“Don’t even,” Taeyong commands, dragging Doyoung up the stairs to his bathroom. He forces the other boy down onto the toilet seat and then rummages through the cupboard beneath the sink until he unearths a gigantic first aid kit.
“Yong, I don’t—”
There’s a tremor in his voice that strikes Doyoung into silence. For once, he complies and lets the other work. A washcloth for the tried blood on his temple. Some bruise cream as well. He can’t hold back a hiss though when Taeyong comes at him with the hydrogen peroxide.
“Suck it up, buttercup.”
Doyoung scoffs, but his eyes stay glued to the floor tiles. He’s so tired. The longer he sits, the heavier his body feels, and it’s work to keep his eyes open.
The other continues staring blankly; Taeyong grabs his chin and forces their eyes to meet.
He’s not playing now. His voice and gaze are both sharp, watching like a hawk as the other boy shifts uncomfortably. He needs an answer before Doyoung starts dissociating and completely shuts down.
So Taeyong tries a softer approach, kneeling in front of him to place both hands on the boy’s shoulders.
“Do-Do, I need you to answer me. Anywhere else?”
Finally, the boy’s eyes come back into focus. He shakes his head.
Taeyong sighs in relief.
The older peers through to his bedroom to look at the digital clock on the nightstand. Only 1:22 a.m. Good. They both might actually get some real sleep before school tomorrow.
“I’ll get you some pajamas.”
Doyoung catches his arm.
“No. I need to go back.”
“I need to go home,” he mutters again, standing up. “Mark…”
And a familiar wave of frustration threatens Taeyong’s sanity. Everything is changing—they’re about to graduate from high school and be freshmen at SMU, it’s only three months away now—and yet this is still the same.
Doyoung still shows up at Taeyong’s house in the middle of the night, body battered and heart heavy, seeking, at the very least, some relief for his injuries, and at most, someone to confide so that he doesn’t lose his mind protecting his little brother. It’s their routine; it’s become as normal as breathing, at this point.
The thought sickens him.
Nearly a year and Doyoung still refuses to broach the topic or for help—serious, “adult” help; and Taeyong has always respected that, but when is enough enough?
He feels tears prickle at his eyes and his throat tightens.
So more for himself than Doyoung, he drags the boy into a tight hug; the other stiffens for a moment before acquiescing to the embrace, and wraps his arms around his best friend. Taeyong tries to hold back a sniffle, but Doyoung always knows.
“Don’t cry, dumbass.”
A watery laugh vibrates in Taeyong’s chest.
“I’m not, dipshit.” He pulls away and wipes at his eyes aggressively. “Text me when you get home, ok?”
Doyoung nods. “Always.”
Taeyong can’t watch him go. Instead, he stumbles to his bed and collapses, hugging his pillow. He forgets to turn off the bathroom light, but it’s alright. He needs a little light right now.
“If you so much as trip because of him, you call me. Got it?”
Mark rolls his eyes, folding his arms across his chest; Doyoung doesn’t catch the slight wince from bending his left arm.
“Hyung, I know. It’s fine! You know Dad’s rarely home these days, and that if I have an issue, Jeno lives less than 10 minutes away. I’m at school most of the day anyway, and on weekends, I have practice or I can go to the library. This town is hella small, I can waste time if I need to. It will be fine .”
Mark is determined this time. Doyoung frowns.
Admittedly, things have gotten slightly better over the past year.
Their father disappears on “business trips” for days or even weeks at a time, and he’s gotten less violent with Doyoung when he is around. It’s hardly an apology or a jail sentence though. It doesn’t soothe Doyoung’s worried mind.
“Hyung,” Mark calls softly. “I promise, I’ll be fine. You can’t keep commuting anymore. And you really shouldn’t if you want to run for Student Association. You’ll need to be on campus for events and meetings and stuff. It doesn't make sense to stay…”
Doyoung groans. He really doesn’t want to leave Mark here alone, but his brother is right. It’s something he really wants to do.
He heaves a sigh, and Mark grins, knowing he’s won.
“Am I an awful brother?”
“Doyoung, no,” Taeyong tries to soothe. “You’ve done the absolute best that you can.”
He runs his fingers through the boy’s hair as he sags against Taeyong on the couch in suite 302. Doyoung scoffs softly.
“I feel like I’m abandoning him. I know helicopter parenting is bad , but I… I’m scared.” He admits, and Taeyong squeezes his hand.
“I know, but you can’t live like this Doie. You’re worrying over nothing. Mark is smart. And fast,” Taeyong jokes. “He’s got a great head on his shoulders and friends to support him while we’re here. He’s going to be okay, I promise.”
Doyoung knows he’s right; it’s been over a month since the semester started and everything has, in fact, been fine. Heaving a sigh, he pulls away and gets up, only to drop into the adjacent armchair.
“What, am I not comfortable enough for you?”
“Please,” Doyoung snipes, “Your bony ass is about as comfortable as a cactus.”
Taeyong huffs in fake outrage and chucks a pillow at his head.
“I think I’ve figured it out.”
“Figured what out?” Taeyong queries, eyes still glued to his computer screen. He, Taeil, and Doyoung are in the fourth floor lounge of the music building that’s always empty, so Mark is on speaker as they work on their respective projects.
“What I want to study. In college.”
Doyoung perks up now.
There’s a moment of silence, like Mark is hesitant to reply, and Doyoung tenses.
“I want to be a nurse.”
Well that was unexpected.
“Really?” Doyoung questions slowly.
The youngest hums an affirmative yeah through the speaker.
For the longest time, the only sure thing about Mark’s future was that he’d play basketball. He’d even asked Doyoung about the sports scholarship options at SMU, so the older hadn’t really considered beyond the application process. Subconsciously, maybe he’d assumed business? Or something related to music.
A nurse, though…?
“That’s… that’s amazing, Mark. I think you would make a great nurse!” Taeyong responds happily.
“How did this come about?” Doyoung asks again. Taeil quirks an eyebrow and Taeyong shoots him a look along the lines of you’d better be supportive, you asshole, at which Doyoung promptly rolls his eyes.
“Well, you know, I want to help people… when they’re hurt.”
Doyoung’s heart swells, but his stomach also drops a bit; Taeyong grabs his hand under the table.
“That’s really admirable.” Taeil comments, oblivious to the shift in the room.
“Thank you.” Mark murmurs.
“And SMU is known for its Pre-Med and Nursing programs. So if you get your basketball scholarship—Doyoung mentioned it,” The oldest explains, “You’d have so many options here, and you should definitely take a look at the Pre-Med track options, cause you’d be in a great financial position for med school later on. My roommate Yuta is doing Pre-Med Neurology with a minor in Sports Medicine, so if you have any questions, I’m sure he’d be happy to talk to you about everything. Also, most of the medical schools in the state have a great relationship with our school, so…”
Taeil and Mark continue to chat, allowing Taeyong the chance to focus on Doyoung.
“You ok?” he whispers.
The other is surprisingly calm. He nods.
“Mom would be really proud of you, Mark.” Doyoung declares suddenly, lulling the conversation.
“... you think so?”
“I know so,” Doyoung replies, a true smile on his face now. “It’s hard to decide what the hell to do with the rest of your life.” Mark groans in agreement. “And choosing Medicine, let alone for the right reasons,” his voice falters, “is really difficult. I know she’d be really proud of you, and supportive of that kind of dream.”
“ Thanks hyung.”
Taeyong smiles at the exchange.
“Speaking of which, have you and Hyuck started talking about the future yet?”
“What,” Doyoung squawks. “Just asking.”
Taeyong leans his head on Taeil’s shoulder and snuggles closer as his boyfriend wraps an arm around his shoulders. He soaks in the teasing chatter. He’d begged his mom for a baby brother or sister when he was younger; if only he’d known then he’d gain a little brother AND a bunny…, Taeyong snickers to himself.
Per his sixth sense, Doyoung turns to glare at him and Taeyong giggles.
When Jaehyun returns to the dorm, he’s properly exhausted.
Basketball practice was a nightmare (so. many. suicides.), his meeting with his department head about his capstone had been successful, but stressful, he needs to turn in paperwork for his internship that starts in two weeks, and on top of all of that, he now has a boyfriend who deserves his time and attention.
Jaehyun’s a little overwhelmed, to be honest.
So the last thing he expects or wants to see when he steps into suite 300 is his boyfriend crying his eyes out as Taeyong offers awkward pets in consolation.
“Hi Jae,” Taeyong chirps.
“Do-do, let me go,” the boy complains, trying to extricate himself from the mess of limbs and blankets on the sofa. “Don’t worry, he’s happy crying. He just needs to get it—” Taeyong wrenches his arm away from the clingy rabbit. “Out of his system. Doyoung, I swear to god, leech onto your boyfriend, not me.”
Jaehyun chuckles softly as Doyoung glares at the other, then immediately turns to make grabby hands at him.
“Come here you big baby,” he soothes, dropping his backpack to the floor and settling onto the sofa. He pulls his boyfriend close.
“Missed you,” Doyoung mumbles into his shoulder.
Jaehyun whispers me too into his hair, stroking the boy’s back gently. He also mouths a thank you at Taeyong who’s made a beeline for the door. The other boy just salutes happily before disappearing into the hallway.
“So.” Jaehyun turns his full attention back to Doyoung. “What’s this about?”
He’s safe. It’s over.
Taeyong’s words echo in Doyoung’s chest.
He’d ended the call with Mrs. Lee a while ago, but he’s hardly wrapped his head around the immense sense of relief he feels; he hadn’t realized just how tightly strung he was, constantly worried over Mark’s well being, until he no longer needed to; he realizes he hasn’t properly been able to breathe in so long. But knowing Mark has a family to look after him, to keep him safe and well-fed and loved in Doyoung’s absence—suddenly his shoulders are loose and his chest is light and he’s overwhelmed by tears again.
“H-hyuck’s mom called. Mark’s gonna stay with them for the rest of the year. Until August, when he moves into the dorms.” Doyoung sniffles.
“It really is.” Doyoung blubbers. Tucking his face into his boyfriend’s neck, he presses a kiss just beneath Jaehyun’s jaw. “I’m so happy,” he whispers.
Jaehyun’s heart clenches.
They fall asleep pretty soon after, and when Yuta comes home from soccer practice, he obviously spams the group chat with pics, cooing over how disgustingly cute they are. He also jokingly demands that Sicheng come over so that they can outgross these two, plssss .
winwin ♡☆♡ [5:43 PM]:
be there in five
“Like many graduates here today, I wouldn’t have survived college without my friends.
For a long time, I thought that I needed to do everything myself—and that I could. It’s what I was used to, and I was set in my ways. Also, I am, admittedly, a stubborn son-of-a-bitch.”
Taeyong giggles through his tears, gripping Taeil’s hand tightly.
“And when others offered to help, I felt offended instead of cared for. But four years here, surrounded by such kind and passionate people, has taught me the invaluable nature of support. And the power in asking for help.
I realize now that the only way I was able to juggle school work, extracurriculars, my role as Student Association president, and difficult personal circumstances was through the support and love of my friends here at SMU. And going forward, I know that the friendships I’ve made here will only continue to grow and…”
Doyoung’s graduation address is equal parts heartfelt and lame, and entirely eloquent in delivery, and it’s exactly what Taeyong would expect from his best friend. What’s more, it’s the kind of speech he deserves to give—one full of happiness and excitement for the future, free of sorrow and suffering; one Taeyong wasn’t sure would ever happen, but here they are.
It concludes with a few terrible jokes and a sentiment of hope, and Yuta, Johnny, and Jaehyun begin hollering with pride, while Taeil smiles serenely beside them, and Taeyong feels complete.
“What is even in this box???” Yuta bitches, huffing as he drops it onto the living room floor.
“None of your—”
“Pokemon cards,” Mark confesses with a smirk, running before Doyoung can hit him with the rubber spatula in his hand.
“Seriously!? This thing weighs like 20 lbs.!”
Taeyong giggles knowingly, while Sicheng rolls his eyes and continues shelving books silently. Doyoung looks at his boyfriend, entreating him to some kind of vengeance, but Jaehyun just chuckles along affectionately.
So Doyoung pouts and collapses onto the sofa.
It took a few hours, but they’re finally done unloading everything into their new apartment—his and Jaehyun’s—and Doyoung heaves a huge sigh of relief; looking around, he silently says a prayer for Mrs. Lee, who graciously donated the old sofa, two beautifully ancient bookshelves, a side table, a vacuum, and a whole bunch of kitchen utensils. Everything is mismatched and pre-owned, but Doyoung could care less.
He’s ecstatic to finally have his own place.
“Thanks for your help guys. We really appreciate it,” Jaehyun praises, dropping onto the couch as well. “Let’s call it a night, yeah?”
It’s already after 10 p.m. and Doyoung is so relieved he had the foresight to make up their bed earlier. Moving is just as exhausting as he expected, so he’s ready to cuddle up with Jaehyun and sleep for a minimum of 12 hours.
It hits everyone else as well. Yuta eagerly agrees on Sicheng's behalf, citing his boyfriend's need to rest; he’s serving as a TA for two sections of Contemporary 205 and the teacher for the Chinese Dance elective, so he’ll be much busier when the summer term starts in a few days.
And Taeil pipes up as well with a reminder, “You’re recording tomorrow, right? We really should be going,” which Taeyong confirms, grabbing their jackets.
“Thank you,” Doyoung reiterates, hovering by the door to see them out.
“You’re welcome, Do-Do!” The boy groans. And even if he wanted to, Doyoung can’t fight it when Taeyong pulls him into a hug—they seem to be doing this a lot these days—and squeezes the life out of him. Doyoung may or may not squeeze back really hard for a second before they separate.
“Aww,” Donghyuck patronizes, and Taeyong laughs as Doyoung flips him the bird.
“It’s okay Do-Do, we all know how soft you are!”
Then he links arms with Taeil and wishes them farewell.
“Bye hyungs!” Donghyuck calls happily, and Doyoung rolls his eyes. The exhaustion is really hitting him now.
“Mark, you’re doing the pull-out couch. Donghyuck, you too, then go brush your teeth. And Jaehyun…” he pauses, “go do whatever you need to do. I’ll be in shortly.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Jaehyun teases, pecking him on the lips; he knows Doyoung is checking out his ass as he walks away—the sound of Mark fake vomiting confirms it—and he smiles. He still has to pinch himself sometimes that Doyoung is actually his boyfriend, so the fact that they’ve moved in together feels like a dream.
Looking around, Doyoung feels one final burst of energy. Leaving the kids to it, he puts the vacuum in the closet, carefully places the last round of dishes in the sink, closes the kitchen window, and adds another item to the grocery list on the fridge. Satisfied, he downs a glass of water and returns to the living room to check on their progress.
They're tucked in beneath the blankets, Mark showing Hyuck something on his phone, and Doyoung coos internally. Outwardly though, he clears his throat and says, “Good night, you two. No funny business…” He pointedly ignores Donghyuck’s wink and turns off the lights.
This already feels like home, he thinks contentedly.
In their bedroom, he finds Jaehyun lounging in boxers and an old SMU basketball tee, scrolling through his phone. And just like a moment ago, he soaks in the sight, committing it to memory, because wow. Doyoung gets to come home to this every day now. For the rest of his life, even, if Jaehyun will allow it; he can’t suppress a grin as he chucks on his pajamas and plugs in his phone.
Two text notifications pop up as it begins to charge:
Yong……...😘😘 [10:36 PM]:
Yong……...😘😘 [10:36 PM]:
I mean it. I’m so happy for you.
If high school us could see us now…
Yong……...😘😘 [10:37 PM]:
You’re on strict orders to stay healthy, happy, and stress-free
for the foreseeable future!!! At least until the fall lol.
Call me if you need anything!!
I’m making you jjigae at some point this week, no take backs.
Sleep tight 💗💗💗
the most handsomest sexiest thing to ever walk the earth [10:42 PM]:
enjoy your first night 😏😏
christen the kitchen table in my honor!!!
Please don’t. I’ll have to eat off that table when we visit –Johnny
DO ITTT –Ten
He snorts softly and climbs under the sheets.
Then Doyoung looks across the bed at his boyfriend and sighs. It shouldn’t be possible to be this happy, he thinks to himself.
But as always, Jaehyun’s inclined to contradict him.
Noticing his boyfriend’s sleepy expression, he immediately cages the older in his arms. Doyoung laughs. It takes some readjusting of limbs, and maybe a groan or two from the ancient springs in their mattress, but finally they settle, Jaehyun tucked comfortably under his boyfriend's chin while the older plays with the baby hairs along his nape.
“I love you,” Jaehyun murmurs against his skin.
Later, Doyoung will realize this is the first time either of them has said those words, and he’ll playfully hit Jaehyun on the arm and whine about how “uninspired” his declaration was. But in the moment now, it doesn’t have to be momentous or dramatic. It just has to feel right, and it does .
“I love you too.”
And then they're out.