“So, your flight lands at about three, right? I’ll be there.” Jongdae said.
“Yeah.” I said, grunting, struggling to balance the phone between by shoulder and ear, and trying to lock my suitcase with an old rusty lock. Finally locking it, I relaxed on the bed, and paid attention to the conversation.
“Sehun and Sunyoung left late last night, so they should be arriving late today. Don’t forget to pick them up, hyung.” I said.
“Oh hoh, hyung, huh? Finally some well deserved respect.” He laughed on the other side.
Grinning, I said, “Well, yeah. It’s just that you’re thirty now. That’s kind of old, you know? Respect your elders and all that.”
“Brat.” He snapped. I laughed.
“And Baekhyun and Chanyeol? When are they arriving?”
“They’re not coming, which sucks. But I understand, after all. Life and responsibilities and jobs, and all those boring adult things. Baekhyun’s working for that promotion, and Chanyeol is kind of in a sort of trial and error with his soul mate. Met him a few months ago. Kris Wu. It would have been fun to make fun of him, but that’s for another time I guess. They’ll be coming in summer though, so that’s not too far away, but I was hoping to have everyone together.”
“Oh. Joonmyun. When is he arriving?” I asked, getting up and rearranging my desk.
“Oh,” Jongdae said, sounding distracted, some shuffling heard on the other end, “he had to cancel his flight last minute, but he promised he would be there for the bachelor party, or he’d give me the right to punch him. Not that I needed his permission, but oh well.” He ended with a laugh.
“It’s tough, being the right hand to a CEO of a company, huh? All work and no fun, or something. I’d hate you see your cry over him again.” I said, putting my passport and other important things in my bag.
“Well,” he said with another laugh, “from the beginning, he wasn’t much fun anyways.”
I laughed, noticing him not denying crying over him, and rolled my eyes. “Kyungsoo’s working?” I asked.
“Yeah, he’ll be working when you arrive. Everybody’s plans kept changing, and most of the time it didn’t really cross all that often, so we decided on a fixed date, and late at night. Besides, it’s a bar. It would have been weird if we went during the day.”
“Right.” I said, crumbling some papers, and tossing them. “Hey, what about Minseok? And Luhan? Have you been giving them a full tour of Prague? The sights?” I asked.
Me and Luhan became friends again, I wouldn’t lose him completely, and even Minseok and I were close.
“Yeah, I did. But it was more like a date, and I was the unfortunate third wheel. And Luhan nearly got scammed several times, too. He’s too soft hearted.” Jongdae grumbled.
“He’s kind.” I said with a laugh.
“Yeah, he needs to lose some of that.”
I laughed. “Yeah. You let him know. I’m gonna go. Final packing, and checking and locking up.” I said.
“Yeah. Double and triple check everything. If your head wasn’t attached to your body, I fear what would have happened, little brother.” Jongdae said, sniffing dramatically.
“Your dramatics. Whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow. Say hi to Kyungsoo for me.”
“Will do. Travel safely Jongin.” He said, affectionate.
I laughed. “Bye hyung.”
Leaving home, after going back and forth repeatedly over the same things (is it locked? Did I lock it? Did I leave anything on?), and arriving in Prague, I was exhausted. Stressed over things that shouldn’t stress me out was my forte after all.
But all that was forgotten, when I saw Jongdae waving wildly when he spotted me. I grinned. It was just so good to see him again. Seeing him in person, and not on a computer screen, after what? Three or four years? I wasn’t one for change, much less in scenery, or what I considered home, after all. I don’t think Jongdae was, either. He is, however, in love with Kyungsoo, and he’d follow him wherever he went.
But seeing him now, I felt myself choking on a traitorous lump, swallowing thickly. And Jongdae, my brother, always holding his two years over me, held me tight, so tight, and when he pulled away, he smiled at me; big and beautiful and watery. I laughed, my eyes burning, and he wrapped his arm around my waist, and knocked his forehead against mine.
“I’ve missed you baby brother.”
Prague’s beautiful, but that’s something I already knew from all of Kyungsoo’s excited ramblings, and Jongdae’s photos. But it’s a whole new thing seeing it in person. Building old and new, awe inspiring, like something you’d read of in a poetry book, or something they’d try to put in a play. The castle surrounded by vintage looking buildings, all cream coloured with red roofs. The water under the bridges reflecting beautifully against the backdrop of lights and clouds, and winding roads. Distinctly foreign, with a sense of impermanency. Not something you keep on doing, or a place you stay at for longer than a short while. Dream like in all sorts of ways.
Jongdae rambled on and on in the car, of all the places I had to see, all the places he and Kyungsoo have been, all the places he planned on taking me to. I smiled through his rambling, registering only half of what he was saying, just so happy to see him happy.
“What’s with that dopey smile?” Jongdae asked, breaking off mid ramble.
“Nothing.” I replied, still smiling.
He snorted, “Man of mystery suits you ill brother.”
I laughed, mirth gathering in the corners of my eyes. He glared at me, before turning right, down another street.
“I’m just- I’m just happy, to see you so happy hyung. That’s all.” I replied softly, glancing at the passing scenery.
Jongdae stared at me, at the stop sign, looking emotional.
“Brat.” He mumbled, the edge of his lips twitching up, eyes blinking several times.
Settling in the spare bedroom, in Jongdae and Kyungsoo’s home, I sighed, sinking into the plush duvet. Even though I loved that I was going to be with them, in a country so beautiful, I still had a bit of discomfort crawling under my skin. It’d take a day or two to get out of this funk, but I’ve learned to hide it better. Not like before, when I was completely transparent in my discomfort. But then again, with the people who were all here, I might as well be as obvious as I was before.
After getting the grand tour, and instructions on how everything works (‘never ever press the green button, always the blue. They look really similar, so be extra careful.’ They don’t look similar at all. ‘What did you do?’ ‘I- I’d rather not talk about it.’), after seeing Jongdae off to work, having started a bit later to pick me up, I sunk back in between the pillows.
Staring at the ceiling, I choked on a laugh. Glow in the dark stars. Kyungsoo. I smiled, feeling an overwhelming fondness, as I stretched across the bed.
It’s strange, something like this. How so much has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same.
And somewhere along the way, I fell asleep. Then I woke up to someone shaking me gently. Squinting one eye open, I grinned lazily.
“Hey.” I said, voice cracking with the leftover dregs of sleep.
“Hey.” Kyungsoo laughed.
Blinking both eyes open, I noticed Kyungsoo’s perfectly styled hair, and then the rest of his get up. “Crap. What time is it?” I asked, groaning, and stretching as I got up.
“You have about an hour or so before we have to leave. Sehun called and said they were already on their way.” Kyungsoo said, packing the random bits of clothing I packed out, in the wardrobe.
“So get up off your lazy butt and get done. I’m dragging you out of here no matter what you’re wearing. Even if you’re half naked.” Jongdae said, smiling brightly from the bedroom door. Kyungsoo laughed.
“How do you deal with him?” I stage whispered to Kyungsoo, earning an indignant huff from Jongdae.
“I have no idea.” Kyungsoo whispered in return.
“Why.” Jongdae whined, dragging it out.
“Go and get done you big baby. I’m willing to leave without you.” Kyungsoo said, throwing a t-shirt at Jongdae. “Oh, and throw that in the laundry basket, will you.”
Jongdae grouched loudly, but it lacked anything, what with the way his lips kept twitching.
I laughed, sifting through some shirts. “Same old, huh?”
“Yeah.” He said, smile fond. “By the way; hi.”
Standing up, I wrapped my arms around him tightly, burying my face in my best friend’s hair, and “Hey.”
Meeting everyone at the bar, altogether after such a long time, feels kind of surreal, and terribly nostalgic. Sehun pulled me into a tight hug, even though we see each other every other day. And then he pulled Kyungsoo in, too. I laughed a bit, and Kyungsoo ruffled his hair, big baby.
Everyone was dressed up, not in their finest, but enough to see the effort. And Sehun and Luhan mirrored each other’s starry eyed look at their respective soul mates. It’s cute, really cute, but that doesn’t mean anything to Jongdae, when he teases them endlessly.
Everyone else in the club was dressed pretty casually, only a bit more shimmery, the club a bit hazy, with live music on stage. A bit packed, but not overcrowded.
Jongdae started ordering drink before we really sat down, not waiting for the last guest to arrive. He’s going to be late, he said, but he said he’ll be here before ten.
Drinking waits for no man, Sehun added.
Laughing and singing, and dancing, with added drinking, made for one hell of a party, especially with Jongdae. Kyungsoo was partly grateful that Baekhyun and Chanyeol weren’t there, because how many babies do you think I’m capable of handling? And Sehun was getting really loud, and Kyungsoo was laughing even louder. And I easily imagined Sunyoung taking care of Sehun, I just didn’t picture that it would be Jongdae taking care of Kyungsoo.
Grinning, I shared a look with Minseok over my drink, Luhan half lying on him, laughing over nothing with Kyungsoo. What a sight. I snorted. It’s only ten now.
After ten, they started playing slower songs, couples gathering around the club and swaying.
A familiar song started and Kyungsoo and Jongdae made their way out onto the floor, arms wrapped around each other, their foreheads pressed together, Jongdae mouthing along to the words, pressing light kisses in between. [Is there somewhere you can meet me?]
I turned away, feeling like I was intruding, and I guess I was, in that way. Sehun and Sunyoung, as well as Luhan and Minseok, weren’t at the table anymore, already lost on the dance floor as well. I smiled.
I wasn’t lonely, not anymore. Sometimes I would feel that way, especially in cases like these, where everyone was paired up, and in love, but I wasn’t so lonely anymore.
Relationships came and went, nothing too memorable, or lasting much longer than a few months, and I was okay. Dancing took up most of my time, and that was fine, too. And besides, with people like these in my life, how lonely and sad could I be?
Smiling, I finished my drink with a wince. A new song started, melody soft and oh.
[I gave you all the love I got/I gave you more than I could give/I gave you love.]
I smiled, singing under my breath, feeling that almost forgotten ache. And glancing at the floor, I saw Jongdae and Kyungsoo staring at me, Kyungsoo looking as if he was ready to leave the club for me.
Grinning, I winked once, seeing Jongdae shake with laughter, pulling Kyungsoo back against him, Kyungsoo smiling once.
Sighing softly, the music playing on, I glanced around the club, lots of people from all over, chattering away. Laughing, playfully pushing each other, or even just talking.
Glancing to the right, not too far from where I was, I noticed someone. He stood out, with his crisp navy blue suit, all business like, hair pushed back. Leaning forward a bit, curious, he looked Korean; is he Joonmyun?
So this is what he looked like? I suppose seeing properly, for the first time after so long, was strange, huh.
The strobe lights highlighted his soft features; curved eyes, a small nose, a soft looking mouth and—
Where have I seen him before?
Staring now, openly staring, not caring who saw or what they’d say, I couldn’t get rid of this sense of déjà vu? No, it was more than that.
I know I’ve never met him, and looking back, I don’t think I’ve even seen a picture of him. But I know him. I know I know him. How—
He’s- [I keep crying/I keep crying.]
I saw him take a deep breath, looking pained, and felt a deep echoing ache inside of me.
[I keep trying for you.]
Breathing deeply, trying to breathe deeply, but feeling like I was drowning, unable to get any air into my chest, a painful- painful ragged tugging—I know him. Where do I know him from?
[There’s nothing like... you and I baby.]
Breathing hoarsely, the feeling of something loose in me, a painful tugging, like a string caught on something jagged—
Choking, I felt my breath gasping out of me.
It’s him. It’s him. It’s him.
Staring at him, still staring, he closed his eyes tightly, looking like he had a hard time breathing, tears running down his face.
[This is no ordinary love
No ordinary love.]
Hey, I know you.
Tears dripping down my cheeks, and I knew it was him. He’s—he’s been here, so close? For so long?
I let out a broken sob, sounding so wounded to my own ears. I turned to look towards Kyungsoo, seeing him already staring at me, before I turned back to him. I couldn’t lose him, and I knew it was him. No one could ever make me feel like this, no one could ever hurt me this bad.
And then—I gasped, nearly falling, refusing to believe that—
The melody. Playing crystal clear, words flowing seamlessly, and breaking my heart.
And he froze, eyes widening, unseeing. And then he turned and—
And I just reacted. I pushed my way through, my eyes only on him. And his eyes only on me.
And nearly reaching him, after what felt like eternities away, too far apart, I stopping, glaring, fists clenched, trembling.
“Where have you been?” I whispered, feeling raw and broken.
He shook his head, tears still falling, looking as if he didn’t believe any of this was real, it couldn’t be.
“Where have you been?!” I snarled, shaking now.
“I—” he whispered, still shaking his head, eyes filled with so many things.
“Where have you been?” I sobbed, still not touching him, even though everything in me was screaming to. Just hold his hand. Do something.
He shook his head again, “Everywhere. I’ve been everywhere. But I was never home. I couldn’t find my home.” He whispered, eyes dark, pleading.
And then, “Jongin.” And I wrapped him tightly in my arms. It took nothing before his arms were around me too. And I shook, sobs ripping their out of my chest, my face buried in hair, his face against my chest. And I felt him shaking, my shit damp, as he sobbed, “Why did you take so long?”
You’re staying with me, I said. I’m not letting you go, not anywhere.
Leaving the club, sometime in the morning, sober and feeling too exposed, I refused to let go of his hand. And I didn’t miss how tightly he held my hand.
No one said anything, but the few glances I spared, showed the shock and a flurry of other emotions. Jongdae pushed Joonmyun into the car, our hands still intertwined, and followed.
In the back of my mind, I knew I was being childish, in a way. But I didn’t care. I knew when tomorrow came around, later today, things would be different. Complicated and bruised, all black and blue with the loss we’ve been living with. But right then, at that moment, all I wanted- all I needed, was to have him close. To hold him close, to be held close and—that’s all I needed.
So I didn’t hesitate, when I dragged him upstairs, didn’t falter as I undressed him to his underwear, didn’t stumble as I stripped down to mine.
But we did stumble, as I pulled him into bed with me. But I still didn’t hesitate, I wouldn’t allow myself to hesitate, as I pulled him tightly into my arms, fingers digging into warm skin, my face buried in his hair, everything smelling like home. And his arms wrapped tightly around my waist, his lips pressed against my collarbone.
And that’s how I fell asleep.
And that’s how I woke up.
And going down later, when the sun was closer to setting that being up in the sky, I felt... better. Different, in a way I can’t describe, but I didn’t feel a need to.
Sehun was there. And Kyungsoo. Sunyoung already planned on heading back the morning after the party, so I assumed that’s why she isn’t here, and Jongdae wasn’t home yet.
Sitting down, no one said anything. But looking at them, the happiness, and warmth, and tears filling their eyes, as they intertwined their fingers with mine, what was there to say?
Later, much later again, after Kyungsoo and Jongdae went to bed, and Sehun was dozing on the couch, he sat on the edge of the bed, watching me.
Taking a deep breath, he started, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking for you, not even when we sort of met all those years ago, in the cafe.”
I stayed quiet, just nodding to show I was listening.
“I know.” He said, looking between me and his hands, “You know, my brother, he was so ambitious, wanting to do everything, always dreaming so big. But then he met his soul mate, and let it all go, and I- I didn’t want that.”
“I was overly ambitious, even as a kid, so the thought of giving it all up was scary, and I hated it. But sometimes, no matter how I hated it, I wanted it. That companionship, that my brother had with his soul mate. And that made me even more stubborn, pushing it all away. To the point where I didn’t even notice that I lost it, it was gone and—” he stopped, running his hands through his hair.
“There is nothing I can say, nothing I could do, but I want you to know I’m sorry. If I had done things differently, if I had been differently, better, I could—”
“What about now?” I asked softly.
He looked confused, “Now?”
“What about now?” I asked again.
“Now,” he said, “I’ve been waiting for a really long while, and I’m not sure what to do now. I wasn’t sure if I met you or not, but I always felt like I did. Back then, I didn’t pay much attention to anything, anyway. And I felt like I couldn’t look for you, that I had to wait for you to find me.”
“Why?” I asked, confused.
He looked at me, eyes dark, and he looked so so beautiful, and whispered, “I didn’t deserve you. And even now, what would I say? What could I say, for being as selfish as I was?”
I also didn’t know what to say. I’ve been hurt, and angry, and sad and so many things, but where we are right now, right here, it’s not—it’s not so bad. A younger me, would have been violently angry, lashed out, but now—now I just wanted to—
“Did you ever think about me?” I asked, stepping closer, till I was right in front of him, “Before, did you think about me?”
“Every night, when I thought you’d be asleep, and you wouldn’t hear.” He replied, his gaze burning.
“And now- now I can’t be without you.”
“Okay.” I said, and hesitatingly, I leaned down, kissing him once. Drawing back, he let out a breathy sigh. And watching me closely, he leaned back up, giving me time to move if I wanted, and kissed me a bit harder, a bit longer, and much slower.
I didn’t know where we would go, or how things would work out, but I knew this;
We wouldn’t be alone.
Stretching, and feeling exhausted, I made my way out of the bathroom, still towelling my hair. I glanced up to see Joonmyun already in bed, still reading through my letters, smiling, and I’m trying really hard not to flinch every time he stars a new one.
“Hey.” I said, “Mom cleared out the guest room. The bed’s a double in there.”
Glancing up, he smiled, “This is fine. I can hold you close.”
Cheeks burning, I snorted, hiding my face in the towel.
Packing things away, here and there, since Joonmyun is even messier than I am, somehow, I became the responsible one. It’s perfect, Kyungsoo deadpanned once, match made in heaven. I snorted again.
Glancing at him, I saw him furrowing his eyebrows.
“What?” I asked, reaching out, and running a hand through his hair.
Leaning into my hand slightly, he smiled, “What?”
“What are you looking so serious for?” I asked, massaging his sculp.
His eyes fluttered shut, before he opened them again to look at me.
“Nothing. It’s just- I’ve been hurting you and making you wait since before we ever met. And I’m sorry Jongin. You’ll never know how sorry I am.”
“Joonmyun,” I said softly, kissing him along his eyebrow, “we’re here, aren’t we? You’re here with me, aren’t you?”
He looked at me, sadness filling the corners of his eyes, “Don’t you hate me for it?” he whispered.
“I could never. It was hard, but we’re here, now, together. And although you won’t believe me, I’d do it all again, if it means we’ll be together again, the way we are.”
“Hey,” I said, lifting his chin, and kissing him softly, “I love you.
He smiled, and so softly, so earnestly, “I love you.”
Later, much later, when we were curled up together, on my childhood bed, his arms wrapped around me, holding me closely to his chest, he whispered, like he was sharing a secret, “I used to pretend that you didn’t exist during the day, that there was no one for me, though I felt like I was cheating, whenever I found myself humming under my breath, daydreaming about you.
“But at night, you were all I thought about. Always.”
“Did you hear me?” he whispered against my hair.
[Notes: Title and lyrics taken from Sade's No Ordinary Love, and Halsey's Is There Somewhere?]