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Jaeyong Spin-off AU #Pt2!

-Continuation/Present time!-
[not an update, but before it even slips out of my mind, i apologize in advance for grammatical errors, wrong spelling, and information consistencies within the story. i post the update without copyreading first. i only do that when the story ends, and then i post it on ao3.]
[if y'all enjoyed this part 1, y'all better give ya boi kudos and comments on ao3 bc i have a praise k*nk 😔]

and yes, this is the edited & final version.

[not an update, but i've written a draft for the first update. it's not yet done though so i'll try my hardest tomorrow although i need to process some papers]
tw: mentions of mental illnesses
Starting over, for Jung Yoonoh, wouldn’t have been a hard thing only if Taeyong was by his side. And because the silver-haired beauty wasn’t, it took everything in Jaehyun to find something to hold onto, and that is to be a good father to his Mark and Jeno.
After all, it’s the least thing he could do to recompense for being a lothesome, abominable, and disgusting husband to Taeyong.

Every day, Jaehyun feels dysfunctional and lost. He knows that something is missing, that someone is missing.
The day after Taeyong left, he immediately filed an emergency resignation letter and broke off whatever it was between him and Seulgi.
The first week Taeyong, he searched for Taeyong everywhere—in their friends’ places, at their alma mater, in that garden-themed restaurant near their university, in Ttangkkeut, in Busan, everywhere.
Jaehyun, however, found no trace of his husband, leaving him with nothing pieces of his heart shattered all over. Alongside this, he had to deal with the burning hate of their kids and he and Taeyong’s friends toward him, which only made it harder for him.
But one thing Jaehyun couldn’t stomach, the one thing that killed him, was the disappointment, hopelessness, and dejection in Mr. Lee’s eyes upon finding out what went down between them.
The hitch of breath, the incoming tears, the shaking of the had—all of it is still fresh in Jaehyun’s mind like an open wound that hasn’t been healed for years.
It would’ve been so much better if Mr. Lee had been angry and beaten him up until his lungs began constricting, but Mr. Lee never did.
Instead, the man Jaehyun considered as his second father broke down in tears, cries of agony and sobs of heartbreak ricocheting through the walls of Taeyong’s old home, lingering inside Jaehyun’s mind even to this day.
On the other hand, he went home with black eyes and bruises, scratches, and gashes all over his body when Sungjae and Hyunjae found out his doings. They ganged up on him until he could no longer stand or walk.
And in all honesty, he liked that better, because it was what he deserved for doing something awful to someone who never did anything but love him unconditionally and endlessly.
Jaehyun ended up lying in an alley in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe as he bled on the pavement with tears in his eyes. If he hadn’t crawled and staggered his way to find a cab and head to the hospital, there is a high chance he would’ve probably bled to death.
He never pressed any charges despite his lawyer's insistence to do so. And good thing that makeup can cover everything.

In the first month, Jeno hated him to the moon and back.
He understood where his son was coming from, but it didn’t lessen the pain of being hated by someone you love. Jeno and Mark were the only source of his strength, and Jaehyun died every single day knowing how his kids loathe him to the bones.
Add to that, Taeyong’s lawyer kept on wanting to process the divorce, but Jaehyun withstood all of those with everything that he could.
He felt so low, in every aspect and sense of the word. Every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year felt like a growing despondence with time. And through all those, breaking down became a part of Jaehyun’s routine.
He would break down in the most random times, in the morning as he wakes up, in the evening as he prepares to sleep, whenever he sees his kids, when he irons his clothes, when he eats out; just about anytime, anywhere.
Often times, Jaehyun would find himself completely zoned out, reminiscing the bittersweet memories he had with Taeyong as they only happened yesterday. Then just about a single sound of anything and Jaehyun would come back to reality where Taeyong’s absence seems to mock him.
For months, Jaehyun had nobody to rely on but himself. He needed to be strong for Jeno and Mark, and that’s what he did...or at least that’s how he appeared in the eyes of his kids.
They didn’t know that behind closed doors, Jaehyun had become insomniac, unable to sleep up until past four in the morning as the ghost of his past continued to haunt him.
Everybody helped him in finding Taeyong despite their obvious distaste for him. Nonetheless, he was thankful for any kind of help anyone could offer at the time. He had several leads throughout Taeyong disappearance, but none of them ever lead him to where his husband was.
Months went by in the blink of an eye, and Jaehyun was losing all the hope. He’d gone to Jeollanam-do, Jeju, Busan, Bucheon, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon, Incheon, Andong—hell, he’d even gone to every corner of Seoul, but he wasn’t even able to see Taeyong’s shadow.
There was a time when he drowned himself in alcohol, often staying up late drunk but sleepless. Jaehyun didn’t how could that be possible, but due to his emotional wreckage, he just found that it was. He felt so useless, so worthless without Taeyong by his side.
His days weren’t exciting or thrilling. They were lifeless, monotonous, and lackluster. His life completely took a hundred and eighty degree turn when Taeyong left.
His second heartbeat came when Jeno finally graduated high school and asked to move out and Mark decided to live in the dorms. Not wanting his kids to hate him even more, Jaehyun let Jeno and Mark do whatever the two wanted.
He understood that Jeno and Mark might have wanted to take a break from all the things that broke them. But at least, he was able to gain their trust back after reflecting on his wrongdoings and doing the best he could to find Taeyong.
Jaehyun smiled through all of it. He smiled through the pain, breaking down inside the home he used to share with his beloved husband and kids, wandering his eyes through the empty halls and spaces where they used to bond together.
It happens more so than not; seeing the ghost of their past in every corner of the house right before Jaehyun’s eyes. He would see himself and Taeyong on the couch, feeding each other with grapes, flirting, while the two kids were busy drawing or coloring their coloring books.
It never fails to bring a wistful smile on Jaehyun’s face. If he had not thrown a decade of relationship and another decade of marriage, he wonders how completely different things would turn out. It always sits at the back of his head, all the possibility and the what ifs.
But there’s nothing he could do to turn back time.

At some point, Jaehyun had convinced himself that he was okay, that he was alright. He tried job-hunting, wanting to get back on track just in case Taeyong decides to finally come back.
After all, he wanted to be worthy of his husband’s love for the second time around. However, he wasn’t able to last a month due to always being out of himself.

Ever since his kids left, Jaehyun found himself sadder and sadder each day.
The feeling of loneliness was taking a toll on him that he felt like he was going insane.
He tried going outside for the most part in order to block out the thoughts that would lead him to another crying episode, but everywhere he went, he was reminded of his family that he himself destroyed.
Despite his friends hating him for what he did, Yunhyeong and Eunwoo, the ones who’d stuck with him through the good and the bad times, kept a close eye on him.
And when Jaehyun’s condition was becoming too much, he was brought by his friends to a psychiatrist and a therapist that Eunwoo is friends with.

Jaehyun was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
He hid it from his family and friends, only Yunhyeong and Eunwoo had knowledge of it, and they helped him overcome it. For two years, Jaehyun saw the therapist twice a month until he was finally better.
Right after, he tried applying for a job again. Since he had a good resume, it didn’t take him long enough until he landed a job at a fairly small company. Nonetheless, Jaehyun was thankful to be able to restart.
Along with this, Jaehyun kept in contact with his kids as much as he could, often calling or texting at the most random times.
He would send them pictures of things that reminded him of Mark and Jeno, such as cute kids holding hand-in-hand in the streets and things the two would most likely get when shopping.
When the two, or one of them, would visit him, he would clear his schedules that day in order to enjoy the time with them. And when they two can’t visit him, he would video chat with them.

-
It’s been almost four years since Taeyong left, and Jaehyun can proudly say he’s gotten better. His relationship with Jeno and Mark has gotten better over the years, as well as his relationship with his other friends, namely Sungjae, Joy, and Wendy.
He also never forgets to send letters to his papa in Ttangkkeut and sometimes visits him. At first, his papa would ignore him, as if he’s a lost apparition in town. But as time went by, he slowly got acknowledged.
As for Hyunjae, Jaehyun still has very little progress with him, but there is at least a progress.

Jaehyun stared at the band on his left ring finger, still shining as if brand new. He smiled wistfully to himself as he clutched the other pair on his chest near his heart.
The ring Taeyong left him now hangs on his neck, serving as a pendant of the necklace Jeno bought for him when they reconciled. On his desk sits a family picture that was taken exactly a hundred days after he and Taeyong took Mark and Jeno in.
Their smiles were genuine, and Jaehyun finds it motivation and inspiration from the picture to go and keep holding on.

His phone suddenly rang, startling him in his seat. He fished it out and saw who was calling, Seo Changbin.
“Hello, Yoonoh?” Changbin greeted on the other line. When Jaehyun left his previous company, he kept in contact with Changbin. After all, the latter was the one who helped him realize things, although it didn’t really end well due to his stupidity.
“Hey,” Jaehyun greeted back. “How is it?”

“I’ve talked to my cousin,” Changbin replied. “He said he’s available on Friday. I’ll text you his number after this call. His name’s Seo Youngho.”

“Alright, thank you.”
“I’ll talk to you later. I just went to the bathroom to tell you this. I kinda need to go back now.”

“Okay, okay,” Jaehyun responded. “Thank you again.”

As soon as the call was dropped, he plastered a smile on before going back to work.
For the rest of the day, Jaehyun spent his time drowning himself with all the piles of paperwork that never seemed to decrease.
By the time it was time for him to go, he decided to grab some takeaway, given that he probably would be able to cook due to exhaustion, but not before giving a quick text to Changbin’s cousin.
The drive home was silent, only the low volumed car stereo could be heard, playing the songs that Jaehyun and Taeyong loved.
It has been like that for the past four years; Jaehyun ordering takeaway from restaurants, driving home in serene silence with the stereo playing the songs he and Taeyong used to sing, and eating alone in the dining area where he and his family used to eat together in.
Is it painful? Yes, more than anything could possibly think. But Jaehyun has to be strong, he has to be tough. The pain he’s been feeling for the past four years probably isn't up to par to the pain he’s caused, or he’s causing, to Taeyong.
He’s not in the right position to complain about anything, especially how hurt he is.

Supposedly, he’s no longer alone, only if Mark didn’t have to repeat another year. But since his oldest son was so affected by what happened between him and Taeyong, Mark neglected his studies.
He couldn’t blame the kid, considering all of it was his doing.

His kids are graduating in a couple of months, and Jaehyun can no longer wait. To say that he’s missed them is an understatement.
He longs for them, yearns for them just as much as he longs and yearns for his husband to come back. Mark will surely be back at home with him once the two finished university. With Jeno, however, Jaehyun still isn’t sure.
His youngest son might want to continue living with Jaemin, the boyfriend. And as much as Jaehyun is alright with that, he hopes that Jeno comes back with Mark at their home.
He walked through the front door as soon as he arrived home, stretching his body as the pitch black and silent house greeted him. Turning the lights on, Jaehyun’s heart almost jumped out of his chest when he saw Jeno and his boyfriend, Jaemin.
“Jeno, Jaemin,” Jaehyun said, his breath almost knocked out from his lungs. “I thought you weren’t visiting until next week?”

“I told you,” Jaemin whispered to his boyfriend. “We shouldn’t have surprised Dad.”
Jeno chuckled heartily, his smile so wide it created creases at the corners of his eyes. “Dad, you’re getting old.”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” Jaehyun removed his shoes, placing them on the rack. He then placed his bag on the sofa before giving the two a welcoming hug and a blinding smile. “You should’ve told me you’re coming. I only ordered takeaway for myself.”
“It’s alright, Dad,” Jeno said. “We actually ordered food, too, on the way here. Jaemin and I have prepared them in the dining area. Come on, let’s have dinner.”

“Sure, let me get changed first.”
With his heart fulfilled, Jaehyun headed to his and Taeyong’s bedroom, unable to take off the genuine smile playing on his lips. He then changed into comfortable clothes before going back to the dining area, washing his hands and taking the seat across from Jeno and Jaemin.
“So, what’s up with you two?” Jaehyun asked, eyeing the two suspiciously. “And why isn’t Mark with you?”

“School is kinda stressing me out, but we’re getting there. I just need to focus on my research, and I’m good to go,” Jeno explained.
-“Mark-hyung is having some sort of problems so he couldn’t make it. It’s not that serious, but he wants to take care of it as early as possible so he wouldn’t have to worry about it in the future.”

“What about you, Jaemin?”
“Same with Jeno, Dad.” Jaemin smiled, glancing in his boyfriend’s way. “But the schedule of my graduation is later than his.”

“What about your parents, how are they?”
“Same old,” Jaemin replied. “The small restaurant Dad opened after working at a diner for a couple of years is doing really good. Mom’s cooking seems to captivate everyone.”

“Is that so?” Jaehyun nodded. “Then, I should visit Dokyun and Haeryung sometimes.”
There was a moment of comfortable silence, only their chewing of food and clanking of utensils were the sound could be heard until Jeno decided to break it.
“You have to be there, Dad, my and Mark-hyung’s graduation,” Jeno muttered suddenly. “The dates are still tentative, but you have to be there.”
Jaehyun smiled widely, nodding his head rapidly. “Of course. Just tell me the date, and I’ll be there. Of course, we can’t miss our Jaemin’s graduation, too.”
“...I wish Papa can be there, too...” Jeno muttered under his breath, the atmosphere turning a hundred and eighty. “It’s been so long… I’ve been waiting for him to show up… He wasn’t able to attend my and Mark-hyung’s high school graduation...”
Jaehyun halted his movement, his breath hitching. “...I’m sorry, Jeno...”

“No, Dad, that’s not what I meant...” Jeno smiled guiltily. “I know you were at fault and Papa had to do what he had to do… If it happens, it would be the best graduation I could ever have.”
“It would be the best gift for me, too...”

There wasn’t much to be talked about after that exchange. As Jaehyun headed to bed that night, he looked at his and Taeyong’s wedding photo on the wall, the words his youngest son told him still bugging him until he was in deep slumber.
The next day, Jaehyun received a reply from Changbin’s cousin while he was cooking breakfast for three. With a pastel blue apron hanging on his neck, he turned off the stove and placed the spatula somewhere before getting his phone from the countertop, reading the message.
/Hey, sorry I wasn’t able to reply yesterday. I’m Seo Youngho, Seo Changbin’s cousin and the interior designer he recommended. When do you want to meet for the interior planning of your flower shop?/
All Jaehyun’s life, he’d never thought of actually putting up his own business. His family has a company in the US with a lot of branches all over the states, but he decided to go to South Korea instead, away from those responsibilities.
No, he wasn’t forced to take business management by his parents. He gravitated toward it and has always just been contented being an employee. Pretty mediocre, if you ask him.
However, with eventful things that happened in his life, he finally decided to steer away from the crowd upon realizing that he’s not meant to be in that kind of environment. With peer pressure and lack of better judgment, Jaehyun could be pretty reckless.
He decided to cut off everyone who added to the fuel of his wrong choices and actions, those who think that it was alright at the time. He knew he had no one to blame but himself.
However, he can’t say that there were people who didn’t have anything to do with what happened four years ago.

That is why after he stopped therapy, he envisioned of putting up his own business.
Now, Jaehyun has no clear knowledge about flowers, or anything involving flowers for that matter. The only reason it’s what he picked is because it reminded him of Taeyong.
He wanted to create a place that would be close to the garden-themed restaurant they loved going to, the botanical garden of their alma mater where they got married, and the garden the Lees own in at their hometown.
/It’s alright. Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself yesterday. I’m Jung Yoonoh, Seo Changbin’s friend. Would it be okay to you if we meet tomorrow? If not, are you free next weekend?/

/No, tomorrow is fine. I need to go somewhere anyway. Does noon sound good?/
/Yeah, it does. I’ll text you the details for our lunch meeting./
Shortly after he put down his phone, he set up the dishware and utensils on the table, filling them with a wide variety of American breakfast, such as sunny side up and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast with peanut butter or jam, pancakes with syrup, and orange juice.
As he was placing the last sunny side up, he heard a loud yawn.

“Dad,” Jeno started, half asleep, scratching his head, “what’s for breakfast?”

“Good morning to you, too, son.” Jaehyun chuckled to himself, ushering his youngest son to take a seat. “Where’s Jaemin?”
“Still in the room. He’ll be out in a minute.” Jeno rubbed his eyes, which widened as soon as he saw what’s on the table. “You cooked all of these, Dad?”
“Yeah.” Jaehyun nodded proudly in confirmation. “I figured we haven’t gone to the US in a while because of your schoolwork, so I decided to cook American-style breakfast.”
Just in time, Jaemin emerged into the dining area, bowing his head to Jaehyun. “Good morning, Dad.”

“Good morning, Jaemin.”

“Wow, all of those look tasty,” Jaemin claimed, his eyes twinkling at the amount of food on the table.
“Come, eat while they’re still hot.” Jaehyun pulled two chairs side by side, egging Jeno and Jaemin to have their breakfast when the intercom rang. “Wait, here.”

His eyebrows furrowed, confused.
He wasn’t expecting any visitors that day nor did he order anything online, so he was confused of who it might be. Removing his apron and hanging it somewhere, he trudged his way toward the front door, looking at the monitor.
What he wasn’t was for his oldest to be outside, smiling.

“Mark?” He muttered under his breath before hastily opening the door. “Mark!”

“Dad,” Mark greeted, giving Jaehyun a tight-lipped smile, carrying his bag with one hand.
“Jeno and Jaemin said you won’t make it,” Jaehyun said, motioning for his oldest son to come in.

“I thought so, too.” Mark removed his shoes, placing them on the rack and getting a pair of slippers. “I kinda had some problems at uni, but it’s all good now.”
“You’re just in time. Jeno and Jaemin are having breakfast in the dining area.”

Jaehyun, together with Mark, walked inside the dining area, surprising Jeno and Jaemin.
When they saw Mark, their eyes went wide, considering that they rarely see the older because of the busy life in university.

“Hyung!” Jeno said in excitement. “I thought you’re not gonna come?”
“Well, I stayed up all night to finish it, slept for a couple of hours, and headed straight here.” Mark took the seat across Jeno and Jaemin. “You know I can’t miss out on family days.”
Jaehyun took a seat at the end of the table, a smile playing on his lips as he watched his kids, Jaemin included. His eyes softened at the sight, his heart melting along with it. Would things have turned out differently had he not crossed the lines he shouldn’t have?
Would things have turned out differently if he realized sooner than later all the things he’d done? He would never know.

“So, how are you, Mark?” Jaehyun asked his eldest, perusing the guy, trying to block out the negative thoughts. “Got any girlfriend or boyfriend?”
“None,” Mark dismissed. “Study first.”

“Maybe if you stop being cold-hearted around people,” Jeno started, “you’ll find someone. Who knows, they might just be around, intimidated by your scary aura.”
“You’re really one to talk, huh?” Mark threatened to throw his spoon at his brother. “You think I don’t know what you did to Jaemin before you two ended up together, huh?”

On the side, Jaemin blushed, looking down, while Jeno went wide-eyed. “How did you find out?”
“Sunwoo told me.”

“That punk,” Jeno muttered under his breath, shaking his head. “He’s really been loud-mouthed ever since.”

“Baby, it’s okay...” Jaemin whispered.
“By the way, Dad,” Mark started, changing the direction of the conversation, “how’s the flower shop you’re planning to put up?”

“It’s going as planned.” Jaehyun popped a slice of pancake inside his mouth.
-“I’m actually going to meet the interior designer that your Uncle Changbin recommended tomorrow. Do you guys wanna come?”

“I’d rather stay here, Dad. I kinda miss the house, so I’ll probably just laze around.”
“We’re actually gonna visit Mom and Papa, Dad,” Jaemin muttered, intertwining his hand with Jeno’s underneath the table. “So, I’m afraid we won’t be able to come.”

“Is that so?” Jaehyun pouted childishly, to which both of his and Taeyong’s sons cringed.
-“That’s a bummer. I kinda wanted you guys to hear input about the designs. But anyway, just send my regards to your parents, Jaemin. Next time, let’s have a family lunch or dinner with them, alright?”

With a smile, Jaemin nodded.
“Stop trying to look young, Dad...” Jeno interjected, hiding his face on his palms. “It doesn’t really suit you.”

-
Inside a fairly secluded retro-themed restaurant, Jaehyun sat patiently as he waited for the interior design he was supposed to meet, checking his wristwatch every now and then.
The ambience and the atmosphere was comforting, different hues of brown surrounding Jaehyun, giving him a sense of steadfastness and simplicity.
As he gazed outside, he noticed the autumn leaves falling down from the branches of trees, tinge of fire, sunlight, and desert sand coming together. He took a mild sip of the red tea he ordered, his tongue getting burned for a split second.
The taste wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t comparable to the organic red tea his papa would serve him back in Ttangkkeut.

He put down the cup as it continued to release steam over, his softening at the thought of his papa.
And then his late parents’ faces crossed his mind, making his heart sink. He knows that wherever his parents are in the moment, they’re disappointed in him for not treasuring the person who has always been there for him.
He failed his promise to take care of Taeyong for the rest of his life, and he hurt him so much that his husband needed to go away.

Jaehyun always gets visited by these kind of thoughts, more often than not.
Sometimes, it gets too much, but he tries his best to block out the thoughts and smile. And it happens in the most random times, especially when he’s left alone with his thoughts.

He tried to shake it off by shaking his head rapidly.
Suddenly, there was a clinking of bells that resounded from the direction of the doors. Jaehyun looked up, his eyes landing on a six footer guy dressed in warm clothes, sporting a friendly smile.
Momentarily, his eyebrows furrowed, but he immediately replaced it with a smile as he rose from his seat, bowing his head slightly at the man who walked closer to the table.

“Are you Jung Yoonoh?” the man asked with a slight bow, his voice sounding eerily familiar to Jaehyun.
-“I’m Seo Youngho.”

“Yeah, I am,” Jaehyun confirmed, extending his hand for a handshake, to which the interior designer accepted. “Hey, I know this might sound absurd, but I feel like we’ve seen each other before.”
“Really?” Seo Youngho asked. “‘Cause I feel that, too, honestly.”

“Take a seat, take a seat,” Jaehyun urged as the other man took the seat across from him. “It’s weird. Your face is really familiar as well. I’m just not sure where I’ve seen you.”
“Wait. Jung Yoonoh… Jung Yoonoh… Jung Yoonoh...” Seo Youngho halted his movement, scrunching his eyebrows in thought, staring at the ceiling. “Oh! Jung Yoonoh from Seoulite National High School!”
“You’re from there, too…?”

“It’s me,” Seo Youngho excitedly pointed at himself. “Johnny Seo!”

“Johnny Seo...” Jaehyun whispered to himself before his eyes went wide. “Johnny Seo!”

“Yes, oh God. How long has it been since we saw each other, more than twenty years?”
“Yeah.” Jaehyun nodded. “I didn’t recognize you, even by the name. You used to use your English name when we were still in high school. I mean, I know your Korean name, but Seo is a fairly common family name.”
“Same here. I knew someone Jung Yoonoh from high school, but I don’t really expect that person to be my client.” Johnny Seo chuckled to himself. “How have you been?”

Pausing for a couple of seconds, Jaehyun plastered on a smile. “I’m doing good these days. What about you?”
“Married for thirteen years now,” Johnny Seo responded with a smile to himself, showing his hand in which the band was on display.
-“Never been this happy, to be honest. I studied in the US for my bachelor’s degree, and I would come here every year for vacation. On one of my trips here, I met this wonderful guy. Since then, I never wanted to leave.”
The thing is, being in love with Taeyong has a lot of perks, like knowing how to spot among the crowd who’s in love. And as Jaehyun stared at the wholehearted smile of the old friend across him, he knew that the man is deeply in love.
Johnny Seo’s gaze then landed on the band around his ring finger.

“I see, you’re married, too, already.”

“...Uh...” Jaehyun tapped his fingers on the table anxiously. “If you don’t mind, can we get to the business already…?”
“Oh...” Johnny said. “Sure, sure. Sorry, I got carried away.”

With that, they ordered food and began to talk about business. They talked about the space, decorations, design, theme, and the division of the room.
Since Johnny had already seen the place and inspected it when Changbin brought him there, it was easier to talk about the development, programming, and execution of the design.
“So, this area, probably three-fourths of the entire place would be the workplace,” Johnny pointed at the plate. “Since its strategic location is near a school, maybe we should make it pastel-themed. These days, high school students, especially girls, love those colors.
It is cute and it attracts them. We should have a color scheme, three colors at most. I suggest that we use pastel blue, pastel pink, and white. It’s a good combination.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.“
“Waiting area would be each side of the room being parted by the door, and we’ll put two medium-sized tables and long couches facing them. Work area will be the southwest part, in which we will place a long, curved flower ref.”
An hour of brainstorming and exchanging ideas later, they were able to finish their design plan for the flower shop but not their food. So, they continued sharing what they’ve been up to for the past years.
Several minutes into catching up again, however, they heard a loud voice calling Johnny’s name. When Jaehyun looked over his old friend’s shoulder, he saw a man clad in casual clothing, sporting a smile, waving delicately at Johnny.
“Ten?” Shock was evident in Johnny’s voice, rising from his seat. “What are you doing here? I thought you won’t be done until one thirty?

“Well, I kinda finished early, so I decided to come here...”
“By the way, this is Jung Yoonoh, my client,” Johnny said. “Yoonoh, this is Ten, my husband.”

“Hello.”

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” Jaehyun stood and smiled bowing his head slightly at the man who bowed his head in return. “Come, join us.”
And because Johnny’s husband came, Jaehyun was left again thinking of Taeyong as the two across from his recounted their days when Ten found out that he and Johnny were old friends. He’s happy for Johnny, in all honesty.
That’s the least thing he could do for his old friend after they had a fallout because of Seulgi. Back in high school, Johnny had tried to warn him about Seulgi wanting to sleep with the latter, but he didn’t believe him. Instead, he cut him off from his life completely.
But he still couldn’t help but feel a little jealous, feel a little envious at how strong Johnny and Ten’s relationship looked.
He stared wistfully at them as they bickered about something Ten ordered, and Jaehyun couldn’t help but visualize himself and Taeyong fighting over something simple and making up later on.

Now, all of these are just wishful thinking.
There was a sudden noise coming from Ten’s phone. In haste, the latter fished out his phone, answering the call.
“Hey… Yeah… Johnny and I will… Yeah, yeah… We will fetch you from the airport!” Ten’s laugh resounded at their table. “Sure, tell Donghyuck I have a surprise for him when he gets here. Alright, bye.”

“What did he say?” Johnny asked, taking a sip from his black coffee.
“He just called to say that he’s excited to meet us again and to ask about the apartment if it’s ready.” Ten played with his food. “I told him we will fetch him from the airport. Plus, I’m so excited to meet Hyuck. It’s been over half a year since we last saw them.”
“Same, I miss that kid, too,” Johnny responded. “I miss his presence. Although he’s mischievous and annoying most of the time, I really, really enjoy his company. Maybe we should adopt him…?”
“Are you crazy?” Ten asked incredulously. “I’d love to, but Taeyong will probably kill me.”
That halted Jaehyun’s movement. He froze from his seat, taking a sip of his tea midway. Slowly, he held his head up, staring at the couple across him, completely stupefied at the mention of a familiar name. It couldn’t be...could it? There are a lot of Taeyongs in South Korea.
It couldn’t be—

...But it could…

“What you just said,” Jaehyun muttered lowly directly at Ten, his heart hammering inside his chest, “can you repeat it again?”
“Oh.” Ten expressed, shifting his eyes from Jaehyun to Johnny and then back to Jaehyun, completely weirded out. “Adoption?”

“No, not that. The other one.”

“My friend will kill me…?”
“No, your friend’s name,” Jaehyun clarified, his grasp on the handle of his cup of tea tightening. “What’s his name again?”

“Taeyong.” Jaehyun’s breath hitched, feeling his heart constrict. “Lee Taeyong.”
[note: are you guys excited for jaehyun & taeyong to finally meet again? i originally planned to drag jaehyun's pining, but the word count is already too long]

curiouscat.me/forthenomin
If anyone were to ask Jung Yoonoh what his most wanted wish to be fulfilled, it’s not rocket science that it would be meeting Lee Taeyong again. From the past four years of his husband’s disappearance, it has always been Jaehyun’s wish, to see the love of his life once again.
He’s prepared himself for that all these years just in case it happens. He went to therapy for two years, cut drinking from his life altogether, quit his previous job, cut off the people involved in his infidelity, became a better father to his kids, and got himself a job again.
Jaehyun has been longing, yearning to catch a glimpse of the love of his life. He can barely remember how many times he’s tossed coins to wishing wells and fountains, how long he’s waited for shooting stars to fly across the sky just to wish upon them.
With every single thing he can wish on, he does so, sometimes wishing for Taeyong’s well-being but often wishing for the latter’s return.

Now, however, even after all these years, he’s not sure if he’s ready to see Taeyong again.
The moment his husband’s name rolled off past Ten’s lips, Jaehyun’s blood ran cold, his insides churning. He even had to drink water, his hand shaking as it grasped the glass, in order to collect himself.
But because he wanted to make sure that it is indeed Lee Taeyong, his husband, he asked if Ten had any picture of the Lee Taeyong the Thai man was referring to, to which Ten found quite weird. Nonetheless, the latter complied, showing Jaehyun a picture that took his breath away.
The picture was of Taeyong, sporting his ethereal smile at an elderly woman, giving out what seemed to be like a type of medication. There were other people in the picture, like kids smiling and adults dressed in casual clothes in the background.
On the foreground, Taeyong had a glint in his eyes as the camera focused on him, bringing out the beauty of a lifetime.

Wide-eyed and mouth agape, Jaehyun froze in his seat, unable to form any coherent words.
When asked by Johnny if he knew who Taeyong was, Jaehyun rapidly shook his head, a frantic reaction he didn’t intend to.

Jaehyun isn’t dumb...well, at least he isn’t now. He knew he shouldn’t act suspicious.
Considering that this Ten and Taeyong are friends, he has to be mindful of his words in able to not give away his and Taeyong’s relationship. If ever finds out from Johnny about a new client named Jung Yoonoh, it’s all over for him again.
He’s let Taeyong go before, and that’s the last thing he wants to do now. He shouldn’t mess up his chance.

Of course, the husbands didn’t miss Jaehyun’s sudden urge to see a picture of Taeyong, but the two didn’t question any further and decided to brush it off.
Before they parted ways, Jaehyun asked, “By the way, I’d like this meeting to be a secret. I’d appreciate it if you don’t mention anything about this or me to anyone, not even your friends.”
On the way home, Jaehyun felt lightheaded, as if he was about to suddenly pass out at any given moment. It’s like fate is playing on him, rolling the dice as it lands with four dots, signifying the four years of his longing.
His sanity tries to keep up, encompassing it from reaching the outer limits. Now that he finally has a lead after a long time, he has to think and act carefully in order to not miss the chance.

From the looks of it, Taeyong seemed happy, which caused a twinge in Jaehyun’s heart.
No worries, no heartache. It’s too early to conclude just by seeing a single photograph, but from the looks of it, like the autumn leaves falling down, Taeyong seemed to have let go as well.
And as much as Jaehyun wanted, /wants/ Taeyong to be happy, he wants to still be a part of the reason for that happiness.
As the wind blew past him, taking away with it the sandy and fiery, lifeless leaves from the ground, Jaehyun was met, yet again, by a sudden wave of loneliness, wrapping itself around his heart on his sleeve.
Jaehyun almost stumbled, almost lost his balance as he tried to make sense that Lee Taeyong, his husband whom he hasn’t seen in years, is about to be in Seoul again in three weeks.
Jaehyun staggered through the door of his house as he held a paper bag in one hand, still a little unsteady, the creaking sound of the door grabbing his eldest son’s attention who was watching something on the television.
“Dad?” Mark suddenly perked up, his eyebrows scrunched as rose from his seat and assisted his dad to the couch, placing the paper bag on the small table. “Are you alright?”

“I am,” Jaehyun replied, giving his son a halfhearted smile. “I just need some water.”
“Okay, I’ll get you some.” His eldest then strode toward the kitchen and came back within fifteen seconds, holding a glass of water. “Here, Dad.”
Jaehyun drank the entire content in one go, a few droplets trickling down on the corner of his mouth down to his chin. Catching his breath shortly after, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Thank you, son.”
“What happened, Dad?” Mark asked, holding the empty glass in his hand as he towered over his father who was sitting on the couch, still feeling a little dizzy. “Was there a problem with your meeting?”
“There wasn’t,” Jaehyun reassured with a smile. “It actually went quite well more that I anticipated. The interior designer turns out to be an old friend back in high school.”

“Is that so?” Mark was still a little unconvinced but decided to drop it anyway. “That’s good, then.”
“Yeah...” Jaehyun nodded. “By the way, I ordered you some takeaway. I figured you haven’t eaten lunch just yet. How many times have I told you to learn how to cook?”
“Thanks, Dad. Jeno and Jaemin told me they’re gonna come back at around noon, but until now they’re still at Jaemin’s parents. Now, I’m left here starving, but I’m sure they’re about to be back. And Dad, as much as I want to learn how to cook, uni hinders me.
It doesn’t even let me rest for an hour. Besides, I have you, Jeno, and Jaemin to cook for me.”

“You know we’re not always going to be around, right?” Jaehyun crossed his arms on his chest. “Once you move out of our house, you’re all on your own.”

“Who says I’m moving out?”
“I know you won’t be moving out just yet after your graduation. What I mean is that once you’re stable enough to live on your own, you’ll surely want to get a place, which means you have to cook unless you want to live off takeaways or you get yourself a lover who can cook.”
“Dad, I know that this is going to sound ridiculous,” Mark started, his gaze landing on the floor, “but I don’t really see myself getting a place of my own, at least not yet. You might be thinking that I’m being a bit of a burden, but I still really wanna stay with you.”
“What are you saying?” Jaehyun tapped the spot beside him, which Mark took, wrapping his arm around his son’s shoulder. “You’re not a burden. Take as much time as you want. I’m actually glad you don’t want to leave your old man.
I just thought that because you’re not getting any younger, you’d wanna move out. ”

“Thank you, Dad.” Mark let out a wide grin in his father’s way.
“But honestly, get yourself a girlfriend or a boyfriend. You take after your dad’s handsome face, and yet you can’t be in a relationship?”

“Dad!”

“Just kidding, just kidding.”
They both laughed, their eyes flickering across the room, landing on a show playing in the television. For a moment, they sat in complete silence, only the sound from the television could be heard.
Jaehyun straightened his back, remembering the picture earlier from his meeting with Johnny.
“Son?” Jaehyun called amidst the contrasting silence and sound of television, to which he earned an asking hum in return. “Say… What if… What if your papa shows up on your and Jeno’s graduation…?”
Like a bolt of lighting striking across the sky, Mark perked up, flickering his eyes at his dad, completely taken aback. “W-What…?”
“I-I just… I’m just wondering… After all, it’s been almost four years since he left, and if there’s any right time for him to come back, it’d be on your graduation.”
“It would mean the world to me,” Mark answered with a deep intake of breath after, drifting his gaze toward the screen across from them once again.
-“When Jeno and I were still in the orphanage, there’s nothing I have ever wished for more than to have a family of our own. Now, there’s still nothing I have ever wished for more than that, except for Papa Taeyong’s return...”
There was no spite, venom, or malice tied to those words, but they rang through his head like salt being poured into his half a broken heart. Regardless of how long it has been, the pain is still there, like a deep-seated stain on his white shirt that seems to never go away.
After therapy of two years, Jaehyun thought that he was finally clean, that he finally had a clean slate to start anew. He was wrong, however, and Jaehyun doesn’t know if that’s for the better or for the worse.
Half of him wants the pain to go away, but the other half wants the pain to cling onto him and remind him of all the things he’s done in order to be better. Call him masochistic, but that’s just how Jaehyun sees it.
Hearing those words from his eldest son, it only drove Jaehyun to not fuck anything up, like a new found determination of some sort. His youngest son also has the same sentiment, and those things made Jaehyun more strong-willed.
Jaehyun’s gaze softened, his hand flying to Mark’s hair, caressing it like what he used to do when the latter was a kid. “I have never wished anything more that for your papa’s return either.”

-
“Yoonoh!”

It was a Saturday morning, a week after his meeting with Johnny, when Jaehyun found himself sitting at a cafe not too far from the restaurant where he and Johnny reunited.
Unlike the vibrant colors of morning light a week ago, today was fairly cloudy, dark, and cooler due to the depressing temperature in the fall. The autumn air was wet and a little unfriendly, resulting in Jaehyun wearing a set of warm clothes to shield himself from the cold.
From where he was seated, Taeyong looked up just to see his high school friend walking to his table, sporting a familiar friendly smile. Rising from his seat, he shook Johnny’s hand, smiling back with his dimpled cheeks.
“Johnny,” he greeted as he sat back and Johnny took the seat across, “I’m glad you made it.”

“Of course,” Johnny answered, removing his coat and placing it on the backrest.
-“Last time was not enough time to catch up. There’s so many things to talk about, but we had to get to the business. Plus, my husband came so I had to leave early.”
“No worries. My kids are at home, so I needed to go home as well. Mind you, they’re university students, so I rarely have time to spend with them due to the amount of their workloads,” Jaehyun said. “That’s why I gotta give them time.”
“Wow, you are one great dad.” Johnny laughed, calling for the waiter and ordering a shot of espresso for himself. “At their age, aren’t they embarrassed for their dad to be acting like that?”
“Trust me, they are,” Jaehyun replied, sipping from his hot cup of red tea. “But I know, deep inside, they like the affection as well. I guess we kinda established that one real good, you know?”
“My son doesn’t like affection at all, but my husband gets all worked up when our son refuses, and Ten is beyond scary when he’s mad. Trust me, you wouldn’t even want to see it. That’s why our son has no choice but to comply.”
“My kids were like that, too,” Jaehyun said. “Back when they were in high school, they didn’t like me and their other father to be affectionate, but everything’s changed now. We spend as much time as we can.”
“Oh, right. You haven’t told me anything about your husband.”

Instantly, Jaehyun tensed up, but he tried to remain composed and calm. The main reason why he was there was to get as much information as he can about his husband.
It wouldn’t hurt to give a little backstory about him and Taeyong in exchange for gaining information.
Smiling as his mind was flooded with memories of Taeyong, he said, “Well, for starters, he’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Not only that, he’s very selfless, kind, and compassionate. He’s just so beautiful, you know?”
“You sound so whipped.”

“I am,” Jaehyun replied, his head turning delicately, gaze landing outside the cafe. “But there were unforgiven lines that I crossed and there were things I said I shouldn’t have, which I still regret even to this day.”
“Shit, man.” Johnny looked agitated at the sudden shift of the atmosphere between them, not knowing what to do, but Jaehyun just chuckled to himself, reassuring the old friend across him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“It’s alright.” Jaehyun took his cup of red tea, sipping from it. “I just really tend to get emotional when I talk about these things. It’s all good though, I swear. You don’t have to feel bad.”

“I can’t help it.”
“Do you remember Kang Seulgi from high school?” Jaehyun asked in hesitation, to which Johnny nodded slowly. “Well, I saw her again after so many years, and it didn’t end well...once again.”
“That bitch.” Johnny’s eyebrows scrunched. “She doesn’t really bring anything but bad omen. Now, you learned it the hard way. You shouldn’t involve yourself with the likes of her.”

“...I know...” Jaehyun answered, smiling bitterly at the memories.
-“But it wasn’t entirely her fault, you know? If I hadn’t participated, I wouldn’t be where I am now. If anything, it’s entirely my fault that I chose to keep sleeping with her after a one night stand.
Even if someone keeps on luring you in, it’s solely on you if you’re going to bite the trap.”

“...Ten and I have been there...”

“Huh?”
“Years ago, Ten did something I almost thought was unforgiven...” Johnny responded, his eyes softening as his fingers played with the handle of his cup of coffee. “I know we look and act like we’ve never reached a point where we almost divorced, but—”
“Y-You almost divorced…?

“Yeah, thrice if I’m not mistaken.” Johnny’s gaze then landed on the band wrapped securely around his ring finger. “Our last fight was the worst one, which happened years ago, where I brought up the divorce topic.”
“What happened…?”

“Before that specific fight, we hadn’t been okay for months. We slept in different bedrooms, eat by ourselves, and go to work without saying goodbye to each other. There was this party I had to attend because it involved a lot of businessmen.
I had to be there to gain more clients just in case they planned on putting up new branches and all.” Johnny took a deep breath.
-“Ten didn’t wanna go. He has a low tolerance for alcohol, but he ended up drinking a lot because of our unstable relationship. Long story short, he slept with another man whom he thought that was me.”

“I’m sorry...”
“I was so angry, you know?” The steam coming out over Johnny’s cup of coffee seemed to dance in the air.
-“I left home. I was so out of myself that I was really determined to finalize our divorce, but when I saw him all wrecked and miserable with our son at the court, I suddenly came to my senses. I had no reason to put the entire blame on him because I had a part of it, too.
We lived separately for a year, because that was what we needed, time and space. But because we knew that our love never went away and because we’re connected by our son, we both found our way back.”
But Jaehyun wasn’t convinced that he and Taeyong would have the same fate. After all, he slept with Seulgi for roughly about two months. Two whole fucking months. It wasn’t just a mistake, maybe it was the first time, but it escalated quickly from there.
He’s sure that no matter what he says, Taeyong won’t believe him that he didn’t at least had an emotional attachment to Seulgi.

Be damned if he were lying, but Jaehyun didn’t feel anything the slightest for Seulgi.
“Our conversation turned a dark one really fast,” Jaehyun commented with a small forced laugh, trying to ease the tension, to which Johnny did the same. “Come on, we’re not here to have a crying reunion. Tell me about your son. What’s his name?”
“Hendery. We adopted internationally. He’s from Macau,” Johnny explained. “He was very lively and funny as a kid, but he’s matured and turned into a fine, young man. He used to always insist on sleeping between me and Ten. It was so frustrating.
Now, he doesn’t even wanna kiss Ten on the cheek!”

Jaehyun chuckled. “Mine are like that, too. Before it all came crashing down between me and my husband, they didn’t like the blatant affection.
When it happened, they hated me to death, but I did everything that I could to save what I have left. Now, they’re no longer afraid and embarrassed to show affection.”
“That’s great,” Johnny commented, nodding his head and raising his hand to get the waiter’s attention, ordering a two slices of chocolate cake for him and Jaehyun. “At least you were able to mend your relationship with your kids.”
With a smile, Jaehyun nodded in agreement. They came to a short silence as the waiter came back and placed their orders in front of them. His hands began to sweat profusely as he looked at the man across him.
If there was any right moment to start his /investigation,/ it was at that moment.
So, although Jaehyun was scared to death that he’d say something wrong, he still went on with his plans. “By the way, if you don’t mind me asking, who was the kid you and Ten were talking about, the one you guys want to adopt?”
“Donghyuck?” Johnny asked as he popped a small portion of sliced cake into his mouth. “We were just kidding. That kid is of legal age now. He’s friends with Hendery. Plus, he’s so attached to our friend and our friend is very attached to him.”
Visibly gulping, Jaehyun felt his heart thumping, racing as fast as how the steam of his red tea disappeared into the autumn air. “Your friend…?”

“The guy on Ten’s phone, the one you asked to see a picture of.”
It started to drizzle outside, the people who didn’t have an umbrella running to different establishments in order to shield themselves from the cry of the sky. But despite the low level of temperature, the cold, and the damp air, Jaehyun was burning.
He could feel his entirety being swallowed, being devoured by the flames of curiosity, engulfing every inch of him.

“...What’s his name again…?”

“Lee Taeyong,” Johnny replied, taking another slice of cake. “He’s actually from here, but he decided to leave.”
“Really?” Jaehyun asked, hiding half of his face behind the cup of red tea as he sipped from it, his eyes perusing the man across. His heart still beat like crazy just by hearing his husband’s name from someone else’s lips. “Why did he leave…?”
“He’s never told us. We’ve been friends for around three and a half years, but every time our conversation goes to the topic of why he left, he always gets quiet. I guess it might be a sensitive topic, and if he feels uncomfortable talking about it, we won’t be imposing.”
“Wait, but don’t you live here in Seoul…?” Jaehyun asked in wonder, his eyebrows scrunching. “If he left Seoul and you live here, how did you keep in touch? You mean, you guys always talk on the phone or video chat?”
“No, Ten and I actually lived in Bangkok for three years, in the Siam Area to be specific. We lived in an apartment complex, and Taeyong was our new neighbor at the time. Turns out he’s Korean, and we kind of just clicked.”
All these years, Jaehyun roamed the entire southern part of the Korean peninsula and its islands in search of his husband just to find out at this very moment that Taeyong has been living in Bangkok.
Jaehyun didn’t know what to feel upon finding that out, but there was a feeling of blossoming contentment within the deepest parts of him. Knowing that Taeyong was safe and had friends was enough for him.
“Bangkok…?” Jaehyun sat right up. “Was he able to find a job there?”

“Yeah, he speaks daily conversational English, so it didn’t take him long enough to land a job.” Johnny popped into his mouth the last piece of chocolate cake.
-“He worked as a university doctor in an international school in Bangkok. That’s where Ten met him, actually. Ten used to work there as a performing arts professor.”

Jaehyun has always known that his husband is capable of everything.
When they first visited his family in the US, Taeyong had a hard time speaking English, but within a month of only speaking to Jaehyun in the said language back when they were still boyfriends, his husband was able to improve a lot.
“That sounds hard,” he commented, “working as a university doctor and being only able to speak English to the people there.”
“I know. English isn’t really widely spoken in Thailand, but it’s an international school so.” Johnny shrugged his shoulders. “But I really salute that guy. He really tried to learn Thai. And on his free time, he goes on medical missions or volunteers in various organizations.”
“Really?”

“Yeah, Ten and I have gone volunteering with him a couple of times before, and I finally understood why he keeps on doing it.”

“I get what you’re saying,” Jaehyun said. “So, when is he arriving?”
“Exactly two weeks from now,” Johnny responded. “Ten and I will be fetching him and Hyuck at Incheon International Airport.”
“What a coincidence, my husband’s also arriving that same day. Can I, perhaps, go with you?” Jaehyun gulped the last content of the cup in front of him, his hands and knees shaking at what he was about to say. “I need to fetch my husband at the airport, too.”
[let's all tag along with jung yoonoh in fetching lee taeyong at the incheon international airport in the next update!]

curiouscat.me/forthenomin
i just want to clarify because everyone seems to be confused. the taeyong part is a typo. i was supposed to write jaehyun*** instead of taeyong.
Being fed with those information about his husband after so many years made Jaehyun feel like walking on air, like he was over the moon. It felt like walking to the realm of the seventh heaven upon knowing that Taeyong was alright and doing good.
The excitement to break the news to his sons that their papa will be coming back is overflowing, but he has to restrain himself. He needs to be a hundred percent sure first that Taeyong /will/ actually come back. He doesn’t want to be careless.
If ever, for some reason, Taeyong finds out that he already knows about the former’s return, then Taeyong might not proceed at all. And if that happens, Jaehyun wouldn’t be able to convince his husband to come to their kids’ graduation. That’s the last thing he wants to happen.
He’s so overwhelmed he feels like his heart is going to burst any second, and that’s something he hadn't felt in a long time.
It’s still hard to believe that within weeks, he’s going to see once again the person who gave a new meaning to his life, the person who managed to stay in his mind, body, and spirit even after all these years.
More than anything, Jaehyun is terrified more than any situation he had ever been. Just as finally seeing Lee Taeyong is his highest form of bliss, it’s also his greatest fear. At the moment, he’s standing between the lines of bravery and cowardice, of courage and weakness.
There are many things he wants to say, there are many things he wants to do. But he’s afraid he wouldn’t have the chance to say and do those things in fear that Taeyong might steer away, which would most likely be the case. But whatever will be, will be.
“Hey, Jung,” a voice called, pulling Jaehyun back from his little daydream. It was the accounting director, Director Qian Kun, standing with his hands in his pockets.
-“I need you to finish the financial record of all the shops in the entire Yongsan district before the day ends, alright? I need to analyze and review the finances of it for the next meeting.”
“Roger that, Director Qian,” Jaehyun replied as his lips turned into a curve upward, straightening his back and focusing on the screen in front of him. Having quit his job as a national sales director, he’s still not used to being ordered around by the higher ups.
But being in an entry level job isn’t too bad either. He has more time for his kids and himself because there’s less responsibility.

“By the way, are you free later?” Director Qian asked, massaging one of his temples, eyes closed.
“I am, why?

“Could you accompany me later to Ichon?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jaehyun responded, typing something on his computer. “But isn’t it the job of sales department to go to specific shops to check how our products are doing?”
“Yeah, but Mr. Oh is sick so he asked me to do him a favor and go to his place afterwards.”

“Alright.” Jaehyun nodded in understanding. “I’ll send you the financial records right after I’m done, but can I get something to eat first?”
“Sure, take all the time you need. I’ll head back to my office now.”

When accounting director disappeared from sight, Jaehyun momentarily looked at the picture frame he had of his family on his table before smiling to himself and getting on with his work.
It’s been two years since he began working for Zhong Publishing, a Chinese company that branched out to Korea which mainly publishes manhwa-related content. Zhong Publishing is split into three major publications, namely Neo Publication, a monthly yaoi manhwa magazine;
Culture Publication, a weekly shounen ai manhwa magazine; and lastly, Technology Publication, a monthly shonen manhwa magazine. If it weren’t for Mark, he probably wouldn’t have given it a try.

Never has it ever occured to Jaehyun that he’d work for such a company.
Throughout his two-year therapy, he found himself jumping from one job to another because the atmosphere and the workplace didn’t suit him, not to mention the people he worked with. He’d become a bit picky when it comes to the work atmosphere, which turned out to be a good thing.
Now, he’s working at a company free of toxic people who would urge him to do unforgivable things. Don’t get him wrong. He’s not blaming his previous colleagues, but it’s a bit of a reach to say that they didn’t partake in it.
Most of the time, the peer pressure of the ones around you contribute greatly to your decisions. And if Jaehyun surrounds himself with the right people, he knows he’d be alright. Too bad that he’s leaving soon to focus on his own business.
After a couple of hours of nonstop working, he finally finished the financial record, sending it to Director Qian’s email. He checked his wristwatch and saw that it was time for him to head out. So, that’s what he did.
It was around six in the evening when Jaehyun set foot outside the company building, the fresh calends air of December brushing past his cheeks. Street lights brought the surroundings to life under the starry skies of Seoul as vehicles drive past and passersby walk by.
Having an internal battle if he should head to a restaurant or not, Jaehyun decided to just grab something in a convenience store nearby, preferably a cup of shin ramyeon to warm his body up from the cold air of autumn.
He hasn’t even made his seventh step when he felt his phone buzz inside his pocket.

“Hello?” he greeted on the line after his fished out his phone and saw that it was Changbin. “Changbin.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t to call you the past week. I was extremely busy,” his friend said on the other line, sounding out of breath. “By the way, how did the meeting with my cousin go?”

“It went great. I didn’t know Seo Youngho is your cousin,” Jaehyun replied as he continued walking.
-“We went to the same high school. We were actually friends.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s been years since we last saw each other. It’s practically more than two decades now if I’m not mistaken.
He used to be called Johnny back in high school. I know that his name is Seo Youngho, but since it’s been so long and he must have probably settled in the US, I didn’t think it would be an old friend from high school.”
“Wow, I didn’t expect that. When I told him your name, he said it sounded kinda similar. He just couldn’t pinpoint where he heard the name, but now everything makes sense,” Changbin said through the line. “So, did you like his design?”
“Yeah, I did. I’m glad that it’s him. He told me he knows someone whom we can order the things we need. Less hassle.” Jaehyun stopped in front of a vending machine, pocketing out a few coins and getting a small bottle of water.
-“He really seems to know what he’s talking about. I never would have thought he’d be an interior designer.”

There was a laugh from the other line as Jaehyun drank all of its content in one go.
“Yeah, yeah. I just called to see if there were any problems. I’m glad there wasn’t. By the way, send my regards to your kids. We should hang out again soon, man.”
“Thanks. Send my regards to your wife and kids as well,” Jaehyun responded, continuing his walk as he made a turn. “And yeah, we should, but you’re the one who’s always between us, you punk.”
“I’ll text when I’m finally free.”

“But really, thank you so much Changbin,” he said, as he stared at a far-off distance, blurry images of Lee Taeyong flashing before his eyes like a kaleidoscope of memories, “in more ways than one.”
Jaehyun arrived in front of 7-Eleven seconds later after ending the call. He pushed the doors, went straight to get a packet of shin ramyeon with a disposable container, a pack of pickled radish, and a coke in can before going straight to the counter to pay.
Shortly after, he went to the ramyeon machine, put all the ingredients, scanned the barcode of the disposable container, and started cooking his ramyeon.
As soon as it was cooked, he headed straight to a table, sitting on one of the stools, facing the glass wall and seeing all the lights, cars, and people outside. Before he began, he posed for a picture with his food, sending it to his family’s group chat on KakaoTalk.
/Dad is eating alone again,/ he wrote, putting a sad kaomoji at the end of the sentence. /Wish you kids were here with me./

Not too long after he had his first slurp of the hot, spicy shin ramyeon, his eldest was the first one to reply.
/What are you eating, Dad? Just last time you were preaching about how I should learn how to cook. Now, you’re eating that junk again./

/I don’t have time, okay? After this, I need to go somewhere with my higher up,/ Jaehyun replied, smiling at his eldest son’s playful remark.
-/Even if I want to cook, I can’t./

/You should’ve at least gone to, I don’t know, a restaurant or something?/

/Hyung is right, Dad! That looks unhealthy. Coke and ramyeon, seriously? That can’t get any more unhealthy,/ his youngest chimed in.
/Why are the two of you ganging up on me all of a sudden, huh?/

/Dad, I think you should’ve just gone to a diner or something. That indeed looks unhealthy,/ Jaemin said, putting a smiling kaomoji.
-/And you two, you have no right to scold Dad like that. The two of you eat ramyeon three days straight when exam week, might I remind you./

/Jaemin… I thought you were on our side.../ Mark wrote with a crying kaomoji at the end of his message. /Jeno, collect your bf./
/Babe, what the heck. I’m your boyfriend. You can’t just snitch on me like that./

/I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m just pointing out your hypocrisy./
/Jaemin, what do you want to eat when you come back here? I’ll cook all of your favorite. The two punks can starve,/ he wrote, chuckling to himself before slurping his noodles and gulping his coke.
/Dad, that’s not fair!/

/Jaemin, as your brother-in-law, I no longer approve of you./

/Thank you, Dad,/ Jaemin said. /I would love Gangnam-style chicken wings, sundubu jjigae, and tonkatsu, Dad./
/Dad!/ Even through the screen of his phone, Jaehyun could hear his youngest son’s whine. Before, Jeno wasn’t like that. If anything, his youngest son was the least person you’d get a reaction from. Now, however, Jeno’s playful side is showing, all thanks to Jaemin.
-/You can’t play favorites!/

/Dad, why would you do this?/ Mark wrote, sending a crying lion sticker. /I’m just worried about your health. You know how much I love you, right?/
Jaehyun sipped ate the last string of noodles, sipping the spicy soup as it slid down his throat down to his stomach. /Whatever, whatever. I need to go now. I’ll talk to you guys next time. And Jaemin, your wish is my command./
Chugging down his coke, Jaehyun smiled at the person behind the counter before exiting the convenience store, the coke can still in his hand. He walked back in front of the building of Zhong Publishing before sending Director Qian a message that he was already waiting outside.
Several minutes later, Director Qian emerged from the exit, giving him an apologetic smile.

“How long have you been waiting out here?” Director Qian asked, catching his breath. “You should’ve at least waited inside. It’s so cold out here.”
“It’s alright, I just got here anyway.” Jaehyun smiled, waving his hands off. “So, shall we go, Director?”
“Yeah, sure,” Director Qian replied. “But we gotta use your car, though. Mine broke down last week, and I still haven’t gotten it back from the repair shop. Plus, you don’t need to address me formally outside work, Yoonoh.”
“Alright.” Jaehyun nodded, leading the way to his car. “Kun-hyung.”

With Jaehyun behind the wheel and Qian Kun riding shotgun, they hit the streets of Seoul under the starry skies of Seoul, heading to Yongsan.
There was a song playing in the background, sidetracking the comfortable silence they had earlier. Jaehyun has his eyes on the read, driving carefully, whereas Qian Kun had his gaze out the window, watching the buildings, vehicles, and people past before his eyes.
“So,” Kun started, dragging the syllable, “I heard you’re putting up a business.”

“Yeah.” Jaehyun nodded despite not being in sight. “I’ve actually been planning it for a long time now, but I guess I was too scared to venture out.
I’ve always been sure what kind of business I want to start up. I have also written a business plan, assessed my finances, determined my legal business structure, and come up with the strategic location long before, but I was kinda hesitant.”
“Because…?”

“I mean, it’s a gamble. I think putting up your own business and spending money on something so indefinite is enough reason for anyone to be skeptical.”
“Fair enough,” Kun replied with a laugh. “I wish you all the best. When I put up mine a couple of years ago, I went bankrupt. Good thing I never resigned from Zhong Publishing. Who knows, I might have been a beggar by now had I quit.”
“I’m actually resigning a week before the opening.”

“Well, good luck.”

“Thanks. I’m really determined to make everything work, you know?” Jaehyun said as they made a turn. “But I’m not really aiming for something unexpectedly high.
If that was my goal, I would’ve put up something different, not a flower shop. I just want a job with a stable salary without having to compromise my time with my family, especially now that my kids are coming back to live with me after their graduation.”
“But doesn’t your job pay well?”

“It does,” Jaehyun agreed, nodding his head. “The money you get paid with also increases as you climb to the top. But the downside would be not enough time for your family. I’ve forsaken my family before, I don’t want that happening ever again.
I want to start a business in which I can just hire people to manage it. Of course, I’d also manage it, but I’m putting the responsibility to someone I can trust, preferably someone single so I don’t have to feel guilty about them not having enough time with their family.”
“Sounds like a plan.”

Arriving at a bookshop with the highest number of sales in Yongsan based on their financial records, Jaehyun searched somewhere where he could park his car.
And when found a parking space, he got out with Kun, entering the bookshop with a friendly smile on their faces.

“Oh, it’s you Mr. Qian,” the guy behind the counter, whose name tag read Song Dongpyo, standing cutely in five feet, five inches in height, exclaimed. “With Mr…?”
“Jung.” Jaehyun offered a small smile.

Song Dongpyo smiled back. “Is Mr. Oh too busy?”

“Not really,” Kun replied. “He’s sick because he’s been overworking himself, but he’s probably going to be the one to come here next time.”
“That’s too bad. Please, send my regards to him. I hope he’s doing well.”

“Will do.” Jaehyun looked around, perusing every bookshelf, book, corner, and detail of the bookshop, taking into account the great and teenage ambience of the place.
-There were quite a number of people around, mostly teenage girls inside the shop. “By the way, is your boss here?”

“He’s in the storage room,” the worker said. “Wait here, I’ll call him.”
But before Song Dongpyo could walk away from the counter, Jaehyun was able to get his phone out and snap a photo of the former. He distanced himself from Kun, telling the latter that he’d wander around the bookshop for a little bit.
As soon as he was out of sight, he opened the KakaoTalk app.

/Because Mark is too lazy to date, I’ll be the one to find him a potential lover. Does this guy fit your standards, son?/ Jaehyun wrote before sending the picture of the guy and deleting it from his gallery.
/Dad, what the heck. I thought you need to be somewhere? Why are you suddenly taking pictures of strangers?/ Mark replied, sending a face-palming boy sticker right after.

/Isn’t that what you kids do these days?/
/Well, not me though,/ Mark typed in. /And to answer your question, no, he’s definitely not my type./

/Why not? He looks cute. You have such a high standards. You should at least start dating now. Look at Jeno and Jaemin./
/Whatever, Dad. I need to go. Remember, don’t take pictures of strangers. It’s rude and creepy./
Chuckling to himself but taking to heart hat his eldest said, there was a deep intake of breath from Jaehyun as he walked leisurely through the isles of oceans of books, checking out some of them and caressing their front and back cover.
He took a brief glance at his superior, talking to a man in his late 50s, but what caught Jaehyun’s attention was a manhwa called /Home, Somehow/ sitting alone amidst the other manhwas with multiple copies.
On the cover page, the guy with a silver a silver hair on the foreground had his face contorted in a crying manner, tears on his face. He had the back of his hand on his one eye, rubbing it.
At the back, over the guy on the foreground’s shoulder, was a little blurry, but it was a guy who was looking at the crying guy with a longing gaze.

Home, Somehow.
There was a slight tug on Jaehyun’s heartstrings. And somehow, he felt drawn to the book, like it had a strong gravitational force that was pulling him in. Slowly, he reached for it, turning to the back cover to read the blurb, sensing a familiar feeling.
/With the last remaining hope of fixing his rocky marriage, Yoon Jeonghan sits in the living room of his and his husband’s home in order to finally end their six month-long fight. However, Choi Seungcheol proposes to put an end to their marriage instead./
With his heart skipping and breath hitching, Jaehyun felt weak, resulting in him losing the grasp on the last copy of the said manhwa. Instantly, Jaehyun’s knees were wobbly, his fingers shaking.
“Yoonoh?” Kun called, but to no avail, Jaehyun was too lost in his own world to hear it. “Hey, Yoonoh.”
Jaehyun jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder, his eyes going wide. As he whipped his head to the direction of the touch, he saw a distraught Kun, eyebrows furrowed and eyes full of worry and concern.

“Yoonoh, what’s wrong?”
“I-I… N-Nothing...” came Jaehyun’s throaty and brittle reply. He lowered his head, blinking, his eyes landing on the book on the floor.

With a momentary gaze at Jaehyun, Kun slowly took the manhwa off the ground, dusting it off. “Oh, it’s the last volume of Home, Somehow.”
“Y-You know this book…?”

“Yeah,” Kun replied. “I know that you don’t read the stuff our company publishes, but seriously, you should, at the very least, familiarize yourself with our books. It’s bad for the company name if you can’t even recognize our works.”
“Our company published this…?”

“Yeah, it’s from Neo Publication. Look,” Kun flipped the book, pointing at the words written at the bottom. “Here’s the company crest, the year it was published, and the company name.”
Jaehyun’s gaze on the book faltered, slowly taking it in his hands once again. Flipping it back, the art cover dabbed at his chest, feeling a sense of familiarity. And when he looked for the author’s name, there was only an alias.
“Haechan?” he asked, unsure. He’s heard the name among the people in different publications before, but since Jaehyun doesn’t really care about the writers, editors, and artists who work in the same company as him as long as he gets his work done, he never really paid attention
to any of them.

“Please, don’t tell me you don’t know him.”

“...I don’t...”

“He’s popular creator of a couple of notable works, including the one you’re holding,” Kun explained.
-“He’s based overseas, but he writes and illustrates in Korean. You know, a lot of people are itching to find out what he looks like and how old he is. Personally, I’m intrigued as well.”

“You mean, nobody has seen him…?”
“Yeah, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s so popular. Even President Zhong approves of anonymity because it sells. But above all else, his ability to tell a story through his work is the main reason.
Every single work he’s published so far is critically acclaimed, but my personal favorite is that one, Home, Somehow.”

Jaehyun’s gaze landed on the book in his hands once again. “This one?”
“Yeah.” Kun nodded. “Dude, I’m not even the emotional type, but I cried reading the entire series in one go. My wife was like, /why are you reading boys’ love at three in the morning with tears in your eyes?/”

“But he’s based overseas. How does that work?”
“Well, you know how we have a lot of branches all over East and Southeast Asia, right? Some say he has his own editor solely assigned to him in the same country as him. Which country you might ask? I have no idea. But yeah, his editor goes through his storyboard.
When there’s no changes or the changes have been made, they would send the work to Korea and have it published here.”

“Really…?”
“You didn’t hear this from me,” Kun whispered, keeping his voice low, “but someone heard President Zhong talking to his son, Zhong Chenle, about Haechan. And since Chenle studies in Thailand, some people are speculating that Haechan is based in Thailand.”
“If Chenle is the editor, why doesn’t anyone know? Shouldn’t he be the representative of the creator?”
“I know, right?” Kun agreed. “But Haechan is very good at hiding. He never misses the deadline. Sometimes, he’s even ahead of it. And it’s been confirmed that the personal editor of Haechan goes straight to the president branch once he’s in possession of the work.”
“...I see...” Jaehyun whispered, his mind somewhere far away.

“You should know the products of our company. Or at least, keep up with the gossip.” Kun chuckled heartily.
-“Although, there’s really no need to do that any more because you’re quitting soon. Anyway, let’s go. You should drop me off, my wife’s waiting for me at home.”

-
“Wow, you read manhwa now, Dad?”

Startled, Jaehyun whipped his head in the direction of the voice. There, Mark, along with Jeno and Jaemin, standing near the doorway, smiling cheekily. It’s the weekend, and the three decided to come back.
A week has passed since he went with Kun to /that/ bookshop, and a week has passed since he saw that book.
Jaehyun felt something in the pit of his stomach, and the need to know more about it grew stronger and stronger when he tried to ignore it for a couple of days upon laying his eyes on it.
And it just so happened that the shop restocked with the previous volumes, so he bought the entire series, although he could practically just ask for free copies from Neo Publication.
The books sat inside his bookshelf for a couple of days among the piles of books he is yet to read, tempting Jaehyun to finally open them up one by one.
The series contains twenty-one volumes, each book’s art cover having an eerily familiar depiction of something he and Taeyong shared before. And it bothered Jaehyun so much, so much that it rendered him sleepless for two nights.
Just who is this Haechan? How could he know so much about him and Taeyong?

/...But someone heard President Zhong talking to his son, Zhong Chenle, about Haechan. And since Chenle studies in Thailand, some people are speculating that Haechan is based in Thailand./
Could it be…?

/No, Ten and I actually lived in Bangkok for three years, in the Siam Area to be specific. We lived in an apartment complex, and Taeyong was our new neighbor at the time. Turns out he’s Korean, and we kind of just clicked./
It wasn’t until Friday night when he, presumably, was able to connect the pieces of the puzzle. There’s no doubt about it, Haechan is Taeyong. Because of that, Jaehyun itched to know more about the whole series.
So, what he did was binge-read the twenty books in one night until morning light greeted him like a friend in the living room, his half-empty fifth cup of coffee on the small table in front of him.
Every scene, every dialogue felt awfully familiar, like they’ve happened to him before. The characters felt like him and the people around him but in an alternate universe.
Reading the series was like going down the memory, reminiscing about the old times in details, the memories manifesting in his mind as vivid as the daylight directly making contact with his eyes. That’s why he fell asleep clutching the last volume of the series close to his chest
He didn’t want to be reminded just how much he hurt Taeyong, didn’t want to be reminded how it all went crashing down between them. Just from the blurb and the art cover, Jaehyun could already feel his heart getting ripped apart.
“Oh, it’s you guys.” Jaehyun sat up, rubbing both of his eyes as he yawned drowsily, removing the twenty-first volume of Home, Somehow from his chest. “Oh God, Jaemin, I forgot to cook the ones you requested.”
“It’s alright, Dad,” Jaemin replied, noticing the bags under Jaehyun’s eyes, tousled hair, and ghost-like skin.

“Dad, you look horrible. What happened to you?” came Jeno’s worried remark before walking up to him, placing the back of his hand on Jaehyun’s forehead then neck.
-“I don’t think you’re sick though.”

“I’m alright, I’m alright.” Jaehyun tried to waved it all with a smile, to which he earned a frown from the rest. “You guys don’t need to worry about me. I’m alive and kicking. Wait here, I’m just going to cook.”
“No, Jaemin and I will do it,” Jeno protested, stopping his father from his tracks. “Just stay there on the couch.”

“No—”

“Dad, you’ve been out of it since the past few weeks.” Mark sighed heavily, crossing his arms on his chest. “Seriously, is there something wrong?”
That left Jaehyun speechless, his hold on the last volume of Home, Somehow tightening. Gulping, he plastered another forced smile that didn’t go unnoticed from the three.
Nonetheless, he heed what his youngest son said and sat on the couch, closing his eyes, but not before carefully tucking in the book underneath a pillow.
“Is this because of work?” Mark asked, turning the television on and minimizing the volume as Jeno and Jaemin left the room, heading toward the kitchen.

“Yeah,” Jaehyun replied.
“But I don’t see your laptop anywhere,” Mark pointed out, flipping the channels mindlessly using the remote control. “Dad, if there’s anything bothering you, I’m always here, Jaemin and Jeno are always here.”
“I know,” Jaehyun responded. “But really, if there’s something wrong, I wouldn’t hesitate to talk to any of you, alright? I’m just really tired because of work. Plus, I have this business that I’m currently working on. It’s normal for me to look like a zombie once in a while.”
“Whatever you say, Dad.”

They talked lazily for an hour in the living room, the sound that the television emitting serving as their background sound until they were called to the kitchen. Jaemin and Jeno cooked their favorite meals, excluding Mark’s much to the latter’s dismay.
Pulling the chair from the center, Jaehyun sat and had the first bite in accordance to the filial hierarchy.

“I know I can’t trust the two of you,” Mark said with distaste, earning him a small laugh from Jaemin.
“It’s not that deep,” Jeno retorted, feeding his boyfriend some kimchi.

“Yes, it is. I feel like you guys are putting up an anti-Mark agenda.”

“What if we are?”

“You dare say that to me?” Mark asked incredulously.
-“As if you didn’t used to cling to me when we were kids. Every time I would leave for school, you’re always like, /hyung, please don’t leave me!/ Dad and Papa even had to combine forces just to make you stop from bawling your eyes out.”
At the mention of Taeyong, Jaehyun’s mood plummeted, if that was even possible. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to hear anything related to his husband, but because there are days when he just gets sad at the mere mention of anything that would remind him of Taeyong.
And that day was one of those days, all because of a goddamn manhwa series.

“...Sorry...” Mark apologized, his voice low and quiet.
“It’s okay.” Jaehyun pulled another fake smile, but he didn’t talk again the entire time. That, however, didn’t stop the three from moving on to another topic about their university life and how excited and nervous they are to graduate.
For the rest of the meal, Jaehyun could only hear the voices of the three as the subject of their conversation shifted from one topic to another, while he was thinking through and deep if this was the right time to say it.
The only time he’s got would be today or tomorrow, and Jaehyun didn’t want to resort to telling them via phone this one.

“By the way, could all of you free your schedule on Saturday?” he blurted out, gaining their attention.

“What for, Dad?” came Mark’s reply.
“We’re fetching someone important at the airport.”

“Really?” Mark perked up. “Is it one from Uncle Yunho, Aunt Krystal, and Aunt Jessica?”

“No.” Jaehyun pulled a tight-lipped wistful smile. “But it’s someone really, really important.”
“Just tell us who it is, Dad,” Jeno commented. “Is it gramps?”

Jaehyun just looked down and smiled. “You’ll see.”

“Uh, Dad?” Jaemin called. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to tag along. My cousins are visiting all the way from Busan.”

“That’s alright.”
“I’ll come with you,” Jeno said to his boyfriend, to which Jaemin shook his head.

“No, you come with Dad and Mark-hyung, okay? Dad just said it’s someone important. You should be there.”

“Could you two please tone down your sappiness?” Mark asked in irritation.
-“Dad and I are literally in front of you. Have you no shame?”

“Hey, don’t get me involved,” Jaehyun chimed in playfully. “For me, I have no problem with it. Maybe your annoyance to their affection toward each other means you need to find one yourself.”
After their meal, Jaehyun grabbed the 21st volume of Home, Somehow before heading to his and Taeyong’s bedroom, placing the book back on the shelf. He then fished out his phone, sending a familiar number a quick message.
/Hey, Johnny. I’m going to bring my kids with me to the airport, and I kinda wanna surprise them. I’d appreciate it if you or Ten won’t say anything about my husband’s arrival. Thank you so much./

-
With sweat all over his face and body, Jaehyun awoke with a start, breathing heavily as he clutched his heart. When he checked his phone that was sitting on the bedside table, it was just four in the morning.
The day he’s been dreading to come around has finally arrived, and Jaehyun could feel his stomach doing somersaults inside. Darkness greeted him, the only source of light was from the cloud-shaped night light he and Taeyong installed on the wall months after they moved in there.
Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes and looked around but suddenly stopped when his gaze landed on his and Taeyong’s wedding picture across the room.

There, in the picture, they were both sporting huge smiles on their faces, completely entranced by the moment of them becoming one.
Jaehyun had his chin on Taeyong’s shoulder, his arms snaked securely around his husbands waist, back hugging the latter. On the other hand, Taeyong’s embarrassment on the picture was unmissable, clasping the back of Jaehyun’s hands.
Everything always comes back to the question, just why did he throw away a ten-year relationship and another ten years of marriage for something so temporary, for something he knew all too well that would destroy everything he’d built for years?
And then his mind flew to that note Taeyong left him for years ago, together with the ring that became the symbol of their union.
Slowly, he removed the duvet from his body, slipping on his slippers before standing up and making a beeline for the drawers of the table where he tucked in the last words Taeyong wrote for him.
Taking a deep breath, Jaehyun took out the brown envelope in which the letter was. He opened the lid, taking out the tear-stained note, filled with carefully written words of farewell that still break Jaehyun’s heart, even to this day.
/Jung Yoonoh,/ the opening line read. Jaehyun could remember the first time he read it, how he had to suppress his sobs and how his world ended and shattered right before his eyes as the words written on the letter began to sink in.
-/Meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me. We experienced a lot of things and shared a lot of memories, and for that, I’m more than thankful.
Of course, we also went through a lot of trials for the 20 years that we’ve been together, but despite all those, my life with you has been nothing but a series of blessing./

He stopped himself for a second as he looked up, fighting the oncoming tears welling up in his eyes.
/You were like rain, you know? The rain that I’ve been wishing for after the drought. You were like a breath of fresh air to me in this city, the one who made it easier for me to breath.
I tried to avoid you, tried to ignore you as much as I could because I was having this internal battle with myself about you. It was foreign, something I was unaware of, and so I steered away.
But you were the moon in all its glory, and I was the calm sea that had a mayhem upon your sudden occurrence, pulling me in. In the end, however, after all the hurdles we jumped, we found our lives entangled./
/Long after me being in denial and you pursuing me, I ended up confessing to you as I cried my eyes out, and nothing had ever felt so worth it for me at that moment than letting all my feelings out...because I finally had you.
You became my anchor, that one that kept me in place, that one that kept me from floating away. You never failed to show your support with my ambitions and dreams. And whenever I felt hopeless, you were there to give me strength, to cheer me up, even when you, too, needed them./
/Eventually, we became one, in the eyes of everyone, in the eyes of the state, and most importantly, in the eyes of Buddha. Remember the first time we went to Ttangkkeut and visited the local temple there?
I went there before you proposed to me and asked Buddha for a sign if you were really the one for me. Weeks after, you asked me to marry you. And so, I went there again, alone, before we visited my mom’s grave in the mountains, to thank Buddha and ask him to bless our marriage./
/There were moments in our relationship when I wished I was more rational, like that one time I went to my hometown for a whole month without contacting you. I knew I hurt you so bad, and it’s all because of my ego, because of my pride.
When I came back and you ignored for the whole day, I felt like I was going crazy and came to the conclusion that maybe you didn’t want me anymore. Fortunately for me, you were just being a little stubborn, and we ended up making love all night long./
/Another instance I wished I was more rational was when I practically forced you to build a family. The moment you told if you weren’t enough when I asked your thoughts about adopting, I should’ve known that you weren’t ready.
But all I thought of was myself and you were basically guilt tripped to agreeing. I was glad that you managed to love them though, like the are our own blood and flesh, like they are our own./
/Starting a family with you and having Mark and Jeno gave me a new sense of beginning, a new sense of purpose. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. All the difficulties in upbringing them were nothing, because I enjoyed every bit of it, especially because I had you with me.
When you’re with me, I know I’d be alright./

/I don’t know how things went wrong. One moment we were okay, celebrating your promotion, and then the next moment, we were fighting over something so little,
over something so trivial that we could probably resolve only if we took the time to talk it out. But then it escalated to something bigger, something along the lines of me putting my job first over you and the kids.
Eventually, your trust and faith in me deteriorated as I continued to participate in medical missions and spend time with a certain colleague.
But I will tell you this now, it’s up to you if you’d believe me or not, but there’s nothing between me and him, although I think I should’ve distanced myself in order to put your heart at ease. At the end of the day, your feelings should always be the first thing I value./
/We began sleeping in different rooms, started sleeping in different places. The kids were getting affected, and it lasted for six months. And that half a year felt like a century I almost forgot the pattern of your breath and heartbeat, almost forgot the taste of your lips.
I tied to mend things. Trust me, I really did. But every time you’re near, I cower in fear./
/When I finally had the guts to patch things up between us, however, you already want to put an end to it. I never thought this day would come, never thought the topic of divorce would even slip between your lips, but here we are./
/I didn’t know you prepared for this. I just saw the divorce papers in our closet earlier. I’m not going to lie, I feel like the heaven and the earth is closing in on me. It hurts a lot...probably, more than you will ever know, but I don’t want to pin you down.
I don’t want to make you feel guilty and try to make you stay with me. However, I know that the process of divorce would kill me, so I will go away for the meantime. I will leave the kids to you because I know that with you, they’re going to have a more comfortable life.
I have signed the divorce papers. By the time you read this, I’m probably nowhere to be found. Without me there would slow the process of our divorce. There would be more hearings, trials, or mediation sessions. Nonetheless, you’ll still be able to process it./
/Lastly, thank you for all the memories. It’s sad that we couldn’t keep our vows, but I have no regrets. If I were given the chance to go back in time, I’d still choose to be with you. Because with you, everything is worth it, even if it means getting hurt in the process./
/P.S., Stay healthy. Please, don’t overwork yourself. Also, take care of the kids./

/Until then, /

/Lee Taeyong/
Amidst the silence of the morning, Jaehyun sat in his bed, eyes bloodshot from the nonstop tears that kept on cascading down his pale cheeks.
The wounds ended up reopening when he read the series that awfully resembled his and Taeyong’s story, and Jaehyun felt like he poured salt on them by rereading his husband’s letter to him. His then shifted eyes from the letter to his and Taeyong’s wedding picture across the wall.
He should fix himself, considering today would be his husband’s arrival.
Leisurely, Jaehyun got up, wiping his eyes and his tear-stained cheeks. He did a little stretching and exercising inside his and Taeyong’s bedroom before taking a cold shower to wake his spirits up and did his morning routine.
By the time the clock struck at 6:30 A.M., he went to the kitchen to cook breakfast. It wasn’t until 8:00 A.M., when Jeno woke up and went to the dining area.

“Good morning, Dad,” the youngest Jung mumbled in his half-asleep state, taking one of the seats.
“Good morning,” Jaehyun replied, fixing the saucers and the plates on the table. “Where’s Jaemin?”

“I dropped him off at his parents’ place last night.” Jeno popped a piece of meat in his mouth.
-“I insisted for him to stay until this morning, but he said he doesn’t wanna wake up early. You know he’s my boss, Dad.”
That earned a small laugh from Jaehyun. A few minutes later, Mark walked inside the dining area, wearing a pair of pajamas with tousled hair and taking one of the seats across Jeno, while Jaehyun sat on the end.
“After this breakfast, get ready, alright?” Jaehyun asked, shifting his eyes from and to his kids with a small smile. “We’re going to fetch someone important at the airport today.”

-
“Oh, Yoonoh!”

After an hour and a half of being stuck in traffic, Jaehyun, together with his kids, Mark and Jeno, arrived at the airport fifteen minutes earlier than the time Taeyong’s flight was going to arrive, according to Johnny.
Jaehyun couldn’t even count how many words of profanities he’d let out on the way. Because of all the days to be stuck in a traffic jam, why today?

Fortunately, the three of them were able to make it just in time.
“Hey, Johnny,” Jaehyun greeted as he jogged to Johnny, Ten, and a guy who was about the same age as Mark and Jeno. “Hello, Ten.”

“Hello, Yoonoh,” the Thai man greeted back, bowing his head slightly. “Are these your kids?”
“Yeah, this is Mark, my eldest.” Jaehyun pointed at Mark who smiled at the others and sported a small smile, bowing his head. “And this is my youngest, Jeno.”
“Woah, you have such handsome kids, Yoonoh,” Johnny complimented, giving the Jungs a thumbs up and a playful laugh. “This is our son, Hendery.”
“Hello.” /Hendery/ bowed his head in greeting, sporting a smile so wide it reached his eyes, which, for some reason, left a distaste in Mark. “It’s nice to meet you Uncle Yoonoh. You, too, Mark and Jeno.”

“I thought you guys weren’t going to make it in time,”
-Johnny interjected, checking his wristwatch. “Our friend is about to be here. They’ve announced his flight’s arrival.”

Since Jaehyun had talked to Johnny about not mentioning about his husband’s arrival in order to surprise his kids, he didn’t have to worry so much.
Everything was going smooth according to his plan. And as coincidence would have it, Johnny and Ten were also going to surprise Hendery, which was the arrival of Taeyong. The only person the latter knew that was going to be there was this Donghyuck.
Now, Jaehyun didn’t have to worry about anything at all, aside from the fact that he didn’t know what was about to unfold. Of course, he felt bad keeping things from Johnny, as well as with the latter’s husband and son, but some things needed to be done.
“Well, you know how bad traffic in Korea is,” Jaehyun retorted, feeling his heartbeat getting louder with each passing second. “Sometimes, you just gotta get used to it.”

“I know,” Johnny agreed. “Mark and Jeno are in university, right? What are they taking?”
“Jeno here is studying applied chemistry and Mark here is studying film and animation,” Jaehyun explained proudly. “Honestly, Jeno didn’t surprise me. I mean, his papa is a doctor. Mark, on the other hand, left me speechless.
Not that there’s anything wrong with film and animation, but I was kind of shocked.”

“I’m sure there something that gave that away?”
“Well, to be fair, he’s always liked watching films and animations. You know, those Japanese anime, Disney films, and Pixar films. I guess it just never occurred to me that he’d take something related to those.”
-Jaehyun laughed nervously, looking around as his heart quickened again, as if foreshadowing an impending doom. “W-What about Hendery?”

“I actually just finished university, Uncle. I took up mathematics.”
“I see, Jeno and Mark here are going to graduate by the end of winter.”
“Really?” Hendery asked. “Then, there’s only a couple of months left.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait for them to fina⁠—”

“Oh,” Ten suddenly exclaimed, “he’s here!”
Feeling like he’s been rendered frozen in his tracks, it was as if someone poured a bucket of cold water over Jaehyun’s head. He saw Jeno and Mark staring right past him, their mouths parted, eyes unconvinced of what they were seeing.
Even when there were a lot of footsteps from hundreds of people in the airport, there was one particular footsteps that seemed to get louder and louder, going to his direction.

A step—Jaehyun gulped, as if it would give him courage. Another step—he did a sharp intake of breath.
It felt as if time slowed down, and when he finally turned around to look at the love of his life, the one whom he’d been looking for years, he was yet again rendered frozen, speechless as he saw the empty eyes, that were once full of life, gazing back at him.

“...Taeyong...”
[a very long update bc i haven't updated this for more than a week. i'm sorry!!! i hope you guys enjoyed this. i have a job interview today so i wanted to leave this to you before i get busy. see you in the next update!!!]

curiouscat.me/forthenomin
[by the way, are y'all ready for taeyong's new love interest?]
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