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Aren’t you a little too young to be here?” A teenaged boy with dark hair and dark eyes peered at the figure lying face down on the mud in the middle of the playground.

The figure groaned. “I… I was trying to find someone.” The figure admitted shakily. The taller boy lent the figure a hand and helped him up.

The boy stared at his knee and pointed at the offending limb. “It’s bleeding. You should go get that cleaned up.”

The boy with the mud caked on his face, shirt, shorts and half-bare legs quickly looked down and up. “But I have to find him,” he griped.

Find who?” The taller boy questioned.

My-”

-HEY, FATTY! OMMA SAID THAT IF YOU DON’T COME HOME IN FIVE MINUTES, SHE’LL THROW ALL YOUR STUFF OUT THE WINDOW!”

The taller boy looked behind the chunky, dirty male and spotted a younger boy, maybe thirteen years old, holding his hands at his hips and smirking nastily. “Is that who you were looking for?”

The short, chubby figure nodded weakly. “Yeah. Um… thank you for helping me up.” The figure bowed politely and turned towards the younger teen who was waiting impatiently for him.

Wait!” The taller boy called. He grabbed onto the plump boy’s arm. “Let’s meet up here tomorrow after school.” he suggested. “I’m new and I don’t know much about the place.”

The smaller boy shakily turned back to the younger boy who was throwing them both metaphorical daggers. “I-I don’t know about that,” he said hastily. “Sorry. Y-you’ll have to find someone else.” Thick fingers easily pried off the taller boy’s thin ones, and the boy went hobbling after the screeching boy who threatened to tell a certain omma about how stupid the chunky boy was and that he was dirty, stinky, and definitely the worst person on the planet ever.

The taller boy just let his shoulders droop and turned the other way- out of the playground and back towards his lonely apartment.

~*~

 “Hey, wait!”

The tall boy with the gaunt face and thin limbs turned back to the short boy with the bandaged knee running hastily through the halls. The taller boy gasped. “You’re older than me?”

The chubby boy blinked and looked down at the badge stitched on the breast of his school shirt and looked at the design emblazoned on the taller boy’s shirt. He blinked and smiled. “I’m fifteen years old,” he said proudly. “But I’m a second year.”

The younger boy scratched his head. “I’m a first year… but I’m fourteen.” He chewed his bottom lip. “I’m on scholarship here, and I’m kind of con-”

I’m sorry about yesterday,” the chubby boy interrupted. “I’m sorry,” he said again, and bowed politely. “Can I make it up to you today? Let’s go into the market after school.” The chubby boy coughed into his hands. “… if you want to, of course.”

The taller boy looked around and saw that the lunch bell had stopped and that the only students in the hall were them. He blushed furiously and began scratching his head faster until a pudgy hand closed over his wrist. The taller boy blinked dazedly, his mouth set in a silent oh.

It’s OK if you don’t want to,” the boy said reassuringly.

But the taller boy wanted to. He did; he did. “Y-yes. Uh, let’s go after school. I really need to find a place to shop for food without emptying my funds,” he muttered darkly underneath his breath.

You’re Chinese, aren’t you?” The pudgy boy asked, and frowned when the tall boy nodded meekly. “Yeah, the ajumma gets like that.” A brighter, more defiant smile played on the chubby boy’s face. “But I’ll find you better places. And since you’re on scholarship, I’m guessing you’re here alone?”

You catch on quickly,” the taller boy mumbled.

The shorter boy beamed. “Let’s go. I’ll buy you some pudding.”

And they walked to the cafeteria, side by side.

~*~

The tall boy hid behind the playground pillar, his thin limbs and straight posture easily hidden as he eavesdropped on the conversation between the two males.

She can’t kick you out because you’re only seventeen, but don’t fucking think you’re going to get approval for whatever internships and scholarships you need without her consent! She won’t do it,” the younger male, the one with the dark hair and the light brown eyes, seethed.

I have appa for that,” the latter, about the same height but heavier, replied calmly. “And I’ll quit my job. I’ll quit my job, and then appa won’t have to hear omma ye-”

The younger boy howled with laughter, interrupting the elder’s words. “You are so fucking pathetic,” he managed to get out after about thirty seconds. The taller boy from behind the pillar clenched his fists together. “You’re not coming back.” He said seriously. “Because if you do, she’s going to kick appa out. And stop calling her omma. She’s not your mother!” He screeched loud enough for the tall boy behind the pillar to jump. He peered at the scene again and saw the older boy’s shocked face.

She- she can’t! What did appa do!?”

He cheated on her and had you! That’s what he fucking did,” the younger boy growled, poking his chest harshly.

Whatever light was left in the elder’s eyes dissipated with the words. He stiffened. “I thought… appa said she was OK-”

She’s never going to be OK with you around,” the younger boy threw his hands into the air and kicked the wooden chips on the ground beneath them. The streetlights flickered above them, and the tall boy observing them from behind the pillar wondered if it was already past midnight.

But she said-” The taller boy tried to plead.

Why are you still here?” The screech sent night birds fluttering into the air in the mildly deserted play ground. “Why!?” The elder struggled to get words across, and that sent the younger man into fits of maniacal laughter. So harsh, so dilapidated that passerbys gave the fifteen year old youth pitiful glances before moving on with their lives.

The taller boy also felt pity. He didn’t want to, but he did.

She promises to send money every month,” he whispered desperately after a full minute of heaving laughter. “Why can’t you just fucking agree? Why are you hellbent on sticking around when we don’t want you?”

But appa. Who’s going to take care of hi-”

Rough fingers grasped the heavier man’s collar and slammed him into the pillar the tall boy was hiding behind. He cowered on the floor and cocooned himself into a ball. He shut his eyes and listened closely.

Can’t you see?” The younger man croaked. The tall boy thinks he might start to cry. “You’re making it worse for him. He-” The boy punched the pillar and it shook. The tall boy shivered silently. “You’re making it worse for everyone. She’ll only stop if you go! So just go!”

Sobs. Heartwrenching sobs. The older man is oddly silent. The tall boy behind the pillar now desperately wanted to hear his voice.

But it was the younger man again. “Every month. She’ll send you enough money to vacation in Seoul every day for the rest of your life if you go. Appa will come to see you wherever you go,” he promised shakily. “Just go. You have to go. If you don’t…” The boy’s breathing got harsher, and the tall boy behind the pillar heaved a heavy sigh.

I’ll make you go,” the tall boy heard the formerly boy say. “I’ll make you go, you fat sack of shit. Go live with that fucking boyfriend of yours,” he laughed cruelly. “The one that walks around like a bitch and clings on to you like his life depends on it? Go live with him. I’ll tell her to send a stipend for him too, for being friends with a homewrecking bastard like you.”

The tall boy behind the pillar rose. He’d had enough. But when he tried to reveal himself, he heard the familiar, soothing voice return.

I’ll go.” He deadpanned. No sorrow, no gratefulness. “Let me get my stuff, and I’ll go.”

The tall boy could almost hear the smirk come to the younger boy’s lips. “It’s already on the lawn. She threw your stuff out the window,” he jeered, and the tall boy clenched his fists again but the heavy man was silent. “And she signed that paper for you to finish high school some place in Seoul. And she paid the first month’s bill. Take that as the greatest gift she’ll ever give you, asshole. That’s all you’ll ever be able to leech off my mother!”

More silence. It took an entirety of ten minutes for the seething boy to calm down and finally let go of the heavyset man pinned against the pillar. Once they were a sufficient amount of space away from each other, as the taller boy observed, he decided he would show himself.

But he stopped. He stopped when he saw the ghostly pale face of the boy that had become his best friend in the two short years they’d known each other. His eyes were hollow, and his body limp and unmoving.

What the fuck are you waiting for?” The fifteen year old roared. “Get your shit and go!”

Go where? To the tall boy’s apartment of course, as the tall boy had given him a copy of the keys the past year. But where afterwards? The tall boy did not know.

OK,” he heavyset man answered listlessly. Together but yards apart, the fifteen year old and the seventeen year old trudged back to the mansion three hills over, overlooking the forest that led towards the cliffs and the waterside.

The sixteen year old boy went to sit on a swing for a little bit. A little bit turned into two hours, and then he went to his tiny apartment. He opened the door to see the heavy boy’s stuff neatly piled in a corner, with a sticky note with a sad face plastered on it.

That night he didn’t come back.

~*~

I got into the Seoul Business Academy,” the taller boy chirped. “Kind of late, but I only have two years left and they’re the best! My father knows the headmaster really well.”

The chubby boy smiled patiently. “That’s wonderful.”

You can come with me,” he said a few minutes later, digging into the cake like his life depended on it.

The chubby boy blanched and choked on his bread. “W-what?”

You can still pull out of that other school and have your tuition money reimbursed,” the tall boy informed through a mouthful of sweet goodness. “I checked.”

I can’t go anywhere without parental consent,” the chubby boy scolded. “And she won’t transfer monies right no-”

Didn’t I just say my father knows the headmaster?” The tall boy bit back. “The social sciences academy is right next to the business building. We’ll be together again. Same lunch period, same gym period, same prep time. Nothing will be different, except the color of our blazers.”

The boy with the swollen cheeks laughed hesitantly. “You know I can’t do that,” he soothed gently. “It would mea-”

-it would mean abandoning them like they abandoned you,” the tall boy finished for him. “Your father’s never going to visit you because he’s sick and he fears her, and you know that,” the tall boy seethed. The shorter man gawked at him, shock imprinted on his face. “And that brat will never call you. And it won’t be like you’re leaving without any assurance that you’re still breathing. That money will be reimbursed right back into her account, and then she can say good riddance that you didn’t run off with her hard-earned won,” he whispered bitterly.

The shorter boy’s expressions changed quickly. “No!” He barked. “I’m not going to stoop that low!”

But it’s not stooping low- you’re showing them you can do it!” He yelled back. The other teens at their bench gave them awkward looks before scampering away. “You can do it! Hell, you’ve been doing it all your life, and you’ve been doing it alone. But now you have me.” He gripped the shorter man’s arms tightly. “And I’ll never abandon you.” He seethed. “I swear. I’ll die before I ever leave you behind. You’re my brother, and brothers don’t throw each other to the side just because they can’t stand up to a witch.”

The shorter boy gawked but softened in the tall boy’s hand. He looked down on his lap, bread forgotten and eyes wet with tears.

The tall boy pulled him into a tight hug and rubbed slow circles awkwardly on his back as the latter sobbed into his chest. He whispered soothing words, promises he’d eventually fulfill in the future, and gave him the rest of his cake. They ate for the rest of their time in silence.

For the next two weeks, the chubby boy ignored the tall boy’s constant badgering and pretended he never agreed to cut off his blood family. Three weeks into their civil war, the older man gave in and agreed. But the condition stated that only if he could keep in contact with the fifteen year old, first year attending the arts academy in the wealthy sector of the Pusan region where the tall boy lived the past two years. The tall boy begrudgingly agreed, and it was the last day before their train to Seoul and the wonderful academies the tall boy had gotten them both into.

Crack!

It took three fully grown men to hold the tall boy back because he was dangerous when he was livid, and livid was what he was when he witnessed the fifteen year old sock his older brother in the face in public.

I told you to fucking leave me alone, faggot! What part of that don’t youunderstand!?”

A week later, the tall boy would tell the short boy I-told-you-so. But that particular day- that particular day he seethed. He seethed, and grunted, and yelled at the other three teens to let him go because he was going to punch in the fifteen year old twat’s face and rip his ears off and crush his balls underneath his neatly polished boot.

But instead, the tall boy’s best friend nodded numbly and stumbled away from the heaving younger. The three teens let the tall boy go, and the tall boy cursed the fifteen year old misery for the rest of his life, and ran after the hobbling older man.

A week later, the I-told-you-so happened in their shared apartment after a long day of classes. The older man graduated with honors a little while later and got himself into one of the best universities in the country- right in the heart of Seoul. The tall boy followed right after.

A few years later, they switched apartments and ended up in south Seoul, struggling to make ends meet and trying to finish their graduate work. But they managed, and landed jobs, and the tall boy was stalked relentlessly by a Thai company for a little while before the older man, baby fat gone from everywhere but his cheeks, slapped a lawsuit on them and easily won.

A few years after that, they ended up in Hong Kong of all places, and the tall boy lost his virginity to a weird cafe owner, and the older man ended up marrying a Korean primary school teacher and the wedding was glorious and the tall boy was the best man and things just ended up being the best for both of them as they made more friends and lived more contently. They still had their chicken, and the tall boy still drank his orange juice, and the older man downed his beer. The tall boy then hit thirty, finally, and things were just perfect and OK and the older man was OK and his wife was OK and everything was just OK.

The last time they spoke of the family the older man had left behind was when the tall boy had said I-told-you-so and the older man had nodded in agreement, the saddest smile touching his lips. The tall boy kept an eye on him, and noticed that he never called, never looked for, or even attempted to approach them again. That made the older man sad and angry for a few months, and many a time, he almost caved and attempted to run back to the appa that didn’t even try to find him. But eventually, that passed as well.

But all that was fourteen years ago, and since then, they were happy. The happiest, the tall boy would confirm, they ever were. And the tall boy had decided, fourteen long years ago, that happy they would remain because that was the least he could do for his brother.

***

“Hey, Luhan,” Tao tapped his shoulder lightly. “Are you cheating on Yixing?”

The cafe owner gagged on his cold water. “The fuck did you say?”

Wu Fan punched Tao in the arm. Hard. The panda-eyed man wailed in agony as a bruise began to form underneath his frock coat.

“Don’t be rude, Taozi,” Luhan cooed, winking at Wu Fan’s chuckling form. “And no,” he assured. “I’m definitely not cheating on my crazy, work-obsessed, chicken fanatic boyfriend.”

“Then why is that dude always sitting at the counter stall?” Tao demanded, crossing his arms across his chest. “And he’s always here. Seriously!”

“Has anyone ever thought that the guy might be a stalker,” one of the baristas noted.

“He’s very handsome,” Joon Myun said carefully from behind his coffee cup.

Tao’s eyes brightened as an idea lit itself in his head. Wu Fan groaned and began babbling. “Tao, no. Oh my god, Luhan do som-”

“Joon Myun.” Tao called authoritatively. Joon Myun looked up meekly at the towering figure. “Go get that man’s phone number,” he enunciated. “Now.

He didn’t need any more encouragement, and Wu Fan viciously kicked the panda-eyed CEO in the shin and he howled in pain and hopped on one foot for a good minute before collapsing on one of the couches. Joon Myun walked shakily over to the blank faced figure dressed entirely in block colors. Black jacket, dark blue jeans, a dark brown shirt underneath and what looked like a simple watch. The barista stalled his misfortune for a minute by giving him another refill and collecting another wad of bills from him before scampering off. Wu Fan rolled up his sleeves, ready to usher in high hell if Joon Myun was threatened, and Luhan watched about silently as it all unfolded.

A minute later, Joon Myun came back and morosely flopped down on the chair and buried his head in his hands.

“Wu Fan, no! OH MY GOD, SOMEONE STOP THE TREE!”

That was one of the baristas, and Luhan jumped over his own damn counter and tackled the six feet tall Canadian basketball player to the tile flooring.

“Explain, Joon Myun, explain!” Luhan called desperately as Wu Fan thrashed underneath him and Tao whispered prayers for his bruised limbs.

“He’s straight,” Joon Myun wailed.

And everything went quiet.

“… oh.” Luhan slid off Wu Fan as he picked himself up, brushed the dirt off his shirt and pants, and sat down at the counter. He took a sip of his latte. “This is good, Luhan,” he noted.

Luhan cursed his soul, his future children, and his bank account. Joon Myun and a barista helped up the fallen cafe owner and meekly returned to their business as other occupants of the cafe gave them judging looks.

“He’s straight?” Tao cocked his head to the side. “Well… could he be stalking one of the baristas then?”

“This would be an opportune moment for Min Seok to appear.” Luhan sighed, back behind his counter and sipping his cold water languidly. “Give him twenty four hours to observe the creeper, and he’d have his name, birth date, and prefecture identity number pit, pat, done and done.”

“But he’s still at the beach,” Tao whined. He shook his head furiously. “He needs to come back, or I will cut his paychek in half.”

“No, you won’t,” one of the baristas snorted.

“Your man-crush is too obvious,” Luhan drawled. Wu Fan threw the cafe owner a dirty look, and he replied with a it’s-true-tho expression.

“You can’t replace Yixing,” Joon Myun told Tao politely. “He’s his BFF forever and ever and then some.”

“Preach,” Luhan agreed, and even Wu Fan had to nod silently.

“B-but,” Tao started, but then Joon Myun poked the man in the stomach and he looked to see the accountant pointing at the stranger who’d intrigued the shit out of them.

He rose and placed some more crisp bills on the counter. Luhan snapped at his waiters, and the men scuttled by and peeked at the bills and reported immediately to their superior/lord/king/cafe!Jesus.

“Hundreds,” one of them gawked.

“He’s loaded, boss.” The other gushed.

The two accountants, the cafe’s Jesus, the firm’s CEO, and an assortment of baristas and waiters watched as the mysterious man turned their way. They gasped. He didn’t look at them, directly, but he was facing them now as he was placing his wallet back.

“He’s hot.” Luhan blinked, in complete awe. “I mean, I see him and stuff, but he’s not gone till closing, and I always leave a half hour before closing so I don’t really see him. He’s fucking gorgeous.”

“Is he wearing eyeliner?” One of the barista’s asked shakily, awestruck at the figure in front of her.

“No,” Joon Myun cleared. “He has naturally smoky eyes,” he added dreamily.

“Why didn’t any of your night waitresses say anything about him?” Tao clipped, absolutely scandalized.

“Maybe he’s stalking one of them,” threw in one of the waiters.

And at that, the group nodded their heads absently in agreement. But as the figure brushed off his shirt, and straightened the collar of his leather jacket, they all shook their heads in unison.

“He’s been waiting,” Wu Fan noted. “And watching.”

“And damn does he look familiar,” Tao crowed viciously. “Who the fuck is this man? Why doesn’t he work for me? By the end of this fucking week, hebetter be working for me,” he ground out angrily.

Wu Fan threw him a nasty look and then rubbed his temples. “I thought he reminded me of someone,” he said thoughtfully. “I put a finger on it last week, but I let it go because it’s not possible.”

Joon Myun blinked. “Who, hyung? Who could it be?”

“I thought it wa-”

The door bell chimed. All heads turned to the entrance and the attractive stranger with the smoky eyes and wind torn hair and the clean and pressed clothes was forgotten entirely by all but one.

“Hyung!”

“Aha!”

“Finally, you’ve returned!”

“Baozi!”

The four professionals pounced on Kim Min Seok and sent him tumbling to the floor. He died momentarily with a umph.

“Boss, you’re crushing him.”

“Mrs. Kim is going to kill you all.”

“OH MY GOD, THE TREE’S KILLING HIM SOMEONE CALL AN AMBULANCE.”

Once they clambered off one by one, Kim Min Seok rubbed his eyes and looked around dazedly at the others.

“Oh, I’m alive,” he noted. He brightened up and smiled, still sitting on the floor. “Hi, all.”

“Don’t even leave us like that ever again,” Tao threatened dangerously. “I’m going to have to have a talk with Mi Lee.”

“Stop being so clingy, ugly bish,” Wu Fan muttered.

“Speak for yourself, tree,” Luhan drawled.

“We missed you, hyung,” Joon Myun beamed.

Min Seok chuckled and ruffled the accountant’s hair. He allowed his coffee-break friends to hoist him off the floor and brushed himself clean while Luhan jumped back over his counter and began pouring him a tall glass of iced tea. They chatted and chuckled and Mi Lee was coming in after a little bit and he’d return to work tomorrow and everyone just laughed and crowded around the smiling attorney like moths to a flame. And that was exactly what he was- a bright, and ever-present flame in their chests that made their hearts swell and want to squish his wonderful cheeks. He brought them all together- from clingy overlords, to meek waiters, and sassy baristas, a towering giant, a content and perpetually smiling accountant, and a cafe Jesus with hipster glasses he didn’t even need.

It was after ten minutes of incessant chatter later that Min Seok caught the unfamiliar jacket-wearing figure behind a blabbing Tao and an equally blabbing waiter. He shrugged it off and took a sip of his drink instead and focused on Luhan who was telling him how he planned to get Joon Myun and his sexy friend Kyu Hyun together once and for all because that had to be the most hipster pairing in all of Hong Kong and damn it, he would make it happen whether or not the tree agreed to the sentiment.

Then Tao planted a kiss on an unsuspecting Wu Fan’s cheek and one of the waiters gagged as Luhan rolled his eyes and Wu Fan burned red.

“That’s only because Yixing-sshi is still in Changsha,” muttered Joon Myun to Min Seok, and he nodded in agreement as Luhan morosely twirled the straw in his glass of water.

But at the end of the counter, almost ten tables away from where Min Seok and his group laughed and ate and drank, there stood a man who looked solemnly upon the scene in front of him.

And after another twenty minutes, Joon Myun poked Min Seok in the shoulder. “He’s still staring,” he whispered into his ear as the ruckus around them continued.

Min Seok blinked and peered over a chattering Luhan to see someone standing firmly in place at the end of the counter. Roughly his height, darkly dressed, but his face was a blur since so many people were moving around since the lunch bell hit and Min Seok needed peace and quiet. So he stood up as Joon Myun, the only attentive figure, watched him go as the rest were being rambunctious with the others. Even Wu Fan was too busy being coddled and prodded with pecan cake to notice.

It only took seven seconds to get a clear view. It took five more for Kim Min Seok to stop breathing and just stop.

Halfway to the end of the counter, he just stopped. Joon Myun blinked. Wu Fan finally caught notice and pushed Tao off. Luhan rose an eyebrow as he finished pouring a customer her cup of coffee.

The dark clad figure walked slowly towards him, as if on baby feet. And Joon Myun, looking back and forth between the two, finally realized what Wu Fan had realized. And Wu Fan rolled up his sleeves and got ready to pounce no matter how handsome the stranger was.

But even he stalled and Tao gawked as Min Seok just stood still as an expression they’d never seen before graced his pale face and dry lips. And his eyes. They were haunted.

Luhan cleared his throat and walked around behind the counter and out. He trudged towards Min Seok and was about to get him back, until a strong hand- Tao’s- caught him. The man with the hooded eyes shook his head and Luhan hitched a breath. The stranger was still coming closer, and now everyone who cared were looking on as slow steps took the average height stranger to their resident attorney.

It was only when they stood steps from each other that Kim Min Seok began to breathe again, and everyone who cared saw because his chest heaved. He heaved and took the longest breath in his life, and Luhan swore he saw tears prickle his eyes and Wu Fan’s fists were clenched so tightly that Tao had to wrap an arm around his waist and tell him to calm down.

Seventy or eighty odd strangers in the cafe bustled around and chatted and sipped their drinks without giving a damn about the figures in the front. Occasionally, a woman would glance at the handsome strangers and smile, or a man would smirk and fix his tie, ready to slip his number to one of the daring yet gorgeous professionals.

No one but they, the ones who cared for Kim Min Seok, saw the happening. The stranger with the dark eyes and blank look perked up his lips. He smiled. He smiled so sadly that it physically hurt Joon Myun to look because that’s how he smiled.

Everyone who didn’t care, didn’t care. But those who did stood shocked out of their minds when the stranger enveloped the attorney into a hug.

And they stood, for a full minute, not once moving. Arms wrapped around Kim Min Seok’s shoulder, pressing him against a warm chest. Yet Kim Min Seok didn’t move to wrap his own around the latter, but that didn’t matter because the latter was just happy hugging him.

Kim Min Seok finally made him let go. And when he made him let go, he looked him in the eye. And they stood, and Kim Min Seok hitched a breath and just stared.

The stranger coughed and produced a chuckle. “I thought you weren’t here,” he began. And his voice was melodic and Joon Myun felt uncomfortable looking at someone so ethereal. And the stranger looked like he was about to cry, but he didn’t. He held them back successfully, and just smiled.

“I thought I wouldn’t find you here,” he began again, and all those who cared inched forward, but the two in the middle neither noticed nor did they care to. “I thought…” Another laugh, and it was sweet and so heartbreaking. “I thought for sure you were here. Here in this city. But then I couldn’t find you at the building across the street, or Mi Lee-sshi’s address so I waited here… Shit.” He laughed again and bit his upper lip and nodded contently. “I found you. Do you…” His eyes flickered nervously about as he tried to keep up his smile “-remember me?”

“Jong Dae-ah,” Min Seok answered automatically.

The stranger- Jong Dae- just laughed. Laughed and clasped his hands together once- just once. “I wouldn’t put it past you to forget,” he chuckled, and immediately, the sadness returned. “You… you probably haven’t forgotten,” he said hastily, but shook his head. “But that doesn’t matter now,” he assured. “I’m here to fix things,” he assured. “I’m here to fix things for good. I’m here to make you proud of me.”

And at that, Luhan coughed. Loudly.

“Jong Dae-sshi,” the cafe owner cooed. “Come join us for a drink.”

“Min Seok’s straight,” Tao deadpanned. “And married.”

“Shut up,” Wu Fan growled. “Can’t you see that they’re br-”

The doorbell chimed as someone entered, interrupting Wu Fan. But the newcomer just laughed out loud at Wu Fan’s almost-exclamation and Min Seok simply stood. And finally, finally he said something.

“There’s nothing to fix,” he deadpanned. At that, all laughter and smiles ceased. The newcomer looked at him, the solemnity returning to his features. “You can go home now,” he continued carefully. “Thank you for taking the time to find me.”

“I understand,” the man nodded. But something new came over his features- something steely. “But I’m not giving up because everythingneeds to be fixed.”

And then Min Seok broke. “You can’t just come into my life like this and tell me things to be fixed. Not right now. Not after all this time.” He ground out, his voice so soft, so deadly.

The latter’s expression matched Min Seok. Wu Fan expected him to retaliate and got his fists ready. “I don’t expect you to believe me.”

And that did it.

“Why don’t you to talk it out in the back?” Luhan suggested. “This seems to be a priv-”

“-did you think I came here thinking you’ve forgotten everything?” The stranger asked softly, cutting Luhan off. “I knew you wouldn’t forget. You can’t. You didn’t forget what I told you,” he laughed bitterly, and it hurt Joon Myun to hear such a heartbreaking tone. “You didn’t forget it, and you listened. You listened to every word I said.”

“Do you blame me?” Min Seok demanded, his fists clenched and voice hoarse. “Do you blame me for doing as I was told?”

“… no.” He said truthfully. “I don’t. You switched countries. You came all the way here to prove how true to your word you were.” Jong Dae laughed again.

“What do you want, Jong Dae?” He finally asked, breaths even. “Just… tell me what you want, so we can get this over with.”

And the stranger chuckled. “I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything except one thing. And I have someone waiting for me to bring back one thing they’ve wanted these past years.”

Min Seok’s eyes widened. He knew.

“I’m taking you back, hyung.”

And then, the door chimed again. No one in the cafe cared. The four professionals were eying the new stranger who’d just called their puffmanhyung and this was much more important than the person who’d just walked into the caf-

You.”

The person who’d just walked in dropped his water bottle, confused that the person was talking to him.

“You son of a bitch.”

The person just blinked confusedly.

You were the one.”

Realization dawned upon the man’s face at last.

You were the one who dragged him away!

And that’s when Zhang Yixing flared his nostrils, shoved Kim Min Seok to the side, and threw the strongest punch he could ever muster- right at Kim Jong Dae’s face.

He succeeded, and that’s when the fight broke out.

***

“Shit! Wu Fan, do something!”

“Get Yixing off of him! GET HIM OFF!”

“He’s a hemophiliac, don’t let him get hurt!”

When they pried the two away from each other at last, Min Seok stood in the middle, heaving and a mess as Wu Fan held back Luhan’s lover while Luhan held back the newcomer.

“Fucking cunt!” Yixing roared.

“You took him away!” Jong Dae roared back.

“You hit him in public!” He screamed back.

“You made him leave his family!” He screeched.

“Your family left him first!” He screeched back.

“BOTH OF YOU, SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

They snapped their mouths closed. Yixing breathed heavily, but he wasn’t bleeding, and everyone but Kim Jong Dae was thankful.

Min Seok turned to Yixing first. “Shut the fuck up and let Wu Fan take you home.” He turned to Jong Dae next. “You need to leave,” he said carefully. “You need to leave now.”

Everyone could see as Jong Dae’s face fell and Yixing’s turned into a smirk.

“B-bu-”

“Leave, Jong Dae,” Min Seok pleaded heavily. “Please, just go.”

“He’s asking you, instead of just telling you,” Yixing added scathingly. “Just go. We don’t want you.” He laughed bitterly. “Isn’t that what you told him fourteen years ago!?”

Min Seok snapped his head back to Yixing, mouth widened in shock. “H-how did yo-”

“I was there, idiot!” He crowed. Yixing narrowed his eyes dangerously at the seething figure held back by Luhan. He smiled cruelly, his lips turning up and teeth glistening with spittle. “For as long as you live, fucker, I’ll be the one reminding you of what you said. He-” he nudged his head towards Min Seok, “-might have forgotten, but I haven’t. I remember ever word.”

“You eavesdropped,” Jong Dae gritted through his teeth. “You eavesdropped on us!”

Yixing snorted. “Hardly. You were in a fucking playground.”

“Wu Fan, take him home!” Min Seok roared, and Wu Fan knew better than to disagree. Wu Fan began to drag Yixing away, but Jong Dae’s words stalled them.

"That’s never going to change the truth!” The newcomer bellowed. “Pretend as much as you want, because it didn’t change then, so it’s not going to change today!”

“Like you even know what the truth is! I can tell that you hardly know your ass from your head, so don’t fucking tell me you know the truth,” he seethed.

Jong Dae smirked. A nasty smirk rivalling Yixing’s cruel laughter. He shoved Luhan’s offending hands away and fixed his collar. He smoothed his shirt and thumbed over the swollen eye.

Then he looked directly at Yixing. “He’s my brother, Zhang Yixing,” he smiled. “My blood brother. He raised me. And then you stole him from us. But that’s going to change now, and you’re going to have to get used to acknowledging the facts. You,” he smirked and fixed his jacket one more time. “-will never be his brother.”

He left five seconds later.

And then, the Yixing screamed.