin and Minji started smiling in excitement. Meanwhile Soo writes every verbatim line from Architect Zhang.

“You have the blueprints and contract copy with you.” the CEO tells them, looking frustrated over something. This made the designers instantly stand up from their seats and bow as respect before leaving his office, “That’s all, then. You’re all dismissed.”

Soo walks behind the other two, but before he could step out of the door, he pauses. Architect Zhang and the other two designers don’t even notice him while they talk on their way out. The petite male gathers all his courage to face his boss again, who’s now focused on the pile of paperwork and blueprints on his desk. He raises his gaze from them towards the boy who remained still on his office door.

“Anything else?” Jongin asks seriously.

Yes. Soo wants to answer back after gulping. First of all; how fucking dare you?

“Uh… should we have our drafts checked before the submission?” he asks while keeping a blank face.

“Yes.” Jongin doesn’t even look at him while answering. He goes back to working on the files he needs to review, “You can ask Junmyeon to lend me your designs if you want them checked.”

Soo grits his teeth while watching him, feeling so mad that he wants to burst. He doesn’t even know why! It’s like seeing Jongin again after that night, gathered all the pent up emotions and he has the urge to make him pay for it.

Don’t even mention this sudden professional act he’s trying to show now? After fucking him while he was drunk and then leaving in the morning as if he was his whore?

Again, how fucking dare this bastard?

“Is that all?” Jongin asks again when the said employee stays on his door while looking deadly.

“That’s all.” he responds before slamming the door on his way out, making sure it would be felt until where his damn table stood.

 

x

Despite his current hatred for the world, the project is successfully distracting him. For once, he feels free again. Just like his days in New York, he doesn’t have to worry about designing things he doesn’t like because he has the creative freedom.

He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he’s certainly happy he’s chosen for this.

“I’m really glad about this project, Kyung.” Seojin tells him once they’re in the pantry to have some snacks in the afternoon, “I think this is my favorite so far.”

It’s been days since starting their designs for the Amsterdam deal. Fortunately, there isn’t much going on with their other projects in the firm so it isn’t hectic. It helps Soo to be more inspired and clearly visualize the dream space he has in mind.

“Why are you whispering?” he asks her.

“Because I think it’s a top secret! No one else knows aside from the three of us!” the woman smirks proudly, “I’m starting to think we’re the best designers here that’s why we’re chosen.”

Soo looks around the other employees doing their own thing from the distance, then he chuckles.

“Or maybe they just want to drown us with more task.” he says while eating his Yakult jelly. Recently, he’s becoming more and more pessimistic than Seojin. Very unusual.

“Hmm. Probably.” the said girl shrugs, “At least we’re getting high commission from this. It’s not bad. Considering there’s not much challenge about the project because we can freely design it on our own. God, Amsterdam. I’m thinking about rustic elegance or Scandinavian themes…” Soo looks at her twinkling eyes while she gazes up to imagine, “What do you plan?”

He thinks of the designs he already started. Soo loves them so far, but he hides his smile. “Nothing yet.”

This one feels inexplicably personal to him that he’s reluctant about sharing them yet.

“I’m actually starting with mine now because I want to have it checked by President Kim before he leaves.” Seojin tells him with a small pout, “But I heard it’s already this Wednesday, so I guess we just have to wait until he comes back.”

This made Kyungsoo look at her again, parting his lips to ask about it if it isn’t for the person happily walking towards their way.

“Why are you having snacks without me?” Minji interrupts his upcoming question when she sat with them, wearing a familiar grin. “My co-top designers?”

Soo slightly rolls his eyes when the two girls started to giggle. It seems like both of them are thinking about the same reason why they’re in this project.

Still, he ends up smiling while watching them. He’s fortunate. At least, he’s in this project with his teammates. It makes it a lot bearable.

Maybe he agrees with Seojin; this being his favorite.

“I was just telling Kyung how I think we’re the best designers here.” Seojin mumbles while still grinning, “Imagine Mia’s face if she finds out we’re getting a big Amsterdam project.”

“I’m going to slap her with the incentive we’re gonna get here.”

Soo blinks a few times before asking his interrupted question a while ago.

“Why can’t we have our designs checked on Wednesday?” he asks, genuinely curious.

“President Kim is leaving for Shanghai.” Seojin answers, “He’ll be receiving an international award. I heard he’s attending some gala too.”

He slowly nods, lips slightly parted.

Minji scowls, “Psh. That’s why Architect Jung feels like she’s the queen of the world again.”

The mention affects him just the same.

“She’s going too?” Soo asks.

“Yeah. I don’t know if other board executives will go but Architect Jung is always there whenever Kim Kai makes a public appearance.” Minji chuckles while shaking her head.

“She thinks being an arm candy is a career.” says Seojin, unable to notice the way his face softens.

“Tss.” Minji’s voice becomes a little louder because of irritation, “I bet those company events are the best alibi for overseas sex.”

“Minji!”

Soo simply chuckles as a response, though his eyes settle on the empty pack of Yakult in front of him.

“What?” Minji raises a brow at the frowning Seojin, “Don’t tell me they’re not in the same room, doing nasty things whenever they go out of the country together!”

“You can’t talk like that here, if someone hears you…”

“She’s President Kim’s girlfriend, what’s so new about that?”

Soo proceeds to opening Seojin’s Yakult to drink it himself.

“Come on.” the said girl doesn’t even notice him stealing it, “We’re just assuming their relationship since the start. President Kim never confirmed having a partner.” Seojin says suspiciously, “It could literally be anyone else but Architect Jung.”

The male designer gulps the Yakult in one go.

“That’s dumb.” Minji responds in disbelief, “They’re literally slapping us with the truth! Have you even seen how Architect Jung tails behind him everywhere, especially when her father comes?”

As much as he wants to agree with Minji, the last part of her statement caught his attention.

Despite wincing from the continuous drinking, Soo manages to ask. “What’s with Architect Jung’s father?”

For some reason, it rings a bell in his mind.

“Sometimes he comes to board meetings. He’s a stockholder in KJI.” Seojin answers, frowning after noticing he already drank the Yakult she got for herself.

“Since when?”

“From what I’ve heard when I was in KJI, he was one of the pioneer investors that helped Kim Kai build KJI Industries.” Minji answers casually this time, as if it’s a well-known fact. But Soo appears confused, “It probably explains why Architect Jung feels like Kai’s wife already. She feels like she has all the right since Kim Kai became business partners with her Dad.”

Kyungsoo spaces out for a while because of this. His question was answered but it still doesn’t make sense to him. Is that even possible?

“I won’t be surprised if they get engaged one day. She seems like the type to beg her father so he could guilt-trip our CEO into proposing because he owes them.” Minji adds with her usual hateful note to the architect, “The daughters of Kim Kai’s other business partners aren’t as crazy as her, honestly.”

Soo remembers a specific detail.

“But…” he blinks slowly, “I thought her family wasn’t rich before?”

The two shrug at the same time. How would they know?

“Maybe Mr. Jung really took a risk on investing for KJI and got lucky.” Seojin says as if it’s the only feasible explanation.

It’s a bit sickening how simple facts bother him like this. What’s so interesting about it, anyway? Of course she’s his girlfriend. It’s only natural that their families are already tied together.

“So doesn’t it mean they owe him more than he does?” Soo vocally expresses his thought, “I mean… he made them rich.”

“I guess so.” Minji says with another shrug, “That’s why Architect Jung wants the CEO all for herself, Kyung. Maybe that’s how it works.”

He stares down at his two empty Yakult packs. He doesn’t speak anymore.

  

With that conversation lingering in his mind, he worked on his designs nonstop. The rest of the week. There’s an uncomfortable feeling in his chest. It wouldn’t leave him. It sucks having such a wide imagination. He’s in a confined cubicle working his ass off, but his thoughts were flying off somewhere. In another country, probably— clearly picturing what’s possibly happening.

So when Monday comes, Soo steps in Junmyeon’s office, holding his finished drafts with a timid smile on his face.

He was listening when Junmyeon told them the CEO will be back in the firm as soon as the week starts. He actually paid attention.

“Hi Kyungsoo.” Junmyeon smiles despite appearing surprised by his arrival.

“Hello…”

He stands up from his swivel chair, being as welcoming as he always is. “Can I do something for you?”

Soo casts a glance at the pile of work on his table. He feels bad for Junmyeon. Must be hard having to shoulder all the work just because your boss is having fun somewhere else.

“I’m just wondering if I can have this checked by the CEO?” he asks formally, yet there’s an uncontrollable anticipation in his chest.

“Oh…” he blinks when Junmyeon appears dismayed, “I forgot to mention he’s still in Shanghai right now… he extended for a day or two.”

Soo slowly nods in awe, forcing a smile.

It must have been really fun.

“Ah.” he blinks rapidly and instantly comes up with another way, “I have soft copies here. Maybe you can send them to him? It’s just… I’d really like to have progress on this project.”

Junmyeon looks a bit torn upon seeing his effort. Without Soo knowing, he appears hopeful to the manager.

“I’m really sorry, Kyung.” Junmyeon smiles apologetically, “But CEO Kim doesn’t usually want to be disturbed during an overseas trip unless it’s urgent.”

He subtly grits his teeth. Disturbance.

The designer holds his designs close to his chest, bitterness consuming him whole while he steps back to the door.

“Okay…” he nods while smiling at the manager who still looks torn, “thanks Junmyeon.”

He closes the door, just in time as his professional smile falls. He goes back to his cubicle and drops the drafts on his table. Fuck these designs then. The action earns him a look from some of his teammates nearby.

But Soo plops back on his seat and resumes to working, even if it’s the last thing he feels like doing. Even if his nerves tremble in infuriation.

You know what pisses him off? His designs. The shitty days in this office. Junmyeon, probably. Or maybe those bosses who are supposed to be working but abandon their responsibility just to have fun.

No, actually— maybe it was really just the quick fuck. A quick fucking toy for his needs, so why would he deserve an explanation in the first place? He was just like everyone else. Just like those people he foolishly stalked weeks ago. He’s no different from them. A quick fuck because he was an easy target.

There it goes, the only thing that has been pissing him off, honestly.

He feels like crying out of frustration. Soo never thought he’d be this petty at one point.

Aside from that, he feels low. How could he sleep with someone who’s already committed to someone all this time?

He goes back to sketching his anger. Sublimation. Just like that.

 

After that, Soo didn’t feel like working efficiently anymore. He felt bummed for no apparent reason. Day by day, he just waited for working hours to be over while polishing some of his designs.

At Wednesday of the following week, it’s the same boring day of working in his cubicle. As soon as 5PM arrived, he packed his things up and left the office unnoticed. Though when he got outside of the building, Kyungsoo also didn’t feel like staying in his apartment for the rest of the night. There’s a strong urge to go out but having no one with him, it seems pointless too.

How did I end up being such a loner?

With that, a bitter smile settles on his lips while walking out— must feel nice having fun abroad? Having the time of your life, huh?

While walking on the sidewalk, his phone vibrates in his pocket.

from: Chanyeol

What are you pouting for

The message makes him raise his gaze in an instant. He looks around, instinctively trying to spot a familiar motorcycle. When he doesn’t see it, a car honks from across the street.

A black pickup rolls down its window, where Chanyeol slightly sneaks out his head to wave at him. Still a bit confused, Kyungsoo still makes his way towards it, finally getting a good look at the huge beam on the taller’s face.

"Chanyeol?" his brows crease while watching the other male hop off the driver’s seat, "Why are you here?"

"End of working hours, right?" the big grin on Chanyeol’s lips is starting to intrigue him, "Got plans for tonight?"

Soo couldn’t help his eyes from lightening up because of the question. Just in time.

"Is that a bait?" he pretends to think by glancing up, "Aside from rotting in my apartment, none."

The taller chuckles heartily.

"Congratulations then, you won a coupon of celebratory drinks. All on Chanyeol."

Kyungsoo still looks confused. For someone so eager to finally have someone to hang out with, he’s prolonging this too much.

"Remember the producer I was telling you about?" Chanyeol speaks further, amused by the shorter’s lost expression. "The one I thought was impossible for me to work with?"

Soo glances down to recall. Looking back to the conversations he had with Chanyeol, he finally figures out what he was pertaining to. His eyes rounded.

"Oh god..."

"He loved my demos." Chanyeol smiles big. He looks like he’s trying to suppress the excitement but is failing terribly, "He's arranging a meeting with me to negotiate."

"Wow..." Soo gasps before quickly hugging him, "I'm so happy for you!"

He can feel Chanyeol’s happiness just by the tightness of his embrace. He knows he’s been waiting for this shot. Soo remembers hearing so much about how he looks up to this producer a lot. As someone who barely knows a thing about the current music industry in the country, he had to look it up from the internet. He found out how big this producer is and understood why his friend really dreams of working with him. Soo might have pushed him a lot to try after that.

Somehow, this good news finally cheered Kyungsoo up from his sullen days.

Chanyeol pulls away, still holding onto his shoulders with a glint in his eyes.

"Drinks, then?"

"Wait... why me?" Soo asks, brows creasing even if he’s still smiling back. "I'm flattered that you're offering me but how about your other friends? You have a lot to treat!"

"I will. Don't worry about it." Chanyeol nods once, "I wanted to let you know first since you were the one constantly encouraging me to give my demos a try."

A flattered smile situates itself on his lips. Chanyeol sheepishly chuckles because of this.

"I was just being unusually supportive." he shrugs, "But okay, why would I say no to free drinks?"

Chanyeol scrunches his nose, wrapping an arm around Soo’s neck while they walk to his car.

"You're saying a lot that I almost took the offer back."

They decided to have an early dinner first before going for a drink. Chanyeol wanted to go to this high-end bar nearby. Upon hearing which bar it is, Soo fell silent for a moment. It was the one where he and his team celebrated a few weeks ago. You can say the last impression he has for it isn’t really good.

But there’s no way he’ll spoil the night for Chanyeol. He just has to get over it. At least his haunting memory from the place will finally be replaced by something good. Not being hammered or sleeping with your boss who happens to be the same man you’ve been avoiding for the past eight years.

Great.

He’s in the middle of listening to Chanyeol when his phone buzzes again, flashing a new message from one of his bosses.

From: Junmyeon

Hey Kyung ^^ President Kim has already arrived here from the airport. I told him about your draft, would you like to have it checked now?

Something flinches in him upon reading this. His focus wavers for a moment, as if Chanyeol’s simply talking to an empty space. So he got back? Soo stares ahead, thinking how the recent days could be so enjoyable.

He looks at the same text before typing a response.

To: Junmyeon

Oh, sorry I'm already out of the office

He goes back to listening to Chanyeol who barely noticed his momentary distraction, still talking while he drives. Despite that, Soo waits for his phone to vibrate again by another text from Junmyeon. But it rings for a call instead, urging him to excuse himself from their conversation.

"Junmyeon."

"Hi Kyung..." he hears the usual nice tone from the Operations Manager, "Are you home now?"

He glances at Chanyeol beside him before raising a brow.

"No..." he says, "I'm out with a friend, actually. We'll get some drinks. I guess I won't be home 'til later."

The way Junmyeon paused doesn’t go unnoticed to the designer. He watches the moving buildings while waiting for his next response.

"Uhm..." the man from the other line sounds reluctant this time, "President Kim wants to check your draft now..."

Kyungsoo rolls his eyes. His infuriation comes back in a split second.

"I can't go back." he says firmly, "Tell him I'll just have it checked next week with Minji and Seojin."

He hears Junmyeon’s muffled voice after that, as if the latter covered his speaker with a hand to talk to someone. Soo clenches his jaw while trying to make something out of the sound.

"Minji and Seojin already had theirs checked now..." Junmyeon says that gets him frowning even more, "President wants it within the day..."

Okay, now he finds it ridiculous. Wasn’t he asking for his work to be checked a few days ago? Now that working hours are over, he’s demanded by that asshat to go back to the office so he could have his designs checked?

Tell me I don’t have to get mad.

“Ah, really?” Soo tries to keep calm because he’s still talking to Junmyeon. But he ends up seething, "Tell President Kim I’m out of office grounds and office hours so he can wait for nothing today.”

“I—”

Kyungsoo drops the call, looking extremely sullen while staring outside. There’s a bit of guilt that he had to snap at Junmyeon like that. But he had to end the call before his boss’ irrational demands push him to his limits.

There’s an undeniable agitation when he realized what his consequences would be. They’re still his superiors. But Kyungsoo being Kyungsoo, he keeps his ground for his choice. He should’ve checked that in Shanghai instead of having fun.

“Geez.” Chanyeol mutters. Turns out he’s been watching him sulk for a while now, “He’s serious about bossing you around, huh?”

“It’s not like I’d let him.” Soo rolls his eyes when his answer comes off funnily. He remembers they’re talking about his boss, “At least not all the goddamn time.”

Chanyeol voices out Kyungsoo’s worry, “Wouldn’t you get into some sort of trouble for that?”

Soo purses his lips before squinting his eyes.

“For telling my jerk of a boss to get out of my face when office hours are over?” he sarcastically asks and frowns again. Chanyeol’s gaze lingers on him before letting out an amused chortle.

Soo looks at him inquisitively, but Chanyeol seems so used to his dagger eyes that he doesn’t budge.

“What’s funny?”

“Nothing… just a bit of nostalgia hitting me hard.” Soo’s brows furrowed even more, “It’s amusing how it was completely the other way around before. Who would’ve thought…”

The designer blinks a few times.

“What do you mean?”

“You bossing him around…” his frown falters when Chanyeol said this with a hint of smile, “Although of course you have completely opposite responses.”

Kyungsoo falls silent. There’s a sudden tug in his chest when he remembers a little fragment of that memory. No, every bit of it actually.

Then he doesn’t try speaking anymore and looks back at the ever interesting window instead. There’s a brief silence that followed, considering that Chanyeol didn’t expect the lack of response.

“Try to understand Jongin.” Chanyeol speaks again, “I mean, after being on the headlines again for breathing, I’m sure he’s so stressed.”

Soo looks at him.

“Headlines about?”

“Simply the press making a big fuss about him being seen with Jung Soojung again.” the taller shrugs casually, “There’s a lot of engagement, marriage rumors circulating like they’re not used to seeing them in company events.”

This made him still for a moment. If it wasn’t for Chanyeol who stopped the car in between his deep thought, he wouldn’t have been distracted. They finally stopped near the lane full of diners and restaurants.

“Okay, now you pick the restaurant.” Chanyeol grins at him.

“Why me? You’re paying for it!”

“I know, but I don’t want your judging look while eating if I pick a place you don’t like so you do it.”

Soo chuckles because of this. He jokingly narrows his eyes.

“Are you sure no one will come and punch me on the face if we’re seen together?”

The tall guy jokingly pinches his plump cheek.

“I’m as single as you want me to be, Soo.” Chanyeol clicks his tongue, “So pick now cause I’m starving.”

 

 

Is KJI Industries’ CEO finally getting serious with business partner? The business tycoon and well-known architect sparked engagement rumors after being seen at a Shanghai Gala.

He repeatedly goes through the same words on his screen.

Ah.

“What’re you reading?”

Kyungsoo swiftly flips his phone over and settles it on his lap. Chanyeol hovers in front to try and sit beside him, holding bottles in both his hands.

They finally reached the bar Chanyeol wants to try, and while the latter got them drinks, he stayed on their table and looked up things in the internet. Which he shouldn’t have, actually.

“Nothing.” he forces a little smile, “What do you have?”

“Beers!” the taller flashes him his usual big grin while lifting the bottles up, “Let’s try the others later. I think I got overwhelmed by the drinks here, I ended up ordering beer again. It got so obvious that I’m not rich.” the volume of his voice becomes lower this time while looking around the expensive place, “Damn. This is such a high-end place.”

“This is where high-profile people get wild. It got such a high security.” Soo chuckles knowingly, “This place holds a lot of dirty secrets, I guess.”

“Rich brats.” Chanyeol grimaces before looking back at him, “Have you been here before?”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear you ask me right after saying rich brats.” Kyungsoo hisses that earns him a laughter from the other, “Believe it or not, I’ve just been here once. Just… weeks ago, actually… with my team for a celebration.” he tries to maintain a casual expression despite having to recall every detail of the said night, “This wasn’t a thing before I left for US eight years ago. When I was still a rich brat.”

Chanyeol shakes his head in amusement. He hands one of the beers to Kyungsoo before taking a sip from his own.

“God, you make it seem so long ago. Are we really that old now?”

Soo grins a little when certain memories hit him. Good ones, fortunately.

“Are you cringing whenever you remember the weird hair colors you tried before?” he teases Chanyeol who starts cringing upon the mention, “But yeah… it’s really a long time ago.”

Chanyeol almost chokes on his beer when he remembers something funny, “Remember that one time in the diner, we—”

“Catching up, reminiscing, aren’t we?”

Both of their smiles falter at the same time when a familiar voice interrupts them from behind.

Kyungsoo’s face turns serious upon seeing the guy smiling at them.

“Baekhyun.”

“Hi, Soo!” Baekhyun looks slightly red, and now that they hear him speaking, it’s safe to assume he’s tipsy. “Why the long face? Did I interrupt something?”

Soo caught Chanyeol looking down at the floor. He sighs and looks at Baekhyun again. He’s not feeling good about this, at all.

“What are you doing here?”

Baekhyun chuckles at the question.

“I could ask the same to you. I mean… I didn’t expect to see you here. Wow. Seems like you’re celebrating for something, huh?” he says while still smiling, eyes lingering on Chanyeol. When the taller doesn’t spare him a glance, he shrugs, “I actually co-own this place. I’m always here, being wild. Being my usual self.”

Baekhyun is smiling, but he doesn’t seem happy at all. If anything, he looks like he’s trying to keep himself from speaking more.

He seems to be at the edge of something while looking at them, together.

Soo forces a smile just to get it over with, “That’s good to hear.”

But then it’s far from done when Baekhyun gasps and laughs at the response he got.

“You’re not going to stand up and storm out after knowing I own this?” he gapes in awe, smile turning sarcastic. “Wow, I’m so moved! I thought you’re disgusted with everything related to me? This is a character development!”

Chanyeol takes another sip from his beer while still staring on the same empty spot. He refuses to intervene even if he’s equally involved in this as they are.

Soo tries to maintain composure.

“Would you like us to leave?”

“Of course not!” Baekhyun answers without thinking twice, rambling his words. “I’m flattered that you chose my bar to have a date. Actually… you know what? Choose every drink you like, it’s on me!” he yells because of the loud music, “Come on! You can have all the drinks!”

He’s really taking Kyungsoo’s words when they last talked. As much as Soo wants to directly tell his former best friend off in the most effective way he knows, he still doesn’t want to ruin this night for Chanyeol too. Baekhyun is drunk, and going along with his tantrums will only make things worse.

“Thanks, Baekhyun. But we’re fine.” he assures him with a formal smile, glancing towards the table with a noisy bunch of people calling for Baekhyun’s name. “I think you should head back to your friends. They’re calling you.”

But Baekhyun stays there. Now that Soo takes a better look at him, he sees his eyes being a bit bloodshot. His jaw also hardens.

“Back to brushing me off again, Soo. Smooth.” this time, the acid in his voice becomes more evident. “I’m sorry, am I ruining your special date?”

“You’re drunk, Baekhyun.”

“Oh I guess I should ask Chanyeol then.” Baekhyun raises a brow and watches the silent guy beside him, “I think I’m ruining this so much for him since he’s been waiting for this moment for so long, right?”

Chanyeol doesn’t answer, but his chest is obviously heaving.

“You’re obviously ruining this not just for us but for the other people around you’re disturbing, Baekhyun.” Soo begins to flare up as well when they start gaining some attention around, “Stop acting like a child.”

Baekhyun laughs out loud, gritting his teeth in between.

“Now I’m acting like a fucking child, Soo!” he chuckles in disbelief and more people are starting to notice the commotion, “Like I was the one being so hung up and unforgiving about some shit that happened so many years ago, standing up on a huge pile of pride, I’m the one acting like a child!”

Soo gives him a sarcastic smile. He’s aware that the other is drunk but he’s not having any of his bullshit either.

“I’m not the one who walked up to someone else’s table and started creating a scene for something that shouldn’t even be a big deal. Exactly like a child.” the calmness in his tone seems to fume Baekhyun up even more, “And there’s nothing to forgive, Baekhyun. I didn’t get any apology.”

Baekhyun doesn’t get to answer immediately, but his gaze is still sharp. Despite the dimmed lights, Soo can notice the way his eyes slightly glisten.

But Soo remains unapologetic. Did he lie?

He feels a gentle hand on his knee.

“Soo…” Chanyeol tells him while continuously blinking, “that’s enough.”

Baekhyun gets a good look of the brief scenario, dismissing his socialite friends calling for his name while walking closer.

“An apology?” he asks in disbelief, looking straight into Kyungsoo’s eyes. “An apology after you fucking disappeared without even caring about anyone? Without any fucking trace, huh Soo?”

Kyungsoo falls silent, staring back at Baekhyun who’s waiting for his next response.

“B! What’s going on?” Baekhyun’s tensed state relaxes when some people from his circle walks up to them to check. Soo noticed the way they grimaced at him and Chanyeol, as if wondering how they’re so worthy of attention. “We’re all waiting for you there to resume the game. Who are these people?”

Baekhyun gulps hard before smiling.

“Oh, you know…” he shrugs, intentionally raising his voice when he realized some people are looking, “just my ex-best friend and ex-boyfriend having a date together. I was just asking them if they find my bar satisfying.”

Kyungsoo looks at him seriously, “Baekhyun, stop it.”

“I guess complimentary drinks wouldn’t be bad as a treat from me, what do you guys think!” he asks the people around that earns them even more buzz. Soo gulps and looks at Chanyeol when people start whispering every after glance at them.

“Where are their drinks? Hey, I want every fucking drink on their table now.” Baekhyun orders the bartenders nearby, who instantly nod as per the bar owner’s request. Baekhyun glances back at the people he left on the VIP table while grinning from ear to ear, “Actually… I should do my dare, too? Some hottie’s waiting for me!”

He takes quick steps towards the said area, grabbing one handsome guy that seems to be waiting for him, then kisses him hard on the lips. As expected, the scene earns a collective coo and cheer from his friends and the other people watching. Watching the known socialite effortlessly complete a heated dare in front of everyone.

“Soo.” Kyungsoo snaps out from watching Baekhyun in disbelief when Chanyeol calls him. The latter is smiling at him reassuringly, “let’s just go.”

There’s a pinch inside his chest while looking at Chanyeol’s face. Soo doesn’t say anything else and nods. Before the free drinks arrive, the two of them already got up from their seats and find their way out as subtle as they can while everyone’s still immersed with some public stunt pulled by Baekhyun.

And then Kyungsoo thought about it. If it was just him, he doesn’t know how bad it could’ve ended up. He wouldn’t have let Baekhyun humiliate him like that. But then there’s Chanyeol. Chanyeol who simply smiled after everything and calmly asked him to leave. Soo realizes why Baekhyun never really deserved him in the first place.

“Where are you guys going?” Baekhyun asks when he caught them leaving. Kyungsoo gears up to snap but Chanyeol firmly holds his arm to continue walking. Despite that, they didn’t have to wait for too long until Baekhyun reaches them.

“Hey, Chanyeol!” he calls, still smiling but is desperately demanding for a certain attention now. He gets dismissed until he actually blocks the taller’s way. Baekhyun heaves, “Stop! You haven’t said a single word to me.”

Soo simply stands behind Chanyeol, watching how Baekhyun obviously crumbles inside despite being the center of attention. The last person he’d fool with that bright grin is the one who really knows who he is. Soo can see through him, and despite having so much spotlight for everything he does, he’s obviously yearning for someone else to notice. And it kills him that he’s not having it at all. His eyes are screaming about it.

Chanyeol, on the other hand— remains on the same spot, maintaining silence.

“Are you happy now, huh?” Baekhyun desperately asks while trying to catch his gaze. He begins gulping in between, “Because I wish you are! I pray to god you’re having the time of your life! I bet you waited so long for this and now you have it. You have w-who you truly wanted.” he glances at Soo while blinking rapidly. Then he gives a different smile to Chanyeol, “I-I was just a bridge for you from the beginning, wasn’t I? Someone to fill you when my bestfriend left?”

The taller looks at him. But he doesn’t answer. It seems like it’s completely pointless. Baekhyun would only believe what he wants to. Why do you think they’re here right now?

“Huh? Say something.” Baekhyun’s eyes glisten in anger, pushing Chanyeol’s shoulders. “Answer my fucking question!”

Baekhyun’s aggravation instantly crumbles down when Chanyeol finally stares at him. But the latter simply smiles, looking sincere as he always is.

“Don’t drive home by yourself, Baek.” he tells him before walking past the shorter to finally leave the place. Before following outside, Soo managed to see how a few words made Baekhyun distraught on the same spot.

 

 

He didn’t try lightening up the atmosphere after that. There’s just… no use. The night has completely been spoiled no matter how much fake chuckles and smiles Chanyeol responds to his stories. The man offered to move to another bar instead, but Soo declined. Not for him, but for Chanyeol himself. He’s obviously too bothered over something. There’s a small crease on his forehead while driving in silence.

Soo remembers Chanyeol telling him about how he never knew if Baekhyun considered their relationship official, like he did. Tonight, Baekhyun actually confirmed it, himself. He called Chanyeol his ex-boyfriend. He will never dare to ask directly but somehow, he hopes that it’s a closure for Chanyeol. He will never have to think about that question over and over again, no matter how terrible this night turned out to be.

Kyungsoo can confidently declare they still aren’t over each other. And it’s so much worse than he expected— to think that he’s the main reason why they’ve reached this fallout.

He’s at fault, right? As always?

“Soo…” Chanyeol starts off while walking him up to the tower entrance, “I just want to clarify things—”

“You don’t have to.” Soo interrupts before he could even finish, reassuring him with a genuine smile. “We’re friends, Chanyeol. We have always been friends.”

The taller forces one back. Both his hands are in his pockets, obviously still bothered about it.

“I don’t know… where Baekhyun gets his ideas.” he tries to chuckle, staring at Kyungsoo. “But… it doesn’t really matter, right? I can’t control what he thinks. It’s a long time ago, too.”

Kyungsoo nods before exhaling a deep breath.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have provoked him.”

“No… it’s my fault.” Chanyeol shakes his head, “I shouldn’t have brought you to that bar in the first place. Had I known he owns that…”

Soo grins, “That makes the two of us.”

He gets another forced chuckle. It’s starting to get to him, honestly. It pains him to see Chanyeol spacing out like this, faking expressions and being bothered by something he’s never at fault for. He’s one of Kyungsoo’s few, good friends and he’s one of the nicest people he knows as well. Chanyeol shouldn’t even be going through this.

“Chanyeol…” he worriedly calls when the taller unconsciously spaces out again, “you’re okay?”

Chanyeol smiles before shrugging.

“Of course.” he shakes his head, “Just bummed about our mini celebration. But we can always do that again.” he blinks a few more times before starting to step back, “I should get going now, then. Thanks for tonight, Soo.”

The designer nods.

“Anytime. Good luck on your new venture.” he waves back, “Keep me updated, producer.”

“I sure will.” Chanyeol sends him a half-smile, “Night.”

Even after going inside the tower lobby, Kyungsoo stood behind the glass door to wait until Chanyeol’s car left. Without having anything else to do, he takes the elevator to finally go back to his unit. Back to being all alone again.

The night is far from over since he didn’t really get to drink that much with Chanyeol. They surely didn’t even finish a bottle. Baekhyun just couldn’t wait to make a scene.

Now it all adds up to his thousand problems. They will have to interact in the office after that. No matter how much Kyungsoo wants to live his life here professionally and in complete peace, they just wouldn’t give it to him. He thought about his possible responses in case Baekhyun does that again, but he begins to have a headache. He decides not to worry about it for now.

So as much as Kyungsoo wants to stand by what he said in that phone call a while ago, he has no choice but to finally have his designs checked by the CEO. It’s also the right time to apologize about how rude he was, especially to Junmyeon. The latter was simply doing his job but he had to take that outburst.

If it was only for Soo, he wouldn’t be bothered. But then reality hits him hard— they’re his bosses now. He’s nothing but a subordinate.

“Hey… Junmyeon?” Soo begins hesitantly when his call was answered, “I just… called to apologize about the way I spoke a while ago.”

“Oh… it’s okay, Kyung. Nothing personal.” Junmyeon pauses, probably trying to figure out his whereabouts based on the silence around. “Are you home now?”

The designer had to blink in awe because of how easy it was. Junmyeon is a way too nice guy, isn’t he?

“Yes, actually I’m on my way to my unit.” he says while playing with his access card in the hall of his floor, “I could send you the file in case the CEO is still in the office.”

“No need for that, Kyung.” Junmyeon says, “He can check it personally. He’s in his penthouse. Top floor of your tower.”

Soo stops in front of his door.

He starts blinking, “I…”

“President said he’ll wait for you there.” Junmyeon tells him as if he just got the go signal at the very moment, “He wants it checked today, remember?”

Soo stares on a certain spot. Eventually, a sarcastic grin forms on his lips.

Is that really what you want, Kim Jongin?

  

Just for the record; he stayed in his unit for a while and had a serious debate with himself whether he’d go or not. Junmyeon said their boss is already expecting him, so it didn’t really give him a chance to postpone again. He can, of course. I mean, who the fuck does he think he is to stop me? But then again, KJI’s CEO had also made him pay the prize for disobeying him a lot of times. He’ll surely get another consequence if he does it again.

But was it really the reason?

Because he’s afraid of the punishment?

Was it, Soo?

Or maybe because he’s certain that they’d go out of the agenda? He already knows Kim Kai so much and his sly plans. But more than that, Soo knows himself, too. Despite knowing what possibly awaits him in that penthouse, he doesn’t want to back down. To appear scared. That’s just how he is. Pride and dignity over anything.

Aside from that, he’s curious about the penthouse.

That being said— he’s now on the top floor, with a binder of designs in his arms. He didn’t even bother checking them before leaving his unit. Not as much as he checked himself on the mirror. You know, priorities.

Soo remained staring at the same door for about a minute. As expected, you’d see no other rooms around on this floor. The penthouse occupies all of it. He suddenly thought about the helipad above this. It’s not hard to figure out who’s responsible for those helicopter landings on this tower every now and then. There goes the urge for another eyeroll.

He exhales a shortened breath, fixes his eyeglasses and presses the button on the wall to make his presence known.

It opens shortly, revealing the CEO in his simple black shirt and pants. Unsurprised, he looks at Kyungsoo and raises a brow in both intrigue and amusement. Soo had to take a subtle gulp despite having his straight face maintained.

“My designs…” somehow, he feels tongue-tied. “you want to have them checked?”

Jongin glances down at the binder in his hands before pulling the door open.

“Come in.”

The shorter doesn’t comply for a second until he’s completely left on the doorstep. He steps inside the penthouse, unable to conceal the awe upon seeing the place personally. He’d only seen this in Architectural Digest and exhibit prototypes at Parson classes before. The interior is flawless, details intricately emphasized. Kyungsoo finds himself customizing the place in his head like what he usually does whenever he sees a good place. He puts ideal furniture or designs on some corners he finds empty, even though this one doesn’t really need much revising.

Jongin watches him looking around while still standing on the same spot. He goes to the counter for drinks near the penthouse door to get glasses.

“Would you like something to drink? Eat?”

Soo blinks a few times when he realized he’s been too immersed on evaluating the place. He shakes his head.

“No, I’m full. Thanks.” Jongin looks at him because of this, raising a brow and nodding once as if he wants to say something.

“Are you just going to stay there?” he asks that makes the shorter suddenly conscious. The businessman tilts his head, pointing to the receiving area while he holds a bottle of expensive liquor in his hand. “Make yourself comfortable in the living room. I need a bit of whiskey.”

Despite the reluctance, Kyungsoo couldn’t deny both the curiosity and excitement to see the entire place. He walks in the hallway leading to the spacious living room, eyes sparkling upon seeing a big glass window, extending to the end of the wall. The buildings all over Seoul look like tiny flickering lights around.

Soo unconsciously smiles in awe. He takes slow steps towards the tall glass window, dropping his binder on the couch to watch the said view. The penthouse has nothing but dimmed side lights, simply illuminated by the city and nearby buildings outside. God, what he’d give to live in this kind of place. Even his old Gangnam apartment from college or New York one with Seonho doesn’t come close to this.

Well… it’s not like he owns a damn tower in the first place.

“How are you finding the place?” he doesn’t flinch when he hears a deep voice behind. There’s also a sound of ice clanking against a glass, interrupting the silence he had for a while. Soo simply gives a side-eye, not turning away from the breathtaking view. Though he starts clutching onto his sides.

“Great.” he says without showing even half of his enthusiasm for the place, “Impressive interiors and city view.”

His gaze stilled on a certain spot when he feels a warmth on his back.

“Good.”

The hot breath on his nape turns into kisses, traveling on the side of his neck while hands settle on both sides of his waist. Kyungsoo’s lips unknowingly curl up.

He was right, after all.

He exhales through his lips when the familiar feeling instantly settled all over his body. Soo keeps his voice solid while tilting his head to the side to give more access to his neck and jaw.

“I thought I had to have my designs checked.” he says casually, still staring at the city lights outside even when a pair of rough hands already made their way underneath his shirt. He glances at his binder on the couch, fully aware that they won’t really be checked tonight.

There’s no way he’d let Jongin know that he was expecting this to happen.

“Just put them there.” Jongin mumbles close to his ear, “They’re approved.”

This made the designer frown.

“You’re not even going to pretend to check them?” he turns around, brows creased even if he was greeted by a short yet firm kiss on the lips.

He sharply stares at his boss’ strikingly handsome face, not failing to notice the trace of exhaustion from his eyes after almost a week of working overseas. His gaze settles on the petite male in front of him, like he’s been deprived of a necessity.

“I’ll pretend tomorrow morning.” Jongin says with finality, clutching on to the hem of his shirt. “Now take your clothes off.”

The CEO raises both his brows when his working hands get slapped away.

“You can’t approve them that easy.” Soo tests the other’s self-control simply with his puckered lips. “I maintain credibility.”

The shorter tries not to bat an eye even when the businessman starts gritting his teeth in impatience.

“Why don’t you just be grateful?” Jongin scoffs, pulling him close again. “After disobeying your boss to have a drink with someone, I’m being kind.”

He attacks him with his lips again, grinning in satisfaction when Soo doesn’t push away nor resist. His hand grips tighter on Jongin’s arm. It’s only when he pulls away that the shorter glares at him again.

“You mean in exchange of sex, you’re approving it?” he hisses, lips swollen. He could taste the whiskey on his lips now, sending jolts all over the other’s system when he unconsciously licks it.

“At least you still know a thing.” Jongin huffs, reaching for his nape again for a deeper kiss. Before proceeding, he speaks further while their lips lightly brush. “Stop complaining. I’ll have your damn designs checked tomorrow.”

Soo clutches on his chest, parting his lips as Jongin seeks for his tongue. His other hand rubs on the small of Kyungsoo’s back, swifty traveling down to his clothed bum. The shorter grunts between the kiss when he feels a grip on his ass. He pulls away from Jongin who seems to get impatient so easily based from the way he tries to keep him still, but as usual, the feisty designer slaps his hand away to get on his knees, clinging onto the hem of the CEO’s pants.

“Not yet.” Jongin slightly leans down to pull him back up, “I want to kiss you.”

Oh do you now?

Soo sends him a sharp look while working on his belt, “Shut up. You’re not the only one in control here.”

He goes back to unzipping it even when Jongin clenches his jaw upon hearing his response, watching him intently. Soo looks back at him with testing eyes, urging him to say another order so he could snap back.

“Soo.”

“I said shut your mouth, Kim Jongin.” the shorter hisses back again and the businessman completely falls speechless. Soo eventually pulls his pants down, still glaring. “I want to kneel and suck your fucking cock, what about it?”

His cock sprung free from his lowered pants, warmed by the hand of the boy kneeling in front of him. Soo makes sure he keeps his eyes on his face, watching every second of Jongin’s breath hitching from simply the action. He lets his hand do the job first, tauntingly letting the tip touch his tongue when the tanned man starts quivering.

So this is what he wants? Kyungsoo is old and wise enough to understand what he’s trying to do. He’s not the drunk guy who had a concussion that would let himself be slammed on the bed and fucked according to Jongin’s terms. No. This time he’ll start making sure he has the upper hand.

He probably wasn’t sated by his girlfriend from that trip that’s why he’s resorting to the best one he could easily pull. Despite the bitterness, Soo wouldn’t deny the satisfaction that settles in him.

If this is what Jongin wants, then he’ll give it to him, no hesitations. If he’s a quick fuck just like everyone else, then okay. He can get used to this. This is just sex. They can go back to despising each other in the office each day. That’s what constantly runs in his head. At least he’d get the part of the deal. It’s hard to go on without getting a good sex every now and then, anyway. But he won’t be bossed around even here.

That’s just that.

“Oh… fuck, Soo…” the CEO had to tilt his head up when his whole shaft fills the inside of his warm cavern, tip reaching the throat that produces a gagging sound. His breath becomes shaky when Soo holds on to his bum to bob his head back and forth, making sure he sucks every inch and wets it with his tongue.

Fuck baby, I’m close….” Jongin grunts while holding onto the nearby couch. He has to control the strong urge to rock his hips against Kyungsoo’s throat, so as to not choke him. But the attempt seems useless when the shorter is basically the one desperately taking him whole, glazed eyes sinfully looking up at him.

“S-Soo…”

The said boy briefly pulls away to speak raggedly, “Cum inside.”

He’s still reluctant, but the firmness in Kyungsoo’s tone ended all the questions. In the end, Jongin lets out another moan in between heavy breaths when he felt himself reaching climax, spilling everything in the boy’s mouth, holding on his locks as he finishes with a few sloppy thrusts.

Watching Soo take him whole in his mouth is still a sight to behold, but seeing him swallow and lick him off expertly is just on another level. He wants to pull him up and bend him over the nearest couch to get it over with, yet this night surely wouldn’t end up that way.

Jongin has obviously gone more impatient, pulling Kyungsoo's shirt up while the latter is still in the middle of standing. He slides it off his neck and swiftly uses it to wipe the trace of his cum on the designer's lips. Right then, he drops the shirt to the floor and kisses him one more time, hard and dominating.

He barely took his time having control when Soo harshly pushes him down the couch, standing in front of him. He lets the businessman watch while he strips himself off from all his clothes. The look of both awe and impatience on Jongin while he takes initiative brings him some kind of satisfaction. As if wanting the said effect to be brought by him. Just him, always.

"Did you drink a lot?" Jongin even managed to ask him tauntingly, brows raising along with the side of his lips.

Soo takes the challenge by settling his naked self on his lap, making sure he'd wipe that smug smile on the jerk's face by grinding his bare ass against his hardening cock.

"Yes." he responds, obviously bluffing. They're mocking each other, anyway.

He grits his teeth when Jongin simply grins bigger, caging him in his arm to pull him close and suck on the skin of his chest. He assures the both of them there will be visible marks.

"How about a concussion?" he asks while his lips travel up to the man's collarbone, "Did you hit your pretty head tonight, baby?"

Soo responds with a shove on his shoulders, pressing his hand around Jongin's jaw to make him look up at his face, clearly not amused. When he sees the same infuriating grin and familiar glint in his eyes, Soo could only just claim his lips again, still grinding against his groin.

"I'm going to give you a concussion if you don't shut the hell up." he hisses and wastes no time when he reaches for the shaft underneath him, pointing the tip of his hole that finally got Jongin's smile faltering.

"Jesus... Soo, wait. I'm getting a lube—"

"I said shut up and just sit there!" he snarls and still proceeds, causing Jongin to look at him in disbelief.

"You'll get hurt!"

"I can take it." he speaks before completely drooping his ass down to get filled, "I don't need... ah..." he winces when he began feeling the sting from the friction, "A-Ah shit..."

Jongin stares at him, obviously enraged by his stubbornness. Soo catches his breath when he feels his whole dick inside him, hands slightly trembling on Jongin's shoulders because of the pain from rushing and taking it raw.

"You're so fucking hardheaded, aren't you?" he asks through gritted teeth, yet his hands are gently caressing Soo's bottom. "Don't move."

Despite the pain that's still there, Soo really just does the opposite of what Jongin tells him. He exhales through his mouth and starts to slowly move his hips.

"Kyungsoo I swear to god!"

He looks at Jongin's angry face with his half-lidded eyes, testing the so little patience left.

"P-Please!" he whines when the CEO firmly grips around his waist to stop the movement he continuously does.

"Disobey me one more time and I swear I'm going to flip you over here and fuck you until you can't walk for weeks." he threatens and Soo isn't even shaken. How is it a bad offer, anyway?

Jongin instantly understands his expression, "And if you take a leave from work for that, I'm not going to pay your salary and allowance. Is that what you want now?" he raises a brow when Soo sends him a sharp yet defeated look, "Tell me."

With lips tightly pursed, Soo stares at him. He looks like he badly wants to complain if it wasn’t for the cock filling him up to his brim. Jongin looks back right into his eyes with testing gaze, as if his insides aren’t wobbling just by the sight. Soo straddling on his lap, desperately grasping on his shoulders. Just by his skin against him, his messy locks all over the place, and the way his cheeks flush when pleasure eventually takes over pain.

He watches it, takes it all in, engraves it in his mind.

The businessman lets out a ragged breath through his lips when Soo buries his face on his neck, breathes right there and begins to disobey everything he just said by slowly rocking his hips back and forth.

“Soo.” Jongin huffs threateningly, but isn’t able to say anything else after that when he gets overtaken by rapture. His cock is being taken so good.

“Let me… f-fuck please… I-I want to…” he begs even if he’s completely taken it to his own hands by moving faster. “I-I need… this so much. Ah fuck, fuck just like that…”

It becomes a vigorous pace when Jongin attempted to hold his waist and guide him gently, which ended up futile when the shorter bounces on his lap, moaning incoherently on his shoulder. And just like that, so easy, Soo gains the control back. He faces the breathtaking view of Seoul, yet it’s unmatched to the sight of Jongin in front of him, either biting his lip or parting them to say his name. His eyes are clouded with so much lust, rough hands gripping hard on the skin of his hips while he rides his cock. Any scenery wouldn’t compare.

Oh, did Soo mention that he’s going to have the upper hand tonight?

He lets the CEO cage his face between his hands to pull him down for another long and breathless kiss. Soo lets him for a while, before pulling away to offer his neck instead. He grins to himself when Jongin digs it, nibbling down on his chest while his movements have gone wilder to repeatedly hit his own certain spot. Kyungsoo screams louder, he didn’t even have to exert so much effort given the other man’s length.

“Jesus, Soo…” Jongin’s lips curve in between marking his skin, “Be grateful we don’t have neighbors.” he looks up at the dazed male, eyes glinted. “You have such a loud mouth.”

Soo dismisses it with another hard kiss on his lips, feeling something building up in his gut.

“I-I’m close…” he mumbles, almost inaudibly unlike his moans. Jongin begins to meet his thrusts by arching his hips up while holding him firmly with one arm.

Soo eventually quivers on top of him. He breathes heavily in between his declining moans as he reaches his peak, cumming untouched. His face droops back on Jongin’s neck, while the latter finishes his own by a few, hard thrusts up his ass— jetting it all as soon as he pulls out. His cum trails down on the other’s ass cheek, staining all over the hand marks he’s also responsible for.

When his legs wobble even more after that intense sex, Kyungsoo fights the urge to slap himself. How could he initiate that when he doesn’t even exercise regularly?

They stayed like that for a moment, with Soo settled on his lap, breathing silently against his shoulder. Jongin caressing circles on his back lulls him even more. He doesn’t see the way his lips curl up upon feeling his erratic heartbeat against his chest and hearing the sound of his slowly stabilizing breath.

It’s only when he got laid down on the couch when Soo finally opened his eyes, seeing Jongin sitting beside him while taking his shirt off starting from the back. His heavy eyes rounded.

“I’m tired…” he complains, though he couldn’t take his eyes off the businessman being fully naked in front of him. True enough, he earns a deep chortle from the taller.

“Understandable.” he frowns when Jongin smirks at him, swiftly reminding him of what he just did. The way he rode him like there’s no tomorrow. He gazes all over Soo before reaching for his hand, “Let’s move to the bed.”

“No…” he shakes his head. His plan was to be dicked down and not spend another night with this man, naked in the sheets. No. Especially not in his place.

This is fun sex not complicated sex.

But fuck, it’s hard to say no when he looks like that. For once, Soo admits he understands the hung up hookups.

“I’m tired… I’m gonna go back…” he says, face plopped on the couch that it sounded muffled. For some reason, it’s so difficult to stay looking at him with that hard on like he hadn’t made him cum twice tonight. On the other hand, Jongin slightly clenches his jaw. Every second of watching Soo spread out like that without him filling that ass again terribly frustrates him.

“Not yet.” Jongin says, caressing his thigh while waiting for him to get up. “I gave you what you want, now it’s my turn. Baby, come on…”

“I can’t move!” Soo whines against the couch, even if he was kicking a foot while saying that.

“I’ll move this time, don’t worry.” his hand travels in between his thighs, “You don’t want me to make you feel good, Soo?”

Soo doesn’t give an immediate response. He tilts his head from burying it on the couch surface to stare at Jongin, whose lips curve upon seeing his reaction.

“Want me to walk you back to your unit now?” Jongin asks and it’s the last thing in the world that seems appealing to him.

The CEO raises a brow when he looks at him, cheek still pressed on the couch.

“Just… fuck me again on the couch…” he couldn’t even believe his own words, though it’s too late to take it back when the sunkissed man grins at him, leaning down to place a kiss on his shoulder.

“On the bed.”

“J-Just here!” he complains, yet lets himself be pulled up from the couch. “So that after… I could leave then!”

Jongin simply shakes his head and gets him off the couch, “My bed is more comfortable.” he wrapping an arm around his waist, “And the couch can’t handle another bouncing.”

 

x

Ironically, the silence woke him up the next morning.

Kyungsoo can still feel the stinging feeling on his lower half, limbs strained despite being in the softest bed he's ever been in. Confusion doesn't hit him like it always does during mornings. The thought of last night runs back to his mind even before he opens his eyes, like it actually settled there for his dreams.

Soo slowly looks at the space beside him, which is empty. He expected it. It's the same scenario when they did it weeks ago. It's no big deal.

Really. It's not.

When he paid more attention, Soo finally hears a muffled sound of Jongin's voice from the portico outside that room, leading to the rooftop pool with an overlooking view. He managed to get a good look of that as well last night even when he's being fucked against the bed. Unlike now, where he can't see the view outside, the wall curtains were up then that's why Soo just had to stand by his priority being a designer and natural critic.

Anyway, since it's easy to figure out that the other man is in the middle of a business phone call outside, he quickly gets up from the bed. Soo whispers a profanity when he doesn't see his clothes on the floor or anywhere. He remembers stripping in the living room so after throwing another cautious look at the veranda, he steps out to the said room, hoping to immediately put some clothes on and sneak out of this place the soonest that he can.

After putting his boxers and shirt back, the next thing he looks for is his glasses. Turns out it's under the couch where he was riding a dick last night. Now Soo couldn't help wondering how the hell it possibly ended up there.

"You little shit..." he grunts under his breath, struggling to reach for the damn thing because of his short arm. He's bended on the carpet, ass perked up. It's unbeknownst to him that it's a sight currently being enjoyed.

"What's that?"

Soo flinches on the floor when a voice startles him. He proceeds to extend his hand to get the damn glasses before finally looking at the man leaning on the wall, watching him intently.

"Nothing." Soo keeps a blank gaze, hastily grabbing his pants. He’s slightly panicking inside, "I'm going. I'm late."

Intentionally keeping his eyes away from the businessman, who's wearing nothing but the pair of pants he had last night, Kyungsoo continues to get dressed. There's something that makes him irritated. Maybe the fact that he got nothing but silence.

He reaches for the binder on the couch.

"I'm still gonna check that." Jongin finally speaks, seriously staring at his frowning face.

"I thought it's approved?" Soo has his brows furrowed.

"No, I changed my mind." he says that infuriates Kyungsoo even more. "Stay for breakfast."

They stare at each other from both corners of the room, gazes testing when Soo doesn't look amused for one bit.

"I'm just going to leave them here. I'm late for work." he responds but Jongin is already making his way towards the dining area.

"You don't need to worry about that." he tells Soo, walking around the room topless while running his hand through his hair every now and then. "Put that there and sit here. The food is ready."

Despite the big frown on his face, Soo looks at all the food on the table, then to the pair of plates and utensils set on it.

He turns to Jongin who's expectantly raising a brow.

"You're not the one doing overtimes when coming to work late, President Kim." he sarcastically says that wipes the curve on the taller's face. "So if you don't mind."

The CEO sighs at his stubbornness. Kyungsoo sees him glancing at the wall clock then back to him, looking grimmer.

"And whose orders do you and everyone follow in the office?"

Soo purses his lips tight. He hates it. He fucking hates it so much whenever this asshole uses his authority to shut him up. He hates how it works every single time.

"You don't need to do overtime today. Consider your breakfast here a part of your working hours. As a direct order from the CEO." Jongin speaks with emphasis for every word, "Does that sound appealing to you now?"

"No."

"You're the most stubborn and ungrateful brat in the world, Kyungsoo." he glares at Jongin when the latter speaks relentlessly. He shivers on his nape when his whole name harshly escaped his lips, "Makes me think you want to revise designs again. Maybe that's what you like?"

Soo struts towards the dining table and sits there, earning a chuckle.

"I'll have breakfast." stupid, fucking jerk. He wants to add. Jongin looks so entertained while sitting across him, watching Soo put food on his plate while looking like he’s about to kill them again. The CEO shakes his head while smirking.

"Stop scowling." Jongin taunts at him, holding a cup of coffee on his hand. "You obviously like my penthouse so much, that's why I'm letting you stay longer."

Soo continuously eats, not sparing him a glance. "Your penthouse sucks."

"You were gaping at it last night." the designer rolls his eyes while chewing but he proceeds, "You didn't even have those unnecessary critic commentaries you usually do. You were just awed."

"Well I have a lot. I had to list them down." Soo directly looks at him again, "Your penthouse sucks."

"Stop pretending like it was never your biggest dream to live in a place like this." the businessman rests his arms on the table, the side of his lips curling up. "Especially after settling for a tiny apartment in New York for so many years."

Soo feels insulted, judging from the way he paused. But there’s no way he’d let Jongin gain satisfaction from that.

"I never worried about the place we had." he drinks water and continues to eat again, "We're fine with simple, I don't expect someone sleeping in a bed of money to understand."

It’s Jongin’s turn to raise a brow.

"Really now?" he scoffs, "I thought money was the most important thing to you?"

"I'm not like you."

"Rich, fun assholes who could give you thrill." it’s suddenly hard for Soo to swallow his food, but he keeps his gaze on the plate. "Do you remember that?"

"No."

Jongin grins, "Oh you do."

Soo doesn’t dare to look at him, nor let this conversation flow. He didn’t leave this place and everything else behind just so he could be placed in front of this man and talk about their past.

"I don't need to convince you." he says with a shrug, yet he feels the need to drink more water. "Things change. I'm fine with simplicity. I don't care about what anyone think of our home there, I was just contented with my life in New York. I was happy."

God, this conversation is making him miss his idiot friend who’s surely sleeping from where he is.

The CEO leans back on his seat while his gaze lingers on him, still. The morning light from the outside that surrounds them makes his bronze skin even more dashing. He looks like a god sent from heaven to make a certain human suffer.

"That's not how it seemed to me when you were screaming on my bed last night." his eyes become more challenging while Soo almost chokes on his drink, "Contented, huh?"

He doesn’t answer anymore. Jongin will surely find a way to drag him back to that topic and he’s not letting him. Soo decided to keep his mouth shut and finish his food instead.

"Break up with your boyfriend." Jongin firmly says when he remained silent. Soo frowns at him for this.

"What?"

"You heard me." the businessman says and leans on the table again, "Break up with him."

Soo appears confused for a moment. Boyfriend? Before he could deny, a certain person pops up in his mind. He doesn’t even realize he’s saying it out loud.

"Seonho?"

"Do you have boyfriends other than him?" his frown relaxes, opposed to Jongin’s hardening jaw. "Is Chanyeol your boyfriend now, too?"

Soo rolls his eyes again, still not grasping the idea of what he just heard because of the mention of Chanyeol.

"No, it's not my fault that I didn't forget Chanyeol because of the success I've got." he sarcastically says that instantly earns a chuckle from Jongin.

"Really?" the tanned man looks at him knowingly, "Who do you think pulled the strings to give him a shot to that producing deal?"

He momentarily stops eating.

Soo’s eyes rounded, "You did that?"

"Stop trying to change the topic." Jongin simply says.

His lips protruded, finally realizing his edge. Soo suppresses a grin when he realizes what’s currently happening.

"What was that even about?" he fakes a look of disbelief then shrugs again. He even plays with his spoon in a taunting manner, "I'm very happy with Seonho."

"That's bullshit. You know that." Jongin chuckles in a deriding manner. Yet, he’s clearly pissed over something, "Break up with your damn boyfriend."

Soo lifts his spoon along with a brow, "And you're so eager about this because?"

"You want me to tell you why?" Jongin asks back that scares him in an instant.

His chest heaves.

"No, you're so full of shit." the shorter goes back to frowning at his almost finished breakfast, "I'm not meddling with your relationship. I'm not telling you to break up with your girlfriend... or fiancée, or whatever the hell is Soojung. I'm not meddling. That gives you no right over mine." he hisses with a piercing look in his eyes.

Jongin flashes a little amused smile, as if he realized something along with it.

"Hmm." he slyly hums, "So you want me to break up with my girlfriend… or fiancée?"

Soo unknowingly slows down from chewing his food, then he shakes his head.

"No." he shrugs and stares on his plate with a blank face, "Maybe just don't fuck me right after sleeping with her for days. I don't wanna get STD."

When he doesn’t get an answer, Kyungsoo looks up. His heart flips when he sees Jongin smiling on his seat, watching him.

"What's so amusing?" he snaps.

"I didn't know it bothers you a lot." the businessman shrugs too, "Is that why you were so eager to have those checked while we were in Shanghai?"

Soo gets infuriated by this, flashing an obviously fake smile. "I was simply trying to get you do company related tasks."

"In case I was having fun with my girlfriend on a business trip?"

The designer rudely drops his spoon, making it clank against the plate. But Jongin doesn’t bat an eye.

"I don't give a shit about what you do with Architect Jung." Soo tells him while grimacing, "You can get married today for all I care. I'm simply here to get this job done."

Jongin intentionally appears to be unconvinced, "Mm hmm."

"I don't need to convince you, Kim Kai." Soo hisses when the mocking hum pushes his limit, "Did you forget that I was basically the reason why you're together today? I was pushing you together in college. I was your middleman." he couldn’t even control what he’s saying anymore. He’s just terribly pissed, unaware of the sudden change from the businessman’s expression when he finally utters it himself. "I even told you, you were perfect for each other, right? Did you forget?"

His smile falters before he could even say another word, but Jongin’s already waiting for him to be done before retaliating.

"I didn't. How could I?" Jongin doesn’t hesitate, nor blink an eye while staring right into his eyes.

Soo purses his lips, stilled by his own words. He thinks of a way to take them back but Jongin has completely taken it to his own accord.

"I was a poor, pathetic boy and I deserved to go back to the shithole I came from. You also said that, right?"

His own bullets hit him back harsher than he expected. Soo tightly grips on his glass, while vivid images of that specific night come back to haunt him. Right in front of Jongin. Exactly like the said memory.

"I remember every single thing you said, Soo. Do you want me to repeat all of them now?" Jongin tells him with testing and driven eyes, tapping a finger on the table. "Let's tick off everything that was proven wrong. Come on."

It was the last straw. The shorter takes another gulp while holding his breath in.

"I'm done." he surprisingly doesn’t stutter even if his insides began quivering while standing up from his seat, "I'm going."

Soo takes big steps towards the door of the penthouse. Jongin doesn’t try stopping him even until he slams the door shut.

The designer tries to catch his shortened breath while walking towards the elevator. Someone approaches from the opposite direction. Being more conscious this time of the day, he’s quick enough to realize how unlikely it would be, considering that the penthouse is the only unit in this floor.

So when Kyungsoo lifts his gaze up and sees Soojung slowing down, he shouldn’t be surprised at all. He’s not, actually. But the twinge in his chest becomes worse. And before he makes a fool out of his already stupid self again, he dismisses her shocked face and quickly walks past her to go back to his unit.

Back to his rightful place.

 

Chapter Text

 

Maybe Kyungsoo never really learned.

It can also be because he lacked conscience or shame. What reason do you have in mind? That’s probably what’s wrong with him. Because even after that breakfast and countless reassurance to himself that he’d never give in to Jongin again, he did anyway. He always does. Behind closed doors, he’d let him touch and kiss him, fuck him over and over again in his penthouse. Where he could see the whole view of Seoul around them, as if he’s being watched by those flickering buildings and ridiculed by the same lifeless things, even.

The consistent subtle shades and arguments between meetings remain consistent, just for his dignity and pride to be stepped on before the day ends as he surrenders to his sexual needs that seem to overtake him slowly but surely, every passing day. And when the morning comes, he’d slip out of the warm and lazy embrace, out of the luxurious penthouse to go back to his own smaller unit a few floors away. Soo would leave either between his boss’ deep slumber or an urgent 3-am business call. You’d be surprised how he does it so good. That’s probably how effectively you escape when you hate confrontations so much.

It’s okay, right? He simply has to make sure that breakfast or any type of after-sex conversation doesn’t happen again.

This particular day was almost the same, except he’s already too awake to figure out that the phone call before 4am certainly isn’t business-related.

“Soojung…” he tried to remain still under the comforter, eyes shut while he listened to Jongin’s hushed voice. “What’s wrong?”

Kyungsoo successfully made it seem he’s still sleeping when he couldn’t hear the businessman anymore, after the sound of his footsteps had gone towards the deck outside. For some privacy, maybe. The designer finally had the opportunity to start dressing up and leave before Jongin comes back. But for some reason, he remained still for a moment. Jongin’s hushed voice filled with concern runs back and forth in his mind.

A part of Soo wants to stay on the said bed instead, wait for him to finish and pretend to sleep until the morning. Probably to prove himself that the call wouldn’t last that long and he’d be back beside him again and act like nothing happened.

In the end, Soo got dressed and effortlessly left the penthouse unnoticed. Jongin was still on the phone.

Seonho’s words keep coming back to him when they’re the last thing he needs— you just love digging your own grave, don’t you? How great.

 

“Hyung?”

Taeyong makes himself hard to look at. It’s past 8am of the same day and the young driver already looks fresh and ready to go on with his errands. His boss suddenly feels ashamed for himself— sleepless and still, terribly sore. Last night was wilder than he thought it was.

Soo raises a brow from the backseat. He’s there because he planned to catch a nap on their way to the office. He wasn’t really able to sleep again when he got back to his unit at that ungodly hour in the morning. He definitely didn’t feel like taking the bus when he’s this dizzy that’s why he called Taeyong, who’s more than willing to go to his high-class apartment building (that’s how the younger described it) and fetch him. So the designer expected he’d do him a favor and let him sleep in peace, but now Taeyong is just watching him from the rearview.

“Nothing…” he mumbles while shaking his head after Soo looks back at him inquisitively.

The older rolls his eyes, “If you wanna say something, just say it.”

The said driver worriedly stares through the mirror again.

“Are… you okay? You look sleepless and you’re limping a while ago…”

Features softening, Soo suppresses an amused grin upon seeing the innocently curious face of the boy. Sometimes he forgets that his driver is younger than he looks. He’s definitely clueless about a lot of worldly things, Kyungsoo thought. But when he was at that age, he was already so dirty-minded. Good comparison, isn’t it?

“What do you think I did, Taeyong?” Soo asks with a ghost of smile on his face. He tries to see if his expression will give the exact answer away but it becomes even more entertaining when it doesn’t even seem to cross the boy’s mind.

“Did you…” Taeyong starts off even when he looked taken aback after being asked.

Soo raises both brows at him through the rearview, anticipating even more now that the driver paused reluctantly.

“…trip on your way out?”

The designer could only manage a few seconds of hiding a smile but he soon ends up chuckling in so much amusement. Taeyong looks at him with rounded eyes. His morning got a bit better, suddenly. This driver is doing some extra work.

“I did.” he nods and turns serious, “For that, I won’t be paying your salary.”

“But Hyung, I c—”

“Fucking cute.” Soo clicks his tongue when the boy buys it easily like he isn’t used to him, “I’m kidding.”

A little frown settles itself on the driver’s face after hearing the familiar expression. He’s been conditioned that being called cute in Kyungsoo’s vocabulary is nowhere good. He always hears it when he does or says something stupid, which seems often.

When a brief silence follows, Soo began closing his eyes to get his most-awaited nap.

“Hyung?”

Soo huffs in annoyance, refusing to open his eyes. “Can you… just shut up and drive?”

“Can I have another design checked again?” Taeyong continues anyway. Day by day, this kid becomes braver in terms of dismissing his commands, “It’s for one of my subjects.”

“Jesus…” Soo glares at him despite still leaning on the window, “Do you know I’m a professional designer? I should have paid consultations!”

“Y-You can just glance at it… then tell me if it’s good or not.” Taeyong pleads him with his gaze, infuriating him even more. “Please?”

Kyungsoo could only accept that he’s not getting the nap he deserves anymore, so he sits up straight.

“I don’t get it. Your professors wouldn’t even criticize your work that much. They should also be the one to check and evaluate your works.” he says, scolding the driver like his son. “To think you go to a good school. What are your teachers doing?”

Taeyong blinks a few times while looking at the road.

“It’s not that…” he says reluctantly, “T-There’s just this girl...”

“Oh for Christ’s sake.” Soo scoffs in disbelief, “Don’t tell me I’ve been giving you free advices just so you can hit on some chick?”

The young driver frantically shakes his head, but slows down when he realizes it’s exactly what’s going on. Soo watches him expectantly.

“It’s just…” he starts to stutter, “I-I really like her… and sometimes she asks for my help for Interior Designing… I’m not really confident with my skill so I’m asking for your help a lot because you’re… r-really good at it, Hyung…”

Taeyong seems a little scared when Kyungsoo’s expression becomes blank and unreadable. He can tell that the said boy assumed he got speechless because of the compliment.

Not really.

“How old are you again?”

“E-Eighteen…”

The designer raises a brow, “And the girl?”

For some reason, it tugs something in his chest.

The driver blinks again before responding.

“She’s… a year older than me. Because I’m acce—”

“Yeah, I know, I know.” Soo cuts him off before he could elaborate another uncannily familiar detail, “So why don’t you just ask her out directly?”

“I c-can’t…”

He waits for further explanation, but Taeyong simply stares ahead, silent.

“Because you’re not good at Interior Design, is that it?” Kyungsoo’s lips curls up even if there’s not much humor in his tone, “What? Come on, you can tell me.”

It takes a while before Taeyong completely confides.

“She’s…” he takes a pause to sigh, “she’s rich…”

Now the pause Kyungsoo made is much longer than the previous ones. Taeyong seems to be contemplating whether a part of what he said was wrong.

But the older blinks once while trying to maintain a passive face.

“And?”

“A-And I’m not.” Taeyong says as if it’s an obvious response, “I can never ask her out. At least not now. I know my place and we’re very far from each other. It’s enough that she interacts with me, even just for academic-related things. It will do for now…”

It’s as if reminding him of someone isn’t enough, turns out they’re exactly alike. The situation is sending him so much nostalgia. Harsh memories that he doesn’t want to recall anymore. Soo completely fell silent. It bothers the said driver even more as he rambles words to wrap the conversation up.

“Y-You might not understand what I’m trying to say bu—”

“I do…” Soo mutters, almost inaudible. “I understand.”

It’s ironic. He shouldn’t have wondered why Taeyong reminded him so much of younger Jongin. They have so many similarities that Soo feels like his old self, sitting in the car while the other boy drives. He shouldn’t have wondered why the boy being so talented infuriates him sometimes, even when he gets nothing from him but compliment. Even if the boy looks up to him so much.

But maybe it was just really difficult for him to acknowledge this certain similarity between them because the situation Taeyong is in now, applies exactly to him like how it did to Jongin’s case before.

Soo helping him to get to the girl he likes. How similar, isn’t it? How could such a simple realization send so much bitterness rushing through his system? There was a strong urge to directly turn he request down just because of the unpleasant thoughts he’s having.

But fortunately, Soo’s quick enough to rationalize these thoughts before answering. Taeyong is Taeyong. He might be reminding him a few things about his first love but he’s not the same man. Soo’s certain of that. This boy is much more pure and genuine. He wouldn’t have to hurt someone else just to get what he wants.

“Never feel like you’re far from someone just because you don’t have the money.” he says out of the blue that gets the boy staring at him in awe, “You’re talented. And she obviously respects you as an equal to ask for your advice. One day, when you’re successful, it won’t really matter anymore whether you were once poor or not.”

Taeyong seems a bit stunned by the words he said, but Soo looks out the window before he could take it back out of cowardice. The bitterness still won’t leave him, so he ends it there and doesn’t continue the conversation anymore.

“T-Thanks, Hyung…” the driver timidly smiles even if he’s not looking.

“Whatever.” Soo shrugs and glances at him one more time, “Give me your designs.”

He wouldn’t let his memories with Jongin taint the soft spot he has for the boy. He’s had enough damage.

They get interrupted when his phone rang, flashing his sister’s name on the screen. Soo briefly gets alarmed. He finds it unusual that Sukyung would call him at this hour. She’s supposed to be at school.

“Sukyung?” he mutters after picking up. Taeyong catches the way his brows crease, “W-What—”

He listens, partly because he’s silenced by the words he’s hearing from his sister on the other line. The phone call was brief and urgent, judging from the way Kyungsoo buries his face on his palm after that.

“What’s wrong?” Taeyong asks in concern.

“Drive me to the mansion instead.” Kyungsoo looks at him when the boy blinks in reluctance, “Now.”

   

  

As soon as he got inside his family’s mansion, he sees his sister standing outside his father’s room. It seems like she only came out from it when he arrived.

“Sukyung.” she looks up to see her brother’s serious face, “What’s going on?”

Sukyung is still in her uniform so it’s not hard to figure out that she cut classes for this. It’s understandable since they don’t have much staff left in the house anymore. Their mother would have no one but her own children to ask for assistance when something comes up.

Their father was hysterical a while ago. The last thing he should be when he’s still unwell. But Soo can’t really say he’s surprised. The old man just loves giving him more and more problems to worry over.

“I just got home from school too so I don’t really know…” she says after a sigh, “but Nurse Jane already injected something to calm him down. Mom’s inside.”

Soo doesn’t knock, yet made sure he comes in the said room as silent as he can. He doesn’t want to wake the old man up in case he’s already sleeping and possibly cause another ruckus if ever.

“Mom…” his mother still has a trace of exhaustion on her face when she turns to him, concealing it with a tiny smile. There’s just her and a maid who’s about to finish putting things back to their places when he arrived and of course, his father who’s now sleeping on the bed.

Soo would lie if he says the sight of the Chairman looking so agitated even in his sleep doesn’t pinch something in his chest. His father’s still a bit sweaty too, providing him an idea how bad it must’ve been.

They waited for the maid to finish and leave the room before Mrs. Do began explaining.

“He was… restless… throwing things and screaming after Attorney Son spoke to him.” she spoke gently, too careful so her husband won’t wake up.

“Why? What did he tell him?”

“Mr. Nam.” she sighs and looks at Kyungsoo, “I don’t know if you remember him.”

Soo doesn’t respond immediately, staring at the floor to try recalling the name mentioned. It actually rings a bell in his mind, so it’s not too long before he actually remembers it.

“Nam Enterprises? The firm’s biggest rival in the market years ago, I remember.” he can recall his father pulling his dirty business tricks to stay on top of the chain years ago. This name always got involved whenever he’s discussing strategic plans with his advisers. Soo remembers eavesdropping and thinking how pathetic it was. But now that he got older and exposed to how the business world really works, it actually makes sense to him.

“Well…” his mother smiles in defeat, “he’s a major stock holder for the firm now.” she glances back at her husband when Soo turns to her in disbelief, “KJI appointed him in the board of directors.”

“Jongin—” he almost chokes on his own words, “I mean… Kai agreed?”

His mother doesn’t seem to notice it, simply nodding in response.

“The firm got so much better since KJI handled it… I trust President Kim’s plans.” she lets out another heavy sigh, “It’s just your Dad. He’s finding it hard to accept every change on the company.”

It takes a while for him to process the news. His mother had proceeded to stand beside his Dad’s bed to wipe his face with a towel.

So his father got too worked up by hearing about his old rival being the firm’s new board member? It may be hard to believe, but Soo finds himself understanding where he’s coming from. They don’t own the firm now, Jongin does. He has the full right to decide who to sell the stocks of the company to. But it was his father’s rival. Everyone knows that.

Why was it too easy for him to open their firm to people who used to want to bring it down?

He wants to think of rational reasons, but he simply ends up frustrated.

“I know it’s hard for him, Soo. The firm belonged to our family from the start. It’s his blood and sweat, that company.” his mother speaks again when he fell unusually silent, “But now we don’t have the right over it anymore. At least, not yet. I don’t know how to make your father understand that there’s nothing we can do about it as of now.”

But they’d get the firm back, right? Soo thinks to himself; they should get it back in the end. Was it hard for Jongin to actually consult them first before doing such drastic change on the company his father built and his family values so much?

“Mom.” Sukyung slightly parts the door to call their mother so Soo wasn’t allowed to respond to what she said anymore, “The doctor’s outside.”

She nods and turns to her son, who nods reassuringly.

“I’ll stay here.”

His mother followed Sukyung outside to talk to the doctor that arrived. Soo proceeds to think about the said news again while he stand right beside his father. His deep thought only gets interrupted when he feels him shifting on the bed. Soo stiffens when he slowly opens his eyes. He might never get used to being in the same room with just him and his Dad.

“Do you feel fine now?” he asks when the Chairman’s eyes settled on his face, “The doctor’s coming—”

His sentence got cut off when his father reached for his wrist and firmly grips it, as if desperate. Soo looks at his face and sees his distressed expression again.

“Dad...” he tries to gently shake his hand off him but the grip remains firm, “Dad, let go.”

“S-Soo…” he eagerly calls even if it’s obviously too difficult for him to speak because of the stroke he had, “f-fir…firm…S-Soo…”

Kyungsoo gazes down at the hand holding him, then to his father’s glistening eyes. He sighs hopelessly.

“You don’t own it anymore. We can’t do anything.” he says but his father begins crying again, continuously shaking his head.

“F-Firm…our…” he repeats while trying to move his paralyzed jaw, “S-Soo I-I beg…”

Soo has no choice but to hold his father’s hand to remove it from his wrist, but the old man won’t stop wailing. It becomes harder for his son to look at him in the eye without crumbling down.

“Listen to me.” he says, sounding the gentlest he could. “We don’t own in now. We don’t have any right over it anymore.”

His father struggles to form proper words, but his message isn’t hard to figure out. His begging eyes and the way he desperately holds Kyungsoo’s hand as if he’s his only hope already say a lot. Out of the grudge he held, Soo would always visualize his father begging him before. He used to think it would make him happy but right now, it’s far from satisfying.

“Be patient, Dad, please. I’m on it. We’ll get it back.” he tries to keep his voice from breaking when the Chairman looks helpless while crying on the bed, “I promise you, we’ll get it back. Just… not that fast. You have to get better first.”

His father looks right into his eyes while tears still brim on his own.

“Sh-Should… yours…” Soo feels his heart falling when he instantly understood the barely coherent words. He had to gulp hard, “S-Should be y-yours… S-Sukyung…”

It should be yours. It should be Sukyung’s.

Soo fights the tears from falling. He doesn’t want to add more weight to his father’s chest when he sees him being hopeless too. He should be here to make things right, remember?

“I know… I know.” for the first time since he could remember, he reaches out for the Chairman’s hand as assurance. “We’ll get it back… I-I’m working on it.”

Anyone may consider it as nothing but a way to calm his father down, but Kyungsoo knows well enough that it’s so much more than that. It’s a promise. A promise that he’ll do what he came back here for, and he’s not the type to break one.

His father nodded, face still tears-stained even when his son already let go as the doctor went in. Since then, he didn’t go to another hysteria and remained on his bed while the doctor checked on him, his gaze following the young man who silently walked out of his room after giving him the assurance he needed.

  

x

“Is President Kim there?”

As soon as he heard that the CEO dropped by the firm, Soo gathered all his courage and went straight to his office. The man had been busy in KJI for a few days and Soo even heard he’s leaving again soon. He has to talk to him now. He’s been wanting answers.

“Yes, Sir…” one of the secretaries on duty tells him, “Although he has another meeting in ten minutes.”

Kyungsoo takes another glance at the office door. Aside from the fact that they never talk if it isn’t work-related or in the middle of heated sex, he can’t believe he was also in hysterics the last time he went there to talk about his family’s firm. It was the first time seeing Jongin again after eight years and it might’ve added to the anger he was fostering. It seems so long ago now. But while he tries to remember the words he was shouting at the businessman then, he realized how much he’d forgotten why he was mad for.

It feels so long ago now, but Kyungsoo still doesn’t have any idea what Jongin plans for their firm. Why he wanted it in the first place.

Aside from being preoccupied by so many unnecessary things, he feels like the right to demand answers was also taken away along with the company.

“Can I just talk to him for a while?” he asks the same secretary, “I just want to ask something.”

The girl briefly pauses. Just as the designer expected, she seems reluctant about letting him in. Their boss was a very busy man, after all.

“Would you like us to relay the message instead, Sir?”

“It’s… quite important, and confidential.” Soo responds, feeling slightly embarrassed for some reason. “But if he’s really busy then—”

“Kyung?”

Both Soo and the secretary turn to see Junmyeon slowing down on his way to the CEO’s office too. It seems like the manager instantly understood the dilemma by just reading his expression. As signal, he simply nods once at the secretary before smiling at Kyungsoo.

“Go on.” he slightly tilts his head towards the direction of Jongin’s office.

“Thank you, Junmyeon…” Soo gives him a smile before stepping inside the room.

Jongin is in the middle of reading a bunch of paperwork, brows slightly creased. He only looks up when he hears his office door closing. His features relax after seeing the designer who appears smaller compared to the tall walls of his office.

“Soo?” the businessman instantly puts down the contract he’s holding, looking a bit surprised that the shorter paid him a visit. “What is it?”

He suddenly doesn’t know where to start. What should he do after he confirms it then? Bow and say thanks for sparing an employee like him a minute?

“I just… want to ask something.”

Jongin simply stares at him. Kyungsoo’s knees wobble a little from the gesture, he almost forgot he’s waiting for him to continue.

“Is it true that Nam Sangwon is now a board member for the firm?” he asks and sees the way Jongin’s brows droop down into place.

He lets out a sigh before seriously looking at the designer.

“How did you know?”

Soo confirms it by then. So it’s true. What now? What is he supposed to tell him, then?

“It…” he pauses to stop the bitter smile slowly etching on his lips, “it reached my father, actually.”

Instead of answering, Jongin seems to be anticipating for more words from him. His eyes linger on the other like he’s trying to read his mind. With this, Soo takes a very subtle gulp and keeps his neutral expression the same.

“I just want to clarify it myself. That’s it.” he repeats after Jongin’s silence. He probably doesn’t expect Soo to bring up business-related things and technicalities. Soo can’t blame him. He never liked such things, even before.

Jongin nods, “Yes.”

The designer blinks a few times, pursing his lips into a thin line before asking again.

“Why?” he couldn’t conceal the hint of disbelief in his voice so he stops for a moment, “You know h-he was…”

“I know…” Jongin says, looking conflicted about how he should start explaining. Soo remains on his post, willing to wait.

“It was majority of the board’s decision, Soo.” Jongin sounds different from his usual cocky and playful self when he’s using that business tone on him. Soo can’t decide which one he likes more, “The feud between your father and Nam Enterprises is in the past now. It should not be involved on the board’s decision, especially if it’s for the betterment of the firm.”

After he spoke, the designer feels even more ashamed, so he simply nods as a response. No matter where he looks at it, Jongin has a better point.

Soo fights the urge to let out a chuckle of disbelief and sink down on where his feet stood. He can’t believe he had the guts to barge in here, ask the company’s CEO about the decisions he made for the firm he completely owns now. Question strategies that a successful business magnate such as Jongin knows better than anyone, certainly.

For his father, he managed to initiate a full and proper conversation with the said man, stepping down from the bricks of pride he built on his own for so long. He went here holding on to nothing but the memory of his father begging him a few days back. It made him mindlessly do things.

He did that.

Soo should’ve reminded himself of his place before coming in this office. He should’ve remembered what this deal demands him to do; wait and do whatever Jongin wants until he gets his family’s firm back when it’s due. So what is he doing here? Why does he feel like he could magically solve all their family’s problems just because sleeping with his boss gave him a bit sense of entitlement?

He looks down on the floor.

“S-Sure…” he says with an uneasy chuckle when the CEO’s eyes linger on him, “Just… maybe next time, let me know first?”

Not in a single bit did he like how the last few words sounded so he instantly rambles words to elaborate them even without Jongin asking.

“I know you’re in charge of the firm now… but, I just want to make sure news like this won’t ever reach my father again. He’s not really taking it lightly.” Soo speaks further before flashing a small, formal smile.

Jongin watches his face intently. He still looks conflicted over something, and Kyungsoo’s smile made him exhale another deep sigh.

“Of course. I understand.” he nods reassuringly, “I’ll do that.”

The designer nods back while fiddling his hands in front of him.

“Thanks… that’s all.” he says and turns away.

“Soo…”

Jongin sounded gentle, almost reluctant even. But it’s enough to make him stop and breathe first before looking back once more.

“Yes?” Soo asks when he caught Jongin parting his lips to say something only to close them again. He mindlessly glances back to the pile of contracts on his table as if he’ll find the courage there.

In the end, he looks at Soo and says it anyway.

“I’ll be leaving for Singapore tonight, just a couple of days…” he says, gaze weighing. “But if… you need anything, just ask Junmyeon to relay it to me.”

Soo doesn’t understand why in the world his heart has gone frantic against his chest.

“Okay.” he nods before gulping, “Safe flight.”

They looked at each other for a brief moment that surely felt longer, because Soo was rushing out of the office as soon as he broke contact. He barely acknowledged Junmyeon whom he passed by on his way back to his cubicle, a little short of breath.

So that’s how a person act like an employee when he’s not being either a snotty antagonist or a cheap personal whore. Life-changing.

At the remainder of the day, Soo took the chance to finish his designs for the Amsterdam project. A sudden inspiration struck him hard out of nowhere that he needed to execute his ideas, fearing they’d be gone any second. He furiously sketched until his hand hurt. When he finished, there’s only a few employees left in the office.

He leaned back on his chair, smiling down at the design on his table. Soo felt the work satisfaction he barely feels in his career in this firm. That sense of freedom while looking at your own heart and mind on your sketch.

With that, he carefully sneaked it in his binder. The work lamp got turned off last before Soo made his way out of the office, his coat clinging on his arm.

Now he slows down as he walks past the hall leading to the CEO’s office, just where he was hours ago. Despite the secretaries still working tirelessly, he assumes the boss had already left for his flight. Soo takes another glance at it, then continues to walk towards where the elevator is. When he gets closer to the empty hall where the executive’s offices and VIP elevators are, he yelps in shock as he gets pulled by the hand.

Kyungsoo barely gets to react because of how fast it came about, that he only got his shit together when he’s already inside the confined VIP elevator while Jongin stands an inch away from him. Soo’s already round eyes rounded even more.

“Jongin, what are you—” he gets cut off by a swift kiss on his mouth, catching him off-guard. It doesn’t take too long for Soo to respond back with the same intensity, caging Jongin’s face between his hands while the taller keeps him trapped by the waist.

“Damn it.” Jongin cusses under his breath in between briefly pulling away. The former chaebol child soon realized that the VIP elevators don’t have cameras inside, hence this sudden stolen moment before Jongin leaves. But even so, the thought of being caught do not seem to scare him nor even matter in the first place. He holds Jongin close to him, unable to get enough of whatever he’s given, as always.

When the lift gets closer to the basement parking lot, Soo surprisingly takes initiative to pull away, gazing up at the CEO who already has his eyes on him while their noses still brush lightly against one another. Jongin runs a thumb on his cheek before slipping a card in his other hand.

Soo looks down at the metallic-colored card, glancing up again in confusion. “W-What’s this…”

“Penthouse access.” Jongin takes another peck on his lips as he mumbles, “Stay there whenever you want.”

Soo can’t help smiling while gazing up. When Jongin’s lips curve into a little grin, he pulls him again for one last, firm kiss. It becomes a little longer as the shorter refuses to let go of him even when the elevator doors slide open.

“Soo, I need to go.” Jongin says, still sporting that little smile despite being out of breath. “I’ll be back soon.”

Kyungsoo simply nods in response, following him out of the elevator before it closes again. The two part ways right after going out, just in case someone’s around. Though Kyungsoo stops on a certain spot and watches the CEO walk towards the exclusive convoy, looking behind once to see him too before he gets in the car.

The cars drove away, and as much as Soo wants to let his suppressed smile show again, he holds it back upon seeing Baekhyun in the same parking lot. The designer resumes to causally finding his way out when they catch each other’s gaze. Baekhyun doesn’t smile either, but it completely went unnoticed how his gaze travelled from the cars that left then to his former best friend who’s walking back to the building entrance. His lips purse before getting in his own car.

It’s safe to say Kyungsoo is completely out of his mind. He had let the thought of Jongin taking the time to bid him goodbye before he goes away for a few days linger in his mind and make him smile like an idiot on his way home. He wasted no time when he went straight to the businessman’s penthouse and enjoyed it like he was told. He slept on the same bed where he’s being touched many nights ago, being kissed like that one in the lift a few hours ago. He hugged a bunch of his pillows in his slumber, warmed by the faint scent that lingered on them. He just couldn’t get enough.

In the deepest part of his mind, Soo refuses to acknowledge the fact that he’s longing for someone who’s not even his to begin with. And he lets it happen, so wholeheartedly.

  

x

First thing in the morning of a damn Monday, the last thing he expected was to get spilled by hot coffee.

“Ah!” Soo doesn’t immediately recognize the woman that caused it, gazing down at his shirt with coffee stain and the prickling hot sensation on the skin of his torso. He hisses in pain but out of adrenaline, he pulls the wet fabric away from sticking on his skin.

Kyungsoo never liked the idea of arguing with someone in public because of an accident but now it’s just really difficult to keep himself from doing exactly that. Especially upon seeing no remorse from the face of the woman who did it.

But when he realized who it is after all, he’s not really surprised.

“Oh no.” Soojung lets out an obviously fake gasp, “Sorry…”

Kyungsoo simply stares at her, keeping mum so he wouldn’t say anything he’d regret. Someone wouldn’t be so terrible enough to intentionally spill a boiling water on another person b