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falling for u

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“Morning, Gyu.”

 

Jeonghan gave a little wave to the younger, who stood behind the cafe counter with his apron and on. Jeonghan guessed Mingyu had been waiting for him to come, but they had just gotten off of fall break - his brain was still in vacation mode, it wasn’t his fault that he was late. Mingyu was a freshman, he was still a goody-two-shoes fresh out of high school, he took his cafe job a little too seriously sometimes.

 

Jeonghan tested him a little further by climbing over the counter after throwing his backpack over it first. He considered throwing it at Mingyu for him to catch, but the last time he did that, he nearly knocked the kid over.

 

Mingyu pouted as he watched Jeonghan climb over the counter without a problem, and Jeonghan giggled. He didn’t like it when he did that, because Seungcheol - their ‘boss’ - had repeatedly told them that it was unprofessional and whatnot. Jeonghan didn’t care much. He was almost positive Seungcheol was in love with him anyway, so he wouldn’t actually punish him for something like that. For sure.

 

“Good morning, hyung,” Mingyu said with a sigh, bending over to pick up Jeonghan’s backpack before handing it back too him. “I guess your break was good since you’re late?”

 

“I would’ve been late if it was bad, too,” Jeonghan replied, taking the backpack from Mingyu’s hand and tossing it under the counter - where he usually put it, even though Mingyu wasn't very fond of that either. Mingyu pouted. “How was yours?” Jeonghan asked him, and the latter’s pout disappeared, his eyes sort of surprised.

 

Mingyu parted his lips to say something, but he only brushed it off as he shrugged, his eyes dropping down to the floor.

 

Seungcheol wandered in just as Jeonghan wanted to question him further, and if Seungcheol didn’t look angry, he would have continued with his question.

 

“Where the hell is Joshua? We open in ten minutes.” Seungcheol asked, specifically glaring at Jeonghan.

 

At first, Jeonghan was taken aback. He hadn’t even noticed that Joshua wasn’t there. In fact, this was most likely the first time all semester that Jeonghan had arrived to work in the school cafe without Joshua being there before him, or arriving at the same time that he did. His eyes scanned the area, double checking.

 

“I don’t know. He didn’t text me.” Jeonghan said with a little shrug. Strange, he thought. Joshua was never late to anything, and if he was, he would have texted Jeonghan, at least. That only happened once, when Joshua was sick and couldn’t come in. “I’ll call him.”

 

“Tell him to hurry up,” Seungcheol grumbled before disappearing into the back again. He sounded stressed, frustrated. He guessed that Seungcheol probably didn’t have a very good break, and it must not be very nice to come back to his work with one of his three staff members late. He didn’t blame him for sounding mad.

 

 img1

 

Jeonghan sent off the message before tucking his phone back in his pocket and getting to work - helping Mingyu to display the pastries he’d baked for that morning, trying not to worry too much about Joshua. He was an adult too. He was probably fine, maybe just stuck in traffic - he lived off campus, after all. That’s probably all it was.

 

“Are you gonna tell me how your break was?” Jeonghan asked the taller boy, following him back into the kitchen to help him grab the last few sheets of cupcakes.

 

Jeonghan saw the look of discomfort on Mingyu’s features when he heard his question, and Jeonghan pouted, a little worried. Mingyu was a cheerful and level-headed kid, not much ever seemed to bother him - so seeing him avoid such a simple question was a little unnerving.

 

“It was just - standard, I guess. I studied, mostly.” Mingyu pushed out a very obvious lie, to which Jeonghan only hummed in response. He understood if Mingyu didn’t want to talk about what was bothering him so much, but that didn’t make Jeonghan worry any less. But for now, he would leave it be.

 

Jeonghan felt his phone buzz in his back pocket, and he fished it out pretty quickly to get a glance at the message he’d just received. He felt a little relieved when he saw that Joshua had finally responded to him.

 

 img2


That was good. That meant that Joshua was parked outside of the Literature building, where their cafe sat on the first floor, so it wouldn’t take him too long to get inside. Joshua usually came in through the back, though, the opposite from what Jeonghan would normally do.

 

Seungcheol wandered past the two of them, probably not thrilled to see Jeonghan on his phone while Mingyu was diligently setting up the cupcakes alongside the rest of the pastries. “Joshua’s on his way in the building, he was stuck in traffic. Lots of accidents this morning.” Jeonghan lied, to which Seungcheol grumbled “sure there were” under his breath. Kind of rude, Jeonghan thought, Joshua was never late so it was highly unlikely he was doing this on purpose.

 

Jeonghan heard the back door open just as Seungcheol unlocked the door and turned on the front lights to indicate they were open. They already had a few students lined up outside, either to use the cafe room to study before class, talk, or get some breakfast.

 

Jeonghan smiled when he turned around to face the back door, but Joshua didn’t even have time to look at him, it seemed. He looked like he was struggling with the things he was holding - his messenger bag almost slipping on his shoulder, his store keys in his mouth and a binder, notebook and a textbook in his arms, all nearly slipping out of his arms when he closed the back door behind him.

 

Jeonghan got to him just before the school materials slipped out of his arms - he took them from him and grabbed hold on the strap from his bag before it could escape Joshua’s shoulder. Joshua stared at him with widest eyes for a moment, looking a little stupid with a lanyard (holding his keys, and a taser) in his mouth, but it was a cute kind of stupid, so Jeonghan didn’t mind.

 

“You know this stuff is supposed to go in your bag, right?” Jeonghan asked with a little chuckle, motioning for him to open the messenger bag so he could stick his things inside. “And your bag is a crossbody for a reason. So it doesn’t fall off your shoulder.”

 

“I was in a rush.” Joshua puffed, sounded a little stressed, frazzled when he opened his bag. He attempted to take the materials from Jeonghan to put them in himself. Jeonghan shook his head, simply sliding them into Joshua’s bag before he could even argue.

 

“I’ll put your stuff away, go put on your apron before Seungcheol can complain,” Jeonghan advised, taking his bag and pointing Joshua in the direction of the counter - of course, pulling on his lanyard to take the keys out of his mouth before he wandered off. Joshua opened his jaw and scurried off.

 

Jeonghan brought Joshua’s bag to the back, stuffing his keys inside before safely tucking it in a locker. The lockers didn’t have locks, but Joshua always insisted on having his bags in there anyway. Jeonghan supposed it was to insinuate that he didn’t want people touching his things.

 

They didn’t have much time to chatter after the cafe opened. There was a long time of students waiting for their morning coffee, some for breakfast, and some just for a cupcake, which needed to be moved along quickly so everyone could get to class on time.

 

Jeonghan took note of Joshua’s weird behavior, working on the counter beside him. He was a little spacey - asking customers to repeat themselves, giving the wrong amount of change and even giving the wrong items a few times, something that Seungcheol was not very happy about. He clearly had something else on his mind - most likely the same thing that made him late that morning.

 

Thankfully, though, he seemed to pull himself together a bit more as the day went on.

 

They were given a short break at nine thirty, just like every day - no classes on campus started at nine thirty, so it was a good chance for them to get everything situated again before the next rush of morning-class students arrived.

 

“Is everything okay, hyung? You never really mess up orders.” Mingyu beat Jeonghan to it, something he was secretly glad about - if Jeonghan has asked him himself, Joshua might have brushed him off.

 

“Me? Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” Joshua said passively, helping Mingyu prepare another batch of cupcakes. Jeonghan watched their exchange, sitting on the kitchen counter.

 

“Hyung,” Mingyu said again, sighing, taking Joshua’s wrist before he would have placed his bare hand on the very hot oven. Joshua looked a little embarrassed, wandering away for a moment to grab oven mitts.

 

“I’m fine, really. Just a little preoccupied with school stuff. I didn’t get a lot done on the weekend, and apparently, there’s a presentation at the end of the week that I didn’t know about.” Joshua sighed a little shakily, Jeonghan could hear the stress building in his voice. He knew what presentation he was talking about, too. That was the one class they had together. Jeonghan didn’t care about school as much, so he wasn’t too worried about it, but he knew Joshua thought differently. “And then finals coming up. It’s just a lot.”

 

“Oh, yeah. I get that.” Mingyu looked a little sad, and Jeonghan felt the same way. Neither of them liked seeing him so stressed. “I’m sorry, hyung. If you need any help with stuff, I can try my best to help you.”

 

“I appreciate that Mingyu, thank you.” Joshua passed him a little smile just after he closed the oven, pulling the mitts off and placing them on the countertop. “How was your first fall break as a college student? Go to any parties?” Joshua asked, more joking than serious. Mingyu wasn’t really a party person. “Lose your virginity?”

 

Jeonghan snorted when Joshua suddenly asked that, and Mingyu turned about as red as the red velvet cupcake batter currently baking in the oven, and Joshua laughed so hard that it sounded like it hurt. It was good to see him smile like that, even if it was from a stupid joke on an unsuspecting freshman.

 

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Joshua claimed after he was done laughing, and Mingyu looked about ready to crawl into a hole. “Seriously, though. How was your break?”

 

Mingyu took a few seconds to recover from Joshua’s cruel attack on his little freshman brain, but he answered. “It was...okay. I don’t know.”

 

Jeonghan’s smile faded, remembering how dodgy Mingyu had been about the questions earlier. “You can tell us if something’s up, Mingyu. You’re not really good at hiding it.” Jeonghan told him with a frown, and Joshua’s expression was the same. He even looked a little guilty for making the virgin joke.

 

“I, uh...I did go to a party.” Mingyu said almost automatically, but he looked a little nervous about it.

 

“And?” Joshua asked, a brow raised.

 

“This, um...this girl, that I like. She...she’s in my painting intro class. She was there, and, I got to talk to her. We were outside and we talked for, like, hours.” Mingyu sounded uncomfortable talking about it, but there was a sort of faraway look in his eyes that Jeonghan had never seen before. Like he was reliving the moment he was sharing with them. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”

 

“That’s a good thing, though, isn’t it?” Joshua asked, passing him a little half smile. Joshua looked happy to hear that - it sounded cute. Jeonghan didn’t quite get what made Mingyu so uncomfortable about it.

 

“I think so. But, I just...I don’t know if she’d ever like me back.” Mingyu murmured, his voice getting softer as his sentence went on. That far-away look Jeonghan had noticed before had suddenly disappeared.

 

“Why not? You’re a great guy, Mingyu.” Joshua tried to reassure him, but Mingyu shook his head. Joshua looked offended, almost ready for a compliment attack, but Mingyu seemed to be shaking his head for a different reason.

 

“It’s just complicated, hyung.” He said, his voice so small it was almost hard to believe the guy was six two.

 

Jeonghan’s frown deepened. “How complicated can it be?”

 

“Well...she’s an exchange student, kind of. From China. So she’s leaving after this semester.” Mingyu said, and Jeonghan could feel the sadness in his voice. He remembered that feeling - in their freshman year, Joshua was an exchange student from America, originally. But he ended up transferring and staying at the school - something Jeonghan couldn’t possibly be more glad about. “Like...I don’t even know her name, hyung. There’s just a lot of things.”

 

Joshua looked like he wasn’t sure what to say, and neither was Jeonghan. That was a tough situation, for sure, and he wasn’t sure how he could help Mingyu with it. He wanted to.

 

“But, um, yeah. It’s okay. It just...I was just thinking about it a lot, so my break wasn’t really great. Cause of it.” Mingyu murmured, his speech a little quicker as if he wanted to get it over with and finish talking about it. Move on to something else.

 

“That sucks, Mingyu. I’m sorry.” Joshua told him, and Jeonghan nodded. Mingyu shrugged, mumbling a little “it’s okay” almost under his breath before he silently continued on with his work.

 

Their break went by quickly as always, and they were busy again for the next hour or so, taking customer orders and cleaning off tables in the cafe lounge in between. Jeonghan took notice of how Mingyu’s mood seemed to drop a bit, clearly overthinking things. Jeonghan and Joshua tried to pass him little smiles, but Mingyu remained in the same state.

 

The customers died down eventually leaving just a few students hanging out in the lounge to eat, or study. Joshua was in the back with Mingyu, helping with cleaning up the kitchen, and Jeonghan was doodling on receipt paper at the register.

 

Jeonghan took notice of someone that walked in but didn’t come to the counter right away. He was looking around the area - the lounge, the people sitting, and the menu that hung above Jeonghan’s head. He looked like he wasn’t sure if he was in the right place.

 

He was a fairly attractive guy, Jeonghan would say, but definitely a freshman. The kid kind of looked like a kpop idol, wearing an oversized, expensive looking sweater and jeans over his far too skinny legs - glasses resting on the tip of his nose with a little bit of makeup on his eyes, too. He guessed the kpop thing wasn’t impossible, Jeonghan knew a few trainees that went to the school, too. But that wasn’t the point.

 

He was at the counter before Jeonghan knew it, and Jeonghan stopped his staring and offered his usual greeting to customers.

 

“Hey, sorry, I’m not ordering anything.” The latter said apologetically, briefly pushing his hair back as if it were something out of a habit. Mingyu did that too when he wasn’t wearing a hairnet for work. “Mingyu works here, doesn’t he? Kim is this last name, I think.”

 

The kid had an accent, but not the American kind of accent that Joshua had. If Jeonghan had to guess, he would say Chinese, but he wasn’t sure.

 

“He does.” Jeonghan raised a brow, straightening his back out a bit. Why did this feel a little suspicious? “Do you know him?”

 

“I was at a party with him, the other day. I don’t think I gave him my number, or even my name, so I just wanted to give that to him. Is he here?” The younger asked.

 

He was Chinese. He was at a party with Mingyu the other day. And Mingyu didn’t know his name or number. This was the person Mingyu was talking about, it had to be - but Jeonghan was pretty positive that this person was a boy.

 

“He’s...uh, I think he’s in the back. Can you hold on just a second?” Jeonghan tried to ask politely, but his brain was flooded with confusion, unsure what he should do or say. There was no way that this was a coincidence, and he was positive Mingyu had said she every single time - but maybe it was, just a really weird coincidence.

 

“Yeah, of course. Tell him I’m in his art intro class, in case he forgot about the party.” The latter said.

 

Okay, no. That was definitely not a coincidence.

 

Jeonghan politely excused himself from the counter after making sure no one else was in line or waiting for their orders, before disappearing into the back, finding Joshua and Mingyu busy cleaning the kitchen.

 

“Mingyu, there’s, a, uh. A person, here. The one from your party. In the art class.” Jeonghan told him, and before he even finished his sentence, all the color drained from Mingyu’s face. It looked like he had just seen a ghost or something, and Jeonghan was starting to realize why he was lying. But he pushed the thought back.

 

Joshua looked happy for a moment, not really taking a hint with Jeonghan’s tone of voice. His smile faded when he finally looked over at Mingyu and his reaction. Now he just looked incredibly confused, like he had missed something.

 

“I…” Mingyu croaked out, but Jeonghan dismissed him, heading back up to the front, to make sure he wasn’t keeping the guy waiting. He swallowed the lump in his throat. Was this Jeonghan’s fault? Had he forcibly outed Mingyu, just now?

 

“Is he here?” The guy asked, sounding a little hopeful.

 

“You can write it down, I’ll give it to him,” Jeonghan said, taking a piece of the receipt paper he had been doodling on, and turning it over with a pen to hand to the Chinese boy. “He’s not here, right now. Not sure where he went.”

 

“Oh,” he said, disappointment clear in his tone, but he did what Jeonghan suggested anyway.


And just like that, he said thank you and left, and Jeonghan was standing there, holding a piece of paper with the name and number of Mingyu’s boy crush on it.

 

Xu Minghao

(xxx)-xxx-xxxx

from the party

 

Jeonghan was a little too scared to walk back into the kitchen with the note, worried he’d have to face what he had just unpacked himself. He waited a few moments, until the boy - Minghao - was completely out of sight, and then, Jeonghan started his walk of shame back to the kitchen door.

 

His eyes met with the eyes of Mingyu’s in the window of the kitchen door, but when Mingyu noticed, he disappeared out of the window frame- and Jeonghan took that opportunity to walk inside.

 

Jeonghan always thought that Mingyu resembled a puppy, but right now, he did more than ever. He looked like a hurt puppy, a puppy left on the streets, kicked multiple times for absolutely no reason. He looked like he had been beaten to tears. Jeonghan’s heart felt heavy.

 

“That was the person you were talking about? From the party?” Joshua stared at Mingyu, then Jeonghan, wandering over to the kitchen window to see if he would see Minghao again. “But-”

 

“That is a boy, right?” Jeonghan clarified, just to be sure. Just to be clear, make sure there was no miscommunication in this situation.

 

Mingyu looked about ready to cry. He nodded. “Y...yeah,” he mumbled quietly, starting to rub at his eyes, looking like he had so many emotions and feelings about the situation behind a dam that was almost ready to burst. “Yeah. I’m sorry, I know it’s - I thought you guys would hate me, and I just, I don’t - ”

 

“No, no, Mingyu. We don’t hate you. I promise we could never hate you.” Jeonghan told him, taking a few steps closer, a little tempted to hug him, but Mingyu took a step back, hiding his face in his hands.

 

Joshua’s eyes were on the floor for a moment, before they looked up at Mingyu, then Jeonghan. And then Mingyu again. “So, you...you’re, uh. Gay?”

 

Something about that word made Mingyu flinch so visibly that it almost looked like he had hurt himself. Jeonghan’s heart had already shattered into a hundred pieces knowing he had just outed Mingyu for no reason, knowing Mingyu lied to them because he thought they would hate him - but it was all so much worse, seeing that he couldn’t even hear the word himself.

“You don’t have to answer, Gyu.” Jeonghan offered, a little off-put that Joshua would flat out ask him that, even when it was clear that Mingyu wasn’t at all comfortable with this situation. Mingyu, however, nodded in Joshua’s direction after Jeonghan had said his statement - like he was trying to prove something. Or stop hiding.

 

The three of them stood in silence for a few moments, which Jeonghan hated - but he genuinely didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how to approach it - should he be caring, or nonchalant? Should he offer help? He never expected this from Mingyu, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t accepting of it. Of course he was. It just had all kind of sprung up out of nowhere - Jeonghan hadn’t thought of how he would respond to something like this.

 

He wondered what Joshua was thinking. He was staring at the ground as if he would rather be thinking about that.

 

The kitchen door swung open, this time, revealing a very angry looking Seungcheol.

 

“You guys are kidding, right? We have customers waiting. You’re not on break. Do your damn job.” Seungcheol snarled at all three of them, very clearly not taking any hints of the room’s current atmosphere.

 

Mingyu was the first one to duck his head and run past him to get to the counter, even though Mingyu’s job was primarily in the kitchen - Jeonghan guessed he would just much rather be doing anything other than talking about the current situation.

 

“And I need to talk to you about this morning,” Seungcheol said, pointing at Joshua, who finally lifted his head. Seungcheol wasn’t usually mean about that kind of thing, especially in cases where they were only a few minutes late, but it was clear that he wasn’t having a good day to begin with, and he was ready to take some of it out on Joshua.

 

Jeonghan wanted to stay, just in case he needed to argue - but Seungcheol waved him off, and after a few moments, Jeonghan found himself standing at the register, on the opposite side of where Mingyu was.

 

When they were both at the coffee machine, Jeonghan murmured a little “you okay?” to the younger, and Mingyu gave a small nod, but that was all. It was better than nothing, Jeonghan supposed.

 


 

At twelve thirty, their shift ended, and the cafe was closed for the day.

 

Jeonghan managed to throw in some small talk with Mingyu in between, to help him get his mind off of the situation a little more. He noticed how the younger would pull the note out of his pocket every once in a while, and the corner of his mouth would twitch up. It was slight, but it was something. This guy seemed to make Mingyu happy.

 

Jeonghan didn’t see much of Joshua after Seungcheol intervened. He was busy cleaning up the kitchen, doing things in the back, but never really coming out to the front to do anything, which was a little worrying. He hoped that Seungcheol hadn’t been too rough. He doubted Seungcheol did anything more than give him a verbal warning.

 

Jeonghan really hoped it wasn’t because of what they had found out about Mingyu. He refused to believe that, so he pushed the thought into the back of his mind.

 

“Okay, we’re closed for today. Good work, the first-day-back rush usually sucks.” Seungcheol told them, his tone a little nicer, now.

 

He disappeared into the tiny office next to the kitchen, leaving the rest of them to do the rest of the cleaning, so they could eventually leave.

 

He split up the work with Mingyu, letting the latter clean up the tables and chairs in the lounge while Jeonghan cleaned up the counter and threw out the few remaining pastries left over. It didn’t take very long, and afterward, Jeonghan wandered into the kitchen, looking for Joshua.

 

But he wasn’t there.

 

Jeonghan went into the very back to check his locker, only to find that Joshua’s bag was gone, too, meaning that Joshua had already left. That was a bit strange, considering Joshua would never leave without saying anything - and he would usually leave with Jeonghan, anyway. It was worrying, for sure.

 

“Do you know where Shua went? Or when he left?” Jeonghan asked Mingyu from over the counter, and Mingyu shrugged, continuing on with his work.

 

Seungcheol was emerging out of the office with his bag when Jeonghan walked back there, and he asked Seungcheol the same thing. “Oh, he left about an hour early today. Said he wasn’t feeling well.” Seungcheol explained.

 

Jeonghan’s stomach dropped a bit when he heard that, because Joshua had never mentioned that to either of them - he didn’t say bye, or even text Jeonghan afterward - which was just weird. That was never how he went about doing things. “Oh, okay...thanks for telling me. Have a good night.” Jeonghan told him as Seungcheol left, leaving the two of them to close officially by themselves.

 

He supposed it make sense. Joshua had never actually given Jeonghan his real reason for being late that morning, and maybe he really just wasn’t feeling great. Maybe that was why he was being dodgy after what had happened with Mingyu. Regardless, it was bad timing.

 

 img3


The last message was more of a joke, but he really was worried.

 

He waited a few more minutes for a reply, but when he didn’t get one, he figured he should head back to his dorm, and start doing his homework for his two classes that evening, last minute. Joshua would respond eventually, and even if he didn’t, Jeonghan could talk to him at their six o’clock class, if Joshua was gonna show up.

 

Jeonghan gave Mingyu a ride back to his next class, even though the latter could have taken the campus bus back like he usually did. He figured it was the least he could do for all of the earlier commotions - but Mingyu seemed a little less bothered by it by now.

 

“Are you gonna text him?” Jeonghan asked, passing him a little smile when he noticed Mingyu fiddling with the little piece of paper in the passenger seat. He saw Mingyu’s face redden a little.

 

“Maybe. I don’t really know what to say.” Mingyu murmured, folding it up for the hundredth time, and stuffing it back in his pocket.

 

“You’ll figure it out. Just be casual, don’t make it weird.” Jeonghan joked, and got a little chuckle out of Mingyu. “And I'd you need any help, or advice, let me or Joshua know. Okay? Both of us are here for you.” Maybe it was wrong of him to speak in Joshua's place, but saying it wouldn't hurt.

 

“Thank you, hyung.” Mingyu murmured quietly. “Really.”

 

Mingyu said his “goodbye” and “see you tomorrow” when he stepped out of Jeonghan's car, thanking him for the ride as well before he started to head off to the building his class was in. Jeonghan waited until Mingyu got inside of the building before driving away - which he realized was a little motherly, yes, but he just wanted to make sure he got inside safely. That was all.

 

Jeonghan headed back to his dorm. He was still worrying about Joshua, as the latter hadn't texted him back, or even opened the message. Jeonghan considered calling him but decided not to, in case he was resting or studying. But it didn't make him worry any less.

 

The hours went by, and still nothing from Joshua. Jeonghan was having a hard time doing his last minute homework because of how worried he was. Joshua never did this, it was all weird. It didn't make sense, Jeonghan couldn't put the pieces together. He was even thinking about heading over to his dorm, but there was no guarantee that Joshua was there. He could have been meeting up with someone, or studying in one of the several buildings in the school.

 

Jeonghan had two classes that evening, his second one being the one he shared with Joshua, an environmental class. Jeonghan decided he was going to wait at the door for him, that way he could ask him what was going on before they got into the classroom - but as the minutes went by, and it got closer to six, he realized that Joshua probably wasn't going to show up.

 

Jeonghan followed the last student inside to get into class, without Joshua being there.

 

 img4


Jeonghan pulled out his notebook just as the professor - Mr. Kim Namjoon - walked inside, keeping his phone face up on his desk in case Joshua would text him back - but if he hadn’t, he probably wasn’t going to any time soon.

 

He wondered if driving to Joshua’s apartment afterward may be a good idea - at this point, that was really the only place he could be if he wasn’t in class. It made the most sense, but at the same time, he wondered if Joshua was with someone else.

 

The back door on the left opened just before their professor planned to open his mouth and start speaking, and Jeonghan’s head zipped around to look - and it was Joshua. He was here.

 

“You know I don’t allow anyone in class after the door is closed, Joshua.” Mr. Kim said. His tone wasn’t condescending, more of a simple reminder, rather.

 

Joshua looked ready to bolt to a seat before the professor noticed, but he stayed at the door, head ducked when he was called out. He had his bag halfway on his shoulder again, and a pile of school work in his arms, just like that morning. He was disheveled, rushed. Just like that morning. Jeonghan frowned. “I - I know. I can leave - ”

 

“That’s alright. I’ll give you a pass, first day back.” The professor said casually, and Joshua made his best attempt to dodge the various stares before making it to a seat in the back, nearly dropping his things on the way.

 

Jeonghan managed to make eye contact with him as Mr. Kim was getting situated - thankfully, Joshua wasn’t too far back, but Jeonghan was still a few rows ahead of him. He picked up his phone, pointed at it and made a pouty face, and at first, Joshua didn’t seem to get it. After Jeonghan made a little texting motion, Joshua’s eyes widened, ducking down to dig around in his bag.

 

Jeonghan turned around, his eyes on the professor as he started speaking behind his podium. His eyes floated over to his phone as it lit up, showing a new text from Joshua.

 

 img5


A little sigh of relief escaped him.

 

“Joshua Hong, have you forgotten all of the rules over break?” Mr. Kim asked with a disappointed sigh, and at first, Jeonghan wondered what the man was talking about. Joshua was texting Jeonghan, which meant his phone was out, which wasn’t allowed in this class.

 

“Sorry, sir. I was asking him when the presentations were.” Jeonghan called out, tucking his phone back into his pocket as the professor looked over. He didn’t want Joshua getting in any real trouble for something that was technically Jeonghan’s fault, especially after he had already broken a rule.

 

Mr. Kim sighed once again. “Stop bothering him so he can focus, please. All of the information about the presentations is in the email I sent.” Jeonghan gave him a nod, and a sarcastic smile with his hands up to show that he was phone-less, and the professor went on with teaching his class.

 

Jeonghan wanted to text Joshua back, but unfortunately, he couldn’t really risk getting caught. He gave looks back to Joshua every now and then, noticing little things that made him worry. Joshua was usually very focused in class, to the point where he wouldn’t sit near Jeonghan when things were serious, but he wasn’t today. He had his head leaned against his hand, and at one point, he even saw his head on his desk. His eyes were always at his papers, drifting off. Not engaged in what Mr. Kim was saying, but thankfully, he wasn’t called out for it. Hopefully Mr. Kim realized that something was off.

 

The hour passed by rather quickly, which Jeonghan was very thankful for. He was already packed up, his bag around his shoulder just before Mr. Kim dismissed them, that way he could get to Joshua without wasting any time.

 

Joshua, however, had done the same and was already out the door when Jeonghan stood up.

 

He was a little angry at first, ready to chase after him if it was true that Joshua was trying to get away from him - but Joshua was just waiting outside, probably not wanting to be confronted in the classroom.

 

“I know you’re mad-”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

They both said simultaneously when they were facing each other outside of the classroom. Joshua looked a little confused to hear that, so Jeonghan asked him again. “Are you okay? You’re acting weird today. Don’t think I won’t notice.”

 

“Ahh,” Joshua said with a little sigh, trying for an awkward smile. “I’m fine, I promise. Just tired, that’s all. Stressed with all of this school stuff.”

 

“I’ve known you since we were a freshman, Shua, three years. And the only two times you’ve ever put your head on your desk was when you had the flu, and when you found out that that girl you liked gave you a fake number.” Jeonghan nearly spat at him, a little tired of the very obvious question-dodging. Joshua stared back at him for a second but brought the awkward smile back. Jeonghan wanted to punch him.

 

“I swear I’m good, Jeonghan. You’re right, you’ve known me for three years, so you know that I would tell you if something’s wrong.” Joshua told him, dropping the smile and giving him a serious but warm-hearted expression. Jeonghan let go of the breath he was holding. That didn’t change the fact that all of this was weird - but he figured he should stop bothering Joshua about it so much.

 

“Okay, fine.” Jeonghan puffed. Joshua gave him a little smile before motioning for him to follow him out of the building.

 

Jeonghan wished there was something he could do to help Joshua a little bit, but he never took up his offers to smoke to relax - Joshua liked wine, but Jeonghan hated it, so that wasn’t really something they could do together. Maybe he should get Joshua some face masks.

 

They walked out into the parking lot in silence, and Jeonghan tilted his head forward to get Joshua’s attention. “If you don’t want to go all the way to your apartment, you can come to my dorm. Since you’re tired.” Jeonghan offered.

 

Joshua opened his mouth to say something as if he was ready to say yes, but he didn’t. “Ahh, it’s...it’s probably better if I go home and do my work. And no offense, but you’re sort of distracting.” he joked, smiling.

 

“Fair enough.” Jeonghan pouted. “Text me if you need anything. Okay?”

 

“I will. I promise.” Joshua nodded, keeping his smile. He waved, and then, headed for his car.

 

Jeonghan hoped he could believe Joshua.

Chapter Text

This time, Joshua was at the cafe before Jeonghan was.

 

Jeonghan did what he always did - climbed over the counter, and shoved his bag underneath it in one move, but Joshua didn't acknowledge that Jeonghan was there. Which was hard to do on accident, considering that Seungcheol must have been in his office and Mingyu wasn't there yet - so Jeonghan was the only other person there.

 

Joshua was leaned over the counter, twirling a pencil in his hand, focused on something written down in his notebook. School-related, Jeonghan guessed. It looked like his was stressing him out. He looked a little pale, too, overall looking as if he'd only gotten out of bed a few minutes ago.

 

“Good morning to you, too.” Jeonghan puffed, taking a few steps to lean over Joshua's shoulder to see what he was looking at. Joshua flinched, almost stumbling backward before staring at Jeonghan. “Uh-”

 

“Ahh - sorry, Hannie. You scared me.” Joshua murmured with a little sigh before lowering his hand and closing his notebook, his eyes off of Jeonghan, now.

 

“You didn't hear me come in?” Jeonghan asked. He frowned.

 

“No,” Joshua answered, and that seemed to be the end of the conversation. He didn’t look too interested in continuing to talk to Jeonghan, in fact, he seemed slightly annoyed that Jeonghan and distracted him from whatever he was working on.

 

Jeonghan found himself feeling a little guilty as Joshua went on to do his job without even looking at Jeonghan, seemingly annoyed with him. Jeonghan wasn’t sure why. He didn’t mean to scare him, that wasn’t his intention. He wasn’t sure why Joshua was being so dismissive.

 

Joshua was wiping down the coffee machine when Jeonghan wandered over to him again, this time, making sure Joshua saw him before approaching him. Joshua didn’t say anything - just looked at Jeonghan, and then back down to the coffee machine. Jeonghan wasn’t really sure why he was wiping it down to begin with. They always did that at the end of the day.

 

“You’re still acting strange, Shua,” Jeonghan said sadly, pouting. He couldn’t stop thinking about everything that had happened the day before. He knew that Joshua promised everything was fine, and Jeonghan trusted him, but something was still off. He wasn’t normally like this, not even when he was tired. Something had to be going on.

 

Joshua never really looked up from what he was doing. He was focused on one little spot on the machine to wipe down, even though, it didn’t really need it. He gave a small sigh when Jeonghan tilted his head.

 

“I’m good, Hannie. Just tired, like I said yesterday.” Joshua told him, only looking up to meet his gaze for a few seconds. Joshua wouldn’t call Jeonghan ‘Hannie’ very often, and it worried him a little bit that he did. But he wasn’t sure why.

 

Jeonghan felt like he should say something more, try to get more of an answer out of him, but he followed Joshua’s gaze when the back door opened, revealing Mingyu, a little later than he usually was. He had a smile on his face, the kind that he was trying to hold back, but despite all efforts, could not.

 

“What’s that smile for?” Jeonghan asked, after taking note of the fact that Joshua was focused on the same thing, his eyes a little wider with curiosity.

 

Mingyu waltzed inside a little clumsily, nearly tripping over nothing when he made it to the front where the two of them were standing. It was a classic example of trying to be cool, but since he wasn’t actually all that cool, it didn't go very well. But his smile remained, even while shrugging at Jeonghan’s question.

 

“Does it have something to do with that kid from yesterday?” Jeonghan asked with an eyebrow raised, taking a step back before leaning on the counter as Mingyu clocked himself into the computer. His smile seemed to be getting a little harder to control.

 

“I’m meeting with him after work today. Before class.” he sounded a little embarrassed saying it, but Jeonghan could see, even just by looking in his eyes, how happy it made him to be able to say that. How excited he was to share that with them.

 

Jeonghan smiled at him, feeling his heart warm up just at seeing Mingyu smile. He’d felt so bad after outing him the day before, but it seemed that things were turning out a little better, based on Mingyu’s new attitude. He was really glad to see it. “That’s great, Gyu! Is it a date?”

 

Joshua didn’t seem to be reacting much. He was still pretty set on cleaning around the coffee machine, although not very productively, and it was off-putting for Jeonghan. Usually, Joshua was pretty invested in what other people had to say, even if it was obvious that it was something he couldn’t relate to because he was nice. He was a good listener. But now, he was trying to blend into the background, which was worrying, considering his behavior from the day before.

 

“I wouldn’t really say that. But, I don’t know, I’m excited even if it’s not. I like talking to him.” Mingyu murmured, his warm little smile still on his face.

 

This time, Jeonghan waited a moment, to see if Joshua would say anything, even just a one-word response. Even just a noise from him would be okay because it was just rude to listen to him like that with no response. They now knew something very personal about Mingyu, and it wasn’t right to just brush it off, especially when it was something vulnerable for him.

 

“It’s good either way,” Jeonghan told him, passing him a warm smile just as Seungcheol wandered into the counter area.

 

Jeonghan tied up his hair as Seungcheol went off on some tangent about how he was going to start punishing them for not being on time, and Jeonghan decided not to fully listen because he knew Seungcheol wouldn’t actually go through with it. Jeonghan had other things to keep his mind focused on.

 


 

They were given their little mid-morning break, and Joshua disappeared outside of the cafe. Said he had to go get something printed in the library. Convenient, Jeonghan thought to himself sarcastically, considering he wanted to talk to him about how he’d been acting. Even though, he had a feeling Joshua was just planning on brushing it off again.

 

It was leaving some sort of uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t know what Joshua was thinking, what was going on in his head. Jeonghan didn’t know if he should be worried or angry, because he didn’t like how Joshua was acting, but at the same time, that was what worried him. This just wasn’t Joshua.

 

Jeonghan was mindlessly scrolling through his phone as he wandered into the kitchen, where Mingyu sat doing the same, by himself. His eyes seemed dull, though. He could tell Mingyu was worrying about something, too, but maybe not quite the same thing that Jeonghan had his mind on.

 

“What’s on your mind, Mingyu?” Jeonghan asked him carefully, sliding his phone into his back pocket as he pulled his hair out of his tight ponytail.

 

Mingyu looked a little hesitant, eyes still on his phone, looking a little broken, sitting on a stool that was far too small for someone his size - but it made him look that much more vulnerable. His eyes finally came up to meet Jeonghan’s, and he shut his phone off.

 

“Do you...do you think Joshua hates me, hyung?”

 

Jeonghan was so taken aback by Mingyu’s sudden statement that his eyes went wide, but Mingyu didn’t seem to be joking. It was a serious question, Jeonghan could tell by the way Mingyu was chewing on his inner lip.

 

“Mingyu, I can’t even imagine Joshua hating anyone . Especially not you.” Jeonghan told him carefully, and he meant that. Joshua was the ‘ hate’s a strong word ’ kind of person, and even then, Jeonghan couldn’t think of an example of Joshua even disliking someone. Not even some of the rude customers they got. “Why do you think that?”

 

Mingyu parted his lips to say something, but he stopped for a moment. He looked like he was regretting ever asking like he didn’t want to continue the conversation. But Jeonghan wasn’t going to let him cut it off, especially after he put ‘Joshua’ and ‘hate’ in the same sentence. Even if he had a feeling where this was going. “I don’t know, he’s been - ever since I - ever since I told you guys that I, um…”

 

“That you like boys?” Jeonghan finished for him, brows pressing together. Jeonghan didn’t know how many people Mingyu had told, but he was certainly struggling to talk about it like it was a normal thing. He was fine mentioning it to Jeonghan before work, but Joshua ignoring the conversation seemed to set him back. He was still struggling to accept it for himself, and now he was worried about what other people were thinking.

 

“Yeah,” Mingyu murmured, his eyes at the floor, now. Jeonghan saw his eyes water. “I know that Joshua’s religious, and I’m just...I’m just worried, that he doesn’t like me anymore. Because he knows that about me.”

 

Jeonghan had a feeling that was where the conversation was headed, but when he actually heard Mingyu say it, he felt his heart crack down the middle. He agreed that Joshua wasn’t acting how he normally did ever since they came back from break, that was obvious and he’d been thinking about it as well. But his brain didn’t want to believe that it had anything to do with what Mingyu had confessed to them. Joshua wasn’t that kind of person. It had to be something else.

 

“I'm gonna talk to him, okay?” Jeonghan told him, a hand on his shoulder. He felt horrible that Mingyu felt that way, thought those things. He didn’t need that.

 

“You don’t have to do that, hyung-”

 

Jeonghan stopped him, shaking his head. “I know I don’t, but I’m going to. I need to talk to him anyway, and I don’t want him acting like that around you. Even if it has nothing to do with you, really. It’s unnecessary.” Jeonghan realized he was bringing his own frustration of the situation into the conversation when he didn’t need to be doing that, but it was already said. And it was what he truly felt. “I’m going to talk to him after work. Don’t think too much about it, alright?”

 

Mingyu gave the tiniest nod, wordlessly accepting what Jeonghan had to say.

 

Joshua gave them a little smile and wave when he finally came back, but this time, Jeonghan found himself a little too petty to give him a wave back. Even though Mingyu had no problem doing that.

 


 

“I need to talk to you.”

 

Jeonghan’s voice came out a little mean, but he didn’t care, not at this point. Joshua’s silence for the rest of their shift left Jeonghan’s blood boiling. He didn’t want to believe Joshua was doing this on purpose, but at the same time, it felt impossible for Joshua to see all of this and not know what he was doing.

 

Jeonghan made sure that Joshua wasn’t leaving without him this time, so he could talk to him - so he helped him with nearly everything after their shift ended. Cleaning the cafe, closing, everything - until Joshua was locking the cafe door behind the two of them. That was when he sprung the sentence on Joshua.

 

Joshua’s eyes held a bit of worry once he put the keys down, carefully tucking them back into his bag, but not breaking eye contact with Jeonghan. It made Jeonghan feel kind of bad, but he was taking this seriously. “What’s up?” Joshua asked, his voice a little quiet, unsure.

 

“You know I think you’re just acting weird in general, and even if you’re saying it’s nothing, I’m not the only one who doesn’t think so. Mingyu’s noticed it too.” Jeonghan told him with a little puff, recalling his previous conversation with the latter. “He was talking to me during our break, and he said he’s worried that you hate him. Because he’s gay.”

 

The words felt disgusting on his tongue, and he realized at that point that he felt horrible accusing the latter of something like that. Deep down, he knew that wasn’t the truth, because that wasn’t how Joshua was. Even if it was a topic that seemed to make him a little uncomfortable, he knew he wouldn’t hate Mingyu for it.

 

“I would -” Joshua started, swallowing back a fear that was visible on his face. He looked Jeonghan dead in the eye. “I would never hate him for something like that, Jeonghan. Or anyone.” Joshua said sternly, but Jeonghan still heard the shock in his shaky tone. “Does he think I'm, like...homophobic?”

 

“I don't really know, Shua. Probably.” Jeonghan murmured, leaning against the window walls of the cafe. “You weren’t - you weren’t exactly supportive. Not verbally, anyway. I’m not surprised that’s what he’s thinking.”

 

Jeonghan didn’t really plan to call him out like that, but he knew he needed to say it, and he was glad he did. He had to upfront with him, no more dodging around stuff to be nice.

 

“He’s already left, hasn’t he?” Joshua said dejectedly, halfway digging through his bag for the keys again and peeking through the darkened windows of the cafe to see if Mingyu was possibly still inside, but Jeonghan grabbed his arm, lightly, to stop him.

 

“He has. But you don’t need to talk to him now anyway. Just make it up to him tomorrow, alright?” Jeonghan said, taking his hand off of Joshua’s wrist. Joshua looked like he wanted to argue, but he didn’t. “Why have you been ignoring everything in the first place? It’s like you’re not really there most of the time.”

 

Joshua was quiet for a few moments, this time, staring at the floor. He even looked a little tempted to start walking away, but he didn’t. Jeonghan’s eyes stayed on him until he finally decided to say something.

 

“I’ve just had a lot on my mind, like I told you, Jeonghan. I promise it has nothing to do with Mingyu or his sexuality.” Joshua said, his voice still a little shaky but sure of himself regardless. “I should’ve been more careful...I wasn’t thinking. Thank you for telling me.”

 

Jeonghan just nodded, taking a step forward to signal to him that they should start walking. They were leaving through the front of the cafe today because Joshua had a class in the building, and rather than leaving to be early for his own class, Jeonghan decided he’d follow Joshua to his class. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt like he needed to.

 

Jeonghan watched Joshua was they walked. He’d be blind if he didn’t notice how Joshua’s mind was elsewhere again, very clearly thinking deeply about something that he didn’t look like he was comfortable talking about out loud, which worried Jeonghan. But he wouldn’t pry. He knew Joshua well enough to know that he shouldn’t pry much on matters too personal.

 

They got to the outside of his classroom and Joshua thanked him wordlessly, and although Jeonghan wasn’t too sure why, he smiled back at him.

 

“Now I’m kind of worried that Mingyu hates me ,” Joshua said sort of casually but Jeonghan felt the hurt in his voice.

 

“Don’t be stupid. Mingyu doesn’t hate anyone.” Jeonghan told him, giving him a little lighthearted smack on the shoulder, and he saw Joshua smile a bit.

 

“I hope you’re right.” Joshua smiled back, but with the same kind of stressed-out sigh he’d been hearing a lot from him recently. “You should go to class, Hannie.”

 

He pulled he Hannie card again. “You’re probably right.” he gave Joshua a pat on his shoulder. “Good luck in your class. Stop being a stranger and text me if you need me, okay? Shua?” he said back. He had said that yesterday too, he realized.

 


 

“Hi, hyung. It’s me, Mingyu.”

 

Jeonghan half-chuckled when the younger said that as soon as Jeonghan picked up before Jeonghan could even say something first. “I know it’s you, Gyu. I have your name saved in my phone.”

 

There was a pause. “Oh.”

 

Jeonghan giggled again and laid back on his bed, finally, his head landing into the pillow with a grace that only existed in television. He pressed the little speaker button on his phone before placing it on his chest, his eyes wandering halfway out the window and halfway at the ceiling.

 

Jeonghan’s classes ended early that day, which he was thankful for. He wasn’t big on studying, and even though he had a presentation to prepare for, he would rather just...sleep. Relax. Talk to someone. He’d get to the presentation eventually.

 

Mingyu had asked to call him once they both arrived at their dorms, and Jeonghan hoped Mingyu was going to tell him about his day with his little friend.

 

“Well? How’d it go?” Jeonghan asked him after a bit of a long silence. He hoped everything was okay - but he figured it was just still the lingering nervousness from talking about anything in relation to his sexuality.

 

“It - it went really good, hyung,” Mingyu said softly. “He’s really nice. We talked like last time, it was just...so genuine, you know? It feels like I’ve known him a long time already.”

 

A kind of warmth filled Jeonghan’s heart, one that he wasn’t at all expecting. Of course it was because he was happy for Mingyu. The kid has been struggling with his first year at this school, and finding someone, even just a good friend (besides him and Joshua, of course), to share it with. But aside from that, what he said reminded Jeonghan so much of how he felt when he first met Joshua.

 

“But, I’m kind of worried about him too. He seems lonely. And, you know, he’s from China, so getting used to everything has been hard for him.” Mingyu started after Jeonghan hummed in response at his first comment. Jeonghan chewed his lip. It had been the exact same way with Joshua, went he came all the way from America. “Do you think it’s okay if I invite him to the cafe? I want him to make some more friends.”

 

Jeonghan found himself nodding already, just out of instinct, before he realized that Mingyu wouldn’t be able to see that. “Of course that’s okay. I mean, you’d technically have to ask Cheol, but if he has a problem with it, I’ll kick his ass.”

 

He heard a nervous giggle from Mingyu as if he was worried about Jeonghan actually kicking Seungcheol’s ass, but he didn’t say anything about it. “Thanks, hyung.”

 

There was a bit of silence afterward, which Jeonghan didn’t mind too much. It wasn’t an awkward one, just a little moment for both of them to pause and think. Jeonghan took the opportunity to check his phone, in case Joshua had actually texted him - but he hadn’t. Jeonghan sighed.

 

“What’s wrong?” Mingyu asked, picking up on the sigh when Jeonghan hadn’t even thought that he might hear it.

 

“Nothing, no worries. My phone’s just being dumb.” Jeonghan insisted. Maybe Joshua was being a little dumb.

 

A little ahh from Mingyu, and things were quiet again, but this time, it was sort of tense, and Jeonghan couldn’t figure out why, until Mingyu said something again - his tone lower and softer. “Did you happen to, uh...talk to Shua hyung? About...you know.”

 

Jeonghan was nodding uselessly again. “Yes, yes I did. It was just what I thought, he’s just...off in his own world, right now. He meant nothing by how he acted.” Jeonghan told him, and he heard a soft sigh of relief on the other line, which he was glad to hear. He was happy to take that burden off of Mingyu’s shoulders - he just hoped Joshua would be a little more aware of how he acted tomorrow.

 

“That’s good...thank you again, hyung. You really didn’t have to do that.” Mingyu said, although he could just tell through his voice that he was secretly thanking him, and he smiled.

 

“You’re welcome,” Jeonghan said in a teasing tone before forcing himself back into a sitting position, despite how much his head was already missing the pillow. “Alright, Gyu. I should probably shower, so I’ll talk to you later, alright?”

 

“Yeah, same. And okay. Thank you, hyung. Really.” Mingyu told him.

 

“Of course, Gyu. Text me if you need anything.”

 

How many times could Jeonghan say that in a day?

Chapter Text

Joshua and Jeonghan had come in together, today, to find Mingyu on the little stool in the kitchen, head in his hands, crying his eyes out.

 

Joshua nearly bolted from Jeonghan’s side to get to Mingyu, but by the time he was standing in front of him, Mingyu flinched away, rubbing at his eyes and covering his face. His sniffling and crying didn’t stop despite that, in fact, it seemed to get worse as soon as he realized other people were in the room.

 

“Hey...hey, Mingyu.” Jeonghan saw the hurt in Joshua's eyes, as he bent down a bit to level with him. He was sure of what Joshua was thinking - he’d told Jeonghan about it before they got to the cafe. He was worried he’d say something wrong to Mingyu, or make him feel worse than he already had. Now, he was definitely worrying that Mingyu was crying like this because of him. Jeonghan wasn’t sure.

 

Joshua was cupping his face, despite Mingyu previously trying to look away from him.

 

“I'm sorry, I need to get the shop ready -” Mingyu murmured through all the sniffles, looking tempted to pull away from Joshua’s light hold on his face.

 

“No, Gyu. Tell us what’s going on.” Joshua told him softly and carefully. Jeonghan didn’t need to be a mind-reader to see how guilty he was feeling, especially at the moment Mingyu completely broke down, leaning forward to hold onto Joshua.

 

Neither Joshua nor Jeonghan said anything while Mingyu cried. Jeonghan walked a little closer, a hand on the younger’s shoulder to comfort him as Joshua held him, even though neither of them were sure on what this was about. Mingyu sobs were so strong at some point that they brought hiccups, and Jeonghan saw Joshua’s hands shaking when they did.

 

Mingyu was a pretty big guy, so seeing him this small and fragile was off-putting, especially seeing how his shaky hands curled into Joshua’s cardigan, holding on for dear life.

 

“Mingyu, what happened?” Joshua asked, his tone soft and caring, looking tempted to lean back so he could look Mingyu in the eye, but staying where he was in hopes it would provide Mingyu more comfort.

 

“Hyung, he - ” Mingyu choked through a sob before he could continue to finish his sentence, He refused to let go of Joshua, and only held onto him tighter when he finally gave them the reason for his tears. “M-Minghao. He tried...he tried to kill himself yesterday, hyung, I…” he mumbled, and nearly whimpered at the end of his sentence.

 

Jeonghan’s hands covered his mouth out of instinct to hide the sound of his gasp when he heard Mingyu say that, and he saw how Joshua’s shoulders tensed up.

 

Jeonghan had no idea how to even comprehend what Mingyu had just said, let alone how he was possibly feeling at that moment. He’d just seen that kid the other day. He didn’t look suicidal, he seemed fine. He looked happy, even - but Jeonghan realized how naive it was of him to think that everything was surface level.

 

Wasn’t Mingyu just with him the day before? Didn’t he say things went well?

 

Oh fuck, Mingyu was thinking this was his fault, wasn’t he?

 

“You said tried,” Joshua started carefully, seemingly a little hesitant on if he should continue his sentence. His voice was shaking. “Is he still alive, Gyu?”

 

Mingyu gave a tiny little nod, quiet for a few moments, his head staying buried in the crook between Joshua’s neck and shoulder. “He, um…” he murmured, pulling very reluctantly to take his phone out of his pocket, his hands so shaky that Jeonghan was half-expecting him to drop it.

 

Mingyu had pulled away, but Joshua kept a hand on his knee, going back and forth in very small movements as Mingyu looked for something on his phone. “He...his friend texted me what happened, ‘cause I…” he took a small breath, “I was worried, he said sorry for no reason and he wasn’t texting me back, and...and, this morning, his friend texted me through Minghao’s phone, and, and told me what happened…” he murmured, sounded a little scrambled in his thoughts.

 

Mingyu was very hesitant, but he held out his phone with a shaky hand regardless.

 p1

Mingyu took in a deep, shaky breath before he scrolled down a little further to reveal the most recent texts.

 p2

Mingyu sobbed again, his phone almost sliding out of his hands just by how much they were shaking. Joshua took the phone from him after silently asking, closely inspecting the texts he’d been shown, for a reason Jeonghan didn’t quite understand.

 

Jeonghan, however, was still struggling to comprehend what he was just told.

 

“What’s going on? Is everything okay?”

 

Seungcheol’s voice was heard from the door, and Jeonghan turned to look at him just after Mingyu leaned forward into Joshua’s hold again. Jeonghan approached Seungcheol, who grew increasingly worried the more he studied the scene.

 

Jeonghan motioned him to follow him out of the kitchen, even though Seungcheol very clearly wanted to stay and investigate, Jeonghan could tell through the heavy concern in his eyes. Jeonghan pulled him by the wrist regardless, knowing it was better if Mingyu was just with Joshua for now.

 

“Is he okay?” Seungcheol asked, his tone a little shaky, eyes still focused on the kitchen door.

 

“He told us that his friend tried to kill himself,” Jeonghan said quietly, nearly stopping halfway through just as the realization of what he’d just said out loud. It definitely was a lot to take in, and Jeonghan had only met him once. “Don’t bring anything up to him, okay? Just act normal. It’ll be easier for him to handle if he’s in his normal routine.” Jeonghan said, although, it was more of a hope than a thought. That’s how Jeonghan always did things when Mingyu was sad - but this was a whole new level. Unexplored by any of them.

 

Seungcheol looked so mentally conflicted that Jeonghan wanted to ask if he needed to repeat what he said, but Seungcheol finally looked up, with a shaky sigh. “Should I...should I open later?”

 

“No, stay in the routine.” Jeonghan reminded him, and Seungcheol did a little ‘ oh, right ’ before nodding his head.

 

“Geez, that poor kid,” Seungcheol said with another sigh, licking his lips out of nervousness and contemplation, he noticed. “I want to help somehow. Should I give him the day off?”

 

“Cheol,” Jeonghan sighed, again, reminding him of what he’d just said. Seungcheol realized his mistake again, and did the same thing he did after the first time. “Just let him do his thing for now. If he asks you if he can go home, let him.”

 

“Okay...okay. I’ll do that.” Seungcheol nodded again, chewing on his lips. “Shit, Jeonghan.”

 

“I know,” Jeonghan responded quietly. “It’ll be okay. Worrying won’t change anything.”

 

Seungcheol went to the front to get ready to open, and Jeonghan stood by the kitchen door, trying to keep his breaths even. He never had a lot of issues with anxiety, but this situation was making his chest feel constricted like he couldn’t breathe properly. Something that hadn’t happened in a long time.

 

He hardly knew Minghao, and the kid was still alive - of course, that was no reason to not be sad, it was an awful situation nonetheless, but in the back of his mind, he knew the real reason he was getting so anxious. He remembered his phone call with Mingyu from the day before - he remembered how his brain was doing so many mental comparisons between Minghao and Joshua. And now, Minghao had nearly died -

 

He jumped when the door opened and Joshua laughed dryly, half asking him if he was okay. It was a minute away from six, Jeonghan noticed. He’d been standing there thinking much longer than he realized.

 

After a few seconds of Joshua staring and waiting for an answer, Jeonghan hugged him. Quickly but tightly, just before he walked off to the counter, leaving Joshua a little more confused than earlier.

 

Mingyu was standing at the counter, his eyes down. He wasn’t crying anymore, Jeonghan was glad - Joshua managed to talk him down. The rest of the day was certainly going to be hard for Mingyu, but he would push forward. He was stubborn, but Jeonghan knew that already.

 

They were able to open on time. Seungcheol even asked them permission to open the cafe, to which Jeonghan nearly sighed, considering their previous conversation, but Mingyu nodded.

 

Mingyu was very distracted by his phone - every second he had to check it, despite being on counter duty, was one he would take, even if he opened it ten seconds prior to that. Jeonghan was afraid to say anything to him. From what he could tell, Jun hadn’t said anything more to update Mingyu and Mingyu hadn’t texted him back to begin with - he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, but he was sure that the constant checking would make things worse.

 

Joshua, who was on kitchen duty, caught on as soon as he came out. He carefully took the phone away from Mingyu - Jeonghan heard him talking softly to him, saying things like ‘this isn’t good for you right now’ , and ‘you can’t change anything by staring at your phone’ . It sounded a little harsh, but he was right. He saw how Mingyu tensed up when Joshua slid his phone into his apron, and Joshua leaned forward to hug him tightly.

 

Jeonghan saw just how tense and nervous Mingyu was even after Joshua took his phone, but he relaxed a bit. It did help - it was easier for him to focus on things longer when he didn’t have his phone as a distraction.

 

But at some point, Mingyu was having trouble breathing normally because of how worked up he was getting, and he burst into tears again when Joshua led him to the back.

 

Jeonghan’s heart was breaking for him. There must have been so much on his mind.

 

It wasn’t long until they got their brunch break. Seungcheol had taken Mingyu’s place at the counter while Joshua was in the kitchen with him - Seungcheol said he didn’t mind, considering it wasn’t long until they were on break, anyway. Jeonghan appreciated it. He knew Seungcheol was busy with other things, too. He stayed at the font when Jeonghan wandered back into the kitchen to make sure everything was okay.

 

Joshua was sitting on the floor with him, and from what Jeonghan could tell, Mingyu was asleep, with his head on Joshua’s shoulder - which somehow worked, despite how tall Mingyu was compared to him.

 

Jeonghan had taken his brunch snack inside the room, and handed part of it to Joshua - although, he didn’t eat, it stayed in his lap as Jeonghan pulled up a stool to sit across from them. He wasn’t a huge fan of sitting on the floor, especially when he was eating. “He’s asleep?” Jeonghan asked quietly.

 

“Yeah. He told me he didn’t sleep well. Plus, all the crying must have tired him out a lot.” Joshua told him, his voice low but not in a whisper. It didn’t bother Mingyu, he stayed asleep. “I didn’t realize we were on break already. Is Seungcheol mad?”

 

“No, no. I told him what happened.” Jeonghan responded. “You guys have been in here for a while, I’m not surprised Gyu fell asleep.”

 

Joshua was silent at first, his free hand patting down Mingyu’s hair in comfort, although it seemed to be something helping his mind, too. “He’s so worried that it’s his fault, Jeonghan. I can’t imagine that’s even remotely true.”

 

“Is that what he said?” Jeonghan chewed on his lip. He knew that must have been what was bothering him so much.

 

Joshua hummed in conformation. “Do you know anything? I know he calls you a lot.”

 

Jeonghan tried to recall bits of their conversation from the previous night - Mingyu sounded so content, then. Things had changed so quickly. “Well, they met up, and Mingyu said it was good, but...he was worried about Minghao being lonely. He came here from China, he’s a freshman too.” Jeonghan said. “I’m sure that’s not the only reason for it, but that’s what I know.”

 

Jeonghan saw how Joshua’s expression changed - how familiar he was with what Jeonghan described, and that’s what Jeonghan was worried about. It was such a similar situation. “That’s hard,” Joshua said, much more quietly than his previous words. Jeonghan almost regretted saying what he said.

 

They sat there in silence for a while longer, to let Mingyu sleep in peace for a bit until they needed to get back to work. Joshua’s eyes were focused on either Mingyu or the floor, but either way, Jeonghan could tell that they were in deep thought. He wished he knew what Joshua was thinking.

 

“You look like you’re feeling better,” Jeonghan told Joshua, but at first, Joshua didn’t seem to understand what he meant. He looked at Mingyu, who was still asleep, and then at Jeonghan again, who pointed to clarify who the statement was about. He tried to hold back a giggle.

 

“Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” Joshua said with a isn’t-it-obvious kind of nod, as if Jeonghan hadn’t been worrying about him since they came back from break. He couldn’t tell if Joshua was being oblivious, or just trying really hard to brush off something that actually concerned Jeonghan.

 

“I’m not gonna go as far as to say you look fine, but you look better. You don’t look dead.” Jeonghan puffed.

 

“Thank you, I try,” Joshua said back, using his hand to flip imaginary hair over his shoulder.

 

“Joshua,” Jeonghan sighed, trying not to raise his voice or get too annoyed, considering Mingyu’s nap. But regardless, he felt some kind of anxiety in the back of his throat again, remembering all of his newfound worries with the old ones. “I’m serious. It’s not funny, stop just...brushing me off. You’ve been worrying me, idiot, and with this situation, it’s just - ”

 

“Hey, hey,” Joshua interrupted softly, which Jeonghan was thankful for. He was starting to feel his eyes burn with tears, and he didn’t want to start that. He kept a glare at Joshua, though, he who was starting to look just as concerned as Jeonghan felt. “I promise that this isn’t anything you need to be worrying about. The worst thing I’m dealing with is a headache, and that’s seriously it.”

 

Jeonghan huffed, chewing his lip, now deciding not to look at Joshua. He didn’t know whether he should believe him or not, because this is exactly the kind of situation Joshua would lie in. Jeonghan knew him well enough to know that was a fact.

 

“What kind of headache,” Jeonghan half-grumbled, concerned but still mad. He finally looked at Joshua again, and Joshua tried a half-smile with him.

 

“The kind that you don’t need to worry about, Hannie.” Of course he would say that. Jeonghan chewed his lip.

 

“You promise?” Jeonghan asked.

 

“I promise. I meant it.” Joshua told him, his voice sounding genuine, and Jeonghan found himself forced to believe that Joshua was telling the truth - even if he was still worried. Even if this still felt off.

 

Jeonghan continued eating, and Joshua never touched what he gave him, which was concerning - but Joshua never ate much on their breaks regardless, so he tried not to worry too much about that.

 

“Should we ask Cheol if he can go home early?” Joshua asked, his hand playing with Mingyu’s hair again.

 

“I don’t think he wants to be alone, Shua. If he did, he would have left by now. Or maybe not even come into work at all.” Jeonghan explained to him.

 

“You’re right.” Joshua sighed. “I kind of wish I could take him to my classes, then.”

 

At first, Jeonghan wanted to deconstruct that idea, too, but honestly, he felt the same way. He was sure Mingyu had friends in his own classes, in his dorm, online, maybe even better friends than he and Joshua. But he still wanted to protect him.

 

Seungcheol came back inside to let them know that the break needed to end soon. He asked about Mingyu after noticing he was asleep, and Joshua decided to wake him carefully. He looked like a sleepy puppy in a way that broke Jeonghan’s heart - he rubbed at his eyes and stretched out his arms, looking immensely exhausted, but after Joshua asked, Mingyu said he was fine to keep working. He actually seemed a little worried that they even asked him.

 

He was doing a little better after that. He wasn’t as distracted, Jeonghan noticed, he even managed to smile at a few customers - which was hard to do, considering everything, but Jeonghan was proud of him. He didn’t need to put on a face if it was too difficult for him, but he did it anyway.

 

Jeonghan wondered what Joshua had talked to him about. It was mostly out of nosiness, sure, but Jeonghan genuinely wanted to know. He’d gotten Mingyu to calm down by a lot, to the point where the kid had fallen asleep on him. Maybe it wasn’t his place to ask, but he wanted to.

 

Before he knew it, their shifts were over, and they were let out of the cafe by Seungcheol, who needed to stay behind to work on some things.

 

“Do you have any classes today?” Joshua asked Mingyu as Seungcheol closed the door behind him. Mingyu gave a tiny nod. “Want us to walk you there?”

 

“I’m not a kid, hyung.” Mingyu murmured. “Besides, it’s too long of a walk.”

 

“Then I’ll drive you.” Joshua decided. “And I know you’re not a kid, Gyu. Adults get lonely too.”

 

Jeonghan gave a half smile. Joshua was usually too busy to offer that kind of stuff to Mingyu - it was usually Jeonghan giving him rides to his classes, since Mingyu didn’t have a car.

 

“Okay, your parents are driving you to school today. Follow me.” Jeonghan said playfully, loudly, loudly enough for other students in the hall to hear. He did that on purpose, of course - the way Mingyu’s face reddened was cute, and so was Joshua’s giggle. “We should’ve taken the back door, why are we going around the school?”

 

Jeonghan saw Joshua roll his eyes. “Your mom is kind of an idiot.” he half-whispered to Mingyu, who was now more worried about hiding his giggles, rather than his red face.

 

“Hey, wait, how come I’m the mom? I’m older than you.” Jeonghan pouted.

 

“There’s absolutely no logic behind what you just said,” Joshua said through a laugh that he didn’t bother holding back, and Jeonghan found himself smiling at him for a few moments. He missed that from him.

 

“Okay, fine. I’m the mom.” Jeonghan huffed.

 

They finally got to their cars, and ultimately decided that it made more sense for just one of them to drive, considering one of them would have to leave their car behind, since both Jeonghan and Joshua had one. So Joshua decided to take him, something he was very insistent on. Jeonghan just let him.

 

Jeonghan stood outside Joshua’s car with them as Joshua unlocked it. “Alright, let me know if you need anything. Like always.” Jeonghan told Mingyu, hugging him tightly, and Mingyu doing the same for him.

 

You too, he mouthed at Joshua, as the latter got into the front seat of his car. Jeonghan still leaned in to hug him, which seemed to surprise Joshua for a moment, but he still let him.

 

He waved as the two of them drove off.

 


 

Joshua was early for their six o’clock class today, one of the first people inside - in the front row, of course. Last time, he didn’t have the opportunity to do that, but that's where he always sat.

 

Jeonghan was feeling a little sneaky. He knew that Joshua didn’t like when they sat together during classes that were all lecture - he liked to focus, and Jeonghan was kind of a self-admitted distraction. But he wasn’t going to let Joshua get away this time. He was going to watch him.

 

So he took the seat right next to him, despite nearly the whole row being open. Joshua was startled, at first, but he deadpanned when he realized who it was.

 

As soon as Jeonghan made eye contact with Joshua, he could tell something was different from before. He looked a lot more tired, paler, even, much different from earlier that day. Jeonghan went from snarky to concerned in a matter of seconds, although, he was still a little tempted to get angry with him.

 

“Jeonghan, at least move like, two seats down.” Joshua puffed tiredly, very clearly annoyed - but Jeonghan was choosing not to listen.

 

“You look awful.” Jeonghan decided to say, his voice low, careful not to get the attention of anyone that was already in class. More people were starting to wander in.

 

“Stop - ” There was more that Joshua wanted to say, but he scoffed, turning his attention back to the notes he’d laid out on the table. “I’m fine, Jeonghan.” he sounded angry, his voice low, but ready to fire if needed.

 

He didn’t look fine, he didn’t sound fine. Nothing about this was fine. Joshua wasn’t an angry person, in fact, it was hard to truly anger him at all - especially considering this attitude sort of came out of nowhere. He seemed better earlier, and he certainly wasn’t irritable. Jeonghan understood that maybe he was getting a little annoying about it, but he was just concerned. He just wished Joshua would understand that.

 

Jeonghan kept his voice small, still looking at Joshua, even if the latter wasn’t looking back anymore. “You’re not fine, Joshua. I’m just - ”

 

“Just - shut up! Leave me alone , Jeonghan!” Joshua snapped, his low, whispered tone gone, now at least three times louder than he was before. It was definitely a yell.

 

Jeonghan stared back at him as soon as he processed what he’d just heard, completely wide-eyed. He thought he had imagined that for a moment, but the stares coming from the other early students in the classroom made it clear that it wasn’t part of his imagination.

 

Never once had Joshua ever raised his voice at Jeonghan out of anger like that. He wasn’t that kind of person. Jeonghan never really pushed his buttons when he was annoyed. Maybe it was because he was scared of a reaction like this, but even now, he was expecting Joshua to say he was just joking.

 

“I’m just worried about you, idiot,” Jeonghan said under his breath, taking his bag back and walking out of the aisle in one swift motion.

 

He thought for a moment to take a seat in the back, somewhere he couldn’t see Joshua, or at least somewhere Joshua wouldn’t be in his direct line of sight. But as he reached the back of the classroom, he found himself leaving the classroom and slamming the door behind him.

 

He huffed a breath of frustration that had been caught in his throat since he left his seat, and felt his eyes burning with tears.

 

After pulling his hood almost over his eyes, he took a left to the end of the hallway there, so he could decide if he wanted to go back inside or not - or maybe just wait until class was over for Joshua to come out. Maybe he’d try talking to him again, maybe not.

 

He sat against the wall, his phone in his hands, half wishing for Joshua to text him an apology, or at least text him something - but he had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen. He tried to keep his eyes dry. They were still burning with tears. He felt childish - sitting in the hallway, nearly in tears, just because Joshua had yelled at him.

 

It wasn’t just that, though. He was worried. He didn’t know how to get that across without Joshua pushing him away.

 

He got a notification, and he flinched, staring at his phone as it revealed the message - but it was from Mingyu, not Joshua.

 

Jeonghan decided to push Joshua out of his mind for now, and focus on Mingyu.


 p3

 

He was surprised that he’d actually responded to Jun’s first messages. He seemed so worried about saying anything, considering he had never met Jun and knew next to nothing about him, aside from the fact that he was Minghao’s roommate, also from China, but not in the same year as Minghao.

 

He thought to himself that it would be smarter for Mingyu to ask Seungcheol this question, but he highly doubted Seungcheol would object to this. Especially if it was on their break.


 p4

 

The conversation was left at that, and Jeonghan sat there for several minutes, staring at everything and nothing. By the time he considered going back inside the classroom, it was already six seventeen o’clock, and at that point, their professor no longer let late students into the classroom. He didn’t always honor that, but Jeonghan wasn’t planning on embarrassing himself a second time in a row that day.

 

He was considering sending Joshua a message, but he had no idea what he should say. Should he apologize? Should he ask if he’s okay? It wasn’t the best idea, since Joshua was in class, now. It’d distract him.

 

He’d wait, then.

 

But by the time he decided that and put his phone down, he saw the door to that classroom open.

 

Jeonghan was far away enough that he wouldn’t be seen right away, but he shrunk down anyway, despite already being sat on the floor. It was Joshua, just as he’d been expecting - odd, because Joshua never left in the middle of class - and he certainly wasn’t coming outside to get Jeonghan, because he had his things with him.

 

Jeonghan watched him carefully, how Joshua walked out of the classroom, clearly frustrated, but he stood there for a second, unmoving. He leaned against the wall outside the classroom. His hands covered his face, and Jeonghan’s heart leaped into his throat, for a second, worried he was crying. But before Jeonghan could even think about getting closer to check, Joshua rubbed at his eyes and walked off.

 

Palms pressed to his eyelids, Jeonghan decided he would stay where he was. He’d only make it worse if he followed.

Chapter Text

“Weird that you’re the early one today.”

 

Jeonghan was almost too busy staring at the back door of the cafe, waiting for someone to open it, to understand what Seungcheol had asked him. He was half bored out of his mind, half worried out of his mind - his brain wouldn’t focus on just one. He’d gotten to work way earlier than he needed to.

 

Seungcheol almost waved a hand in his face, but Jeonghan answered before he could.

 

“I can be early if I want to, I just like being late to annoy you,” Jeonghan said with every bit of nonchalance he could muster, not taking his eyes off of the door.

 

“You’re so mean. I didn’t even do anything to you.” Seungcheol said, and Jeonghan didn’t even have to look at him to tell that he was pulling some kind of pout and sad puppy eyes that he couldn’t make Jeonghan fall for.

 

Jeonghan was half debating telling Seungcheol what had happened between him and Joshua the day before. How Joshua had yelled at him, how they both left class, how neither of them texted each other after it happened. He felt like it was important information, considering Jeonghan hardly slept because of it. He wouldn’t tell Seungcheol, but Jeonghan cried for almost an hour when he got to his apartment because of it.

 

He wouldn’t tell Joshua that, either.

 

The back door seemed to open with perfect timing, revealing Joshua on the other side, who seemed to be making a point not to look up, or anywhere he could make eye contact with someone. He knew Jeonghan was there, didn’t he?

 

Jeonghan’s breath was caught in his chest.

 

“Good morning.”

 

Joshua was already wandering into the kitchen without even acknowledging that Jeonghan was so obviously standing and waiting in there for him, and certainly ignoring his greeting. He didn’t even do to put his bag in his locker, because that meant he would have to be in the same room with Jeonghan longer.

 

Jeonghan couldn’t guess it was only because of what happened yesterday, because he was acting oddly on Tuesday morning, too, Jeonghan remembered. Not really acknowledging that anyone was there, somewhere off in his own world. He wondered if it was because of the headache Joshua had told him about.

 

He followed him into the kitchen with a little sigh, just as Joshua picked up his apron, nervously fiddling with it before trying to put it on.

 

“Hi, Joshua,” Jeonghan said quietly, hoping he would at least acknowledge him.

 

“Oh, hi. Sorry.” Joshua murmured back, sort of dismissively but more out of nervousness than anger, it seemed. Joshua hated confrontation, Jeonghan knew that. The latter gave a frustrated sigh, focused on tying the apron behind his back.

 

Jeonghan decided he wouldn’t be petty and let him struggle, so he walked over, taking the strings out of his hands to tie it for him. Joshua tensed up, but soon after he slumped forward a bit, as if Jeonghan taking over that simple task had lifted a weight off of his shoulders. “You okay?” he murmured, starting to get a little concerned again. He was worried Joshua might snap at him again, but he didn’t seem irritated anymore.

 

“I feel kind of sick, if I’m being honest,” Joshua mumbled admittedly. Jeonghan wasn’t expecting him to say that. He was expecting some kind of excuse, he was expecting to be brushed off, especially after yesterday - not to be given any kind of honesty.

 

Jeonghan frowned, fiddling with the strings of Joshua’s apron, even though he had already finished tying it - partly just to avoid direct eye contact. For now. “Because of your headache?”

 

Joshua sighed. “Think so.”

 

“It still isn’t better?” Jeonghan felt his heart deflate in his chest. It’s not that he was expecting Joshua to suddenly be better, but that was what he wanted to happen.

 

Joshua shook his head, and Jeonghan finally put the strings down, releasing him. Joshua walked off to check something that was in the oven, which Jeonghan could tell was stalling, because Joshua had just gotten there.

 

He paused, turning around and leaning on the counter, eyes at the floor. Jeonghan was still standing on the other side of the kitchen, not far from him, but a little awkward. With Joshua’s bag.

 

“I’m sorry I yelled at you, Hannie.” Joshua’s voice was really small, like he didn’t trust himself to say it, or he was afraid of what Jeonghan would say back to him. Hearing that from him was so odd. Joshua, yelling at him. And then apologizing, because he actually yelled at him; he wasn’t joking around. But he knew Joshua couldn’t stay mad at him forever, something he was thankful for.

 

“I feel like I should be apologizing to you,” Jeonghan sighed, walking back towards him, his bag in hand. “I was the one you made you yell, technically. So I’m sorry for that. But I’ll accept your apology.” he added the last part a bit playfully, and he saw a little smile tug at Joshua’s lips. “I saw you...I saw you leave class way early, though. Why?”

 

Joshua seemed hesitant to answer, but he did. “I just...I wasn’t feeling well. I’ve been nauseous since yesterday, and like, he wasn’t going over anything important. So I figured I would just leave.” Joshua murmured, sounding a little scrambled.

 

“So you were feeling sick when I came up to you?” Jeonghan clarified. Joshua nodded. “That’s why you were mad?”

 

“I guess. Not mad, just...I was irritable.” Joshua told him. “I’m sorry you were a victim of my shitty mood.”

 

“Again, I’ve already accepted the apology, and if your mood was shitty because you weren’t feeling well, then it wasn’t even your fault.” Jeonghan sighed, taking one of the water bottles from their little staff fridge and handing it to Joshua. “Drink some water and go sit down, okay? I’ve got you covered until we have to open.”

 

“Jeonghan-”

 

“I said I’ve got you covered, Joshua Hong,” Jeonghan said, playfully shooing him out of the kitchen. Joshua puffed his cheeks a little dramatically to play along, but he left without another word, taking a sip of the water. Jeonghan figured he was going to sit in one of those comfy chairs in the open cafe area, so he could shut his tired eyes for a bit. They had a good thirty minutes until they opened, so that was enough for a power nap.

 

Jeonghan continued his duties for that morning, going back and forth from the counter to the ovens to stock up the pastries, always making sure to get a look at Joshua when he could see him. He was close to the counter. He hadn’t chosen a comfy chair at all, just a regular one at a table, which he had laid his head down on. Jeonghan couldn’t tell if he was asleep or not, but he was resting his eyes, at least.

 

“G’morning, hyung.”

 

He heard Mingyu from behind him, another baking sheet in hand, catching Jeonghan a little off guard. The younger sounded really tired, he’d greeted Jeonghan through a yawn.

 

“Morning, Gyu.” he greeted back, backing up so Mingyu could put the pastries into the display. “You doing okay?”

 

“Mhm.” Mingyu nodded, busying himself with the display. “I’m alright, hyung. Where’s Joshua?”

 

Jeonghan pointed at the latter, who was still halfway lying on the table in the cafe. It was kind of cute, but Mingyu definitely saw it as something to be concerned about. “Is he okay?”

 

“He’s just feeling a little sick, that’s all,” Jeonghan told him.

 

He saw a little pout from Mingyu. “I hope he feels better,” he said. “Is he staying here? Shouldn’t he go home?”

 

“You try convincing him to do that.” Jeonghan puffed, his eyes never leaving Joshua’s thin frame, until he turned to look at Mingyu, who had already finished with the rest of the pastry display.

 

“Has he taken any medicine?” Mingyu asked. “I think I have some Advil in my bag if he needs it.”

 

Jeonghan shrugged. He actually wasn't sure if Joshua had been taking any medicine for how he was feeling, even just for his headache. It wouldn't surprise him if he didn’t. Joshua was kind of bad at that kind of stuff. “Ask him once he's back here.”

 

Mingyu gave a little nod, before disappearing back into the kitchen to continue on working.

 

He reappeared after a few minutes, walking out with his phone in his hand, heavily concentrated on whoever he was texting with. Jeonghan wondered if it was Jun.

 

“When’s Jun coming? If he still is.” Jeonghan decided to ask, remembering how Mingyu had brought it up yesterday.

 

“Around our brunch time,” Mingyu said after a few moments of texting, his voice a little softer. He didn’t look up. “He said he wanted to meet because he’s not as good as writing Korean as he is speaking it.”

 

Jeonghan nodded at him. He was a little tempted to ask what they had been talking about, considering Mingyu looked so focus on his phone. He figured it might be a little insensitive, but he decided to ask him anyway, knowing Mingyu would shut it down if he was uncomfortable. “What have you two been talking about?” he asked.

 

Mingyu chewed on his lip. “Mostly just, trying to figure out when he can come,” he responded. “He told me Minghao woke up about an hour ago, for the first time.” his voice was much quieter for that part. “He said he hasn’t said anything to him, though.”

 

Jeonghan didn’t even want to imagine what it was like to be in Jun’s place. Even thinking about it was making his chest feel tight.

 

“Okay, kids. Opening soon.” Seungcheol told the two of them, appearing out of nowhere and walking behind them from where they stood at the counter. “Where’s Joshua?”

 

Jeonghan pointed his chin at the latter, who was still fast asleep at the table. He wondered if Seungcheol had picked up any of their conversations at all, but it seemed like he hadn’t.

 

Seungcheol walked out to the front of the counter and went to wake Joshua on his way to unlock the cafe doors. He was really careful about it, lightly tapping on his shoulder before shaking it to be a little more effective. Joshua lifted his head, very sleepily, but nearly flinched when he made direct eye contact with Seungcheol. Joshua usually woke up from naps very confused, so seeing Seungcheol first thing after opening his eyes was probably sending his brain spiraling.

 

Seungcheol seemed to ask if he was okay, and Joshua nodded, standing up and leaning on the chair while he yawned. Seungcheol patted his shoulder, just before walking off to unlock the cafe doors.

 

The water bottle was still full, Jeonghan noticed. He frowned, especially as Joshua secretly slid it to the corner of the counter as he walked to stand behind it with the two of them. Hopefully he would save it for later, at least.

 

“Mind if I take the kitchen position?” Joshua asked tiredly, through another yawn. Jeonghan wouldn’t say no, of course. He hated working in the kitchen all by himself. But at the same time, he was a little worried about Joshua being all alone in there, feeling the way he was.

 

“I don’t mind, go ahead.” Jeonghan nodded. “Hey, have you taken any medicine for your headache? Mingyu asked,” he asked him, and Mingyu looked over when he heard his name.

 

“Oh, yeah, I took some earlier,” Joshua said, but it sounded a little suspicious. Jeonghan almost tried to pry more, but by the time he decided he would, Seungcheol gave them the cue for opening, and Joshua disappeared back into the kitchen.

 

 


 

Their break was approaching soon, and for some reason, it came a lot quicker than usual.

 

Jeonghan was at the counter by himself for a moment - Mingyu went to take over the kitchen for a moment while Joshua went to the restroom. The cafe was nearly empty, now, all except for a boy who was nervously approaching the counter.

 

“Hi...I’m Wen Junhui.” he murmured, soft and shaky, like he was afraid of getting yelled at if he spoke too loudly. He was tall, close to Mingyu’s height but not quite, but similar to Mingyu in that he looked like his body was too big for him. His body language was awkward, reserved, making him look scared. Jeonghan felt like he’d just kicked a puppy, just by looking at him.

 

It was the Jun from the texts, Jeonghan realized. He could tell by looking him in the eyes. They were red-rimmed, and he saw the pure hurt that was hiding in them, threatening to break him down at any moment.

 

“Is Mingyu here?” Junhui asked quietly after Jeonghan said nothing, never raising his voice much.

 

“He is.” Jeonghan nodded, trying to give him a soft smile to make up for his earlier silence. “You can sit down somewhere until we’ve got everything closed off for our break, it won’t take too long. Do you want something to drink?”

 

“Ahh...green tea, if that’s okay?” he asked him meekly.

 

“Sure. Go ahead and sit down, I’ll bring it to you.” Jeonghan told him.

 

“Wait, I…” he murmured, a shaky hand digging around in his bag for what Jeonghan figured out to be a wallet. Jeonghan shook his head.

 

“No, no. It’s on me.” Jeonghan told him and turned around to get it for him before he’d try to insist otherwise. He walked into the kitchen right after Joshua had come back, it seemed, and Mingyu stared at Jeonghan with a deer in the headlights sort of look. “Jun’s here.”

 

“Oh, he’s early,” Mingyu said a little nervously.

 

“We can close early, he’s the only person in there right now,” Jeonghan assured him. He could see how nervous Mingyu was just at his sudden change in demeanor, although he wasn’t exactly sure why it was nervousness, and not something else. “Do you want us to be there, or no?”

 

“Yeah - please,” Mingyu said a little too quickly. Jeonghan guessed he was already planning on asking them that. “If you want.”

 

Jeonghan caught a glance of Joshua as Mingyu washed his hands after removing his gloves. He didn't look any better than he did in the morning. Maybe even a little worse, judging by how tired he looked, but of course, he tried not to show it. He certainly didn't mention it to anyone, but that didn't surprise Jeonghan either.

 

Joshua followed Mingyu as he walked out of the kitchen, clearly to avoid any confrontation, and instead of doing anything about it, Jeonghan only sighed and followed.

 

Junhui had taken a seat at the little table closest to the counter. Mingyu approached him very cautiously, extending a nervous hand to shake. Junhui stared at it at first, and decided he wouldn't shake back, but hug him instead.

 

Mingyu seemed a little taken aback at first - a person he had never met just hugging him. Junhui was hugging him tight, too, like he hadn't had human contact in days. Which seemed partially true. Mingyu hugged him back, eventually. Jeonghan chewed his lip when he saw the younger's lip quivering.

 

Jeonghan placed the green tea at the table just as the two of them sat down, and Joshua wandered back over after locking the front door of the cafe. He leaned against the counter with a little sigh, and Jeonghan stood next to him. Not too close, but close enough to watch him.

 

“I'm sorry I had to meet you like this.” Junhui murmured shakily, his eyes cast down at the table. Mingyu was looking straight at him, deep sorrow in his eyes.

 

“Please don't apologize,” Mingyu told him with a reassuring nod. “Is he...how is he? You said he woke up?”

 

“He did wake up.” Junhui murmured, his voice still shaky, but it was clear he was trying his best to keep it steady. “He’s...I don’t know. He's acting really strange. There's this...this far-away look in his eyes."

 

Jeonghan felt his chest tighten. His eyes wandered over to look at Joshua, who was pulling at a stray string in his apron.

 

They talked for a bit longer - Junhui told Mingyu about things Minghao had been dealing with, mostly saying it happened because of his overwhelming loneliness, coming all the way from China. Junhui said he'd felt similarly when he first arrived in Korea, but not to the point of what Minghao did. Minghao tended to get stuck in the depths of his own thoughts, he said. And it just got to the point where he thought he couldn't handle it anymore.

 

Jeonghan watched Joshua when Junhui explained. Joshua's mind looked like it really was somewhere else.

 

“Would you...would you want to visit him? You don’t have to, I just…”Junhui murmured. “It was weird, you were the only one he was texting before...before it happened. He hadn’t texted anyone else since October.”

 

Mingyu chewed on his upper lip for a second. “Really…?” he asked.

 

Junhui nodded.

 

Jeonghan sort of wondered if Junhui felt betrayed. They were roommates, and Minghao hadn't said anything to him. Junhui had found him, without any idea that something was going on with him. He realized, though, that Junhui seemed much more concerned with whether or not Minghao would survive this. Whether he would go through with the mandatory therapy, whether he would accept help or not.

 

“I'm heading back to the hospital later today. I can bring you, If you'd like. If you don't have any classes.” Junhui said softly.

 

“I don't have one until six, so, I can.” Mingyu gave a nervous nod. “They'd let me see him?”

 

“Hopefully.”

 

Jeonghan heard Joshua cough sort of abruptly, and when he looked over, Joshua had a hand halfway over his mouth. Jeonghan almost asked if he was okay, but he seemed fine.

 

He looked back at Junhui and Mingyu for a moment, as they discussed when and where they would leave, come back, and so on.

 

“Excuse me, sorry,” Joshua mumbled almost to himself before hastily exiting through the counter, and disappearing behind the door.

 

The three of them stared at the door Joshua had so quickly disappeared through, Mingyu and Junhui specifically, clearly worried he left because of the subject matter. Jeonghan’s heart was in his throat as soon as he realized what was happening.

 

Jeonghan was quick to follow Joshua the way he exited to where he assumed Joshua had gone, which was right near the cafe. Joshua said he'd been feeling sick, so Jeonghan had a feeling this had something to do with it, and the same feeling told him it was the reason Joshua asked to work in the kitchen that day, too.

 

Jeonghan heard the coughing and gagging coming from the restrooms, and his heart dropped. He was right. He was a little hesitant to walk in, at first, considering he was kind of squeamish when it came to this sort of thing, and he didn’t know if Joshua would like someone else being in there with him. This worry overcame the rest of his feelings and he walked inside - nearly ran. He went to where his ears guessed the sounds were coming from, and his heart seemed to drop even further when he finally saw Joshua.

 

A shaky elbow was holding him up to prevent his head from getting on the toilet seat, Jeonghan guessed, but aside from that, he was a mess, absolutely falling apart. His shoulders were heaving from the deep breathes he was forcing himself to take, and after a few seconds, he was gagging again.

 

Jeonghan went to sit beside him, a hand on his back traveling up and down, careful to soothe him as much as possible. He wasn’t okay. He could tell how sick he was feeling just by looking at him, and that wasn’t a good sign at all. Joshua tried to move away from him, as if to tell Jeonghan to leave, but Jeonghan wasn’t going anywhere.

 

Mingyu appeared in the doorway of the stall soon after, the worry in his eyes overflowing. Junhui was there, too, but not within Jeonghan’s line of sight. “I’ll...should I tell Seungcheol, hyung?” Mingyu’s voice was so quiet it was almost a squeak, staying outside of the stall.

 

“I'm just really dizzy. I'm fine.” Joshua croaked, looking absolutely wrecked. He took a few careful breaths before continuing. “Just need a second.”

 

“You are not fine, Shua. Stop saying that.” Jeonghan told him, his jaw clenched when he finished his sentence. He’d meant to sound mad, but he was so beyond worried that his voice came out soft, and comforting, almost.

 

Joshua didn’t bother looking at him anymore. He just leaned forward a bit, his head halfway touching the edge of the toilet, apparently deciding he wasn’t going to get up any time soon. He wasn’t sure if he was still feeling sick or just not trusting himself to get up, but Jeonghan decided he wasn’t going to force him into anything.

 

At that moment, Jeonghan nearly suffocated in all of the worries that hit him at once. Joshua looked so ill. He really wasn’t okay, he needed to lie down or something, go to the on-campus clinic. Jeonghan wanted to wrap him up in a blanket and keep him safe until he felt better, so he wouldn’t overdo anything - as he’d obviously been doing. But he didn’t have that kind of luxury.

 

“Stay here, okay? I’ll go tell Cheol what’s going on.” Jeonghan said softly, keeping his voice low, keeping his hands occupied as he fixed Joshua’s bangs.

 

“No,” Joshua murmured back, but his lack of energy wouldn’t let him say anything else. Jeonghan could hear the pain just through that one word. He didn’t want anyone to see him like this. He wanted everyone to forget it ever happened and just continue working, but Jeonghan wasn’t letting that happen.

 

Jeonghan didn’t say anything, though. He knew that Joshua knew that he couldn’t forget about this. “I’ll be right back,” he said patting down his hair before standing up.

 

“Please tell Jun I’m sorry,” Joshua mumbled shakily as Jeonghan stood up, halfway facing Mingyu, but without the energy to completely turn his head to look at him. Junhui appeared in the door frame, meekly, and murmured a small, sincere, it’s okay.

 

Jeonghan motioned for both Mingyu and Junhui to follow him out of the restroom. He didn’t want to crowd Joshua, even if it was none of their intentions to do so.

 

“Is he okay?” Junhui asked carefully once they were closer to the cafe again. Jeonghan didn’t know how to answer him at all. He really hoped Joshua was okay, he’d been hoping that all week, but it really didn’t seem that way.

 

“He just needs to take better care of himself, that’s all. I’m sure he’ll be just fine.” Jeonghan said to both of them because Mingyu seemed just as worried, but he stayed quiet. There was too much going through that poor kid’s head. “I have to talk to Cheol, you two can go to the table we were at. We won’t open until this is sorted out, no worries.”

 

Both of them nodded, and Jeonghan wandered off once they were back in the cafe, to Seungcheol’s little office.

 

Jeonghan hadn’t been there in a while. Seungcheol didn’t really like them being in there unless it was something serious, which didn’t happen too often.

 

He knocked before opening the door, deciding not to wait for Seungcheol to let him in. The latter was sitting at his desk, very focused on a stack of papers in his hands, reading through a little section before looking up at Jeonghan. “What’s up?” Seungcheol asked, a brow raised. “You guys have to open again soon.”

 

“Joshua isn’t feeling well. He threw up, he’s still in the restrooms.” Jeonghan told him, deciding to ignore the comment about their opening time. Seungcheol stared at him, wide-eyed for a second, but waiting for Jeonghan to go on. “He’s gonna tell you to let him stay, but please send him home. He’s not okay, Cheol. He’s been dealing with this all week and pushing through it, he can’t keep doing this to himself.” Jeonghan said, his voice almost shaky, one hand clenched into a fist. He felt his eyes burning again.

 

“Okay. If he’s that sick, he needs to go home for sure,” Seungcheol agreed, the worry shining through in his eyes as he set down the papers in his hands. “What’s he got, anyway? The flu?”

 

“I don’t really know. Maybe.” Jeonghan huffed, scoffing without even realizing it. Maybe it was a flu, but the overworking he was putting himself through definitely had something to do with it.

 

Seungcheol raised a brow, looking a little confused. “You sound kind of mad.”

 

“I am. He's an idiot.” Jeonghan mumbled.

 

He was back with Joshua soon enough, just after asking Seungcheol to make their break a little bit longer, so he could look after Joshua before going back to work.

 

“You okay?” Jeonghan asked him carefully as he knelt down to sit beside him. It looked as if he hadn’t moved much since they had left him there, aside from his cheek now resting on the edge of the toilet bowl, which Jeonghan found a little unsanitary, but he didn’t say anything. “Feel better, or no?”

 

“A little.” Joshua murmured tiredly, trying to push himself up off the floor as soon as Jeonghan was beside him. Jeonghan stopped him, taking a wad of toilet paper to wipe his mouth, and then fixing his hair again. His heart hurt, seeing how pale and exhausted he was. That certainly took all of the energy out of him - what was left of it, anyway.

 

“Cheol’s sending you home,” Jeonghan said, and he could already see the frustration in Joshua’s face when the latter sighed. “Don’t try to argue, Shua. Especially not with me.”

 

“I can’t go home, Hannie. I have class later, I can’t just - I can’t just skip.” Joshua murmured, his frustration making his voice a little shaky. He didn’t want to frustrate him, but he needed to rest. That was all he wanted for him.

 

“Okay, don’t go home. Take a nap in your car, go to the clinic. Just...rest, please. Please, Joshua.” Jeonghan told him, eyebrows pressed together. He was practically begging him, at this point, because he didn’t know what else to do. He could go home, he didn’t live that far, but he was just being stubborn. He didn’t want to leave work. “I have a pillow in my trunk, and a blanket too, I think. You can use them.”

 

He saw Joshua smile a little - weakly, but it was a smile nonetheless. “Of course you have a pillow and a blanket in your car.”

 

“Hey, at least I’m prepared.” Jeonghan shrugged, and Joshua’s smile seemed to grow. Jeonghan would give anything just to hold him at that moment - make him feel better, somehow.

 

He helped him stand, which was a bit of a struggle. Joshua’s knees were like jelly, so shaky he could hardly support himself, which was worrying - but Jeonghan let Joshua lean on him for support until he could gather himself and walk on his own.

 

They took the back exit after Jeonghan grabbed both of their keys from their bags. Jeonghan holding the door for Joshua - it was a heavy door, and with how Joshua was looking, he was afraid it would smoosh Joshua if he tried to open it himself.

 

Jeonghan dug through the back of his messy trunk to find his blanket and pillow, which he used for spontaneous naps, something he kind of wished Joshua would do, too. He walked back to Joshua’s car, to find the latter in his front seat already, with it pushed almost all the way back. Jeonghan opened Joshua’s car door, his half smile fading when he noticed how Joshua was forcing himself to take calm, deep breaths, and not moving or saying anything when Jeonghan opened the car door.

 

“Still nauseous?” Jeonghan asked him, placing the pillow and blanket on the passenger seat, for whenever Joshua would decide to use it. The latter nodded meekly a the question. “I’ll see if I can find you some medicine, okay? Don’t go anywhere.” Jeonghan said, doubting that he would.

 

Jeonghan went back inside, a little quicker, in hopes he could find something. Jeonghan always carried Dramamine with him for his motion sickness, but he didn’t know if that would help Joshua any, especially if he really had the flu. He remembered Mingyu saying he had Advil, and maybe if the nausea was coming from his headache, that would help. But he didn’t know and decided Dramamine was his best bet.

 

He peered over the counter, seeing that Junhui and Mingyu were still talking - he was sure Joshua felt horrible for accidentally interrupting that conversation, but he hoped he would forgive himself for it. Jeonghan was certain neither of the boys minded.

 

He took a glass of water and a tablet of the Dramamine before walking outside again, his heart dropping when he saw Joshua leaned forward in his front seat, head below the dashboard. Jeonghan walked closer, and sure enough, Joshua was throwing up into one of the small trash bags he kept in his car.

 

Jeonghan’s hand on his back made him flinch at first, which led him to gag again. Jeonghan apologized a few times, rubbing his back carefully, afraid of hurting him. He felt him shake, he felt how warm he was, and all of it was breaking Jeonghan’s heart.

 

Joshua was just breathing heavily into the bag, now, and Jeonghan took the bag from him, handing him the water and tablet as he did so, and then tying up the bag. “It’s my motion sickness stuff, so I don’t know for sure if it’ll help your nausea, but it’s worth a shot,” Jeonghan said softly as Joshua sat there quietly, still focused on keeping his breaths deep and even. “You’re really not feeling good, huh?”

 

“I’ll be okay,” Joshua murmured finally, looking a little hesitant to ingest anything, but taking the tablet and the water anyway. He didn’t drink much of it.

 

“Drink all of it, please. I know you still feel sick, but you need to have something in your system. I’m sure you’re dehydrated, too.” Jeonghan scolded a little, and Joshua sighed but did what Jeonghan told him, thankfully.

 

He handed the glass back to Jeonghan, and Jeonghan sighed, wondering what he should do. He only had one option, really, and that was to go back to work and hope that Joshua would rest, but he wanted to stay with him and make sure he was okay. He was so worried that it was going to drive him crazy, he was sure of it.

 

“Go back to work, Hannie. I’ll be fine.” Joshua told him, looking a little concerned, too, but Jeonghan realized it was only because of how worried he himself looked. “I’ll text you. Okay?”

 

“Okay. But sleep first.” Jeonghan puffed. “I hope you feel better.”

 

Jeonghan walked off soon enough, chewing at his lips.

 

He was back in the cafe, where Mingyu and Seungcheol were waiting, talking to each other. Junhui wasn’t there anymore.

 

“Did he go home?” Seungcheol asked as soon as he saw Jeonghan, and Mingyu turned to look at him too.

 

“No, but he’s resting in his car. He didn’t want to leave campus, he has classes later today.” Jeonghan sighed, wishing he would have gone home, or maybe even to Jeonghan’s place.

 

Seungcheol pouted, his arms crossing over his chest. “Really? I’d skip all my classes for like, a week if I was puking.”

 

“Yeah, well, you know him,” Jeonghan said quietly.

 

“Tell him I’m giving him the day off tomorrow if he needs it. I have most of my paperwork done, so I can take his place.” Seungcheol decided, which honestly surprised Jeonghan. He didn’t usually do that. If one of them was sick, he would usually ask them to decide how they were feeling the morning off. He never really handed out off days like that.

 

“I’ll text him that. Thank you, Cheol.”

 

And with that, they went on with their day. Jeonghan had to try his hardest to fight the urge to check on Joshua every five minutes, but he knew he could do it. Joshua was an adult, too, he could take care of himself. He wasn’t very good at it, clearly, but he could do it.

 

Jeonghan asked Mingyu if Junhui had left, even though it was obvious he had. Mingyu said that Junhui wanted to stay, but it was clear to him that the later was worried and anxious, so Mingyu told him to go back to Minghao, and that Mingyu would meet him at the hospital after his shift was over, as long as that was still okay with Junhui.

 

Mingyu seemed nervous about that, for sure. But from what Jeonghan understood, Junhui and Mingyu were the only people Minghao had.

 

Soon enough, their shift ended, and Jeonghan cleaned up as fast as he possibly could, so he would be able to go check on Joshua as soon as possible. He’d refrained from it the entire rest of the shift, hoping he would be able to rest if he was alone.

 

He said goodbye to Seungcheol and wandered outside, only to find that Joshua’s car was already gone.

 

He should have expected that was going to happen, but it didn’t make him any less sad to expect it. He wanted to see Joshua before he left, just to make sure he was okay, to maybe see him feeling a little better. But now, he would be forced to take his word for it through text.

 

 

Jeonghan frowned. Of course, he was going to work on homework, not that he expecting Joshua to do anything else. He had heard that I’m fine from him so many times in the past week, it had no meaning anymore, especially considering that there wasn’t a single situation where he said that in which he was actually fine.

 

He figured he wasn’t going to get much more out of Joshua at that point, and decided to leave him be, so he could finish what he needed to do. Maybe he would call him later, after their classes. Or maybe he’d ask if he could come over to check on him.

 

Knowing Joshua, though, Jeonghan doubted any of that would actually work out in his favor.

 


 

 

Jeonghan would usually find himself in some sort of cafe when he was stressed, which was ironic because he worked in one. He always thought, logically, that would make him want to be away from cafes, but it was a comfort.

 

He was waiting for Mingyu. Mingyu had been at the hospital all day - missed his classes, Jeonghan noticed, which Mingyu didn’t do often. He had texted Jeonghan, asking if he would meet him at the cafe just off campus, to talk.

 

Normally, Mingyu would just call - but this sort of this was a lot more serious. He wasn’t surprised that Mingyu was asking to talk in person.

 

He heard the little jingle at the door and looked up to find Mingyu walking in - his eyes wandering the cafe in search of Jeonghan before Jeonghan waved him over. He could see in just his posture that he had a lot on his mind, with how his shoulders were slumped, his eyes a little unfocused.

 

“Hi, Gyu.” Jeonghan greeted him as he walked over, pushing over the hot chocolate he’d ordered for the younger. It was kind of cold outside, and he didn’t need coffee, it was already dark out. Coffee would only keep him up if he drank it now.

 

“Thanks, hyung. It’s really cold out.” Mingyu murmured, wrapping his hands around the warm mug to warm up his hands, not even bothering to take his jacket off. “And I thought people were just being dramatic about hospital food, but it really does suck.”

 

Jeonghan gave a little half smile, but he could somehow tell that Mingyu was just saying things to stall.

 

“How was he doing?” Jeonghan asked him carefully.

 

Mingyu was quiet at first, and for a second, Jeonghan wanted to take back what he’d asked. Maybe he didn’t want to meet up to talk. Maybe he just wanted to pretend everything was normal for a bit - Jeonghan didn’t blame him. He sort of wanted that too. But he spoke, after a few silent seconds. “I’ve never...I’ve never seen someone so exhausted of living, Jeonghan. I could...just in his eyes, I could see it.”

 

It broke Jeonghan’s heart, even just hearing that. He couldn’t imagine what that felt like. “Was he talking to you at all?”

 

“He seemed kind of happy that I was there. I think that’s good.” Mingyu said softly. “I talked to him for a really long time. I cried, which I...I don’t know, I felt stupid for doing that, but just - he was so skinny, hyung, I never realized that. He...basically looked half dead already, you know?” he mumbled. “And he was trying to hide his cuts from me.”

 

Jeonghan’s breath was caught in his throat. He’d been hurting himself, too?

 

“Are they gonna get him help?” Jeonghan asked meekly. Surely they would do something if he was hospitalized for a suicide attempt.

 

“I think so. But I’m not really sure what they’ll do,” Mingyu said after taking a sip of the hot chocolate and then setting it down on the table again. “But I want to try and help too, hyung.”

 

“I think he would just appreciate it if you were there. You don’t have to do anything aside from that.” Jeonghan told him, and Mingyu nodded back at him, his lips pressed into a thin line. “You visited him, and he was happy to see you. You’re already helping him.”

 

“I...I guess you’re right, hyung.” Mingyu said back, eyes glued to the table.

 

They sat in silence for a while after that, Mingyu focused on drinking the hot chocolate that Jeonghan got for him, and Jeonghan thinking himself into a hole, somehow. There was so much happening, he never thought he’d be hearing things like this from a friend of his. His brain was making far too many connections to Joshua. He knew it was irrational - that’s what he was trying to convince himself, at least - but his brain just wouldn’t stop.

 

Joshua wasn’t giving him any answers. Maybe Jeonghan was just overthinking everything, but that wasn’t his fault. Joshua was being weird. He’d been acting strange all week, and with everything going on with Mingyu, he was worried that it was something bigger than what Joshua was making it out to be.

 

“Hyung, are you okay?” Mingyu’s asked carefully, pulling Jeonghan out of his thoughts. Jeonghan was afraid for a moment, wondering why Mingyu was asking until he realized how tightly he was balling his hands into fists - to the point his hands nearly going white; of leaving fingernail marks on the inner parts of his hand.

 

Jeonghan nodded, but he regretted that right away. He was just doing to Mingyu what Joshua had been doing to him.

 

Mingyu knew about Jeonghan’s anxiety. He wasn’t stupid, and it was easy to point out when Jeonghan was getting anxious - Joshua had explained the signs to Mingyu when he first started working at the cafe at the beginning of the semester, even if Jeonghan insisted it wasn’t necessary for him to know. It was. Jeonghan still had attacks, even if they weren’t nearly as often as they used to be. And he was pretty sure he was having one in front of Mingyu.

 

“C’mon, hyung, let’s go outside,” Mingyu told him after standing up. Jeonghan was so tempted to tell him that he was fine and that he didn’t need to go outside, but he did. He was shaking and he could hardly get a word out, let along a breath. His chest hurt.

 

Mingyu led Jeonghan outside by the hand after grabbing his things for him. Jeonghan felt people staring at him, their eyes burning holes into him, and Jeonghan felt so beyond pathetic for that.

 

When they finally left the cafe, Mingyu led Jeonghan to Jeonghan’s car and set his things down on the hood. Jeonghan covered his face for a moment, his priority to get himself to calm down, or at least try. His chest hurt so bad, he could hardly get a single breath in, which only seemed to be fuel to his racing thoughts.

 

Mingyu wrapped his arms around him just before Jeonghan’s tears finally spilled.

 

Jeonghan kept his hands over his face for a while, before hugging Mingyu back. Normally in these types of situations, he just needed to be alone, away from people, somewhere he could calm himself down - but it was nice to have someone holding him. He was always so insistent on being the one taking care of people, but he didn’t have to do it all the time. Mingyu was telling him that just by hugging him.

 

“Thank you,” Jeonghan told him through a sniffle after a few minutes, and Mingyu backed out of the hug to look at him, and smile. Jeonghan was still shaking, but it would go away after a while.

 

“Is it...it’s ‘cause of Joshua hyung, right? You’re worried.” Mingyu asked him, taking Jeonghan’s jacket off of the hood of the car and handing it to him. Jeonghan took it and slid it back on right away, just then realizing how cold it was.

 

“Yeah,” Jeonghan mumbled, exhaling the breath that had been caught in his lungs. “I’m worried. But I’m overthinking it.”

 

“I mean, maybe, maybe not.” Mingyu shrugged. “I’m sure you have, but you should try sitting down with him, to talk about it.”

 

“I should.” Jeonghan nodded, his eyes glued to his shoes. He had made attempts of that, for sure, but he needed to try harder. Joshua was hard to get through, Jeonghan should know that by now. “Let’s...I’ll take you home now, okay?”

 

Mingyu gave a tiny nod, his worry still shining through his eyes. “Okay, hyung.”

Chapter Text

Jeonghan’s hands were still shaking when he closed the door to his car and locked it. He stared at them for a few moments after stuffing his keys into his bag. His anxiety hadn’t quit since he broke down in front of Mingyu.

 

It was odd, he realized. His anxiety hadn’t been as bad as it was in that moment since before college and before he met Joshua - and things weren’t as bad as they were back then. Nothing was directly affecting him, he realized. Mingyu and Joshua were both dealing with a lot, but Jeonghan was fine. He was just worried, helpless that he wasn’t able to do anything.

 

It was more like his anxiety was some sort of sense of impending doom, rather than in reaction to everything that was currently happening.

 

He was early that morning, much earlier than usual. Seungcheol’s car wasn’t there, but Joshua’s was. He wondered why Joshua had shown up so early as well, and that was starting to worry him slightly too.

 

He heard things when he opened the back door. It sounded like coughing, but it was much more similar to the vomiting sounds he’d heard from Joshua the previous day, and his heart dropped.

 

Jeonghan’s suspicions were right, because when he dropped his bag and walked into the kitchen, he found Joshua leaned over the kitchen sink, half dry-heaving, half coughing, but entirely miserable and definitely still feeling sick.

 

“Joshua…” Jeonghan murmured upon approaching him. He did it carefully, unsure if Joshua was aware that Jeonghan had arrived at all. He didn’t react - just kept his head ducked in the sink. “Why did you come in today at all? You should have stayed home. Cheol even said you could.”

 

He was quiet at first, breathing heavily. “Stop...stop telling me what to do, Jeonghan.” It was supposed to be threatening, Jeonghan realized, but his voice was so quiet, so unsteady and shaky that it sounded kind of pathetic. More like a plea than a threat - like he was begging to be ignored.

 

Jeonghan sighed softly, sympathetically, placing one of his shaky hands on Joshua's back, rubbing circles into it as the latter spit up the last of bile. “Does Seungcheol know?” It was sort of a dumb question. If Joshua wasn’t feeling well, he would have told Jeonghan before he told Seungcheol, and he never told Jeonghan to begin with.

 

“No. Please don't tell him.” Joshua murmured shakily, struggling to keep himself steady over the sink. His elbows propped him up, one hand holding up his forehead to keep himself from falling into the sink.

 

“Shua, you're really sick. You shouldn't be here.” Jeonghan sighed, pressing a light hand to his cheek, checking for any warmth, but there was nothing abnormal about it - the redness was just from embarrassment, he guessed. That was good, at least - better embarrassed than with a fever. “I can take you home.”

 

“‘M not going home, Jeonghan.” Joshua huffed at him out of exasperation, his arm nearly slipping before Jeonghan caught him.

 

He lowered him down to the floor in front of the sink, and Joshua didn’t protest, nearly falling limp as Jeonghan brought him down. He told him to stay put before going back to his bag to grab a Dramamine tablet for him, and a water bottle from the fridge, before returning to kneel down in front of him and hand him both. “Did it help last time?” he asked.

 

Joshua nodded, taking the tablet into his mouth a little reluctantly. He was staring at Jeonghan’s hands for a few silent moments, and Jeonghan moved the water bottle a little closer to him, wondering if he was spacing out.

 

“Your hands are shaking,” Joshua murmured as he took the water bottle from him, taking a very small sip after he made the observation. He sounded sad. He knew exactly why Jeonghan’s hands were shaking, he knew Jeonghan’s anxiety better than anyone. Joshua must have known that he was indirectly causing it.

 

Jeonghan just gave him a sad smile, guessing he wasn’t going to get him to drink much more of the water, before standing up to clean out the sink.

 

He felt Joshua lean his head against Jeonghan’s leg as soon as he stood up. Joshua didn’t normally do things like that. He wasn’t a touchy person and preferred to have his own space be his, so seeing him lean against Jeonghan was worrying, even if he was just leaning on his leg.

 

Jeonghan cleaned the sink rather mindlessly, his brain occupied on other things, wondering what he was going to do. Would he tell Seungcheol what had just happened, or would he respect what Joshua said and leave it alone? He said the Dramamine helped him so maybe it would get him through the day, but clearly he was dealing with more than just the vomiting, and it wasn’t good that it was happening for the second day in a row. He needed to see a doctor, or go home to rest at the very least.

 

When Jeonghan finished disinfecting the sink, a handful of minutes had passed, much longer than what he needed to clean the sink. Joshua was still leaned against him, and Jeonghan was careful not to startle him when he moved. He realized that when he moved away, Joshua’s head fell limp and nearly touched his shoulder when it did. He had fallen asleep.

 

“Hey,” Jeonghan said softly as he knelt in front of him, a hand on his cheek in attempt to carefully wake him. His eyes opened slowly, making contact with Jeonghan’s, silently begging to let him sleep. “If I see that you’re feeling better, I won’t say anything, okay? But it anything else happens, I’m taking you home.” he murmured, lowering his hand. “Or I’ll take you home now.”

 

“I’ll be okay,” Joshua decided tiredly, rubbing at his eyes. He reached out a hand for Jeonghan to help him up  while his other hand was busy with his eyes, although that seemed to be more out of embarrassment that he was asking for help. Jeonghan took his hand, and helped pull him off the floor. He was a little hesitant to let go. “Is it okay if I work in the kitchen?”

 

“Of course, but I’m coming in here to check on you as much as possible.” Jeonghan told him sternly, and Joshua sighed, but didn’t argue.

 

It took Joshua a while to get his energy back up. He snuck passed Jeonghan at one point to drink coffee, despite Jeonghan insisting that coffee on a sick and empty stomach was not a good idea. Joshua did it anyway, arguing that he needed something to wake him up.

 

By the time Seungcheol and Mingyu arrived, Joshua seemed to be doing a lot better. He had more water and even ate something, and Jeonghan was so relieved that his hands finally stopped shaking, and he felt like he was able to breathe normally again.

 

“He looks better.” Mingyu told Jeonghan quietly, right before their shift started at the counter, just as Seungcheol opened the cafe doors. Jeonghan gave him a little nod. It was quick, for sure. He hoped that it was the medicine that helped him, because he seemed to be acting normal. He didn’t look sick anymore, but Jeonghan knocked on the wood of the counter anyway. He didn’t want to jinx it.

 

He checked on him a few times as the day went on - feeling his forehead, making sure he was drinking water. Joshua seemed a little annoyed by it, and Jeonghan understood why, but Joshua never resisted.

 

Aside from that, the rest of their shift was normal. Jeonghan felt like a weight had been lifted off of his chest.

 

“I’m going to the library to practice for a bit, I’m presenting today.” Joshua told him just as they locked the cafe doors behind them. It was just the two of them. Mingyu had left a little early - Junhui picked him up so he could visit Minghao at the hospital again. Junhui said the younger was doing a little better. Talking more, more expressive - excited to see Mingyu.

 

Jeonghan sighed. “Okay, you’ll - ”

 

“Text you if I need anything? Yes.” Joshua finished for him, flashing him a little smile. “I’ll see you in class, Jeonghan.” he paused, looking a little hesitant to speak his last sentence, but he did it anyway. “Thank you for looking after me.”

 

Jeonghan was a little stuck on what exactly he should say, so he just smiled. A little awkwardly, but Joshua smiled back, and disappeared into his car.

 

Jeonghan’s brain was telling him to say I love you, even as he watched Joshua drive away.

 


 

Jeonghan showed up to class much earlier than usual, but Joshua was already there, setting up his presentation.

 

Jeonghan was nervous, for some reason. His brain was repeating the same thoughts over and over - You love him. You love him, Jeonghan. You love Joshua. Although he didn’t quite understand the reason why it had come out of nowhere. He was sort of overwhelmed by it all, his ears bright red since Joshua left the cafe, but hidden by his hair. Thankfully.

 

He didn’t need to bring it up. He’d probably just forget about it anyway.

 

Joshua was focused on setting up his presentation, busy setting up the computer with Mr. Kim Namjoon. Jeonghan took an aisle seat in the front row to get his attention, but Joshua only gave him a little wave. He was focused, and Jeonghan decided he would leave him alone and not distract him.

 

Jeonghan was going over the outline of his own presentation, which he was presenting on Monday. He didn’t put as much work into his as Joshua did - Jeonghan didn’t necessarily need a good grade in the class, so he didn’t care as much, but Joshua did. Even if he didn’t, Joshua would always give everything he did one hundred percent. Jeonghan kind of envied that.

 

It wasn’t long before the rest of the class piled in, a few of them redying themselves for their own presentations. Joshua had five minutes to present - it wasn’t a long time, for sure, but they had a large lecture class and needed enough time for all of the students to present over a certain amount of days. He worked hard on it regardless - Mr. Kim would be going over the powerpoints on his own time to grade them, and that was what scared everyone.

 

Once Joshua started, Jeonghan’s full attention was on him, and he took notice of how shaky his voice seemed, almost making him stumble over his words. Jeonghan guessed he was a bit nervous, but he usually didn’t have much of a problem presenting. Especially for something that was only five minutes long.

 

Joshua was leaned on the flimsy podium just as he was switched slides from his powerpoint with his little remote. He took a moment before talking again, taking a shaky breath and leaning on the podium a little more heavily, and the silence lingered. Jeonghan’s chest tightened - why wasn’t he continuing? Was he okay?

 

“I’d invite you to take your time, but you don’t have much of it.” Mr. Kim told Joshua from where he stood at his desk, with his clipboard. He wrote something down. Joshua didn’t react, and Jeonghan was starting to hear whispers behind him.

 

And within a split second, Joshua’s eyes rolled back and he fell forward, taking the flimsy podium down with him as his body went completely limp.

 

Jeonghan heard a collective gasp from a handful of students in the classroom. And at first, he didn’t know how to react. He was waiting for Joshua to get up, or at least move - assuming that he had just tripped, somehow - but it wasn’t happening. He was completely still, halfway laying over the podium.

 

Needless to say, Jeonghan had never been more relieved about taking a seat in the front row.

 

He bolted to the front of the classroom once his brain fully registered what had just happened. Their professor was already leaning over Joshua’s unmoving form, hands hovering over him, clearly unsure what to do. Jeonghan felt like he couldn't breathe.

 

Jeonghan did it for him - he moved Joshua off of the podium, rolled him over so he could see his face. Joshua was becoming conscious again, he realized, but his eyes were screwed shut and he whimpered. Something was clearly very wrong. A few other students were crowded around, asking what was wrong, how they could help. Jeonghan ignored them. He wanted them to get away, give Joshua space.

 

“He’s ill, sir,” Jeonghan said shakily, stating the obvious as he pulled Joshua’s head into his lap. Joshua was shaking so badly, refusing to open his eyes. “He has been all week.”

 

“I...should I call a nurse to come here?” Their professor asked nervously, clearly unsure what to do.

 

“I can take him to the campus clinic. That’s faster.” Jeonghan insisted, slightly shaking Joshua’s upper arm to get him fully conscious again.

 

Mr. Kim helped Jeonghan lift Joshua off of the floor. He was still halfway limp, clinging onto Jeonghan as soon as he was back on his feet. Joshua noticed all the stares, that was clear. His face was so red and his eyes were glassy with tears, but he was silent. Jeonghan wished so badly that this didn’t have to happen in front of the entire class. He wished it didn’t happen at all.

 

A student Jeonghan didn’t know had picked up both Jeonghan and Joshua’s things for them, and another was holding the back door open. Jeonghan thanked them a hundred times, taking the bags and insisting he could carry them himself. Joshua hid his face from anyone that spoke to either him or Jeonghan, even when they wished him well.

 

They closed the classroom door, and in the silence of the hallway, Jeonghan heard Joshua’s incredibly shaky breaths.

 

Joshua was still leaning on Jeonghan for support as they walked to the building’s main entrance. He was so set on leaving, getting as far as possible from anyone who could see him, and it broke Jeonghan’s heart.

 

“Sit down, angel. Sit down, we don’t have to walk all the way there in one go.” Jeonghan told him softly, hyper-aware of how much Joshua was shaking, how much he was struggling to keep himself upright.

 

“No, please, I just want to get to my car,” Joshua mumbled shakily. “Please…”

 

Joshua’s knees seemed to buckle then, and Jeonghan was worried he had fainted again, but he was just exhausted. He couldn’t keep walking.

 

Jeonghan lowered him down to the floor, sliding down the wall. It was a quiet hallway, thankfully, and he hoped that wouldn’t make Joshua worry so much about who was watching or seeing what was happening.

 

Joshua curled up to Jeonghan, burying his face in his chest. He was crying. Sniffling, at first, but at some point, he couldn’t hold back his sobs anymore. Jeonghan wrapped his arms around him, placing his chin on the top of Joshua’s head. Joshua was so small, so fragile. Jeonghan was afraid if he hugged him too hard he might break him, and Joshua really didn’t need to be broken on top of everything else he was feeling.

 

“I’ve got you,” Jeonghan told him softly, his hand slowly running up and down Joshua’s spine as he cried. Jeonghan had never seen Joshua cry. Joshua was so very private about that, Jeonghan sometimes wondered if Joshua even possessed the ability to cry. But here was was, completely vulnerable, sobbing into Jeonghan’s arms.

 

They sat there for a while, and Jeonghan let him cry as much as he needed to. He didn’t pry on what was hurting him, even if he was beyond worried because Joshua has just passed out in front of their entire class.

 

“Can I please just go home,” Joshua murmured after his sobs died down, but he stayed where he was, his head lying on Jeonghan’s chest. “I just, I…I just want to sleep. The clinic is always so slow, and I just want to go home, Hannie…”

 

Joshua was begging Jeonghan at that point, his voice breaking. Jeonghan wanted to take him so badly, but he couldn’t do that against Joshua’s will. He just wanted to rest, and Jeonghan wanted to give that to him.

 

“You’re not in any condition to be driving yourself,” Jeonghan said softly. “I’ll take you to my apartment so you can rest, okay? And then I’m taking you to the clinic tomorrow morning.”

 

Joshua was quiet, and didn’t reject what Jeonghan said to him. He stayed there for a little while longer, still, not wanting to get up.

 

Jeonghan helped him up off of the floor after a while. Joshua was struggling to support himself on his shaky legs at first, but he managed, and even insisted he was okay to carry his own backpack.

 

Jeonghan was very careful. He walked alongside him, watching his footsteps, ready to steady him if he needed it - but Joshua managed to make it to Jeonghan’s car without any help from him. Although, he nearly collapsed in the passenger seat when he got there, his eyes falling shut with a sigh of relief.

 

He was already asleep when Jeonghan started his car, and Jeonghan had to lean over to make sure that Joshua was buckled into the seat, but still careful not to wake him.

 

Jeonghan’s grip on the steering wheel was tight as he drove back to his apartment. He was trying to counter the way his hands were shaking by keeping his grip strong - but he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t get rid of how worried he was, not like that.

 

He got Joshua back into his apartment without too much of a problem. Joshua was able to hold himself up and walk a little better, that was good - but he was still weak, limp and exhausted. All he wanted was to lie down.

 

“I’m gonna get you some water and medicine, okay? What’s hurting you?” Jeonghan asked him just after sitting him down on his bed. Joshua’s sleepy eyes drifted around the room - he hadn’t visited in a while, being so busy with school.

 

“My head. I think it’s a migraine.” Joshua murmured quietly, his eyes landing on Jeonghan’s nightstand. Taped to the neck of his lamp was a polaroid photo - one that Seungcheol had taken of the two of them after their first semester of working at the cafe together, before Mingyu attended the school. Joshua always said he hated it; he had s sort of stupid smile on his face from laughing at something Seungcheol said before taking the photo, and Jeonghan was laughing too, more at Joshua’s reaction than Seungcheol. “You still have that?” he asked softly.

 

“It’s been there since Cheol gave me the picture,” Jeonghan said, nearly forgetting it was there because he saw it so often. He loved the photo. He loved Joshua’s smile.

 

Joshua was still looking at it, smiling, although sadly. He didn’t say anything else.

 

“I’ll be right back,” Jeonghan told him softly, smiling at him before disappearing into the kitchen.

 

He didn’t have a ton of medicine, certainly nothing for migraines specifically. He never got them, but he knew Joshua dealt with headaches pretty frequently, sometimes migraines, too. They seemed to get worse recently - especially considering the past week, if the cause was really just migraines the whole time. Could a migraine be bad enough to make someone pass out? He didn’t know.

 

He returned with a tall glass of water in case he needed more overnight or in the morning, and two Advil pills for him. Joshua was lying down, a little curled up but not asleep. Jeonghan sat at the edge of the bed, handing him the pills and holding the glass of water for him.

 

“Where are you sleeping?” Joshua asked meekly after taking the pills, and lying back down, relaxed against the pillows.

 

“Probably the couch,” he responded as he stood again.

 

“Could you sleep in here…?” Joshua asked him tiredly, his eyes looking a little hazy, now. He was certainly almost asleep.

 

Jeonghan felt his heart speed up in his beats a little bit, not expecting Joshua to say that. He thought he might insist for him to sleep on the couch, actually. Did he mean sleep on the bed with him? Could he do that? He didn’t want to crowd him. Maybe he could grab some things to sleep on the floor. “Sure...sure I can.” Jeonghan said, a little nod following his words. “I’m gonna get you more comfortable clothes to sleep in, don’t fall asleep just yet.”

 

Joshua was sitting up on the bed once Jeonghan was back with sweatpants and a t-shirt for him to sleep in, and a pair of socks if he needed those, too.

 

“Your restroom is over there, right?” Joshua asked as he took the clothes into his hands, looking somewhat nervous. He must not be comfortable changing there, in front of Jeonghan, he thought. Jeonghan didn’t hold it against him.

 

“Yeah, to the right when you’re out of the room.” Jeonghan directed, and Joshua stumbled after standing, heading to the restroom without another word.

 

Jeonghan set up something on the floor beside the bed he was letting Joshua sleep in. It was just a few pillows lined up to look like a mattress with a blanket on top, which he knew wouldn’t be very comfortable, but he would sleep there if Joshua needed him too. Jeonghan wasn’t very fond of sleeping on the couch by himself, leaving Joshua alone in his room, anyway.

 

Jeonghan ended up scrolling through his phone for a few minutes, starting to worry when Joshua didn’t come back. He left his phone on the floor and walked rather quickly to the bathroom, knocking lightly, and not hearing a response. His heart was in his throat when he carefully opened the bathroom door.

 

Joshua was sitting on the floor and leaned against the tub, his eyes shut, breathing shallowly. Jeonghan was horrified, worried he had passed out again - but when he knelt down beside him, he realized he must have just fallen asleep, because he had his knees at his chest, and his phone in his limp hand.

 

“Shua,” Jeonghan started, cupping his cheek, not wanting to scare him out of his sleep. He stirred, making a little noise before his half-lidded eyes met Jeonghan’s. “You didn’t pass out, did you?”

 

Joshua was very obviously trying to force himself to stand up so he would look perfectly fine, but he almost listed sideways as soon as he stood up - Jeonghan caught him before anything could happen. “I’m so sorry, I fell asleep - ”

 

“It’s okay, Shua. I just want to get you to bed so you can actually get some good rest.” Jeonghan told him softly, leaning over to pick up Joshua’s phone, before helping Joshua back to bed.

 

Joshua was so weak, it hurt Jeonghan to see. Exhaustion was a huge part of it, of course, but he could hardly hold himself up, he hardly had a true grip on anything, but he was trying so hard to keep himself up. Once Jeonghan got him to bed, Joshua sunk into the mattress on the side closest to the wall. He reached out his hand, his tired eyes looking up to Jeonghan’s.

 

Jeonghan reached back as he sat on the bed, taking his hand, although a little nervously - and he watched Joshua fall asleep, something that only took a few seconds. He looked so much more peaceful when he was asleep - his face wasn’t contorted from the pain he was feeling. Jeonghan hoped he would be able to sleep well.

 

He debated it for a moment, but he ended up crawling under the covers beside Joshua. He didn’t want to let go of his hand, he wanted to be there in case anything happened, even if Joshua just wanted to make sure he wasn’t alone.

 

And Jeonghan was asleep in a matter of seconds, too, lying beside Joshua, his grip on the latter’s hand tight.

Chapter Text

Jeonghan was up pretty early, making coffee in his kitchen, and setting up an appointment at the campus clinic for Joshua.

 

He was hardly able to sleep that night. He found himself waking up every half hour to check on Joshua, to make sure he was still asleep, still beside him, and to make sure he was okay. Jeonghan felt a constant heavy weight pressing against his chest, a worry he couldn't just brush off and forget about.

 

Joshua usually woke up pretty early on the weekends, spending most of his time doing school related things. Jeonghan knew he probably wouldn’t be able to keep Joshua at his apartment the whole weekend - it’d drive Joshua crazy if he was lying in bed all day and not getting anything done, and Jeonghan knew that. But he also knew that he needed rest and a lot of it.

 

It was almost noon, now, and he was sure Joshua had never slept in that long in his entire life.

 

Jeonghan wandered back into his room after another half hour, bringing in a glass of water for Joshua.

 

The latter was awake, although hardly. His eyes were half-lidded and unfocused, his brain clearly elsewhere, not acknowledging that Jeonghan was in the doorway.

 

“I made the appointment for the clinic, so hopefully there won’t be a lot of waiting,” Jeonghan said softly as he turned the light on, hoping it would wake Joshua up, but he screwed his eyes shut as soon as he registered the light, and covered his face.

 

Jeonghan immediately regretted that as he shut the lights back off, worry flooding his chest as he approached the bed again, placing the glass of water on the nightstand. He sat at the edge of the bed, patting Joshua’s head. “I’m sorry, Shua, I completely forgot about the migraine. I thought the lights would help wake you, the appointment is at one.”

 

“It’s okay,” Joshua mumbled a little shakily, lowering his hands from his face once he seemed positive that the lights were off again. “What time is it?”

 

“It’s twelve, now. So we have an hour, it won’t take long to get there.” Jeonghan told him. He saw the stress start manifesting in Joshua’s brain again in how he tensed up, how his breaths were a little quicker, but only slightly. Jeonghan knew he still wasn’t feeling well and he probably didn’t want to leave the bed. “How are you, compared to yesterday?”

 

“About the same,” he murmured tiredly, bunching up the blanket in his arms and curling them into his chest. He looked so miserable. “My stomach still hurts,” he told him, and Jeonghan could have guessed that without Joshua telling him. He could see how nauseous he was just by looking at him.

 

Jeonghan sighed and laid down beside him, a hand sliding under his shirt to rub circles into his tummy. The skin was warm, Jeonghan noticed, and he moved his hand up to press to Joshua’s forehead, just to see if it was the same there - and it was. Jeonghan wasn’t surprised he had a fever, but it seemed low, at least. He knew he would need to keep an eye on it, though.

 

His hand moved back until Joshua’s shirt, and they stayed like that for a few minutes. Joshua seemed a little calmer, not as visibly stressed and hurting. Jeonghan knew that getting him to the clinic was going to be difficult - not just because it was clear he didn’t want to leave the bed, but also because he was feeling so horribly. He could hardly walk straight the day before. He was nauseous, so the car ride wouldn’t be fun for him. The lights were making his headache worse. Staying in bed was the best option for him, and Jeonghan wondered if most of that would clear up a migraine on its own.

 

“Mr. Kim emailed me this morning, he asked how you’re doing,” Jeonghan told him, remembering that. It came rather early, about seven or eight in the morning. He said he emailed Joshua as well, but asked if Jeonghan to pass on the message in case Joshua wasn’t near his phone. It was really nice of him to do, but then again, having a student pass out during class was definitely a big deal.

 

He saw Joshua chewing on his lip, recalling the memories of what had happened the day before. “Did he say anything about the presentation? If I need to redo it…” Joshua murmured nervously, and Jeonghan was tempted to pout at him. Of course he was worried about that.

 

“He didn’t say, but I can ask,” Jeonghan assured him.

 

“I don’t want to go back. Everyone saw it, I…” he started, and Jeonghan could almost feel the tension in his voice. His breaths were getting a little faster. “I can’t...I can’t redo it.”

 

“Don’t think about that right now, Shua. I’ll handle it for you, okay? No worries.” Jeonghan said, his voice more stern, very aware that Joshua was digging himself into a hole with the way he was thinking.

 

Joshua sat up, and his arms were hardly able to pull himself up to do that. He was looking around the room a little frantically, looking much more awake, but in a way that made him look anxious and alert - certainly not awake in the kind of way that would make it look like he felt better. “Where’s….did I leave my bag at school? - ”

 

“No, I brought it, it’s in the kitchen,” Jeonghan told him, a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to ground him.

 

“I have to...I have so much to do, Jeonghan, I can’t stay. I have homework, and this project I need to finish, I haven’t even started on it.” Joshua insisted, talking so fast Jeonghan almost asked him to repeat himself. He watched how his shoulders bunched up and he took a very shaky breath, lips pressed into a line. He looked about ready to cry. “But, I...my head hurts so bad, I can’t focus on all of that stuff, I don’t know what to do - I’ll fail all of it - ”

 

“Stop that, Shua, you don’t need to worry about that right now, okay? You need to focus on getting better and resting, I’ll take care of your homework.” Jeonghan told him sternly, but Joshua’s eyes were still wild, looking tempted to crawl past him to get out of bed - even though it was clear he couldn’t do that without falling over.

 

Joshua’s eyes were filled to the brim with tears already and he looked like he wanted to argue but he couldn’t, instead covering his eyes just as his tears started to spill.

 

Jeonghan held him closely and Joshua buried his face into his shoulder, shaking, sobbing almost. Joshua never cried like this, ever - not in the three years Jeonghan had known him, and he realized that it must be some sort of panic attack that he was having.

 

Jeonghan didn’t let go of him, patting down his hair and back as he cooed to try to calm him, although it was difficult to get it to work. Joshua never tried to pull away but his tears didn’t stop - he was so frustrated with himself and so worried about his work and it was driving him insane. Jeonghan hated seeing him like that, he hated it more than anything he could imagine.

 

“You’re doing just fine, angel,” Jeonghan told him softly as Joshua started to calm a bit, still crying but not sobbing. He felt Joshua grip the front of Jeonghan’s shirt, with a little whimper, silently begging him not to go anywhere. As if Jeonghan would ever do that to him.

 

He had him lie down after a few more minutes of holding him close. Jeonghan laid with him, playing with his hair, a loose but caring grip on his hand, until Joshua finally fell back asleep, clearly exhausted from everything that had just happened.

 

Jeonghan realized it was already past one, now, and they had missed the appointment. As if Joshua would have even been able to make it to the car without falling apart like he just had.

 

He had to find a way to get his homework done for him, he realized. The classes Joshua took were much more difficult that Jeonghan’s, so he was almost positive he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own.

 

He stayed in his bed, using his free hand to scroll through his contacts. He eventually landed on Seokmin’s name - Jeonghan sighed.

 

Seokmin. They were best friends in high school until Seokmin got scouted for an idol company - and now Jeonghan hardly saw him anymore. They were still friends, just not as close, because Seokmin was always busy, being a trainee.

 

Seokmin was really smart, though. He could easily help him do Joshua’s homework. Maybe Jeonghan could use it as an excuse to invite him over - if he wasn’t busy.

 

Jeonghan was very careful as he climbed out of the bed. He kept his movements as minimal as possible because the last thing he wanted was for Joshua to wake up, or notice that Jeonghan was no longer beside him. He hoped with everything that Joshua would stay asleep for a while, at least long enough for Jeonghan to set up and finish his plan.

 

Jeonghan pressed the little phone icon to call Seokmin as soon as he had the door shut, pressing his phone to his ear as he wandered into the kitchen.

 

“Jeonghan hyung! I haven’t heard from you in forever. There must be an emergency.” Seokmin said as soon as he answered, his tone one hundred percent joking, but Jeonghan felt a little pang of guilt against his heart. “Can I come over to your dorm, hyung? I miss you. And I also wanna get out of here before they find something else to make me do.”

 

Jeonghan sighed in relief as soon as Seokmin asked that, without even being prompted to. “Please, please come over. I miss you too.” Jeonghan said meekly. He really did. “I need your help with some homework, too, if you don’t mind.”

 

“Yeah, no problem! I’ll take an Uber. Should be like, twenty, thirty minutes if I’m lucky and there’s no traffic? Is that okay?” Seokmin asked. Jeonghan heard him shuffling for a second, and a voice in the background. “Oh, is it okay if Hoshi hyung comes too? He’s smart, he can help.”

Jeonghan raised a brow. “Hoshi?” he asked. He couldn’t keep up with all of Seokmin’s idol friends.

 

“Oh, Soonyoung! Sorry. We’re trying to get used to saying each other’s stage names.” Seokmin said the last part so proudly that Jeonghan found himself smiling, even if Seokmin couldn’t see.

 

“Okay, Soonyoung can come. You haven’t even told me your stage name, Seokmin.” Jeonghan added an audible pout to the end of his sentence, making sure to sound as offended as possible.

 

“It’s Dokyeom, hyung! I thought I told you.” Seokmin pouted through the phone, too, and Jeonghan laughed. “Okay, we’re gonna grab that Uber. See you soon!”

 

Jeonghan told him goodbye before Seokmin hung up the phone, and he felt a little guilty for not explaining the entire situation to him. What is it was something that Seokmin didn’t want to do, or get involved in? Seokmin was easy to read, so Jeonghan could just offer him a ride back if that were the case. He hoped it wasn’t, though.

 


 

Jeonghan was sitting in front of his bed when he heard the knock on the front door of his apartment. Joshua was still asleep, thankfully, and the knocking didn’t seem to stir him - so Jeonghan closed the door behind him after he stood up to leave, so Joshua could rest in silence.

 

He already had all of Joshua’s homework laid out on the kitchen table, because thankfully, the latter was organized, and kept his unfinished things in a folder, along with a printed out calendar of when everything was due. It made Jeonghan’s plan a lot easier.

 

He opened the door to reveal a very smiley Seokmin and Soonyoung, both of which were holding a bag of what was probably Chinese food, but Seokmin with an extra. He’d probably brought some for Jeonghan - which was really thoughtful of him, considering Jeonghan might have forgotten to eat breakfast. Or lunch.

 

Jeonghan found himself trying to force a smile back, but he couldn’t, and he nearly fell apart on the spot when he saw Seokmin’s smile fade. He walked forward to hug him, and Jeonghan’s chest felt tight. He didn’t want to put any of this on him, but Seokmin always knew when something was wrong. He couldn’t hide anything from him, not even sugarcoat it.

 

“Hi, Seokmin,” Jeonghan’s voice was a little shaky but his grip around the younger was tight. Seokmin hugged him back even tighter, and they stayed like that for a few long seconds, unfortunately leaving Soonyoung to awkwardly stand off to the side.

 

“You're really stressed, huh?” Seokmin observed more than asked, taking a step back with a concerned but warm expression. “What’s up? I doubt it’s just about homework.”

 

“I’ll explain in a minute, come inside,” Jeonghan said with a little sigh, giving Soonyoung a little wave.

 

Seokmin and Soonyoung placed the bags of Chinese food on the kitchen counter and started taking it all out of the bags. Seokmin grabbed plates and bowls as needed from Jeonghan’s cabinets, and Jeonghan was honestly surprised Seokmin still remembered where everything was. He hadn’t been there in so long.

 

Jeonghan helped pick up a few things so they could move to the kitchen table, and Seokmin and Soonyoung sorted out the homework between each other - who would be best at doing what, Jeonghan gathered from the conversation as he sat down.

 

They both started, and Jeonghan did too, on the things he figured he would be best at, going between looking at that and eating the food Seokmin and Soonyoung had brought for him.

 

“So, I’m pretty sure your name isn’t Joshua Hong.” Seokmin started nonchalantly and Jeonghan had almost forgotten about that part - Joshua’s name was written all over his stuff, of course they would see it. “That’s your friend from America, right?”

 

“Isn’t he the one that plays guitar, too?” Soonyoung asked, head tilted. “You know, my offer still stands if he ever wants to be an idol. The company’s looking for someone who plays.”

 

Jeonghan almost laughed at the idea of Joshua being an idol - not because he didn’t think he could do it, just because it seemed out of character for him. The lifestyle really suited Soonyoung and Seokmin - they were really good dancers and singers, and really good at being funny on command, both with very idol-like personalities. He couldn’t see Joshua doing the kind of stuff Soonyoung and Seokmin did. He did have a nice voice, though. And he was good at guitar.

 

“They’ll find someone,” Jeonghan told him with a little smile and Soonyoung gave a very exaggerated pout. Seokmin was still waiting on an explanation, though, Jeonghan could see it in his eyes. “It’s a long story, kind of. He’s in my room right now, sleeping.”

 

Soonyoung’s face went sort of red for a second, which Jeonghan found really odd, and he raised a brow - but he jolted, presumably because of something Seokmin did, before the latter continued talking. “I mean, I’m here long enough to hear a long story,” Seokmin said.

 

“It’s...I’ll give you the short version.” Jeonghan decided with a little sigh, absentmindedly playing with the straw in his drink. “He’s been..off all week, I guess. Sick, for sure, but with a lot on his mind, too. He’s had a headache all week, got sick Thursday, passed out yesterday and had an anxiety attack today.”

 

“Sounds like he’s perfect for idol life.” Soonyoung joked, but Seokmin shut him up with an elbow to his arm. An interesting exchange, considering that usually that behavior would be reversed for them.

 

“Has he gone to a doctor?” Seokmin asked, sounding a little worried. Jeonghan wanted to tell him yes.

 

“I had an appointment for him at the campus clinic this morning, but...he couldn’t. He’s too focused on his school work to even begin thinking about his health. That’s why I called you, I wanted to help get it done for him, so he can rest without that on his mind.” Jeonghan murmured, his eyes at the paper laid out in front of him. “I'm worried about him. I've never seen him like this before, Seokmin.”

 

“It sounds like it’s a lot for him to handle,” Seokmin told him, clearly just as worried as Jeonghan was - and so was Soonyoung. “You should try taking him to the clinic again, maybe they can help.”

 

“I want to, but he can’t get out of bed. He can hardly hold his head up on his own.” Jeonghan murmured quietly, his voice on the verge of breaking. He’d thought about the clinic again, of course he had, but Joshua was so physically and emotionally exhausted that even moving would drain all the energy from him.

 

“Hmm…” Seokmin started, tapping the pencil in his hand on his chin in thought, and both sets of eyes were now on him, waiting for an answer or solution. “I have a friend, he’s a med student? A freshman, but really ahead in all of his classes. He might be able to come over and check him out.” he shrugged.

 

“I feel like he needs a doctor to check him out, not a freshman med student,” Soonyoung said with a little pout.

 

“I know, but like, just until he’s able to get to a doctor,” Seokmin explained. “It definitely wouldn’t hurt, is what I’m saying.”

 

Jeonghan nodded. That was definitely true. Jeonghan had no way of knowing what was really going on with Joshua, and at this point, he’d even take a loose diagnosis from a med student. “You’re right, it couldn’t hurt. Can you contact him?” Jeonghan asked.

 

“Of course. I’ll do it right now.” Seokmin answered eagerly, pulling out his phone to do as Jeonghan asked.

 

They continued Joshua’s work as they waited for an answer from Seokmin’s friend, and Jeonghan found his brain drifting away again, of course, worrying about Joshua. He was so torn between dragging him to the doctor or letting him rest and having someone check up on him until he could actually get out of bed. What if it was something really serious? What if rest wasn’t going to help him, and it was only going to get worse as time went on? What would he do then, how could he live with himself?

 

His hands were shaking so bad he couldn’t hold the pencil anymore, and he knew Seokmin was starting to notice that.

 

He excused himself from the table, saying he needed to just make sure Joshua was still asleep - which was true, but some irrational part of his brain was telling him that Joshua was dying, and he needed to make sure he was still alive.

 

He was very careful with opening the door but found that Joshua wasn’t asleep - for the most part, anyway. He seemed one hundred percent exhausted, that hadn’t changed, but his eyes were open and they were looking at Jeonghan.

 

“Hi,” Jeonghan greeted a little shyly as he closed the door behind him, just to make sure Seokmin and Soonyoung understood not to talk, and to make sure Joshua couldn’t see them.

 

“Who’s outside?” Joshua asked weakly, hardly moving his mouth when he spoke.

 

Jeonghan felt a little guilty, realizing that Joshua might have been listening the whole time. He felt something squeeze at his heart. “I’m not sure if you remember them. Seokmin and Soonyoung,” he answered, sitting at the edge of the bed.

 

Joshua acknowledged it with a nod. “Do they know I’m here?” he asked a little shyly.

 

“They’re helping me with doing your homework,” Jeonghan admitted, answering Joshua’s question and spilling the secret so Joshua knew that Jeonghan wasn’t hiding anything from him.

 

He saw Joshua’s expression change pretty much right away, a little confused, offended and a few other things. “Jeonghan-”

 

“I know, that’s why I didn’t ask you first,” Jeonghan said with a little sigh, but trying for a smile anyway. Joshua huffed, seemingly deciding to give up on the arguing. “I promise they’re smart, they won’t mess anything up. And you can look over it later, of course,” he explained. “It’s just to take some of the stress off of you, okay? I just wanted to do something to help.”

 

Joshua looked tempted to argue, and for a few seconds, he didn’t make any eye contact. But eventually, he just sighed. “Just tell me next time, please.” he murmured. “Thank you.”

 

“I will. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to wake you.” Jeonghan said, and maybe it was a little bit of an excuse, but it was true nonetheless.

 

He brushed the hair from Joshua’s eyes, and realized how much his hands were shaking, and he thought he would be quick enough to pull away so Joshua wouldn’t notice, but he saw Joshua frown, and prayed he wouldn’t say anything about it. Jeonghan really wasn’t good at holding back tears.

 

“Are you okay?” Joshua asked him carefully, visibly concerned, and Jeonghan felt so suffocated being on the other side of that question. He didn’t want to answer Joshua truthfully, because he didn’t want to think about it, and he didn’t want Joshua to worry - he was trying to make things easier on him today, and he couldn’t do that if he dumped his problems on him when Joshua was clearly suffering the most.

 

But Jeonghan cracked under the pressure. Tears were spilling from his eyes before he could do anything to stop them, and he felt completely exposed.

 

He didn’t even register how quickly Joshua sat up to wrap his arms around him, and at that moment, Jeonghan wanted so badly to disappear. He hated how he felt, he hated that he was making Joshua worry when it wasn’t necessary. He felt how his breath started getting caught in his throat like his lungs wanted to force the air out, and he heard Joshua start counting, something Jeonghan hadn’t even thought of trying to do.

 

He was careful about it, and the first few times it didn’t work, but Joshua didn’t stop in trying to help him - that kind of made Jeonghan want to cry more, but he tried his hardest to get through it. He would be okay.

 

“I’m thinking about it too much. I’m scared, just, what if it’s something really serious…” Jeonghan murmured once his breaths were somewhat even, feeling that he owed Joshua some kind of explanation, but he felt himself starting to get worked up again just by saying it out loud.

 

“It’s nothing more serious than a migraine, Hannie, I promise. I’d know if something felt wrong. I’d tell you.” Joshua told him firmly, but Jeonghan’s brain was shouting at him, telling him he was lying. He didn’t know if Joshua would tell the truth, and that was the worst part.

 

But he had to trust him. And he did.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jeonghan told him as he pulled away, and Joshua only shook his head in response. “No, it’s...I shouldn’t be putting any kind of extra stress on you.”

 

“You need to stop worrying so much, Hannie,” Joshua said with a little smile. “I’m gonna come out with you and help. I feel weird that three people are doing my homework and I’m not there.” Joshua said, and his tone was telling Jeonghan it was more of a joke, but also an excuse to come with Jeonghan. And get out of that little room.

 

“You need to eat something, too.” Jeonghan reminded him, sheepishly wiping at his eyes as Joshua climbed out of the bed. Part of him wanted to force him back into bed and keep him there so he could rest, but Joshua wasn’t the kind of person who would ever do that. He needed to be doing at least something. “Do you think soup is okay?”

 

“Yeah, that should be fine,” Joshua said, a little wobbly when he finally stood. Jeonghan turned, getting a little worried, but Joshua seemed more determined to get a solid footing because of that. He managed to do it and even offered a hand to pull Jeonghan off of the bed.

 

Jeonghan kept his hand with Joshua’s even after they were both standing, and there was some insane part of his brain that kept chanting something Jeonghan didn’t even want to fully register. Kiss him. Kiss him.

 

But he didn’t. Joshua slipped his hand out of Jeonghan’s as he walked out of the room, and Jeonghan was kind of glad that was how it had ended - his heart was racing, for some reason.

 

Joshua greeted both Seokmin and Soonyoung and Seokmin immediately got up to hug him, despite not knowing him very well. He wondered if Seokmin was a little worried, too - he was squeezing him to the point where Jeonghan had to mouth a little ‘be careful’ at him.

 

“What took you guys so long?” Soonyoung asked, with a weird hint of nervousness that Jeonghan decided to ignore.

 

Joshua looked tempted to answer, but Jeonghan did, instead. “It just took me a bit to wake him. I wanted him to come out and eat something.” Jeonghan tried as casually as possible, but he had a feeling that everyone in the room knew that was a flat out lie.

 

Joshua sat down with the two of them, chatting for a bit while Jeonghan tried to cook something. He decided on ramen after assessing his cooking skills, and deciding he needed a little more than straight soup anyway.

 

Straight soup. Straight...straight. Was Jeonghan really straight?

 

He had always put that label on himself, assuming that’s just how things were. But he just had a very strong urge to kiss a person that definitely wasn’t a girl, and he didn’t really know how to comprehend that. He almost contemplated calling Mingyu about it, but he decided to leave that for another time. He wasn’t sure he could admit something like that out loud.

 

He listened to them talk for a bit. Seokmin asking how Joshua was feeling, Soonyoung asking if Joshua was still sure that he didn’t want to join their idol company, Joshua asking how their training was going. Friendly conversation as they looked over the work, as Jeonghan was pathetically cooking ramen, wondering if he was gay or not. He would prefer to forget about that, but the thoughts got louder every time he looked over at Joshua.

 

Jeonghan really did need to stop worrying. He needed new things to think about.

Chapter Text

“Hey...I know you didn’t sleep well, but I have to wake you up now.”

 

Joshua groaned, refusing to turn over from where he was curled up on the bed, his back facing Jeonghan. Jeonghan was almost contemplating contacting Seokmin to ask him to bring his friend tomorrow instead, but he knew that Joshua needed help as soon as possible, especially considering the night he had.

 

Joshua didn’t resist for too long. He turned over slowly, his eyes still shut, clearly exhausted.

 

Jeonghan ran a hand along Joshua’s cheek to feel for a temperature when he saw the latter shift uncomfortably. He was still warm, that didn’t surprise Jeonghan. He had gotten worse again since Seokmin and Soonyoung left. The climbing fever and nausea kept him up most of the night, and he could hardly lift his head without getting dizzy. He’d tried getting up, but it was even harder for him to do than it was the day before.

 

The worst part was that he was refusing to take even advil because of how sick he was feeling. And that certainly wasn’t helping his fever or headache.

 

“Seokmin’s coming over soon with his med student friend to check you out, angel,” Jeonghan told him softly, fixing his hair.

 

It felt weird calling him that again - it put a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach, and that didn’t happen when he was comforting him the day before. It made him nervous, embarrassed, for some reason, when it didn’t bother him before.

 

Of course Jeonghan knew the reason. He had been thinking about it nonstop. Wondering if he was really in love with Joshua.

 

It was bad timing, really.

 

Jeonghan wasn’t sure where the heat in his cheeks was suddenly coming from, and he certainly didn’t approve of it. He swiftly turned his head to swipe through his phone when Joshua started opening his eyes a bit. He wasn’t letting Joshua see that.

 

For a second, he wondered what it would be like, being with Joshua. Waking him up like this in circumstances that weren’t bad ones - if Joshua was healthy, and he’d just slept in.

 

Jeonghan didn’t need to see to know his cheeks were fully red, now.

 

“He doesn’t have to do that,” Joshua said very weakly, his voice sort of raspy on top of the weakness. Jeonghan’s heart deflated when he heard him, because it was obvious just by that, that he wasn’t doing any better.

 

“He does,” Jeonghan told him softly, “you’re not well, Shua. You still have a fever. And by looking at you I can tell your headache isn't any better.”

 

Joshua didn't argue, frowning sort of helplessly, effectively shattering Jeonghan’s heart. He knew that it made Joshua feel guilty, needing others to help him.

 

“I feel so pathetic, Jeonghan.” Joshua murmured, as if he were reading Jeonghan’s mind.

 

“Stop that. You’re not pathetic.” Jeonghan insisted. “None of this is your fault. You know that, don’t you, Shua?” he told him and leaned over him from where he sat, tucking a few loose strands of hair from behind his ear. It seemed to relax him a bit, which was good, even if it was only slight or temporary.

 

His eyes were so beautiful. Jeonghan could see stars in them, always, he really could. The were so detailed that he could point out constellations. The way his cheeks would lift to squish his eyes when he laughed was so cute, so endearing. And his lips. He had the most perfect lips Jeonghan had ever seen on a human being.

 

“Can I...can I kiss you?” Jeonghan was shocked with himself for saying like that, not realizing that he’d actually said it out loud until his mouth closed to finish the sentence.

 

He didn’t know what he was expecting Joshua to say. Laughing was the only thing he would have guessed to hear from him, either that or just genuine confusion on his face, but he saw him nod. Slowly, at first, and then much more clearly.

 

“Yes?” Jeonghan asked, heat pooling in the pit of his stomach.

 

“Yes,” Joshua answered, his voice soft but breathless, like it was caught in his chest. Like he wasn’t quite sure was to think.

 

Jeonghan worried about taking advantage of Joshua, but he’d said yes. He said yes to a question Jeonghan thought he would never ever ask Joshua, but here he was, doing just that. Leaning down, his hair sort of in the way, to press his lips to Joshua’s.

 

He was expecting Joshua just to lie there and take it, considering how weak and tired and definitely-not-gay he was, but Joshua reciprocated the kiss, and he was the one who had slid his tongue into Jeonghan’s mouth first, he was the one messily sucking on Jeonghan’s lips. Jeonghan thought he was losing his mind like this was some sort of wild dream he was having, but all of the feelings were real.

 

Jeonghan was on top of him soon enough, his legs on either side of the latter, still leaned down and thoroughly making out with him. He was sure Joshua had never done something like this with anyone, but he could be wrong. Jeonghan would be lying if he said he hadn’t dreamt about this or imagined doing something like this with a guy. He had definitely dreamt about this with Joshua, but he would never tell him that.

 

Jeonghan’s lips were right under Joshua’s ear, now, then on his neck, a touch that had Joshua shuddering.

 

Jeonghan was worried about hurting Joshua, so he was careful, but despite all of that, the latter seemed more anxious to get into this than Jeonghan did, which surprised him more than anything else. Jeonghan was the one on top of him, but Joshua’s hips were the ones bucking up, only slightly, but enough to get the point across. Joshua even moaned - quietly, but it was there.

 

Jeonghan pushed his hips down, his hot breath against Joshua’s neck and lips dangerously close but not quite there, to the point of getting a whine out of him, one so involuntary he looked embarrassed to make that noise. Even so, his hand was hastily reaching for the waistband of his own boxers, but Jeonghan stopped him before he could - sliding past with his own hand instead.

 

Joshua gasped as soon as Jeonghan’s hidden hand squeezed him, and Jeonghan swallowed back his excitement. “Are we really gonna do this, Shua?” Jeonghan asked through breaths, whisper-talking into Joshua’s ear.

 

“Keep going before I chicken out,” Joshua breathed out, and Jeonghan shut him up when he backed up, his lips now at his waistband.

 


 

 

 

Someone was banging on the door just as Jeonghan pulled Joshua’s boxers back up to where they belonged.

 

“Fuck, that’s Seokmin and his friend.” Jeonghan in between breaths, hastily pulling his hair back into a ponytail after Joshua had somehow managed to take it out from pulling on his hair. He was so sweaty, he could feel it in his hair. Joshua had an excuse to be sweaty, he had a fever, but he was still just as out of breath as Jeonghan. That would look really suspicious.

 

Joshua’s eyes were glassy and a little feverish, but they were focused on Jeonghan. Jeonghan raised his eyebrows, silently asking what the problem was, but his smile told him he was just living in that moment. He was happy.

 

Jeonghan was in love with him, he realized at that moment, looking down at his weak but clear smile. He was in love with Joshua.

 

“You’re really pretty,” Joshua told him, reaching up a slightly shaky hand to touch Jeonghan’s hair. “And, you're...you're good at that. Really good…”

 

“You’re stupid,” Jeonghan said back, a little tempted to slap him.

 

He didn’t want to leave, but he heard knocking on the door again, and decided it might be better he hurry and cover up what just happened before any of their visitors had any chance of noticing.

 

“Hold on one second!” Jeonghan shouted from his room and heard a very loud ‘okay!’ in return just as Jeonghan climbed out of the bed, pulling the blanket back over Joshua and ruffling his hair in hopes of hiding how sweaty it was.

 

“I think you sucked all the energy out of me,” Joshua said sort of innocently.

 

Jeonghan felt his face go red. “Oh my god , Joshua, don’t say sucked .” he squeaked.

 

Joshua started giggling, his hands covering his face, clearly embarrassed at what he had said.

 

Jeonghan was so happy he could cry. He didn’t hesitate to dip down to kiss him again, and at first it took Joshua by surprise, but soon enough he had his hands in Jeonghan’s hair again, and Jeonghan only wished it could last forever.

 

But he had to pull away, remembering their visitors were at the door. “I’ll be right back. Don’t do anything suspicious.” Jeonghan joked, meeting his smile for a few seconds before disappearing from the room.

 

Jeonghan was quick to open the door of his dorm room, feeling a little guilty that he made them wait, but hoping they wouldn’t be angry about it. Of course he wouldn’t tell them the real reason. He wouldn’t tell anyone about that.

 

Seokmin was with the friend he had told him about - Seungkwan, if Jeonghan remembered the name right. He looked a little nervous, giving an awkward smile when Jeonghan met his gaze. He looked young. He had fuller cheeks than Seokmin and there was a naive sparkle in his eyes, but Jeonghan still felt like he could trust him.

 

“Sorry about the wait. It took me a bit to wake him up.” Jeonghan said as casually as he possibly could. Seungkwan gave an understanding nod, but Seokmin seemed to find something off with the statement. Jeonghan tried his best to brush it off. “You’re Seungkwan, right? I’m Jeonghan.” Jeonghan introduced, offering a hand to shake.

 

“Y-yes, I’m Seungkwan. It’s nice to meet you, hyung.” Seungkwan said a little nervously but shook his hand anyway.

 

“How’s he doing?” Seokmin asked once Jeonghan led the two of them inside.

 

“He had a bad night,” Jeonghan answered in summary. “His fever is worse, and his headache isn’t any better.”

 

“Are those the biggest issues?” Seungkwan asked him, eyebrows raised curiously.

 

“Yeah, I think so. The headache especially. He passed out in class on Friday, I think that was the cause of it…” Jeonghan murmured.

 

Seungkwan was looking a lot more concerned now, probably coming to the same conclusion that Jeonghan had come to - that this wasn’t a normal thing that was happening. Something was wrong. “Where is he?”

 

“My room. Follow me.” Jeonghan told him as he walked in the direction of his room, both Seungkwan and Seokmin following closely behind him.

 

Joshua was still in the same position, looking so much more drained of energy than he had before Jeonghan left - paler, more tired than before. It happened so quickly - Jeonghan was only gone for about a minute or so.

 

“Joshua, this is Seungkwan.” Jeonghan introduced, and Joshua acknowledged with a weak nod as Seungkwan bowed to him followed by an exchanged of ‘nice to meet you’ ’s.

 

“Wow, you’re sweating a lot. Did you just go out on a run or something?” Seungkwan asked, only half joking. Seokmin glared at Jeonghan in suspicion, but Jeonghan looked away. Hopefully, Seungkwan would just pass it off as a side effect of the fever.

 

Jeonghan had a bowl of now lukewarm water on the nightstand with a washcloth that he had used in the night when Joshua’s fever spiked, and Seungkwan instinctively took the washcloth to dab at Joshua’s forehead. Joshua was a little unsure about that at first, coming from a stranger, but he didn’t resist.

 

“Also, I hope Seokminnie hyung told you this but I’m not a real doctor, he just asked me to come to check since he’s too fatigued to go to the doctor, right?” Seungkwan said to Jeonghan, a little nervous with his choice of words. Jeonghan nodded. He almost snorted at the Seokminnie hyung, a little weirded out that Seokmin, a baby, was older than someone, but he restrained himself. “Okay, so, since I’m a student, and I’m literally not qualified to do this, I really recommend he goes to a real doctor as soon as he can. No matter what I find out.”

 

Jeonghan nodded again, aware of how very serious Seungkwan sounded. “I know, you’re right.”

 

“Hey, Jeonghan hyung, can you show me where the bathroom is?” Seokmin started, already pulling at his arm to drag him out of the room. At first, Jeonghan was beyond confused, Seokmin definitely knew where the bathroom was, and even if he didn’t, it wasn’t that hard to find - but soon enough, they were out of the room with the door shut and in the kitchen

 

Maybe it was a little better if Seokmin and Jeonghan weren’t crowding him in there.

 

“Geez, Seokminnie , it sounds like you held the kid at gunpoint to get him to do this.” Jeonghan snorted once they were in his kitchen. He was expecting Seokmin to start whining defensively, but he didn’t. He spun around, sat down at the table, and glared at him for a few silent seconds. Jeonghan was quite honestly terrified.

 

Seokmin inhaled. “I can’t believe you fucked Joshua Hong, Jeonghan -”

 

Jeonghan felt his entire face go beet red. “Shut up asshole, don’t say it so loud!” he interrupted with a loud whisper as soon as he registered exactly what he was saying. He sat down at the table across from Seokmin, looking behind him as if to make sure no one else was in the room and the door was completely shut, before looking back at Seokmin, who was impatiently waiting for an explanation. “How did you know?” he asked, much more quietly than before.

 

“I’m not blind, hyung.” Seokmin puffed. “I just know.”

 

“What? You’re telling me you’ve fucked before, so you know?” Jeonghan asked, one hundred percent as a joke, but Seokmin didn’t deny anything, he only sat there and puffed out his cheeks, which were going a little red too. “Oh my god. Who?” he asked very curiously, eyebrows raised and arms crossed.

 

“None of your business, hyung!” Seokmin countered, still whisper-shouting.

 

Soonyoung? Oh my god-” Jeonghan exclaimed, louder this time, on purpose. “That explains all that weird behavior. I should’ve known-”

 

Seokmin’s entire face was red. “ Hyung! Seungkwan is literally in the other room, I don’t want him to know that-” he grumbled. “And besides, that's not the point, stop dodging! Isn’t he straight, hyung? Aren’t you straight?”

 

Seokmin had effectively squashed Jeonghan’s heart by asking that question. He didn’t want to think about it any deeper than it was - but he had too. He couldn’t just ignore this.

 

“I thought I was. I thought he was.” Jeonghan murmured. He hadn’t really thought about it that far, he hadn’t had the time to, but he definitely enjoyed that much more than anything he had ever done with a girl, and he was the one doing the work. And Joshua said he was good. “Also, I didn’t fuck him, I sucked his dick. There’s a difference.”

 

Seokmin’s eyes grew a lot wider, now, and Jeonghan realized he had given Seokmin a much more detailed visual than he wanted to have. “That’s still really gay.”

 

“Like you have room to talk. I’m pretty sure your company has a dating ban, you should be careful about Soonyoung fucking you.” Jeongan puffed a little immaturely, just to counter him.

 

“I fuck him, not the other way around!” Seokmin defended, and then after realizing what he had admitted, he covered his face, eyes very very wide. Jeonghan snorted, trying his very best not to burst out laughing. He didn’t peg Seokmin for a top, not at all. “Okay. Okay. No more talking about sex.”

 

“Sounds good to me,” Jeonghan said, still snickering a little, but feeling his chest tighten up as he imagined the incoming conversation. His stomach was starting to feel weird, and not in a good-nervous-butterflies kind of way. His smile was gone and he had to force himself to breathe evenly, which Seokmin was certainly starting to notice.

 

“Hyung, I’m not here to interrogate you. We don’t have to talk about it, but you’re not really good at figuring things out when you keep them to yourself.” Seokmin said sweetly, quietly, and Jeonghan found himself breathing a little easier. Seokmin was right. He needed to talk it out with someone, and Seokmin was the best option for doing that.

 

“Yeah.” Jeonghan murmured, nodding.

 

“Are you guys like, a thing, then?” Seokmin asked softly, head tilted. Jeonghan had a feeling Seokmin knew he was getting himself into a complicated conversation, willingly. The kid had always been a really good friend to him.

 

“I don't really know.” Jeonghan murmured, eyes on the table. “I don't know if it could even work. I want it to. But it’s so complicated, and just...there’s so much to it. I don’t even know where to begin.”

 

“Isn't he, like...super Christian, hyung?” Seokmin asked him, brows pressed together.

 

“Yeah, but,” Jeonghan held his breath, unsure how to defend himself against that. “He...he let me, Seok. I asked for his permission. And, he was into it, I just…” he felt a little weird saying that out loud to someone like Seokmin, but he was sure Seokmin wouldn't mind that much. He was one of his best friends. “It's weird, because, when Mingyu came out to us, Joshua was acting really weird about it.”

 

“Wait, Mingyu’s gay too?” Seokmin asked with wide eyes, and Jeonghan realized he never filled him in on that. He said ‘too’ , as if all of them were gay. That’s sort of what it was starting to look like, Jeonghan realized. Seokmin went back to the topic at hand. “Weird how, though? Like, ‘I don't like you because you're gay and it’s against my religion’ weird?” Seokmin asked with a tilt of his head, and the way he said it almost sounded comedic, but he was serious.

 

“Not necessarily,” Jeonghan said with a little sigh. “He was just...quiet. I never really know what he's thinking, so it's hard for me to even speculate, but it was really off-putting. Mingyu even asked me if Joshua hated him. I’m just really confused. I don’t know what to think, like, at all.”

 

“I mean...maybe it’s wrong for me to speculate, but,” Seokmin started, and Jeonghan felt his chest tighten again, wondering what Seokmin was going to tell him. “You think...maybe, he loves you? Maybe he’s conflicted about it because of his beliefs, or religion. Maybe that’s why he was acting like that when Mingyu came out.”

 

Something like that would have never, ever crossed Jeonghan’s mind. Was it even possible that Joshua was in love with him, or liked him enough to react in such a way to something that had nothing to do with Jeonghan?

 

“Like I said, it might be wrong for me to speculate. I don’t know. I don’t know him that well.” Seokmin murmured. “I’m sorry, hyung. It sucks.” Seokmin said sympathetically, pouting as if he worried for Jeonghan. He could tell that Seokmin wanted to help and give him advice, but not even Jeonghan understood the information. He had no idea what to do.

 

“Don’t be sorry, Seokmin,” Jeonghan said sort of absentmindedly, Seokmin’s previous words heavily weighing on his mind and heart. He didn’t know what to think. It seemed impossible, but it made the most sense, right?

 

They sat in silence for a bit. Jeonghan stared at the table, vaguely aware of Seungkwan’s muffled words through the door of his room and occasional, much quieter responses from Joshua. Even though Joshua hadn’t heard a word of their conversation, it still made him nervous to go back to him.

 

Jeonghan felt his anxiety start to bubble up in his chest again.

 

“Do you love him?”

 

Seokmin asked it very suddenly, almost scaring Jeonghan. He lifted his eyes from the table to look at him, trying to get his breathing under control again.

 

Of course he loved him. He couldn’t deny that anymore.

 

Jeonghan nodded carefully. but his stomach did a kind of twist that made him feel sick for a moment. Like it was telling him this was a bad idea, like he'd end up hurt in the end. Like it was a warning.

 

“I think I do, Seokmin.”

 

Jeonghan was holding his breath without even realizing it as he watched Seokmin nod, seemingly almost out of sorrow. Like he knew that this would turn out badly, too.

 

Jeonghan wouldn’t let it.

 


 

 

“So, it looks like migraines, pretty bad ones, based on what he told me,” Seungkwan told them as soon as he was out of the room. “The fact that it’s paired with a fever kind of sucks...I’d normally suggest some kind of hot pack to relax the muscles but that might make him feel worse, with his fever. I guess a good option would just be some kind of pain killer or fever reducer until he can go to a real doctor.”

 

Jeonghan was so beyond relieved to hear that. It was something manageable. Difficult to manage, but manageable nonetheless. He didn’t need a hospital. He knew Seungkwan said not to take his word for it, but Jeonghan did it anyway. Jeonghan was going to make sure Joshua went to a doctor, of course, but he didn’t need a hospital.

 

“Thank you so much, Seungkwan,” Jeonghan told him with a little sigh, like it was a breath he had been holding all day.

 

Seungkwan looked a little surprise at the thank-you. “Oh, it’s - it’s no problem, really. But still, like I said - ”

 

“I know, I know, I’ll take him to a doctor,” Jeonghan promised, nodding.

 

“Okay, good. And update me? I don’t think I have your number but I’ll have Seokminnie hyung give it to you or something.” Seungkwan said, worry very evident in his expression. He knew that Seungkwan didn’t want Jeonghan to look at him as a professional, but Jeonghan valued his opinion, and he was so glad Seungkwan took time out of his day to help. He was sure the kid was busy all the time, being a med student.

 

“Oh yeah, but update me too.” Seokmin insisted. He winked, and Jeonghan almost rolled his eyes, but figured that would confuse Seungkwan.

 

“I’ll update you. I promise.” Jeonghan told him, nodding. “Thank you again. Both of you, seriously.”

 

And the two of them were gone after a few more words, both wishing Joshua well and telling Jeonghan to contact either of them if either of them needed anything.

 

Jeonghan let go of the breath he was holding, realizing just then how exhausted he was, how many thoughts were swirling around in his brain. He simply didn’t have the energy to individually address every single thought in his head, but he knew he would have to at some point.

 

Joshua was one of the thoughts in his head, and he was just in the other room.

 

He was stalling a little, going as slow as he could as he prepared the Advil for Joshua with a glass of water. He didn’t notice how much his hands shook until the glass was in his hand - he didn’t understand why he was so anxious. Joshua hadn’t heard any of Jeonghan and Seokmin’s conversation, so there was no way that anything could have changed.

 

Jeonghan really worried too much.

 

He opened the door - smiling a little too brightly, maybe, to find Joshua fast asleep.

 

That was a little disappointing, Jeonghan even felt his heart drop a little, but Jeonghan didn’t let his feelings get beyond that. He was glad Joshua was resting. Knowing him, he was definitely planning on going into work and class the next day, so he needed as much sleep as he could get.

 

“You’re exhausted, huh?” Jeonghan said softly, placing the glass and pills on the counter just before stroking his cheek with the back of his hand. Still warm, but he wasn’t sweating as bad - that was good, at least. It was something.

 

He laid down beside him as he grew tired himself, playing with Joshua’s hair for a bit, but careful not to wake him.

 

He did love him. He really did.