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Gamble

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Their relationship is made up of chances. Between practices when he looks towards the other boy to see if he's doing the same. When the group is tired from dancing the same routine until perfection. Everyone too tired to care what anyone was doing. Cooling off the beset they could in the small practice room. Seeing if he’s staring just like him. And he is. The two make eye contact over the heads of their members, and it lasts a moment before Jaebum breaks it. Their manager telling them their them it's time for whatever is next on their oh so busy schedule. So busy, always busy.

Made up of touches that are casual, of course. A touch to the back of the neck, in support. A pat to the back when Jaebum laughs too hard. Punch to the shoulder in brotherly solidarity.  When Jaebum leans his head back onto Jackson's shoulder when they stay late in the studio recording for their comeback.  When his pinkie grazes the back of Jaebum’s hand when they leave their hands between each other.

Sometimes if Jackson's lucky he gets a quick kiss in places always too dark and out of the way. Too chaste enough to even be considered one, but they can't risk it.

It's not much, but it makes Jackson feel how lucky he is to be able to get these moments, because the opposite of that is nothing at all.

Because love can't be taken out of concept of variety shows and general affection, can’t be in a romantic sense.

How he took a chance to tell the other boy his feelings. Starting up their relationship. 

Though it can hardly be called a relationship, because then that would mean that they would be doing the usual things required of two people who have something more than friendly. 

They'd have to openly admit things, things they're afraid to say out loud for too many reasons. 

-

It’s the night before another performance, but different from all their rest because they're given the day off to rest in preparation for the next day. The two manage to convince the rest of their group that they wanted finish up a drama they've started recently. They leave without a word because Mark and Jinyoung were going to be taking their youngest members to an amusement park. 

The two leave an hour later, sporting sunglasses under low caps and big hoods. They run out of the dorm excitedly because the previous weeks were spent practicing and composing. Every moment scheduled as to not waste any time before the comeback.  The two rush out onto the street, jumping around, loudly laughing. Jackson almost does a flip off a landing if it weren’t for Jaebum telling him that he might break his neck. Jackson is practically skipping along the sidewalk, bumping into poles because the streetlights aren't bright enough for him behind the lenses. Jaebum laughing along with him, telling him to stay close to him or else they'd have to go back when Jackson gets a concussion.

They blend with the crowded sidewalks. Mixing with people spending their Friday nights eating, shopping and generally having fun. No one notices how they stay close to each other. How they don't really look at all the high light and things around them. Just another couple of friends out to have a fun time.

Walking close, their shoulders brushing as the two whisper about what they should do with their free night, if they can go get spicy rice cakes and ice cream, whether karaoke is just too much for the night. Giggles mix in with the cars bustling and rushing and other people mingling and adding to the cacophony. Jackson keeps his hands in his pockets because he doesn't know what he would do if the two accidentally touch fingertips. As if that slight brush or graze would set something off. If it'd make him grab for Jaebum's hand. If it'd make him flinch back instead. The worst case scenario of either of them flinching at the touch despite how much they want it. Showing that maybe one of them regrets it. What they have. Even if it's just a little bit. 

This isn't like the rest of the time, when they're in front of a camera or playing Mario Cart against one of each. Because they're alone, even with the pedestrians crowding them in on all sides. 

Jackson looks at Jaebum as he tells him about the picture updates he's getting from the rest of the group.

But even if they are no one to everybody. They can’t even do what they want. To feel comfortable with each other to each other. Even if no one would say anything, their looks and stares would say everything and nothing they'd want to hear.

Because boys shouldn’t hold hands with other, no matter how much they want to. Because brief touched aren't enough, even when nobody is looking in their direction. They have to settle for little looks of reassurances filled with hidden meanings. Settle for the bare minimum of something they're not allowed to put a word to. Somehow as if shoulder touches could make up for flesh on flesh. 

Have to put up a facade that consists of nothing in a public place. Even if they happen to be human too. Despite who they are. What they do. Who sees them on a regular basis. 

But because of who they are they aren't allowed some privileges. Can't do anything to hurt their image because the career came first. They both gave up too much to be at the point they are. What they have, just can't be more. Jackson has learned to settle for the bare minimum. Taking what he can get. Every little look, every touch, every whisper, every loud laugh and small thing that means more to him than to the average person, because those things are to look inconspicuous so they don't get in trouble just in case someone other than them were to hold it in their hands.

Side by side, a quiet comment is made every so often, shoulder bumps made in solidarity. They buy drinks and browse shops. Normal things that young men do after school and work. Singing along to songs being played while they shop. Playing shooter games at an arcade and shouting at the machine when lose their petty change to the claw crane.

Jackson has to be conscious of every action. So much that he's hardly being himself. Has to be wary of being too loud though anything they say would be lost in the cacophony of a Friday night. 

Can't help but to look and notice and be reminded that the night will have to end because he sees a short report on a television they pass by. An entertainment segment talking about the group's performance for the next night. It makes him feel as if he shouldn't had went against his diet with the fried and processed food. A curdling in his stomach. That coupled with how he has no choice but to notice other people being themselves with no repercussions. After all they aren't doing anything wrong.  He can't help but to feel a mix of jealous and melancholy staring at other people who are free to be themselves, without any need to hide themselves away. Swallowing away the acid that threatens to come up. 

Too caught up in his thoughts and how he should act, if the sunglasses were too much for the night, if wearing black was too flashy, if he can risk taking off the hood over his cap that's making his forehead sweat. He's too quiet from restraining himself, that Jaebum has no choice but to notice. 

Jackson jumps when Jaebum slings an arm around his shoulders and pulls him close into his side than publicly necessary. He about to say something when Jaebum cuts him off.

"Think we should go home now?" Whispering, his breath tickling as he pulls his lenses down a fraction when he turns his head enough to look Jackson in the eye. Jackson's quiet a moment, looking into Jaebum's eyes before whispering back.

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

It doesn’t take long for them to make their way back to the dorm. The others still out. Glancing over Jaebum's shoulder at the most recent picture of Jinyoung's and Mark's blurry faces of them probably on a fast ride. 

Coats are taken off and shoes left near the door. Caps and sunglasses reveal faces and the two seat themselves on the couch and play some music off their phones too lazy to connect a speaker.

Jackson leans into Jaebum’s side, pulling out the Korean’s hand who silently lets him, as Jackson arranges their arms comfortably to slide his fingers between Jaebum's. Slots them close together like a puzzle. They talk about their night, about how Jackson is total shit at any and every game they play. High pitched laughter as Jackson reminds him how he bumped into that girl spilling her drink all over her. How they had to bolt it, because Jaebum couldn't risk apologizing lest being recognized. How loud the girl screamed when they did. 

The two pull apart when they get a text from Mark asking the two to prepare some food for when the rest of the group get back.

Said members stumble in loudly laughing at a respectable hour, immediately making their way to the small kitchen all while leaving their shoes a jumbled mess a good distance away from the doorway.

"You made dinner!" Youngjae shouts as he tries to peer at the stove top from over Mark's shoulder.

"It looks great hyung." Yugyeom sweetly comments from the back as he looms over all of them. Bambam suggests from the front that they should also have ice cream since they were getting ramen. 

Jaebum asks if they all had a fun time as he dumps the dried noodles into the boiling water. Jinyoung then begins to tell the two about their outing while making sure to detail much embarrassing moment much to everyone else's horror. They all laugh, some of them shout as hide their faces away in hands in embarrassment.

Eventually they have to think about their performance the next day, how early they have to get up for a rehearsal and prepare to go to bed.

They all go asleep in their respective beds.

When Jackson lays under his covers in the dark, with the sound of the heating system humming mixed with Mark’s light breathing, he raises his hand above his face, making out its vague outline. Bringing it down to his chest he intertwines his fingers together. Replaying something in his head that’s been edited for a moment he wishes of. His grip tightens before letting it go to press his palms hard against his eyes.

That night he dreams of a boy who takes away his breath away so suddenly that he doesn't feel how much distress he’s in until it’s too late.

He welcomes the suffocation in the confines of the dream.