Bright meets his first love in college.
Denver is his classmate in Psych 101 – Basic Psychology. It’s Bright’s favorite elective.
He sits right in front of Bright in class while Bright sits on the last row, beside the window. While Bright’s itchy feet are more controllable in college, he still needs an escape that can help divert his attention from all the boredom a monotonous class could bring. Boredom triggers his urge to flee, and it’s something he still needs help with.
Denver is arguably good-looking. His skin is as white and clear as clouds. He wears his hair in an undercut, its shiny blackness a perfect contrast to his skin. He often has a stoic expression on his face, but his Asian eyes have always revealed everything he’s thinking. He’s on the thin side and has an average height for a guy. He possesses an attractiveness that will probably not be appreciated at first glance by a casual passerby. He has a quiet charm—beauty that only speaks to someone who keeps looking.
Denver has quickly become Bright’s distraction in class. The young man is quiet, barely talks unless the professor calls him. He has a raspy voice, which sounds weird yet can bring a certain kind of comfort. It dulls Bright’s senses so well that he almost doesn’t need to sit beside the window to distract himself.
Bright stops feeling the need to flee whenever he hears Denver’s voice.
It’s a new feeling for Bright. He has never experienced such an incessant fluttering of heart and shortness of breath before, and just because of the sight of a man. All he knows is that he always finds himself looking at Denver whenever he arrives in class, following him with his gaze until the other young man takes his seat in front of him. Bright even often forgets he is supposed to listen to the lesson and stare at the professor, or at least focus on the writings on the board because his eyes automatically drift their way to the back of Denver’s head.
One fine day, Denver finally catches Bright looking at him, his profound eyes snatching the breath out of him.
And Bright, fears that it’s the end. That his first crush feelings will be crushed by his own crush.
But fate has other plans. Bright–he couldn’t have been more wrong. Because Denver bravely asks him out. The quiet, cold classmate asks him out on a date and admits that he has been staring at him for quite some time now too.
For the first time, Bright feels a certain warmth in his heart. It takes his breath away and allows him to float with the clouds.
They date for a while. Despite their uncanny similarities, everything seems to work for both of them. Denver doesn’t suffocate him. While Bright? He doesn’t demand much from Denver. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship wherein things seem to go right.
Until Denver utters the words that change everything.
I love you.
And Bright flees. Without explaining anything to Denver, he flees. The words catch him off-guard, scaring him to oblivion. Those words are uttered so tenderly Bright knows they mean so much more than what he is willing to accept.
It’s too much.
And just like that, Bright breaks the heart of the first person outside of his usual crowd who genuinely cares for him.
And it hurts him deeply. It hasn’t been his intention to hurt Denver, or to even lead him on.
Bright cries for days as he mourns the end of his first relationship. Yet, even with all the sadness and pain, he knows he will do the same thing again if he is given a chance to go back to that moment.
Denver is a dream, a really good one that allows Bright to feel a new emotion he never thought he could even experience. But he also realizes that what he shares with Denver is probably not love. Because if it is, Denver’s confession could have made him happy instead of doubtful. Could have made him grateful instead of scared.
And… his words could have been enough to make him stay.
But they aren’t.
Bright knows love exists in different ways. His family loves him, and that feeling has been keeping him safe and secure for the longest time. He is aware of the love between friends too, and how different it is from the love shared among family members.
But Bright is not familiar with the love between strangers, not until Denver arrives and shows it, only to realize he is not probably ready to reciprocate such a pure and steady emotion that’s why he doesn’t feel it.
All throughout his wanderwhoring, Bright has never felt it nag at him. He has never felt it poke at him.
Staring at the family in front of him, Bright feels like he is suddenly assaulted by an onslaught of tender thoughts and feelings. Familiar feelings that he once thought he’s ready to accept. It’s an ordinary weekend and an ordinary set up, but the sight in front of him is giving so much warmth he feels like melting from it.
Bow, the usually indifferent man is playing with Daniel and Mia. He’s still not laughing and he’s still not smiling, but the way his children lean on him tells Bright that the relationship between father and kids have long since changed, and perhaps for the better. While Bow can never go back to the way he was before, the smiles on the two children’s faces reveal just how happy this change in him makes them.
And then there’s him. Wynn.
Bright’s eyes automatically fall on the guy he has been avoiding lately, and this simple action immediately reminds him why.
It’s Bright’s heart. Every time Wynn is near, breathes the same air as him, his heart constricts painfully inside his chest, rendering him breathless and weak. Bright is not dumb. He has an idea what this is, but he doesn’t want to recognize it. Recognizing it means accepting it. Accepting it means acknowledging that it’s true.
Recently, he feels the strangest things whenever Wynn is nearm opposing feelings that confuse the hell out of him. Whenever Wynn accidentally touches Bright, the latter feels like he is being burned with a fire that ignites his senses. Whenever Bright hears Wynn’s voice, he gets carried away by the deep melody of the song his soul sings, yet he hesitates to sing along with the fear of being out of tune.
Wynn. Wynn is the contradiction that his heart can’t afford to understand right now.
Wynn. Wynn. Wynn.
As if hearing Bright’s thoughts, said man lifts his head and meets his gaze. And Bright? He averts his gaze because looking at the other man is a painful burden that’s making him breathless.
“I’m leaving,” Wynn suddenly announces, making Bright flinch. The other man stands up and hugs Daniel and Mia, who just continue to play with their toys, and reaches out to touch Bow’s shoulder. “I’ll be back early. I will bring dinner.”
Bow nods, throwing a short glance at Bright. Wynn ignores the gesture and walks past the couch Bright is seated and doesn’t even throw him a look.
Bright feels his heart crack a little as he hears Wynn’s footsteps fade.
It hurts. He can’t deny that it hurts.
“Just so you know, Bright,” Bow says, surprising Bright a little and catching his attention. He hands Daniel a lego, which the little one accepts with a toothy smile. “Hurt Wynn and I will hurt you. He is not as strong as you think he is. He is probably more vulnerable than you. And I will never forgive you if you destroy him. Ever.”
Bright doesn’t have a response to the warning words other than silence. How can he, when he cannot promise something he will easily break?
Bow does not speak again.
Bright never waits. He hates waiting.
Waiting takes away the meaning behind his need to flee. Waiting allows him to stay still, contemplating about things he doesn’t want to spend time thinking about.
But here he is, waiting.
Bright knows Wynn will come home regardless of what happened this morning. He always does. The other man has this strong grasp of home. He values home. He will always come home.
Bright spends the whole day thinking about everything including his feelings, picking up every single thought he needs from among his cloudy mind just to come up with a decision.
And he has. And he needs to tell Wynn.
Bright doesn’t have to wait long though because Wynn is true to his words. He arrives home early and brings dinner.
Wynn tries to act normally, but Bright can see that even with the others in the room, the tension between them is affecting the other man. Wynn’s smile has always been wide for the people he cares about, but this time, his eyes are full of conflicting emotions, invalidating the smile he is wearing. Wynn tries to laugh at Daniel’s antics, but it sounds so hollow he could have been mourning instead.
The look Bow casts him after dinner reminds Bright of his earlier words: He is not as strong as you think he is.
Bow is wrong. Bright knows. Bright knows that Wynn is not as strong.
And this is the reason why he needs to tell the other man.
Bright hears him before he can feel the other join him on the balcony. But this time, instead of sitting across from him, Wynn remains standing, leaning against the glass door.
There’s silence for a long time. And it’s when Bright realizes that Wynn is waiting for him to speak.
But Bright can’t seem to form the words he wants to say. He wants to give Wynn a reply, but nothing comes out from his mouth. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t even know if he needs to say anything.
It’s a statement. Wynn knows he will leave even before he says it.
“I don’t expect you to stay, Bright, but I want to know why,” Wynn continues, his voice too even for Bright to decipher what he’s really feeling. And this scares the latter. Because he doesn’t like this version of Wynn.
Too cold. Too unfeeling.
But there’s Wynn’s Why. How can Bright even answer that? His desire has always been unfathomable by logic. All he knows is that he needs to feel it. The freedom. Or else he will disintegrate and cease to exist.
“Wynn, I can’t—”
Wynn cuts him off, his voice steady and quiet, yet there’s a hardness to it that makes Bright feel like he’s talking to that first version of Wynn.
“No. Don’t tell me you can’t. I already know you can’t stay. But–Bright. I cannot, will not let you leave unless you have a proper reason for breaking my family’s hearts.”
His words effectively shut Bright’s mouth.
“Have you?” He hears Win add with a soft, cold chuckle. “Have you even thought about the hearts you’ll be breaking when you leave?”
Bright has no proper response to that.
“Daniel and Mia—they will be devastated. And Bow… I don’t even know what will happen to him once you’re not here to make his children happy. As much as I hate to admit it, you have become a part of this family and you leaving will destroy whatever changes that occurred.”
“And you?” Bright doesn’t know why of all the questions, he asks that. But he feels like he has to. He has to know. “When I leave, Wynn–what will happen to you?”
“Fuck, I don’t understand you,” Wynn replies with another bitter chuckle. “You never give straight answers and instead you ask questions to justify the answers that only exist inside your head. You are so unfair, you know that?”
“That’s what I am. That’s who I am. That’s what I am capable of giving.”
Wynn shakes his head. “Don’t… just don’t.” He pauses for a few seconds as if to compose himself, before he starts speaking again in that manner that Bright hates. “I won’t pretend I get you. I’m tired, Bright. Just… tired. And if these are the kinds of answers I will receive from you, I don’t think we have more to talk about.”
“I’m not having this anymore, Bright,” Wynn says quietly. “If you want to leave, leave. I just request that you do it while the children are sleeping. Good night.” He turns his back on him.
“Wynn, wait!” Bright abruptly stands up from the floor, almost slipping in the process. “Please…. Please wait.”
Wynn stops but doesn’t turn around.
“I’m… I’m leaving—” Bright starts. “Really soon.”
“I know,” Wynn says.
“No, you don’t. You think—”
“I do. You’re leaving because of your flighty feet or whatever you call your thirst for flying or leaving. And then you seem to have a habit of breaking people’s hearts in the process.”
It was a low blow, and Bright feels it hit him a thousand times.
“No, you don’t,” Bright replies, his tone revealing the hurt he feels because of the words that came out of Wynn’s mouth, shaking his head even though Wynn cannot see it. “Listen to me. You have to listen to me so I can explain.”
A sigh. “Then explain.”
“I’m not just leaving because of the same old reasons,” Bright starts, his voice so soft he wonders if Wynn can even hear him. “I’m leaving because… because I think I… I think I love you.”
And there it goes. Bright finally says the words.
The words that had once chased him away.
Wynn remains quiet, but Bright knows he needs to keep talking or else he will not get another chance.
“Love—it’s not for me, Wynn,” Bright says, his voice as painful as the throbbing in his heart. “But… it happened. And I need to leave before it destroys us.”
“Destroy us?” Wynn finally replies. “Destroy us or destroy you?”
“Wynn, it’s… complicated.”
“It isn’t. But you are making it complicated.”
“I’m not wired to love, Win!” Bright says with desperation. “I leave. I always leave. I… you know I can’t stay, Wynn. I can’t stay. I can never stay.”
Wynn finally turns around and smiles at him. Bitterly.
“You know, Bow tells me I am selfish. But now, I think I can tell him how wrong he is. I am not selfish. You are selfish.”
“I just admitted I love you and you call me selfish?” Bright asks, his voice surprisingly still even when he is dying inside. “If I’m selfish, I would run away without telling you my feelings. And I will stay and just allow it to destroy us both until it chases me away.”
This time, Bright receives a laugh. His confession is answered by a harsh, cold laugh that pierces through his already conflicted flighty soul.
“That’s not love,” Wynn says to his face without flinching. “Because love is supposed to be enough to make you stay. But here you are trying your best to leave. So leave. Leave and don’t ever come back.”
And then he is gone.
Bright its back down on the balcony floor, the very last of his strength leaving him. He doesn’t notice the tears that start to run down the smoothness of his cheeks as he stares at the night sky, which seems to be mourning with him.
For the first time in his life, Bright silently curses the day that he had allowed his wings to spread so he could freely fly.
Because right now, all he wants to do is clip them so he can freely fall.
Bow corners Bright.
“It must have gone wrong.”
Bright knows Wynn’s brother is referring to the supposed confrontation. The flat affect victim seems to care more than he should be able to. Bright wonders if it is contagious. Because after the pain he felt last night, he just feels numb as if he lost the ability to feel.
“Yes,” Bright hums.
“That’s why you’re still leaving,” Bow declares as he sits on the couch opposite his, offering Bright a glass of water, which he takes.
“Yes,” Bright quietly responds.
“Why do you keep on leaving? Are you, by any chance, running away from something or someone?”
Bright shakes his head. “I’m not running away from something or someone, Bow. It’s the opposite actually.” A half-truth.
“So is this simply another I-need-to-find-myself situation? Soul searching?”
“That’s not the case at all,” says Bright with a small smile. “I leave… I always leave because I need to keep being myself.”
“You’re not making any sense,” Bow says.
“I’m a wanderwhore.”
A small pause. “Excuse me, a what?”
Bright chuckles humorlessly. “I have flighty feet,” he explains, emphasizing the words. “I can’t stay put. I can’t remain… still. I need to leave and continue walking, running, or whatever you will call it, or else I’ll go insane.” He sighs, seemingly as tired as how his explanation looks. “I can’t… I just can’t stop, Bow. I don’t expect you to understand. But I feel… incarcerated whenever I stay at a particular place for a long time. I feel… chained. I always feel the need to fly. And just by myself.”
“I still don’t understand,” Bow admits. “How will you… I mean… don’t you have any plans of settling down somewhere? I mean–”
Bright shakes his head, his fists clenching. “I don’t know. I can’t feel at home anywhere. Maybe if I feel it, I’ll stay.”
“And this?” Bow asks. “With Daniel, Mia, me, and… Wynn? Isn’t this home for you?”
Bright freezes at the question, but he easily rearranges his features to try and mask it.
“It is home for you,” Bow concludes when Bright fails to respond. “Then why are you leaving us?”
“Because I can’t. I…” he sounds pained. “Wynn doesn’t want me to stay.”
“Bullshit.” Bow slowly walks towards the other man and sits at the coffee table, fully facing him. Without second-guessing his urge, he reaches for Bright’s hands and holds them between his own. Bright feels his hand shake for a bit, but immediately relaxes when Bow squeezes them.
“Bright,” he begins cautiously. “What are you going to do?” Bow asks.
“I will leave,” Bright whispers. “I need to. That’s the best way for all of us to continue without anyone being left behind.” He smiles at Bow. “I hate endings, Bow. I can only go on and on and on and never stop. That’s who I am. That’s what I am.”
Wynn has never fallen in love.
He’s seen people fall in love. He’s seen his parents. He’s seen Bow. And while he understood its general meaning, he hasn’t felt it.
He had ex-girlfriends, flings, one-night stands with men and women, but he never used his heart to dictate his actions. Not once. So he is unfamiliar with such an idiosyncratic concept.
But this—this tender feeling inside his chest must be love. Because it won’t hurt so much if it’s not.
Wynn falls asleep with his hand on his chest, trying to appease the pain that cannot be soothed by mere physical comfort.
Wynn wakes up to the smell of bacon and eggs—a smell that would have put him in a good mood. But he knows Bow doesn’t cook and that can only mean one thing.
Wynn refuses to meet Bright’s gaze as he enters the spacious kitchen. Daniel and Mia greet him with a kiss on the cheek. Bow is there too, looking surprisingly fresh for someone who doesn’t care much about his physical appearance.
“Good morning, Bro,” Bow greets in that indifferent tone of his. He pats the seat next to him, motioning for Wynn to occupy it. Wynn nods, but proceeds to the counter first to get himself a cup of coffee.
Bright is there, standing stiff. From the prickly feeling in his skin, he knows Bright is staring at him. But Wynn doesn’t give the other man the satisfaction. He walks past Bright without acknowledging his presence. It pains him to act this way, but it pains him more to know that Bright is just right there, and that soon enough, he won’t be.
Bright flinches at the gesture. Wynn sees it. But he stops himself from reacting because he is hurting too. If it’s difficult for Bright, it’s also difficult for him.
Wynn sits beside Bow and starts serving himself with the hearty breakfast. He eats quietly, ignoring the looks everyone else is giving him. The room feels empty with the combined forces of silence and tension, and even the kids feel it though they don’t understand the sudden presence of such a suffocating atmosphere.
“I’ll bring Daniel and Mia to school,” Wynn declares after a few minutes of stillness. He says it to no one in particular even though it’s obvious it’s for Bright.
“I thought Bright is bringing them to school,” Bow declares, his usually cold voice cutting through the tension like a hot steel. “Bright usually does it these days, what changed?”
Wynn stands up. “Nothing. It’s just better if things get back to normal.” He pauses. “And fast.” It’s a jab, and the three of them know it.
“Dan, Mia, are you done?” Wynn asks, turning his attention to his niece and nephew, who are both oblivious to what’s happening around them.
“I’m done, Uncle Wynn!” Daniel replies as he hops off his chair. Mia throws her brother a glare before standing with more grace like the little lady that she is.
“I’m ready too, Uncle Wynn,” she replies with a more subdued tone.
“Let’s go then,” Wynn declares before turning towards Bow. “I’m bringing home dinner for us. See you later.”
Bow simply nods. “Am I not getting my kiss?” he asks, his attention on his children.
This catches Wynn off-guard—since when has Bow started getting this sweet to his kids? He watches it unfold right in front of his eyes, aware of the sudden ache it brings to his chest.
Daniel approaches Bow first and throws himself at his father without any hesitation. Bow holds him close for a few seconds before planting a kiss on his forehead and letting him go. Then he motions for Mia to come to him.
Mia is a surprise to Wynn. She used to be so wary of Bow. But now, the little girl simply smiles and hops towards his father, giving him a tight embrace that a daughter only reserves for the first man in his life. Bow plants the same kiss on her forehead before releasing him from his arms.
Right then, right at that very moment, Wynn understands the feeling. He recognizes that the dull ache in his chest is nothing but happiness. It presents itself in a melancholic form, but it’s still happiness.
His family is all right. His family will be all right. It’s all he needs in his life.
“I’ll see you later, dorks,” Bow says. Wynn witnesses as Daniel and Mia’s expressions both light up at the simple words.
As they say goodbye to Bright, Wynn throws his brother a grateful look, which Bow acknowledges with a verbal answer.
“They’re my children, Wynn, and I’m their father,” Bow says. “It’s time for me to act like it. Go. You’ll be late.”
Wynn gives him a short nod before he leaves the kitchen with the two children holding each of his hands. They’re almost out of the door when he hears hurried footsteps behind them.
Fuck, not now, he thinks. He chooses to ignore the voice and tells Daniel and Mia to hurry out of the door.
“Wynn, please.” The voice sounds pained. It sounds broken. It sounds so lost.
Just like him.
But he still ignores it.
As Wynn walks away, he feels an unexplainable hollowness inside his chest.
Wynn feels like he just lost his heart.
They say that love makes one do stupid things.
Wynn can feel their eyes on him as he picks up the spilt cup of coffee and hastily throws it inside the garbage can. It’s his fourth cup in just two hours, and the second one he spilled.
He’s obviously having a shitty day. The moment he steps inside the café this morning, it is felt by everyone—from the stiff way he greets Jared to the curt nods he grants his employees.
He’s taking it out on them. And while he is aware of this, Wynn cannot find it in himself to care.
He shouts at Val thrice, and glares at Jared a lot. While Jared is used to his occasional bursts of temper tantrums, Val is not. Wynn has a suspicion that the girl is currently crying her heart out in the backroom.
Wynn wants to punch himself. He has never acted this way before. He is usually a rational man who knows how to manage his temper. But things in his life are currently turning into something he cannot control. Losing his grip is something he is not used to and it’s bugging him.
It’s making him restless.
Wynn picks up the mop resting against the wall and wordlessly hands it to Jared before proceeding at the baking area.
What’s happening to me?
The baking area is as usual, clean. Reeve, his pastry chef, is obsessed with cleanliness and it’s not a surprise to him to see how everything is well-organized.
Wynn walks towards the table and inspects the newly baked pastries. He can feel Reeve’s eyes on him as he waits for something cooking in the oven.
“Where are the mini apple pies?” Wynn asks.
“We only have them on Fridays,” Reeve responds, his tone telling Wynn that he finds his question odd. “We have mini peach pies today.”
Wynn looks at him, his expression grim. “Make one.”
Reeve lifts a brow. “No. I have more things to bake and it’s not on the menu for today. We don’t even have fresh apples right now. What the heck is happening to you, Boss Man?”
Wynn shakes his head, avoiding the question. “Just make one, Reeve. This is my café and I’ll have anything I want.”
“You’re acting like a five-year-old brat right now,” the pastry chef says icily. “No. I will not do it. I don’t have time to run to the grocery just to indulge your stupid whim. Have one of the mango turnovers.”
“I don’t care, just make one, Reeve!” Wynn shouts. “And I hate mangoes!” Damn it, he thinks. “Why can’t you just all give me back my fucking control?” he asks, clearly sounding frustrated.
Reeve shakes his head, obviously unaffected by the outburst from his boss, and lightly pushes Wynn to the corner where a small stool is located. “Sit.”
Wynn allows himself to fall to the corner chair while Reeve simply stares at his boss, his arms crossed in front of him, watching Wynn turn his sour mood on him.
“Scream at me, Reeve,” Wynn says in a surprisingly calm voice as he meets Reeve’s gaze. “Or hit me, whichever you think you can give harder.”
“Because I’m acting stupid and immature, and I can’t help it.”
Reeve simply leans against the counter. “I will not do that, Boss Brat. That’s a coward’s way out. You want me to do the nasty thing for you—hell, no. Face your fucking problem like a man. You’ve been terrorizing your staff all afternoon.”
Wynn cannot even utter a protest at that. Reeve shakes his head and turns towards the entrance to the kitchen. “Jared!” he shouts.
Within a few seconds, the tall barista enters the kitchen, confusion on his face. He looks more confused upon seeing Reeve and Wynn.
“Er… what’s happening?”
“I don’t even want to explain,” Reeve sighs. “Just be a darling and bring Boss Man here back to his hell hole. Arwin and Val can handle the counter for a while,” he says.
Jared nods and walks towards the frustrated-looking Wynn, pulling at his arm. “Come on, Boss Man,” he says. “You’ve already made Bhel cry this morning. It won’t do you any good to roam around the shop with that gloomy cloud above your head. It’s bad for business and you know it.”
Wynn nods dejectedly. He mutters an apology to Reeve before he allows himself to be pulled away.
He cannot understand himself anymore.
Wynn immediately collapses on his chair and covers his face with his hands upon entering the office. He hears Jared close the door and he knows the young man hasn’t left him.
“What’s wrong, Boss?”
Wynn wants to laugh—he just asked himself that question. He could have shrugged off the inquiry, but Jared looks at him with those innocent eyes of his. The young man wears puppy dog eyes even better than Daniel, and Wynn just finds himself telling him everything right from the start.
“So?” Jared asks after Wynn is finished narrating what happened. He will not admit it, but letting that out makes his chest feel lighter somehow. Love really is a heavy burden to carry.
God, even my thoughts are turning cheesy.
“What do you mean by so?” Wynn asks, sounding exasperated. “Bright is leaving, Jared. I don’t even know if he will ever come back. Or if he even wants to come back.”
“But you just told me Bright admitted he loves you.”
Wynn chuckles gravely. “Yes. And it’s not enough to make him stay. Is that even love? Isn’t love supposed to make you stay with the one you love?”
It’s Jared’s turn to laugh. But his is more melodious, musical, good-natured–an exact opposite of Wynn’s laugh.
“Boss, I don’t think you understand love at all.”
Wynn looks at him skeptically, but Jared just shakes his head with a small smile.
“Love is complex. It’s a complicated abstract that doesn’t have a precise explanation. It’s a paradox. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a metaphor. Love is meant to be felt, meant to be absorbed, and not just meant to be seen, spoken, or heard. Love will drive you crazy with contradictions, but well, that’s just the way it is. It’s sweet, but it has a bitter aftertaste. It’s warm, but it freezes your insides. It’s hard, but it makes you soft. It’s gentle, but it hits you roughly. It’s painful, yet it’s soothing.”
Wynn stays quiet. Jared is describing what he feels for Bright. He never has the right words for it, it’s starting to make sense. The chaotic feelings inside him are being defined straight to his face, and just like that, they are sorting themselves out.
“Love is difficult, Boss,” Jared says. “But once you accept it, it becomes easy to deal with.”
Does it? Will it?
“Reeve and I—it’s more difficult for us than the society-approved couples,” Jared continues with his usual cheerful smile. But while he wears the mask, Wynn can feel the sadness in his voice. “Homosexuality is still frowned upon, even though yes, people are more open to other types of love than before. Still, Reeve and I can’t do the usual things normal couples can do in public without being the center of everyone’s attention. We can’t hold hands. We can’t kiss. We can’t stay close to each other—you name it. And while Reeve and I don’t really care, the people around us care. We don’t need prodding in our lives. We don’t need their attention. So even if we do not care, we both know that it’s better for us if we reserve and express our affections in private.”
Wynn can attest to that. He has seen Reeve and Jared outside of work—they simply look like best friends bantering and making a fool of each other. He has also seen them in the company of friends. They’re more affectionate then. More free. They never let go of each other’s hands and they always stay close.
“It’s difficult, but we’re getting by. I am happy as long as I am with him. And while he is Mr. Grumpy personified—” Even Wynn smiles at this. “—I know he is happy as long as he is with me. Even our parents are starting to understand us. It’s taken them a long time, but at least we’re getting there. Who knows they might even accept us soon?”
Will this be how it’s going to be if him and Bright—
“I know what you’re thinking, Boss,” Jared says, throwing him a knowing look. “But… does it matter? Do you care? Even if no one approves?”
There is no hesitation in his response. “No. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think it ever will.”
It makes Jared smile. “See? Is it that hard?”
“How long have you two been together?”
This time, Jared blushes. Perhaps the younger man thinks he has gotten away with it. “We didn’t mean to keep it a secret, Boss. We’ve been together for two years.”
Wynn nods. It’s really none of his business. He also doesn’t care if his employees get together as long as it won’t interfere with work. Reeve and Jared are his most hardworking employees. And maybe, just maybe, he already has a hint.
“Boss,” Jared says, getting Wynn’s attention back. “nothing else matters as long as what you feel for a certain person is real. Fight for him if you know it’s worth it. Is he… worth it?”
Again, Wynn finds it easy to answer. He opens his mouth to respond, but he is stopped by sudden tentative knocks on the door. Jared gives him a sheepish, slightly disappointed smile before he opens it.
It’s Val, from the sound of it. They exchange a few words before Jared shuts the door again.
“Erm… Boss?” Jared sounds uncomfortable.
“You have a visitor.”
“What?” he asks, sounding tired and confused at the same time. “Who?”
Before Jared can respond, the door to his office opens.
Bow nods coolly. “Yes, yes. You and our employees wear the same look. I told you this morning I will start being responsible, right?”
Wynn nods wordlessly.
“Good,” Bow says before he turns towards Jared. “They need you at the counter.”
Jared smiles and gives the brothers a small salute before leaving the room. When the door closes, Bow brings his attention back to Wynn.
“You look like shit.”
I feel like shit, Wynn wants to say, but chooses to shut his mouth.
He can feel Bow’s stare at him. His brother knows how affected he is. Bow knows him more than he knows himself.
And Bow also knows what the problem is. How does the universe bring two people together when one is afraid to need someone and the other one is afraid to be needed? How do two people end up together when one is afraid to stay and the other one is afraid to move? There are no two people more emotionally opposite than him and Bright.
And yet they both fall. Yes, as much as he wants to deny it, he cannot anymore.
He falls. He falls for Bright. He is in love with Bright.
“Talk to him, Wynn,” Bow says after a long silence. “Bright is leaving tonight. It’s time for you to think about your happiness instead of someone else’s. You can be a hero without sacrificing your own happiness, you know. Remember–even heroes are imperfect.”
Wynn has never been more scared.
“Can we talk?”
Wynn comes home late because of an emergency at one of his branches. Bow keeps calling him, cursing at him, and demanding that he hurry up. Luckily, he makes it just in time.
Wynn watches the surprise on Bright’s face as he processes his statement, and perhaps Wynn’s sudden presence. Bright probably doesn’t expect him to be home before he leaves.
Wynn patiently waits for the other to catch up with his thoughts. This is his last chance and he hopes Bright gives it to him.
“Okay,” Bright finally answers. His tone of voice is soft, welcoming, and Wynn feels the relief pouring through him. “Is… the balcony okay?” he asks.
“Yes, yes, please,” Wynn responds.
Bright places his backpack on the couch before he opens the sliding glass door to the balcony and steps outside. Wynn follows him without a word, but not without sending a long, probing stare at the offending object on the couch.
Wynn slides the door close behind him. He knows that Bow will not eavesdrop, but he still feels a little better knowing that there is a wall separating them from the rest of the world. He wants this between them. Only them.
Bright is already seated on the floor at the right side of the door. It’s his usual place. Wynn doesn’t know how he will be able to go to the balcony and not imagine the other man sitting there.
He sits on the other end and mimics Bright’s pose.
“Where will you go next?” Wynn begins.
Bright chuckles softly, tonelessly. “I don’t know. But that’s the beauty of it, Wynn. I always don’t know where I will end up. I’m not afraid of nowheres and anywheres. Have never really been afraid of nothings or anythings.” Bright sighs. “It’s always been that way.”
Wynn turns his head to look at Bright. He is staring at the sky again. He has always known Bright is extremely handsome, but it’s only now that he has the guts to admit such a thing. The moon illuminates the angles on Bright’s face, giving him a soft, ethereal glow that grips at his heart and at the same time soothes it.
Wynn takes a deep breath. “I love you.”
He sees Bright startle at his confession, though the man doesn’t speak a word.
“I’m sorry, I was an idiot,” Wynn continues, trying his best to remain calm as he pours his heart out. “I’m sorry that instead of being honest that night, I was rude and uncaring. I was confused and I was afraid. You caught me off-guard and I panicked,” he explains. “And… well, I… and I was hurt.”
Bright finally turns towards him, the other man wearing a frown that looks out of place on his perfect features. Wynn hates it. He thinks that Bright should always smile. He has a nice smile that never fails to light up everyone’s day. His days in particular, most of the time, if he will be honest about it.
“You don’t have to say anything. I just want you to know that.”
Bright closes his mouth and simply watches as Wynn stands up from his place and sits beside him. Wordlessly, Bright stares at him, the other man’s eyes full of unfathomable emotions that Wynn knows he is not ready to say.
Not now. Not when Bright is leaving.
“I won’t ask you to stay, Bright,” Wynn announces with a soft smile. He lifts his hand tenderly caress Bright’s cheek as if it’s something fragile. “You’re not ready, and I respect that.”
“Wynn—” Bright’s voice quivers. He closes his eyes and lifts his hand to cover Wynn’s. The latter watches as silent tears begin to race down the man’s cheeks.
“Don’t cry,” Wynn whispers as he pulls Bright towards him. Perhaps, it’s a futile effort because the moment Bright’s face meets Wynn’s chest, he starts trembling in his arms. Bright is a large man, but he feels so small in Wynn’s arms.
Wynn holds him close. Tight. He allows the other man to let the pain flow, the pain he’s probably been carrying for years.
Wynn doesn’t cry. He will not cry. This is Bright’s moment to be vulnerable. He will not take it away from him. Bright, who’s been so strong and independent for a long time, finally breaks down.
And Wynn feels happy that he gets to be there for him when he finally does.
“Bright,” Wynn calls just before the other man opens the front door.
Bright does not turn around or look back, but he remains unmoving.
“Come back,” Wynn whispers. “Come back when you can stay. When you can stay for Dan and Mia. For Bow. For me.” he says. “I promise that when you come back and I feel that you’re ready to stay, then I will ask you to stay. I will give you a reason to stay.”
Bright doesn’t reply, but Wynn can see him tightly gripping the straps of his backpack.
Wynn, with a hand clutching his chest, physically tries to soothe the ache that can only be healed from inside but to no avail. With one last helpless sigh, he walks away, purposefully leaving Bright alone.
He cannot see Bright leaving him. For now, he will allow Bright to see him walking away from him.
Such is the pain of the one who leaves, and the one who is left behind.
“You let him go,” Bow says as he watches his brother stare at the sky. He comes out right after he hears their front door close, joining Wynn at the balcony. He is currently sitting on Bright’s usual perch.
“I did,” Wynn responds. “I can’t ask him to stay if he cannot stay. But I told him… I told him that once he is ready to stay, I will not hesitate to ask him to stay. With Daniel and Mia. With you. With me.”
“It’s going to be a pain tomorrow. You should do the explaining to Daniel and Mia. They’ve grown attached to that man,” Bow declares. “Do you think he will come back?”
Wynn turns his head to stare at his brother. “I don’t know, Bow, but–-”
Bow throws him a strange look. “But?”
Wynn smiles. “I told Bright I love him.”
“You did, huh?” Bow doesn’t sound surprised.
“How did it feel to say those words?”
“You think it’s enough to bring him back?” Bow asks. “To you? To us?”
Wynn has no answer to that. It’s not his to answer.
Bright is the only one who can decide when he is finally ready to have his wings clipped.