and yes, this is the edited & final version.
Every day, Jaehyun feels dysfunctional and lost. He knows that something is missing, that someone is missing.
In the first month, Jeno hated him to the moon and back.
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.
Ever since his kids left, Jaehyun found himself sadder and sadder each day.
Jaehyun was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
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.
His phone suddenly rang, startling him in his seat. He fished it out and saw who was calling, Seo Changbin.
“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.”
“Okay, okay,” Jaehyun responded. “Thank you again.”
As soon as the call was dropped, he plastered a smile on before going back to work.
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.
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.
“I told you,” Jaemin whispered to his boyfriend. “We shouldn’t have surprised Dad.”
“Sure, let me get changed first.”
“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.
“What about you, Jaemin?”
“What about your parents, how are they?”
“Is that so?” Jaehyun nodded. “Then, I should visit Dokyun and Haeryung sometimes.”
“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.”
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.
That is why after he stopped therapy, he envisioned of putting up his own business.
/No, tomorrow is fine. I need to go somewhere anyway. Does noon sound good?/
“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?”
“Good morning, Jaemin.”
“Wow, all of those look tasty,” Jaemin claimed, his eyes twinkling at the amount of food on the table.
His eyebrows furrowed, confused.
“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.
“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.”
Jaehyun, together with Mark, walked inside the dining area, surprising Jeno and Jaemin.
“Hyung!” Jeno said in excitement. “I thought you’re not gonna come?”
“So, how are you, Mark?” Jaehyun asked his eldest, perusing the guy, trying to block out the negative thoughts. “Got any girlfriend or boyfriend?”
“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.”
On the side, Jaemin blushed, looking down, while Jeno went wide-eyed. “How did you find out?”
“That punk,” Jeno muttered under his breath, shaking his head. “He’s really been loud-mouthed ever since.”
“Baby, it’s okay...” Jaemin whispered.
“It’s going as planned.” Jaehyun popped a slice of pancake inside his mouth.
“I’d rather stay here, Dad. I kinda miss the house, so I’ll probably just laze around.”
“Is that so?” Jaehyun pouted childishly, to which both of his and Taeyong’s sons cringed.
With a smile, Jaemin nodded.
He put down the cup as it continued to release steam over, his softening at the thought of his papa.
Jaehyun always gets visited by these kind of thoughts, more often than not.
He tried to shake it off by shaking his head rapidly.
“Are you Jung Yoonoh?” the man asked with a slight bow, his voice sounding eerily familiar to Jaehyun.
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
Pausing for a couple of seconds, Jaehyun plastered on a smile. “I’m doing good these days. What about you?”
“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…?”
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.
“Yeah, that sounds good.“
“Well, I kinda finished early, so I decided to come here...”
“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.”
Now, all of these are just wishful thinking.
“What did he say?” Johnny asked, taking a sip from his black coffee.
...But it could…
“What you just said,” Jaehyun muttered lowly directly at Ten, his heart hammering inside his chest, “can you repeat it again?”
“No, not that. The other one.”
“My friend will kill me…?”
“Taeyong.” Jaehyun’s breath hitched, feeling his heart constrict. “Lee Taeyong.”
Now, however, even after all these years, he’s not sure if he’s ready to see Taeyong again.
Wide-eyed and mouth agape, Jaehyun froze in his seat, unable to form any coherent words.
Jaehyun isn’t dumb...well, at least he isn’t now. He knew he shouldn’t act suspicious.
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.
From the looks of it, Taeyong seemed happy, which caused a twinge in Jaehyun’s heart.
“I am,” Jaehyun replied, giving his son a halfhearted smile. “I just need some water.”
“Is that so?” Mark was still a little unconvinced but decided to drop it anyway. “That’s good, then.”
“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?”
“Thank you, Dad.” Mark let out a wide grin in his father’s way.
“Just kidding, just kidding.”
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.
“Of course,” Johnny answered, removing his coat and placing it on the backrest.
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.
“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.”
“I can’t help it.”
“...I know...” Jaehyun answered, smiling bitterly at the memories.
“...Ten and I have been there...”
“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.”
“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.
Be damned if he were lying, but Jaehyun didn’t feel anything the slightest for Seulgi.
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.
“The guy on Ten’s phone, the one you asked to see a picture of.”
“...What’s his name again…?”
“Lee Taeyong,” Johnny replied, taking another slice of cake. “He’s actually from here, but he decided to leave.”
“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.
Jaehyun has always known that his husband is capable of everything.
“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?”
“By the way, are you free later?” Director Qian asked, massaging one of his temples, eyes closed.
“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?”
“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?”
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.
Never has it ever occured to Jaehyun that he’d work for such a company.
“Hello?” he greeted on the line after his fished out his phone and saw that it was Changbin. “Changbin.”
“It went great. I didn’t know Seo Youngho is your cousin,” Jaehyun replied as he continued walking.
“Yeah, it’s been years since we last saw each other. It’s practically more than two decades now if I’m not mistaken.
There was a laugh from the other line as Jaehyun drank all of its content in one go.
“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.”
Not too long after he had his first slurp of the hot, spicy shin ramyeon, his eldest was the first one to reply.
/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.
/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.
/Dad, I think you should’ve just gone to a diner or something. That indeed looks unhealthy,/ Jaemin said, putting a smiling kaomoji.
/Jaemin… I thought you were on our side.../ Mark wrote with a crying kaomoji at the end of his message. /Jeno, collect your bf./
/I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m just pointing out your hypocrisy./
/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, 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?/
“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.”
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.
“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 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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
“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…?”
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.”
“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.
“He’s in the storage room,” the worker said. “Wait here, I’ll call him.”
/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.
/Isn’t that what you kids do these days?/
/Why not? He looks cute. You have such a high standards. You should at least start dating now. Look at Jeno and Jaemin./
“Yoonoh, what’s wrong?”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Please, don’t tell me you don’t know him.”
“He’s popular creator of a couple of notable works, including the one you’re holding,” Kun explained.
“You mean, nobody has seen him…?”
Jaehyun’s gaze landed on the book in his hands once again. “This one?”
“But he’s based overseas. How does that work?”
“You should know the products of our company. Or at least, keep up with the gossip.” Kun chuckled heartily.
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.
/...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./
/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./
“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’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.”
“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?”
“Yeah,” Jaehyun replied.
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.
“I know I can’t trust the two of you,” Mark said with distaste, earning him a small laugh from Jaemin.
“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.
“...Sorry...” Mark apologized, his voice low and quiet.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.
“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.”
There, in the picture, they were both sporting huge smiles on their faces, completely entranced by the moment of them becoming one.
He stopped himself for a second as he looked up, fighting the oncoming tears welling up in his eyes.
/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,
/Until then, /
“Good morning, Dad,” the youngest Jung mumbled in his half-asleep state, taking one of the seats.
“I dropped him off at his parents’ place last night.” Jeno popped a piece of meat in his mouth.
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.
Fortunately, the three of them were able to make it just in time.
“Hello, Yoonoh,” the Thai man greeted back, bowing his head slightly. “Are these your kids?”
“I thought you guys weren’t going to make it in time,”
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.
“I know,” Johnny agreed. “Mark and Jeno are in university, right? What are they taking?”
“I’m sure there something that gave that away?”
“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.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait for them to fina—”
“Oh,” Ten suddenly exclaimed, “he’s here!”
A step—Jaehyun gulped, as if it would give him courage. Another step—he did a sharp intake of breath.