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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317614
In which Jet tries to mend his relationship with Kai
Beneath a mesmerizing canopy of lanterns, the vibrant night market pulsates with energy. The air is filled with the tantalizing aroma of smoked meat skewers and savory green curry from the food stalls. Vendors showcase souvenirs and jewelry that sparkle under the neon lights. In the lively symphony of laughter and conversation, the market transforms into a feast for the senses, immersing everyone in the rich tapestry of Bangkok's culinary and cultural delights.
Kai glares. Not at anyone or anything in particular, just at the situation in general. Normally he loves this night market, and visits several times a week either alone or with Zone and Iris. But neither of them are here tonight. Instead, the person with him is someone that he’s both loved and hated most of his life.
Jet had been late. Granted, this was partly Kai’s fault because he hadn’t sent Jet the location until he’d actually arrived at the night market. Even after that, Kai had realized that due to the size of this place, Jet would be able to find the market itself, but not Kai. Calling was useless due to the noise of the crowd, so they had texted instead. This turned out to be a lot more trouble than it was worth, since neither of them had each other’s LINE and had to resort to standard text messages instead of the messaging app.
Neither of them have spoken since they met up, wandering through the stalls in what other people would think is companionable silence. Jet doesn’t speak because he’s waiting for Kai to initiate conversation when he’s ready, and Kai doesn’t speak because he’s annoyed. Actually, Kai should be annoyed at himself, but it’s easier to be annoyed at Jet. The good news is that since they’re meeting at a night market, if Kai gets too annoyed with his older brother, all he has to do is melt into the crowd.
But he needs to get some answers first.
Which means that words need to actually come out of his mouth. Except if he does open his mouth and words come out, Jet could leave. And if Jet leaves, he might ont come back. Kai isn’t sure if he’s happy about that or not. He’s been less and less sure since Zone printed off the Google results this morning.
Zone hadn’t stopped digging through the internet for results on Jet even after they had gone back to campus. Between classes that afternoon, Zone had gone beyond Google and sent Kai links to both ManiratInfinateDrift and Jet’s personal social media accounts. Whether it’s a photo of a company event on his professional profile or a casual selfie on his personal one, Jet is smiling in every picture. Also, according to video clips on his personal IG, Jet speaks Italian in addition to Thai and English.
Zone had been watching the clips over Kai’s shoulder. Instead of expressing surprise, he had casually mentioned that Jet had spent a lot of time in Italy with all three Manirat brothers over the summer, but had no idea that Kai and Jet were related. Zone had even pulled up his own Instagram and showed Kai a clip of the four of them speaking fluent Italian.
Kai’s best friend knew his brother better than he did.
That revelation made Kai’s stomach feel like lead.
“Want one?” Jet’s voice pulls Kai back to the present, raised slightly over the clamoring of the crowd. When Kai says nothing, Jet grabs his younger brother by the elbow, and steers him to a couple of tables near the food stalls. “Let’s sit.”
Kai doesn’t say anything, just lets Jet steer him, dropping the folder he’s been carrying around all day on the table in front of him, next to the paper plate that Jet sets down. He’s angry and confused and annoyed and can't figure out how to vocalize that snarl of emotions.
If Jet came back to Thailand for legitimate business, then why had he disappeared this morning? On the other hand, if he’d been in Thailand all this time, why did he never reach out to Kai? If he was friends with Kai’s best friend, had Jet ever mentioned that he had a younger brother, even in passing? Had he been deliberately looking for Kai last night, or was it just a coincidence? And if Jet had been deliberately looking for Kai, why the hell had it taken him so damn long? Why disappear for ten long years and reappear now?
Most importantly, how the hell is Kai supposed to condense all those questions into one? And once he did, would Jet even answer them? Would they even be answers Kai wanted to hear?
Or maybe it was just easier to stay angry and get this “meeting” over with, so that Jet could go do whatever it was he needed to do and Kai should just let him disappear again.
“Kai,” Jet sounds like he has been repeating Kai’s name and is losing patience.
Kai blinks, forcing his brain to shut up so he can focus. “What?”
“I said, will you consider this a peace offering?” Jet taps the paper plate on the table in front of them, but Kai keeps his focus on Jet’s face.
“Peace offering?” Kai makes an effort to keep his face and voice equally neutral. “Are we fighting?”
“You tell me.” Jet slides the plate a little closer. “You want one or not?”
Kai stares blank-eyed at Jet’s peace offering. “Satay?”
“You used to like it,” Jet doesn't look the least offended by Kai’s tone. “If you aren’t going to eat it, then I will.”
Kai takes the pork laden skewer, looking very much like he would prefer to shove it somewhere other than his mouth. The aromatic combination of ginger and turmeric fills Kai’s nostrils, and his mouth waters in spite of himself. He takes a bite, chewing as long as possible both to savor the flavor of the meat, and figure out what the hell he’s going to say. Jet’s lips curve up just the tiniest bit, and he takes one of the skewers and bites into it, too. They’re silent for a minute, each seemingly absorbed in enjoying the food, but Jet’s body is as tense as Kai feels.
“I told you that you could ask me anything you like,” Jet finally breaks the silence. “But you haven’t said a word.”
“You’ve been back in Bangkok for a while, and you work for a car restoration company,” It’s not the question that Kai wants to ask, but once the words are out, he can’t exactly take them back.
Jet smiles at him. “Did you Google me, or something?”
“You’re the COO for ManiratInfinateDrift.” Kai elaborates. “Zone told me.”
If Jet noticed the little white lie in Kai’s answer, he doesn’t show it. “His older brother hired me after we graduated. I don’t do the actual restoration, but Kit and I find and sell the cars.”
“Zone also says you speak Italian,” Kai is fully aware that this is another trite statement, but can’t think of anything else.
Jet nods. “If I’m going to buy and sell cars to international clients, it helps if I can speak the language. Kit said that you left as soon as you woke up this morning. Why didn’t you wait for me?”
“I had class.” Kai feels the tiniest twinge of guilt at the realization that Jet might have really been worried about him, but he squashes it. There’s one more skewer left on the plate, so Kai takes that rather than look at Jet. If there’s pork in his mouth, he doesn't have to talk.
“What are you studying?” Jet sounds genuinely interested--like an older brother is supposed to sound.
“Communication Arts.” The answer is automatic--something Kai would say to anyone who asked the question. He takes his time finishing the satay, still not looking at his older brother. “I graduate this year.”
“Like Mali?” Jet thinks he knows the answer to the question, but will say anything to keep his little brother talking to him.
“Mali’s fifth year,” Kai corrects him. “And she’s in Media Arts. That’s different. She also works for her boyfriend’s company.”
“OmniVentures,” A funny little twitch crosses Jet's face when he says the name. “That’s also where you’re interning, right?”
“Yeah,” Civil conversation is all well and good, but that’s not why Kai’s here. Answers. He wants answers. But to get answers, he has to ask questions, not make statements. “What do you want from me, Jet?”
The words came out a little sharper than Kai wanted them to, and he can see that in the look on Jet’s face. His older brother leans forward a little bit. “I missed you.”
It’s only three little words, but they hit Kai harder than he wants them to. His eyes sting and he’s pretty sure it’s not from the turmeric on the satay. Of all the words to come out of Jet’s mouth, these were definitely not ones he’d expected. He really has no idea what to say.
“I don’t blame you for being angry,” Jet’s voice is quiet enough to make Kai look up. “You have every right to be. I know I can’t change the past, but I want to build something better.”
Kai’s body stiffens. “Build what? A relationship?”
“Rebuild what we had,” Jet clarifies.
“What we had?” Kai scoffs. “You disappeared--”
“I didn’t have a choice.” It’s the wrong thing to say and Jet knows it before the words even finish coming out of his mouth. “I want you to know I never forgot about you. It was just-- complicated.”
In Kai’s experience, “complicated” is a word people used when they needed to prevent others from asking questions. Well, Kai has questions, and he’ll ask them whether Jet likes it or not. “Complicated enough that we had no contact at all for the past ten years?”
Ten years of no calls, no email, not even a sticker from LINE. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The logical part of Kai’s brain is whispering that when Jet had left Kai didn't even have a phone, so of course there would have been no calls, and no LINE. But that was beside the point. Kai wants to be angry, not logical.
“You could have reached out, too, Kai,” Jet’s jaw clenches, but his voice stays steady. “It works both ways.”
It doesn’t help Kai’s mood that Jet is absolutely correct, but this is not how the conversation is supposed to be going. None of this situation ever has been or ever will be Kai’s fault. None of it. Kai is the one who got left; he is the one who got hurt, and ignored, and forgotten. If anyone should apologize for how things turned out, it’s Jet, right?
Kai’s knuckles go white as his face as he grips the edges of the table.” Did you even ask if Mali and I could come with you? Or were you so busy celebrating with your new family that you forgot about the old one?”
Now Jet’s stiffens. “You know that’s not how it happened.”
“Don’t I? You can’t just expect to show up out of nowhere and be the heroic big brother and make everything ok. Oh wait,” Kai shoves the folder across the table at Jet. “You didn't just show up. Like I said, you’ve been in Bangkok for a while.”
“You did Google me,” Jet’s face is completely expressionless.
“How the hell else was I supposed to know what you were up to?” Kai realizes he’s almost shouting and lowers his voice with an effort, dopping his gaze to the now empty plate. “I didn’t even get a LINE sticker from you.”
Jet’s voice is quiet. “How was I supposed to know what your LINE ID was?”
“You could have looked it up.” Nevermind that Kai could have done the same thing, and hadn’t. That was not the point, nor was it the answer that Kai wanted. But Jet’s not even letting Kai ask the right questions.
“I’m sorry I didn’t.” There’s sincerity in Jet’s eyes. “That’s the first thing I really want to tell you Kai--I’m sorry.”
For just a minute, Kai remembers the three of them--him, Jet and Mali--being hugged by the nuns when they’d arrived at the orphanage days after their parents’ accident. Kai and Jet had slept in the boy’s dormitory, and Mali with the girls, but they had seen each other every single day. Sometimes Mali had sneaked into the boys’ dormitory to sleep in either Kai or Jet’s bed, and neither of them had chased their little sister away, leaving that task to the nuns. Kai and Jet had even pushed their beds together every night, so neither would feel alone while they slept.
They had been inseparable as always, eating together, talking together, being scolded by the nuns together. Walking to and from school and sometimes racing to see who would reach the school or the gates of the orphanage first.
And then that day when Jet was really quiet. When he got taken to see the Mother Superior, Mali and Kai were so sure that Jet had done something wrong. Kai had nearly worn a hole in the carpet of the dormitory waiting for his brother.
Jet’s face when he had come back to the dormitory was stoic, and he brushed Kai off when asked what was wrong. He had stayed at the orphanage, still not answering Kai’s questions, while Mali and Kai had been ushered off to school, and he’d hugged both Kai and Mali so tight before they left. Kai had remembered a forgotten assignment halfway there and told Mali to get to school and he’d meet her there.
A black car with tinted windows had been parked outside. A well dressed couple were standing next to it. Jet came out of the orphanage with the Mother Superior, backpack on his shoulders and dragging a suitcase. Kai’s mouth had dried out and he had tried to run, to stop his brother from getting into that car with those people. But traffic had halted him, and he could only stand across the street, watching as Jet drove away.
Mali had found out Jet was gone after school. Kai didn’t want to be the one to tell her--he let the nuns do it. She’d cried herself to sleep in Kai’s dormitory that night, and after that, they would take turns sneaking into each other’s beds after lights out, caring even less if the nuns caught them.
Mali had cried.
Kai didn’t.
Angry people don’t cry.
That was what he told himself, over and over until his eyes stopped burning and the hole in his chest stopped aching and he could push every thought and memory of Jet into the back of his head and keep it there for the rest of his life.
Except now Jet was in front of him, offering an apology that Kai doesn’t want to hear.
“You don’t get a relationship with me just by asking for it.” Kai’s voice is shaking. “You lost that chance a long time ago.”
Jet looks him right in the eye. “What if I’m willing to earn it back?”
Screw this.
“No,” Kai is on his feet. “I don’t want an older brother, asshole. I don’t need one. I can take care of myself, so stay the hell away from me.”
He walks away, leaving Jet staring silently after him.

"9. Family Dinner

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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