Doyoung thinks there must be something poetic about the plants he grows in his home. They're all indoor plants, small and manageable because he could never bring more responsibility upon himself than that.
The plants were an attempt. At what, Doyoung doesn't know; perhaps to liven up his life, a little splash of color here and there. Perhaps to prove himself he could take care of something, anything. Perhaps he just liked green. And that's where the metaphor begins, he thinks. Because as it so happens, not a single one of the small plants he has in his apartment makes it past a month. They all die, miserable and short-lived plants.
He still tries, of course he does, because Kim Doyoung is not a quitter. He may be a failure, but he has too much pride to be a quitter.
And so, every morning, he sprays his plants with water, making sure each little—yellow and decaying—petal gets a drop or two. Surely they’ll liven up any day now. And if they don't, Doyoung can just buy some more.
A meow is heard from next to the windowsill, agreeing with Doyoung. “That's right, BonBon,” he scratches the tabby cat behind the ears, earning a soft, rumbling purr. “We’re not quitters.”
Jaehyun shrugs, shoulders sagged, "I'm quitting, this is my two weeks notice."
"I… Jaehyun?" Junmyeon says, "What is this about? Are you gonna work for someone else?”
"No, no, it's not anything like that."
"Are you having trouble with any of your co-workers?" he presses on. Jaehyun knows this must come as a shock to his boss—Jung Jaehyun is the best worker Junmyeon's had in years. It's not his boss' fault, really, he's great.
"No," he shakes his head, a strand of brown hair falling in front of his eyes, highlighting his boyish features. "I just need a change of scenery."
"What does that mean?"
"It means working in an office is sucking the life out of me, Junmyeon."
"Oh," he closes his mouth with a nod. After a pause, Junmyeon sighs, "Ok. We'll throw you a farewell party then."
Jaehyun smiles, "I like peach cake."
"I know," Junmyeon rolls his eyes in good-nature, going back to his task at hand, always quick and sharp, not looking at Jaehyun as he leaves the pristine office.
In truth, Jaehyun would have wanted to just quit and leave on the spot, never to come back to the place he's called work for the past three years. It would cause much trouble for the tech team and Jaehyun isn't enough of an asshole to do that. His soul can endure two more weeks, hopefully.
He goes back to his cubicle, the squeak of his office chair loud enough for Taeyong to peek out his head from the other side. "How'd it go?"
"It went okay," he says, thinking for a second, "The boss is gonna miss me."
"I’m still going to be around," Taeyong points out, "I'm the best worker he has, anyway,"
"I disagree with that," Jaehyun raises an eyebrow, doodling on the notepad in front of him, mindless.
"What now?" the other says instead. Taeyong is not only his co-worker—now that freedom is in the distance, future ex-coworker, Jaehyun supposes—but he is also one of his closest friends. "What's next in the Jaehyun Finds Happiness project?"
Jaehyun leans back on his chair, the sleeves of his white shirt folded up to his elbows, "I'm getting BonBon back."
"That's not what your therapist said."
"My therapist asks for fifty bucks an hour, I think she should indulge me once in a while."
"And that's definitely not how therapy works."
"I'm taking my life back, Taeyong. I'm starting fresh and new. BonBon is part of that new life, I miss her.”
"Well, I hope you have money for a lawyer," Taeyong says, eyes back on his laptop screen. "We both know he’s not going to give her up easily.”
“Tteokkboki?” Doyoung takes off the satchel from his shoulder, throwing it atop his couch. A small brown paper bag wafts the warm aroma of gochujang in the air.
“Yes, please, I’m starving,” Jungwoo groans, patting his stomach. Jungwoo is always hungry, much to Doyoung’s chagrin as he’s the one who ends up paying for their food most of the time. Unlike Jungwoo’s stomach, his wallet isn’t a bottomless pit.
“You had lunch two hours ago, how can you be starving?”
“I need sustenance,” Jungwoo says, not waiting for Doyoung and opening the bag by himself. “I’m a growing boy.”
“You're twenty-six years old, there's nothing left to grow. Unless you count your belly, which by all means, go ahead,” Doyoung sniffs, although, what he says is a lie, ever since he was little, Jungwoo would eat to his heart’s content, never gaining a single ounce of fat. Doyoung used to be like that too, now, however, as he grows older and closer to thirty than twenty, he notices his cheeks getting rounder the more he orders take out. It’s not like he can help it, he’s a busy adult with long work days and little time to cook. “It’s okay, just work out tomorrow,” he reassures himself out loud before taking the first bite of the hot tteokbokki. And if he grows fat, then shouldn’t Doyoung just let it be?
“Food is happiness,” Jungwoo says with a simple mind, mouth full of rice cake. Doyoung hums in agreement. At least on that, the pair of cousins can agree. Food is happiness indeed.
“How’s grad school going?” he asks in between bites, “Your paper going well?”
Jungwoo shrugs, “It’s okay, boring as usual. Busy sometimes, but I’m managing.”
“You’ll do great,” he’s not worried about Jungwoo, even if his cousin can be goofy at times, he always pulls through when he needs to.
“What about you? How are you?”
“Work is really busy too,” he sighs, leaning back on his chair, “But I can smell a promotion in the air, I’m excited.”
“I’m glad,” Jungwoo looks at him, eyes wide and knowing, as always, “But I’m asking about you, not work. How are you doing?”
Doyoung shrugs, “What do you mean? I’m feeling great, I started yoga recently. The place is only a few blocks away. It’s full of old people but it’s been great for my back.”
He thinks Jungwoo knows him better than most, part best friend, part cousin, he’s the one that’s been there all along for Doyoung, since they were in diapers and only knew how to babble in their mothes’ arms. For that, Jungwoo doesn’t press further, but Doyoung has gotten the point.
Doyoung would like to believe he is doing okay, work is good and his health is fine, is there more to ask for?
“What about dating? Have you thought about dating again?”
“No.” He shakes his head, eating the last tteokbokki, “I don’t want that. Not right now and not any time soon.” He can see Jungwoo hold his tongue but Doyoung’s words hold an edge that wasn't there before, an edge that only comes with a name and a face.
But as they say, talk of the devil and the devil shall come. Doyoung sees it as soon as it slides through the slit of the apartment door, even as he sits and ignores the thoughts that come from Jungwoo’s prodding. A piece of paper slides through the door.
Doyoung looks on for a second, confused, before standing up and rushing to get the paper in his hands. He’s always had a good sixth sense and right now, all he feels is dread.
He picks up the letter but doesn’t unfold it, instead, Doyoung opens the door in a rush in hopes he can catch a glimpse of the culprit. He does, sort of: a flash of plaid shirt and dark jeans, the back of a running silhouette that is engraved in his mind.
“Jaehyun!” he yells from across the now empty hallway. Just the mere thought of that man plotting something in his premises makes Doyoung’s stomach tighten. He frowns, opening the letter that has been sent to him.
The light traces of a messily erased Dear can still be seen underneath his name, making Doyoung roll his eyes.
This is your final unofficial warning before my legal team contacts you: give me BonBon Jung back. This is not a request but a demand. If you return her to me before the week, we can peacefully set this aside. If not, I will consider her kidnapped and I will take you to COURT.
Regards, Jaehyun Jung-Kim.
“I hate him,” he mutters, hands shaking as he crumples the paper into a small ball, “He knows it's Kim-Jung. It's legally Kim-Jung."
There are three things one must know to understand the situation.
The first one is: Jaehyun is Doyoung’s ex-husband. Tragically, embarrassingly so.
It’s been little over a year since their separation, since Jaehyun moved out of their apartment, boxes in hand. One of those boxes had Doyoung’s favorite cashmere turtleneck in it, but he swears he’s not petty about it. He could ask Jaehyun for it but that would mean - well, that would mean more contact with the man than Doyoung allows himself. Unlike Jaehyun, Doyoung has pride and self-respect in the face of his ex-husband.
Now, the second fact one must understand is a little more ambiguous, a little bit more muddy. Is BonBon the cat technically Jaehyun’s? Perhaps.
He’d gotten him on a rainy April afternoon from the friend of a friend, back when they were still dating, around six years ago. It was a few months before they moved in together although Doyoung already spent most of his time in Jaehyun’s cramped apartment.
“Doyoung!” he yelled as soon as he entered the place, raincoat soaked and chocolate hair sticking to his forehead with rain water. “Look at what I got.”
Doyoung had looked up from his notes, curious as to what could possibly warrant Jaehyun to sound so ecstatic during midterm week. “Please say you ordered take-out.”
“No. But we should, I want Chinese,” he had paused for a second and then—“Ta-da,” a tiny, fluffy head peeked out from the collar of Jaehyun’s sweater.
“A baby cat,” he gasped as Jaehyun walked up to him, taking out the small animal from his sweater.
“They’re called kittens, Doie, but yeah, a baby cat,” he had smiled and swooped in to steal a kiss from Doyoung before leaving to get a towel to dry himself. Jaehyun’s new friend was placed on the sofa, looking unbearably small amongst the cushions. The cat looked at Doyoung and Doyoung looked back, blinking.
He had never cared much for cats and he knew that Jaehyun was more of a dog person, the cat was surprising as was unexpected.
That night, as they cuddled and Doyoung attempted to big-spoon Jaehyun, there was a bothersome and clingy cat between them (BonBon, Jaehyun decided to call her BonBon), she made herself into a purring ball of fur, right next to Jaehyun’s face, who only cooed, a deep dimple on his cheek. Man and cat had bonded.
So, yes. Jaehyun was the one who brought BonBon into their life. But that was the thing, he brought her into their life, Doyoung has had to scoop poop and brush hair during shedding season, he’s had to spend money on food and vet appointments and tiny, ridiculous holiday outfits for her to wear on Christmas. Along the way, BonBon has learned who the better owner is: Doyoung. Bonbon loves him the most and Doyoung loves her the same. Jaehyun became the third-wheel.
“What are you gonna do now?” Yuta asks as he lazes around their shared office, yawning, “He said he’s gonna bring in a lawyer.”
He brushes Yuta off, “He’s not going to hire a lawyer, Yuta, he can’t afford it. Why do you think we’re still married?” he gags.
There is a third thing one must know about Doyoung and Jaehyun: technically, they’re still together. Because lawyers are expensive. And the divorce process is long. And they still need to pay student debt. Taxes are cheaper as a couple too.
“I can think of a few reasons why,” Yuta rolls his eyes.
Doyoung nods, “Exactly. That man is just trying to threaten me. As if he doesn’t know me. How dare he threaten me?”
“You know, why don’t you just—give him the cat?”
“Never. BonBon is mine! She’s my everything, Yuta. Jaehyun just wants to take her from me like he took everything else, he’s an awful, petty, evil, horrible person. I would rather drop dead than let him take the last thing I have going on for me.”
“I—” Yuta scrunches his nose, “You’re being dramatic.”
“You’re saying that because you’re still friends, I know about you hanging out with him and Johnny on Fridays.”
“You divorced him, not me,” he pauses, “Actually, you didn’t even divorce him. And he didn’t take anything from you.”
“You know what the point is here?” Doyoung ignores him, “Legally, Jaehyun can’t take BonBon from me. Because we’re still married. How the hell does someone take their spouse to court?”
“I don’t know Doyoung, but I’m sure you and Jaehyun will find out. You two always do.”
Jaehyun's Project to Happiness has been in the making for the past four months. After a rut of feeling stuck in life, Jaehyun decided to move on, to start fresh. He's still young, only twenty-seven! So much to do, so much to feel, to see!
The first step had been to quit his job. Easy-breezy. Check.
Arguably, the second step is a little harder: get his little adorable, lovely baby cat, BonBon back. BonBon, with her cream coat and pink nose and blue eyes, is the one good thing Jaehyun has had, the one good thing he's ever done. He misses her and the way BonBon would curl up near his feet during winter to keep him warm, the way she would lazily walk into the kitchen in the mornings as the aroma of whatever breakfast Jaehyun was cooking wafted into their bedroom, Doyoung in tow—
Right. The one person standing in between Jaehyun and happiness and his cat had to be the devil incarnate himself: Kim Doyoung.
Kim Doyoung. Inflexible, impatient, control freak Kim Doyoung, with his insatiable chronic sarcasm and constant whining. Sometimes, looking back on it, Jaehyun can't comprehend the sheer fact he was married to the man for two years, even dated him a total of four before they tied the knot. Those four years should've been warning enough, but then again, youth is blind and restless, and no one had dared to question why Kim Doyoung and Jung Jaehyun decided to marry so young. Twenty-five and twenty-four now sound like a joke to his ears. Back then it had made sense, not only to them but to anyone who knew them. Neither of them had ever been the type to wait or beat around the bush anyway, they knew what they wanted and how they wanted it.
"We're going to get married, right?" Doyoung had said one springtime afternoon when they started making dinner - it was one of the rare weekdays neither of them had classes or homework. They liked doing stuff together, whether it was taking up a new hobby that Doyoung had found on Youtube or cooking a recipe Jaehyun had learned through Taeyong, days were effortless and so was their relationship. Nothing had ever come as easy to Jaehyun as Kim Doyoung.
And so, the question Doyoung posed made sense to him, he didn't blink nor thought of it twice, it was just another fact of life. Water is wet made less sense to him than spending the rest of his life with Doyoung.
"I like autumn," he had said, "Just a little before it starts getting cold. How about autumn?"
"I like it too," Doyoung had hummed. His words were blasé and airy, as if cutting carrots was more important than whatever casual conversation they were having. Out of the corner of his eye, however, Jaehyun saw Doyoung smile, his lips curling up in sweet contentment and Jaehyun's heart had bloomed just like it did every day spent with Doyoung.
BonBon had meowed at that moment, surprising them both as she rubbed himself in between Doyoung's bare legs. "You're such a needy cat," Doyoung had rolled his eyes, kneeling down to feed her a piece of carrot. The cat smelled it for a few seconds before yawning and leaving Doyoung hanging. Jaehyun laughed at him afterwards and he remembers thinking, yes, I want this for the rest of my life.
"I want my cat back," he says, eyebrows scrunched up, looking at the wall in front of him. "I miss her and this isn’t fair.”
“Life’s tough,” Johnny says, his eyes on the TV screen in front of him, game controller in his hands. “Just let him keep her, man. You know Doyoung, he’s never going to let you have her.”
“Exactly,” he munches on his chips, “Doyoung is a spoiled brat, I’m not going to be one of the many losers that let him have his way."
"You say that as if you were not that loser for years," Yuta says, his avatar overtaking Johnny before shooting him in the head. "Ha!"
"Fuck," Johnny whines before draping himself all over the couch in defeat.
"I've never been that loser," Jaehyun crosses his arms, "That's why he liked me."
Johnny gags, looking up with a ghastly expression, "You're so dumb."
"I do have to say," Yuta says as he stands up, blowing hair out of his face, "You've been looking livelier since you decided you wanted your cat back, Jaehyun. It's like you have a sense of purpose again."
"That's true," Johnny mumbles, "It's nice to see you want to fight Doyoung, you're fun that way."
Jaehyun only hums as a reply, taking the controller from Johnny before starting a round against Yuta, their reigning champion. He won't admit it to his friends, but Jaehyun's past year has been the absolute worst, at least emotionally.
"It's my Happiness Project, it's working," he shrugs, "I'm a genius sometimes."
Happiness is achievable, according to Jung Jaehyun. He might write a book after this. As soon as he knows how to beat Doyoung in his own game, anyway. He's got an incredible advantage though: Doyoung might be evil and smart, but no one in the world knows his ex-husband better than Jaehyun, that's got to count for something.
"Are you really going to sue him?" Yuta asks.
"I don't have money for that." Jaehyun waves him away, "But one has to show dominance, have the upper hand.”
"What if he sues you back?"
"Can he... Can he do that?" Jaehyun pauses, alarmed for a second. "On what grounds?"
"I don't know. Emotional damage."
"Then he might as well go to prison too."
"You're awful. Anyway, I'm having lunch with Doyoung on Friday, do you need me to relay a message to him?" Johnny says. "Or do you plan on communicating with him via letters with newspaper cutouts from now on?"
"It's fine, I've said what I had to say. It's time I start the second and final phase of my Rescuing BonBon plan."
"And what's that?"
When Doyoung wakes up, his feet are cold. His heater has been broken for almost a year now but Doyoung only remembers this fact when winter approaches with no mercy and his room has to suffer the New York subzero temperatures.
"Damn it," his teeth chatter and Doyoung pulls up his blankets with a frown, covering his head in a makeshift cocoon. He whines, "BonBon, what are you good for? Where are you?" It seems that BonBon has opted to sleep in the cat bed for once in her lifetime, leaving Doyoung's feet desolate and freezing. He sighs, grumbling before taking the blanket off himself.
"I hate Mondays," he sighs to himself. Mondays are usually terrible, but even more so when mornings are freezing and silent. Doyoung reaches for the other side of the bed, where the bedsheets are even colder. His bed is much too big for one person, but it's not like he minds having the extra space, Jaehyun had always hogged both sides of the bed. A perk of being single, he supposes.
Usually, Doyoung doesn't have spare time in the mornings to make a proper breakfast, today, however, as the cold woke him up several minutes before his alarm went off, he has time to cook eggs and burnt toast. It's better than nothing and it's been a while since he had warm food so early in the morning.
"Pfft," he finishes eating, drowsy with sleep again but forcing himself awake, mornings are so quiet. Mornings are so boring.
And so, after he fills BonBon's bowls with food and water and takes the flight downstairs to face the terrible cold weather of late November, Doyoung expects it to be like every other quiet, awfully early morning on his way to work.
As he steps out into the street, he certainly doesn't expect to see his ex-husband leaning against the brick wall of his apartment, nose red from the cold.
"Agh!" Doyoung yells at the image of Jung Jaehyun so early in the morning and he takes a step back in recoil. For a second, Jaehyun jumps in surprise too before recovering, his features cool and his hair gelled back to perfection, not a single hair out of place. Doyoung looks at him from head to toe, Jaehyun's black coat and white shirt looking every bit clean and poised as he looks. It's infuriating, it's barely six in the morning.
Doyoung realizes that, aside from seeing his retreating back last week, this is the first time he's seen Jaehyun in months, he almost doesn't look - real. So many years spent together with one person and for Doyoung, Jaehyun's face feels like a dream from long ago. "What the hell are you doing here again?" he asks, eyes wide before taking several steps forward, annoyance dripping with every word. "Are you here to leave one of your little notes again? Or take me to prison, perhaps?"
"Ah, ha-ha," Jaehyun steps forward too, as if accepting an unsaid challenge. "Actually, I'm here to tell you to get ready for my lawyers, Doyoung. I waited and you didn't return BonBon, I'm here just to warn you of what's coming."
"I'm - You're still going on about that? With what money? We can't even afford a lawyer!" he shakes his head.
"I'll get the money, don't worry about that. I got a lawyer already."
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
“What’s your lawyer's name?”
Jaehyun pauses for a moment, his features never betraying him. “Youngho,” he says after a second, confident.
“That’s just Johnny’s Korean name,” Doyoung says, backing Jaehyun into the wall behind him with every word and step he takes. “Worry about getting the money for our divorce first, you absolute clown. I want to sign those papers like you have no idea," Doyoung doesn't let Jaehyun reply, he walks away briskly, his own coat fluttering with the morning breeze, getting the last word, like he always does. Jaehyun might say something in the distance, but the conversation is over, Doyoung is walking away, head reeling in annoyance.
Trying to threaten Doyoung? That man has guts! Jung Jaehyun has always been arrogant and emotionally manipulative, a whole brat, but this is ridiculous, this is too much. He curses, he really curses, the day he met Jaehyun.
Doyoung doesn’t believe in love at first sight, he’s never done so, even back then.
He had met Jaehyun when he was already living in New York. It had been his first year of university and still trying to adjust to living in the big city by himself.
It was the weekend right after final exams. He remembers this because it was Mark, as was usual, who dragged him all the way back to his hometown, a few hours away from the city, for a lame high school party. And of course, it was Mark, who first introduced him to recently graduated senior Jaehyun.
To say it was love at first sight would be an overstatement. It wasn’t like Jaehyun wasn’t his type, it was just that Doyoung didn’t have a type and if he did, Jaehyun would not be it.
"Jaehyun, this is my friend Doyoung," Mark had smoothly said before downing a red solo cup of beer. Doyoung had already seen the younger boy stagger and sway in light dizziness after just a few drinks. High school kids were annoying. "He's really pretty, isn't he? Already in college and everything."
Doyoung had rolled his eyes with a grimace but tried giving a polite nod at the stranger in front of him. "Nice to meet you,” he had said.
"You look like a bunny? A cute one," those had been Jaehyun’s first alcohol-induced words to Doyoung. Doyoung had heard that comment before. He'd never laughed at it and never would. And that's exactly what he told Jaehyun.
"I don't find that funny at all,” he had replied with no qualms, it wasn’t like he cared what a high schooler thought of him. "Even if I were drunk, I wouldn't find it funny."
And then Jaehyun laughed in a light tenor voice and a cheshire smile. Before Doyoung had been able to say anything, before he could realize what was happening, his heart caught in his throat. Adorned with dimples and a soft laugh, Jaehyun’s was a pretty smile, the prettiest Doyoung had ever seen.
The warm touch Jaehyun had left on his shoulder remained there for the rest of the night, churning at Doyoung’s stomach.
He found him endearing, that was the thing, even with that awful bowl haircut and Jaehyun’s arrogant words, Doyoung found him endearing. Perhaps it was not despite them, but because of them that Doyoung found himself attached to Jaehyun’s hip for the rest of the night. He was alluring without trying to, interesting without knowing it so. Beautiful without meaning to.
It wasn’t love at first sight, Doyoung had never believed in that, but maybe, for Jaehyun, he would believe in love at first laugh. At least for a while.
Doyoung gets home late from work on Mondays, Jaehyun knows this because that has been the other's schedule for the past two years since he started working at his current company as a financial advisor. On the other hand, freshly out-of-a-job Jaehyun is a free man with a free schedule and so, it works out perfectly for him.
"Oh, Doyoung, you fool," Jaehyun scoffs after digging through a small potted plant that's placed next to Doyoung's apartment door. There's a key buried not too well under the potting soil and Jaehyun smiles in victory when he finds it. The thing is, this apartment used to be his too, before their not-divorce. It's been a little over a year but it seems not much has changed, Jaehyun would think Doyoung would at least switch their hidden spare key somewhere else, but maybe he's been giving his ex-husband too much credit.
When Jaehyun enters the apartment, all the lights are off and the living room is dark, he has to adjust his eyesight for a few seconds after turning the switch on.
It's the same. Everything about the apartment is the same and something within Jaehyun doesn't know how to feel about it. It even smells like before, like Doyoung's oak candles and fresh laundry from the weekend. He hasn't been here since the day he moved out, but looking around the place makes him feel like he was just here yesterday. "Oh," Jaehyun looks around before realizing how cold the apartment is. "Has he not fixed the heater?" he whispers out loud in annoyance. Leave it to Doyoung to spend New York winters without any kind of heater on.
He's snooping around the living room when a light, soft sound reminds Jaehyun of what he came to do in the first place.
"Meow," BonBon greets, running towards Jaehyun before rubbing her fluffy body against his owner's legs in welcoming manner.
"Baby!" Jaehyun cries out, picking BonBon up and hugging her. His precious BonBon! Reunion, at last! "How are you, BonBon? Do you remember me? I'm your dad," he says, "Your real dad." BonBon only meows in reply but given that she doesn't attack Jaehyun and lets herself be petted, Jaehyun thinks this is as good as he's going to get from a cat.
"How's that demon Doyoung been treating you?" he asks, it's not like he thinks Doyoung has been neglecting BonBon by any means. Doyoung's a responsible person, he'll give him that.
"Meow," BonBon replies before she starts purring and Jaehyun nearly weeps in joy.
"Where's your litter box? I'm stealing that and then we're getting out of here," he looks around the place before remembering Doyoung always preferred putting BonBon's litterbox out on the balcony—he complained whenever Jaehyun forgot to clean it before going to sleep.
You can't really blame Jaehyun, the human brain is curious after all, for taking a small, tiny peek inside the master bedroom, Doyoung's room, their ex room. It's on the way to the balcony, just in front of it, and the door is slightly open. Surely there's no harm, especially if Doyoung won't find out.
So Jaehyun, poor, faultless Jaehyun, tries taking a peek inside.
From behind him, a voice speaks up, "What the fuck are you doing here, Jung?"
Is Doyoung surprised? No, he's not, he's absolutely not. He knows Jaehyun and this is exactly the kind of ridiculous shit he pulls whenever he doesn't get his way.
"What are you doing here?" he repeats, catching Jaehyun off-guard. "Do you want me to call the police?"
Jaehyun, wide-eyed and mouth hanging open, can only stare back at him with no words. He wasn't expecting to meet Doyoung at this hour, that was for sure. Normally, he wouldn't, Doyoung gets off at nine on Mondays. Call it a terrible fate that today of all days he got a headache and decided to clock out earlier than usual - horrible, horrible fate.
He takes in Jaehyun's person, a disheveled mess far different from the man he tried pretending to be this morning when he ambushed Doyoung. This Jaehyun is wearing shorts and a band t-shirt, an old hoodie, hair down and unstyled. This is the Jaehyun he remembers most, the Jaehyun that Doyoung knows like the back of his hand.
"I'm here for BonBon," Jaehyun says at last, voice unwavering. "If coming to pick up my own cat is a crime then so be it."
"The lease is in both of our names, this is my apartment too."
"Jaehyun, leave. Right fucking now."
"As soon as I have BonBon I will," Jaehyun makes way towards the living room before Doyoung can stop him, walking swiftly past him.
"BonBon doesn't want to go with you. She doesn't even remember you!" Doyoung follows, breathing down Jaehyun's neck.
"And whose fault is that, Doyoung?" Jaehyun turns around, voice loud. Doyoung can tell he's angry, his cheeks burning with red. "You haven't let me see her once since I left."
Jaehyun's strained voice takes him back. Back to their last months, when the apartment was filled with either silence or fights, no in-between, when the tension was high and their jobs left them restless and tense and all Doyoung could do was let it out on Jaehyun, who always gave back as good as he got. Because Jaehyun was never one to back down or to be pushed around, Doyoung knew that from the start, Doyoung liked that about him. He just didn't know he'd be the one to face the bad end of it some day.
"You left her here," Doyoung says with as much force, hands balled up in a fist, "You didn't take her with you when you left. You left your cat here."
“Don't act like I didn't come back for her, you know I did. You know I tried.”
“I—” he turns to look at the cat. Why should BonBon go with Jaehyun when she’s perfectly content with Doyoung, he treats her better than he ever did, better than he ever could. “BonBon?”
He turns around, checking to see if she’s anywhere on the couch. When he sees nothing, Doyoung feels a dreadful chill run down his spine, cold and sharp.
“BonBon?” Jaehyun asks too, as if sensing the same as Doyoung.
“The door is open,” Doyoung realizes before crying out in horror. “Why is the door open?”
“You left it open.”
God, BonBon must've left while they were arguing, that cat never misses a chance to run away through the front door and into the streets. "Jaehyun—She ran away, she always does this and it's nighttime." BonBon is so tiny and there's so much traffic at this hour and she never knows how to get home on her own and someone's gonna run her over and—
"Doyoung," Jaehyun says, walking up to him, firm, as if he knows the cloudy turmoil that's going inside Doyoung's head right now. "Calm down. We'll go and find her, she can't be far away, she's too dumb"
Doyoung, reluctant at Jaehyun's words, nods. "She likes going to the park."
"Did you bring your car?"
Jaehyun's eyes shift and Doyoung instantly gets a headache without the other saying another word. "You didn't."
"I—No," he says, "I brought my bike though."
"Your bike?" Doyoung asks. What did he ever do to deserve this?
Jaehyun's back straightens up, like a peacock, defense mode activated at Doyoung's words, "I didn't want your neighbors seeing my car parked outside and telling you I was here."
Doyoung rubs his temples, "Whatever, we can just ride around the block until we get to the park, it'll be easier to find her that way."
They stay silent as they make their way out of the apartment building, the chilly air hitting their faces as soon as they step outside. Doyoung grimaces at the thought of BonBon getting cold and lost amongst the cars that pass through the busy avenue. This isn't the first time she leaves like this, but Doyoung particularly hates it when she does it at night when she could easily be run over by any careless New Yorker.
"Stop overthinking," Jaehyun grumbles, leading them to his bike. It's big enough, with a basket at the front, but of course, there's only one seat and Doyoung feels his soul leave his body.
"I'm not riding that standing up, I am not," he backs away from the bike.
"You can walk then?" Jaehyun replies, taking a seat, his legs are bare and Doyoung can't even imagine how cold it must feel right now. It's as if Jaehyun doesn't care if it snows or rains, he's so careless.
"Move," he sniffs in indignation, forcing Jaehyun forward before placing himself at the back, one knee on half of the seat and his hands on Jaehyun's shoulders for support. "I'll look for BonBon, you keep your eyes on the road. I swear to god if we crash I'm making you pay the medical bills."
"Hopefully we just crash and die, it'll be cheaper," Jaehyun grumbles under his breath, Doyoung agrees on the inside but stays silent, already scanning his surroundings for their troublesome cat.
"BonBon," Doyoung yells, cars driving past them, their sound making it harder for his voice to be heard above the mingled noises of wind and cars. The temperature is dropping and it is just now that Doyoung remembers he's still wearing his work clothes: black pants and a thin white dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves. Riding at the back of a bike and screaming at the top of his lungs puts him in the same category of ridicule that Jaehyun is in and Doyoung would like to not think about that. "Pedal faster!" is what he says instead.
"Ngh," Jaehyun complains but does as he is told for once, pedaling faster. Like a little running hamster in his little hamster wheel.
As he mindlessly yells for BonBon and starts getting dizzy, Doyoung also realizes one thing he did not want to realize. This is the first time in over a year he's touching Jaehyun. That spot, where his hands touch Jaehyun's shoulders, is warm. Unlike the weather, his hands are warm and without Doyoung wanting to, the warmth spreads to the rest of his body like comfortable ink that's seeping through his bloodstream, pumping all throughout his body. It's a warmth he's known for so long and yet, it makes him nervous, it makes the pit of his stomach churn and Doyoung wants to stop thinking, please, someone get rid of this stupid, tragic brain of his.
"BonBon!" he yells instead, focusing on the streets once more, getting rid of any thoughts of warmth and soft touches and Jaehyun and—"BonBon!"
"BonBon!" Doyoung calls for the cat. Jaehyun doesn't know what good is it to be yelling the cat's name out loud—she barely listens when she's called over for scratchies and it's not like she'll hear Doyoung's voice and come running to them—but he doesn't voice this, he's a polite man after all.
Instead, Jaehyun is going through an internal crisis. Sure, his cat is lost, trust him, he is worried about dumb BonBon and her whereabouts. But right now, Jaehyun's head is whirring and malfunctioning because, amongst the resentment and the bitterness he feels towards his ex, he forgot one little detail about Doyoung: he's hot. He's hot and attractive, especially when he's wearing button ups. Meanwhile Jaehyun is out there riding a bike in shorts with no money to pay for their divorce, nevermind that he broke into the other's apartment to steal a cat from him.
"Pedal faster!" Doyoung says, breaking Jaehyun out of his reverie.
"Ngh," is all he can mumble out, embarrassed at his own thoughts. At least the lighting is poor at night and Doyoung is probably all but thinking of Jaehyun right now. He tries pedaling faster, finally starting to feel the strain of carrying two full grown men in a single bike, it's a miracle they haven't toppled over.
He feels as Doyoung leans forward, his chest warm against Jaehyun's back and dear god, why is he acting like a teenager? That's his evil ex-husband, not his high school crush. Same thing, a little voice in his head cackles at him.
No! He pulls the brake, stopping the bicycle in front of BonBon's favorite park as the wheels squeak against the asphalt.
"Agh!" Doyoung falls over from the momentum but Jaehyun pays him no mind, he's decidedly not thinking about him anymore, he's here for BonBon and nothing else. "Fucking Jaehyun."
“She should be around here,” he replies, looking around the desolate park instead of looking at Doyoung, who is dusting off imaginary dust from his white shirt.
"Ok, whatever, go search for her over there, I'll go stay around here," Doyoung orders and Jaehyun does as he is told, it makes sense to separate and cover more ground that way, he supposes.
Jaehyun walks towards the other end of the park, relieved that Doyoung made them part ways for a moment. When he's sure he's far away from the other, he brings his hands up to his face, covering it as he groans as if in pain. This wispy feeling of being underwater for a moment and then gasping for air at the surface is engulfing and encompassing and Jaehyun doesn't like it one bit.
There's a truth behind the fiery touches and cutting words, one that Jaehyun doesn't admit with ease, not even to himself. His therapist asked him about it once, what does the Jaehyun's Project to Happiness mean, what is it for? I want to be happy, he had said, as if his expensive therapist should know better than to ask stupid questions.
I want to get over Doyoung, is what he said to himself after rejecting the idea for many weeks after he was asked about it. Because—what was there to get over? It was Jaehyun who had taken the decision to separate, it had been Jaehyun who after many grueling months of suffocation, asked Doyoung to sit down and listen. "We can't do this anymore," he had started. And it had been Doyoung who sobbed and ached, not Jaehyun. Jaehyun remained stoic, his hands on Doyoung's shoulders, firm, grounding him as Doyoung got his heart broken into infinite pieces.
So what was there to be over? It's not like Jaehyun was losing the love of his life, it's not like Jaehyun was taking the hardest decision he'd ever had to make. It's not like Jaehyun thought he'd never feel happiness ever again, the type of happiness that only Kim Doyoung could make him feel.
But he tried, of course he tried, even if in his head it was a losing battle. All he needed was his cat. He missed her dearly, he missed spending lazy mornings with her and the way she would purr with happiness when he scratched behind her ears. Surely, with BonBon by his side Jaehyun would be okay, he would be able to start anew.
But Doyoung, with a single touch and a few mean words and the way he yells for BonBon to come back—it makes Jaehyun take ten steps back, it makes him gasp for air and be honest with himself.
"Meow," BonBon jumps from the playground slide she's curled up in, as if deciding it's time to end Jaehyun's inner suffering.
Jaehyun looks up and relief washes over him as BonBon runs towards him. "Oh, you damn cat," he says out loud and picks her up, fingers around her plush belly. "You've given Doyoung a heart attack, you’re so funny.” But she’s okay, she’s okay, Jaehyun kisses her nose before BonBon yawns, letting herself slump because Jaehyun is carrying her now.
Doyoung said BonBon doesn't remember him, and honestly, he'd believe him if that were true. But BonBon does, she purrs and blinks up at him as if only a single day had passed since they last saw each other, not nearly a year. A fat drop of water falls on his nose, when he looks up Jaehyun sees the night sky has turned gray with clouds of rain, the shining stars that were once up there now covered in a clouded mess that is starting to befall.
He could just run away now—take BonBon and get on his bike and let Doyoung rot here in the park, it's not that far of a trek from here to his apartment. "What do you say, BonBon?" he asks the cat, who looks as oblivious as ever. He wants to say he's surprised when BonBon tries to bite his finger, as if chastising him, but really, this cat has always liked Doyoung to a fault. Jaehyun rolls his eyes before putting BonBon inside his hoodie, covering the small animal with the flimsy fabric.
"Doyoung!" he calls after the other, waving one of his arms so Doyoung can spot them. "Over here!"
The droplets soon become full and cold, the pitter-pattering against the playground's asphalt loud as Jaehyun waits for Doyoung to make their way to them. Doyoung, who runs towards Jaehyun, face still worried and eyes etched in question. Jaehyun lets BonBon peek her head out from the hoodie's collar, her small head just below his and looking at Doyoung with a bored expression on her face. This cat does not give a fuck, Jaehyun thinks.
"BonBon, what the hell," Doyoung says as a greeting, his eyes solely on the cat. He goes to pat her head, relief all over his features. This isn't the first time BonBon has run away, this certainly won't be the last and if it weren't for Doyoung's genuine anguish, Jaehyun would laugh a little in his face.
"What are you laughing at?" Doyoung asks with furrowed eyebrows, his hair getting matted against his forehead with drizzle.
"Sorry, you look so funny wet," is all he says and it earns him a roll of eyes but Jaehyun supposes it's okay if there are no scathing remarks this time. After a beat of silence and before it gets awkward, Jaehyun continues, "Let's go before it starts pouring."
"Where are you putting her?" Doyoung asks as they make their way to Jaehyun's abandoned bicycle. "Just give her to me, you won't be able to drive with her inside your clothes."
"You can drive instead," he proposes with a shrug of shoulders, keeping a hold on BonBon, "I'll keep her dry, it's not like you can." Both of them take a look at Doyoung's shirt, getting wet and sticky and nearly see-through with each moment that they stay under the rain.
Even with the park’s awful lighting and falling droplets, Jaehyun can see Doyoung’s face as it flushes with red, wordlessly walking away from him in indignation. Jaehyun snorts in silence before following him, cat still warm and snuggled inside his clothes.
Doyoung takes Jaehyun’s place at the front of the bicycle, not sparing him a glance even as Jaehyun places one hand on his shoulder to steady himself, the other keeping BonBon in place.
The ride back to the apartment is silent and, unused to riding a bike, Doyoung struggles quite a bit with the weight of them both. Still, Jaehyun enjoys the ride, even if he’s getting wet to the bones, his legs freezing. At least BonBon’s own warmth is keeping him from turning into an ice block. Before realizing what he’s doing, Jaehyun presses himself against Doyoung, who very much notices, if the tension in his muscles is anything to go by. Jaehyun should back away, if there’s anything to salvage before it’s too late, but he doesn’t. He lets his body rest against Doyoung and reasons that he’s simply cold, nothing else.
Now that traffic has gone down and BonBon is with them, the time it takes them to get back is shorter and within minutes, Doyoung parks the bicycle in front of the apartment building.
Jaehyun pauses for a moment, BonBon still in his grasp, rain still falling. He’s drenched from head to toe and so is Doyoung and this is most definitely not how he planned this night would go. It seems the only one still somewhat dry is BonBon.
Doyoung looks at him for half a second, bright under the streetlight, as if wanting to say something. Jaehyun lets him, but ultimately the other closes his mouth and Jaehyun sighs. The silence is uncomfortable and he takes it upon himself, as is most of the time, to break it.
“Here,” he wakes BonBon up, who stirs from her sleep. “Hurry up and take her inside before she gets wet.”
“She gets cranky with water, you know that,” he says instead, “Just go, Doyoung.”
Doyoung doesn’t say another word and Jaehyun gives him the drowsy cat, who’s starting to get agitated at the slight rain falling onto her face as Doyoung takes hold of her.
“Go, go,” Jaehyun urges and Doyoung doesn’t wait to get told twice, trying his best to cover their cat with his own body.
Jaehyun shivers and looks at the retreating silhouette one last time, a heavy feeling in his chest at the lack of body heat. He turns around with a sigh, already dreading the way back to his own apartment, rain still falling heavy and with no signs of stopping any time soon. “Great,” he mutters.
“Be careful, Jung!” Doyoung can be heard from the threshold of the building, looking back at Jaehyun, face unreadable.
Jaehyun is taken aback at the farewell. He stands there for a moment, hands on the bike’s handlebar and he looks at Doyoung as the other does the same, wordless.
He waves back a goodbye and Doyoung goes inside.
Kim Doyoung is not a stranger to sleepless nights. He’s been used to them for years, although he will admit that the past few months have been some of the worst.
He stares at the ceiling above him, the dim light from the outside streets serves as the only thing between him and absolute darkness. At his feet, BonBon sleeps, as ever peaceful, and Doyoung feels envious.
“You sleep too much,” he whispers at the cat who will not hear nor understand him.
Sleepless nights come in many forms, for many different reasons. Tonight, this reason is not anything that Doyoung hasn’t known before. He tries closing his eyes, aching for sleep, but the moment he does, his vision is engulfed with images of dimpled smiles and warm hands. Reminded of how cold his own room feels right now, Doyoung brings his blankets up to his neck, slightly bitter at the temperature.
There are many reasons why Doyoung hasn't divorced. Joint taxes are definitely one of them. It's sort of expensive. If he wanted to, he's sure he could scrap the money for it, but he and Jaehyun would rather use their money for other expenses. Truth be told, being married, even if it's to a tick like Jung Jaehyun, is not much of an inconvenience besides an emotional one, so he's not in any particular rush.
There's also a more hidden truth that Doyoung does not like to share. He doesn't want to be divorced at twenty-eight years old. How pitiful, how sad, how much of a failure would it be to become the guy who divorced before even reaching thirty. Doyoung refuses to be that guy.
He thinks thirty is a more reasonable age, maybe even thirty-one. It's not like he has to see Jaehyun's face, right? And when someone asks about it he can just say oh yeah, I'm married, ha-ha, without the embarrassment of a young divorcee in his twenties. Jaehyun probably doesn't care about any of that, Doyoung is sure he cares more about the money than anything else.
"Ungh," he covers his face with the cold pillow next to him, a knot in the pit of his stomach. Doyoung already has too much on his plate, too much that worries him at night, from his work to his family to himself - his relationship with his ex-husband is simply the icing on the cake.
Sometimes he gets tired. Of everything—sometimes he just wakes up and asks himself, why is he doing this? Why is he waking up so early every morning? To go to work? To earn money? For how long will he have to do this? What is the purpose? Can’t he just be happy?
Happiness feels like a foreign notion, an idea that he only knows vaguely about, he isn’t sure how it’s supposed to feel or how it’s supposed to look. Right now he just feels cold, goddamn it.
At least when he had Jaehyun, Doyoung would wake up with a warm body by his side, a reassurance that even in the worst of times, even when Doyoung was nothing, someone would be there with him. Jaehyun would be there for him. But suddenly he wasn’t. And Doyoung had nothing.
Jaehyun had quit, Doyoung had not. He might’ve been a mess, he might’ve fucked up, but it hadn’t been Doyoung to say goodbye, it had not been Doyoung who said let’s end this, it was not Doyoung who caved in, he was steel, Jaehyun was wind.
But as always, it is Jung Jaehyun who fucks him up.
You can visit BonBon on Saturday
Bring her treats
I’ll be there!
With treats :)
Jaehyun doesn’t make the same mistake twice.
This time, he shows up in a dress shirt and his hair is combed, not a strand out of place. He won’t let Doyoung judge his clothes like he so visibly did last time.
“I brought her snacks,” Jaehyun says, lifting the bag for Doyoung to see.
“Those are her favorites,” he notes, moving aside to let Jaehyun in.
There’s a tentative atmosphere between them. This is new - for the past year, all they’ve known is animosity and before that, love. This is neither of those and Jaehyun wonders if there’s a word for it, if there even is a word for the edge between animosity and love and awkwardness and resentment. Whatever it is, Jaehyun is not fond of it, there’s something uncomfortable about not knowing where he stands with Doyoung. Doyoung is familiarity, whether it be hate or love, above all else, Doyoung is familiarity.
“There she is,” Doyoung says, pointing at the ball of fluff curled up on the corner of a couch. BonBon opens her eyes, gives Jaehyun a glance over before meowing in greeting and then she goes back to sleep. It’s uneventful, but then again, he never expected much from a cat.
It seems like Doyoung is holding in his laughter, lips pressed, before he starts walking away, “I’ll be in my room, just hang out with her.”
Jaehyun looks up at him, “You don’t have to leave.” Doyoung raises his eyebrows in question. After a pause, “I mean it’s your house, just do whatever you want.”
Doyoung compromises, “I’ll be in the kitchen then.”
He leaves and Jaehyun is left alone with BonBon, who, truly, she couldn't care less about either of them and whatever it is they’re doing now. Jaehyun sits back onto his seat and scratches her ears, listening as Doyoung shuffles around in the kitchen, the sound of pots and pans filling the silence. He is taken aback by the scene, feeling a sense of dejavu.
With nothing much to do besides sit next to BonBon, Jaehyun looks around the place. It truly hasn’t changed from the time he lived here, almost a year ago, the only thing that looks different is the clear lack of Jaehyun items lying around the place. The living room looks cleaner, as Doyoung likes it. He thinks back to his own mess back at his new apartment and thinks his therapist would probably like Doyoung, being organized and all that.
“I think you’d like my place better,” he mutters to the cat, indignant, “I’d just let you sleep anywhere.”
He still wants to take BonBon with him, of course, but he figures being able to see her like this is an improvement. Doyoung is an incredibly tough nut to crack, Jaehyun knows this better than anyone, so if his plans have taken a detour he can work with that. He really doesn’t doubt the other would actually call the police and have him go to jail.
He turns on the TV and hopes Doyoung is too distracted to mind Jaehyun has effectively invaded his living room, cat on his lap and the National Geographic channel on. Would he mind if he puts up his socked feet on the couch? It feels weird to overthink this kind of stuff in the place he used to call home.
“What are you doing?” he hears Doyoung’s bitter voice as the other enters the living room.
Jaehyun blinks at the cup of cocoa in his hands and is reminded that this damn apartment is too cold. “BonBon likes watching Lion Kingdom.”
Doyoung sighs in seemingly exasperation but doesn’t say anything else. Instead, he sits on the couch farthest from Jaehyun, eyes on the TV and mug in his hands.
When Jaehyun doesn’t look away from his hot cocoa, Doyoung looks back, frowning. “I’m not making you any.”
“Fine.” BonBon is warm enough that afternoon and Jaehyun doesn’t feel much cold anyway.
If the first time didn’t do much harm, the second time shouldn’t prove to be too bothersome. Jaehyun behaved, didn’t try to steal BonBon and so, Doyoung decided it would be innocuous if he let the other man see his cat a few more times. It should mostly be okay, right? If Doyoung is there to supervise, of course - he doesn't fully trust Jaehyun with BonBon, especially since the other one tried robbing him a few weeks ago.
"Apes are great," Jaehyun mumbles from his seat on the couch, eyes never leaving the TV in front of him. "Look how they eat their bananas, they're so smart."
"Hm," Doyoung mumbles in half-agreement, blanket up to his waist. He supposes apes are smart. "Smarter than you, most likely."
"I have an IQ of 124, you know that."
"What that's gotta do with it?"
Jaehyun ignores the quip, looking back at the primate documentary he's content with watching, BonBon on top of him, licking her own paw. The days are getting colder and colder as they get closer to the end of the year, and even though Doyoung has his favorite fleece blankets on him, he wishes he could be the one cuddling with BonBon.
"How come you haven't fixed the heater?" Jaehyun asks.
Of course Doyoung is aware he should fix it, he's been meaning to and is reminded every time his bones start to freeze in this ice cube of an apartment. He doesn't like Jaehyun telling him what to do with that know-it-all tone of his though. "It's not even that cold," he frowns.
"Then why do you have three blankets on you?"
"I forget, okay? I'm busy."
"Well, write it down. It's freezing in here, winter is only going to get worse from now on, you know that."
He does know. And so what! Why does he care anyway! "Why do you care? Don't be nosy."
"My cat lives here, of course I care. She could get sick and then you'd make me pay the vet appointment."
"Oh, please, I'm not going to ask a single penny from you, I can pay for it."
Jaehyun turns away from him, back to the screen, his fingers clasped, "She's my cat too, I should pay for her stuff as well. She's not only yours."
Doyoung sighs loud enough to be heard by the other, dramatic, but for once, he doesn't say anything else. He supposes it's not the worst thing in the world if he lets Jaehyun pay for vet appointments once in a while. He also supposes he actually does need to get the heating fixed lest he and BonBon get hypothermia and die cruel and cold deaths.
No. A funeral would be too messy - and that would mean Jaehyun and Doyoung would truly have gotten married until death do them apart. Dying while still married to Jaehyun is not an option.
On the other hand, dying before telling his mother he's not together with Jaehyun anymore sounds too alluring. Decisions, decisions.
Doyoung looks back at the cuddling Jaehyun and BonBon with jealousy.
The first time his therapist asked him to define what happiness meant to him, Jaehyun could not answer. He simply had never given the concept much thought past a few default definitions. Are you happy then? That was easier to answer: no, I'm not.
Do you believe you can reach happiness? Yes, you can be and do anything you want to be if you try hard enough, you can forge the life you want, you can mold it to your will if you have the right steps. If you hate your job, quit it, get a new one, one that will make you satisfied. If you want your cat back because you've been miserable ever since you left your ex-husband, then steal that cat and get back on track.
Of course, when the plan gets derailed because your ex-husband is Kim Doyoung, then things might get thwarted and it will make you have a mental breakdown because spending time with him was not part of the plan and you're also kind of reluctant to tell your therapist because you're embarrassed about the whole ordeal.
"I quit my job, you know?" he blurts out as the screen shows a wild cheetah chasing a zebra. Why does he feel like that zebra? Does that make Doyoung the cheetah? Why the fuck is he telling Doyoung he's jobless and with too much free time on his hands? It's almost like Jaehyun likes being shamed so publicly.
"I know," Doyoung says with a shrug, nonchalant in Jaehyun's eyes. "Yuta told me about it."
"Ah, of course." How stupid of him to think Yuta and Johnny would ever keep anything from Doyoung. Jaehyun supposes it's only fair as he tends to find out about him the same as well. "It's only temporary. Just taking a break for a while."
"I get it," he says and Jaehyun thinks he means it, Doyoung might be a pain in the ass, but he mostly always means it.
Jaehyun is comforted by this fact and sits back. This time, BonBon has opted to sleep on Doyoung instead, curling up on his lap. It's not like Jaehyun minds much since Doyoung has upgraded him with a single old blanket and permission to use the kitchen to make himself coffee. He doesn't think Doyoung remembers, but that old blanket was Jaehyun's favorite to use back when he lived there. The Jaehyun of back then liked it because it smelled like Doyoung - lavender soap and baby powder. The Jaehyun of now likes it just as much.
“I’ve been doing yoga.”
“Really? You’re not flexible at all.”
“Well, now I am, what the hell do you know?” And that’s that for their conversation.
What is happiness? Jaehyun thinks one cannot know what happiness is unless they lose it. How can someone be aware of happiness if they don't know unhappiness? You can be sad and you can be happy, they can coexist - but that state where happiness is absent lets you feel it, truly feel it.
"That's your cousin, BonBon," Doyoung points at the cheetah on-screen as BonBon opens her eyes. "That's you but like, big."
"Do you think she would eat us if she were bigger?"
"Oh, absolutely. She would lick her whiskers and take a nap after eating us. She might get indigestion if she eats you though."
This time, Jaehyun laughs at the jab. Kim Doyoung is kind of funny, isn’t he?
He thinks that happiness is in the small moments, the ones that seep into your skin without you noticing, the ones that seem inconspicuous, the ones you take for granted because you can get used to them so easily. The ones that make you say, I had it so good, can I please go back? You might be in a bad mood, you might not feel like laughing or you might argue too much because the day has not been kind to you at all but, Jaehyun thinks, underneath it all, it's just happiness.
It’s the coldest day of the year for New York City. No snow, 10 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s probably even colder inside his igloo apartment. Doyoung is trembling and shaking and ready to be released from the torment that is life.
The only comfort to him is that it's Saturday, one of his days off, which means he can stay in, blankets and hot cocoa galore. Usually, he would spend such a day by himself, however, it's been a while since he's spent a Saturday without Jaehyun. He didn't think the other would come, really - it's fucking freezing. Just thinking of stepping a single toe out of his apartment makes Doyoung want to die.
But Jaehyun is there, placing his coat and scarf on the coat hook, keeping his beanie and sniffling from the outside temperature. Doyoung supposes he can commend him for his dedication to BonBon.
"It's even colder inside," Jaehyun says in judgment as if Doyoung doesn't already know he really fucked up this time by not fixing the heater in time.
"You can stay outside if you want," he rolls his eyes, "I'll let BonBon play with you in the hallway but I doubt she'll want to."
"Oh, shush, don't be a grump today," Jaehyun waves him away, "Look, I've brought you a Merry Strawberry Mocha Frappuccino." He hands Doyoung a hellish concoction made of sugar and pink artificial syrups. He can't believe Jaehyun remembers his favorite holiday-themed Starbucks drink.
"Isn't it too cold for a frappuccino today?" he grumbles but takes the offered drink anyway.
Jaehyun shrugs, "You don't want it?" He tries taking the drink from Doyoung but the other is quicker and moves it away.
"Thank you," is all he says, slurping the monstrosity of a drink. He'll consider it compensation for the hundreds of Jaehyun-induced headaches.
They settle into silence but it is a comfortable one; Jaehyun takes his usual spot in one corner of the living room, BonBon by his side, and Doyoung takes the other side, a small fort of blankets on top of him. Doyoung would feel bad for the single flimsy blanket Jaehyun has, but he should be grateful: that's Doyoung's favorite blanket. It used to be Jaehyun's back when they lived together, but it was Doyoung who hogged it most of the time, a fan of the permeated scent of lemon and rose body wash Jaehyun used to wear. He still uses it, Doyoung has noticed.
The sense of comfortable silence while the TV plays in the background is not a strange one, it is familiar. Not because the past few weekends have been enough for them to get used to them, but because - well, this is exactly what they used to do when they were together. Even before Jaehyun moved in with Doyoung, their weekends, whenever they had free time anyway, consisted of Doyoung barging in Jaehyun's apartment, cooking something random for dinner, and spending the rest of the afternoon lazily watching Nat Geo, BonBon somewhere fast asleep.
Not much has changed since then and, at the same time, nothing is the same.
Today, Doyoung decides to break the routine.
"Do you want to order take-out?"
Jaehyun, as is usual, counters him. "We could cook something instead."
The idea is a little scary, it's too close to something he doesn't want to voice out loud. "Okay." It's also been too long since he's had a proper homemade meal, Jaehyun had always been the better cook between the two of them.
Doyoung feels self-conscious as Jaehyun eyes his kitchen, looking for any ingredients that might come in handy. It's obvious the other is taken aback by the lack of food in his fridge and pantry.
"How do you live like this?" he sighs, squinting at an unlabeled bag of white powder, probably flour.
"I haven't gone grocery shopping," Doyoung crosses his arms, "If you can't find anything then let's just order something."
"No," the other says, clearly always up for a challenge. That is the way of Jung Jaehyun. "We can make sausage pizza."
"You like pizza."
"We can just order it."
"What's the fun in that?"
You're not here to have fun, Doyoung thinks as BonBon sleeps soundly in the living room. But he does indeed like pizza so he supposes there is no harm in letting Jaehyun do as he pleases this time around.
It's almost ridiculous, insanely ridiculous, how seamlessly they start working together. Jaehyun is the one who instructs and tells Doyoung exactly what to do; he's never been much of a follower, but in the kitchen, he's always ceded to Jaehyun. They work in silence, with only a few hums and nods here and there and he's sort of missed this.
Doyoung has friends, he has Yuta and Jungwoo and Jeno and Mark and he spends time with them frequently, he's not alone, he doesn't consider himself alone. But there's something that takes him back to other times, to good times - times where he felt safe. Maybe it's the smell of cooking tomato sauce, maybe it's the sound of the shark documentary commentary playing as they cook. Maybe it's just the way Jaehyun looks at him while Doyoung pretends not to notice, eyes earnest like only he ever could.
Doyoung knows that, even without Jaehyun, he can be happy.
He has to believe in himself at least that much. Someday and somewhere he can be happy, the same type of happy he was back then.
The dough rises in the oven, the warmth and aroma filling the room as they wait and Doyoung feels like he's bursting from the inside, like the words he's thought of over and over for the past few months finally want to come out and he can't help but to spill them against his own will.
"I know I always blame you," he says. Jaehyun looks up, eyes wide because their silence has been interrupted, by Doyoung, nonetheless. He sighs, "You left and I hated you and I kind of still do. But you did it because I could not." You left because I could not.
This, Doyoung has always feared - that somehow, Jaehyun had read his mind, that Jaehyun had only said goodbye because that's what Doyoung wanted, that Jaehyun left for his sake. It's a thought that he guards very deep inside his heart. It'd be too tragic, even for them.
That's why it's easier to blame it on Jaehyun, to say he quit on them, to say he was a coward, to say he left Doyoung brokenhearted in their cold apartment, all by himself to pick up the pieces of their relationship.
"We were both at a breaking point, Doyoung," Jaehyun says and he steps closer to him, his voice warm and calm, and fuck everything, can Doyoung stop pretending, even for a little bit, even for a second, that he doesn't miss Jaehyun's voice in the morning?
"It wasn't just me and it wasn't just you. It was everything."
"Do you regret it?"
Jaehyun doesn't reply for a few seconds. The silence feels like a no and something within Doyoung breaks. Of course it's still stupid, dumb, devastating Doyoung that misses Jaehyun and—
"I miss you."
There's a tone of defeat in his words and it catches Doyoung off guard. Jaehyun is a soft man, unlike what most people assume, but this type of softness is not like him. This is sadness, this is defeat, this is something that leaves acrid bitterness in Doyoung’s mouth.
He doesn't let Doyoung reply, something so characteristic of Jaehyun it's almost baffling. "You can keep BonBon, she's better here."
Doyoung sees white. It's always Jaehyun who manages to snap him into pieces. "You can't just say that."
That you miss me. "That you'll just leave BonBon here," his voice gets higher and louder with each word but Doyoung can't help as his emotions rise up. "I thought you missed her, why are you leaving her here?"
"She's better by herself."
"Why are you leaving her again? Why are you giving up on her? She misses you too, Jae."
"Why is it always me making the decisions?" Jaehyun says, not backing down and their mutual yelling is not a stranger to these walls. "Why can't it be you? Why is it always me that has to break my own heart? You break it yourself, for once. Tell me to fuck off, Doyoung. But mean it. And I will."
Sometimes it gets too much, sometimes Doyoung wants to stop pretending. Sometimes he wishes Jaehyun would stop pretending.
"We don't need each other to be happy," is what Doyoung says instead, a knot in his throat. It's true. Why are they so adamant and clawing at each other? Why do they love each other so uncompromising, so unrelenting, so unyielding to anything else? Is he trying to make Jaehyun stay or is he pushing him away? Is he even trying to convince Jaehyun or himself?
"You know I still love you, right?" Jaehyun says, his voice breaks and Doyoung's heart stops.
This is not Jaehyun, this is not Jaehyun, his mind repeats, frazzled. Jaehyun is arrogant, Jaehyun is a wall, Jaehyun is cold and annoying and strong. He chooses to leave when it's the right time, he knows better than Doyoung because Doyoung is a coward with closed eyes and a heart full of fear.
Doyoung doesn’t think twice before he steps closer, his face only a few more inches away from Jaehyun's watery eyes. Jaehyun is sensitive, Jaehyun feels too much, Jaehyun always does what he thinks is best for others before he thinks of himself.
What’s different now? How will they know now to not make the same mistakes they did back then? "I didn’t know. Back then I didn’t know how it would feel to be without the one I love the most. Every morning I wake up and the sheets are cold, Jae. And every morning I wish it was you there with me," Doyoung laments that he's never been as honest out loud the way he is with himself at 2am. "I love you too, please know that I love you too."
And Doyoung doesn't wait for Jaehyun's tear tracks to dry off, his lips kiss Jaehyun's own, not softly, but with every yet unspoken word of regret and love he cannot say out loud. When Jaehyun kisses back with as much fervor, pushing him against the wall, Doyoung hears the words between them, I'm here again, I don't want to leave you. I miss you.
It's Sunday morning and it's snowing outside. The heater, tragically so, is still not working. He should fix that.
That morning, much to Doyoung's drowsy joy, there is not only a fat, fluffy cat warming his feet as she purrs, but a warm body that hogs most of the bed and blankets. Jaehyun, who likes being the little spoon, snores his dreams away, unconsciously moving closer to Doyoung as the other tightens his hold on him.
Doyoung knows that, even without Jaehyun, he can be happy.
But he also knows this: his heart yearns in irrevocable ways for Jung Jaehyun - and who is Doyoung to deny himself this type of honest happiness?