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i (still) wanna be your favorite boy

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Jaehyun was starting to think that maybe he should've stayed at home.

He'd like to believe that this whole scene wasn't him anymore. A month ago, maybe, but definitely not anymore.

College kids were passed out drunk in various surfaces of some stranger's apartment. Dancing and grinding bodies pressed so close, the holy spirit had no more room to intervene. People he barely knew giving him shitfaced high-fives as if they were in more than a hi-hello in the hallways basis. Surrounded by his so-called friends that confessed their undying love to him three shots in.

Don't get him wrong, he loved his friends and hanging out with them, but these days, he couldn't help but think that they were starting to have different definitions of fun.

Downing what could be his 7th shot (he wasn't sure if it's vodka, tequila, or both) of the night, his eyes swept around the room once more before standing up from where he was seated on the living room couch in between Johnny and Yuta. They were all unsurprisingly drunk. He was promised a good time, however, it had been four hours since he was dragged from the comforts of his bed, and Jaehyun still couldn't fully identify where the good time part was at all.

How could he when the one person whose company he sought after the most was not in this fucking party, not even a lick of their shadow. He couldn't help but be a little mad at Johnny and Yuta who swore up and down that that person was going to be in attendance tonight.

He really should have known better. Jaehyun stretched and sighed exaggeratedly.

"Dude, one more huff and you're going to blow the third little pig's house to the ground," Johnny reached up and ruffled Jaehyun's recently-dyed lilac hair.

Jaehyun rolled his eyes, swatted the taller boy's hand away and properly faced his two friends who were making themselves comfortable on the couch now that there was more space, "Yeah, well that would be a better way to spend my evening. I can't believe I let you drag me to one of these stupid parties again."

"Awww, is our Jaehyunnie too good for these stupid parties now? Weren't you screaming 'life is great' at a party just like this a month ago?" Johnny cooed before breaking into a fit of giggles. The boy was definitely smashed by now.

"Nah, man. He is just pissy because the boy that has him so whipped is not here," Yuta slurred from where he was positioned half lying beside Johnny. Turning to a fuming Jaehyun, Yuta raised one eyebrow challengingly.

"And besides, no one dragged anyone here. You came on your own accord. We just gave you a little incentive," the red-haired boy had the audacity to laugh.

"First of all, I am not whipped for anyone. And second, I think you meant false incentive, you fucking liars." Oftentimes Jaehyun wondered why he was still friends with thing one and thing two.

Yuta laughed even louder, "Oops, my bad. Sorry, I meant the boy you are most definitely not whipped for, who you are absolutely not in love with, who may or may not be avoiding you now because of the little stunt you pulled a month ago, is not here. Because, y'know, he may or may not be avoiding you."

By the end of the sentence, Jaehyun was all but ready to cut the guy's man-bun off.

To avoid doing so, he fished his phone from the back pocket of his black tattered jeans to check for any alerts or text messages, anything really, but there was nothing. No surprise there. "Whatever, I'm off. I have reached my nonsense limit for the day."

And with that, Jaehyun crossed the sea of sweaty bodies, peeked inside the kitchen for good measure, looked around the chaos one more time and when he did not find what or who he was looking for, left the suffocating house. Barely registering the giddy 'good night lover boy' his friends shouted after him.

The cold evening air did nothing to clear his head. Instead, it made him think of that one night when he also had to endure the chill of the darkness. That was coincidentally the last time Jaehyun got high, when he walked almost two miles in just a thin shirt (it was the middle of winter), knocked on his best friend's (was he still even Jaehyun's best friend?) door at four in the morning, and confessed to him.

When he burdened the single most important person in his life with something as trivial as feelings.

Jaehyun trudged back to his dorm, pulling his jean jacket closer to his shivering form, regretting every decision he had ever made that brought him to where he was right now.

Because he was too late.

Reaching his room, one that he shared with a perpetually exasperated fellow sophomore named Sicheng, he planted his tired form on his messy bed. He wanted to catch at least a couple of hours of sleep, if just to silence the voices in his head that were repetitively chanting a name: 

Kim Doyoung.

 

《《《

 

Jaehyun has been in love with Doyoung since he knew and understood what being in love meant.

 

Doyoung who lived next door, who he basically grew up with and was there to witness every major milestone in his primitive years.

(The summer sun glared down upon the figures of two toddlers: one was on a bike while the other was beside him, guiding.

"Okay Jaehyunnie, I'm letting go in 3, 2, 1!" 

Peach-cheeked Jaehyun then started pedaling as fast as his tiny legs would allow. He really wanted to get it right this time. He could hear his new neighbor, Dongyoung, who he had met just two days prior, cheer, making him realize belatedly that he was actually doing it, riding the bicycle without training wheels!

After one short lap around the block, he pulled the brakes to a stop in front of a beaming Dongyoung. Jaehyun thought he looked like a bunny like this. A really cute one. He kept the thought to himself, not wanting to offend his new friend.

"You did it! See, I told you you can do anything!" The 7-year-old remarked.

The praise made Jaehyun's inside turn to mush. Trying to hide his blush by looking away, he replied, "All thanks to you, Dongyoungie hyung.")

Doyoung who was a year older and after reaching middle school, suddenly seemed cooler and more composed and everything Jaehyun had ever aspired to be and wanted.

(As soon as he heard the tires of a car crush the gravel of the driveway next door, 10-year-old Jaehyun was running. He wanted to be there to welcome home his Dongyoung hyung from his first day in middle school.

He was greeted by Mrs. Kim who wore a loving smile like she was already expecting the bright-eyed boy, "Hello, little Jaehyunnie. Go up to Doyoung's room. He's waiting for you."

Before he could start running again however, he heard a "Jaehyunnie!" from the top of the stairs. He whipped his head up. Dongyoung was already there, standing in his middle school uniform, looking ever so dashing. Jaehyun found himself blushing.

"Dongyoungie hyung!" With a small bow to Mrs. Kim, he rushed upstairs. In his haste, he forgot that he was wearing socks and slipped at the top step but before he could exclaim a cry for help, strong arms caught his upper body with ease.

"Careful, Hyunnie!" Dongyoung admonished. The little furrow in his eyebrow concerning Jaehyun more than his almost fall. He never wanted to see his Dongyoungie look that... sad ever again. It made his little boy heart hurt.

"S-sorry, Dongyoungie hyung." 

The frown gave way to a wide smile, "It's okay. I just don't want you to get hurt. And what did I tell you about calling me Dongyoungie? It's such a long word. Stop tiring yourself out." They made their way to Dongyoung's bedroom. 

"Okay. What should I call you then?"

The older boy paused to consider before he was saying excitedly, "Remember last night when you were eating pizza and you were calling for my attention? What did you say?"

"Doyoungie."

"Yeah but it sounded all mushed up. Like..."

"Doie?" They blurted out at the same time.

With another smile that brought out his dimples, Jaehyun found himself nodding. 

Gosh, middle schoolers had the best ideas but he bet his Dongy-- his Doie hyung had the best ideas of them all.

He couldn't wait to join him next year so they could be together again all the time.

Like how it's supposed to be.)

Doyoung who was his anchor in high school (and vice versa), who kept him grounded when puberty hit Jaehyun hard and he was suddenly the school's golden boy, who never failed to remind him that Jaehyun was, and had always been, his favorite boy.

("Hey captain!" Jaehyun heard a melodic voice say from behind. He automatically stopped walking to wait for the other to catch up.

When Doyoung fell in step beside him, he whined, "Ugh, not you too."

"Hey, that's a compliment. At least from me, it is. The first junior to be given the captain position." Chortling meekly, Jaehyun just slung an arm over Doyoung's shoulder as a response. He caught a whiff of the cologne the other had been using since forever, the same one Jaehyun first gifted Doyoung when he entered high school.

"Whatever, pres."

"Don't remind me!" The older groaned. They walked like that for a bit, with Jaehyun trying so hard not to make his painfully beating heart and the butterflies in his stomach too obvious. All too soon, he felt Doyoung shrug his arm off before stopping. They were in the school's front entrance by then.

Jaehyun tried to fight the disappointment from latching onto him as he stated, "Let me guess, you aren't hitching a ride home with me. Again."

Doyoung pouted. It was ridiculous how he could do the bare minimum and still leave Jaehyun reeling and overthinking.

"I'm so sorry. It's just... There is still so much stuff to do for the upcoming fair and then there are the final exams and college application deadlines and then I would have to look for a summer job so I can at least help out with textbook fees and then there's making sure you are prepared for your summer basketball clinic because I promised I would be there to help you with your stats and also because I really wanna be there for you and then my sister-in-law is going on leave because the baby is due--"

Jaehyun pulled the other's frazzled form into a tight hug.

"Doie. Breathe."

He wanted to stay in that moment for a long time. Forever, if the world permitted. But he didn't want to overwhelm the other so he stepped back a little, leaving both his hands on Doyoung's thin arms.

It was amazing how quick Doyoung always composed himself even after a near breakdown, a small smile on his face, "Thanks. It's fine. I have it all under control."

"When didn't you have it all under control?" Jaehyun tried to joke.

A laugh escaped Doyoung before looking serious once more. There was also a hint of another emotion there...

"Jae, thank you. I know I haven't been, well, present lately but you do know how much I appreciate everything you do for me right? So, so much."

Gratefulness.

An emotion that seemed to be a recurring theme in their friendship, something Jaehyun had always cherished more than anything.

Before he could do something stupid (like confess), Jaehyun flashed the other a soft dimpled grin. He was aware of how much Doyoung liked it when Jaehyun smiled like that, if the equally blinding gummy smile he always gave back was any indication. Smiles that they unconsciously had reserved only for each other.

"Well, if you're really that grateful, how about coming over this weekend? No talking about student council duties, basketball stats and school work. Just you, me and mario kart," Jaehyun suggested.

Life was good, despite everything, so long as he had Doyoung by his side.

"Anything for my favorite boy.")

Doyoung who left him to attend university halfway across the country.

Doyoung who suddenly issued radio silence when Jaehyun needed him the most because his parents got divorced and he was feeling a bit too overwhelmed by his academics, extracurricular activities, the high expectations from everyone around him and his feelings, which he did not know how to juggle because his pacemaker was not there anymore to set the course straight.

(Jaehyun had the volume of the music playing on his phone in full, earphones rammed so deep in, it was starting to hurt.

Good.

Anything was better than hearing the furious screaming match downstairs.

He looked down at his phone for what felt like the hundredth time that day. Nothing. The sting pierced through his heart once more. There were so many questions running through his mind, he felt like drowning.

Standing up, he decided to go out for a run to clear his head, homework abandoned on his bedside table.

It's been exactly 34 days, 5 hours and 13 minutes since Doyoung last reached out to him. He felt pathetic, really. The amount of messages he had sent the college boy making him cringe.

What changed?) 

The same Doyoung who he had been pining over since time immemorial but could never dare to act on because he was so afraid of ruining their friendship and was also too hurt from being forgotten and dropped like he meant nothing.

(One of Jaehyun's favorite and most despised memory of Doyoung was from a few nights before the older had to leave for uni. They were hanging out since morning and were now resigned to the familiarity of Doyoung's bed. The room didn't look all that much different: the other's pictures, medals, trophies, comic books and recording equipment still scattered around.

Deep in his heart, Jaehyun knew the only thing that would really be changing was them. Because this would be the first time in years that they'd be physically away from each other for more than a month, the last time being when Jaehyun joined a summer sports camp. It really wasn't worth being away from Doyoung, though.

"Jaehyunnie," Doyoung called out into the previously quiet room.

It almost made Jaehyun jolt up from where he was lying down beside the other. Doyoung had not called him that in ages. As expected, it sent his already fragile heart into overdrive.

"Doie."

Silence. And then,

"Can you ask me to stay?"

Jaehyun wanted to shout yes, he really did, but he knew how much his words weighed in on Doyoung's life. He wanted to be selfish, to continue being selfish, and keep Doyoung to himself, to ask him to stay.

Jaehyun wanted to tell Doyoung to stay and be with him. Not just as friends.

And maybe Jaehyun could've had it all right there and then. If only he allowed himself to be happy.

But Jaehyun had always been a coward,

"Nah. I am already sick of your face. I need new friends. You do too."

If only Jaehyun was looking at Doyoung right in that moment then maybe he wouldn't have missed the wistful look sent his way.

"You're right. What was I thinking? Can't believe I was really gonna give up my dream school in exchange for seeing your annoying face for the rest of our lives."

Jaehyun felt his heart breaking all over again. He laughed out loud.

Now, with nothing but if onlys, maybes, and an empty inbox, Jaehyun realized that maybe, he should have asked Doyoung to stay that night.)

So Jaehyun did what any angsty, heartbroken eighteen-year-old would do. He moved halfway across the country to go to the same university Doyoung attended with one thing on his mind: retaliation.

Jaehyun wanted to make Doyoung feel as much pain as the other inflicted upon him when he left and stopped replying to his messages.

Or at least that was the plan at first.

All thoughts of revenge flew out the window, however, when Jaehyun saw Doyoung again, after a year of no communication.

It was Jaehyun's first day in uni and he was hanging out with people he just met during his introduction to philosophy class that ended not half an hour ago. The quad that extended for half a mile in between the engineering and education buildings was full of students chattering about. Some were on their way to their next classes while others were merely killing time before the lunch hour. Jaehyun and his group fell on the latter category.

He was in the middle of replying to a question of why he chose to major in biology, when one of the guys in the half circle he was gathered in exclaimed, "Oi, Doyoung!"

Jaehyun whipped his head so hard towards the direction the guy was now facing, pretty sure giving himself whiplash (and a possible stiff neck).

"Taeyong! Corrupting the freshies so early in the semester, I see!" He could hear Doyoung shout back. Jaehyun's heart fucking stuttered.

As someone who grew up with parents that fought for most of their married life, he had learned to hate clichés. He wasn't one for romance, he most definitely did not believe in whatever sappy shit the movies he used to watch with Doyoung and their other neighbor Taeil tried to feed him. So it caught him off guard when after zeroing in on Doyoung's approaching form, the whole world started moving in slow motion.

What the fuck.

Before he could ponder on it more, the feeling ended almost as soon as it came. Everything moved back to normal and all too soon, a shocked Kim Doyoung was in front of him and was opening his mouth to say, "Jaehyunnie?"

He was rendered speechless, standing there, eyes wide like a deer caught in the headlights.

It was Taeyong who broke the silence that was turning more and more awkward by the minute, "You two know each other?"

Jaehyun, stupid Jaehyun who could have avoided the whole pining-and-not-talking-to-each-other situation he was currently in if he just thought before running his mouth that day, if he just fought the urge to be petty and hurt Doyoung as much as he hurt him, replied with,

"Yeah. He's someone I used to know back in my hometown."

He couldn't help the smirk he sent Doyoung's way after.

The other boy looked him in the eye for a second too long, searching. Understanding.

And Doyoung, smart and sensitive Doyoung who knew Jaehyun like the back of his hand, caught on to whatever sick game he was starting to play and merely agreed in a small voice,

"Hm. Someone I used to know."

Despite the initial awkwardness of seeing Doyoung again, the other boy inevitably incorporated himself back into Jaehyun's life. Because of course, we're talking about Doyoung here.

His decision to scratch the first plan of retribution away and to just ignore Doyoung's existence, to just let go of their past and keep pretending that they didn't have so much history, was thwarted immediately.

It started when their two friend groups merged after Taeyong and Johnny officially got together and begged for one big hangout.

"Is Kim Doyoung going to be there?" Jaehyun asked stiffly, trying to appear nonchalant when Johnny first informed him about it.

Johnny saw right through him, "Look, man. I don't know what kind of past you have with him since you never wanna talk about it, but please. Be on your best behavior. I really like Taeyong, okay? I want to make this work with him."

Jaehyun might be a petty, stubborn asshole but he wasn't an asshole asshole. So he conceded to his friend's request with a small nod, albeit reluctantly.

It wasn't a big surprise when both groups hit it right off the bat.

In some silent agreement, Jaehyun and Doyoung pretended the other didn't exist for the first two hours of that night. But like all good things in Jaehyun's life, the peace was disrupted with no one to blame but himself, when he accidentally knocked over Doyoung's drink while he was on his way to the bar for a refill.

"You clumsy little shit." Since when did Doyoung swear?

"Sorry?" He tried to shrug before turning around and be on his merry way again. Jaehyun did not get that far before a strong grip on his wrist tugged him back, his hip bone hitting the corner of the table painfully as a result. He kind of blacked out for a hot moment.

In less than a second, Doyoung was suddenly standing, fussing over him, gently massaging the area where the table hit him, "Oh, fuck. I'm sorry, thought you would resist. Why didn't you resist, asshole?"

Jaehyun couldn't help but stare. It's been a while since he really looked at Doyoung (their disastrous previous encounter not counted), the proximity making him feel all soft and gooey inside. The other boy dyed his longer-than-usual hair a beautiful shade of indigo that's framing his equally beautiful face, a complete contrast to his all-natural clean cut back in high school. Purple sweater not hiding the wide shoulders Jaehyun used to wrap his arm around without hesitation.

This went on for a minute or two before the annoying voice in his head reminded him that this was the same Doyoung who dropped him like hot buns out of nowhere, and then he was ripping his body away from the line of fire that was Doyoung's concern.

"Get your hands off me," and before he could stop himself, "Buy me a drink, if you're really that sorry."

Maybe because this Doyoung (despite the new-found tendency to cuss every other sentence) was also the same Doyoung that nursed him back to health every time he got sick from middle school to his junior year of high school, just narrowed his eyes at him before huffing and then proceeded to wordlessly lead him to the bar, where he bought him a drink. 

Now that it was just the two of them, he could see the fire in his (ex) best friend's eyes die a little.

"Jaehyunnie, I-"

He didn't even allow Doyoung to begin, "No. Don't call me that. I don't want to talk about it. Let's not talk about it. In fact, let's never tell anyone anything," pausing for a bit before adding in a defeated tone, "Let bygones be bygones, yeah?"

Sullen defeated eyes reflected back at him. Jaehyun had to look away before he could cave in and take back what he said.

"Thanks for the drink, Doyoung. I'm going back to the others."

After that night, he decided to change his strategy. He was sure he was going to see more of Doyoung from then on so he knew avoiding the other won't cut it or Johnny would end up strangling him.

So he chose to stick to his initial plan of revenge anyway.

Which was how Jaehyun found himself in a strange dog-cat, love-hate sort of limbo with one Kim Doyoung during the first year of his university life.

The people around them at first tried to intervene but soon found out that there was nothing they could do since both parties were very much willing to participate. Their friends let them be after a while.

It was a cycle of playful banter, pretending they didn't know each other for a couple of weeks, and then (because they're like magnets drawn to one another) spending so much time together to the point of getting sick of the other's presence, which naturally ended in more playful banter again.

Sometimes, Jaehyun allowed himself to believe that whatever they had then was enough to feed the desire he knew he still had for Doyoung deep down. But most of the time, especially during the days when they both stuck to each other like glue, he could not help but want more. A redo. A restart button. He also could not help but hope that maybe what he felt wasn't one-sided, the familiarity of it all so enticing and easy to fall back into.

Jaehyun's days were once again filled by Doyoung, morning and night. Lingering stares and little touches. Comfortable silences broken by wheezing laughter. Elephant in the room never really addressed.

This went on for the entirety of his freshman year and most of the summer break that followed. Too scared to take it to the next level but also too attached (in love) to completely put an end to it. Something Jaehyun was just starting to accept as the new constant in his life.

Until one day, it wasn't.

Because Doyoung got himself a boyfriend at the beginning of the new school year, when Doyoung was a junior and Jaehyun a sophomore.

(When did he even find the time to date? They were together all the time back in their hometown for the whole duration of that summer, just like the old times. It still remained a mystery to this day.)

Just when Jaehyun was finally coming to terms with his deeper-than-before feelings for Doyoung.

Just when he finally earned enough money to purchase tickets to see Doyoung's favorite local band and gained enough courage to ask him out that night. Hopefully to clear everything between them, ask for forgiveness, grovel, confess, kiss and then maybe ask him to be his boyfriend.

The very same night Doyoung introduced the perfect Qian Kun.

Of fucking course.

Qian Kun. Student body president. The kind of boy who had it all figured out at 20 years old. Loved by everyone's mom. Will most likely graduate with honors. Worst of all, at least for Jaehyun, Qian Kun was the nicest motherfucker he had ever met. Even nicer than Kim Jungwoo who was the whole campus' best buddy.

Qian Kun who no doubt treated Doyoung better than Jaehyun ever did and could.

He really wanted to hate Qian Kun, but what was there to hate? His perfectly styled hair? His 4.0 gpa? His flawless smile and funny jokes? His immaculately pressed shirt that remained crisp the entire group nightout on the weekend before another semester of hell started?

The rest of the night passed by in a drunken haze and ended with Qian Kun driving everyone home safely because, of course, Mr. Perfect didn't drink. Something about needing to wake up early for volunteer work the next day.

Ripping the tickets he got a part time summer job for to shreds, Jaehyun swallowed back the beer (and tears) that was threatening to exit the way it entered.

Although not a believer of romantic clichés, Jaehyun did acknowledge the truth that everything happened for a reason. Not destiny, just mere happenstance.

So in the next couple of weeks, he tried his hardest to be happy for Doyoung, tried to still be there for him when his presence was needed, and tried not to show the bitterness eating away at him every time Qian Kun made Doyoung laugh or smile or just look absolutely radiant. He busied himself with school, his new part time job (because who knows, there might be another opportunity to save for another concert in the future) and tutoring five high school seniors from a nearby institution that needed help in math (something Jaehyun proudly excelled in).

High school seniors whose habit, apparently, was to make Jaehyun's business their business. It didn't help that the devil reincarnates knew about what they liked to call his Doyoung feelings. It was, after all, Doyoung who introduced Jaehyun to them and Jaehyun was quite the transparent one, making one wonder why Doyoung never caught on to his feelings. Or maybe the older did but refused to acknowledge it for fear of hurting him. Jaehyun wasn't sure which one's worse.

It was during one of those tutoring sessions when he was slapped with the reality and permanence of the situation, quite hard at that, by mere children.

"So that Kun guy seems nice," one of them, Renjun, started casually, eyes not even bothering to leave the Algebra II worksheet he was busy with.

This seemed to spur the others on. It was amazing, watching their minds work as one, Renjun's words acting like a trigger of some sort.

Yangyang perked up, "Yeah, Jae, what is up with that? Thought your pining days are over? Shouldn't you have snagged Doyoung hyung by now?" He was clearly using the direction the conversation was heading towards as an excuse to abandon the questions he was taking his sweet time in answering.

Jaehyun sighed tiredly. Before he could open his mouth to retort, the pink-haired Jaemin who he was supposed to be most fond of out of the five (not that he would ever admit that willingly), spoke up as well, "Give him a break. Not everyone can successfully date their crush after months of childish bickering. You gotta have game, so these things take time if you don't have game. Right, Jae?" Jaemin winked at him innocently.

He didn't know if he should be happy or offended. Maybe Jaemin wasn't his favorite anymore. "That's Jae hyung to you brats."

"Ah. So we're back again to changing the topic whenever it comes up, huh, hyung?" Donghyuck joined the conversation, the beginnings of a sneer on his face. Could this Donghyuck kid produce any other expression aside from sneering?

This was clearly an ambush.

"Come on, guys. We shouldn't be butting in their relationship. Just leave him be," Jeno inserted halfheartedly. This was why Jeno was Doyoung's favorite. Reasonable, respectful, reliable. Just like the perfect Qian Kun.

Jaehyun thought that would be the end of it, at least for today, when Donghyuck signaled for all of them to huddle closer, fake-whisper a contrast to the quietness of the study center. When Jaehyun pretended to remain uninterested, the boy gave him a pointed look. It was quite the staring match which of course Jaehyun lost. He conceded defeat by huddling closer as well.

Donghyuck began rather conspiratorially, "But doesn't Doyoung hyung seem a bit, I don't know, off around the dude? Like yesterday when he brought that Kun guy over to help us with advanced lit, Doyoung hyung was all perky and upbeat and just plain fake."

"Hyuckie!" Jaemin and Yangyang hit the boy in the arms from both sides, "You can't just say things like that."

"I'm merely saying out loud what we are all thinking! I am taking one for the team!"

Not wanting to say things behind Doyoung's back, Jaehyun kept his thoughts to himself.

Silence fell over the group before Renjun broke it again, "As long as hyung is happy," the boy shrugged, ever the voice of reason. Even though it was technically him who started this in the first place.

Jeno hesitated before mumbling, "But he isn't. He says he is, but he really isn't," the bespectacled boy started fiddling with the pen on his hand nervously.

Jaehyun really didn't want to overthink the boy's words. It tugged at his heartstrings. Sad for Doyoung, mad at himself, furious at the universe for the shitty timing of it all.

Donghyuck stood up and stretched dramatically, "If only Jae isn't a pussy and told him how he felt instead of showing up drunk to our tutorial session and burdening us with his Doyoung feelings. Then it would be him making our lovely Doyoungie hyung genuinely happy and not a fake."

Oh, how Jaehyun wished murder wasn't a crime, "I'm right here. I can hear all the bullshit that's coming out of your mouth. And again, it's Jaehyun hyung."

Giving him one last leer, Donghyuck deemed the conversation over with a sassy whatever before turning to face Jeno and pouting, "Baby, I'm thirsty. Buy me taro milk tea from across the street?"

Obviously whipped and used to his boyfriend's spontaneous demands, Jeno immediately got off his chair and left without further prompting.

Chuckling, Jaehyun addressed the smug boy, "How did you even get him to date you? Did you blackmail him?"

Not even stopping to think of a response, Donghyuck sniggered right back, "It's called communication. Being honest with yourself and your feelings and conveying those feelings to the person directly. Something you seem to know nothing about."

The disrespect.

"I hate kids."

"I hate emotionally constipated adults."

Jaehyun wasn't paid and credited enough for this.

Life went on after that interesting episode and Jaehyun was still very much a coward who didn't know how to own up to his feelings.

The solution he came up with? Running away.

So he started seeing less and less of Doyoung (and the perfect Qian Kun).

He even went on a few dates here and there which always ended with an insincere promise of another one but Jaehyun never really got around to calling or texting them back, mostly because he couldn't find what he was looking for with them.

"A Doyoung substitute," Donghyuck called it one time, "You're looking for another Doyoung."

Ever since Jaehyun decided to stop seeking the older boy's company, he began to realize just how much of his world revolved around him. He had so much free time on his hands now. Which was why he's been spending it hanging out with the five-some, outside tutoring hours, on his own will. It was a new all-time low.

"But there is no one quite like him," Renjun had added, impassive as always. Jaehyun was reluctant to agree.

And he was left feeling empty.

Winter rolled around and Doyoung and Qian Kun were still together and by the looks of it, at least based on the intel he got from the high school seniors, were going strong.

Jaehyun hated his life.

At this point, he was already actively ignoring the other. Leaving messages asking to hang out on read, canceling phone calls, ducking out of view when he spots the boy somewhere nearby, attending their friend group's get-togethers only when he was 100% sure the older boy wouldn't be there.

Yuta called him out on his behavior one day, "Dude, we haven't seen you in forever. Please tell me you are attending Ten's send off. You know Ten, our friend who's moving abroad? Our friend who we wouldn't be able to see for a whole year? I don't know what the fuck is up with you, man, but he and I won't forgive you if you don't show up."

Jaehyun knows that Yuta wasn't entirely serious but he still appeased him with a yeah man, sorry, I have just been very busy lately, I will definitely be there.

Thus sealing that weekend's fate.

Attending the party was a bad idea, he knew that much, because Ten was Doyoung's roommate and partner in crime which meant that Doyoung would most certainly be there. Jaehyun's stomach churned at what he agreed to.

Dressed to the nines and coherently buzzed, he knocked on the door of Jackson's apartment, where Ten's farewell party was being held. He went around greeting everyone he knew all while staying vigilant, not trusting himself to be drunk enough yet to face the object of his (inconvenient) affection.

But nothing ever really went his way, did it?

Hour two since his arrival, he started letting his guard down, talking to a pretty girl with wide eyes and bunny-like features, whose name he forgot, when he heard from behind him,

"Hey, stranger."

Hearing Doyoung's voice so close to his ear effectively sobered his hazy mind. 

Cutting off the girl he was talking to mid-sentence, Jaehyun turned his whole body to give Doyoung his complete attention. Might as well get this over and done with.

"Hey."

At least he didn't stutter.

Doyoung gave him a timid smile, nodding at the girl Jaehyun was talking to not mere seconds ago. Probably figuring out that she wouldn't be able to get Jaehyun's attention back, the girl scurried away hastily.

"How have you been?" Doyoung asked him with a little furrow in his eyebrows. Jaehyun wanted nothing more than to reach out and smoothen them back.

"Fucking great. I feel great. Never been better," Jaehyun had always been a good liar.

"Oh, that's good," Doyoung hesitated before continuing, "Where have you been lately? I feel like I have seen more of Sicheng than you these past couple of weeks. And that's saying a lot because Sicheng practically lives in the dance studio or in Yuta's apartment. And I don't go anywhere near the dance studio, or in Yuta's place for that matter," the boy rambled awkwardly, playing with the rip by the thighs of his jeans. It was fucking adorable.

Jaehyun allowed himself the luxury of giving Doyoung a once-over and a genuine apologetic half-second grin, committing the soft look on the beautiful boy's beautiful face in response.

Then he went ahead and ruined the night for the both of them because he's a masochist like that.

Jaehyun raised an eyebrow, "Didn't know I have to report everything I'm doing to you. Thought this was the land of the free? Tell me Kim Dongyoung, are you my keeper?" 

Doyoung flinched mostly from his snippy tone and the usage of his full name. It certainly wasn't due to the lame comeback he let out. But Jaehyun didn't really give a fuck anymore because from the corner of his eye, he saw a certain Qian Kun approaching them, "And that's my cue to go. As much as I'd like to stay and chat, I don't wanna stay and chat. Tell Mr. Perfect I send my best regards. Goodbye."

Be petty and childish, that's what he did best.

Ignoring the hurt and confusion that crossed Doyoung's features, Jaehyun went to the upstairs balcony to get some fresh air, adrenaline pumping in his veins the entire time.

The balcony wasn't empty, however. There in the middle of the wide space stood a tall, freakishly handsome boy.

"What are you doing up here? You're gonna miss out on all the fun downstairs," the boy talked funny. Drunk, definitely, but it also sounded like a bit of... something else. He had a blinding smile (not as blinding as Doyoung's though) and large blown pupils.

"Bro, are you high?"

The boy regarded him for a bit before grinning even wider than before, if that was possible, "Always. Want a hit?"

And that's how Jaehyun getting high off his mind at every party he attended with Yukhei began.

The freakishly handsome boy who went by the name Yukhei or Lucas or Xuxi, depending on who he was talking to, took a liking to him. Jaehyun was baptized the night they met, given a hit or two of the high-quality whatever Yukhei was on.

And then some.

It became their thing since then: hitting random people's parties, getting drunk and high, occasionally accompanied by freshmen students Kunhang and Dejun. Mark Lee, Yukhei's on-again-off-again boyfriend, went with them too sometimes, if only to make sure the duo weren't completely making bad decisions every weekend.

Though of course the bad decisions eventually came, starting on the third party Jaehyun and Yukhei attended by themselves, no Mark or Kunhang or Dejun in sight.

"Okay, so let me get this straight. You aren't straight. Because you're in love with your ex best friend. Who's also your first love. Who stopped talking to you when he left your shitty hometown. Who you met again in uni. No, wait. Who you followed to this uni. Who you are now running away from because it hurts you to see him act all lovey-dovey with his boyfriend, the perfect Kun?"

The whole paragraph blurred in Jaehyun's mind. Only one thing stuck, "Qian Kun."

"Shit, you're in love with Qian Kun?" Yukhei exclaimed with wide red eyes, thanks to the long hit they had earlier.

"What- No! I meant Qian Kun. You should call him Qian Kun. Like full name. Because he's way above us to only be called by his first name," a beat passed and then they were both on the floor laughing.

Yukhei was wiping tears from the corner of his eyes, "Woah, dude. You are a walking cliché. Fuck. Even Mark and I aren't this bad."

The name seemed to have startled Yukhei from whatever reverie he was having because he was suddenly sitting up and scrolling through his phone like a madman, "Tell you what, let's put an end to our miseries once and for all. Grab your phone, call the person you are in love with, not Qian Kun. I'll do the same. But with Mark."

God, was he a talkative one.

"Wha-? I should not call Qian Kun?" Jaehyun frowned from his position on the floor, clutching his own phone to his chest, trying to make sense of everything the other boy was saying which was a difficult feat in and of itself because he was drunk and high and he's had a total of 6 hours of sleep in the past 2 days. Gotta love the university life.

He could see Yukhei was getting impatient, "Call that Doyoung boy! Fucking hell, Jaehyun. Keep up."

Doyoung. Right. That's who Jaehyun was in love with. "What do we say to them?"

"I'm gonna tell Mark I love him so much and that I want him back for good. No more of this in-between thing we have going on. I'll promise to be a good boyfriend and not distract him from his studies," Yukhei paused for a moment.

For someone so loud and carefree, Yukhei was a lot more intelligent and insightful than he let on. Probably the reason why Mark couldn't stay away.

"And you. You should tell that Doyoung boy everything going on in that pretty little head of yours. Then ask him what goes on in the pretty little head of his. Ask him why he left you all those years ago. Ask him if you are still his favorite boy."

Nothing good happens after 2 am, they say.

But it would just be a simple phone call.

What could go wrong?

Everything. Everything could go wrong.

Because once Jaehyun started, he couldn't stop. He tried to blame it on the alcohol and the weed. He tried to blame it on Yukhei for giving him the idea and egging him on. He tried to blame it on Mark for allowing him to be irresponsible while he and Yukhei happily made out on the couch.

At the end of the day, however, Jaehyun knew there was really no one else to blame but himself. After all, it was him who kept picking up the phone after getting high enough and drunk enough. It was him who kept dialing the number he knew by heart every Friday and Saturday at past 3 in the morning. It was him who kept pouring his heart out to a mostly silent line.

It hadn't always been silent though. Doyoung once did more than answer the call initially and then keep quiet the whole time Jaehyun cried or blabbered on the phone.

The first time he did it, Doyoung picked up almost immediately. It had been a week after their last unfortunate meeting.

"Jaehyun?"

"Doyoung."

"Jae, it's 3 am. What are you doing still up? Is everything okay? Are you safe?"

"Doie, I miss you."

He could hear Doyoung's sharp intake of breath, "Are you drunk?"

The oddly endearing annoyance in Doyoung's voice seemed to echo loudly in his head, permeating Jaehyun's ears, his lungs, his heart. It made him feel giddy. He giggled, "Maybe. I don't know. I miss you so much, Doie."

Not acknowledging the last bit, Doyoung let out in one breath, almost frantically, "Where are you? Who are you with? How are you getting back to your dorm?"

Maybe it was the concern in Doyoung's words or the fact that he still hadn't ended the call even though it's pretty clear Jaehyun had drunk-dialed him. Maybe it was Jaehyun's feelings for him, still very much alive.

So alive that it needed an outlet.

Even if it's just as friends.

"Did I ever tell you how proud I am of you? I was there, you know. During your showcase two days ago. Doie, you were glowing. I've always known you had a beautiful voice because, you know, you used to sing with me and Taeil hyung back in high school. And, fuck, I'm your biggest fan, alright? Always have been, back then and now. Even when we stood together onstage. Doyoungie, you have improved so much. I really wanted to congratulate you after but it would have been weird because we barely talk anymore and I didn't want to make it weird so-"

"Then why didn't you?"

Jaehyun wasn't expecting to be interrupted. Hung up on, sure, but not interrupted.

He stuttered out, "W-well, you know how I am. Busy. I had to, uhhh, meet math. I mean tutor math. To the kids. Tutor the kids math. You know. Renjun, Jaemin, Yangyang, Jeno and the devil himself."

Something in his rambling must have caused Doyoung to soften a bit because he chuckled tiredly, "Well, then, go on. You were saying something about my voice?"

Jaehyun obliged him.

And he kept obliging him on the second, the fourth, the seventh phone call.

Not once did Doyoung cut him off. He didn't really even have to pick up by the second time it happened and yet, for reasons unbeknownst to Jaehyun, Doyoung kept doing so. 

Picking up Jaehyun's call. Answering with a meek hello. Staying silent all throughout. Letting Jaehyun go on and on about whatever it was he wanted to say. Bidding him goodbye and a goodnight and a soft stay safe once he realized Jaehyun was done for the night.

It had become their new constant.

Then on the ninth three am drunken call, something different happened.

Jaehyun knew this outlet wasn't enough anymore. His Doyoung feelings started to consume him, eating away at his insides, making it hard to breathe and function and to stay just friends.

With all this in mind, Jaehyun cut himself off mid-sentence to ask, "Hey, Doie. Can I come over?"

Doyoung was silent on the other line.

"Doyoungie?"

"Yes."

It had been the first time Doyoung answered a question since the night the whole thing started. Jaehyun felt like a dog thrown a bone.

"Yes as in?"

There was rustling on the other line,

"Yes, come over. You know where to find me."

Not waiting to be told twice, Jaehyun hung up with a weak okay and began the long trek to Doyoung's dorm room. He didn't even bother to bid the cuddling Yukhei and Mark goodbye or tell them where he was headed. He didn't even make time to grab his jacket that he draped over a chair somewhere in the mayhem.

None of that mattered because he was finally going to see and talk to Doyoung in the flesh after what felt like forever. A burst of energy surged through his body in anticipation. The January air was biting at his cheeks, not dressed up enough for a long walk in what was probably the coldest night of that month.

Before he knew it, he was in front of Doyoung's dorm, knocking imperceptibly to match the stillness of the hallway. The door opened and all the air was knocked off of Jaehyun's inebriated state.

Doyoung.

The fact that Doyoung just in his pajamas, sweater paws on full display, could achieve such a reaction to every fibre of his being scared the shit out of Jaehyun. But he was already there, there's no backing out now. His scattered thoughts took a minute to right themselves.

"Hi," he managed to breathe out.

"Come in."

"Okay."

Jaehyun didn't even really know what the purpose of this visit was. What did he want to achieve? Or was this just him finally turning back around to run towards the root of the problem instead of away from it?

It was Doyoung who broke the silence, "Kun and I broke up."

Oh.

His heart wanted to cry out in joy. But he didn't, couldn't. He respected the other boy too much and besides, Jaehyun was well aware of the pain a broken heart caused.

With a simple nod, he uttered, "Okay."

They seemed to be saying that a lot these days.

The room was near pitch black, the only source of light coming from the quarter moon. Doyoung always liked to keep his curtains pulled apart with the windows halfway open even in the middle of winter. The eerie glow outside illuminating the older boy's enchanting face, Jaehyun felt his knees give away. He sat down at the edge of Ten's bare bed, right across the room from Doyoung's.

"Jaehyun?" he was broken out of his internal stupor, "Why are you here?"

Such a simple question masking a hundred different things, a thousand underlying meanings. The ball was now in Jaehyun's court, Doyoung giving it to him almost willingly. Was he really going to do it? But you don't just become brave overnight.

Yet he wanted nothing more than to finally end his years of one-sided pining and also maybe, just maybe, for his days to be filled with Doyoung as someone that's rightfully his. To call him beautiful without second-guessing if it was appropriate to do so. To love him and be able to tell him just that,

"I like you."

Was it enough? After all that they had been through, was that truly enough?

Jaehyun knew Doyoung was expecting that but it still brought him a small satisfaction at seeing the other's eyes widen. Bet his cheeks were warm to the touch too, Jaehyun wanted to check. In a split second, Jaehyun was in front of Doyoung who was perched on a chair in front of a messy study table. Bending down on his knees, he moved closer, abjectly cupping Doyoung's face. True enough, it was warm.

He lowered his hands down,

"Hyung. Doyoungie. Doie. I like you so much. You know that right?"

He saw Doyoung open his mouth to reply, but Jaehyun wasn't finished yet.

"No, let me speak first. Listen and if you never wanna see me again after tonight, I will respect your decision. I won't hold it against you, Doie, but let me say my piece first otherwise I'm going to lose this sudden bout of courage," Jaehyun rushed out in one breath, chuckling shakily.

Years of pent-up emotions finally opening a floodgate. Making him see clearer. Making him feel. Jaehyun allowed those emotions to take the wheel.

When Doyoung gave him a resigned nod, he continued, "I like you, Doyoung. In love with you, perhaps. I don't know how it all happened or when it started, that is not relevant. What matters is that I still am," he grabbed both of Doyoung's trembling hands, interlacing them together. It was a bit awkward in this angle but he didn't mind, as long as Doyoung didn't, too.

"You may not feel the same way, I get that. You don't have to feel the same way. This is really just me letting this all out because it's driving me crazy, Doie. You're always on my mind and you are the first person I think of when something happy or sad happens. Because you're the only one who I would want to share these things with," Jaehyun paused to catch his breath. He hoped Doyoung hadn't realized that his voice had become steadily unstable (oh, the irony).

"When... When you left for college, I was heartbroken. But I didn't want to be that one thing holding you back, so I let you. Even when you asked me that night we were together in your bedroom, do you remember? You told me that I just had to say the word and you will be withdrawing your slot. I think I was already so in love with you then. But I knew our hometown made you unhappy, suffocated so I said go."

They really should have talked about this as soon as they reunited in uni instead of dancing around the topic. Better late than never though, right?

Jaehyun's tone turned sheepish as he said, "I guess the reason why I turned into such an asshole, especially to you, is because I was so hurt. Not from you leaving me behind, but because you stopped reaching out. Hyung, I wasn't expecting for your world to still revolve around me then but a text wouldn't have hurt?"

As soon as the words were out in the open, he saw Doyoung look at him, clearly wanting to interrupt. Not one to deny his wishes for long, he gestured for Doyoung to speak.

Doyoung detached himself from Jaehyun, standing up and physically bracing himself,

"You stupid, stupid boy. Jaehyun, you have to understand. I didn't contact you the first couple of months I was away because I knew I'd be taking the first flight or train or bus or whatever back to you as soon as I heard your voice."

Hours ago, those words would have enveloped Jaehyun with warmth and sunshine and all the good things in this world. Now however, it was like a cold wave washed over his limbs, drowning him in dread and guilt.

Doyoung pressed on, "You let me go because you knew this was my dream school. Knowing you sacrificed that much for me, what right did I have to be selfish and come crawling back?"

Perhaps Jaehyun really should have stayed selfish himself and asked Doyoung to stay all those years ago. Hindsight's truly a bitch.

"And then when I felt that I wasn't as homesick anymore, I tried calling you, to beg for your forgiveness. But you changed your number and you have never changed your number ever since you got it in middle school, Jae. You not giving it to me or informing me must have meant you didn't want me to have it. I gave you your space, wasn't that what you wanted?"

Doyoung was crying at this point, looking utterly exhausted, as if he had not been getting enough sleep these days. And whose fault was that? Jaehyun's subconscious sneered at him, sounding an awful lot like Donghyuck.

Hearing all that from Doyoung felt... freeing. He couldn't pinpoint what it was particularly but somehow, they were the exact words needed in the moment.

The exact words needed so Jaehyun could finally let go.

From his peripheral, Jaehyun could see the older boy move closer to him. Not like a predator closing in on a prey, but like a prey recognizing another prey, approaching the other to comfort. To let it know that it wasn't alone. That it didn't have to be alone.

He was close enough for Jaehyun to smell him now. The familiarity brought him solace.

"I'm partly to be blamed, I acknowledge that. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry for everything, Jaehyun. For not being there when your parents..." Doyoung trailed off before continuing, "For making you feel like you did not matter. Because you meant the whole world to me, Jae. You still do."

There it was, the apology they both needed. All Jaehyun had to do now was reciprocate. Genuinely.

So he did,

"I'm sorry too, hyung. For causing you pain. For always causing you pain."

A whole speech wasn't wanted anymore, those few words enough for the both of them.

"Okay," he heard the other whisper weakly, "Thank you for that, Jae."

The night was inevitably drawing to a close, the sun beginning its ascent. Time flew when you're having fun, or when you're having an emotionally compelling conversation, whichever worked.

"Jaehyunnie?"

He looked up at Doyoung's tear-tracked face. "Can you give me some time?" Doyoung asked.

And who was he to deny the person he had caused so much emotional turmoil and heartbreak, the person he was and will probably always be in love with, such a sincere request?

"Anything for my favorite boy."

 

》》》   ►

 

The merciless spring sunshine was what woke the hungover Jaehyun up. That and the relentless poking at his jean-clad legs. He just wasn't allowed to have good things, was he?

Knowing that there was only one person who would do that so early in the morning, he didn't bother opening his eyes. He swatted and kicked the poking away with an annoyed, "Sicheng, give a man a break."

"I would, but I'm not Sicheng. And you aren't a man yet, not by a mile."

Hold the fuck up.

That wasn't his roommate's voice. Jaehyun was pretty sure it belonged to a certain-

"Doyoungie?"

Jaehyun had never sat up so fast in all his 20 years on earth. He was still in last night's clothes, opting not to change into something more comfortable and something that did not reek of booze and bad decisions because he had been bone-tired, body unaccustomed to the late-night drinking after weeks without alcohol. And also since he really wasn't expecting to be woken up by Doyoung of all people. Alas.

"Hi," Doyoung smiled at him, still hovering above. It wasn't a tight smile. Jaehyun really hoped that meant good news.

The older boy stepped back a bit, clearly uncertain of what to do now that he had successfully awakened. Jaehyun wasn't sure what the fuck was going on himself so he broke the ice with an awkward, "where's Sicheng?"

Doyoung only thought for a moment before replying, "He's out with his younger cousin and Yuta. Speaking of, he asked me to ask you if you're willing to take on two more students for math tutorials? Chenle and his friend, Jisung, want in. They've heard so many good things about your... methods from your number one fans. Among other things," the other chuckled with a bemused shrug.

Jaehyun groaned, "Oh God. I met Chenle and Jisung last year and they're... a lot," he shuddered at the thought of having them in the same room as Yangyang, Jaemin, Renjun, Jeno and Donghyuck, "But thanks for telling me. I'll tell Chengie I'd think about it."

"You're welcome."

And then there was silence.

It wasn't suffocating, per se. The air had already been cleared the last time they talked, mostly. But there were still so many things left untouched. They're at an impasse.

Doyoung was in his room though so that must mean he was ready to talk about things, right? The reality of the situation finally sunk in and Jaehyun was immediately up and about, wildly grabbing for a change of clothes. He really hoped he didn't misread Doyoung's intention for coming over when he asked, "Would you mind if I took a shower real quick and then we can go get breakfast?"

The smile the older boy gave him was gentle, beautiful, achingly familiar and just so Doyoung.

Jaehyun wanted to cry.

"Sure. I'd love that."

Half an hour later, they found themselves seated in the all-day breakfast place right outside the campus. The cozy atmosphere dissolving the remnants of the dreamy haze Jaehyun was still in. Seeing the other sitting in front of him donning a light pink cardigan effectively smacked Jaehyun in the head again with a holy shit Doyoung is here, in broad daylight, about to eat breakfast with me, definitely not avoiding me anymore, take that Yuta.

Their orders were taken by a grumpy uni student who Jaehyun's pretty sure had been a senior for three years now. When the waiter left, they both looked at each other, erupting into giggles.

He wasn't sure who started it but they were soon talking about random things: catching up on each other's lives, just about everything there was to talk about between two people who haven't seen each other in a while. No air of awkwardness, no rush of wrapping it up so they can go their separate ways at once.

Jaehyun could get used to this. He wanted to get used to this. For it to be considered their new constant.

There was a lull in the conversation once the plates were clean and the mugs emptied. He was dusting the crumbs off his shirt when he heard Doyoung clear his throat, making Jaehyun look up.

"Let's take a walk?"

"Okay."

The sun was high above the sky now, after having spent a good 3 hours at the diner. Sitting side by side on the grass just like this, Jaehyun had never felt more alive and at peace at the same time.

"So," Doyoung began, ever the eloquent one, "That night, when you said you were perhaps in love with me, does that still hold true?"

"It will always hold true," he was automatically saying.

A shy smile bloomed in Doyoung's face, but in his body language from what Jaehyun could observe, there was still a hint of doubt that Jaehyun wanted nothing more but to disappear.

It was his turn now, "What about you? Have you thought about it?"

If Jaehyun thought the shy smile from before was beautiful, it was nothing compared to the gummy smile that he was met with in the moment. The boy in front of him was practically glowing. It felt like home.

Doyoung was still facing front, looking out into the sea of students going about their Sunday, "I didn't have to think much about it, Jae. It was a no-brainer."

Jaehyun was sure his face was about to split in half any second now, "What does that mean...?" he trailed off. Seeking reassurance, confirmation, finality. And he wanted it straight from Doyoung.

He turned to peek at the older. The spring wind was blowing Doyoung's back to natural black hair in all directions, a serene aura finally surrounding his form. If he didn't see Doyoung's mouth move in the exact same time he heard the following words, he wouldn't have believed it actually happened.

"It means that I think it's about time we allow ourselves to be happy. Together. Don't you think so, Jaehyunnie?"

This time, there was not even one trace of hesitation when Jaehyun responded with a single, familiar word,

"Okay."

Taking the leap of courage for the both of them, Jaehyun took the initiative to lean closer, grabbed the side of Doyoung's face, read the other's expression for any sign of discomfort and when he found that there was none, pressed their lips together.

It was easily the best thing to ever happen to Jaehyun.

There was still so much to tackle, but Jaehyun knew that they would have all the time in the world to work on those later, hand in hand. No more hiding of feelings, no more pretensions, no more self-inflicted angst.

In the middle of the quad that spread out in between the engineering and education buildings, Jaehyun and Doyoung allowed themselves to be selfish. To be without fear. To be together.

Right there in the very place where the universe first let them find each other again.

Much later, when they were on Jaehyun's bed after a brief embarrassing encounter with a teasing Sicheng ("for the love of God, just not on my bed, please") and Doyoung was straddling him, nipping at his already puffy lips, jaw, neck and was about to slip his nimble hands under his shirt, Doyoung's own was already discarded on the floor, did it actually dawn on him.

"Wait, wait- fuck right there- WAIT."

Doyoung halted his movements, stretching back up to look at him inquisitively, an annoyed furrow in his brows, "Your words are contradicting. Which is it?"

"I need a moment."

"This isn't a case of cold feet, right? You aren't gonna run away and avoid me again, are you?" That was a low blow, even though Doyoung's tone was light when he said them. Jaehyun knew he deserved it.

"No," Jaehyun grumbled defiantly, hoping the blush dusting his cheeks weren't obvious, "I just... Doie, I'm so fucking in love with you."

Doyoung cupped both his cheeks, all-knowing eyes filled with mirth, smiling, "Hey, I was just kidding about the running away thing."

All-knowing eyes so full of adoration, "I love you, Jae."

All-knowing eyes shutting close in contentment, a peck on the lips, "And I'm so fucking in love with you too, my favorite boy."

 

(bonus)

A little ways down the road, two boys happily in love with each other were in their own world by one corner of the downtown study center, barely keeping their hands to themselves. If they weren't in public, it would for sure be a lot worse.

Completely oblivious to the 7 pairs of eyes that were watching their every move.

"Disgusting," claimed one of them, Donghyuck.

"Well, I think it's cute," chirped Jaemin brightly.

The two youngest in the group just glared, "When you all said that Jae was a great tutor, we thought you meant like you actually learn things from him," Chenle's eyes flashed with annoyance.

Jisung crossed his arms in front of him like the petulant child that he was, "Yeah. We kinda actually need help with math."

"Oh, Jae's good but watching him pine over Doyoung hyung was even better. Now he is just no fun," Yangyang looked like someone just told him summer break was cancelled that year.

"OH MY GOD THEY ARE AT IT AGAIN."

"Someone remind them they're in public!"

"No, let them get banned from this place. Serves them right for getting together so soon and taking away our only form of entertainment!"

"Hyuckie!"

Amidst all the chaos their friends were brewing, Renjun and Jeno just sat back. Renjun looked at his best friend with a curious glance, one eyebrow raised, "You okay?"

With a satisfied smile on his handsome face, Jeno declared, "Doyoung hyung is genuinely happy. They make each other happy."