Title: The Ride
Genre(s): angst, fluff, romance?
Word Count: 1,296
Summary: Key runs into his ex-boyfriend on a crowded subway in New York- a place that Key left Jinki for six years ago.
Written for kaybee38
who was the second highest bidder in my thread for Replay4Japan
Key didn’t even cringe when the subway roared through the station, a gust of stale and warm air blowing over the crowd of people preparing to board the train. Most of them were in suits, looking polished and ready for the office. It was the early morning rush and Key was on his way to work as well, but as the personal assistant to one New York’s up and coming fashion designers, he was encouraged to be more creative with his wardrobe- today he wore black skinny jeans, a graphic t-shirt with an oversized cardigan over it, a pair of mint green high-tops on his feet, and his favorite black-rimmed glasses.
He loved his job, but he wasn’t yet engaged in his day- still just going through the motions as his mind woke up. His eyes moved over the crowd boarding the train with him but his gaze was liquid- never stopping on anything or anyone.
And then they locked on a profile- a profile that he hadn’t seen for six years, but would never, ever forget. His feet stopped moving, but he was still going forward- being pushed onto the train by the bodies behind him. Then he was on the subway, on his way toward the future with his mind suddenly careening backwards into his past- that profile closer to him and smiling, that infectious laughter ringing in his ears.
They’d been so happy together, but Key had left anyway. And the worst part was that he’d taken the coward’s way out- he had broken up with Jinki instead of telling him that he was leaving for school in America. He had left and he hadn’t seen him since that day he left him standing in his driveway, looking shell-shocked crest-fallen all at once.
It was an image that had always been engrained in his mind- haunted him for these six years whenever he didn’t keep himself busy enough- and now it was back full-force, his chest tightening with too many emotions. He couldn’t tear his eyes away even though watching him was making it hard to breathe.
What was he even doing
here? The last time that Key had heard, he was still in Seoul. And the older boy had never mentioned any desire to leave the country- in fact, they’d had many fights about the prospect of Key leaving, which was why Key had left without telling him.
The train lurched to a stop sending the less-prepared passengers careening off balance. A number of people climbed off at this stop and even more got on, pushing Key further into the subway car, and much to his horror, into Jinki’s side- his hands brushing against the expensive wool of the other man’s suit.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, hoping that his presence would go unnoticed, but it was not to be.
“It’s alri-” Jinki started to say, turning his head just slightly to acknowledge the person who had apologized, only to stop mid-sentence; his face a mask of pure shock. Key felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment as the other stared at him unabashedly.
“Hi,” Key finally said, needing to get Jinki to stop looking at him with big eyes and an open mouth.
The older man quickly gathered himself, shutting his mouth and offering a timid smile.
“Kibum,” he marveled, not really expecting a response to that.
“I…I go by Key now,” Key told him, wondering why he even corrected him. What difference did it make?
“Oh…” Jinki nodded, thoughtful as he continued to drink in Key’s features.
“What brings you to New York?” Key asked, trying for casual, but feeling his voice strain with his nerves. It was also startling how he jumped back into Korean so mindlessly. It sounded foreign to him coming out of his own mouth in a place where he’d never spoken anything but English.
“My company transferred me here two months ago,” Jinki told him, still looking bewildered.
Key felt uncomfortable with the fact that they’d been in the same city- hell, even taken the same subway
- for two months and he hadn’t even known. Someone should have told him. He should have found out somehow…
“What are you doing here?” Jinki asked then, breaking Key from his train of thought.
“I work for a fashion designer. I’m her assistant,” he answered, taking a nervous breath before continuing, “I went to college here…”
Jinki didn’t respond right away, a plethora of emotions flashing in his eyes as he seemed to mull it over.
“Ah,” he finally said, nodding in what seemed to be understanding. Though if it was understanding in Key’s actions or just understanding of the situation, he didn’t know.
“It’s one of the fashion capitals of the world,” Key defended, not even knowing why he was justifying himself now.
Jinki nodded, face more solemn than Key remembered seeing it. His facial expressions were practiced now- carefully blank. It freaked him out; he used to always be able to tell what the other was thinking. But that had been six years ago, he reminded himself.
The train stopped again, catching Key off guard and sending him stumbling into Jinki for a second time. And this time he couldn’t help but notice how solid the other man felt- barely even shifting when Key’s weight slammed into him.
“Sorry,” Key apologized again, righting himself and hastily grabbing on to the metal rod above his head for balance. Jinki was always the one who used to topple over and Key would catch him. The younger man cleared his throat.
“How many more stops do you have?” he asked hesitantly, suddenly so desperate to get a smile from the other man.
“About five,” Jinki responded, briefly glancing at the subway map next to them, though it was obvious that he didn’t actually take the time to study it. He didn’t need to.
“I have to get off at 42nd street,” Key told him, watching his face intently.
“That’s the next stop,” Jinki observed. Key nodded.
“I…it was good to see you,” he finally said, the weight of having to leave the other man again settling heavy on his heart. The need to grasp on to Jinki’s arm and beg him to take him with him was sudden and overwhelming.
“It was good to see you too,” Jinki replied, smiling lightly, but not in the way he used to when Key would imitate the pop groups on TV.
Abruptly, Key stuck his hand into his leather shoulder bag, digging around as quickly as he could with people pressed against him on all sides. Finally, his hand grasped around what he was looking for just as the train stopped again: 42nd street.
“Here’s my card,” he said, forcefully shoving the white cardstock into Jinki’s hand, “We should go to coffee some time. So…um…call me…if you want.”
Then he was being pushed around by the passengers getting off and getting onto the subway car and he knew that if he didn’t get off now, he’d miss his stop and be late for work.
“Okay,” Jinki agreed, eyes looking at the embossed lettering, “I will.”
And just as Key turned to exit the train, Jinki smiled at him- really smiled at him- and he returned the gesture, feeling the tightness in his chest evaporate.
Still dumbfounded, Key stepped off the subway and stood on the cement, watching as the doors closed and the train moved on- wheels loud against the tracks. He still couldn’t believe what had just happened, nor did he know what that chance encounter would lead to, but he suddenly felt like the possibilities that life had to offer were endless. He would just have to wait and see what was thrown at him next- he was just along for the ride.