Long Distance Phone Call
Jumin sighed at the laptop, typing in the contact information that Rion had given him. He didn’t know who these people were, or why V thought it would be a good idea for him to talk to them, but there didn’t seem to be any point in resisting. If V had made up his mind, then that was done and he wouldn’t win that fight. He never had.
The contact accepted the request quickly, and called moments after. Jumin cleared his throat and accepted the call–seeing a young man who looked…almost distractingly like him in the screen, though the other person’s eyes were heterochromatic blue. “Hello?” Jumin asked.
The young man blinked. “Well. Of all the people I thought might be the person contacting me, I had never considered the vice chairman of C&R International. Good evening, Mr. Han.”
Jumin waved a hand, confused. “Jumin will suffice. I’m sorry…should I know you? Do you work with us?”
He shook his head. “No no, my apologies. I’m simply familiar with the company through some of the work I’ve done. My name is Gabriel Murray. My brothers, Damian and Hunter Clayton, and I are friends of Jihyun Kim’s.”
That final name rang a bell. Hunter Clayton was a particularly well thought-of photographer based out of London. V had spoken about him and his work before. This was his brother? “A pleasure to meet you, Gabriel. I must confess, I don’t know why I’ve been put in contact with you.”
“Damian and I both, in particular, but he’ll be along in a moment. From what I hear, Jumin, you’ve found yourself in a similar situation to the one my brother, myself, and our wife share.”
“Ah, I s…excuse me, your wife? Singular?” Jumin blinked.
“Precisely.” Gabriel’s lips twitched up into a tiny smile. “Ah, Damian. Join us.” A blonde with sharp brown eyes appeared behind Gabriel and waved. “This is my brother Damian–or DJ. Damian, this is Jumin Han.”
DJ’s eyes widened. “Shit, I know that name. Heya.” The two brothers could not be more dissimilar. Gabriel sounded some mix of Italian and English, whereas DJ sounded like he could have been picked up from Manhattan a moment ago. Interesting.
“Good evening.” Jumin nodded to the both of them. “So…you have been told of the…unusual situation I’ve found myself in.”
“Yeah, same as mine,” DJ piped up. “I love it. You’re in my shoes but act like him, and the other guy–what, Seven?–acts like me but is in Gabe’s shoes. Kills me.”
“You’re not precisely being helpful, Damian.” Gabriel glared over his shoulder, and Jumin bit back the smile. “But yes. We’ve heard that you and your…friend?” Jumin nodded. “Have fallen for the same person. And that this is making everything…a little complicated.”
“That is certainly one way to put it.” Jumin leaned back in his chair. “And you say you have experience with this?”
“Quite. Damian and I are in fact married to the same woman.”
Jumin just blinked at that. “Really.”
DJ nodded. “Yup. We all grew up together, childhood pals, and ya know, one thing led to another and then everyone was in love with Nix and it was just a big mess. But we worked it all out. Most of the time.”
“Most of the time.” Jumin’s tone was even.
Gabriel shrugged a shoulder. “No one is truly perfect. We have our arguments, and our disagreements. But for the most part, the particulars of our relationship, the big chunks we struggled with, have been worked out. And that being said, I think that Jihyun wanted us to speak to you for two different reasons. Damian, to show the side of the secondary partner…and me, to show the struggle of battling possessiveness and a desire for tradition in a non-traditional relationship setting.”
“I see.” Where exactly was V going with this? Does he really think it’s going to help?
“Damian, I’m going to let you speak first.* Gabriel pushed the chair back, standing so that DJ could take his place.
“Cool. Okay. So. Rion, right?” DJ scooted up to the camera.
“Yes, that’s…their name, yes.”
“Cool. So. Seven and Rion are a thing. Engaged. But! There’s a thing with you and Rion. Instinctive. Kinda beyond control. There’s not really a word, it’s just kinda…innate, yeah? Deep inside. Two sides of a weird coin. Am I sounding familiar?”
Jumin blinked. “I…yes, in many ways. Though…” He cleared his throat. “I may point out that Rion has…well. There was a ‘thing’ between them and I before there was with them and Saeyoung. Brief, but existent.”
“Ooooh, okay that’s even rougher. Gotcha.” DJ ruffled his hair. “Okay. But now, now it’s like…so they’re with Seven, but it’s like getting ripped apart when you’re together. Like you can’t…pull away. Magnets. And you know you should! Because they’re with Seven. But magnets don’t give a shit. Butter is just as important to a waffle as syrup.”
Jumin blinked. “I…don’t follow.”
He could heard Gabriel’s voice from off screen. “No one does.”
DJ sighed. “You loved them first. Maybe they loved you first. You feel just as important to them as Seven. Yeah?”
“S…something like that.”
“Right. So. Now they’re all official and shit, but you still have all these feelings built up, and nowhere to put them. And, if you’re anything like my brother here, you have literally no clue how to even begin venting all of them out. All you want is to pour all of it into them, and be free of it.”
Jumin could feel his face burning. “That does sound familiar.”
“Yeah, no shit. Welcome to my life back when this all started. Like I said, Nix and me and Gabe all grew up together. Like, Gabe seriously, no joke, his first word was her name. This is how far back we all go. And Gabe proposes, and like, we talked about it because he knew I kinda had a thing for her too, and I was all ‘nah, go ahead, it’s fine,’ but it really wasn’t fucking fine and then I like nearly killed myself three times and became an alcoholic. So my method of coping, not exactly better than Gabe’s. But like, Nix had a thing for me too! We were best buds, two sides of a coin, just, binary stars all over the fuckin’ place. It was like we were soulmates, but there was this other person in the way. And don’t get me wrong, Gabe was just as well matched. Just different.”
It was almost frightening how similar it all sounded. “Each can provide something the other can’t.”
“Exactly!” DJ snapped his fingers. “So Gabe’s all serious and boring and business, and I’m all waffles and horror flicks and chaos. And Nix needs both of them in her life, cause there’s no way I can play serious for that long, and Gabe’s not as much fun as me.”
Jumin could hear Gabriel clear his throat, and he bit back the small smile. There was a strong resemblance. “I see.”
“But like…it’s hard. And I get that.” DJ’s demeanor grew more serious. “We’re all kinda raised in the world where you’re supposed to have one dude and one girl and that’s it. And as soon as you get more than that, you’re cheating on people and it’s polygamy…”
“Polyamory,” Gabriel piped up.
“Dude, whatever. People say polygamy to me.”
“That’s because you’re married.”
DJ shook his head. “ANYWAY. We’re taught that it’s not okay, that it’s weird somehow if you’ve got more than two people in your relationship. But like…sometimes, love doesn’t work that way. Sure, Nix and Gabe could have been like ‘nah man, we need to keep this simple, I’m sorry bro’ and sent me on my way, and sure, we all would have survived. Probably. But it would have sucked for me and it would have sucked for Nix, and then by association it would have sucked for Gabe. Same as the other way around. If Nix and me got hitched, but Gabe was left somewhere, it’s gonna suck for him and Nix, and then I’m going to feel like shit because I know full well that she’s got feelings for him and I kept that away from her. And him, especially because he’s my brother.”
Which was exactly what he’d thought of a while back–that Rion’s conflict had to be at least as bad if not worse than his own. Presuming that they loved both him and Saeyoung the same–which he believed they did–then it was going to hurt either way when they tried to pick one or the other. In fact, he’d seen exactly how difficult it was, because he’d seen the video the Mint Eye offshoot had sent him. Commanding Rion, at gunpoint, to choose which man they would follow. Forcing a decision and putting lives at risk. He hadn’t faulted them for any of it. He liked to think that in their shoes, he would have had the strength to say silent…but on the other hand, he also knew that dying was only going to bring pain all the way around.
He’d figured that one out first hand.
And with tears in their eyes and hysterics in their voice, they’d chosen their fiancé. It was the choice he would have told them to pick; it was the reasonable one. But it did not mean that it hurt him less…and certainly that it did not hurt Rion less. If he could do nothing else but keep that kind of pain off of their face for the rest of all of their lives…he would consider his life a success. He felt sick just remembering it.
He nodded. “Yes. …yes, I’ve seen evidence of that.”
“But you’re the more traditional one, yeah? Like Gabe.” DJ pointed toward where his brother was standing. “Not saying that I’m not, cause I am, but I’m a little more bendy than G. Just as greedy sometimes, but more bendy.” He gave his brother a wide half-smile, and Gabriel came back into view.
“And for us, the thought of sharing the one we love is profoundly difficult. More than simply feeling greedy or that we might have some right to something…it feels like if you share them, you are also sharing your own love, which you want to give to no one else.”
Jumin could only nod. “Yes…yes.”
“First, I will tell you what Nix has said to me any time she’s heard anything akin to that leave my mouth. You have no right to anyone’s love, and her love–their love–is for them to decide where it goes. The fact that you came first, and the fact that they love you does not mean that you are entitled to it.”
Jumin frowned. “No, of course not. I have never believed myself to be entitled…” But as Gabriel looked over his glasses at him, his voice faltered. “Fine. I understand that the feeling is irrational.”
“And that’s fine.” Gabriel gave him a small half-smile. “As long as you can acknowledge that, it’s half the battle. I know that feeling, I assure you. And I have hated myself every time I have thought it, and still every once in a while it comes rearing back. Men appear to be inherently selfish.”
“I suppose I could see that.”
“What was always the most difficult thing for me to comprehend–and there are still nights that this torments me–is that love is not a set amount one gets to hand out as necessary. Nix did not start with a handful of ten love stones, and instead of me getting all of them, I received three, and Damian three, and her music one and our children two. It doesn’t work that way. Love is far larger and harder to contain than that.”
“She’s a power strip,” DJ piped up.
Gabriel nodded to him. “It’s not inaccurate. If you put a power strip into a socket, it does not then only give fractions of energy to each object plugged into it–or if it does, it is negligible to the outward perceiver. Each item can function, to its full extent, with the power it is given. The same could be said of Nix. Just because Damian and I are each plugged in, as it were, that does not mean–I hear you snickering, Damian–that she loves one of us more and the other less. It is simply in different fashions.”
Jumin nodded. “Yes…I see the correlation.” It is not that they have chosen, or would choose. It is that they would not choose, and do not know how. It would be placing a block on a flow of energy…and to the power strip, each socket is equally deserving. It certainly made more sense that the waffle analogy DJ had gone for earlier.
“Any other questions? Something we can clear up?”
He tilted his head. “How…does one deal with jealousy? Rion shares a house with Saeyoung, and I live apart from them both. I work with Rion but…that is not remotely the same. My opportunities to see them are limited…and my ability to express my affection choked by lack of opportunity. How is it possible not to feel jealous?”
“It’s not,” Gabriel said simply. “I can completely understand jealousy in that situation. It must be frustrating–particularly when the relationship between you and Saeyoung is not as strong as it might be. If you are hesitant to express affection to them when he is there…yes, I can guess that would be difficult.”
“So what do I do?”
“Take ’em on a date,” DJ offered. “Make a time for the two of you to be together. Go see a movie, invite ’em to dinner at your place. Almost anything that two normal friends would do together can also be a date. Find a movie you’d both like, play it at your place, have dinner, automatic snuggle session. Never fails.”
At Jumin’s expression, Gabriel chuckled. “He’s not wrong. Damian and Nix can curl up in a pile of pillows and blankets and watch slasher films and be completely comfortable, whereas I would not enjoy myself in the slightest. Thus, there have been more than a few nights that Nix and I have gone out for dinner, and taken a walk through the city in the evening. I imagine that would bore Damian.” DJ just nodded. “Find something that can reflect you, and your relationship with them, and share that with them. Because it will be something that you have intrinsic to you, and nothing that anyone else can replicate. Even if it’s just a movie and dinner, it will be a different experience with you than it will with him.”
He nodded. “I…yes, I suppose that does make sense.” It was an odd feeling, but it was beginning to fall into place.
“One last thing,” Gabriel said, and Jumin looked back at the screen. “What we have found is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.” He set his hand on DJ’s shoulder, and DJ put an arm around Gabriel. “This link. The one which doesn’t include Rion. This is the bond that needs to be the strongest, and the one that is most commonly thrown under the bus, as it were.”
“It’s easier to get mad at him than it is them,” DJ added. “So if you can just be pissed off at the other guy, you don’t have to think about him. But that’s going to affect everything else in the chain, and it can make everything else go to shit. So the two of you need to communicate with each other just as much as you talk to Rion. I promise, it’s really that important.”
Jumin nodded. “I understand.” And he did. He’d already begun to see how animosity between himself and Saeyoung could tip the scales out of alignment. Rion would get anxious, and try harder to please both of them, which would in turn make it worse… He couldn’t allow that to keep happening. He needed to ensure that everyone, all three of them, stayed on the same page. And that meant being significantly more comfortable with Saeyoung than he’d been with…almost anyone before.
But if that was what it took, it was worth the effort.
“Thank you, the both of you.” Jumin nodded to the two, and Gabriel nodded back, DJ giving him a thumbs-up. “I appreciate this immensely.”
“We’re always around. Just save the contact info. If we’re online, we’ll totally talk to you.” The blonde gave his typical half-smile. “Anything else we can do right now?”
“No. I think…I have a great deal to think about.”
Gabriel nodded again. “Of course. As my brother said, we are always available. And if we aren’t around, feel free to leave a message or email of some kind. We’ll be sure to get back to you.”
“Cheers,” Gabriel signed off, and the call went dead.
I do indeed have a great deal to think about. …and a great deal of it has nothing to do with the object of my affection.