EPILOGUE

Wynn watches them from afar, a smile that is not so rare these days etched on his pretty face.

Seeing Bow, Daniel, and Mia chase each other around the park brings unexplainable happiness to his heart. A heart that was once stone cold but is now completely thawed by a fire that he still can’t grasp no matter how much he reaches for it.

The fire. His fire. Him

In the end, love is still not enough to contain Bright, but at least love has been enough for him to keep coming back.

It’s been two years and Bright still keeps visiting. Just visiting.

There are times when the other man stays for a week, sometimes even for two weeks. But most of the time, Bright just stays for a couple of days at the most.

And Wynn, he keeps asking even though he receives no answer. 

Bright—he always flees without saying goodbye, as if he has finally acquired wings that render him invisible and indiscernible.

And Win finally gets used to it. At first, he always gets angry. Angry at the other man for being selfish and insensitive. But then he also realizes that it must have been hard for Bright to keep saying goodbye as much as it is hard for him to do so.

And since then, he has been more understanding of the other man’s feelings.

Still, Wynn keeps looking forward to the days Bright will appear on his doorstep, ready to stay for a day or two, or for weeks. As long as he keeps coming back, Wynn will keep hoping. 

That one day, Bright will finally be able to clip his wings. That he can finally allow the last of the feathers to fall. That he will finally rely on his legs, legs that will finally allow the other man to travel the same path as Wynn.

Wynn closes his eyes and smiles. He is still broken, but for some reason, he feels whole. Maybe because the one who keeps breaking him is still the only one who keeps putting his pieces back together.

***

Wynn senses Bright’s presence even before he feels the other man sit on the patch of grass beside him.

“You don’t look surprised,” Bright says after a few moments of silence. “That I’m here again.”

Wynn simply hums before opening his eyes and turning his head to meet Bright’s gaze.

Bright chuckles. “I almost feel insulted.”

“You always come back,” Wynn says quietly, his eyes falling on the familiar backpack Bright usually carries with him. “That’s not new. I will probably be surprised if you decide to–” His voice trails off. They both know what he’s going to say next anyway.

“I need to hear you ask it.” It’s Bright’s only response.

“Again, that’s nothing new. You always tell me that.”

Bright pinches him on the sides, causing him to glare at the other man. Bright lifts a brow while Wynn continues to stare at him for a few more seconds before finally averting his gaze. 

Wynn’s eyes go back to Bow and his niece and nephew. Daniel and Mia haven’t noticed Bright yet, but Bow has. His brother keeps throwing subtle glances their way, but leaves them be. 

Bow knows about his pain, but his brother refuses to take it away from him. And it’s one thing he’s grateful about. Bow knows he needs to feel the wounds so he will know how to heal them on his own. His brother is not the type to cradle him, and perhaps, he has been helping Wynn that way.

“Fine,” Wynn finally sighs. “So will you?” he asks, trying to sound casual. “Stay?”

He doesn’t receive a verbal answer. Instead he feels the weight of Bright’s head on his lap. The man lies down on the grass and just puts his head on Wynn’s jean-clad thigh.

And Wynn allows him. Bright is probably tired from all the flying he has been doing for the past few months. Win knows even winged creatures need to rest. They cannot fly forever. 

He runs his fingers through the other man’s hair, feeling the soft silky strands glide against his fingers. 

Bright hums, his tone sounding grateful and content. 

Wait–

It only takes him a couple of seconds before he finally realizes it.

And then Wynn smiles. 

He closes his eyes and just feels. He doesn’t need words. He never does.

Soon, he feels Bright reach for his hand on his hair, and holds it close to his chest.

“Wynn.”

“Hmm?”

Bright doesn’t reply, but there’s a silent question hanging between them. A question that they probably both know the answer to, yet both seem afraid to voice it out loud.

But Wynn answers it. Because he can. He can now.

“I know,” he says. He leans down and places his forehead against Bright’s.

“Welcome home, Bright,” he whispers against the other man’s lips, before finally claiming them fully in a kiss.

Bright smiles and allows himself to be embraced by the familiar feelings that used to chase him away.

It’s time. They both know it’s time.

Bright finally allows the last of his feathers to wither away with the wind.

He doesn’t need them anymore.

End

Chapter 6

CHAPTER 6 – CLIP

Bright

Life is a never-ending crossroad. The choices are there, and one only has to choose which direction to take. 

The catch is, every direction is the unknown. It has to be chosen and experienced before the consequences are revealed.

Life is a tricky bastard that way.

Life is sly, cunning. It moves like a monster, lurking in the dark, until an unsuspecting prey passes along the way. And then it jumps and devours it. Mercilessly. Giving it no choice but to surrender.

Bright is the prey.

Within a span of almost three months, Bright’s life—the life that he has tried to keep steady for years and the life that he has fought for and has sacrificed a lot for—changes.

To be free. To fly. To cross over horizons. To reach the precipice of nothingness. These are his goals as a wanderer. Spreading his wings fully—it’s what defines him. It’s what makes him, him.

Yet here he is, on a bench at a bus stop, waiting for the right bus to arrive. His cheeks are wet with tears for crying over the loss of that something that stops him from being him.

Bright doesn’t expect the tears to fall. For one, he never has to deal with something similar before. And two, he never finds the use for them. Tears usually define one’s strength. But in his case, tears define his weakness.

Bright isn’t supposed to feel. Most especially he isn’t supposed to fall. He isn’t supposed to be attached. He is supposed to leave after two months.

He couldn’t. Every time he wants to just pack up and leave, whenever he feels Daniel’s hugs and Mia’s cuddles, or even hears Bow’s toneless voice, and he just postpones it for another day. 

And then he sees Wynn. His smiles, his frowns, his morning bed head, his icy expression, his laughing face—saying goodbye has never been more painful. It’s slowly destroying Bright inside. 

He has so many questions that are still unanswered. And if they remain blank for a long time, he will disintegrate with the burden that is supposed to set him free.

Is freedom still worth it? Will he allow himself to still flee when all he thinks of is being incarcerated inside that apartment with the people he comes to love in just a few weeks? 

Does he still need to fly when every time he thinks about the nest that becomes his temporary home, he wants to settle down? 

Does he still need these fluffy, intricate wings that he has been enhancing for so long when his feet are now refusing to fly along with them?

Sure, he has answers. But they are still as fuzzy as his feelings. And it’s unfair if he pushes to stay when what he feels is still as vague as his intended destination.

Bright closes his eyes. For the first time in his life, he wishes for his heart to overrule his mind and his senses.

But God—it won’t cooperate.

He opens his eyes, frustrated at the stubborn fist-sized organ inside his chest. He needs help. He needs clarity. Or else even his life’s purpose will become a vague memory that he might not be able to recover.

Securing his backpack on her shoulders, Bright stands up and crosses the highway to wait for the bus going the opposite way.

His wings need to make a detour. Perhaps, it’s time for him to visit.

It’s been so long.

***

How many months has it been since Bright has last caught sight of the huge glass house he never calls home? 

He almost forgets how beautiful it is. How the transparent glasses allow him to see the large front garden and the small lake at the back. How the sun directly shines on his face the moment he wakes up. How he can clearly see the starry night sky from his bedroom window—

Bright has to admit that he missed this.

He turns towards the cab driver, the old but still jolly Tomas, and hands him a wad of cash. He has to take a cab in town to get here, and he is fortunate that the cab driver knows him and doesn’t make a fuss upon seeing him. 

Bright is not going to stay. He doesn’t want a commotion. He doesn’t want a warm welcome. Old Tomas knows it, and he silently acknowledges it with just a mere nod.

“Thank you,” Bright says before closing the door. Tomas gives him one last wave before the old man zooms away.

Bright takes a needed breath before he climbs the three-level stone staircase leading to the front door. The young man steadies the backpack on his shoulder before pressing the doorbell beside the polished wooden door and patiently waiting for whoever will answer the door. It’s still early, around 3 pm. He is quite sure that his family will not be home yet.

Oh how wrong he is. Mika answers the door. Poor Mika whose face pales upon seeing her long lost wanderwhore of a brother.

“Bright?” His sister’s voice is a whisper, but the look in his eyes tells Bright the onslaught of emotions she is currently feeling—shock, delight, a burst of anger, and happiness.

Happiness seems to win. Because Mika’s eyes finally soften as she takes in all of Bright’s form.

“You’ve grown taller,” Mika says softly, her voice quivering. “Not that you weren’t a giant even before. I mean–”

“Mika,” Bright responds gently, a small smile on his face, as he watches the tears start to form in his sister’s eyes. 

Mika silently and slowly opens her arms to him. “I deserve a big sisterly hug, don’t you think, you big doofus?”

That’s all Bright needs to hear before he comes walking towards Mika’s arms and embracing her tightly.

And then as if a switch is flicked on, Bright cries. Hard. He cries for missing his family. He cries for staying away for a long time. He cries for leaving. He cries for everything he’s been keeping locked inside his chest for a long time.

Bright cries. He just cries. 

The two of them stand there for a long time, with Mika holding his much taller younger brother in her warm, familiar arms.

It’s the sight that their parents come home to. After a few seconds of getting over the shock of seeing their prodigal son, they join the embrace-and-tears fest happening right at their front door.

The three of them hold Bright tight. And Bright, in turn, holds on to them just as tight.

Bright never wants to let go. So he doesn’t.

***

Bright’s eyes are closed, his head on his sister’s lap, as Mika sings a familiar song to him. 

The two of them are about to sleep, but because Bright misses his older sister, he requests for her to sing him a song before she leaves for her bedroom.

It’s oddly comforting.

When they were kids, Mika used to do the same. It was her way of helping Bright divert his attention away from his constant desire to flee. Mika has a beautiful voice, which has always instantly relaxed Bright’s mind.

Bright is on the verge of falling asleep, carried away by his sister’s lovely voice, when Mika suddenly stops singing and asks the question he is not ready to answer yet.

“So who is he? Or is it a she?”

“Who?” Bright’s eyes fly open, trying to sound casual.

It fails. 

“Don’t who me,” his sister says, lightly tugging at his fringe, earning her a loud ouch from said young man. “We both know that something, or more appropriately someone happened.”

“It’s not what—”

Mika covers Bright’s mouth with her free hand. “Shut up. Isn’t that the reason why you’re here looking all tired and confused? I know you more than you know your flighty self. Now confess,” she demands, sounding like how a typical older sibling usually is. But then in a softer tone, she adds, “You know you can tell me anything.”

Can he?

“So–” Mika clears her throat. “Is it a he or a she?”

Bright blushes before finally admitting defeat. Mika will never leave him alone anyway. “It’s a he.”

“Okay–so?”

“What so?

“Bright–” His sister’s voice sounds frustrated. “What are you so afraid of?”

“I don’t know,” Bright honestly responds. “I honestly don’t know anymore. I used to be aware of my fears and my desires, Mika. But now they’re all blurred again and I feel lost.”

“No, you aren’t,” Mika says.

“I’m not what?”

“You aren’t lost,” Mika replies. “You came back home. You knew your way back home. You’re not lost.”

Bright chuckles softly. “I don’t understand myself anymore, how can I not be lost?”

Mika shakes her head. “I really think you’re wrong about this. I don’t think you’re lost. In fact, I think you’re experiencing the opposite.”

Bright remains silent, waiting for his sister to elaborate because he knows she will, at least until she knocks some sense into him.

“You found something. And it’s making you feel confused because you don’t know how to handle the feelings it’s eliciting from you. Am I right? Or am I correct?”

Bright fails to respond, but his silence is enough for both of them.

“There are things in this world worth taking a risk for. Because sometimes, it’s in taking a risk that we find the clarity we’re looking for.” Mika lightly strokes Bright’s cheeks before her fingers drift back to his hair. “Bright, I will not ask for details. Maybe you need to sort it out first yourself even before you can share it with the people who care for you—I don’t know, I’m not sure. But I just want to ask this—do you think, whatever this is that’s making you feel confused, it’s worth it?”

Is it?

Mika sighs. “Idiot, don’t use this too much,” she says while flicking a finger on her brother’s forehead. “You’ve been using this since the beginning of time along with your stupid senses. Well bad news, they’re not always reliable. Your senses get dull and this brain of yours is overused.”

Bright frowns. Mika shakes her head.

“Use this instead. Because sometimes, this fist-sized thing here is the only thing you need to consult.” Mika reaches for his hand and places it on his chest. 

Bright can feel his heart beating. Right now, the beat is a slow, continuous rhythm. But even if it lacks the pumping adrenaline that a fallen heartbeat possesses, Bright knows at least this particular answer. Because every beat reminds him of nothing but him.

Of Wynn.

I love you.

“He told me he loves me,” Bright admits as he stares at the ceiling.

“And?” Mika asks softly.

I love you.

Those words used to scare him and chase him away.

“I don’t know,” Bright replies.

I love you.

“Are you ready, Bright?”

Am I ready? Is he ready to be a familiar face in a world full of strangers? Is he ready to be somebody in a world full of somebodys? Is he ready to cut the wings off his flighty feet and stay?

Bright remembers the way that Daniel toothily smiles whenever he wants to ask a favor from anyone. The boy knows how to use his charms to his advantage. Bright remembers the way Mia always tries to act like a grown-up lady even though she is very much still a girl in everyone’s eyes. Bright remembers the way Bow tries to act tough even when he wants to be vulnerable. He’s quite bad at hiding his uncertainties even when he tries so hard to cover them up.

And then Bright finally remembers Wynn. Just Wynn. Because everything about him is something and everything to Bright.

Is he ready? He feels like he is.

Lupita’s words echo in his mind like an endless loop.

“When you can’t take the flight, allow yourself to fall. There’s nothing wrong with falling… and risking whether someone will catch you or not.”

And then Mika’s.

“Leave, travel, go everywhere, anywhere… but come back. Because no matter how much it scares you, home is home, Bright. You need a home. Even if it’s not with us, there will come a time that you will have to stay somewhere.”

“How will I know?”

“When you come back on your own, you know you’re ready to stay.

Stay. Home. Come back.

“Bright?” Mika’s voice cuts through his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“We want to meet him,” Mika declares with a fond smile. “We want to meet the man who finally made you want to stay.”

Bright’s cheeks turn red, but doesn’t say anything. Sometimes he wants to strangle his sister for knowing him more than he knows himself. 

Mika simply chuckles at his reaction.

“Sleep it off, Bright,” she says before lifting his brother’s head and putting a pillow under it. “Tomorrow, I bet you will have the answer.”

Will he?

“Good night, Bright. And don’t think too much.”

***

The sun doesn’t even begin to shine yet, but Bright is already totally awake.

He takes one last look at the piece of paper in his hand before placing it on top of his bedside table.

“I promise I will come back soon,” he whispers.

Bright quietly leaves his room.

And the house.

He has a place to go.

***

Dear Mom, Dad, and Mika,

I woke up today and realized that my flighty feet are fading along with my wings. My feet do not feel as light anymore, and my wings are now a pair of translucent nerves that feel useless.

I feel like they will both disappear soon. In my heart, I have accepted that fact. 

But before they totally disintegrate right in front of my eyes, I will use them to have one last flight. 

And then I will allow them to finally be clipped.

I will see you soon. I promise. By that time, it will be by feet and not by wings.

I love you all.

Bright

***

Bright knows Mika will find his letter. Bright also knows that he will once again disappoint his parents.

But Mika will understand. And she will make their parents understand.

It’s just that Bright has to do this.

For himself and for him.

***

The café is full.

It is that time of the month when people just want to laze around in an air-conditioned place, gobbling up sweet things while having their caffeine fix.

Bright stands outside the café with his backpack slung on his broad shoulders. He takes a deep breath, the beat of his heart changing along with the look in his eyes.

This time, he doesn’t look conflicted. Or burdened. With a determination that he has only felt once or twice in his life, he barges inside the café, his eyes instantly searching for him.

He doesn’t see anyone, not even Daniel and Mia, who are both there, looking surprised at Bright’s sudden appearance.

“Bright!”

Bright whips his head and meets Bow’s pleasantly surprised face. He seems to be manning the counter. Bright would have been surprised too upon finding the other man there, but he is busy searching for someone else. 

Bright walks towards him, his gait laced with purpose.

“Where’s Wynn?” he asks, sounding a little breathless. Bow opens his mouth to answer him when a sound of a swinging door is heard.

“Bow? What’s the commotion all—Bright?”

And Bright freezes in place at the sight of the man he misses, flighty feet and all.

“Wynn.”

Wynn

Wynn doesn’t know the feeling of how it is to fly.

He doesn’t have wings. He finds no purpose for the pair of elaborate, gentle mesh that has the ability to bring a soul onto its favored destination, along with the feeling of lightness and the taste of freedom. 

He doesn’t know how it feels to spread one’s wings, and then allowing them to glide with the wind or even against it. 

He doesn’t know how it feels to maneuver a pair of massive woven feathers attached to one’s back as he mingles with the clouds and breathes everything in. 

He doesn’t know how it feels to synchronize the movements of his limbs with the flap of his wings.

All he has ever needed in his life is a pair of legs. Legs that can help him carry the load that he has willingly carried on his back for years.

He used to not care. But he finally catches sight of a wing carrier from his post on the ground and Wynn just finds himself captivated by the sight. 

He loves how the rhythmic flutter of the wings synchronizes with the dance of the wind. He is amazed by the shadow the figure casts upon the shrouds of white, a touch of gray that heightens the feel of realness amidst the realm of the reel.

But then, the shadow starts to fall. And in his haste to catch it, he changes the direction of his feet.

Wynn feels the fall. While he is the one who catches, he still feels the impact. The reckless descent robs him off his breath, leaving him gasping for a much-needed air that is neither granted nor felt. He feels helpless as he flails, trying to clutch at a saving grace that will break his fall.

He never finds it. Yet, he feels like he never hits the bottom ground. He remains suspended in a cloud of ambiguity, the fine line between two clashing yet complementary forces—the purgatory of a truth and a lie.

At the moment, he is not sure which he prefers—the truth that can destroy him or a lie that can temporarily save him?

How to fall. He never did learn the basics. He’s clueless, emotionless, on what to exactly do now that the man he misses so much is in front of him. 

Bright has beautiful, expressive eyes. And he is looking at him with those brown orbs that never fail to render him momentarily useless and numb.

Wynn’s mind is currently a vessel of unguarded, unanswered questions.

What is Bright doing here? Why did he come back?

Bright just left a couple of days ago, leaving him with a hollowness that he has not once felt. And now the man is here. And he is scared to know the answers he might have brought with him.

Wynn walks closer until he’s standing just a foot away from Bright. Bright, who seems to have frozen in place. Wynn would have laughed at the expression on his face if neither of their hearts were on the line.

His movement seems to have woken Bright up from his temporary daze. In fact, the other man looks startled.

Wynn remains quiet and doesn’t say anything. He is afraid to utter a word, worried that it might chase the other away even before Bright states his purpose.

Wynn waits. He waits for Bright to say the first word.

And he does.

“I… visited my family,” Bright says.

The statement confuses Wynn, but he doesn’t say a word, waiting for the other man to finish talking.

“Wynn, I… I… how do I explain this?” The words are whispered, but Wynn still hears them. And before he can stop himself, he reaches out to cup his cheek–a gentle gesture that surprises them both.

“What’s the matter?” Wynn asks carefully. “Did… did something bad happen?”

Bright shakes his head, but doesn’t utter another word.

“Bright?”

Bright shakes his head again, and with more conviction this time. However, he still doesn’t say a word to Wynn.

“Bright,” Wynn calls softly, trying to read the cloudy thoughts reflected in Bright’s eyes, but the other averted his gaze. Wynn sighs. “Look at me, Bright. Please?”

Perhaps it’s the pleading tone in his voice, but Bright finally does. 

And Wynn finally sees everything. 

There is fear in those eyes. There is also doubt. And there is… resolve. Despite the thin veil of insecurity, there is determination in those eyes—Bright wants this to happen and he will not regret it, whatever it is the other man is about to do or say.

Wynn’s chest aches. And he knows, he will soon bleed. He doesn’t need more words to come out from the other’s mouth to define what he has seen in Bright’s eyes. 

Wynn cups Bright’s face with both of his hands. He doesn’t say a word, but his eyes are begging Bright to prove him wrong.

He doesn’t.

“I can’t, Wynn,” Bright whispers. “I can’t stay.”

Wynn stills, his hands as rigid as ice.

“Listen to me, Wynn, please listen to me,” Bright hurriedly says, placing his hands above Wynn’s before the other can take them away. “Wynn, I did not come here to stay. Not yet. I am not yet ready.”

Wynn’s face remains unreadable. Bright gives him a sad smile. He caresses the hands that are still on his face, the gentle soothing motion of his fingers relaxing Wynn, but not making him feel better.

“Why?” Wynn finally asks.

“Because I want closure. And to find it, I need to take one last flight on my own.”

On his own. He doesn’t need Wynn and it fucking hurts.

“Wynn–-I have to go back and retrace the paths I have taken. It’s the only way I know I can attain the closure I’ve been looking for. But before I can do that, I–” Bright’s hold on his hand tightens. “I need to come here first. I need to see you. I need to–I just… I just want you to know that I want to. Stay,” Bright softly admits. “I need you to know that I do.”

Wynn remains silent.

“But my wings–” Bright continues as he gives Wynn’s hands one last caress before releasing them. “They couldn’t be clipped overnight. I need time to slow down so I will not crash and leave us with nothing but broken pieces of me. Do you… do you understand me, Wynn?”

He does.

“I need to clip my wings on my own,” Bright says, his eyes never leaving Wynn’s. “And… I need time, Wynn.”

Time. Time is always a factor in a crucial decision. A cruel constant in a world full of uncertainties.

“But I will come back. I will always come back.”

But will you ever stay? Wynn wants to ask Bright. But for some reason, he remains tightlipped.

“Wynn–please always ask me every time I come back,” Bright says, pleads, as if he can understand Wynn’s thoughts. “I know it’s selfish and my answer might not be what you would want to hear, but please always ask me.”

Desperation. Sadness. Anger. Hope. He can hear them all in Bright’s voice.

“I will need to hear you say the words,” Bright continues. “Because even if I will not be ready to stay yet, I will always have a reason to come back. I will always have something to hold on to, something that will always remind me that I need to try because there is someone, something waiting for my answer.”

No words come out of his lips. But he knows Bright can see his pain. 

“Promise me,” Bright whispers.

And then… Bright kisses him.

And Wynn– he kisses him back, pouring all the words he couldn’t say in that one last desperate gesture.

“I’m not enough, am I?” Wynn finally asks when their lips separate.

“I love you,” Bright whispers against his lips, not bothering to answer the question Wynn finally has the courage to ask.

And then he lets go. 

Without another word, Bright immediately turns around and leaves, the sound of the bell tinkling after him.

He doesn’t look back. Not once.

Wynn doesn’t see the people around him. Doesn’t see Bow looking at him with worry in his usually indifferent eyes. Doesn’t hear Daniel and Mia being restrained by Jared and Reeve because they are both calling for Bright. Doesn’t hear the sighs of disappointment and pity from the other patrons in the café. 

Wynn’s eyes are only on Bright’s retreating figure. He watches Bright walk away from him until he can no longer see the other man.

Until he can no longer feel him.

Until he disappears from his life..

Wynn closes his eyes and makes a small promise to himself.

One day. One day he will be the weight to his wings so he will not be blown astray by the unpredictable wind. He will guide him down until his feet completely touch the ground and he no longer needs to fly.

And Wynn will never let go.

But right now, he needs to accept that he is not enough to make Bright stay.

And he has to let him go.

***

Endings pave the way for beginnings.

A month after Bright left, Wynn and his family of four started new routines. Routines are something that would not have been possible if their lives weren’t touched by a stranger.

“Are you ready to go, kids?” he hears Bow call from the living room. Wynn places his empty coffee mug at the kitchen counter and leans back against it, preparing his ears for the coming retort.

“We’re coming, Papa! Dan is just slow! His legs are still too short!”

“Am not slow, Mia! And I’m not a shorty! I will grow tall, tall, tall, once they cut my ding-dong, you will see! Don’t be a meanie! I will just tie my shoelaces!”

“What do you mean they will cut your ding-dong?! Papa! Dan is talking nonsense! Uncle Wynn!”

“It’s true, Mia! That’s what happens to boy grownups!”

Wynn shakes his head, a small smile plastered freely on his face. From among all the changes Bright caused, this is probably the best one.

Bright. Wynn unconsciously places his hand on his left chest. The thought of the other man still pains him, but he is coping. He has to accept the fact that while there is a possibility that he might come back, there is an even bigger possibility that he might not. While the pull of the heart wins most of the time, the pull of one’s soul is enigmatically more stubborn.

Even he understands that.

It’s heart versus soul. And Bright’s soul is as stubborn as his invisible wings.

Wynn shakes his head, trying to get rid of the unwanted thoughts. He composes himself before he exits the kitchen, car keys in hand, and joins his brother in the living room. 

Bow looks up from the magazine he’s been reading and offers Wynn a small nod.

“Mia has a meeting for her class’s bake sale,” Bow says tonelessly. “Dan says he will wait for her until 2 pm.”

“She’s not even ten and she already has meetings?” Wynn asks, clearly joking. “And Bake Sales? Just so you know, you will pay for the cakes she will get from the café.”

Bow rolls his eyes. “Tell me about it. She’s being smug about it too. She acts like a damn grown up sometimes and I don’t like it. She is growing up too fast. And the cakes–just deduct it from my salary,” he sighs.

Bow doesn’t seem to realize it, but he’s being possessive and protective, and it’s a good sign. For someone who is diagnosed of not being able to feel again, it’s always a good sign whenever Bow shows any type of emotion. 

Wynn reaches out to pat him on the back. “You’re doing quite well, Daddy.”

Wynn feels Bow stiffen upon hearing the label, but he immediately relaxes.

“Thank you,” Bow whispers. He doesn’t need to tell Wynn how embarrassed he is. Once upon a time, Wynn had mastered the art of reading Bow. That skill hasn’t diminished in time, flat affect or no flat affect. He might never be able to see happy tears from Bow’s eyes again, but he knows his brother would have been crying by now if he could. Unlike Wynn, Bow never had a problem with expressing his emotions through tears. Bow has always been braver than him.

A comfortable silence hangs between them, the type of stillness that has now become a welcomed regular presence. Silence, in any of its forms, has been a sort of comfort for Wynn.

“Are you going to be okay?” Bow asks him a couple of minutes later. He sounds cautious, careful, as if he’s scared that Wynn will suddenly break in front of him like a piece of fragile glass.

Will he be okay?

He has to be. He just has to be. 

Wynn values life and its flow. Life, even with a shattered heart and unfulfilled desire of the soul, must always, always go on.

Wynn lifts his hand to touch his heart that’s painfully beating inside his chest.

“I will be,” he responds softly, his words echoing the thoughts of his mind but not the yearning of his soul.

He will be.

Chapter 5

Epilogue

CHAPTER 5 – FALL

Bright

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.

Yet–

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

***

“You’re leaving.” 

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.”

“Wynn, I—”

“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

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.

“Wynn—”

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.”

“Why?”

“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.

“Hmm?”

“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.

“Me.”

“Bow?”

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.

“Bright.”

“Hmm?”

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.

“Wynn, I—”

“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.

“I did.”

“How did it feel to say those words?”

“Liberating… painful.”

“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.

Chapter 4

Chapter 6

2gether the Movie: A Review

2gether the Movie: A Review

Ratings: 5/5 Stars

Directors: Noppharnach Chaiwimol, Kanittha Kwanyu, Weerachit Thongjila

Main Cast: Vachirawit Chivaaree, Metawin Opas-Iamkajorn

Story: Based from เพราะเรา … คู่กัน by JittiRain

Official Movie Poster from GMMTV

Disclaimer: This is an informal movie review, devoid of structure and some elements of a professional movie review. This is simply a string of comments from a fan who loves 2gether and the actors playing the main characters.


It is not just a case of destiny, but also a case of chemistry and an honest-to-goodness, feel-good story. Not to mention there is that subtle emotional kick that hits randomly all throughout the movie, forcing the audience to do a massive organ inventory. 

2gether is a story about two young men falling in love for real after faking a relationship to save one of them from a persistent suitor. It’s a tale about love at first sight, unconditional love, and how gender is not a hindrance to finding what one’s heart wants. 

The Movie starts with Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong getting ready for what seems to be a special occasion. Seconds later, Sarawat Guntithanon, Tine’s partner, steps into the frame and asks his boyfriend about what he’s feeling. And from then on, a series of flashbacks starts, bringing the audience back to where it all begins.

And this is where everything makes sense.

2gether the Series is from the POV of Tine, which gives us a one-sided glimpse of the scenes, except perhaps during that confession in the bus wherein Sarawat bares all. 2gether the Movie is both from Tine’s and Wat’s POV, and it includes inner monologues that fill the gaps in the series—it’s what makes the movie different.

But let’s break it down one by one.

The Actors and Main Characters

Tine, played by versatile actor Metawin “Win” Opas-Iamkajorn,  is a tall, handsome student under the Faculty of Law and a self-proclaimed ‘chic’ boy who makes it his ultimate goal to find a girlfriend, only to end up being chased instead by Green, another male student under the Faculty of Humanities. He seeks the help of cold, introvert Sarawat Guntithanon, the university’s talented heartthrob, whose character is brought to life by the effortless acting of Vachirawit “Bright” Chiva-aree.

Sarawat and Tine have been portrayed excellently by Bright and Win, and the movie will convince the audience just how perfectly they play these characters. That there will be no other actors who could have played these two characters better than them. Sarawat and Tine have become Bright and Win; and Bright and Win have become Sarawat and Tine. 

Each expression or each gesture that has been shown in the Series that perhaps has an ambiguous or vague impression, makes total sense in the Movie. It’s like finally finding the missing pieces that will help decipher the codes, and it feels so good knowing that all hunches and thoughts are valid.

And there is that chemistry. One has to be blind not to see it or has to be numb not to feel it. All Bright and Win have to do is to stand beside each other for that chemistry to overflow and catch everyone off-guard who isn’t expecting it. The main actors’ chemistry plays a huge role in the success of the series, its special episodes, and the movie. There is just something about the two of them that makes even the smallest scene explode with sparks. 

Perhaps it’s because there has always been little to no fanservice between them, making way for other people to witness the real bond between them. And that bond is what makes them special because they seem to protect it with all they have. 

It’s natural and unscripted. It’s vague, but solid. It’s visible, but unidentifiable. It’s not a secret, but it’s private. Whatever it is, it’s a bond that transcends work and will not be easily shattered by naysayers or detractors.

Bright and Win – they deserve a new BL couple series. That chemistry needs to be flaunted out there again, perhaps not just on the small screen, but also on the big screen again.

Musical Score and Editing

One of the notable things worthy of laud in the movie is the musical score.

While the series and its special episodes have the best OST (they’re the stars in my Spotify account), the movie can really boast about its musical score.

The background music is amazing, and always plays during the best cuts where it should be played. This highlights some scenes more, bringing out the best in every word spoken and every emotion shown. 

The music is always on point, adding to the sentimentality of each scene, making the viewer feel as if they’re right there along with the characters, experiencing the same things. 

It is also noteworthy to talk about the story flow. The fluidity of the storyboard is evident, with no awkward cuts or unnecessary scenes. It’s a short, clear-cut way of narrating a beautiful love story between men, without overwhelming the viewer with information. 

And finally, there is the addition of the inner thoughts—both from Tine and Wat. The inner monologues have redefined the story so much. And the best thing about it? The revelation about Tine’s feelings. It turns out Tine is as whipped as Sarawat all along, and that hits straight to the heart of every fan who has always thought that it’s just Sarawat who has been feeling such deep emotions in the beginning.

Other Points

  • Their love for vintage – simple things that last long, increasing their value overtime. In Still 2gether, Wat traded his BMW for a Vespa motorcycle. It might not be convenient for long drives, but it’s the perfect transportation for him and Tine. And for the movie, they own a Mini Cooper. Vintage vehicles hold a lot of memories—the longer they stay in one’s mind and heart, the more precious they become. It’s a perfect symbolism for the SarawatTine couple.
  • The expressions of the people closest to them (i.e. P’Dim’s expression when SarawatTine are doing the pocky challenge or his expression when Green joins the Music Club). These tiny additions will make you understand why the characters of the series in that particular scene act that way in the series.  
  • The chemistry between the cast. 2gether is a story crafted by the mind of JittiRain and brought to life by amazing actors. From 2gether to Still 2gether to 2gether the Movie—it has been obvious how the relationship between everyone is so healthy that the chemistry just flows naturally from the screen. Everyone just seems to get along well. The characters and the story become a part of people’s lives because they have become family—probably one of the reasons for 2gether’s magic. 
  • The directors and the production staff. Directors who take care of their actors will always bring out the best in them. As evident, 2gether has the best directors who took their time getting to know the actors with the characters. It’s no wonder why there is consistency and quality in the production, even if the movie seems to be a spur-of-the-moment decision from the management. 

Which finally leads to this—

To those who are hesitant to give 2gether the Series a try, the Movie can be your… test. It’s 2gether the Series’ and Still 2gether’s key scenes combined in a two-hour show and complemented by new scenes that flawlessly tie Sarawat and Tine’s story in a neat bind. 

The Movie fills the gaps in the Series, resulting to a full story that touches every fan’s heart, leaving no room for doubts when it comes to the love shared between two people of the same gender identity yet of different sexual orientations. 

2gether the Movie is NOT just a duplicate or a repeat of 2gether the Series, but rather a supplementary masterpiece that completes it, giving way to a more in-depth understanding of each character’s actions and emotions and revealing the full contextual meaning of every scene. 

Some say that plot-wise, it’s not the best BL series out there. Perhaps, that’s right. 2gether’s plot is simple and light. 

But a story doesn’t need to be complicated to be beautiful. A story just needs to speak to its audience, and that’s what 2gether and its cast and crew manage to deliver in spades.


For Filipino fans, you can watch 2gether the Movie via online streaming platforms. This is not a paid advertisement. I just want to support Bright and Win, Sarawat and Tine, and the series that gave us them.

Links:

https://www.upstream.ph/content/vod/2gether-the-movie/61fd0bf0a3bb0651fb443bb2

https://www.ktx.ph/category/2gether-the-movie-for-philippine-territory-only

CHAPTER 4 – HOVER

Bright

His life as a wanderwhore teaches him two truths.

First truth. Life is cruel. People don’t really care how it manipulates and destroys a person as long as they will not be involved in it. Most people will always save themselves before others. Survival is human nature.

And there’s the second truth, which Bright still hasn’t mastered–the involvement of feelings. A wanderwhore should never feel. Once feelings start to get involved, the wanderwhore life is doomed to end.

Bright grows up with the finest things money can buy. His father made it big in the oil business years ago, securing a future for him and for the next generations to come. His mother, on the other hand, is a famed plastic surgeon. Her clients range from well-known celebrities and models to bored, rich housewives. She is also a socialite. If she doesn’t give parties, she attends one. She is in every famous person’s VIP guest list. 

But despite all of these conveniences in life, their family is different from most rich families. Unlike the stereotypical elite ones wherein parents are too busy for their kids, Bright’s parents always make sure to spend time with their two children, Mika and Bright, who, despite their five-year age gap, are very close.

Bright has an ideal family set-up. His parents and his older sister have never been the problem with what’s going on inside him. 

It has always been him. Bright has always been afraid of the concept of home.

Home. Home is permanence. Home is steady. Home is stability. Home is static. And it’s a curse for someone whose soul is restless, whose soul craves for freedom all the time. 

Bright is a flighty soul. He has the biggest pair of itchy feet.

Bright’s family—he loves them so much—but they’re not enough to contain his soul. The silent whirlwind of emotions inside him is too difficult to contain even by love. It’s overflowing. It’s massive. It will take a strong, steady force to subdue the limitless craving for possibilities.

This doesn’t happen overnight. Even as a kid, Bright already possesses the restless winged feet. At the tender age of five, he has probably broken most rules that are actually set to control teenagers: curfew, the choice of friends, and proper etiquette a young man from their society should have memorized since birth.

Choice of friends. Bright still finds himself smiling whenever he thinks about his first friends. They’re not the typical pals a kid is expected to hang out with. 

Bright’s first friends are far from who society thinks as normal. One will typically think his first friends will be the neighbor’s son or daughter, but instead he meets them at a park a few blocks away from their home called The Woods. 

Hagis and his wife Lupita are caretakers in said park. They are Bright’s first friends.

Hagis looks like a villain waiting for a stupid teenager to come near him so he can slash his or her throat. He’s tall, broad-shouldered, with a beard that could rival a hermit’s, and a nasty, lopsided grin. Lupita on the other hand looks normal, but there is something swirling in the depths of her eyes that will scare anyone. She looks like she can see into someone’s soul and tell the person his or her deepest darkest thoughts.

Bright has never cared about their looks. He is drawn to them the moment he first sees them.

They become Bright’s only friends in the neighborhood. He is often a visitor in their small bungalow at the edge of The Woods and they always served him tea and biscuits. 

Hagis is actually a jolly man while Lupita is really weird, but in a… motherly kind of way. She often tells Bright that she can see his future– that Bright is destined to fly away as high as he wants, but with a clipped wing.

Bright doesn’t understand the ambiguous words, but he understands that Lupita is a woman of substance despite her oddities. He always keeps in mind the words that come out from her mouth. But the most memorable one will probably be Lupita’s last words just before she and Hagis leave town for an opportunity given to her husband: when you can’t take the flight, allow yourself to fall. There’s nothing wrong with falling, and risking whether someone will catch you or not. 

Falling and risking—they don’t scare Bright. On the contrary, they become the essence of his being. A guide that allows him to navigate through life with a different approach than most people his age.

When Bright becomes a teenager, something in him stirs harder than ever. The constant need for change engulfs him whole. He can’t go to school like a normal kid because he always cuts classes. He’s often restless and just can’t keep still or stay in one room for long hours, doing the same things over and over again. He always feels the need to leave and be somewhere else instead. It’s a struggle for him to stay put for an hour or two, what more for three or more?

After a few mishaps in school, his parents finally decide to homeschool him until high school. Bright’s parents hire a tutor, who teaches him the whole day. His classes have an interval of an hour for every subject, perfect for someone like Bright. 

College has been more tolerable for Bright. The experience has given Bright a better understanding of life. He has learned to curb the fierce instinct to flee at random times. He also starts to communicate better with people. Life is learned best through experience, and college has provided him that.

It doesn’t mean the need to fly has diminished. It’s still there, just lurking behind the surface, waiting for an opportunity to manifest itself again. 

Which happens on the first day of his first job. 

Bright is hired at a marketing firm as an associate. The tasks are manageable, but it’s the way they’re being handled that gets to him. There are processes for everything, even for the simplest task. Bright cannot work on a project without limitations and rules, and it begins to overwhelm him. He begins to feel restricted. Until he feels like his hands are fully tied and can no longer move. The struggle to be free from everything gnaws at him, forcing him to finally shake the shackles that have been holding him prisoner. 

Bright’s parents witness the sudden breakdown. Bright’s sister feels it worse than anyone else. 

So with a heavy heart, they let him scratch the itch. They allow Bright to leave.

“Leave,” Mika had told him. “Leave, travel, go everywhere, anywhere… but promise to come back. Because no matter how much it scares you, home is home, Bright. You need a home. Even if it’s not with us, there will come a time that you will have to stay somewhere. Be somewhere.”

“How will I know?” Bright asks her. He has experienced the feeling of wanting to stay somewhere or wanting to stay for something.

Mika hugs him. It’s more difficult for her to do it now when he’s six foot tall, but Bright hugs her back like a little child. 

“I have no exact answer to a subjective abstract, Bright. That will always be up to you. All I know is that when you come back on your own, you are probably ready to stay and call something your home.”

Bright chuckles at the memory. Mika has always been the smarter one between them. 

Stay. Such a simple word with an ambiguous meaning, and Bright hasn’t found its meaning for him yet. He’s not sure if he even will. 

“Bright!”

“Bright!”

Bright turns his head to meet the owners of the voices he has gotten used to hearing in the past few weeks. He smiles and stands up from the wooden bench to meet Daniel and Mia, who are running towards him, their backpacks bobbing up and down as they do so.

Daniel reaches Bright first, immediately launching himself on him. Bright picks him up like he weighs nothing. Daniel embraces him and buries his face on his neck, surprising Bright. The urge to push the boy away starts to consume him, but thank goodness he is able to suppress it. 

“How’s school?” Bright asks as he awkwardly pats Daniel’s head with his free hand. 

“It’s good!” Daniel says, lifting his head so he can look at Bright in the eyes. He sounds enthusiastic. “We made drawings today! I drawed a tree!”

“It’s drew, not drawed,” Mia corrects him. Daniel ignores her, which he seems to often do lately every time his sister corrects him.

“Bright, where’s Uncle Wynn?” Daniel asks instead, burying his face on Bright’s neck again.

“Wynn is busy today,” Bright replies. Wynn is supposed to pick them up today, but he texts Bright at the last minute, asking him to do it instead. The café is serving a large group of people for an event, and the other man’s hands are full the whole day. “Are you disappointed I fetched you?”

Daniel shakes his head. “No. But Uncle Wynn promised he’d bring us to the café today. Will you bring us there?”

“Really?” Bright hasn’t been to the café, and he has never felt the need to ask more about it. But he’s lying if he says he isn’t curious about what is keeping his employer busy all the time. 

Bright catches Mia’s eyes. The little girl is looking at him with that cute, expectant look that should be considered illegal.

“Uncle Wynn did,” she says, tone almost begging. “And I want to see Jared. And I want to eat Reeve’s cake. Please, Bright,” she says. “Please bring us there.”

“Please, Bright,” Daniel whispers while playing with the hood of Bright’s jacket. “I want a chocolate shake.”

Oh God. Bright should learn how to say no to these two. Wynn, and even Bow, has warned him about the convincing power of the children. At first, he doesn’t take it seriously, but when the two kids start using it, Bright is taken aback by what they can make him do. The charm always works on the young man, making him succumb all the time. He knows Wynn wants to call him on it, but the other man is not faring any better. Wynn is worse when it comes to the two kids.

Speaking of Wynn. For the past few nights that they’ve been talking, Bright is starting to understand him. Wynn has many layers, and he manages to unsheath a few of them. Although there is that certain moroseness which seems to make him complex, Bright’s employer is actually easy to understand.

Wynn loves the feeling of being needed, of being useful. He takes pride in being someone else’s pillar. The man will not admit it, but the pride in his voice can’t be concealed whenever he tells Bright about how he works hard for his family. 

It may not look like they have the best sibling relationships, but Wynn loves it that his parents left Bow in his care. He also loves it that he gets to provide for Daniel and Mia like a proper parental figure. 

But, there is also one small catch. A flaw in the system Wynn has established on himself. 

He doesn’t want to need someone. A paradox that makes sense. Bright understands contradictions the most. He is, after all, one himself.

“Bright!”

Bright almost drops Daniel. “What?”

“Let’s go!” Mia says, pulling at Bright’s hand. “We’ll take a cab! Hurry, Bright!”

No just hangs on Bright’s lips. It’s once again never uttered.

***

Literally Coffeeholic.

“Apt,” Bright mumbles, quite amused at the name of the café. The owner is literally a workaholic and a coffee addict. While the man prefers tea at night, Wynn consumes coffee during the day like it’s nobody’s business. The other man is the very embodiment of the café he owns.

“It’s big, isn’t it?” Mia asks, her eyes twinkling. “Uncle Wynn owns this. And there are many more like this in other places, Bright. Uncle Wynn owns many like this! He is riiiiiiiiicch.” She sounds proud, and it makes Bright smile.

“It is big,” he agrees. “And impressive too.” 

Bright allows himself to be pulled inside.

***

The divine smell of coffee intermingling with the smell of pastries and pasta, passes through Bright’s nose as they enter the cozy establishment.

The shop is all glass, except for the back walls and one side wall. From the outside, one can see the dainty interior of the café. The concrete walls are covered with wallpapers that look like giant pages torn from books, which Bright feels is really very creative and classy. Bright can make out a few of her favorite quotes from both classic and modern writers.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Henry David Thoreau.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. John Milton. The blind man’s words have always been a favorite of his.

“Oh,” Bright quietly snickers when his eyes land upon another quote. This one from a modern writer: JK Rowling. The chamber of secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware. “Someone’s a Harry Potter fan,” he mumbles before letting his eyes trail on other quotes. He can see Thomas Elliot, Shakespeare, John Green, and Charlotte Brontë.

“Bright?”

“Bright!”

Bright looks at Mia. The little girl is pouting at him and tapping a foot impatiently. Daniel on the other hand is just giggling.

“I’m sorry,” Bright apologizes sincerely. Spacing out is a habit of his.

“Ah. So you’re the new sitter.”

Bright extricates his gaze from Mia to meet the owner of the voice. He is leaning over the counter, staring at him with those soulful green eyes.

“Oh… hello,” Bright nods awkwardly. He’s really not good at first impressions. It doesn’t seem to faze the other man though as a smile brightens his face.

“I’m Jared, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Bright,” he says, extending his hand for Bright to shake. Bright smiles easily at the easygoing greeting and shakes Jared’s hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too,” Bright quips, feeling a little relieved at the other’s pleasant personality. “And yes, I am the new sitter to these pain-in-the-peach kids.”

“It’s not peach,” Daniel giggles. “It’s butt.”

“Dan!” Mia immediately her younger brother for the use of an adult word. “This is Pa-Bow’s fault,” Bright hears her whisper.

The smile falls from Bright’s face at the mention of the name. From the way Jared grimaces, it seems like everyone knows who Bow is too. Yet, no one talks further about the subject. 

“Soooo…” Jared says, diverting the attention away from Bow. “What can we get our little bosses and their new friend?”

Mia actually blushes, and Bright thinks this is the telltale sign of an innocent crush. Wynn has made the right choice in hiring Jared. This young man can charm anyone out of their pants, including kids.

“I want cheesake!” Daniel says with a smile, pointing at the Raspberry Cheesecake.

“It’s cheesecake,” Mia corrects, but once again, Daniel ignores her. The little girl sighs and timidly points at the triple chocolate delight. “I want the chocolate one, please. And… and can I get a cup of hot chocolate too?”

Jared winks at her. “Anything for milady.” Mia’s blush intensifies, making her look more adorable. Jared turns towards Bright. “And you, Bright?”

“Oh,” Bright shakes his head. “I… I don’t want anything.”

Jared frowns. “It’s free, Bright. You’re the boss’s family.” Bright wants to cringe at the mention of the word. “Right, boss?”

Huh. Right, boss? Right—

“Hey.”

Bright turns around. Wynn is really standing there, looking at the spectacle happening in front of him. He is wearing his work mask, the kind that intimidates people. But the way his eyes soften tells Bright he is quite pleased that they’re here.

The children, he quickly corrects himself, not even bothering to ask why he needs to do so.

Shrugging off the thoughts that start to plague his mind, Bright watches as Daniel and Mia run towards Wynn. The older guy immediately goes down to his knees just as the two launch themselves at him. Both he and Jared watch fondly as the two kids start telling Wynn about their day in school.

“They’re so adorable,” Jared whispers. 

Bright nods his head in agreement. “They are.” 

“And boss loves them so much,” Jared adds. “He’s a softy when it comes to them. And less of a slave driver when they’re here.” The last statement is uttered loudly, causing Wynn to glare at his staff. Jared simply laughs and starts preparing the food the children requested.

“You were busy today,” Bright says.

“Yup,” Jared says. “We had an event. It was a small event at the function room upstairs. There were just about ten people. But the customer was a bit… demanding and wanted the attention of every staff member.” He rolls his eyes, making Bright chuckle. “Then of course, there’s the typical crowd. The café was quite full an hour ago too so we’re really up to our elbows.”

“I see.”

“Bright,” Jared says, placing the tray of cakes and pastries. He notices that there’s a slice of blueberry crème pie, which none of them ordered.

“I don’t—”

Jared cuts Bright off. “Don’t say anything. Just eat it. My boyfriend made that. Don’t insult him.”

Bright lifts a brow. “Boyfriend?”

Jared winks at him. “Yes. The grumpy pastry chef. Please don’t worry about this. Just eat, okay?” He says it with such tenderness that Bright finds himself swallowing a sudden lump in his throat.

“Okay,” Bright says after clearing his throat. “Thank you.”

He remains silent until Jared places two cups of hot chocolate and a cup of coffee on another tray. Bright doesn’t need to ask for whom the coffee is. Jared just gives him another wink before turning his attention to the customer who just entered.

Bright lifts one tray to carry and tries to lift the other too. But before he can spill anything, he finds one tray being snatched off his hands by a pair of strong ones.

Wynn’s. “Come on, I’m taking a break. Let’s eat together,” Wynn says with a small smile. The man has been giving Bright small smiles recently. Perhaps it’s a result of their nightly talks that Wynn has been a little friendlier towards him. Sometimes Bright even thinks he can already consider Wynn a friend. 

Can he?

Without waiting for Bright to respond, Wynn turns his back on him and leads the two children to an unoccupied table. He watches as Wynn sits beside his niece and nephew, his demeanor fully relaxed and carefree. Whenever Wynn’s with them, the other man lets go of a few inhibitions and just seems to enjoy the moment.

He really is different with them.

Bright smiles fondly at the sight before him. They look like a proper family even without Bow. 

“Bright!” Daniel and his toothy grin.

“Bright! Come hereeeee!” Mia and the demanding but sweet lilt to her voice.

Wynn nods. Just nods. But there is a little smile playing on his full lips as he waves for Bright to join them. 

Wynn. Wynn and his subtlety. 

So Bright does without hesitation. He joins the little family at their table. He sits beside Wynn, and the man hands him a fork for his cake. Bright accepts it with one of his own smiles and joins the conversation, fitting naturally as if he has been a part of their lives for so long.

That night, when he’s lying on the comfortable couch and ready to sleep, Bright thinks about his afternoon at the coffee shop.

It’s when he realizes that he shouldn’t have accepted the offer to stay.

Wynn

Wynn fully embraces independence.

He grows up doing things on his own and by his own.

Their father, Gilbert, is a Senior Vice President of a popular clothing brand. He practically lives in the office—he always comes home late and leaves home early. The time his children spend with him is rare. He is there yet he never is.

Their mother, Brianna, is a housewife. She doesn’t have a job. But instead of staying at home, she is always at one of her friends’ house, discussing household problems and gossiping about other housewives and their nonexistent sex lives. She is an affectionate mother, but she has never truly let go of her freedom. Most of the time, she forgets she already has a family to take care of. 

That she has children who need her presence in their lives.

Wynn and Bow—they grow up with the maids as their only companions, a typical yet not an ideal set up for children born in a rich family.

Gilbert and Brianna are good parents when it comes to how parents should feel for their kids. They genuinely care for their sons. However, they have a different definition in mind with regards to the meaning of being responsible parents. 

Gilbert thinks that because he can provide well for them, it’s enough to make them happy. Brianna on the other hand always thinks that her sons are independent enough not to need her so much, so she continues to live the life she used to live before her early marriage. She hasn’t completely let go of her bachelorette status, and has been trying her best to go back to the elite circle she used to belong to.

Which is probably why Wynn is the way he is. He has always acted as Bow’s parental figure ever since they’re young. Bow relies on his older brother more than he relies on their parents. 

At a young age, Bow completely lets go of their mother and father as his guardians. As long as Wynn is there beside him, Bow never complains. There is no surprise that the bond between the brothers becomes stronger than the bond between parents and sons.

Wynn… likes that feeling. Most would have felt that it is a heavy burden and a responsibility, but to Wynn, it feels… good. It feels natural. He easily accepts it. He easily fits into the role as Bow’s guardian despite his young age. He takes care of Bow and looks after him without the slightest hint of regret. He takes pride in watching his brother grow into a fine young man.

For Wynn, it’s a huge accomplishment. His accomplishment.

When their parents decide to stay in L.A., Wynn doesn’t feel any remorse or anger for them. He welcomes the sudden change. So does Bow.

Wynn—he used to be Bow’s everything—his parent, his brother, and his best friend, his confidante. But that accident caused a great change. While Bow’s thoughts and feelings for his brother have somehow faltered in a way due to the brain operation, Wynn’s haven’t. He cares more for his younger brother, becomes more protective of him even.

Wynn’s parents volunteer to take Bow with them back to L.A., but Wynn disagrees. He knows what will happen to Bow if he allows it. Their parents will just hire caregivers to take care of him, something that Bow doesn’t need. 

His younger brother isn’t an invalid. He has huge changes in his behavior, and he might be fond of using his wheelchair for an unknown reason, but Bow can still walk and move properly. 

Bow needs to be placed in a normal environment. The flat affect might prevent him from understanding and feeling things the normal way, but he is still a breathing, feeling, thinking human being. He doesn’t need to be treated differently.

So Bow stays with Win. So do his children. It’s difficult at times, but Wynn handles everything by himself. He just needs help with the kids, but only because he has work to do. If he can only work at home, he will do it, if it means spending more time with his little family. 

It’s the way Wynn wants it. It’s not about pride. Or plain stubbornness. It’s just that Wynn has become used to doing everything for himself and for the people who are important to him. As long as he can do it, he will do it.

But life is not life without randomly throwing odd twists and turns. There are times when life just doesn’t follow the direction it is supposed to take.

Like Bright’s arrival in his family life. In his life. 

For someone who doesn’t even know what he wants in life, Bright instantly stirs the equilibrium Wynn has established in his family. He feels like a virus, silently spreading, silently conquering. The one infected by the deadly disease will not feel the effects until it’s too late.

Daniel and Mia accept Bright easily. No babysitter has ever stayed for a long time. Bow’s kids are nice kids, but they are very mischievous. Their previous sitters have to suffer pranks and white lies before they can even have the two children listen. Wynn often finds himself finding a new sitter every few weeks. 

But with Bright, it’s different. They listen to every word he says. They love playing with him. They like hanging out with him and listening to his stories. They love the man. 

There’s also the curious case of his younger brother. Bow probably doesn’t notice the changes, but he seems to feel things slowly. Wynn is still unsure if Bright has anything to do with it, but there are times he hears them having a decent conversation. And he swears he sees Bow crack a smile or two.

And then there’s… Wynn himself. 

Wynn never relies on other people. He hates it. He doesn’t like the feeling of being a burden to other people. 

But recently, he knows. Wynn knows that emotionally, he has come to rely on Bright. Wynn has never opened up the way he has been opening up to Bright.

Their night talks come as a surprise to him. They become an unexpected part of his routine. Wynn finds himself looking forward to the nights wherein he will find Bright awake, and at the balcony. It seems like their signal. Whenever Wynn comes home and finds the balcony door open, he will go straight to the kitchen and prepare tea for them. Then he will join Bright and they will talk about random things. Random things which often start as silly, but end up being one of the deepest talks in Wynn’s life.

Bright is smart—he knows about a lot of things and most importantly, he seems to have a good grasp of how they work. And Wynn, despite being knowledgeable about a lot of subjects, finds himself learning a lot from him. The other man’s life might seem to be directionless right now, but he has no doubts that Bright will be able to find his own path soon. 

And Wynn hates this. All of this. He doesn’t like that he is having all of these thoughts about someone he just knew for a few weeks.

But he can’t stay away. He just can’t. That much he can admit. Bright has wormed his way into his life like a cunning fox. His presence has become a comfort to Wynn himself, and despite him trying to act like he’s all casual about it, he isn’t. It’s making a big impact in his life, in his family’s daily life, and he can’t just let it go.

Yet he doesn’t want to dwell on it too much. There are so many contradicting emotions threatening to climb into the surface, and Wynn is clueless on how he will be able to deal with them. 

At least not yet. However, Wynn feels like there is something that needs to be addressed soon. 

Bright has been… acting odd lately. There seems to be something wrong with him. Ever since that day at the café, Bright seems to become just a bit distant. 

He still approaches Wynn the same way he always does. He still talks to him, interacts with him, discusses things with him, and argues with him at times. He smiles at him, laughs with him, and still remains his playful self around him at night. 

But something has changed. It’s almost unnoticeable, but it’s lurking on the surface. Wynn can feel Bright, but there seems to be an otherworldly presence in him that tells Wynn that while the other man is physically present, his soul is miles away. It’s as if he is slowly drifting away from them, from him, and Bright is not even stopping it.

Wynn is bothered. He hates what this means. He hates what this implies. And as much as he tries to stop it, the feelings he’s trying to keep hidden starts to reveal a tension that confuses him more. It’s subtle, quiet, but it’s there. 

And Wynn isn’t the only one who can feel it. Wynn knows they can both feel it. But even with the presence of the edgy air around them, the nightly ritual continues because they both need it. 

The evening trysts become an escape from everything—Wynn from his uncanny need to prove how useful he is, and for Bright, perhaps it’s a break from his all-consuming thoughts.

Wynn works a lot. And Bright—he thinks a lot. Distraction is probably what they both need to maintain the equilibrium within themselves. The night talks allow them to find a rope that they can hold on to, and they both subconsciously grasp it tightly.

Some nights are fun, and light, and just everything a break from the universe’s quirks should be.

“Your mom almost named you Tortellini?” Bright asks in disbelief, causing Wynn to shush the other man. Bright blushes, the tips of his ears turning red, which Wynn finds endearing, and apologizes immediately. “I’m sorry, but that’s just a little absurd.”

“I know, but keep your voice down. Gosh. You’re waking up the whole neighborhood,” Wynn says with a disapproving tone. “But to answer your question, yes. Because Mom loves pasta. Italy is her favorite country. And she thinks it will be fun to name her children after her favorite pasta.”

“Yet, your name is Wynn…ter Melon.”

Wynn groans, and he hears Bright chuckle. “Don’t remind me. While Dad managed to convince her to agree to use another name, she uttered Winter Melon, her favorite milk tea flavor just before she passed out from exhaustion. She labored for nine hours. And Dad thought Mom deserved to name me however she wanted to.”

“But—”

Wynn sighs. “Dad was able to at least save a little face for me by at least changing the spelling.”

Bright looks like he will die from all the suppressed laughter. Win glares at him. Bright averts his gaze and clears his throat before he speaks again. “So Bow is—”

Wynn nods, his lips twitching. “Bow’s namesake is the bow-shaped pasta.”

“Oh my God,” Bright whispers incredulously. 

Wynn stares at him, blinking, before he bursts out laughing, surprising Bright. The look on the other man’s face makes Wynn want to capture it and frame it. 

“You’re… laughing.” Bright’s tone is that of wonder, which almost insults Wynn.

But then again, he can’t blame the other man. While he smiles a lot these days, he still rarely laughs. Jared says he takes life too seriously. Bow says he is being selfish. 

And Wynn thinks both of them are correct—he takes life too seriously and he is selfish.

“Wynn?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re starting to smile and laugh more lately,” Bright says, speaking the words Wynn just uttered in his head. “You have such a nice smile. Your dimple… is cute. A smile looks good on you. Wear it often.” 

Bright isn’t looking at him, but rather at the night sky. But there is a ghost of a smile on the other man’s face that just twists at Wynn’s heart. He unconsciously touches his left chest with his right hand, trying to make sense of what he’s feeling without revealing what he doesn’t want it to reveal.

Not yet. .

“Must be the weather,” he calmly replies, giving a general response that doesn’t mean anything. Not yet. “The weather tends to affect one’s mood. It’s cold lately. I love the cold. When I love something, it puts me in a better mood.”

Unsurprisingly, Bright agrees. Because acquiescence is probably the best reaction to Wynn’s stupid, unexpected response. And it’s safe. Acquiescence is safe.

“Yes. It must be the weather.”

And Bright doesn’t say anything anymore. It’s as if he understands what just happened and he too doesn’t want to dwell into it more. They delve into other topics after such awkward moments, much safer topics that do not need stupid, nonsensical answers that render them both speechless and lost.

Some nights are silent.

They just sit, a full meter between them, sharing tea and pastries, until one of them leaves without saying a word. 

The quiet nights are probably the safest nights. There is no venturing into the unknown or into the untouchable territories. They just both enjoy the silence.

And the company.

The silence is not just comfortable—it has become so much more. As days pass, it starts to become an assurance. An assurance that in silence, there is always company. That in silence, there can be sanctuary. That in silence, there can be concealed truths.

Silence has become the only witness to the huge development between them. Yet it does not speak. It does not divulge the unspoken secrets that have been thrown back and forth between two conflicted souls without the use of words.

Some nights are cathartic.

There are nights when every frustration, every anger, every pain, and every undefined feeling are released and brought to the light. These are the nights when they simply want to inflict pain to those who they think deserve it. 

In their case, it’s pain towards each other.

Words are cruelly exchanged, hurtful words that penetrate the skin and strike the soul. They throw nasty remarks towards each other until the tension abates into plain weariness and superficial banters.

Stress always gets to Wynn all the time. He is, after all, still just a normal human being with limitations and fears, and weaknesses. And he needs to let it out or else it will affect his interaction with people the next day. 

Wynn hates taking out his bad mood on Bow even though his brother deserves it at times. He hates it when he spends his morning with Daniel and Mia in silence, just because he is too careful not to blow up on them.

But Bright—he’s different. Wynn stops being afraid to show what he feels to him because Bright is also not afraid to retaliate and meet him head on. 

Bright, as Wynn has found out, is the type of person who is never afraid to say anything if provoked. He curses at him, glares back at him, and always gives him a piece of his mind in that quiet, dignified way of his. Bright is intimidating whenever he wants to, and that ignites the fire within Wynn, making him release all of his pent-up tiredness as sharp words.

These nights always start the same way as the other nights. They just end differently.

Wynn will join Bright. Then he will start being an asshole by goading Bright through insensitive remarks that pertain to his odd situation. Bright usually becomes sensitive and defensive when his situation is being mocked.

Wynn will push Bright to the limits. It’s always been easy for him to accomplish that. 

Then Bright will combust. The two of them will verbally assault each other until the insults turn into something too pathetic and too futile to be considered as insults. 

One will just leave the balcony without another word, while the other one finally relaxes, knowing that the words are not as hurtful as they are meant to be. 

The next morning, they will both be back to normal, as if the test of egos doesn’t happen the night before. It’s an odd arrangement, but it works for both of them. It’s a connection that cannot be explained by mere words.

The nightly trysts remain a secret. It’s just between him and Bright. 

Until Bow finally calls him on it.

***

Wynn is tired. It’s one of those days wherein everything just seems to go wrong. At the end of the work day, he’s just glad to go home and dive into his bed.

Which he does the moment he arrives. He goes straight to his room and plops on his bed. He will check on the kids and his brother later. He just wants to take a short nap first.

Wynn is just about to close his eyes and finally get that much needed rest, when he hears soft knocks on his door. Thinking that it’s Daniel (the little boy dreams of sea monsters and mermaids and can’t sleep at times), Wynn tears the door open with a smile on his face.

“Yes, Dan—”

It’s not Daniel. It’s Bow. On his wheelchair. Looking at him with that familiar blank gaze.

Wordlessly, Wynn steps aside to let him in. Bow doesn’t purposefully search for him if it’s simply nothing. His brother has something to say and he wants Wynn to listen.

Bow wheels his chair inside as Wynn closes the door behind him. He turns around and notices that Bow doesn’t go further inside, which means this will not take long.

“You and Bright are both idiots,” Bow says without hesitation. Wynn is surprised at the words that just came out of his brother’s mouth.

“Excuse me?” he asks, sounding confused. He is confused. “What?”

“How long have these things been going on? The nightly talks?”

“Why do you sound like it’s a bad thing?”

Bow responds tonelessly. “Just answer my question.”

“It’s none of your business,” Wynn says without faltering. He doesn’t mean for it to sound harsh, but with the way Bow is now staring at him, he knows he failed.

“It’s my business,” Bow says, looking him straight in the eyes. “Whatever is happening between you and Bright, it doesn’t just concern you two—it also concerns the three of us. The rest of us in this household.”

“I don’t understand what you are trying to say, Bow,” Wynn replies truthfully. “We are simply talking. If you are jealous because Bright is spending time with me then—”

Bow cuts him off with a short, sarcastic laugh.

“There is nothing funny with what I just said.”

“So you are thinking this way, huh?” Bow asks, his expression turning serious once again. “I don’t think of Bright the way you think I think of him.”

Wynn doesn’t reply. He is too lost for words. Bow’s response is so casual, but it feels like he just hit Wynn straight to his face.

“Listen to me well, Wynn,” Bow says, his face back to its usual indifference. “You’re different now. You might not admit it and you might not even have noticed it because you’re naïve as fuck, but you have changed.” He pauses for a while. “But the one that caused you that change—you know he won’t stay for long, right? Or have you forgotten it?”

This time, Wynn stiffens and Bow notices it.

“God, you’re hopeless,” Bow says impatiently. “Make him stay, you asstard, it’s what I want to say before you start spouting nonsense. Tell Bright you want him to stay even before he thinks of leaving. We know nothing about how these things work. We don’t know when Bright will have the urge to… leave again. Do something before it’s too late.”

Wynn feels like he’s being doused with ice cold water.

“I know you’re just afraid to ask him to stay because you think it’s a weakness to ask someone for something. It is NOT, brother,” Bow continues. “But I am not forcing you to do what you think will make you uncomfortable. But I just at least want you to know that if or when Bright leaves, you’re not the only one who will get affected.”

Wynn knows. Of course, he knows what Bow means. Daniel and Mia will be devastated when Bright leaves. The connection Bright has with the two kids are incomparable. They have never been attached to previous sitters as much as they are attached to Bright. 

Daniel clings to him as if he is his only source of energy. Mia looks at him like Bright is her light. 

And Bow, Bow himself changed. He is still an asshole most of the time, but he talks more to people around the house now, and interacts more with his children. Daniel is starting to accept his father’s behavior. Mia is still wary, but she doesn’t flee from the room now whenever Bow tries to talk to her.

“Bright’s this stupid young man who thinks he can fly forever,” Bow continues, cutting through Wynn’s thoughts. “And you—you think you exist to be someone else’s wings. You want to be useful all the time. You want to be able to protect all the time. You want to be everyone’s savior. But guess what, brother, not everyone wants to lean on someone. Sounds familiar?”

Wynn refuses to say anything. Bow shakes his head at his brother.

“One day, Bright will realize he needs to clip his wings,” the younger says. “And one day, you will realize that you need to stop acting as someone else’s wings. And perhaps, when you both do, you can finally meet in the middle.”

Silence seems to be Wynn’s only answer at the moment.

“I’m not your responsibility, Wynn,” Bow says quietly. “I never was. You just thought I was. You just think I am. Live your own life. Let me live mine. That will not take away the fact that we are brothers. I will always be your brother, and you will always be mine.”

Wynn still doesn’t say anything. And when it looks like he will remain silent for the rest of the conversation, Bow decides to just leave him alone to his thoughts.

“Think about it,” Bow says silently before maneuvering his wheelchair out of Wynn’s room. 

Chapter 3

Chapter 5

CHAPTER 3 – GLIDE

Bright

It’s not Bright’s habit to lie.

Lie is a precursor to an unnecessary duplication of unfortunate events, and it’s one circumstance that Bright always tries to avoid. As much as possible, Bright forces himself to accept a painful truth rather than live in temporary happiness caused by a lie.

And right at this very moment, Bright admits that it hurts. The feeling of being unwanted always hurts. Yet he knows, he knows, that pain is a part of the stranger package.

Stranger. Trusted by no one. A No One. 

Who, in his or her right mind, will immediately trust a stranger? Who will easily accept a No One? Most definitely not any sane human being who seems to have his protective button switched on 24/7. 

Most definitely not Mr. Grumpy Pants.

But fuck, damn if it doesn’t hurt, Bright thinks with a grimace even though he should have been immune to such treatment by now. It’s not a strange occurrence for Bright. He always has to experience this type of reception every time he changes directions. 

Bright as a stranger is a nobody, a nobody trying to live inconspicuously in a world full of somebodys.

He tries to blink back the sudden tears threatening to spill as he stares at the pristine white ceiling of the large apartment. It’s always difficult in the beginning, but he always adjusts. He is always able to overcome the uncomfortable feeling inside his chest.

“Ah fuck. I need a plan,” he whispers to no one. He already anticipated the other man’s reaction, but he still hoped. In this world full of doubts, Bright always trusts strangers. After all, he is one. But with the way things had gone just a few moments ago, he really needed to come up with a plan, and fast.

Bright doesn’t sleep and promptly gets up at 5 am so he can at least clean himself up before he leaves. There is no need for him to impose on this family any longer. The head of the family clearly doesn’t like him. 

He quietly scurries towards the bathroom, his footsteps fast but light, bringing his toiletries with him and a change of clothes.

Well, Grumpy Pants doesn’t say I can’t use the bathroom, he whispers to himself as he searches for the bathroom. Perhaps he can even take a quick shower. He feels a little sticky, but thankfully, still smells okay.

“Where the fuck is the fucking bathroom?” Bright asks loudly this time. There are five doors in the hallway, all of them are closed. He’s scared that he might say goodbye to a quick bath for good if he opens Mr. Paranoid’s room. “How the fuck do I—”

“It’s the last door to the left.”

Bright jumps upon hearing the soft, rough voice behind him. He recovers almost immediately and turns around, finding himself face to face with—

Bow. Bow without his wheelchair. He is staring at Bright with no emotions on his face. No amusement, and thankfully also no hostility. 

Bright whispers his thank you and proceeds to the bathroom without a word. He hears the sound of a kettle whistling just before he closes the door behind him. Bow must have been awake minutes before for the water to be already boiling by this time.

“So he can walk,” Bright says absentmindedly as he hangs his clothes on the rack. When he met Bow yesterday, he was on a wheelchair. Mia mentioned about an accident, but the little girl didn’t elaborate on it. Bright didn’t ask for details because he is not like that. It is always better for someone like him to know little to nothing. 

He steps into the shower and forces himself to use the cold water instead of the hot.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” The water is colder than he expects, but he grits his teeth and stands still for a while, allowing his body to get used to the freezing liquid. 

After getting used to the temperature, he starts scrubbing himself furiously, thinking about the little family in the house. 

The kids are amazing, and they are probably the bond tying the two brothers. Perhaps, if they aren’t here, the house will be lifeless. Grumpy Pants is the busy type, and probably will just continue working to distract himself. While Bow on the other hand doesn’t look like the type to initiate interaction. 

Bow. “Fuck. He is the father.” It suddenly just occurs to him. The revelation surprises him. Bow looks really young to be a father of a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. He actually looks more like an older brother than an uncle or a brother. 

However, Bright thinks that probably explains why the young man acts the way he does.

“That’s not my problem anymore,” he mumbles as he starts washing himself. Bright stops himself before he can form conclusions that he has no right thinking about. He shouldn’t concern himself with that. He never did before. Concern leads to care. Care leads to attachment. Attachment is a big taboo for Bright. Flighty souls do not have the right to be attached. They are fated to remain strangers.

Bow is in the living room when Bright emerges from his quick bath. The young man seems to have decided to invade his temporary sanctuary, sitting on the couch opposite his with a cup of tea in his hand. He can feel Bow’s eyes boring on his back as he arranges the pillow and folds the blanket, but Bright pays him no mind. 

“So my brother is sending you away.”

Bright stops folding the comforter, but doesn’t turn around. “He has the right to,” he answers quietly. “Who would trust a stranger?” He doesn’t mean to sound bitter, but he feels like he failed at it.

“I see,” Bow replies. And just when Bright thinks he will shut up, he surprises him again with the words that he doesn’t expect to hear. “You should stay.”

There is no I think. It is a statement. A demand even, given the tone that accompanies it. 

You should stay.

Bright chuckles a little and shakes his head as he finishes folding the blanket. He picks up his backpack on the floor and turns around to face Bow. “I need to leave. Please tell your brother my thanks. It’s generous of him to allow me to take a short refuge on his oh-so-comfy sofa.”

“Wynn.”

“What?”

“Wynn,” Bow reiterates. “Wynn is my brother’s name. Well, it’s Wynnter Melon. But he prefers Wynn.”

Bright doesn’t know if the name is a joke or not, but with Bow’s personality, he isn’t joking. Still, he refuses to show his amusement and gives the other man a small smile. “It doesn’t matter.” It really doesn’t. “I will take my leave now. Goodbye.”

“I own this house too.”

His words stop Bright.

“If I want you to stay, you can stay,” Bow adds. “You don’t have a place to go to, right? A runaway perhaps? Or a backpacker? I really don’t care, actually. But we really need your help. There are a lot of things that are needed attending to. Plus, you’re the first one who seemed to be able to exercise control over those two kids.”

Bright remains silent, but he doesn’t take another step either.

“Look. It is not going to be free, if that’s what’s stopping you. If you stay, you have to earn your keep. I can accept home-cooked meals,” he adds when Bright still doesn’t reply. “We can also do a bit of cleaning here. As you can see, I am not always… in the mood to do it.”

“Are you sure?” Bright asks quietly, slowly turning around to finally face the other young man. Again, Bright cannot lie. He feels that tiny hope bloom within him when he first hears Bow telling him to stay. But he also needs to make sure that it is a solid offer, and not just an impulsive one made out of pity.

Bow nods, his face serious and definitely not mocking, his eyes not leaving Bright’s. 

“This—this won’t cause a small rift between you and your brother? I mean, he doesn’t seem to want me to stay, so—”

Bow scoffs, cutting his words off. “The rift is there already. Don’t feel special. He’s the type to force himself on people’s lives and I am the type to not accept such impositions. But you don’t have to concern yourself over it. It’s his and mine’s business. So… are you in?”

Bright hesitates for a while before he finally walks back towards the couch and sits in front of the young man. He can feel his eyes on him as he puts down his backpack.

“So…” Bow starts as he stares at Bright. Despite the hard features of the other’s face, Bright can feel the sincerity in those eyes.

“So… breakfast?”

Bright nods. “Okay.”

***

“I thought it’s a little bit too quiet.”

Everyone stops talking and eating as they hear the voice from the entrance to the kitchen.

Bow is the first one to react and faces his brother with that usual stoic expression. He is followed by Mia, and then by Daniel, who both greet their uncle with cheerful muffled hellos through mouthfuls of pancakes. 

Wynn ignores all of them first in favor of addressing the odd addition in the room. Bright.

“What are you still doing here? I thought I told you you need to leave first thing in the morning.” He doesn’t sound angry to Bright, but there is also a hint of warning in there, an impending bomb ready to explode if he hears the wrong answer from him.

Bright flinches and slowly turns around, the soapy griddle dripping in his hand. “I… uh… er…”

“He cooked us breakfast, Uncle Wynn!” Mia intervenes, accidentally answering for him. She lifts her fork, showing Wynn a huge piece of the kids’ favorites that Bright cooked—chocolate chip pancakes. “He also bathed me and Dan. We are dressed early for school!”

Both of them are already dressed in their crisp uniforms. Mia’s hair is tied in a neat ponytail, something Wynn cannot even do decently according to Mia herself. Bright has done a lot of things in his fickle life, and some of them involve kids—he knows how to take care of them.

Bright watches quietly as Wynn opens his mouth to respond. But this time, Bow beats him to it.

“I hired him.” Bow’s words are answered with silence. “Salome just quit and no one will take care of the little brats”. Bright notices the way Mia flinches after her father utters the seemingly offending word. “He is very efficient as you can see. Bright can also do the cooking and the washing.”

Wynn walks further inside the kitchen, his eyes regarding all of Bright. Bright tries not to flinch at the obvious scrutiny and patiently waits for the verdict. Wynn stops beside Bow and doesn’t immediately answer. Instead he gives Mia and Daniel a kiss each on the forehead, extending Bright’s agony for a few seconds, before finally responding to his brother’s statement.

“We don’t know him, Bow. He just appeared out of nowhere yesterday.”

“If he wants to cause problems, he would have done so yesterday or even last night,” Bow counters calmly. “But instead here he is, cooking us breakfast and looking after the children.”

“And he took care of us yesterday,” Mia says shyly. “He also cooked us dinner and read and played with us, Uncle Wynn.” She turns sideways towards Daniel and pokes at his brother. “Didn’t he?” 

Daniel, with those innocent round eyes, gives them all a toothy smile and nods.

“He did! And he was amazing! I like him lots lots lots!” The little boy exclaims, which almost, almost causes Bright to smile. Daniel’s just too cute for his own good.

But he knows this is not the time for such. He remains quiet as he allows Daniel and Mia to beg their uncle to keep him. He throws Bow a side glance, but the younger brother seems to retreat back to himself. The cold mask is back on his face, and he continues to eat his food, clearly unbothered, as if he knows he is going to get what he wants anyway.

And he does.

“Fine,” Bright finally hears Wynn utter, which really takes him by surprise. He might have expected Wynn to agree, but not as easily. But then again, who is Bright to complain? This is more than what he ever hoped for.

“All right. You will stay,” Wynn affirms, this time with a little more finality in his tone. “But one toe out of line and you will leave. Understand? I still don’t trust you.”

There goes that word again. Trust. No one will easily trust a stranger.

Bright tries not to flinch, and instead focuses on the fact that he gets a shelter for the next couple of months at least. 

“Thank you,” he pushes himself to say.  Despite the uncomfortable feelings between him and Wynn, he really is grateful that the man is saying yes. In fact, Bright doesn’t even realize how badly he wants to hear Wynn’s approval until he exhales a breath he hasn’t realized he has been keeping. 

Bright sees Wynn’s mouth twitch, and it makes him want to smile. He is quite sure that it’s the closest thing to a smile that he will get from the other man today.

“Don’t even try. I know you want to smile. Go ahead,” Wynn says as if reading his mind.

And Bright does. He smiles. “Thank you,” he repeats, this time with a more genuine tone accompanying the words of gratitude.

Wynn meets his eyes and clears his throat before nodding at him. Then he sits beside Bow and starts eating his breakfast as if there hasn’t been an issue prior to him enjoying the pancakes Bright cooked.

Silently, Bright watches Wynn’s interaction with his little family. It’s like watching two alternate universes coexist with each other. Wynn is all smiles and jokes when interacting with his niece and nephew. His voice is also playful, light, and honestly nice, with that husky lilt to it. But whenever he addresses Bow, his face morphs into a cool one as if the smiling one never exists. His voice turns into something defensive and stern, and a little bit too formal for Bright’s ears.

Yet, for some strange reason, Bright can feel that they all belong together. 

They look like a family. They feel like a family.

This is not just a house but a home.

Bright forces himself to turn away from the sight and continues to wash the few dishes that gather around him. No. This family is none of his business. He’s a freeloader and an unnecessary part of this household. He doesn’t need to know every single thing about this family. 

He is so lost in his thoughts that he fails to notice Wynn approaching him.

“Bright,” Wynn calls as he brings over his empty plate to the sink for him to wash. Bow, Mia, and Daniel have long since left the kitchen in favor of the TV set in the living room.

“Yes, Wynn?” Bright asks, turning his head to meet the other man’s gaze while accepting the plate being handed to him. It’s only then when he notices that Wynn is slightly taller than him. Perhaps just a couple of centimeters taller, but still taller. He definitely looks younger though, judging by the still youthful features the other man possesses. 

Wynn is a beautiful man, at least that, Bright can admit. And if Bright is not wired how he is, perhaps he’ll develop an instant crush on his man. 

“I am bringing the kids to school,” Wynn says while fixing the collar of his dress shirt. “You need to come with me so you will know where you will fetch them just in case I can’t.”

“Shouldn’t they have a school bus?” Bright asks before he can stop his mouth. Wynn gives her a disapproving glare.

“I will pretend I didn’t hear that. But I will appreciate it if you don’t interfere with some things concerning Daniel and Mia other than the basics of being a guardian,” the other man responds coolly. “Get ready. We will be leaving in five minutes.”

“Yes, Wynn,” Bright replies as Wynn leaves the kitchen without another word to him.

Yes. Definitely a stranger.

Bright lets out a sigh as he closes his eyes. He can feel this is going to be a different experience for him. He has dealt with hostile people before, even lived with a couple of nasty ones before; but no one as proper and as formal as Wynnter Melon. 

Bright wipes the countertop with a dry rag and makes sure to spray the room with the freshener before joining the others in the main room. 

He can easily hear Daniel’s excessive chatter and Mia’s excited squeals as he makes his way towards them. He can also hear two baritone voices arguing about responsibilities in the background—

This. This will be Bright’s life in the next two months.

***

 “Get in! Get in, Bright!” Mia calls from the backseat.

  “Get in! Get in, Bright!” Daniel mimics his sister before laughing mischievously to no one in particular.

  Bright stares at the car in front of him. Wynn’s car is a sleek black Jaguar that will send any hormonal human being to his or her orgasm. His car is sexy as hell, and is probably worth more than what Bright earns in a year. 

But the hot car is not the reason why Bright cannot move an inch towards it.

  “Get in,” Wynn finally says, snapping Bright from his reverie. He sees Win open the door of the passenger seat for him, a polite gesture from someone who looks like he eats etiquette rules for breakfast.

Knowing he has no choice, Bright slowly walks towards the car. This is what makes Bright hesitate. He doesn’t expect to sit in the passenger seat. It feels somewhat uncomfortable. And Wynn’s look of irritation doesn’t help one bit.

  “Aren’t you getting in?” Wynn asks again, this time with a hint of irritation.

  Bright hastily nods and hastens his pace, getting in the car without another word. Wynn rolls his eyes before closing the door after him. This does not escape Bright, but he is too busy being uncomfortable to pay it any heed.

Wynn gets inside the driver side and starts the engine. The sexy beast gives a smooth velvety roar. “Seatbelts, please.”

  Bright quietly puts his on.

  “Hang on tight,” Wynn says mostly to himself. But Bright still hears it.

  Of course. He will hang on tight. 

He always does.

Wynn

There are few things in life that will manage to elicit a smile from one Wynnter Melon, and paperwork has never been one of them.

Wynn hates paperwork the most.

  He rubs his tired eyes with his knuckles and leans against the headrest of his office chair. Business is doing well. For a non-mainstream café, it has become quite popular. The main branch is still full to the brim during peak hours and is never empty. The newly opened branches, despite having smaller spaces, seem to have been easily embraced by the residents in those areas.

  However, business doing well means having more figures to review. More figures mean more paperwork.

  Again, Wynn hates paperwork.

  The young man stands and stretches, revealing a lithe form he hides behind baggy button-downs and slacks. He feels his stiff muscles groaning in relief as he extends his arms upward, the ends of his dress shirt lifting up and showing the barest hint of his pectorals. He grabs his cup of coffee from his side table and frowns at the content.

  Empty.

  With a heavy sigh, Wynn leaves his office and makes his way into the café. He needs another cup of coffee and probably a slice of Raspberry Cheesecake for his daily dose of sugar.

  The café has a few vacant tables now, allowing his staff to breathe a little. The early morning crowd composed of whom Wynn calls the Eighters (the ones who arrive at 8) and the Niners (the ones who arrive at 9), have long since disappeared.

  He glances at his watch. 10:15 am. The lunch crowd will start arriving at exactly twelve. His staff badly needs this hour every morning to recuperate. The lunch crowd is more unforgivable than the morning crowd.

  He goes to the counter and receives a greeting from his people.

  “Boss, another latte with an extra shot of espresso?” Jared asks, showing him his everyday toothy grin. Wynn wishes he had the 19-year-old college student’s energy. He isn’t that old yet, just 23, but the adrenaline has long since waned when he started managing the cafe from behind a mahogany desk.

  “Yes, please. And I will take a slice of this,” Wynn replies as he places a slice of cheesecake on a plate. “Do we still have stock?”

  “Yes, Boss. Don’t worry,” Jared quips as he makes Wynn’s coffee. “You know Reeve and his tendency to… er… overbake.” 

Reeve is their pastry chef. He is one of the reasons why the dessert rack is always empty. The pastries and cakes are always sold-out by the end of lunch and have to be restocked for the afternoon and evening crowd.

  “You and Reeve are really getting close nowadays,” Wynn says as he leans against the counter. The blush on Jared’s cheeks doesn’t escape him. “You must be extra special. Reeve doesn’t just talk to anyone.”

  “Boss!” Jared says loudly, the red spreading to his face. “Here’s your coffee,” he mumbles, handing Wynn his freshly made large cup of coffee.

  “Thanks, Jared,” he says, still not leaving. He takes a sip of his coffee and places it on the counter behind him. Then he starts eating his cake.

  “Boss?”

  “Yes, Jared.”

  “You seemed more relaxed lately,” the younger man says.

  Wynn stares at him. “How so?” Because as far as Wynn is concerned, the paperworks still stresses him out.  

  Jared crosses his arms in front of him. “Your facial features look gentler, kind of softer… did… something good happen lately?”

Wynn takes another forkful of his dessert before responding. “Nothing really. Daniel and Mia just seem more cooperative lately. I think they love their new sitter.”

  “Oh! They have a new sitter?”

  Wynn nods. “Yes. It’s just been a week, but he and the kids are really clicking. Daniel doesn’t make much of a fuss anymore just because I rarely have time for them. Mia pouts less lately. Even Bow seems… less irritable.”

Out of all the changes in the household, that’s the most surprising. Bow has taken a liking to Bright. Not in the romantic sense, because Wynn knows Bow will never be able to feel that way again, but in a way that he purposefully seeks Bright out and talks to him. 

Wynn feels a little jealous actually. Bow has never sought him out before to talk. But he sees the way the daily random interaction helps his brother. The younger guy even pats Daniel on the head now and gives random compliments on Mia’s physical appearance, which makes the girl happy.

  “Boss?”

  Wynn blinks and faces Jared. “Hmm?”

  Jared frowns a little. “Is everything alright? You just spaced out.”

  Is everything all right? He asks himself. Well, yes, everything seems to be alright. For now. “Yes,” he responds. “All is well.”

  Jared smiles. “I am glad.”

  Wynn gives him the now empty plate and picks his mug of coffee. “I will go back to the office now. Call me if you need an extra hand.”

  Jared gives him a salute. “Sure, Boss!”

  Wynn shakes his head and turns around. He has no choice but to go back to his paperwork.

  He doesn’t notice the stare that follows him back to his cave, and the smiles that accompany it.

*** 

Wynn has a routine because he loves routines.

He wakes up, brings the kids to school, goes to work, and goes home. He doesn’t like shifts to his schedule because it drives him crazy. He always silently panics, and problems arise whenever he does. He easily loses focus when things go out of their intended paths. This is the reason why he is a bit thrown aback when he arrives one night and finds Bright awake. It has been two weeks since he allowed him to become the kids’ sitter.

It’s not necessarily a change in his routine, but it’s still something that he doesn’t expect, reminding him that they have a temporary addition to the household. 

  Wynn arrives an hour late, not expecting anyone, including Bright to still be awake. He has his own key after all and does not require anyone to open the door for him.

  The balcony door is open and he can clearly see the other man sitting on the floor, his back against the glass door, seemingly lost in thoughts. Bright is quite tall. His huddled figure still looks imposing because of his stature, making him instantly visible from the living room.

  Wynn quietly slips into the kitchen to place the box of pastries from the shop. He proceeds to his room and changes into his home clothes before he checks on Daniel and Mia. The kids seem to sleep better lately. He has to admit it’s because of Bright. He is really quite good with kids. He seems to give the children a sense of friendly security, and that’s one thing he appreciates about the other man.

Wynn cannot fully say that he has totally warmed up to Bright, but he at least has learned to trust the man a little, even allowing him to bring the kids to the mall one time.

  After checking on his niece and nephew, Wynn quietly goes to the kitchen to make tea. By this time, he is quite sure that Bright is aware he’s finally home. 

While he waits for the water to boil, he places two cream-filled pastries on a plate and places it on a tray. When the kettle whistles, Wynn takes his favorite green tea leaves, which he imports from Japan, and makes a potful of it. He pours the tea in a little ceramic teapot, placing it and two matching ceramic tea cups beside the plate of pastries. He then joins Bright at the balcony, sitting on the floor opposite him and places the tray of tea and pastries between them.

  “Have a pastry. It goes well with the tea.”

  He sees Bright briefly glance at him before the other man reaches for a pastry and slowly nibbles on it.

  “What are you doing out here?” Wynn asks. “It’s 11.”

  “I’m sorry,” Bright responds quietly. Wynn looks at him and shakes his head.

“I am not saying you can’t, Bright. I am just surprised,” he elaborates. “I usually find you asleep on the couch when I arrive.”

Bright still sleeps on the couch. It’s something Wynn cannot do anything about. Bright refuses to stay in the kids’ room even though there is a perfectly nice set of comforter and pillows for a guest in there.

  “Oh.” It’s all the answer Wynn gets, which doesn’t really surprise him. Despite Bright’s earlier confidence, he notices that the man is actually quiet. 

Bright remains an enigma to him. He had interviewed the man the day he had accepted him. And while he had seemed honest about the basic parts of his identity (even showing him legal IDs that showed the other man is actually a year older than him), Bright had refused to answer personal ones.

Still, Bright treated Daniel and Mia a whole lot better than how they were treated by their previous sitters. So Wynn had allowed him to get away with the personal questions. 

Bright seems to treat the children as family. The sense of familiarity in the way he deals with them adds to Wynn’s comfort. It also seems to work better on the two kids. 

Mia opens up more now. Daniel is also less clingy. 

Bright also cooks well. One thing he knows about the other man is that he has worked in restaurants and coffee shops before. He even knows how to make those artsy bentos that the kids squeal over every day. He sees Doraemon once in a while inside Daniel’s lunch box. And a couple of Pokemons on Mia’s.

Bright seems like a smart guy too. He tutors the kids and manages to make them understand difficult concepts. Daniel’s reading has improved. Mia’s computing skills have also leveled up. 

If Wynn will be asked by anyone, he will answer honestly—Bright is the perfect sitter and the perfect house help.

“Wynn, may I ask you something?” Bright finally asks, breaking the silence between them. He has barely touched the pastry in his hand.

Wynn throws a side glance at him before nodding. “You may. But I may or may not answer it.”

“Yes. Fine. You may… or may not answer, of course,” Bright says. “I just… why is… why does Bow act like that?”

Wynn turns his head to look at him. He can see that Bright looks nervous at the question. He is probably thinking he has overstepped boundaries. 

Fortunately for him, even though that is the case, Wynn is in an agreeable mood tonight and decides to answer him.

“Bow had brain surgery.”

  “What?” Bright asks.

  Wynn sighs. “Bow had an accident years ago, right after Daniel was born. Fatima was in the car with him.”

“Fatima?”

  “Yes, Fatima. Daniel and Mia’s mother. Bow’s girlfriend.”

  “Fuck.”

  Wynn wants to laugh at Bright’s reaction, but Bow’s and Fatima’s story has never been a laughing matter. At least not to him who had witnessed it all. 

Bow and Fatima—they used to be the ideal couple. At such a young age, they both decided about their future together. Even Fatima’s pregnancy was planned and it was supported by parents from both sides.

But then the accident happened, crushing the plans for the future they had built for themselves.

Bow was not a reckless driver. The fact that Fatima was with him would have made him extra careful. However, he didn’t notice that there was a small street a couple of blocks after the stoplight.

It was a head-on collision with a van. Fatima had died on the way to the hospital. Bow had barely survived.

  “I—” Bright doesn’t know what to say.

  Wynn chuckles humorlessly. “They needed to perform brain surgery on him. He recovered, but he… changed. He knew that Mia and Daniel were his biological children, but he no longer saw them as his… everything. As you notice, he rarely displays emotion. It’s called flat affect or something. While in most cases, it’s temporary, Bow’s seems to be permanent.”

Seems. The doctor says there is still a chance at recovery, but it has been years and Bow’s still the same.

“Permanent?”

  “Yes.”

  “Is that why… why Daniel and Mia call you Papa at times?”

  Wynn nods. “It’s been more difficult for them. They grew up with only me taking care of them most especially when my parents returned abroad. They live in LA. 

Mia kept calling me Papa, which Daniel picked up when he was a little older. It was hard to dissuade them, but I had to correct them every time. While it’s fine with me, I don’t have the right to that title.”

  “Because you’re not their real father.”

  “Because I am not their real father,” he affirms. “And because it’s not entirely Bow’s fault that he can’t feel anymore. He wouldn’t have chosen that. He was so happy to start a family with Fatima. He was a good father, always attentive and caring. Mia experienced that for a little while even though she wasn’t old enough to understand.”

Wynn hears Bright sigh, but the other doesn’t ask anything again. 

After a few minutes of not-so-uncomfortable silence, Wynn feels that it’s just fair if he gets to ask Bright something. Something that’s not too personal perhaps or he’s sure he will not receive an answer.

“Can I ask you something in return then, Bright?”

  Bright hums his agreement.

  “It’s not the first time you’re staying late, is it?”

  Wynn can see Bright’s ears redden. 

“Uhm. Yeah. I mean… sorry, but yes.”

  “Insomnia?”

  Bright shakes his head. “Not… exactly? I just… I’m a nyctophile. I feel… better at night, if that makes sense. It’s during the night that I feel the most free,” Bright says, his tone suddenly wistful.

Most free.

Wynn isn’t able to sleep a wink that night. Win can’t seem to forget that look in Bright’s eyes as he talked about being free. There’s something in the way he utters the word that tells him that there is an unspoken story behind it. That freedom is an abstract he longs for but hasn’t achieved yet.

It makes Wynn wonder if he has found something he badly wants just like how Bright found his. It makes him a little jealous that Bright, someone who seems like he has no direction in life, has a purpose. While he, whose every step is calculated, doesn’t seem to have an end destination.

A couple of nights later, Wynn finds Bright at the balcony again. Before he can stop himself, Wynn makes tea and joins him again.

Neither one of them acknowledges that it has become a nightly routine. 

Neither one of them wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, things are starting to shift.

Chapter 2

Chapter 4

CHAPTER 2 – FLUTTER

Bright

Bright knows that being a wanderer has both its perks and its snags. 

The perks have always consisted of freedom and peace. While the snags have always consisted of being treated like a stranger.

Well, you are a stranger, he thinks. 

Bright watches as the guy he bumps into in front of an apartment disappears at the end of the corridor. After a couple of breaths later, he hears the elevator ding, and there is nothing but him and silence in the hallway.

Bright exhales. It’s been a long day and he feels tired and hungry and thirsty and well… quite unlucky. The first person he meets after a long ass bus journey is a cold asshole, although a seriously attractive one. Bright can’t deny that hostile but soulful tiny eyes will melt anyone on the receiving end of them including Bright himself. The man is also quite tall, perhaps even taller than Bright, and Bright is tall.

Damn it, are you horny? He asks himself, knowing very well he has no time for such thoughts. But when his traitorous mind whispers a yes, Bright groans and shakes his head before he sits on the floor with his back against the wall. He’ll need to put himself together. He just needs to rest for a bit before trying another door.

Bright already expects he will not be as lucky as last time to have an apartment all to himself again for free, but he can still find a house who might need a housekeeper or a full-time sitter or whatever, and perhaps can even recommend an apartment with a cheap rent. That’s what he’s been doing for the past two years and it’s working for him. 

If worse comes to worst, there are other jobs out there that might give him a free room. He will take anything as long as the job is legal and does not compromise with his beliefs in life. It will be just for a couple of months anyway. 

Bright lets out another long sigh. There are moments when Bright contemplates about what he is doing with his life, and this is one of those. He just hates dwelling with it because it’s his choice to live a life of no commitments. This insanity (as what his older sister likes to call his desire to flee) just comes out too illogical at times.

Illogical. Oh yes, Bright knows how illogical it is. 

Bright is rich. He has access to money. A lot of money. He can live in a luxurious apartment in every place he goes to without lifting a hand for labor. 

But he did not leave home just to depend on his parents’ money. It’s never been about that. This, whatever this is, has nothing to do with the cliché plot of fleeing because of the desire to be independent. This is the case of an inner struggle or an inner desire. Unfortunately, he hasn’t decided which of it this is yet. There is a thin line between desire and struggle, and Bright is still threading on it. He has to figure it out before he can allow himself to finally perch on a rock of stability and uniformity. 

Bright has made a promise—both to himself and to his parents—that once he contains the unsettled monster within him, he will come back home… wherever home is.

Home. It always comes down to it. 

One day, he’ll seek it. But for now, Bright is more peaceful about the thought that he doesn’t have a home. 

That home is anywhere, and not somewhere. 

***

Bright doesn’t realize he had dozed off until he feels something poking the sides of his neck, effectively waking him up from his slumber.

At first, he’s unsure whether it’s a dream, so he swats at that something with his hand, leaving him poke-free for just a few seconds. But when the poking starts again, Bright has to finally open his eyes, lifting his head and facing the offender.

“Oh.” To say that he’s surprised is an understatement. Oh.

It’s a kid who is currently standing in front of him. A cute little boy with black curly hair, snow-white complexion that reveals the adorable blush on his cheeks, and very curious eyes. He is wearing a teddy bear-clustered shirt underneath a denim jumper. 

“Who are you?” The little boy asks, his voice full of curiosity and his dimple showing even through the slight frown. “Why are you here, Mister Handsome?”

Mister Handsome? Bright tries to smile as he fights the last vestiges of sleep. 

“Mister Handsome?” he asks, amused. The little boy nods seriously, obviously still waiting for his answer.

Bright pats the space beside him, silently inviting the boy to sit with him. Surprisingly, the little boy does and even leans sideways against him with a familiarity that he shouldn’t have because he is a stranger. His mind temporarily goes to the man who made it obvious how much of a stranger he is, but shrugs it off almost immediately. Instead, he focuses on the little boy and his curious eyes.

“I don’t have a home.” At least not for now, he adds in his mind.

“Why not?”

“Because I always leave,” Bright answers nonchalantly. “I don’t stay long in a place.”

A frown appears on the boy’s cute face, making Bright want to squeeze his cheeks. 

“I don’t understand, Mister Handsome. Are you bad? Did your parents send you away because you’re bad?”

Bright is amused, but doesn’t say anything. He can’t actually tell the boy that yes, he is a bit bad, but his parents did not exactly send him away. That it’s his choice because sometimes, he thinks he is making the right choices. 

“Do you want to live with us? Our sitter just left.”

This catches Bright’s attention. “Your sitter?”

The little boy nods, his curly hair bouncing at the motion. Bright also just notices that the kid is now fully leaning against him as if he’s comfortable with the older man. 

“She just left. She was screaming when she told us she’ll leave, but you’re sleeping even though she’s doing that. You’re a very deep sleeper, Mister.”

Bright chuckles. He must have really been so tired. He is usually a light sleeper. He easily gets woken up by the slightest noises.

“She said she can’t stand us anymore.”

Bright looks up, surprised at the new voice that joined his conversation with the boy. 

It is a little girl, this time. She looks slightly older than the boy sitting beside her. 

“Hi there,” Bright automatically greets the little girl. Without waiting for an invitation, the little girl sits on his other side and leans against him too. 

“Hello, Mister Handsome.”

Oh gosh, Bright thinks. “Are you siblings?” he asks, curious about the relationship of the two. He doesn’ also want to just assume. Assuming about things that you know nothing about is not a good habit. 

Both of the kids nod slowly.

“What are your names?” Bright asks. “You know, if it’s okay for me to know. My name is Bright.” He offers his hand for the two kids to shake. 

“I’m Daniel,” says the little boy, shaking Bright’s hand. “Papa calls me Dan.”

Papa, huh? So Mr. Grumpy Pants is a father, Bright thinks, so absorbed in his thoughts that he doesn’t hear the girl reprimanding the boy about the word, Papa. “And you, young lady?” he asks, turning his attention to the sweet girl on his other side.

The girl stares at him as she shakes his hand “You’re too formal, Mister Handsome. But okay. Nice to meet you, Bright. My name is Mia.”

“Mia. Mia,” Bright tests the name on his tongue. “Oh!” he says excitedly. “Like Princess Mia of the Princess Diaries!” Bright knows his Walt Disney films.

This seems to make Mia happy because she starts giggling. “Yes. Like her. I love her so much and she’s pretty.”

“You can be like her one day,” Bright responds, making Mia giggle louder. Bright thinks it’s cute.

“You’re funny and you know Princess Mia. I like you. Come live with us, Bright.”

And they say kids say the darndest things, Bright thinks, surprised at the words that came out of Mia’s mouth. And he wants to say yes. Oh how he wants to say yes. But he remembers the grumpy father and he immediately contemplates on the offer. “Won’t your papa be angry?”

Mia scowls at that. “Papa is always angry. But you can stay. You need to, Bright. No one will take care of us now.”

That’s true, right? They need someone to take care of them, Bright thinks, trying to reason with himself while looking at the kids who are currently staring at him with something similar to excitement and hope in their eyes. Who can say no to that? 

“So… you really need a sitter?” he carefully asks.

“YES!” are the simultaneous answers.

“Well…” Bright hopes he will not regret this. 

That he will not find himself at the police station later this day for being accused of trespassing or something. 

Fine. Bright thinks it might be worth the risk. Might.

“I think I can stay,” he finally says. If your father allows me, he doesn’t add. 

“Yes!”

“Bright, you’re amazing!”

Bright shakes his head at the happy screams from the two kids who are jumping up and down as if they just heard the best news ever. And before he can even try to ask himself if his decision is really the right one at the moment, Mia and Daniel both stand up and pull him by the arms, leading him inside the pristine apartment.

Well, I probably just have to wait and see, he thinks.

For now, he can only hope.

Wynn

Wynn has had a long day, and he wants nothing but a warm bath and his bed.

He immediately comes home after a tiring day in his café with a realization that he needs to hire more people to lift the administrative burden off his shoulders. Making coffee, manning the cash register, and serving people—those he can do even though he’s not much of a social person. The paperwork involved—he is not too keen on that.

Wynn always looks forward to Sundays for a reason. Even as a self-proclaimed workaholic, he longs for the days wherein he can just relax and do nothing. Relaxing for him means being able to spend the day with Daniel and Mia, and even Bow if he’s in the mood to even show himself to the other people in the house.

They’re probably asleep now, he thinks as he enters the house. And he is quite grateful for that. Wynn senses a migraine coming and all he wants right now is to sleep it off. He is in a very starchy mood—something that he doesn’t want the two kids to see him into. Daniel and Mia only ever see his soft side because it’s something he reserves only for them. They rarely see the straitlaced persona he truly is outside the house and to other people.

“I’m home,” he mutters. Announcing his arrival has already become a habit. 

Wynn carefully removes his shoes and places them on the shoe rack at the foyer. He hangs his coat on one of the hooks on the wall and walks barefoot towards the living room, eager to rest a bit before he can take a long, hot bath.

“Welcome home,” someone greets him from the sofa. Wynn smiles weakly in greeting and proceeds towards the direction of his room. He is halfway there when he stops in his tracks, his eyes slowly turning wide as realization caught up on him. 

Wynn makes a quick turn and rushes back towards the living room. He immediately catches the eyes of the intruder and glares at him. He recognizes him immediately as the man he bumps into this morning. 

“What the heck are you doing here?” he asks, obviously livid at the sight of the stranger, who pestered him this morning. “Get out,” he says calmly through gritted teeth, obviously losing his grasp on the last of his patience. “Get the fu—”

His words are cut when he shushes him. Before he can retaliate with a harsher word, the intruder points his finger towards his lap.

Wynn’s jaw immediately falls as he takes in the sight before him. Oh.

With their heads on each of the intruder’s jean-clad thighs, the children, his Mia and Daniel, are fast asleep.

The sight immediately calms him. Despite his objection with regards to finding a stranger inside his house, he sits down quietly on the opposite couch. At least the stranger didn’t harm the kids.

“What the hell happened?” Wynn asks as he closes his eyes, leaning his back against the backrest of the couch. “Where the heck is my brother and where the heck is Salome?”

“Is Salome the babysitter?” a deep voice asks. 

Even with his reservations, Wynn finds the voice soothing. He relaxes further into the couch before opening his eyes again to look at the intruder. “You didn’t kill the babysitter, did you?”

The intruder laughs softly, shaking his head. Wynn thinks the other has such a husky laugh. 

“No. But your children almost killed her, I think,” the other man says, sounding amused. “I guess it’s the reason why she walked out screaming.”

Wynn narrows his eyes. “And you were there? Are you telling me you were stalking my house?”

The other man frowns. “Not exactly, Mr. Paranoid,” he answers, sounding a bit insulted. “I was tired and fell asleep. I was asleep when the sitter walked out so I didn’t even know what exactly happened. But—” he stops and then looks down on the two figures in his lap. “This one right here—” he continues while stroking Daniel’s hair, “—poked me awake. He asked who I was and sat beside me as if I was someone he had known for a long time.”

Wynn’s eyes go to the sleeping face of the boy. “And I bet his sister followed him?”

“Yes, she did,” the intruder admits. “She sat on my other side and continued to bother me. She’s worse than her brother, actually. And then they just asked me to stay and look after them. They pulled me inside and well, here I am.”

“These two,” Wynn whispers in disbelief. “And you agreed that easily?” He still thinks the man has a hidden agenda. He was, after all, standing in front of his apartment this morning.

“I’m sorry, okay?” the intruder says, sounding just a little bit guilty. “I promise you I don’t have any intentions of hurting your children, stealing, or even killing your asshole of a brother.”

Wynn stills at that. “My… asshole of a brother?”

The other man snorts. 

“He is an asshole. He came out of his room to check what’s causing the ruckus. I was playing with these two adorable bears then. Your brother just glared at me, glared more at these two, and went back to his room as if he didn’t see his nephew and niece with a stranger. Dan and Mia launched into their very detailed version of who he was. They didn’t like him and also like him at the same time, it seems.”

“Well, he’s a bit grumpy and a bit complicated to understand,” Wynn admits, not realizing he is currently having a decent conversation with a stranger.

“Grumpier than you even,” the man whispers, which Wynn catches but doesn’t comment on. Instead, he lets out a sigh. He is just so tired and he doesn’t want to deal with this right now.

“Back to the matter at hand,” Wynn says, sounding defeated. “I still don’t like it that you entered the house without permission from me or from any adult. BUT… I guess you’re welcome to stay tonight.”

Wynn witnesses how the other man’s face lights up, but he ignores it. “I want you to leave first thing in the morning, okay?” The face falls, and Wynn wonders why he feels guilty. “You’re still a stranger. I don’t know you. I don’t have plans to know you. And I don’t trust you.”

The other man is quiet for a bit before Wynn sees him nod. “Okay,” he replies quietly.

Wynn shrugs the guilt off, most especially at the somber tone in the other man’s voice. It’s not his problem that the other man feels this way. He is still a stranger. 

“And by the way, they’re not mine,” Wynn adds as a random afterthought after a tense silence between them. He actually wonders why neither Mia nor Daniel mentioned that little detail to the stranger when they all but let him in.

“Huh?” the intruder asks, the look of obvious puzzlement on his face.

“Mia and Daniel. They aren’t mine. They are my brother’s,” Wynn says quietly. “I’m… I’m just the uncle. They’re Bow’s. Bow is that asshole brother.”

There is a surprised expression on the stranger’s face, which Wynn shrugs off. He doesn’t plan on giving a more elaborate explanation. 

The stranger nods. They remain quiet for a moment, with only Daniel’s soft mumbles about ice creams and dragons resonating in the room.

“What’s your name?” Wynn asks after a while. He might as well know the name of the stranger who will sleep in their living room tonight.

“Bright,” the man answers. “You can call me Bright.”

Wynn nods. “Bright. Okay, Bright. I want you to leave first thing tomorrow morning. But tonight, you may sleep on the couch.”

Bright doesn’t respond, but Wynn doesn’t need to hear it. What he needs is for the other man to leave and it will happen whether he likes it or not.

Wynn stands up from his perch on the couch and crosses the two-meter distance between the couches. He carefully picks Mia up and carries her in his arms.

“I will be back for Dan,” he says, leaving the stranger to bring Mia to their room. He goes back for Daniel just a few minutes after, as if he doesn’t trust Bright alone with Daniel. 

Before Wynn retires for the night, he brings Bright a pillow and a blanket, which he receives quietly with a soft thank you.

On his way to his own bedroom, he passes by Bow’s room. He stands in front of his brother’s room for a full five minutes before he decides that he is too tired to deal with him tonight. Wynn just shakes his head and enters his own room, instantly collapsing on his bed.

The last thing in his thoughts before he succumbs to sleep is the fact that there’s a stranger in his living room.

And he’s here, sleeping it off.

Wynn decides he’ll deal with his stupidity tomorrow.

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

CHAPTER 1 – FLEE

Bright

Bright has always been a wanderer, owning a pair of itchy feet that know no rest.

Itchy feet. The desire to scratch the pair he owns is a temptation he has never been able to resist. Whenever he refuses the urge to grant his soul even just a semblance of freedom, he feels restless and drained, like a desert traveler robbed off of an oasis for days. There is an insistent poking happening inside him whenever he stays still. The struggle nags at him, forcing him to recognize the need to break free from the invisible chains wrapped around his entirety.

Freedom. He desires it. He longs for it. All he wants is to fly and fly and fly until he reaches the peak of nothingness and seeks for that something in the cloud of nothings. He doesn’t have wings, yet he still wants to spread his invisible, complex fluff of woven nerves and fly to the direction of unknown vistas. 

So fly, he often does, his unrelenting flighty feet carrying his soul along with his heart.

Bright’s eyes savor the sight of his shelter for the past two months. His temporary dwelling is nothing but a square, dilapidated apartment building with its pink paint peeling off like pieces of burned skin. It has five floors with five rooms per floor, which can be accessed by foot through a series of narrow staircases. There is no elevator.

Bright lived on the 5th floor, in room 504. His home is a simple studio-type apartment that barely has a space for his backpack. But he has never been choosy. He had long since learned how to live with what is readily available to him. All he longs for anyway cannot be satisfied by any form of comfort money can buy. 

A small smile appears on his face as he continues to stare fondly at the building, his mind replaying his fondest memories about the place. It has not been the best accommodation, but he has the best neighbors, making his life more interesting and quite fun.

There’s Old Man Quinito who volunteers to throw his trash out every morning in exchange for a cup of coffee. He brings his own tin of cookies whenever Bright offers him a space in his small table. The cookies are always freshly baked, implying that he doesn’t make his own coffee on purpose just to have a conversation with his neighbors. Old Man Quinito lives alone. His wife died a few years ago, leaving him with nothing other than their memories. It’s the reason why he always craves interaction of any form, with isolation not being kind to him.

A few doors away from him is Gindhara, the old lady who has been abandoned by her children and grandchildren years ago in pursuit of starting a life in foreign lands. She cooks enough for two and brings Bright food at least four times a day that he never goes hungry in his months of stay. The woman owns the building, giving Bright his own apartment in exchange for free cleaning services twice a week. 

There’s also Crystal, the young single mother whose son adores Bright as much as Bright adores him. Bright babysits for her for free. Crystal works two jobs and often comes home late, but Bright has always been there to make sure little Frankie is always taken care of. The young mother feels uncomfortable about the free service at first until Bright tells her she can pay by telling Bright stories about her job and the people she works with. Bright loves listening to Crystal talk about her day. There is wisdom behind every word the young mother utters and it feeds Bright’s soul. However, there is that small part of him that pities the woman. She is forced to look at life differently, her youth permanently kept hidden behind the hardships of being an adult.

And finally, there’s Joss, the young guy next door who never fails to blush whenever Bright asks him about his day in school. He is a Biology major from a university who’s never afraid to dream. Bright knows Joss has a crush on him, but he has never encouraged it. 

Bright is aware that he is attractive. Some will even say he’s more than just attractive. His tall and lean physique hardened by a few muscles shows he knows how to do labor; and there is that pretty face hosting the most beautiful bambi eyes, full cupid-bow lips, and a well-defined Roman nose. 

His open bisexuality also adds to his appeal. He doesn’t keep it a secret that he is attracted to both men and women. His sexual preference has never been a problem. If there is one thing about himself that he accepts and embraces fully, it is that.

Joss the neighbor might not be Bright’s type, but he is quite attractive. It’s just unfortunate for the young man that Bright can’t return the affection. Bright’s life is too complicated and unstable to entertain such a pure emotion. He refuses to let anyone in when he himself hasn’t entertained the reason why he cannot.

But Bright is going to miss every single one of them. His heart feels tender at the mere thought of not being able to see the people whom he had shared a portion of his wandering with. They will always have a piece of his heart, a piece that he always leaves behind as a mark that he has been there. That he has once become a speck of dust in a stranger’s universe. That he will fade along with the small memories he has allowed himself to create. And in due time, he knows he will become nothing but a vague part of someone else’s past.

That’s how his life is. That is how it has always been. 

He can’t stay. He never stays. 

Staying means accepting the concept of home. And home? It’s not for him.

Home is a concept he refuses to add to his life’s dictionary. Having one gives him an uncomfortable feeling that refuses to go away. Home is a luxury he doesn’t want to afford even though he can. 

Bright doesn’t need a home. A home grounds him, clips his wings, and incarcerates him—and how can he fly without his wings?

Bright glances at the building one last time before steadying the strap of the backpack slung over one of his shoulders.

Then finally, he walks away.

He doesn’t look back.

He never looks back.

***

The way of the lost soul.

Bright leaves the same way he comes—quietly and out of anyone’s sight. 

It’s how he prefers things done. He hates causing any type of commotion, and he knows saying goodbye will do just that.

Upon arriving at the small shed serving as the bus stop, he takes a long whiff of the aroma that defines his temporary freedom and sits patiently at the lone wooden bench erected at the worn-out shelter. He still has an hour to go before the bus arrives, coming from a nearby town that is 20 kilometers away. 

Bright is alone at the bus stop. Just like how it was when he first arrived. The people of this town rarely leave their comfort place. They cultivate enough products and build local shops that will sustain their needs as a town. They live a simple life, making him feel instantly at home when he first arrives.

If only his life can be that simple.

***

Bright’s ride arrives before the first drops of rain comes. 

His first step inside the bus feels heavy yet he does not allow himself to wallow in such a melancholic emotion. It’s the same in every place. The feeling will vanish on its own once he finds himself adjusting in his new life.

“Where to?”

“Where’s the end destination?” 

Bright doesn’t really know the stops. He never bothers to search or memorize them. His destination is often where his heart and soul feel at ease. Temporarily. They never go still for so long.

The driver doesn’t even blink as he answers him in a deadpan tone. “Capital.”

He nods. “That’s my destination.”

Bright hands the bus driver enough money and goes straight to the back of the bus, taking a window seat. The last row is his favorite. He can hide there. No one will bother him. He will always be that strange recluse who loves isolating himself. He has no idea what his life is going to be in the next town, but that’s the beauty of not leaving a piece of himself anywhere – he can move on with his life with nothing holding him back.

New beginnings aren’t new to him. New beginnings are his lifestyle. No regrets, he thinks, and promptly falls asleep.

Wynn

Wynn always finds himself dreaming about the same thing over and over again—saving people.

He is always the hero, the good guy, the selfless guy who will endanger his own life just to save another. In his dreams, people are grateful, happy that someone else steps up to make sure everything will be okay. They always appreciate his philanthropic intentions, their hearts feeling indebted towards a stranger for being able to escape peril and possible death.

In reality, it’s different. Wynn’s heroic deeds are not often taken lightly. He is rarely appreciated. Hero complex, that’s what they call it. Not everyone wants to be associated with someone who feels like he needs to save everyone.

Wynn is stirred away from sleep by the sound of tiny footsteps in the hallway. With a sleepy smile, he turns on his stomach and buries his face on his pillow, waiting for the intruders to barge in and completely disturb what’s probably his only break for the week—his Sunday morning. 

The ceasing of the steps alerts him that the intruders are already right outside his door. He hears whispers, causing his smile to widen. The little intruders are probably having a fight as to who should do the disturbing. 

These fights, however loud and intense they get, usually do not last very long. The older one always wins. She’s a bit cunning for her age—a quality she inherits from her father.

True enough, after a couple of seconds, he can hear his door knob turn. The footsteps are quieter than before, but anyone with an average hearing can still hear them. That, and their voices aren’t really making them subtle.

Wynn has to suppress a laugh. They are too adorable for their own good.

“We should wake him up now,” whispers a demanding voice, which belongs to the older one.

“Won’t he get angry at us? It’s Sunday,” the younger one replies, the tone of his voice showing his doubt. This one has a point, a point that Wynn would have loved to come across the older one’s thoughts. The younger one has always been more sensitive than his older counterpart.

“He won’t,” the older answers, stubbornness floating on the surface. “I’m hungry and Bow’s not opening his door. I could eat a dog!”

“Hey! Don’t eat dogs. Dogs are cute!” 

“Stupid. I mean the long ones we eat for breakfast.”

“That’s called a sauce age. Sauce age.”

The little argument happening floats on Wynn’s thoughts as his mood dampens automatically at the mention of Bow’s name. It’s been years since the accident, but his younger brother’s coldness hasn’t melted yet. Wynn fears that—

His thoughts are cut by the sudden dip on the side of his bed. He can hear the not-so-soft whispers of two little voices still not yet done with their argument as to who will poke him. He patiently waits. It will be over in a bit.

“Fine, I will do it,” he hears the older one finally relenting. She will not admit it, but her younger brother’s puppy eyes always work on her. The younger one has his own way of manipulating people around him. Wynn thinks they are quite more alike in that aspect.

He hears the older of the two take an exaggerated deep breath, almost making him laugh.

“Okay. Here it goes,” she whispers. Wynn gets ready too. “One… two…thr—AHH!!!!” Wynn completely turns around before the two finish counting, snatching the little girl around the waist.

“PAPA! PAPA! STOP!!!!” she giggles while struggling in his arms, but Wynn continues to tickle her, earning him gasps, kicks, and claws. She is a bit strong for her age.

“You are so sneaky, huh,” he says, his fingers merciless on her. The tickle fight continues until Wynn feels another poke on the shoulder. He stops and turns his head to see the younger one standing at the foot of the bed, staring at them and looking lost and a bit shy. Wynn narrows his eyes at the younger one. “Daniel… don’t just stand there.”

Daniel looks surprised at the full use of his name, but a slow smile starts to appear on his adorable chubby face. And before Wynn can call on him again, Daniel jumps at both of them and joins the tickle fight. Laughter ensues, and the sound echoes inside the four walls of Wynn’s usually silent haven.

“Breakfast?” he asks, breathless, as they finally stop. Mia is tucked on his side while Daniel is lying face first on his stomach.

“Am hungry,” Daniel mumbles. “Want sauce age.”

“Me too,” Mia echoes, lightly pinching Wynn’s side.

“All right, all right,” Wynn declares. He sits properly, carefully putting Daniel down, and looks at them both with a softness that no one outside of this family has seen. “You will help me, yes? Do pancakes and sausages sound good? Chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream and berries?”

“YES!” are the simultaneous answers from the two bubbly children who both start jumping in celebration. Wynn’s pancakes are the best. He can’t blame them for being excited over his breakfast choices.

“Is that right?” The children nod enthusiastically. “All right. Go to the kitchen, soldiers. And we will prepare breakfast for our battalion.”

With a wild whoop of joy, Daniel hops off the bed first and runs out of the room faster than a hurricane. Wynn chuckles and starts to follow him until he notices that Mia has not left the bed yet. The smile instantly drops from his face as he sees the little girl looking at him with sad, guilty eyes, all traces of her earlier joys gone from her face.

Wynn slowly approaches her, sitting at the edge of the bed. “Mia?” he asks. He has an idea what caused her to suddenly act like this, but he wants her to be the one to address it. In fact, he can let it go if it isn’t for this sudden tension. It’s not a big deal, but perhaps in Mia’s heart, it is. 

“I called you Papa,” she says without preamble. “Again.”

Wynn slowly exhales. So he’s right.

With a sigh, he pulls her towards him and kisses the top of her head. With his 6 foot tall stature, the little girl looks more fragile in his arms. He feels her tremble, but he knows that there will be no tears. Mia has always been strong. She hasn’t cried once in her life.

“It’s okay, Mia,” he says, trying to soothe the child’s aching heart. “I know I told you you shouldn’t, but it doesn’t mean I will get angry if you do.”

“It’s just hard not to,” Mia replies softly, her voice muffled by his shirt.

“I know,” Wynn says while stroking her soft hair. “It will get easier, love. I promise.”

Mia nods but doesn’t say anything. Wynn just holds her until Daniel’s impatient voice prompts them to abandon their tiny moment. He stands up from the bed and offers his hand for Mia to take.

The little girl grasps it with determination. 

They walk to the kitchen hand-in-hand. Mia’s hold on his hand is tight.

Hero. He is their superhero.

***

Wynn gets a call from his staff just as he is washing the dishes—they need him.

It can’t be helped, he finds himself repeatedly thinking. This is not the first time he needs to go to work on a Sunday, but he still feels a bit disappointed and annoyed that he has to sacrifice another day with his family. He barely has time for them already, and it pains him that he is missing some parts of the kids’ lives.

He fixes another tray full of pancakes, causages, and coffee, personally bringing his brother his breakfast. Wynn is pretty sure the young man will not take the initiative to come out from his sanctuary yet again. 

Bow rarely joins them, which always sparks an argument between the brothers. As much as Wynn tries to be patient with the younger, Bow has responsibilities he should not be ignoring.

Wynn knocks twice before turning the knob and coming in. His brother barely glances at him as Wynn places the tray on his bedside table.

“They need me at the shop. I will be gone for a bit.”

A grunt. 

“Please look after the kids. They know enough not to leave the house, but you also know how mischievous they are. They might get into small accidents.”

Silence.

Wynn sighs and simply leaves the room without another word to his brother. It’s useless to talk to the younger man sometimes. It always feels as if he is talking to the wall.

He goes straight to his room for a quick bath. The faster he goes to work, the earlier he can come back home. Work is the cafe he owns, whose main branch is located in the business district of the city they live in. He is the only one who handles it now. Bow is not interested, hasn’t been in the past few years. 

Wynn’s happy that the business is doing quite well even though he’s taking care of it alone. The sacrifice of a free day with his fam is almost worth it. Despite him opening two more branches of his café in two more locations, the crowd in the main branch hasn’t thinned down a bit.

“Do you have to go, Pa—Wynn?” Mia asks, almost slipping again. Wynn decides to ignore it and pats her head instead.

“Sundays are busy at the café, Mia,” Wynn explains for the umpteenth time. They always have this conversation whenever he needs to leave for work on Sundays. “I will try to go home early and bring back your favorite croissant, okay?”

Mia is still pouting, but she nods and stays quiet. At age 5, she sometimes tries to act like an adult. This is one of those times.

“And please. Don’t give Salome a hard time.” Wynn’s voice has a soft warning tilt to it, but not enough to sound harsh.

“We behave,” Mia answers innocently.

A possible lie in an adult’s perspective, Wynn thinks. Apparently, Mia and Daniel have a different definition of behave. He gets a lot of text messages from Salome, the kids’ sitter, complaining about the two’s deviant behavior. Salome is a senior in college who needs extra income and babysitting is the only job that allows her to study while working.

“Just behave, please?” Wynn reiterates. “When I mean behave, I mean not to be a bother to Salome. She is good to you both and you should be good to her too.”

Mia sighs and rolls her eyes. It’s a sign of her agreeing but with hesitation. Daniel simply clings to Wynn’s legs as he gives Mia the eye. But Wynn will take it, it at least means they will try to behave.

An hour later, Salome arrives, looking tired and a bit put off. Wynn can’t also help but notice that she keeps glancing at the two children with that wary look on her face.

He knows that look. He is very much familiar with that look. It’s the same look the past sitters had on their faces before they resigned. Mia and Daniel are angels, but they’re the good and mischievous kind. Sitters never last long on them. But Wynn can’t afford to lose a reliable sitter now. Salome is the most reliable he has seen for months. He will need to talk to her later when he gets back from the café. Perhaps he can add a little bonus to her salary.

Wynn glances at his watch. He’s not yet late, but he needs to pick up an important document on his way to the shop. He immediately leans down and kisses both Daniel and Mia at the top of their heads before snatching his blazer and going out of the three-bedroom flat. 

“I’ll see you all later. Salome? Let’s talk later, yes?” He sees the sitter hesitantly nod, and it makes him smile. Perhaps he still has a chance to stop her from leaving later.

In Wynn’s haste to leave, he almost bumps into a tall man, who is standing right in front of his door.

“Uhm, excuse me—” the man starts to say, but Wynn immediately brushes him off.

“I will not buy your product,” Wynn says, cutting the young man’s words off. “Go and try other doors,” he says with finality, leaving the other alone standing in front of his door. Wynn glances at him before he steps inside the elevator. He calls Salome on the way and tells her to make sure the door is locked, just in case.

Wynn forgets all about the man at the door as soon as he arrives at the café, the Sunday crowd fully occupying his thoughts.

Chapter 2

Author’s Notes (Important)

This story is originally a straight couple pairing. You can find that one on Inkitt with the title “As Her Feathers Fall”

I decided to do a BL couple version because:

  • It’s my story so I can do anything with it
  • I have a bad case of writer’s block. I tried writing drabbles, short stories, movie reviews, but I couldn’t finish anything. So I thought I should probably try and edit a new version of one of my favorite works. This might help me conquer it.
  • I will use my favorite BL ship as characters. 
  • This will be edited as I write along, which means a lot of scenes/chapters will be added or deleted from the original to fit the new characters.
  • No specific dates for updates. I really have a bad case of writer’s block.

Disclaimer: The characters in the story are fictional and do not reflect any of the actions, words, behaviors, etc. of the people they are inspired from in real life. This story is also free to read and does not require sign ups or any membership of any form.

Content / Trigger Warnings: The author apologizes in advance if there are words, themes, or content that might trigger readers. However, this is a romantic story and will not contain graphic depictions of violence or anything similar.

Chapter 1