"K—Kim-sunbaenim..."364 DAYS UNTIL SHIM CHANGMIN FALLS IN LOVE WITH KIM JAEJOONG.
It was a most pleasant surprise and break from Jaejoong's monotonous, day-to-day routine — the boy he had been so curious about for the past five years was about to grab the book he was planning to borrow earlier. Granted, the primary reason for him displaying any sign of interest in the book was because the boy had been eying it since he arrived in the library earlier this afternoon, but then he'd thought that the boy had already left. That was exactly why he was here — to get the book before the boy did, so that he'd at least have an idea of the kind of mood that the boy was in today.
It's little things like this that made him feel so much closer to the boy he had been pining all these years.
"Kim-sunbaenim, I—" The boy shoved the book in his chest. "Please, take the book!"
He blinked a couple of times and gently lifted the book from the boy's hands. How did the boy know his name, though? Did he hear it from someone? What are the chances of the boy actually knowing that he was one of the many Kim's in this world?
"Why do you know my name?"
There was silence for a few minutes, and Jaejoong took the liberty of clutching the book to his chest as if it was something so dear to him. The boy had his head hung low, and when the wind blew Jaejoong swore he caught a whiff of the boy's perfume — it was sweet, fresh, a bit on the light side. A few moments after, the boy's lips trembled.
"Because... Because I like you, sunbae."
A wave of relief washed over Jaejoong as the words echoed in his mind. I like you, sunbae— it replayed in his head like a broken record. He tried hard not to smile too eagerly, but it was hard — he'd liked this boy since he was twelve, he'd watched every basketball game, every running event the boy was in. He'd gone through every book the boy had read (and tried to discern what his name actually was, because the boy only ever wrote his name as 'Shim Min'). So he smiled a little, bit the inside of his cheek, and gave the boy — Min, as he had been calling him in his head all these years — a pat on the head.
"You're cute, you know that?"
Min turned at least two shades brighter, and Jaejoong just chuckled and ruffled his hair.
Jaejoong blinked a few times. He had apparently passed out for at least ten minutes, and a manhwa was conveniently shielding his face from the public view. His eyes felt so sore, it was almost as if they were burning; it was that time of the month again, and dreams like the one had just a while ago were definitely, definitely welcome.
They proved to be both a good and bad distraction at times, though, and right now Jaejoong swore he was hearing voices which was impossible, given that the whole editorial department had submitted themselves to sleep.
Jaejoong made an effort to crane his neck, checking to see who the speaker was. There was a tall man on their doorstep and he looked the least bit harmful (more like lost, to be honest), so he gestured for the man to come in.
"Uh, hi, good morning. I'm Shim Changmin, the new editor?" The newcomer smiled a little. "The management said I was supposed to start today."
"Ah, yes." Jaejoong quickly got to his feet and extended his hand to the newcomer for a handshake. "I'm Kim Jaejoong, the editor-in-chief. Please, take a seat there." Jaejoong worried his lips a bit when he saw the pile of manuscripts on the chair. "Or there. Anywhere. Sorry for the mess — it's the last stretch for production and we're cutting close to the deadline. This is actually better than the usual."
"You mean it can be worse?" Changmin asked.
Jaejoong nodded and tried to smile. "Much worse."
"Of course, once everything's done, things get better," Jaejoong rushed when he saw Changmin furrow his eyebrows. "This month was just particularly rough, what with the new authors and all." He offered a smile, this time one stretching across his lips so that his features brightened up a little. He crinkled his eyes for effect; he remembered Jungsu saying something about smiles being more convincing when coupled with crinkled eyes.
"I—I see. It'll be a pleasure working with you, then!"
A smile surfaced on Changmin's lips for the first time, and if Jaejoong squinted hard enough he swore he'd deem Changmin as someone overly familiar, maybe a good friend or a classmate from university. The glint of excitement in Changmin's eyes, the upward curve of his lips, the stretch of his body — they all seemed familiar, like Jaejoong had memorized his features by heart before.
"Have we... met before?"
"Maybe. Possibly?" There was a pause before Changmin continued, "I mean, I've been in the publications industry for a while already and we might have bumped into each other in the printers before." Changmin squinted a little. "You do look familiar, though."
Jaejoong's entire thought process was effectively cut off by the ringing of their company phone. Yoochun, the managing editor, was quick to pick it up. "The author is here with the submat, says she's waiting in the lobby," Yoochun called out as soon as the phone call had ended. Jaejoong nodded, then turned to Changmin to put an arm around him and usher him outside the office.
"Work starts now, kid. Come with me. We're going to check some lousy material and make a gold mine out of it."
There was something about the way his arm fit around Changmin's shoulder that made Jaejoong think about the craziest of things — that Changmin might have been one of his crushes was back in university, or maybe his best buddy back in preschool, or maybe even the boy he used to play with in the sandpit. He felt Changmin's muscles tense under the sudden contact, and he chuckled as he squeezed Changmin's arm lightly and Changmin let out a little sound of surprise.
The trip to the lounge was quiet, save for the few times Changmin popped a question about the substitute material. Why did they have to resort to publishing one, how much time did they have to finalize the drawings, when was everything due — the way Changmin asked gave Jaejoong the assurance that Changmin knew his way around here, in this industry where people who weren't thick enough had the slimmest chance of surviving. Changmin previously worked as an editor for an established publishing company, after all, and Jaejoong wouldn't be surprised if Changmin knew more than what he was showing.
"These are really good." Jaejoong commented as he scanned the drawings and reviewed them alongside the approved manuscript. "I knew the drawings were impossible to finish in three days, but these are really good!"
"Thanks," the artist — Kim Taeyeon, Jaejoong remembered because she was one of those dependable ones — replied, a blush lightly tinting her cheeks. "And no worries; I had time and it was a really fun story to draw. But please, allow me to revise scenes as necessary."
"If necessary. These are perfect so far." Jaejoong examined the panels, this time paying more attention to the details rather than the general feel of the scenes. "Just this one," he called out, his index finger lingering on a kissing scene. "Can you draw this from another angle? Like, have the boy tilt his head a bit, and the girl should look as if she's tiptoeing, but the cropping should be tight."
"Like this?" Taeyeon asked, quickly sketching the scene she had in mind. Jaejoong shook his head. "Or maybe this?" she asked again, this time showing him another sketch that showed the couple kissing from a different angle.
She was getting there, but not quite, Jaejoong thought. He worried his lip a little. They didn't have much time; the manuscript should've been with the printers thirty minutes ago and they were still here, redoing the only frame he didn't see fit for printing. He'd need a really good reference to capture the magic of the scene, but where will he be able to get one?
"Maybe we can get her some reference materials?" Changmin, who has just beside him, suggested. "I'd need some titles, though. I barely know anything about manhwas."
Jaejoong nodded thoughtfully. Yes. She definitely needed a solid reference material.
"I'll need your help, Shim."
He was probably going to regret this, but he went with it anyway — he grabbed Changmin by the wrist and pulled him close, maybe too close for comfort for two people who had just met a few minutes ago. "What the—" Changmin gasped, and Jaejoong felt the warmth of Changmin's breath on his skin, a familiar tingle rushing down to his toes.
Here goes nothing.
There was a skip of a heartbeat before Jaejoong held Changmin by the chin and leaned in for a kiss. It wasn't anything intimate — only lip contact, brief and feather-light, as if Jaejoong was testing whatever waters they were treading. When Jaejoong pulled away, Changmin's hands were poised for a punch and he was screaming at the top of his lungs, "What the actual fu— What was that for!"
"Work, of course." Jaejoong scoffed, and slowly inched away from Changmin for fear of getting hit. "What else?"
It was a necessary risk, Jaejoong thought. At least they were able to give the artist an accurate reference material, as seen in the way Taeyeon sketched the scene hastily and enthusiastically, and slowly added in details with Jaejoong's approval.
It was a necessary risk that told Jaejoong one thing — he had indeed met Changmin somewhere before, in high school where dreams big and small alike came true.
"It's three in the afternoon, Jae." Yoochun called out, craning his neck a bit so that he could see Jaejoong in the midst of the towers of papers on his desk. "Aren't you going to pull me out of my chair for a smoke?"
Jaejoong leaned back against his chair and closed his eyes. "Maybe, maybe not. I've got work to do, lots of them."
He glanced at Changmin who was sitting beside Junsu. Changmin had taken it upon himself to review everything they had published, claiming that it was important that he knew about the topics they had already covered at the very least. Manhwas were stacked all around Changmin, and Jaejoong stared a while longer and watched until Yoochun appeared in front of his desk, an eyebrow raised and a peculiar smile tugging at the edge of his lips.
"You, me, cigarette. Now."
Yoochun dragged him out of the office and he'd shaken Yoochun's grip on his wrist off by the time they reached the exit. "You don't just pull your editor out of the office for a smoke, you know," Jaejoong mumbled as he leaned against the glass door. "You know very well I'm still waiting for two authors to get back to me."
"Mhmm, I do," Yoochun replied, hands busy with lighting the cigarette in between his lips. "I also know you're terribly distracted and you don't work well when you are. What's up?"
It was a tough decision to call, whether or not he should tell Yoochun about everything that had just happened. A part of him shrugged the entire idea off, but another told him that it was probably better than telling anyone else (especially Yunho) about it. Yoochun was one of his closest friends, after all, and he knew he could trust Yoochun when it came to things like these.
He took a deep breath and breathed out in a huff, "He's… here."
Jaejoong watched as a look of confusion washed over Yoochun's features. "It's just the two of us here. What are you talking about?" Yoochun asked, genuine curiosity in his eyes. Jaejoong looked at him sternly as if saying, 'is there any other 'he' in my life, Park, really'. Yoochun's being forgetful was a double-edged sword; it was good when Yoochun forgot about Jaejoong not returning his clothes or his money (only at times!), but it was awful when Yoochun forgot about the important days of their lives — high school graduation, all-you-can-eat-pie day, I'm-more-awesome-than-you-day, and the like.
"Wait, you mean that guy from high school, the one who broke your heart?"
"Middle school," Jaejoong corrected. "And yeah, that one."
"Yeah, right, middle school." Yoochun nodded. "Where is he? Top management, sales, finance? Oh God, don't tell me he's the new receptionist." Yoochun looked around, eyes shifty and wary. Jaejoong hit him hard on the head, but he couldn't be bothered with laughing at Yoochun's attempt to lighten up the mood.
He took a deep breath. "The new kid, Shim Changmin? That's him."
Yoochun took the cigarette in between his lips and let the smoke escape his lips slowly. "The new editor? But didn't you say he was in the U.S. or something, that he didn't ever come back after he studied there?"
Jaejoong shrugged. "Well he's back now, apparently."
"How did you know, though? And how can you be so sure that it's him?"
"Simple." Jaejoong chuckled and bit inside of his cheek when he felt the smile on his lips getting the better of him. "I kissed him." He watched as Yoochun's face contorted, worry thick in the way his eyebrows furrowed and in the stretch of his frown. "Now, I know it's stupid but it was for work! Taeyeon needed some reference material and I just thought I'd use that opportunity to, well, you know—"
"Tell me no one saw that," Yoochun said through gritted teeth. "Please tell me Yunho didn't see that."
"He didn't, chill."
"Well, you're lucky. You know that guy has way too many tricks up his sleeve. And he has this Jaejoong-dar, for some reason." Yoochun took a long drag from his cigarette before continuing, "He won't want to have Shim around you once he finds out."
There was silence for a while until Jaejoong let out a sigh. He laughed a little; Yunho always made it seem as if his being a mess during university was Changmin's fault. Well, to a certain extent, it was, but to blame Changmin for everything that happened back in university was simply not right.
"He's always exaggerating things. I bet you he'll tell me off and give me a lecture on the risks of smoking when he sees me right now."
"The hell, I would."
Jaejoong almost laughed when Yunho emerged from the doors, wearing his standard 'I am not having an argument with you but will you please stop smoking' look. He slipped his hand behind his back, putting out the cigarette he had just started smoking a while ago. "I'm stopping, I'm stopping. You can get off my case now, thanks."
"I thought we agreed that you won't smoke anymore," Yunho said, eyes fixed on Jaejoong's own.
"And I thought we agreed you won't hover me like you were my mom." Jaejoong offered a small smile and a pat on the shoulder. "Come on, you have work to do. No need to keep an eye on me."
In their ten years of being friends, Jaejoong learned that the best way to coax Yunho into doing something he normally wouldn't do was to hold him by the hand and tell him that things will be okay, so Jaejoong slipped his hand in Yunho's to give it a light squeeze before putting an arm around Yunho to usher him back to his office. It remained effective to this date, and Yunho had reduced his lecturing to mumbling.
One goal saved, thanks to Kim Jaejoong.
When he looked over his shoulder, Yoochun had a small smile on his lips. He could make out 'Go on. I'll go back to the office in a while' from Yoochun's lip movement. It was enough an assurance that Yoochun had his back and wouldn't spill even if Yunho did unspeakable things to him — took away and hid his supply of cigarettes, car keys and the Jonathan Livingston Seagull book that he always carried with him — or even if it was the end of the world.
'Thanks', Jaejoong mouthed right back. Yoochun blew a kiss through the smoke, and Jaejoong shoved Yunho inside the elevator before he could even see Yoochun smoking.
He made a conscious effort to not mention anything about his recent discovery throughout the elevator ride, even if Yunho was looking at him with eyes that possibly knew what had already happened. "I'll call you when I'm done," Jaejoong said before Yunho got off the lift, and Yunho just waved him off, saying, "Whatever. You never call me." He waved at Yunho for the last time before the doors closed, and before he knew it he was already on his floor.
He took a deep breath. This was just a preview of the days to come, but for some reason he was beginning to dread having Changmin as their new hire. It wasn't as if he had a choice, though — he wasn't able to make it to Changmin's interview because of a meeting with some higher ups, and had he only recognized Changmin from his resume he was sure he'd ask the management not to hire Changmin.
Besides, he knew Changmin as Shim Min, not Shim Changmin.
"Just stick to work, Kim," he said under his breath. "Just work and everything will be fine."
It was half past three in the afternoon when he had gotten back. Yoochun hadn't come back yet. Changmin had just finished another manhwa and was just about to start reading another. The thought of calling Changmin out for all his hard work was too hard to pass up, so he gave Changmin a light pat on the head, then ruffled his hair and whispered, "Keep it up." He didn't wait long enough to hear Changmin's small sound of surprise, nor did he hear Changmin's 'thank you', and when he had gotten back to his seat he threw his head back into the head rest and closed his eyes.
Half the day was gone but he knew he still had a long day ahead. A very long day, indeed.
"What do you mean you're not done with it yet? Do you want to die?"
The day had just begun and he knew this wasn't the perfect way to welcome it, but he had no choice — there was a manuscript due today and it was only halfway done.
Jaejoong massaged his temples. "I gave you enough time, Yoona. Besides, I never fell short in the reminders department! Now you're giving me this bullshit?" There was a pause, then Jaejoong raised an eyebrow. "You're doing your best? Well, you're not doing well enough!"
By this time, Jaejoong was already yelling into the receiver, eyes tightly shut in an effort to calm himself down. He normally didn't snap at authors, especially at Yoona, but this was one of those rare occasions when he had to pull the author together by means of force and whatever harsh words he had in his word bank. He had been reminding Yoona constantly about the deadline, after all, and he simply wouldn't put up with something like this.
"Whatever, I'm going to your place! You had better make progress when I get there!" Jaejoong hung up even before Yoona can say anything. There was a sharp intake of breath before he slipped his phone back into his pocket and gathered his things, stuffing them inside his bag.
He checked the editors — new manuscripts had just come in from Junsu's authors and he's particularly busy, Yoochun's on the phone, talking to the producers who want to turn Lee Eunhyuk's manhwa into an animated series, and Jungsu's leaving for a meeting in a while.
There was no other option.
"Shim, come with me. We're going to pay my beloved author a visit." Jaejoong picked up his bag, then gestured for Changmin to gather his stuff. "And while you're at it, bring your materials. We might have to do the screentones."
"But I know next to nothing about screentones," Changmin retaliated, not moving away from his seat nor grabbing materials to bring with him. Jaejoong raised an eyebrow as he looked over his shoulder.
"Well, you're the only one not doing anything. Now, don't just stand there! Come on!"
The grimace written all over Changmin's features was amusing, to say the very least. He didn't wait for Changmin's reply; instead, he turned around, walked to the elevator as fast as he could so he could at least let loose the smile tugging at the corner of his lips a little.
"Oh shit. You really came."
Stress was written all over Yoona's features, but Jaejoong didn't pay much attention to it and proceeded to look over her shoulder to check on her progress. "Still on page seven? Jesus Christ, if you're planning to beat a deadline then you better draw faster!" There was only a small grunt from Yoona as a reply before she went back to drawing, this time at a much quicker pace.
It was enough an assurance that Yoona had pulled herself together, though not completely. But it was enough.
One of Yoona's assistants had just finished detailing the background for pages eight to eleven and asked them to apply the screentones, so Jaejoong taught Changmin how it was supposed to be done. It was essentially leveraging on his being Changmin's editor-in-chief and being an opportunist, but Jaejoong kept reminding himself that whatever it was that they were doing right now — him guiding Changmin's hands, their bodies pressed so close to each other — was purely for work and nothing else.
He had made it a point to separate work from personal affairs, but at the rate he was going it was going to be hard.
"Hey Kim, d'you think this will actually sell?"
Jaejoong turned to Yoona sharply. "I mean, everything seems so half-assed. We've been rushing the pages and there's hardly any heart in what I'm doing anymore," Yoona rushed. She worried her lip a little, then turned to face Jaejoong — her eyes, now red-rimmed, were faltering, her voice quivering just a bit. "Is it worth it? At this point, should I just give up?"
Jaejoong was just about to say 'that's not even a question, stupid' when Changmin stood from his seat, lips pressed against each other tightly as he turned to Yoona.
"Yes, it will sell. I mean, it should," Changmin began head hung low and avoiding Yoona's curious gaze. His grip on the backrest of the chair tightened. "I've been reading your titles, sonsaengnim, and even as a guy I really enjoyed them! I'm looking forward to this new book of yours, so please…" Changmin looked up for the first time since he spoke up.
"Please, sonsaengnim, don't give up just yet."
There was silence for a while, and Yoona's lips hung parted as she looked at Changmin intently. There were at least a hundred questions in Yoona's eyes — why are you saying this, how can you say that, are you absolutely positive I can do this — but for some reason she couldn't bring herself to say anything. Jaejoong chuckled to himself — it had been a while since Yoona last got a compliment like this from a complete stranger and she had been struggling with her drawings these past few days, so it must have meant a lot.
"Why are you even thinking about these things?" Jaejoong quipped and walked up to where the two were, and offered Yoona a smile. "I've been telling you this since the day you pitched this story — it'll be a hit. It's awesome You're awesome. And besides, I managed to push the deadline to tomorrow morning so you could finish your drawings." He gave Yoona a light pat on the head — he knew Yoona hated it when he did that, but he also knew that Yoona knew it was his way of actually showing affection.
"Even this manhwa nobody says you're good, so get back to drawing and make things happen!"
There was a spark of hope in Yoona's eyes, and all the fatigue in the trace of her cheeks were gone. There was a small sound of gratitude from Yoona. He ruffled her hair lightly, enough to elicit laughter from the her. Beside him, Changmin was smiling.
And almost on instinct, he smiled at Changmin right back.
"We pulled through, after all!"
It was almost six in the morning when they had finally delivered the final manuscript to the printers, and almost quarter 'til seven when they got back to the office. The sunlight was particularly harsh today, or it might just be due to the fact that they haven't had any sleep yet.
Jaejoong squinted hard as he pressed a couple of buttons and got two cans of coffee. This wasn't enough a compensation for having Changmin stay up the whole night for work, but he hoped it would do. Or he could always invite Changmin for breakfast at the coffee shop nearby, except it wasn't open yet.
He heaved a sigh. He shouldn't even be thinking about those things right now. He had galleys to wait for and coffee to share with Changmin.
He made his way to the mini pantry inside their department and found Changmin there, slumped in the couch with his eyes closed. Changmin looked so peaceful and vulnerable like this, and Jaejoong tried to be as quiet with his steps as possible. He settled on the far end of the couch and studied Changmin's face.
It had been a while since he had last been at such close proximity with Changmin, so it was hard not to choke on his words, much less actually not wake Changmin up. But it was too late — Changmin was blinking to get his vision back into focus and shifting in his position so that he was facing Jaejoong.
"Glad everything's over now," Changmin mumbled and smiled a little. "We managed to meet the deadline, after all. But the people at the printers were really scary."
Jaejoong chuckled. "Trust me, I've seen worse."
There was silence for a while before Jaejoong decided to break the ice. "That was quick thinking back there, Shim, when you gave her a compliment out of the blue," he began, then took sip from his coffee before continuing, "She's not normally jumpy, but it was one of those days. She's been struggling for weeks but wouldn't accept any help. Stubborn girl, I'm telling you."
Changmin laughed a little. "I can see that. Invaluable asset, though."
"Yeah, which was why giving her that compliment was really, really helpful. It gave her the boost of confidence she needed." Jaejoong nodded thoughtfully, then turned to Changmin and offered him a can of coffee.
"Good job, Shim. Keep it up."
There was a look of satisfaction in Changmin's eyes as he grinned, bowed a little and accepted the coffee. "Thanks," he replied in a voice so tiny it contradicted his huge frame.
Jaejoong almost chuckled at the thought of it, but decided to bite back the laughter threatening to fall from his lips when he saw Changmin shrink back to the far side of the couch. All of a sudden, there was a surge of emotions running through Jaejoong's veins and the only possible thing to do was to blurt them all out in one sentence.
"You really don't remember me, do you?"
"I'm sorry?" Changmin cocked his head a little, confusion thick in the way his eyebrows furrowed. "I thought I made it clear — we've never met before, and if we have we weren't probably introduced—"
"So you really don't remember me? You're so unfair." Jaejoong choked on the last bit, a bitter taste surfacing on his tongue. "It must be so convenient, being able to forget everything just like that. I envy you. You have it easy, you really do."
Changmin scoffed. "I don't know anything about what you're saying."
"Oh." Jaejoong laughed a little. He stood from his seat, walked to the opposite side of the couch and put his hands on either side of Changmin. Changmin's eyes widened, and there was a small sound of protest from his lips until Jaejoong leaned in a bit too close, their lips just hovering each other.
"Then I'll make you remember."
Jaejoong pressed his lips on Changmin's lightly, a familiar sensation running down his spine. It was much like their very first kiss, when Changmin didn't even know what the gesture meant and didn't know when to open his lips so that Jaejoong could kiss him deeper. Jaejoong's fists clenched when Changmin parted his lips a little, a wave of relief washing over him as Changmin relaxed under the contact. It was like this for a while, a battle of tongue and lips, until Changmin's eyes flew wide open and Changmin pushed him away.
He bit the inside of his cheek.
"Whoa, whoa! What the fuck was that for?" Changmin's eyebrows were furrowed, his eyes sharp and his teeth clenched. "I let the first one slide because you said it was for work, but this one is just too much! What the hell are you doing?"
A part of Jaejoong wanted to hit Changmin on the head for being disrespectful. You don't talk to your boss like that, he wanted to say, but all these conveniently got tucked at the back of his tongue when a look of disgust surfaced in Changmin's features. He leaned back against the wall. He shook his head; if it was any other person, he'd be lashing out right now and generally throwing a fit for being forgotten, but then this was Changmin and that kind of reception hurt him more than anything else. "Oh well, I tried." He straightened his clothes, got back to his feet and turned on his heel. There was something akin to bitterness tucked at the back of his tongue, but he shrugged it off and tried to look as if it didn't matter, as if Changmin forgetting everything wasn't of any importance. "I'll check the galleys; they should be done now. I'll back in an hour or two."
Jaejoong turned around sharply.
"I said no, you're not going away. You answer my question — why did you kiss me just now? Is this a joke? Is this… a test for all the editors here? Do you do this with everyone?"
That was it.
Jaejoong walked back to where Changmin was and grabbed him by the collar. "Don't you go telling me that I just go around and kiss everyone on a whim! You should know that more than anyone else!" Jaejoong's grip on Changmin's shirt loosened a little when he realized what he had just said. The turn of the heel, the sudden outburst — he never saw himself reacting like such. He was known to keep his calm as much as possible, and this — a display of overflowing emotion — was just too much for him to digest all at once.
He let his arms fall to his sides and took a few steps back.
"I never played around when we were together, you asshole." His voice drifted off, then gradually picked up volume when he continued, "No wonder you can't remember anything. You thought what we had was a joke."
Changmin scoffed. "Look, I really don't know what you're talking about. I just want you to apologize for sexually assaulting me—"
"You told me you loved me, Min. Said you didn't know why, you just did. Does 'high school' pull a particular heartstring? Does it ring a bell?"
Changmin blinked a few times. "No. No, not at all." He shook his head, apprehension in the trace of his features. "No, it doesn't."
"Well then, bullshit."
Jaejoong picked up his bag from his seat and turned his heel to leave.
Just before reaching the door, he looked over his shoulder. "And because you're so forgetful and clueless, let me put this bluntly — my parents had a divorce just before graduation, when you upped and left me all of a sudden. I used to be Han. Han Jaejoong."
He couldn't bear to wait for Changmin's reaction, even when he heard Changmin gasp and call out after him. He had work to do.
He had to work on not letting his heart get the better of him, too.
It was the most awkward confrontation Jaejoong ever had to go through.
He was just about to leave the building for a dinner meeting when Changmin caught up with him. "You still owe me an apology, sunbae," Changmin sneered as he pulled Jaejoong by the collar of his jacket and pulled him back into the building. "And an explanation. You don't go dropping the truth on me like a bomb and walk off right after."
"You're the one to talk. Besides, you never hang around long enough to listen." Jaejoong tried freeing himself from Changmin's grip, but to no avail. "I have a meeting, Shim. Let go."
Changmin scoffed. "Try harder, Kim. Or should I say Han? Han Jaejoong, was it?"
This was going to be harder than Jaejoong thought.
Jaejoong took a deep breath, willing every inch of self-control to take over his body and set his thoughts straight. "If it makes you feel better, sorry for making you my guinea pig for Taeyeon's reference material. It worked, though, you've got to admit that, but I will not apologize for that other kiss. You couldn't remember anything, what was I supposed to do?"
"Give up, apparently," Changmin quipped. Jaejoong rolled his eyes.
"I'm not that kind of person, Shim. Besides, you're the one who owes me an explanation. You just upped and left for the U.S. all of a sudden! Oh, wait, I mean you left for the U.S. with your fiance. Does that sound better? Did I miss the key point?"
"What the— who even gave you the impression that I was going there with her?"
Jaejoong scoffed. "You did."
"I did not! And even if I did, it was probably because I was too naive and transparent back then! Geez."
Changmin's fists were shaking. It wasn't something Jaejoong had grown accustomed to seeing. "So there was a fiance, then?" he asked. It was the first time since their encounter that Changmin had fallen silent; he was probably right.
There was a crazy little idea playing in Jaejoong's mind, so crazy that he had to put it at the back of his mind and put it off indefinitely. Changmin probably wouldn't be so sold on it, anyway, so why would he have to put it out there for Changmin to know? "So we can start over," it came out unceremoniously, though, that even he was surprised. "Put the past behind since we can't seem to settle what exactly happened and just start anew. We can do that, right?"
"Like hell, I'd allow that," Changmin quipped, sharp and concise. "You think it's so easy to just put everything behind and—"
Jaejoong smirked. "I knew you'd say that. I really like challenges."
There was a flash of confusion in Changmin's eyes that Jaejoong took advantage of as he slipped past the former and walked closer to the exit. "I'll make you fall in love with me again, Shim. Just you wait," he said, and he turned on his heel before Changmin could even see the silly grin on his lips.
He let out a chuckle. This was going to be really interesting.
It was a fine Saturday morning and he had decided on getting up late, but all the rustling and noise coming from the house next door ticked him off. He tried going back to sleep but his irritation got the better of him — whatever it was that was ruining his Saturday so early in the morning better have an explanation.
He burst from the door and caught a person crouching near the doorway of the neighboring apartment. He couldn't see the figure clearly at first — he had gotten up no more than five minutes ago, and at the wrong side of the bed even. He didn't even have his glasses on.
And he was still in his pajamas, but he could save that explanation for later.
"Ah, I'm sorry for the noise! I've just finished moving my stuff," his neighbor said. A pause, then a sharp bow. "I'm Shim Changmin, your new neighbor. I'm really sorry for the bother and I hope we can be good neighbors!"
Jaejoong raised an eyebrow, then smiled a little.
Talk about coincidences.
"What the hell are you talking about? I'm your boss. Show some respect."
The neighbor raised his head and looked at him in the eye for the first time. There was something akin to horror and frustration and a tinge of surprise in the trace of his features, and a shriek soon escaped Changmin's lips.
"What the— Stop following me!"
"Huh? You said it yourself, you're my new neighbor. You're the one following me." Right before him was Shim Changmin, in boy shorts and a threadbare shirt, who turned out to be the source of the noise that gave him a headache and moved him to get up at eight in the morning. He leaned back against his doorway and watched as Changmin talked some more about probabilities and chances and maybe even destiny, the thought of kissing Changmin at the back of his head. He'll save it for later, he thought, and just gander at Changmin being a complete mess in front of him for now.
Just like high school, he thought, and chuckled. Yes, just like high school.
It was only nine in the morning when Yunho had decided to barge into the peaceful comfort of the female manhwa department, only to lecture Jaejoong on something that supposedly implied something good. "What the fuck is this — your manhwa's already sold out and they're asking for new stock! What am I going to give them? We don't have any books left!"
Jaejoong looked up from his laptop for a while, then went back to work, mumbling, "Well if you just listened to my better judgment, you won't even be thinking about that."
"Your better judgment? You go with pure gut feel and instinct—"
"And my book's not sold out, yeah." Jaejoong shrugged. "I don't know if a certain someone remembers, but I requested for 30,000 more prints but someone was so stingy—"
"Shut up and fix this mess! Talk to the printers and pull off a miracle!"
Jaejoong rolled his eyes and shook his head. It was no use arguing with Yunho because he'd never get through, so he just fixed his eyes on whatever he was doing and didn't even budge when Yunho was already beside him and asking, "Are you even listening?"
"Whatever, I'll go figure this out. If you make another mess, Kim, I swear to God you won't make it back here alive."
"Yeah, yeah. Take it out on your boss."
A wave of relief took over Jaejoong as he sank in his seat, closing his eyes and throwing his head back in the process. Times like these, he wished Yunho wasn't a good friend of his so it would be easy to just fend him off. Other times, he just wished Yunho didn't breathe down his neck all time. It was quite a pleasure to watch Yunho walking away from half-lidded eyes, especially at a time like this.
"And who is this?"