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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2319301
In which Kai and Jet try (and fail) to distract themselves.
Jet drives without direction, turning off onto other streets whenever he feels like it. Kai stares out the window, and Jet stares out the windshield. Not even the radio is on.

“I swear I didn’t know Nail would be at the gym tonight,” Kai says the words just to fill the silence. “You know that, right?”

“I know,” Jet keeps his eyes on the road.

The silence nags, so Kai asks another stupid question. “Are you mad at me?”

“No.” The word sounds harsher than Jet wants it to. He takes his eyes off of traffic just long enough to glance at his little brother, softening his voice as he repeats. “No. I’m not mad at you. I’m worried.”

“About me?” Kai’s question is rhetorical but he asks it anyway.

“Yes.” Jet doesn’t exactly spit out the word, but Kai doesn’t take this hint to shut up.

“Because of what happened in the meeting with Chalam?”

“Yes.” Jet holds onto the steering wheel so tight the veins on the backs of his hands stand out under his skin.

Kai waits for Jet’s fingers to relax. They don’t. “What did he say?”

They’re off the main streets now, so Jet can pull over and turn to face Kai. Streetlights cast shadows over his tense features, and his voice walks a fine line between tired and patient. “What do you think he said, Kai?”

Kai opens his mouth, then closes it again. He has a pretty good idea of what Chalam said, based on Jet’s reaction. He knew even before Jet went to the meeting. Truthfully, Kai doesn’t really want answers he already knows--he just wants reassurance that he didn’t do anything wrong.

And he hasn’t, not really. He hadn’t intentionally gone looking for Nail, or tried to break the other man’s nose when Nail confronted him, or sought out any other kind of trouble.

Not yet.

His conversation with Rome is still playing on loop in his head. Actually, now that the car is so silent, it’s playing in high definition surround sound, with Rome’s words matching the rhythm of the still humming engine.

“Tell your brother what you’re up to, and I’ll take you off medical leave.”

Tell Jet what you’re up to.

Tell him.

Tell him.

Tell him.

Kai clenches his teeth against that constant echo. Omission is not a lie, so he has no reason to be squirming with guilt.


“Kai,” Jet is still looking for him, waiting for the answer to his question, and now it's not just Rome's words playing across Kai's brain, but Nail's, too.

“Tell your brother what you’re up to.”

“Tell your jackass brother to back the hell off if he likes his anatomy the way it is.”

What if Kai told Jet the partial truth? Would that help both of them, or just make Jet’s jawline clench even tighter?

“Nevermind.” Kai slumps back into his seat. “Forget it. I’m sorry.”

Jet looks at him. “What are you apologizing for?”

What a question.

I’m sorry for making you worry.

I’m sorry for making you angry.

I’m sorry I have to keep lying to you.

Kai bites his lower lip to keep from saying that last thought out loud. Jet’s stranglehold on the steering wheel is echoed by the set of his jaw, and the muscles in his forehead are knotted together. It’s an angry tension that Kai is familiar with, but one that he never thought he’d see in Jet.

Jet is angry because he’s afraid.

And that makes Kai’s insides twist up again.

“I’m sorry you didn’t get to hit anyone tonight.” That isn’t the response Kai planned to make, and Jet chokes on a laugh, looking just as surprised as Kai feels.

“Are you volunteering?”


“No.” Kai hesitates. “But would it make you feel better if I did?”

“No.” This time Jet chuckles, and Kai feels a little bit better. Not much, but a little bit. “Do you want me to take you back to your dorm?”

“Actually,” Kai looks up at his older brother. “I kind of want to go to Nightshade tonight. Do you want to come?”

“You really think that’s the distraction we both need?”

“Maybe.” Kai shrugs. “I know Kit and Zone and Iris were going there to celebrate Manirat Nexus’ sponsorship and Zone’s signing with the racing team, so maybe we should go too.”

It’s a weekend, Christmas is less than two weeks away, and the universities are on holiday break, which means Nightshade's current atmosphere is a stark contrast to the last time Jet was here. Or maybe it’s because this time, he’s less focused on keeping his eyes on a single person, and more aware of the rest of his surroundings.

A heady aroma of citrus, herbal infusions, alcohol, perfume and cologne fills the air, blending with the pulsating beat of the music. Each corner of the club is a different pocket of energy from couples, to clusters of friends, to solitary figures in shadowy corners whose faces are illuminated by the glow of their smartphones.

Jet is not in a solitary figure in a shadowy corner tonight. He’s seated in the Nightshade’s VIP section. LED panels line the walls, casting a warm amber glow over the low slung velvet loungers. The tables are draped in maroon silk tablecloths, matching the cushions on the polished chairs which Jet is pretty sure are crossovers from when the venue was a restaurant.

“This is the most relaxed I’ve seen you in days.” Kit cocks an eyebrow at him over the rim of his glass. “And you haven’t even touched your drink yet.”

“And that’s your third of the night,” Jet matches Kit eyebrow for eyebrow. “Are there strawberries in that?”

“Second,” Kit corrects him. “And yes there are.”

Kit’s addiction to strawberries is something Jet understands even less than his addiction to KitKats. “Isn’t that a mojito?”

“I can put strawberries in my mojito.” Kit doesn’t lower his eyebrow, just raises it higher. “Makes the vodka taste better.”

“You can put strawberries and vodka in a mojito,” Zone speaks up from the other side of the table. “Doesn’t mean you should.”

Kit turns his raised eyebrow in the direction of his little brother. “Says the person who eats Pocky with everything.”

“I’ll have you know this is a Pocky free daiquiri, thank you very much!” Zone raises his glass to illustrate his point. “Who wants Pocky crumbs in their cocktail?”

“You never know unless you try it,” Iris points out.

Zone casts a mock glare at his girlfriend. “Don’t even think about it.”

Next to them, Kai’s posture is just a little bit too deliberately relaxed. Jet knows this because he’s doing the same thing. His little brother has been twitchy all night. Kai had said next to nothing after extending the invitation to Nightshade, and while he’s smiling at the conversation, Jet highly doubts Kai actually heard any of it. Apparently, Jet isn’t the only one who notices, because Zone tries to draw his friend into the conversation.

“You should try strawberries in a Thaijito next time,” Zone glances at Kit, jerking his head in the direction of Kai’s still full glass. “See if basil blends with strawberries the same way mint does. Maybe Kai will even let you try it with his.”

Kai doesn’t say anything, just looks into the contents of his glass. Kit, Iris and Zone exchange glances with Jet, who shrugs.

“Kai,” Zone nudges him. “Did you hear what we said?”

“What?” Kai lifts his head, his eyes snapping back into focus. “I wasn’t listening.”

“We could see that.” Iris studies Kai’s face. “You ok?”

“I’m good,” But Kai is looking at his drink instead of the people around the table. “I just—have things to think about.”

“Such as?” Zone pushes. “Don’t say finals, because those are over so all you have to worry about is your internship.”

Kai’s fingers tighten around his glass, but his face stays carefully neutral. Zone has caught the look that passes between Kit and Jet and nudges his girlfriend.


She turns to him. “Well, what else could it be?”

“It’s…” Kai gnaws on his lower lip. “Complicated.”

“Complicated?” Iris barely stops herself from rolling her eyes. “Why do every one of you Manirats like using that word so much?”

“Hey,” Zone gives his girlfriend a surprised look. “We don’t use it that often, do we?”

Iris nods. “You use it more than you think.”

“My name is Saetangmasawat,” Kai points out. “Not Mainrat.”

Zone jerks his head in Jet’s direction. “You’re Jet’s little brother, which makes you an adopted Manirat.”

“Adoptive,” Iris corrects him.

“That's what I said.”

“The point is,” Kit speaks up before his little brother and his girlfriend can get into a pointless circular argument, and taking care to look at Kai when he speaks. “We consider you and Jet family. So if you have a problem, then let us help you.”

“Ok,” Kai glances around the table, then looks at Jet. “I have to talk to you. Right now.”

He gets up and drags Jet away from the table before his older brother can protest. The other three exchange another look, but stay seated. Jet allows Kai to drag him far enough away that no one else can hear their conversation before he plants his feet, forcing Kai to halt.

“Does this mean you’re going to tell me why you’ve been quiet most of the night?” Jet keeps his voice light as he asks the rhetorical question, but if he thought this would make Kai feel better, he’s wrong. “Kai. Tell me what’s going on. I told you I’m not mad at you, and I know you didn’t seek out Nail on purpose--”

“It’s not that.” Kai isn’t looking at him, and Jet stiffens.

“What is it then?”

“What if…”Kai hesitates, then forces his tongue to form the words. “What if I said I was going back to OmniVentures on Monday?”
Jet’s insides turn to ice as Nail’s words sound again in his head.
“Expose my ‘skeletons’, Jet, and you’ll have your own bodies to bury.”
“Are you serious?” Jet fights to keep his voice steady as Chalam’s warning echoes inside his head.
Kai nods. “I talked to Rome and he’s going to take me off medical leave and I’m going back to OmniVentures on Monday.”
“The hell you are,” Jet’s voice comes from between clenched teeth. “You’re not going anywhere near that damn company.”
“You need an internship to graduate, I know.” Jet continues speaking as though Kai hadn’t said a thing. “So I’ll get you one.”
“At Manirat Nexus?” Kai raises his eyebrows. “That’s a conflict of interest.”
“It’s a better fit.” But Jet isn’t looking at him.
“You mean it’s safe.” Kai retorts.
“That’s not what I said.” Jet’s voice is calm, but the muscles in his jaw are definitely tighter than they were before.
It’s another warning Kai ignores. “What if I said ‘screw you, I’m going back to OmniVentures anyway’?”
“I said no, Kai.” Jet’s words are expected, but they still sting. They’re also spoken loud enough that Kit, Zone and Iris break off their conversation and glance in their direction.
Kai’s jaw clenches. “I need a refill.”
“Your glass is still full.” Jet points out.
“Then I need more ice.” Kai snaps.
“You’re an asshole.” Kai shakes off Jet’s hand, and picks up his still full glass, heading in the direction of the bar before Jet can say anything else. Zone and Iris glance at each other before following Kai.
“Hey,” Zone grabs Kai’s arm as he makes his way across the room. “What the hell was that?”
“I thought you and your brother were getting along,” Iris adds.
“Yeah,” Kai scoffs. “So did I.”
He pulls his arm out of Zone’s grasp and goes over to the bar.
Kit looks over at Jet, raising his favorite eyebrow. “What was that about?”
“Nothing.” Jet picks up his own still full glass, tipping it back as he moves to the opposite side of the room. His mouth tingles on the first swallow, but his tongue savors the caramel taste of the coffee liqueur on the second. By the third, the vodka is sending a relieving warmth through his bloodstream, allowing his muscles to relax for the first time tonight.
Also, the glass is now half empty, which means Jet will need another one soon. Maybe more than one. A shadowy corner is starting to look very appealing right about now.

"17. Extended Family

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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