Love is what brought you here. If you trusted love this far don’t panic now, trust it all the way.
(James Baldwin, “If Beale Street Could Talk”)
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
(Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”)
If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.
(Jane Austen, "Emma")
There are some eerie things in this apartment at night that Jaemin is quite fond of, as one would naturally be fond of what accompanies them at night.
For one, the shadow that one of Jeno's plants casts beside the TV rack that is positively blacker than the usual shadow — sometimes Jaemin sees it move, or he likes to believe that he does. The glow of the moon where she touches the couch, coming through the large glass door that leads to a small balcony. The humming of the refrigerator; sometimes it makes a horrible sound that startles the shit out of Renjun at night, and both him and Jaemin pretend that doesn't happen. Jaemin himself, of course, who likes to sit on the small balcony when he can't sleep, his blonde hair like a halo under the moonlight.
"It scares the shit out of me," Donghyuck sometimes tells him. "To see you sitting there alone. I'm going to have a heart attack at the ripe age of twenty."
Or something of the likes. Each time Donghyuck comes up with even more creative reasons to die by Jaemin's hand — I'm going to get startled, slip on the floor and break my neck, or I'm going to mistake you for a biblical angel and immediately burst into flames myself.
It is not in Jaemin's self-interest to scare the shit out of anyone. He enjoys his eerie likings because it is better than to grow wary of them, being an insomniac as he is. He gets no sleep and he will not let the world, and his wild imagination for that matter, scare the shit out of him. But he supposes that it must be somewhat creepy to walk into the apartment at night and see him sitting there, doing nothing but look at the moon, so when Jaemin hears the familiar sound of the code to their apartment door being put in, he tries to slide out of the balcony to retrieve to his room, but stops dead on his tracks when he realizes that Donghyuck will not notice him, as entertained as he is.
Jaemin doesn't know why he keeps standing there. Living with other four guys, all of them have learned the best ways to walk out of incidental voyeurism; he could simply hide in a corner of the balcony and wait until Donghyuck and whoever-it-might-be to take it to the room — but he can't bring himself to.
It doesn't take long — Donghyuck is the proud owner of the only single room in this apartment so he can do whatever he likes, including bringing people over to stay the night, and he's a master of sneaking around. His hand curls around the back of someone's neck and he's giggling as he pulls them in the direction of the corridor. Neither of them bat an eye at Jaemin.
Another eerie thing: Jaemin's sudden undying wish that one day Donghyuck will stop barging into their home accompanied at 2:45 AM. This one haunts him more than the others, and constantly. He has no idea why.
It's not that he's an asshole; he supposes he'd rather have Donghyuck bringing hook-ups over than going back to the time he'd spend the night out and not warn any of them. But there's a voice that Jaemin recognizes, barely a whisper but it is so quiet already, of course he would hear, telling Donghyuck to calm down, geez, and he presses a hand to his face and waits patiently for the door to Donghyuck's room to click shut so that he can walk to his own.
"Good morning," Donghyuck tells him a little while before lunchtime, his hair sticking out in different places as he walks into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep off his eyes. He slides into his usual seat on the table just as Jaemin pours himself some coffee and immediately rests his cheek on his extended forearm. He blindly taps at the keyboard in Jaemin's computer; the latter had been trying to work on some essays, to no avail. "Anything to eat?"
Jaemin will be damned before he stops cooking for these people — or they will be damned if he were to stop, but since he has no plans of doing so, they're doing fairly well. He takes a sip of his beloved coffee before getting up to fetch him a bowl of doenjang jjigae that's left from breakfast; Jeno and Yangyang eat like there are five of them, of course, and if it wasn't for Jaemin's sixth instinct to save some up for Donghyuck, there wouldn't be nothing left. Not that Jaemin would ever leave him hanging, of course, he realizes as he passes Donghyuck the bowl and watches as he immediately brings the spoon to his mouth.
"So good, thank you," he lets out a long hum, licking his lips. "The others?"
"Jeno is out buying art supplies," Jaemin replies. "Renjun has a full chest tattoo appointment today, and I'm pretty sure Yangyang went back to sleep. Do you have any plans today?"
Donghyuck mumbles anything under his breath, taking another sip of the stew. Usually, on the weekends, he's out and about with his teammates — personally, Jaemin would be caught dead before he wakes up early to swim, but Donghyuck, like Mark, is an early bird. Except for when he, well, Jaemin sets his coffee down and goes back to his essay.
"I saw Chani on the way out," Jaemin comments after a while, because he can't help himself. After his very short nap, Jaemin was dragging himself into the bathroom in the middle of the night when he stumbled on Chani trying to sneak out of the apartment. "You didn't tell us you'd bring him over. I'd have tidied up the place."
Donghyuck makes a face, embarrassed. "It was a last minute thing. I'll let you know the next time."
He works on his essay for a while, listening as Donghyuck maneuvers himself in the kitchen. After a while, he comes back, hooking his chin on the curve of Jaemin's shoulder to watch as he writes: "I missed morning practice so I might head out now," he says. When he speaks, his chin digs uncomfortably at Jaemin's shoulder, but he has half the heart to shrug him off. "Wanna come with me?"
"I am not joining the swim team," Jaemin responds, rather softly. "I never learned how to swim. I might die and you're already a safety hazard for me as you are."
Donghyuck scoffs, leaning away to pinch him on the neck. Jaemin bats his hand away. "You could've just said no, asshole. I won't bring you sweets from that bakery you like when I come back."
Both of them know he will. Jaemin sends him flying kisses as he disappears in the corridor and goes back to his essay.
"Chani? Really?" Jeno hums, surprised, as he leans over a canvas on the floor. The wallpaper covering is already all stained with paint, but not more than Jeno himself. The sun is harsh on the balcony in the afternoon and he's rolled up his sleeves, arms covered in blues and green. "I thought they went out once, like, months ago and then never again. That's… Unexpected.”
"I wouldn't think so," Mark chimes in from the kitchen. "Everybody that Jaemin introduces to Donghyuck ends up hooking up with him. It's like a blessing. Or a curse, I don't know, it depends on the person. Maybe this time they're dating for real."
"You think so?" Jaemin asks, eyes widened as he turns around to look at him. To be quite frank, he didn't expect Chani and Donghyuck to hit off so well — when they first went out, quite some time ago, Donghyuck didn't have anything particularly espectacular to say about him. "He told you anything?"
Mark shrugs all the way from the counter. "Not that I remember."
Jeno looks up from his class assignment to watch Jaemin. "Did you talk to him?"
"To Chani?" Jaemin asks. "Why would I talk to Chani? What would I even say to him? He barely had his pants on as he left, it was embarrassing enough as it was."
"Not to him, silly, to Hyuck."
"He didn't see me," Jaemin replies. He didn't even look in my direction. "He was quite busy shoving his tongue down Chani's throat. It would be rude to intrude."
Mark sits down by his side on the floor, except on the outside, bowl of cereal on his lap — he claims to not have had breakfast. And Jaemin is not quite fond of sitting directly under the sun, so when Jeno is working outside, he keeps him company by sitting near the doorstep. But since Mark is both fond of the sun and fond of Jeno, he crosses his long, tanned legs to avoid becoming a canvas himself, and looks as pleased as ever as he munches on Renjun's favorite cereal, casually leaning over to feed some to Jeno.
"And weren't you very upset about it," he muses. He turns to Jeno and says: "Jaemin dies when he doesn't get attention. You know, like Tinker Bell."
It is more about making Jeno laugh — which he does — than about pulling at Jaemin's pigtails. Mark couldn't hurt people's feelings if he tried. He has tried, of course, but not when it comes to any of them. Maybe Donghyuck.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jaemin points out. "Renjun ignores me all the time and I have never died."
"I'll rephrase it: you die when you don't get Donghyuck's attention."
"And I have never died from that either." Jaemin repeats. "Anyhow, he didn't stay for breakfast. Chani, I mean. I talked to Donghyuck during breakfast, though. He was like: I'll warn you guys next time I bring him over. Maybe they're really dating, guys. I don’t think it’s a one time thing, or no strings attached.”
Mark points a spoon at him: "And you care because… ?"
"I don't. I'm just pointing it out. I’m naturally curious and like to pry into people’s lives very much, as you enjoy saying.”
Mark gives him an embarrassed smile, and Jeno hums as he works. Jaemin doesn't know what he's doing, but it looks good so far — Jeno is one of those people that are naturally prone to being good at everything they do, whether it is painting, playing games, fixing the sink, or wooing people. "Good for them," he says at last. "Did you stay up late?"
He didn't have to ask. Jaemin hasn't bothered putting on concealer, it's Saturday and he's at home with his friends, but still he brushes a thumb under his left eye as if it would be enough to make the dark circles disappear. "Maybe I did, maybe I did not," he mumbles. "Who knows? Only the moon, I suppose…"
"Hey, does that mean you..." Mark cuts himself short, giggling. "I mean. I never pegged you for someone who likes to listen when people are having—"
"I didn't do that!" Jaemin replies, scandalized, to which Mark lets out a hysterical laugh. "I am just an insomniac with perfectly functional noise cancelling headphones, I have no intention to hear my best friend doing the do, thanks."
"And if he keeps bringing Chani over? Like he said he will?"
"I will still have my perfectly functional noise cancelling headphones then, Minhyung. I’m afraid I am unable to follow your peculiar train of thought.”
Mark chuckles softly to himself, turning his face to the view of the balcony. They stay silent for a while — Jeno working, Mark watching him, and Jaemin watching both of them. Just a common Saturday for the three of them, as Yangyang is out and about with other friends, Renjun is still at the studio, and Donghyuck, well, he left as he said he would and didn't tell Jaemin where he was going after practice, so he could be out all day. This is the picture of Jaemin's life as it is.
"So I was thinking something really funny," Mark says once he's done drinking the last of the absurdly sugary milk that was left of his cereal, some of it clinging to his top lip. Jaemin reaches out with a hand to pull at the collar of Mark's shirt and clean him. "Thanks. As I was saying, like, this just came to my mind out of nowhere. So, are you ready to receive information that could potentially make your life better?"
"I'll let you know I don't have any virgins to offer in sacrifice," Jaemin hums. "Jeno refuses to help a friend out, unfortunately."
"Virginity is a social construct, anyway," Jeno protests, though unfazed, not even looking up from his work. "I give zero fucks about it. Pun intended."
Jaemin giggles, raising his eyebrows suggestively at Mark. The latter promptly ignores him as he says, in a high pitch tone: "As you know, Donghyuck always goes out with the people you tell him to go out with—"
"Precisely," Jaemin replies. "I have great taste in men for Donghyuck."
"—but it rarely works out." Mark continues. "Like, honestly speaking? He'll probably stop going out with Chani in two weeks. The closest to a relationship he ever got was, like, that exchange student, but that still didn't work out. Wonder why?"
Jaemin deadpans: "Because Pedro had to go back to Brazil. They were really cute together, though."
"No! I mean, yes, but the thing is: none of these people are right for him. Like, Chani is a nice guy and all, but I don't believe he's the one."
"Are you implying that I'm a bad matchmaker?" Jaemin crosses his arms. "Maybe he just doesn't want serious relationships. Why does it matter? Have you asked him whether or not he wants to be in a relationship?"
Mark's lips press into a very thin line. "I am implying that Hyuck gets bored of people easily. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as you're not an asshole about it, and he's definitely not, but—" he raises a finger up in the air. "There is one person he never gets bored of."
Jaemin nods for him to continue. He still has no idea what all of this has to do with him — Mark talks shit 95% of the time, but Jaemin often finds himself awfully interested in the remaining 5%.
"And that person is you," Mark adds. Before Jaemin can say anything, he adds: "Donghyuck adores you, and you adore him. Stop introducing new people to him and go out with him yourself! Boom, everyone is happy."
Jaemin stares at him. Mark stares at him in return, his big eyes caring and tender. "Why would I do that?" Jaemin asks carefully. "Answer without screaming."
Mark sighs exasperatedly, throwing his hands in the air. "Because you're at least ten times better than any person he could go out with! I really think you'd be a great couple. I would know, since I've been friends with him since we wore diapers. I excel in Hyuckology."
Jaemin lets out a laugh. That has got to be the most ridiculous thing that Mark has ever said, as he's said a lot of those. "Totally not happening," he replies. "Donghyuck likes going out with new people, Mark. He's having fun. He's having fun with Chani. Why ruin that?"
"You could have fun with him. When's the last time you went out with someone?"
"That's irrelevant to class discussion. I've been busy studying."
"Dating Donghyuck wouldn't ruin your grades, you're colleagues. I can only see benefits."
Jeno lets out a snort. Jaemin turns around to look at him and asks: "What are you laughing at?"
Shaking his head dismissively, Jeno carefully cleans his brushes with a cloth as he analyses his canvas. "You two are funny, that's all."
Mark beams with the compliment, and Jaemin gets tired of the conversation so he gets up, knee joints popping loudly once he does. There is only so much one can take debating with Mark; he'll tire you out eventually. That's precisely how he managed to become president of the debate club in high school: by being annoying. Or that's just how Donghyuck puts it when he talks about it, as he never loses an opportunity to recall "the times in which Mark ruined my high school experience", though most lovingly.
(Jaemin finds it interesting how he can pierce together the best stories from his friends' childhoods and build something that only he can perceive, and that he keeps for himself like a precious heirloom for his own memories. He didn't know any of them at age thirteen, but something in what they tell him makes him feel as if he did — it's that thought that counts.)
Anyhow, he drums his fingernails on the fridge handle for a moment. He supposes that Mark will never stop looking out for Donghyuck, as he simply is wired that way. But Jaemin doesn't get why he of all people would be the right choice for Donghyuck, or why Mark would bring it up in the first place — the thought irks him out a little, to be quite honest. He and Donghyuck are friends, like he and Mark are, like he and Jeno are.
Then again, 95%. He pulls the fridge's door open to steal the last of Jeno's organic orange juice.
The matchmaking thing started with Kim Sunwoo.
Back then, Jaemin liked to paint his nails black and they were constantly chipped, the black parts disappearing almost completely when he put his hands on Donghyuck's shoulders, him clad in equally dark colors, darker in that corner of the party. They were going through a phase admittedly. They always go through phases together, always in the same wavelength, and how much did Jaemin adore this boy? More than you probably think.
"Your friend with the red hair over there is really hot," Donghyuck had told him, his eyes reflecting the stroboscopic lights. Jaemin had forgotten to put his contacts on, so he spent the entire party leaning really close to people in order to see their faces. That or he naturally wandered closer to Donghyuck. "Where did you meet him?"
Jaemin remembers thinking Sunwoo was handsome, too. He felt a little bit jealous, but still said: "He's in one of my classes. Want me to introduce you to him?"
It was only natural, Jaemin thinks, that he and Donghyuck would always find themselves together at parties. Jeno, Jaemin's roommate back then, has never been quite fond of those, and Renjun and Yangyang hadn't been in the picture yet. They spent their first year attached hip to hip, red cups in hands, smudged makeup on Jaemin's eyelids and Donghyuck's black hair matted to his forehead. They were a mess. They had fun. Jaemin liked it like that very much.
He remembers throwing his arm around Sunwoo's shoulders, chatting a while about anything — the music, their upcoming tests, things like that —, and then pointing out at Donghyuck from across the room. He doesn't remember the rest, just Donghyuck giving him a thumbs up before following Sunwoo into the garden later that night.
The thing with Sunwoo didn't last long, perhaps two or three weekends in which they met at parties. Jaemin doesn't believe that Donghyuck gets bored of people easily, — Mark always blows things out of proportion —, he's really just one of those people that really like going out with someone new. He likes flirting and being flirted with, he likes that kind of attention, and since Jaemin is pretty much fond of those things as well, he's more than glad to help him out finding dates.
Then there was Lia, and Han Jisung, and Pedro, and Emma, and Yeri, and Seunghun, and Park Jisung — personally, Jaemin thought Donghyuck was lovely with all of them. He scrolls down his Instagram home feed and double taps Han's recent post as Donghyuck's car comes to a stop.
"Are you attending Ancient II today?" the latter asks, to which Jaemin nods. "Can you hand in my assignment? I already talked to the professor. I have an appointment."
Jaemin hums, watching as Donghyuck reaches for his bag in the backseat. Being pre-Law students majoring in History is fun. Donghyuck is the kind of person that procrastinates signing up for classes until the very last minute, so Jaemin has convinced him to sign up to many shared classes solely for the fact that they'd be helping each other out. He runs his fingers down Donghyuck's class assignment for a moment and tucks it inside his own bag.
"You're very good at writing," Jaemin tells him. "Like, very good. Probably the best writer in our year. If you were a Lit student, you'd one-up Mark easily."
To which Donghyuck replies: "You flatter me. I'll write your essays for $40 each. No friend discount, I know my worth."
"Is this how you bought your Nintendo Switch? Preying on desperate students?"
Donghyuck sends him a mischievous grin before they get out of the car, and Jaemin sighs dramatically as he kicks the pavement. "Whatever, it's not like I'm failing Ancient II," he mutters, and Donghyuck rolls his eyes before lacing their arms together. Jaemin leans onto his side like he's done for the past year and so. Sometimes it is hard for him to imagine a life without Donghyuck in it, even if he won't write essays for him. "Are you sick? You said you have an appointment."
"Just a check-up. Some guy in the swim team came down with something and our coach wants to make sure no one else has it."
Jaemin hums, watching as fellow History majors rush to leave the parking lot and attend their classes, and wonders if Donghyuck would rather drop by the cafeteria instead of going straight to the library. Jaemin could use another coffee and their first shared class had been dismissed anyway — their professor is having a baby. Or two of those, Jaemin doesn't remember, but he's thankful for the free period. He squeezes at Donghyuck's arm as they reach the steps that lead to the main building.
"Hey, wanna grab a coffee?"
Donghyuck's bottom lip juts out. "I can't, I told Chani I'd meet him."
Nodding, Jaemin lets go of him, but reaches out to pat down the wrinkles on Donghyuck's coat out of habit. "Chani, huh? Are things getting serious around here?"
Donghyuck's cheeks dust pink unfamiliarly, he lets out a huff, his eyes darting somewhere else. "Maybe? Yes?"
"Why are you asking me, how would I know?"
He rolls his eyes, punching at Jaemin's arm lightly. Jaemin has never seen him flustered before — usually, Donghyuck is on the other end of flustering. "You know I've never—" he shakes his head. "I mean, yes, I want to. I'm looking into this case."
Jaemin mimics his choice of words, to which Donghyuck lands another punch on his arm. "Baby's first real boyfriend that isn't our dear Mark Lee," Jaemin teases.
"I told you that I was eight years old back then, for fuck's sake, he doesn't count!"
They don't spend much time arguing. After all, Donghyuck has a date to attend and Jaemin has other essays to write. They part ways and Jaemin watches as Donghyuck heads to the small green area close to their building, pulling his coat tighter around himself, his brown hair ruffled by the wind, and then Jaemin turns on his heels.
He thinks of Mark's words, he'll probably stop going out with Chani in two weeks, and chuckles to himself. In all the time they've known each other, Jaemin has never seen Donghyuck like this. He doesn't just go to uni early to meet with someone, and he certainly doesn't blush. Admittedly, he hadn't thought they'd hit off so well, and now Jaemin is quite proud of himself — Chani is a dear, he's a Performing Arts student and Jaemin met him at one of Hwang Hyunjin's parties after Jaemin spilled a red drink all over his white shirt. It's a good thing that he knows how to talk his way out of everything — Jaemin is great at making friends.
You're such a loser, he texts Mark once he finds a table near a window in the library. They're totally going to date. Donghyuck just told me so.
It doesn't take long for Mark to reply: noooo don't type like a grandma ur so sexy, and Jaemin promptly ignores the Literature major in question. Jaemin wonders why the best writers he knows often write like mad men online. After a while, Mark adds: i still like u better than chani tho :^) one day u will thank me for saying this lololol
What does this even mean? Jaemin asks, and Mark doesn't reply. He rolls his eyes then, settling the phone on the table so he can begin his work.
“So, what do you think?” Donghyuck asks, one bony elbow digging to Jaemin’s side familiarly. He’s nursing a whole bottle of vodka in one hand and at least three phones in the other — Jaemin feels sorry for all the poor people who are going to end up losing their phone because of Donghyuck tonight. “Bomin or Changbin?”
“I’m fine here,” Jaemin replies before taking a sip of his own drink, yet his eyes do linger in the former, across the room. Every once in a while, Donghyuck feels as if he has to somewhat repay Jaemin for setting him up with new people by finding men for him to go out with. It’s not always that he says yes. “Well— you know. Bomin is super cute.”
Donghyuck leans into his side to whisper loudly: “Bomin is super hot,” and then gasps at himself like he’s just revealed a secret of the state. Giggling in his drunkenly state, he leans back on Eunji’s suede couch and takes a large sip of vodka. “Jaemin, you should do it. You should do him.”
“I’m fine here,” Jaemin repeats. “I was just making a statement. He’s Jeno’s friend so it’d be awkward, and I want to go home soon, anyway. I have a test on Monday.”
“Changbin, then,” the other insists, completely ignoring what he had just said. “Come on, I have a test on Monday too, have some fun! Let’s all have fun.”
Jaemin lets out a snort as he twirls the drink in his cup. He wasn’t particularly crazy about attending Jiwon’s birthday party tonight, but he’s pretty sure that Eunji would personally drag his ass to hell if he didn’t — he keeps thinking of that test Monday, and the fact that Yangyang spilled beer on his pants and he’s sticky and stinky, and, well, if Donghyuck really wanted to have fun, they wouldn’t have set up camp on the couch. He can't wait to get home.
"I'm really not feeling like doing anything tonight," he replies. Donghyuck makes a sound like a kicked puppy. "You should, though. Go find Matk or something."
"Are you kicking me out?"
His eyes are as big as saucers as he asks. Jaemin lets out a soft laugh. "No, dummy. I just want you to have fun while the party lasts."
Donghyuck doesn't look that convinced. Under the party lights, his face is flushed by the alcohol and there's a noticeably big hickey peeking from the collar of his t-shirt. Jaemin had only seen Chani for a brief moment, at the beginning of the party — he wonders, for a second, if they'll have to start hanging out with him.
It's not that he's opposed to it, but the five of them are thick as thieves. And there's Mark, too, and Lucas, and Kunhang, and Dejun. Finding himself pouting at the thought, Jaemin crosses his arms, and is about to ask Donghyuck not to ditch them completely for his new boyfriend when someone else speaks up:
"Something troubling you?"
Jaemin sobers up immediately, as one would naturally do in the presence of Seo Changbin. Usually, he wouldn’t actively pursue other Leos — dealing with Mark and Dejun is tiring enough —, but it’s not his fault that Changbin chose to sit right beside him on the couch, on the space once occupied by Donghyuck. Jaemin rests a hand on his knee, smiles and says: “Not at all! What brings you here, handsome?”
See, he likes Changbin. He really does. They met through Han Jisung and though at the time Jaemin was very interested in going out with Hwang Hyunjin, he supposes he can’t do that anymore since the latter and Han just got together. Not that Changbin is second best — he’s good on his own. He’s funny, he’s smart, he’s a tad short for Jaemin’s liking but it doesn’t matter because he always kisses like he means it, and Jaemin has never been one to not retribute with equal enthusiasm.
One of Changbin's arms rests on the back of the couch right behind Jaemin, fingers grazing the sleeve of his mesh shirt, and as Jaemin presses closer to him, he smiles sweetly and says: "Can I be honest?" Jaemin nods. Changbin points behind himself with his free hand, and Jaemin is not at all surprised to find Donghyuck giving him an enthusiastic thumbs up. "So, wanna get out of here?"
"You bet I do," Jaemin replies, and he turns his face just in time for Changbin's lips to land on his cheek when the latter leans in. Jaemin pats him on the thigh before getting up. "Come on, handsome, lead the way."
"Is it too soon to schedule a double date?"
Jaemin lets his slice of pizza fall to his plate by accident, and shoots Donghyuck a dirty look from across the table before trying to scoop his toppings in a way that it doesn't look simply sad. "What?" he asks. "I'm not— I'm not dating Changbin. The only Leo I need in my life is me."
After a beat of silence, he adds: "And the other two, before anyone starts throwing knives."
Donghyuck lets out a sound like a kicked puppy before taking a bite of his pizza. "But you look so good together," he reasons. "Pretty please with a cherry on top?"
Jaemin can't believe they're having this conversation on the dinner table — although Jeno and Yangyang are far more interested in trying to eat two slices at the same time each, Renjun watches the both of them with curious eyes from his seat. Jaemin tries to ask him telepathically to change the subject, and because Renjun is his one and only, his star and stripe, he says:
"I'm moving out."
"What?" all four of them exclaim. Well, three, because Jeno chokes on his food.
"It's a lie, I just wanted to see how you'd react," Renjun raises his hands in surrender, laughing. Donghyuck apparently kicks him under the table because he jumps on his seat and sends him a dirty look. "You bitch. I'll move out just because you did that."
"You love me so much it makes you look stupid," Donghyuck replies in great Donghyuck fashion. He shoves the rest of his slice inside his mouth and cleans his hands on his pants — also in great Donghyuck fashion. "God, you're such an asshole."
Jeno clears his throat: "Particularly, I did not enjoy the ill-intended joke myself."
"But if you move out, can Jeno stay with Jaemin and then I move to your room?" Yangyang asks, and Donghyuck also kicks him under the table. "Hey, it's a joke—"
As they engage in lighthearted argument — from Renjun's part, at least, because Donghyuck looks pretty hurt by the possibility of losing a roommate —, Jaemin takes his time to eat quietly and stare at the latter now that nobody's looking at him.
He's not at all against double dates. He's been to countless double dates in his life, but for some reason he doesn't feel like jumping at the idea. It's different when he knows that Donghyuck's thing has gotten serious. He doesn't even know why, but it's different. He feels a lot weird about it.
Shit. Maybe Jaemin is coming down with something — he did spend a low awful time pressed to some random wall in the middle of the night despite the bad weather, Changbin's hair a little damp from drizzle as Jaemin worked his hands through it, before they got to Changbin's place. He'll fetch himself some warm tea before going to bed tonight.
Later on, as he washes the dishes, Jeno knocks his hip against Jaemin's, leans in and asks: "Are you alright? You seem a little…"
He makes an intricate gesture that Jaemin has no idea what could possibly mean. Jeno is far more artistic than him, he's taken acting lessons in the past.
"Yeah, that's exactly how I feel," he responds just so that Jeno won't be sad. "I don't know. Might be coming down with the flu. I'll just drink some tea, don't worry."
Jeno doesn't seem at all convinced, so when Jaemin is done with the dishes and also his skincare routine before going to sleep, he goes to Jaemin's room and starts fumbling with the books on the shelf before Jaemin, finally on his bed, asks: "Cuddles?"
"Yes," Jeno responds, and promptly slides under the covers with him. His cold feet press to Jaemin's calves and the latter hisses, but Jeno only wraps his arms tightly around him. "Wanna tell me what's going on?"
Jaemin doesn't know what is going on. His jasmine tea didn't make him feel any better. "Not really," he mutters, and tucks his head under Jeno's chin.
There is something so magical, Jaemin thinks, about best friends; lucky for him, he's got four of those. It's like all the worries in the world are not at all that important when he's wrapped around Jeno — this place right here is where Jaemin feels safe the most. Naturally, they'll be spending all of their nine lives together, and he wouldn't be surprised if it was proven that they have already spent some of those.
After a while, when he's sure that Jeno is fighting off sleep, Jaemin whispers very quietly: "I believe what Mark said the other day is getting to my head."
Jeno lets out a long hum. "Uh, okay. Nark says a lot of things all the time, though. Care to elaborate?"
He considers his words. What does Jaemin even mean? He's often speaking without thinking. "That Chani might not be… The right one for him. I guess I'm worried. For Donghyuck, you know. I don't want him to get hurt."
Jeno hums again. For a moment, Jaemin is afraid that he has fallen asleep for real before he speaks up: "I think Hyuck knows how to take care of himself just fine."
"Of course," Jaemin whispers.
"What about you?"
He pushes himself off Jeno, trying to get a good look at him even in the dark. "Me? What do I have to do with this matter?"
Propping himself up on his elbows, Jeno replies: "Can you take care of yourself? I wonder..." he pauses. Jaemin waits anxiously. "I wonder if you've really gotten over—"
Jeno stays silent. Jaemin pushes the covers over his head. "Jaemin? I—"
"Stop talking about it," he pleads. "You're making things weird. I don't have feelings for Donghyuck still, and I can take care of myself. Goodnight, Jeno."
Once Jeno has fallen asleep once more, his soft snoring filling up the room, Jaemin eventually rolls over and closer to him, wrapping arms around his torso once more. But now that his mind is set on something, he won't be able to fall asleep — he can't believe Jeno pulled that card on him. It was such a huge blow! Jaemin presses his face to Jeno's chest in a futile attempt to shield himself from those thoughts.
Back in the day, when they all had just gone from the awkward more-than-acquaintances-but-not-friends-yet phase to the I'd-actually-help-you-hide-a-body phase, Jaemin had a parallel phase in which he nurtured a tiny little crush for Donghyuck. Honestly, if it wasn't Donghyuck, it would've been anyone else — Yangyang is totally his type. But it was the former, and Jeno will never let him live because of it, and Jaemin supposes he won't let himself live because of it either.
It's natural to develop a bit of a crush for your friends. It happens when you're just so close to someone, you start seeing things that weren't there before, you mistake friendly affection for something else, it happens! Jaemin was a freshman and freshly out of his hometown, he was ready to live the most of his golden gay times, so no one can blame him for it.
He could've gone for it. Jeno had told him to go for it countless times — who knows what might have happened? Sometimes, when Jaemin is feeling like ruining his own mood, he wonders about what could have been if he and Donghyuck— if they…
Anyway. Jaemin yawns. He's glad that he introduced Donghyuck to Sunwoo — if he was busy kissing somebody else, Jaemin wouldn't have time to pine for him, right?
It was a genius plan. It is a genius plan. Move along, crowd, move along.
"So, is it too soon?"
Jaemin doesn't look up from his notebook as he types. "Don't you even get me started."
Letting out a groan in frustration, Donghyuck rests his forehead against one of the textbooks they've been sharing. "God, you're so difficult." He whines. "You and Changbin? It's easily a concept. You, Changbin, me and Chani? An even better concept!"
The essay on Jaemin's notebook is ¾ done. If only Donghyuck would focus on it, they could get it done today — Jaemin spares him a glance, and finds out that Donghyuck is already watching him, his cheek squished against what Jaemin believes is a pretty important (A.K.A definitely not the best option to rest your oily face on) historical source they signed out of the library. He reaches out and frees it from under Donghyuck's cheek, but the latter only pouts even further.
“I’m not even going out with Changbin,” Jaemin tells him. “We meet up casually. It’s nothing serious.”
“But it could be!” Donghyuck replies as he sits up straight. “He’s so cool, and so hot, and didn’t you tell me that the sex is—”
“We’re in a library. Please, remember that we're in a library."
“I said it was pretty good,” Jaemin looks around, trying to see if anyone’s heard. “God, you embarrass me. And that doesn’t mean I want to date him, it just means I like to—" he motions vaguely. "—him."
“But you could date him, for a day!”
“Are you really serious about this?" Jaemin asks. He nods. "Why?"
Donghyuck stretches his arms above his head. He's got the sleeves of his sweatshirt from the swimming team pushed up all the way to his elbows, and his arms are but long paths of tanned skin and constellations of moles — he spends too much under the sun, swimming in the outside pool of their college campus. Naturally, sunlight and water are the basic recipe to all living things, so it can't go wrong; Jaemin wonders if he'll look this good if he joins the swim team. “Ah, you know.”
"I don't, actually, which is why I'm asking."
"You know!" Donghyuck repeats. He rests his arms on the table and reaches out for Jaemin's hand, but he moves it away in time — untroubled, Donghyuck clings to the sleeve of his sweater. "I never had a real boyfriend. I'm trying to live up to all of my expectations of romantic love. Thefore, as my best friend, you're morally obliged go help me out."
Jaemin hums. Around two weeks ago, they made it Facebook official — Jaemin himself doesn't have Facebook because he deleted his account after realizing he only logged in to argue with the other people from their major, and he's trying really hard to be positive and good vibes now, but Yangyang is obsessed with social media presence and had shoved his phone on Jaemin's face as soon as it showed up on his feed.
Lee Donghyuck is in a serious relationship with Kang Chanhee. It had over a hundred comments and doubled the amount of likes. Jaemin hates Facebook. Why must people make it official there? Isn't it enough to introduce your boyfriend to, say, your grandmother? If he had a boyfriend, the only validation Jaemin would ever need is his grandma's. Seriously. He clears his throat.
"So you watched The Kissing Booth again, or something like that."
"Yes!" Donghyuck throws his hands in the air. "Seriously, would it kill you to go on a double date with me? I want this experience."
As a matter of fact? Yes, it would. Jaemin turns back to their essay. "You should ask Mark so that he'll finally gather the guts to ask Jeno out. I'm sure he'd appreciate a little push to put him through."
Donghyuck stays silent for a moment. "Why would I put myself through the experience of Mark having an actual excuse to look at and talk about Jeno for two hours? It's tiring enough when he pretends he's not doing it." He snorts. "You are a normal human being, Mark suffers from severe Jenositis and refuses to get treatment despite all my efforts."
"Touché and thank you," Jaemin replies. He yelps when Donghyuck reaches out and closes the lid of his notebook, almost trapping his fingers. "Hey, we need to finish this soon."
"Pretty please?" Donghyuck pouts. "It doesn't even have to be Changbin, it can be literally anyone else. Just let me know what it's like to go on a double date with my best friend! We're going to have so much fun, the four of us! Of five, I don't know, go poly, right?"
Jaemin won't look at his pout. He definitely won't look. If he does it, he's doomed. He— he's looking. Fuck. It's as if Donghyuck knows the power it has over him, because his bottom lip juts out even further.
"Two hours," Jaemin says. "We'll go to the movies and maybe have dinner, but that depends on whether or not you’ll behave like a decent human being inside the movie theater. I am not afraid to walk out in the middle of a movie, Lee Donghyuck."
"And do I love you for it!" the latter exclaims. He smiles so brightly that the sun, just outside this library window, could easily be rivalled. Donghyuck extends a hand and squeezes Jaemin's. "Thank you, I love you, you're the actual best. I will never forget this."
Jaemin gives him a tight lipped smile. "Can we go back to our essay now?" he asks, and Donghyuck nods, scooting closer with his chair and hooking his chin on Jaemin's shoulder to take a look at the computer screen.
The days prior to the infamous double date are nerve wracking to say the least, and Jaemin often wonders if it’s worth the trouble at all.
“I strongly believe you’re exaggerating,” Yangyang tells Jaemin as they wait for their bus together. “You’re just going to go there, have some fun, smooch Changbin and make Donghyuck happy. It can’t go wrong.”
Yangyang is, as absurd as the thought might sound, the voice of Jaemin’s reason solely for the fact that he is absolutely insane and never lies, so Jaemin resorts to him when he wants unbiased opinions — Jeno is a angel and doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings, while Renjun wakes up every day and chooses violence. Yangyang is totally Switzerland. Jaemin clears his throat. “And if it does go wrong?”
Yangyang hums around the straw of his frappuccino and slurps loudly. He’d been sipping on that thing for quite a while now, the cream melted over and now looks a little bit disgusting, and Jaemin wishes he wasn’t just so loud. “It won’t. But just in case, you should wear one of Jeno’s hoe shirts. Everybody will be distracted by that instead,”
“I’m not—” Jaemin waves it off. “We’re going to the movies. There is no need for hoe shirts.”
“Maybe. But I’m sure Jeno won’t be mad if you borrow one of his, so you should enjoy the opportunity.”
“Jeno doesn’t mind me borrowing his clothes. He hates it when you take his clothes without asking first.”
Yangyang so conveniently ignores his last statement. When they all moved in together, it took them a while to get used to each other’s antics — Yangyang is a pro at stealing clothes, often bribes people into doing his chores and lets his pet tarantula loose too many times to be considered an accident; Renjun doesn’t like people touching his things, doesn’t know how to cook and is very opinionated when it comes to their choices for movie nights; Jeno is allergic to every single thing in this universe, sings in the shower at three in the morning and has stained the couch with paint more times than they can count; Donghyuck has to be bullied into eating things that aren’t McDonald’s despite being an athlete, leaves his underwear on the bathroom and steals every single piece of stationary Jaemin buys. And Jaemin? Well, he loves all of them in spite of their little mannerisms, and he’s quite the functional human being as well, except during times in which he can’t even bring himself to wash his hair and Renjun has to drag him to the shower, but it happens. They’re all dealing with their shit just fine so far.
“Jeno is a piss baby,” Yangyang concludes, though very halfheartedly. “By the way, Mark mentioned he was thinking of buying him that plant he wanted the last time we went to the farmer’s market together, and he’s trying to convince me to help him carry that shit all the way to our home.”
“The whole clementine tree he had his eye on? We don't even have space for that. Will you?”
Yangyang nods. “If he pays me $30, sure.”
Jaemin lets out a laugh. It's a big tree indeed, and Jeno would surely like it, he’s trying to turn their home into their own Amazon rainforest. No doubt he'll find space for it if he puts his mind to it. “You’re evil. What will you even do with thirty bucks?”
“Duh, I’m saving up to buy new sneakers,” Yangyang motions to the Air Jordan’s he’s wearing right now. “You talk like you don’t know me, and you wound me!”
Before Jaemin can defend himself, their bus stops right in their stop and they get in. Yangyang immediately claims the seat by the window — it is not often that they meet in the street after Yangyang’s shift on the stationary store he works at, as Jaemin often finds himself near campus on Thursdays, but his study group wanted to take a look at a new exhibition at the city’s museum. It took ten minutes and a quick Starbucks trip on Jaemin’s treat to convince him to go home together.
“For real, though,” Yangyang says quietly, leaning his head on Jaemin’s shoulder. His hair smells just like Donghyuck’s — a shampoo stealer as well. Jaemin pretends he’s not enjoying it, he’s always thought Donghyuck smells unnecessarily good. “I don’t get why you’re so nervous. You’ve been to dates before.”
“Yeah, but—” he motions dismissively. Jaemin won’t be admitting that what Mark has said so long ago is still eating him up on the inside to another person. “I don’t know. Maybe I really am overthinking it, so don’t worry.”
Yangyang makes a sound like he’s getting ready to take a nap, and Jaemin rests his chin on the top of his head and closes his eyes as well.
The double date itself takes place on Saturday, and they get fashionably late for it as Donghyuck refused to leave the house without changing his clothes four times. Jaemin would say that it’s cute that he’s so nervous weren’t he nervous himself — when they’re taking the elevator down to the lobby and Donghyuck has tried out five different styles for his hair before Jaemin takes pity on him and fixes it, Donghyuck says:
“Dude, wouldn’t it be so funny if we were dating? We’d go on dates together, we wouldn’t have to meet somewhere else. Wouldn’t that be so funny?”
“It’d be funny, yes,” Jaemin hums. He brushes the fringe off Donghyuck’s face, and wonders when he’ll let him put just a little makeup on him. He’d look so beautiful.
Donghyuck smacks his lips together once Jaemin is done, turning to the mirror to inspect his handiwork. “But I like the expectation, I think it makes it more magical.”
He supposes it does. Donghyuck doesn’t know how to deal with himself now that he’s dating somebody, and it’s starting to piss Renjun off that he keeps smiling to himself and giggling to his phone because he’s learned how to ignore Renjun’s teasing comments — Jaemin didn’t expect Donghyuck to turn into such a romantic, but somehow he did.
It’s honestly funny. He’s always been one just to fool around, didn’t care about being lovey dovey as long as he got what he wanted, and he has never cared so much about his hair. Jaemin smooths down the back of it before Donghyuck turns around once he realizes his hair was all standing up. Not to mention the other day when he bugged all of them while trying to decide which flowers to get for Chani or whatever. He’s truly living the best of his honeymoon phase.
And Jaemin, well, Jaemin is happy for him. He feels like he might throw up today, but he feels happy for Donghyuck.
“Okay, so, Chani got out tickets,” he announces once they’re in the Uber. “He and Changbin are chilling near the entrance. I’m so excited!”
He bounces a little in his seat. Jaemin tries really hard not to bang his head against the window and closes his eyes as he nods. “Okay, cool.”
Jaemin thought asking Changbin out would be harder than he thought — then again, just another bad case of overthinking. Jaemin had hit him up on the phone like hey, can you please go on a double date with me I swear I’ll find a way to make it up to you, and Changbin was like hey, I’d love to go on a double date. Point blank. Changbin is so nice. Jaemin wishes he wasn’t feeling so anxious so they’d both enjoy it more.
The ride to the movie theater is quick, and Donghyuck, by all means, drags him all the way up the stairs to where the others are. The air is chilly and while Jaemin definitely did not borrow one of Jeno’s shirts, he does feel like he’s a bit underdressed for the weather — he shivers thinking of the aircon inside the place.
“Hi!” he says as he comes up to Changbin’s side — Donghyuck has gone straight to his boyfriend’s arms, which is given, and Jaemin takes his time to wrap his arms around Changbin’s neck, lean in and whisper: “Thanks for coming. I owe you one.”
Changbin squeezes his waist, dropping a small kiss to his cheek before saying: “Have you ever considered that I was waiting for you to ask me out, hm?”
“No, I haven’t considered that,” Jaemin replies, because he really didn’t. He doesn’t actively pursue other Leos. Before he can embarrass himself any further, he turns around and nods to Chani: ”Hey, there.”
The latter smiles politely at him, his arm around Donghyuck’s shoulder. “Hi, Jaemin. Shall we go? The movie should start in a bit.”
And off they go. Jaemin buys sweet popcorn and Changbin buys the salted one so they mix it up, and since the movie is just another one of those live actions that he doesn’t care for, Jaemin sinks lower in his seat and leans his head closer to Changbin so they can chat very, very quietly, or simply complain about the movie.
It takes exactly thirty three minutes for Donghyuck, sitting by Jaemin’s other side, to give in and turn to kiss Chani — Jaemin is awfully aware of the sounds they make, and he kind of hates Donghyuck for that, suddenly being reminded of that one time he saw the two of them coming home in the middle of the night. You know that, double dates are the worst thing humanity has ever come up with. He pinches the bridge of his nose briefly and drops his head to Changbin’s shoulder.
“Are you hating this?” Changbin asks in a giggle. He’s got one of his arms around Jaemin’s shoulders and he’s comfortable — Jaemin, for one, wishes they were on a date or their own.
“A little bit, yes,” he whispers back. “This is so uncomfortable. I’m going to die. Wanna make out, too?”
Jaemin fights back a laugh at his enthusiasm, and angles his head upward so Changbin can rest a hand on his jaw, leaning in to press their lips together. While Jaemin has never been a big fan of making out inside movie theaters, he’s not going to miss a chance now that he’s got it — he can’t focus on anything else now that he’s here, pulling at Changbin’s plump bottom lip with his teeth, hand on his thigh, pressed as close as these uncomfortable chairs let them. Good for him! He doesn’t even acknowledge the movie passing by.
Naturally, after an hour or so, Jaemin claims to need a bathroom break and drags Changbin along with him. They don’t make out inside the stall because that’s a little disgusting, but they do stand together near the drinking fountains. Jaemin has successfully convinced Changbin to lend him his jacket and holds their hands together inside the pockets.
“Can I ask you something?” Changbin asks. “I mean, another question.”
He nods. “Shoot.”
“You don’t really like Donghyuck’s boyfriend, do you?”
“Why would you say that?” Jaemin asks, his eyes widening.
Changbin lets out a laugh: “You couldn’t stop glaring at him while we were getting popcorn. I kept wondering.”
He lets out an awkward laugh himself. It’s not that he doesn’t like Chani — Chani is great, he thinks, because Donghyuck thinks so —, but he’s awfully protective somehow. Jaemin doesn’t know why. It’s fucking Mark Lee getting to his head. Instead of dignifying him with a response, Jaemin steps closer, which leads to Changbin’s back hitting the wall, and so Jaemin leans in to brush his nose against his cheekbone, dropping a kiss there.
“Think they even realized we left?” he asks instead. Changbin shakes his head negatively, and kisses the corner of his mouth before pulling away. They shouldn’t be here — he convinces Changbin to buy a pack of Skittles for him and they sneak back inside the room.
Later on, during dinner, Donghyuck nudges him on the ribs as the other two try to choose between endless possibilities of pizza flavors, and whispers: “I saw you leaving. And you say I’m the indecent one.”
“We didn’t do anything,” Jaemin replies, and grabs a hold of his elbow before Donghyuck can shove that bony thing on his ribs again. “I wish we did, though, the movie was so bad. Changbin is much more worth my time.”
Donghyuck wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, and for a moment, it’s just like how it used to be back in the day. But this small bubble of them suddenly popped, as Jaemin is reminded that once all this is over, they’ll all go home and Donghyuck will have a boyfriend, and Jaemin… Well, Jaemin will just go back to whatever it is that he usually is. For now he’ll just settle with sharing a pizza with Changbin and pretending he’s not side glancing at Chani all night.
They really fucked him up with this. First it was Mark with all the I don’t think Chani is the one thing without any material proof Jaemin could rely on, but that rendered him suspicious nonetheless, and now what Changbin said back at the movie theater is really making him go insane. Does he really not like Chani? If not, why? Chani is a good guy. He’s decent. He makes Donghyuck laugh and he’s beautiful. There is no reason for Jaemin to feel as if his stomach has been turned upside down — maybe it’s the pizza. Maybe it’s just anxiety for literally no reason, as it always is.
Still. Still Jaemin can’t take his eyes off him, as if he’s trying to see right through Kang Chanhee — whatever it is, Jaemin will find it. And if he doesn’t, good for all of them, he’s just insane. He shoves an entire slice of pizza inside his mouth to get his mind off it.
Unsurprisingly, Donghyuck decides to leave with Chani, and Jaemin is left awkwardly standing with Changbin outside the restaurant because both of them know they're not going home together tonight and neither wants to talk about it. Or maybe that's just Jaemin — he's the one that can't stop making a martyr out of himself.
"I can hear you thinking," Changbin tells him. Jaemin has handed back the jacket, but instead of putting it on, he draped it over his arm and now they're both freezing a little as they wait for their Uber.
"I've been told my mind is very loud," Jaemin jokes.
Changbin lets out a laugh. He's so cool. Jaemin wishes— nevermind. "Seriously, though, what's up?"
"It's just…" Jaemin checks up on their driver. Still another five minutes to go. He pockets his phone and turns to face Changbin. "You know I like this thing we have, right?" the other nods. "It's just that I don't— I don't want what Chani and Donghyuck have. And I don't know if tonight made you think that— well, I'm just assuming things so..." Jaemin lets out a groan, embarrassed. "God, just tell me to shut up."
Changbin reaches out to squeeze his shoulder. "Hey, it's fine. I'm not thinking about anything, we're cool."
He nods. Jaemin sighs audibly. "Oh, thank God. I was kind of losing my mind here. I'm sorry."
"Stop saying sorry," Changbin demands, and he raises his hands up in surrender. "You're really something else, aren't you?"
Jaemin wants to point out that all this really is just the goblin inside his brain acting up, but he and Changbin don't know each other well enough for him to vent with him. The ride to Changbin's place — since it's closer — is peachy, though, as they chat about the movie they totally didn't watch, and before Changbin gets off the car, he leans in and presses a single kiss to Jaemin's cheek.
"Thanks for the date, I really had fun," he says. "See you around?"
"See you!" Jaemin smiles. And just like that, he's off to home — completely alone.
Like always, he finds himself on the balcony.
To Jaemin, there is something inherently lonely regarding the night itself, and he supposes it's why he's so fond of it. He's quite the lonely creature himself, and he hasn't been able to sleep recently — somebody once told him that the best solution for insomnia is to get up and tire yourself out instead of tossing and turning in bed, so Jaemin takes refuge with the moon. She's so big tonight that he could reach out and try to pull her from the night sky, but instead of doing that, he grabs the mug resting on the floor by his side and takes a sip of warm milk, in hopes that it will calm him down.
He's been… Stressed, to say the least. College hasn't been the greatest of experiences recently and there are only so many mandatory readings and long scientific articles a History major can go through before they go a little insane — and to think that after all this, he wants to go to Law school. Jaemin pinches the bridge of his nose. Every time he thinks about his academic future, he loses a little bit of his will to live. And on top of it, well…
"Oh, hey," says a voice from behind him. Jaemin turns around to find a very sleepy Mark Lee standing in the middle of the living room, rubbing the sleep off his eyes. "You up already? It's… Four in the morning."
"I haven't slept," Jaemin replies as Mark crosses the room to get to the door to the balcony. Mark leans in and ruffles his hair with a hand. "What about you?"
Mark sits down by his side, shivering a little from the cold, and brings his knees to his chest. "Woke up to pee, decided to have some water, and saw an angel on the balcony. Just the usual."
Rolling his eyes, Jaemin nudges him on the ribs playfully. Once every two weeks or so, their little (well, not so little anymore) group of friends have a movie night, which honestly just means that they all gather together to argue on what movie they'll be watching and see who can eat fried chicken faster. Their apartment is in no way big enough to house nine people, but they make do — Lucas has a morning shift so he didn't stay over, Mark always stays with Renjun and Jeno, while Kunhang and Dejun crashed at Donghyuck's room tonight since it's, well, unoccupied.
Jaemin lets out a sigh. It's been ages since Donghyuck last slept here.
"What are you thinking?" Mark asks, ever so curious.
"That you're a dork."
He shrugs. "I don't know. College sucks. Broke a mug that I liked and it made me sad. Capitalism is evil. Donghyuck is never around anymore. I found Yangyang's spider on my bed yesterday—"
"Wait, wait, go back," Mark taps him on the shoulder. "Let's talk about Donghyuck."
"I don't want to talk about him right now."
"But I do!" Mark exclaims. "I'd kill for Na Jaemin's insights on my best friend's relationship.”
Of course, because Mark loves gossip, but even though Jaemin loves it too, he simply shrugs again, looking. "I'm really not in the mood for that now, Mark."
The latter lets out a soft oh okay as he scoots closer, and drops his head to Jaemin's shoulder. It's not always that Mark is clingy, and it definitely rarely happens with Jaemin, so he enjoys it as it lasts, resting his cheek on top of Mark's head.
He knows he'll have to drag Mark to the room soon because a sleepless Mark is an annoying Mark, but Jaemin revels on this just for a moment. He's extremely touch-starved himself, and the tiniest bit of affection is enough for Jaemin to rest a whole week. He caresses Mark's cheek with a hand and lets out a sigh, closes his eyes for a few minutes and then whispers: "Hey, let's go to sleep. We'll talk later."
The promise is the only thing that gets Mark on his feet. Jaemin takes him to his designated guest room and watches as he stumbles on his way to Jeno's bed, promptly throwing himself over the latter's figure — but not before he turns to Jaemin and gives him a thumbs up. Laughing, Jaemin gives him one in return.
He's not sleepy, but will be soon. Jaemin opens the door to his own room very quietly and walks over to his bed, but his mattress is cold and not very welcoming today, so he turns around and makes a beeline for Yangyang's bed. The pet tarantula is safe and sound inside her cage, so there is no need for Jaemin to fear as he slides under the covers and presses closer to Yangyang, draping an arm around his waist. The latter groans a little but soon enough he buries his face on Jaemin’s chest.
He does sleep for a couple hours, but gets up to prepare breakfast for the others and check up on their guests. Mark is fine, obviously, which is why Jaemin skips Jeno's and Renjun's room and goes straight to Donghyuck's.
Inexplicably, it takes him some time to gather up the courage to turn the doorknob even though he's fully aware Donghyuck is not inside — on the bed, two figures sleep profoundly and Jaemin repeatedly tells himself not to be such a mother hen, but he eventually gives in and walks inside to properly pull the duvet over Dejun because he has an habit of kicking it off during the night and it's a chilly morning. Satisfied, Jaemin lets them all sleep for a few more hours.
In a sense, he's thankful to share an apartment with other people and have their friends staying over all the time. What would Jaemin do if he lived alone and didn't have people to care for? It's a ridiculous and absurd thought for him.
He's in the middle of his breakfast duty when he hears the door opening, and peeks his head out of the kitchen just in time to see Donghyuck entering the apartment. Surprised, he turns off the stove and rushes to meet him as he kicks off his shoes by the entrance.
"Hi?" Jaemin says, sounding more like a question than anything else.
Donghyuck smiles at him, his eyes puffy with sleep — he must've just gotten out of bed. "Hello. Are you cooking breakfast?"
He nods, and helps Donghyuck out of his jacket. "I didn't know you were going to come here today. Dejun and Kunhang are asleep in your room, but you can nap in my bed if you want."
"Oh, I shouldn't, I came because I remembered I have to send in that Post-Colonial Lit essay. I'm not even sleepy."
His actions betray him as he yawns in that very same instant. Jaemin raises an eyebrow, and Donghyuck lets out a sigh.
"Maybe a nap would be good," he admits.
Jaemin nods, and starts guiding him to his room. "I can finish your essay for you if you want?"
"There's no need. It's done already, I just forgot to send in the file and didn't have my computer with me, so—" he yawns again, this time pressing the sleeve of his hoodie against his mouth. "Jesus. I'm sorry, had a busy night."
"It's fine," Jaemin replies, rubbing at his shoulder with a hand. Naturally, he takes care of all of them, but there's something about Donghyuck that makes him want to take care of him more — must be the fact that he ever so desperately tries to be the most independent person around, refusing to accept help so easily. Even Renjun lets himself be cared for easier than him. "I'll grab your computer and send it to the professor, so you can sleep. I think the others should be awake in an hour or two."
Donghyuck nods, not even putting up a fight. Jaemin lends him a pair of pyjamas that in reality must be Yangyang's, and only leaves when Donghyuck is softly snoring in his bed, asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.
Jaemin returns to Donghyuck's room, retrieves the notebook from the desk and takes it with him to the living room. It shouldn't be difficult to locate the right file — Donghyuck is the kind of person that leaves his tasks open on different tabs so that he won't forget about them, and so his computer always looks like a mess, but a mess that works nonetheless.
The file is open on Word and he even checks for grammar mistakes, which is silly because Donghyuck is much of a better writer than him, but he can't help himself. Jaemin quickly types out an email for their professor like Donghyuck would and presses send. As he closes the browser, Jaemin finds himself looking at Donghyuck's pictures folder.
He shouldn't pry, but Jaemin is curious by nature so he doesn't blame himself for it. It looks like Donghyuck has backed up his phone recently, because most of the pictures look like they've been taken with it and, well, they're all pictures of Chani — him on the street with his back facing the camera, him at restaurants and cafes, the two of them together and other blurry pictures that can only mean Donghyuck has made an habit of shoving his phone on his face and trying to take a bad picture like he does with all of them.
Jaemin rolls the cursor to close the folder and turn off the computer, but ends up brushing his fingers against the mousepad and finds a bunch of more personal pictures. Chani, cooking while shirtless; Chani with his hands under Donghyuck's sweater as they take a mirror selfie; Chani fast asleep as he uses Donghyuck's bare stomach as a pillow; Chani lying down on the bed, a pair of thighs bracketing his hips — Jaemin closes the folder and the computer's lid, shoving it fo the side as if it had burnt him.
God, what is he even thinking? He presses the heels of his hands against his eyes, rubbing at them until he's seeing stars if only to forget what he's seen.
His mother has warned him countless times that if he keeps prying on other people's business, he's bound to see things he doesn't want to. Jaemin rolls off the couch and goes back to the kitchen.
"And then I saw every picture," he recalls to Jeno, face hidden by both of his hands. "Everything you can imagine, I saw it. I'm a terrible friend."
Jeno, the angel he is, looks down from his enormous canvas and to where Jaemin is standing at the base of the ladder he's propped up on. "I don't think you're a terrible friend. The folder was open on his computer, you didn't mean to see it."
"But it was private," Jaemin insists as he hands him a bucket of paint. "Like, they were— there were some pictures that were— Jeno! You know!"
"Wait, are you telling me that—" Mark raises his head from where he had been napping on the floor of the studio, using Jeno's bag as a pillow. When Jeno mentioned that he needed to go to campus to work on a project, Jaemin didn't even think twice before tagging along with the two of them, even if he's sort of crashing another of Mark's opportunities to be alone with the object of his affection. RIP to Mark Lee, but he's going through a crisis here. "—you saw Chani's dick? Donghyuck keeps his dick out there in the open on his computer?"
"Fuck, no!" Jaemin all but yells, and Jeno laughs so hard that the ladder shakes and he almost falls over. Jaemin holds onto the ladder for dear life — he doesn't want Jeno to fall to his death. "Jesus Christ, Mark. Why would you even say that?"
The latter rolls his eyes. "Okay, but then did you see Donghyuck's dick?"
"NO. Stop talking about their dicks, please?"
Jeno steps down the ladder only so that he can try and calm himself down, hunched over his stomach as he laughs, and because he's laughing, Mark is too, rolling over the floor even though he's totally going to get paint all over his clothes. And Jaemin, well, Jaemin is too mortified to join them in this reverie. He patiently waits for his ridiculous friends to take some pity on him.
"Okay, but," Jeno wipes a tear from his eyes. "If you didn't see anyone's dick, why are you so worked up?"
He puts his hands on his hips. "Jeno, there are things that are more intimate than dick pics, and I've seen them. I wish I didn't! And no—" he points at Mark, who had been ready to give his opinion on the matter. "—shut up, I don't even want to hear what you deem as "intimate", Mark Lee. Don't you even dare."
Mark pretends to zip his lips together just as Jeno begins working on the lower part of his canvas. "I get that you're freaking out because of this, but I don't think it's much of a big deal," Jeno tells Jaemin. "It was an accident, and Donghyuck didn't even catch you looking, so you're not in trouble. You're embarrassed, but that's normal. It'll pass in no time."
Even though that's exactly what Jaemin wanted to hear, he doesn't find himself any less frustrated. What was he expecting, then? He very sadly hands Jeno a smaller paintbrush.
"Well, I think it's a pity that you didn't see—" he sends Mark a glare. The latter sits up on the floor and raises his hands in surrender. "All I'm saying is that Donghyuck takes mean nudes. You would've liked them."
Jaemin shakes his head. "Shut up, how do you even know that?"
"Because he sends them to me first," Mark replies as if it's obvious. Of course. Jaemin doesn't know why he even asked. "See, if you were dating Donghyuck, you wouldn't need—"
"Stop trying to set me up with Donghyuck!" he exclaims. Startled, Jeno drops his brush on his sneakers and gets paint smudged all over them, and he turns to Jaemin with a worried look. "Sorry. I'll buy you new shoes."
"I don't need new shoes," Jeno laughs. "You look like you want to throw up. Is there anything you want to tell us?"
The both of them stare at him. Jaemin takes turns staring back to establish dominance, but eventually crosses his arms and sighs. Mark smiles brightly.
"I'm just—" Jaemin points accusingly at Mark. "This one right here is getting to my head because he keeps saying I need to date Donghyuck. Have you ever considered that I don't want to date Donghyuck? Have you ever considered that I’m just… Vibing?"
"No!" Mark exclaims. He lowers himself to the floor once more and pulls Jeno's bag to put under his head. "I still think this would be a great idea. There are so many people around here who should get together."
He glances at Jeno dreamily, but Jeno is too busy painting. Mark throws an arm over his eyes and groans, but Jaemin doesn't have any pity for him right now. He kicks an empty can of paint in Mark's direction.
"As I was saying," Jaemin continues. "Donghyuck is so happy with his boyfriend, I would appreciate it if you stopped trying to set me up with him."
Mark waves it off dismissively — he's not going to stop. And when Jeno turns to look at Jaemin, he pretends to be very busy staring at the cans of paint on the floor to notice.
"So, you guys," Jeno says as he steps away from his canvas, a thin brush behind his ear and two in his hands as he crosses his arms. "As you know, I'm going to take part in the yearly art exhibition again. I expect all of you to be there, so spread the word."
Mark sits up once more, so fast Jaemin knows he's got whiplash by the way he winces before saying: "When you're a famous painter and they want to write whole books about you, you have to say I'm your official writer and you don't want anyone else but me."
"How can you be so sure I don’t want anyone else but you?" Jeno asks teasingly, cocking his head to the side as he uses one of his brushes to splash paint on his face.
Mark says something, but he stutters so much that Jaemin has actually no idea what it was supposed to mean. He steps in only so that Mark won’t embarrass himself any further: “When’s the exhibition, Jen?”
He counts with his fingers. “In two or three weeks. We’re still deciding on a date, but it should be around then. I’ll let you and my official writer over there know.”
Mark’s ears become bright red. Jaemin takes a picture for blackmail purposes.
They end up taking the bus home together — the two of them, as Jeno had to meet up with a few classmates —, and as Mark is adoringly staring at the paint smudged on his face with the frontal camera of his phone, Jaemin takes a deep, deep breath and wonders if he’s really doing this. He supposes that he is.
“Do you really think Chani isn’t the right person for Donghyuck?” he asks.
Mark puts the phone down and only looks at him, as if Jaemin is some sort of telephat. “I don’t think this is what you really want to ask me,” he says ominously.
Jaemin buries his face in both of his hands for a moment. “Do you really think I am the right person for Donghyuck?”
“I just know it.”
“That’s not—” Jaemin shakes his head. “That’s not fair. When I was into him back in the day, everybody was like you need to get over him, it’s not going to work, and now this? Why are you saying this if he’s literally got a boyfriend? Why are you putting that idea inside my head now?”
Mark shrugs, looking out of the window. “You know the greatest films of all time were never made; if things didn’t work out back then, it doesn’t mean they never will. I know I don’t have a saying on whatever goes on in Donghyuck’s life, but I know him like I know my own mind, and I stand by my words.”
They stay in silence for a while. “Big words, but they don’t mean shit to me,” Jaemin replies bluntly. Mark lets out a scandalous laugh. “No, seriously, what the fuck is that supposed to mean? I can’t stand you sometimes.”
“What I fucking mean,” Mark gestures exagerattedly. “Is that you don’t know how fate works, Na Jaemin, therefore for all we know, Donghyuck could literally break up with Chani next week and realize he’s been into you all along. It could happen. Anything could happen. So stop making a martyr out of yourself, and just wait and see.”
“Fate,” he echoes. “You think Donghyuck and I are fated to be together?”
“As a matter of fact, I’m a firm believer of that.”
Jaemin rolls his eyes. He reaches out to press the button on the handrail so they can get off on their stop. “Well, I don’t believe in fate or destiny or anything of the likes. It is what it is, he has a boyfriend now, I’m over him—” Mark snorts. Jaemin hits him on the arm. “—and we’ll never get together, so please, stop saying that.”
As they hop off the bus and onto the sidewalk, Mark raises his hands in surrender. “Whatever makes you sleep at night, my dude.”
After a beat of silence, he adds: “Or whatever doesn’t make you sleep at night, am I right? I’ve heard Donghyuck has been keeping you up all night for the wrong reasons.”
Jaemin groans, pushing him again. “Oh, my God, you’re such a dick, Mark Lee—”
Much to Jaemin’s surprise, the relationship phase in which Donghyuck ditches them for his boyfriend fades away with time — but not without an intervention from Renjun. He didn’t take part in the discussion, but he heard it while they were arguing, and bit by bit, Donghyuck came back to them.
He’s thankful, he really is. Whoever wrote down the definition of “happiness” in the dictionary doesn’t know how Jaemin feels when they go home together after class, arms linked and sharing a muffin from the cafeteria near their building, or when he’s cooking dinner and looks back at the living room to see a familiar mop of brown hair over the back of the couch. If they knew, it would have a totally different meaning, it would mean more.
With a bowl of ice cream in his hands, he plops down on his bed and cuddles up to Donghyuck’s side as the latter pretends to be paying attention to his book.
“Any plans for tonight?” Jaemin asks as he brings a spoon to his mouth. On the floor between his and Yangyang’s bed, there’s the latter, cleaning his tarantula’s box cage. The spider itself is inside a container box near him, and Donghyuck looks both interested and a little terrified. He clears his throat:
“Uh, yeah, not at all.” He brings his knees up the bed. In essence, all of them know the tarantula is harmless as long as she’s not messed with, as well as every other pet of Yangyang’s. As a Biology major, he has quite the collection; Jaemin’s favorite is a gecko that looks like a miniature dragon. Their room is a little zoo of their own. But as harmless as the spider might be, it’s still almost the same size as Yangyang’s hand, and Donghyuck likes to pretend he’s not afraid of it. “I have practice today and— uh, I was thinking of watching a movie with you guys later. Hey, she doesn’t bite, does she?”
“She does, and she has venom,” Yangyang explains. Donghyuck’s face goes pale. “But she’s not going to bother you if you don’t bother her. And she’s literally chilling inside the container box, dude.”
Jaemin lets out a laugh as Donghyuck looks at him with widened eyes. “He keeps a venomous spider inside the house and we let him?” he whispers.
“I don’t think we could stop him,” Jaemin replies truthfully. They watch as Yangyang finishes cleaning the cage and releases the spider once more, and though Donghyuck is still very much afraid of it, he leans in to watch as she crawls inside the hollow log Yangyang has bought in a pet shop.
Satisfied, he gets up to tend to his other pets. Donghyuck lets out a sigh in relief now that the spider’s cage is closed, and returns to his book. Jaemin tries feeding him a bit of ice cream but Donghyuck is a heathen and eats most of it.
He doesn’t really mind.
“Oh, hey, guys,” Renjun says from the door. He’s resting a laundry basket against his hip. Jaemin loves it when he’s on his housewife mode, he’s even got hair clips to prevent his purple hair from falling in his eyes. “Any dirty laundry around here?”
Yangyang looks back from the fish tank. “Are you really going to do my laundry? Who are you and what did you do to Renjun?”
The latter scoffs; Jaemin and Donghyuck laugh. “Sorry if I wanted to be nice for once. I thought I’d ask before going to the laundromat, but since you don’t need me—”
“No, wait,” Jaemin pushes his ice cream in Donghyuck’s hands and hops off the bed. “Don’t listen to him, I have stuff.”
He makes sure to drop a kiss on Renjun's cheek for his act of kindness, but the latter only rolls his eyes as he rushes down the corridor. He then goes back to his bed.
“Anyone seen Jeno?” Yangyang asks as he brings his gecko to eye level. “Hey, buddy, have you seen uncle Jeno? Hm, where is he?””
Donghyuck flips a page of his book. “Uncle Jeno went out with uncle Mark this morning and they’re radio silent.”
“Just the two of them?” Jaemin asks. He and Yangyang share a meaningful look.
“Yeah, to buy plants,” Donghyuck snorts. “Think they’ll ever come around? I think it’s meant to be, but Jeno is dense as fuck and Mark is stupid.”
Yangyang puts the gecko inside its cage, closes the lid and plops down on his bed. “If only Mark would ask him out once and for all. I think it’s written in the stars.”
Jaemin shudders at their words. He thinks of what Mark had told him the other day, and for some reason he can’t even look at Donghyuck anymore. While he agrees that it is about time that Mark confesses, he’s not so sure about where he stands when it comes to things like destiny and such. Soulmates, then? Jaemin can’t wrap his head around it. The thought of there being someone, somewhere that is perfect for him, and the idea that they should get together — he physically cringes. He’s particularly too much of an anxious person to be able to fully enjoy that concept.
“Well, I just hope—” he swallows dry. “I hope they’ll come around eventually. Maybe they just need a little push.”
Yangyang’s eyes light up. “I have a plan. We lock them inside the bathroom—”
“No.” Donghyuck and Jaemin deadpan. Yangyang flips them off.
The rest of their evening is peaceful, well, as peaceful it can get with one Liu Yangyang. Donghyuck finishes reading his book and Jaemin helps him organize his notes before he’s off to practice, then he and Yangyang go grocery shopping once Renjun is back from the laundromat. Truth is, Jaemin gets happy when he’s with any of them, but everything feels better when they’re five. He doesn’t want to let go of that feeling, ever.
“Is this too much?”
“I literally can’t even see your face,” Renjun tells Mark. The latter sighs from behind the enormous flower bouquet he’s bought — Jaemin doesn’t even want to imagine how much that cost. Mark is insane, or maybe just in love. Is there any difference at all? “Where is Jeno even going to put that? We don’t have space in our house for this.”
“Sounds like a you problem,” Mark hisses as he turns around a little to look at them. “Cranky because you’re not getting flowers, aren’t you? Don’t worry, I’ll get you some when your birthday comes around. Of course, it’s not going to be as big and beautiful because you’re not my most lovable Lee Jeno, but it’ll be decent.”
Renjun snorts, unconvinced, and Jaemin laughs softly as he drapes an arm around his shoulders. They’ve been waiting to get inside the art exhibition for a while now, but the queue is long and they got stuck in traffic — it’s a blessing that Lucas offered them a ride. He can’t even picture Mark getting inside a subway train with the bouquet, he’d either lose it or get lost on the way to campus.
Speaking of such, Jaemin looks around to try and locate the others. Technically, their names are on the list, but everyone else’s is also, and Kunhang said he was going to try sneaking them in with his irresistible charm or something like that, and Lucas went as backup. They’re dorks, of course, and Jaemin waves excitedly as he spots Dejun at the distance.
“Now, where the fuck is Donghyuck?” Yangyang asks as he looks up from his phone. He had been so silent that Jaemin almost forgot he was there.
“I tried calling, but he’s not answering,” Renjun hums, biting at the inside of his cheek. “Jeno is going to be upset if he doesn’t show up.”
“He will show up,” Jaemin insists just as Dejun catches up to them. He gives him a quick side hug. “Hey, gorgeous, long time no see!”
Dejun smiles sweetly as Jaemin brushes his pink hair off his face. “Hi, everyone. Why is it taking so long to get in?”
“Maybe they know Mark is coming and are trying to cancel the event before he can trip over the artwork or something.” Renjun suggests. “You know, like it has happened before.”
Mark lets out a sound of distress from behind the flowers, and as Dejun steps closer to Renjun to ask him about his newest tattoos, Jaemin takes his phone out of his pocket to try locating Donghyuck. He was supposed to ride with them to campus, but he hasn’t replied to texts since the night before, when he said he would be staying over at Chani’s. With a sigh, Jaemin considers calling him — he doesn’t have Chani’s number, but Mark probably does because he has everybody’s number, but does Jaemin really want to call him?
He’s worried that something happened. But Donghyuck would call them, wouldn’t he? Jaemin worries at his bottom lip, staring at Donghyuck’s profile picture in their chat.
“Hey,” Mark steps closer to him. “I’m sure he’s fine, he’s just late. Oh, the queue is moving forward! Fuck, where are the others?”
They meet Kunhang and Lucas at the entrance — they didn’t get VIP treatment or anything of the likes, but Lucas had picked printed guides to the exhibition for then, and Jaemin is almost skipping on his feet as they walk inside. He’s seen Jeno’s art countless times before, but it’s always different when it’s an exhibition, so he keeps a hand curled around Mark’s arm to guide him through the place and they follow the rest of the public along the exhibition.
Jeno’s piece consists of a series of three big canvases, each of them way taller than he is, and he has spent the past year working on them. The others haven’t seen them yet, but they’re able to tell in an instant, and Kunhang lets out a gasp. Jeno likes to experiment abstract art every once in a while, but even so, one would be able to tell apart the figures reaching out for each other across the canvases.
“Fuck, that’s us?” Mark asks. He accidentally hits someone with the flowers and is too busy apologizing to catch Renjun wiping off a tear, which he’ll regret later. “I didn’t realize it was us when I saw it the other day. I’m going to cry for real.”
Jaemin wants to point out that it’s because he wasn’t looking at the painting, but he’s fairly emotional himself, so he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he checks his phone again, because Donghyuck should be here to see it with them.
Still, not a single call or text. He sighs, pocketing his phone once more, and then he spots Jeno in the crowd as he talks with a fellow classmate. Soon enough he approaches them, his eyes as big as saucers as he spots the bouquet in Mark’s hands.
“Is that for me… ?” he asks, and Mark gives him a thumbs up as he now purposely hides behind the flowers. How can someone be like this? Jaemin doesn’t even stop Kunhang when he pushes Mark in Jeno’s direction.
“I, uh… Well,” Mark shoves the bouquet in Jeno’s chest, his cheeks bright red. “I randomly saw these flowers on the way home, like I wasn’t even planning on buying them and—” Renjun pinches the bridge of his nose, sighing. “—and I bought them because they’re, um, they’re neat. Like… Like you are. Neat, I mean. Because you’re… Neat, yeah, I— I’ve always thought so. That you’re so neat.”
Behind Jeno, Yangyang slaps his forehead, and Jaemin has to step away with Dejun so that they won’t start laughing. If anything, it’s quite endearing that Mark is a whole Literature major with a minor in Creative Writing but he loses his words as soon as he sets eyes on Jeno — but the latter is beyond happy with his flowers, thanking him sweetly. They all take turns hugging him next (not that it’s an easy task with the bouquet in the way), and as Dejun and Lucas start asking Jeno about his piece, Jaemin steps away from them so he can try calling Donghyuck again.
“Hey, um, it’s Jaemin,” he says to the voicemail. “We’re all here at Jeno’s exhibition and we’re wondering where you are, is everything alright? I don’t know, just tell us if you need anything, Lucas can pick you up with his car. Just call us and let us know, okay? Bye.”
The rest of the night goes smoothly, despite Donghyuck-less. The other pieces at the exhibition are incredible as well, and Jeno introduces them to some of his colleagues and professors. There is some artistic intervention that Jaemin doesn’t really get until it’s over, and he keeps glancing at the entrance, as if he’s going to find Donghyuck there somehow.
At least the rest of them are together and having fun. He hasn’t seen Lucas in so long and it’s incredible just how much they needed to catch up with, their arms linked together as they stroll down the exhibition hall. It’s only when they’re passing by an artwork again that Jaemin spots a familiar figure rushing to where Jeno is standing with his giang bouquet.
“Oh, Donghyuck just got here,” Lucas muses. “Let’s say hi!”
By all means, Jaemin drags him across the room. Once they’re close enough, he can hear watch as Donghyuck clings to Jeno’s arm and apologizes profusely, honestly looking like he’s about to cry.
“I told you, it’s fine,” Jeno insists. He doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto the flowers and onto Donghyuck at the same time, so Lucas reaches out to hold the bouquet for him. Once his hands are free, he cups Donghyuck’s face between them. “Hey, it’s alright, I’m not upset! You said you got caught up, it’s completely fine.”
Donghyuck lets out a sigh. “Please, don’t hate me.”
“I don’t and never will,” Jeno reassures him, and as he pulls Donghyuck into a hug, he looks at Jaemin from over his shoulder and mouths: I think something happened. All of the imaginary sirens inside Jaemin’s head go off at the same time, and then Jeno smiles at Donghyuck as he leans back. “I’m really glad you could make it. I hope you enjoy the rest of the exhibition, Hyuck.”
Jaemin waits patiently as Lucas is done engulfing Donghyuck in a hug as well before he steps in, one hand squeezing at his shoulder as he leans in and asks: “Everything alright?”
“What?” Donghyuck turns to him with widened eyes, and then offers him a tired smile. “Yeah, I mean— it’s fine, I just got caught up with the swim team. It’s nothing, seriously.”
Jaemin does not believe him, not one bit, but this isn’t the time and place to have this sort of conversation. He smiles back at him and nods, then proceeds to tell Donghyuck all about Jeno’s classmates. It won’t be long until all of them have to go home, which is good, because Jaemin is not liking the way Donghyuck’s face is devoid of the usual glow. He’s constantly fighting off the urge to reach out and touch his cheek, fix his hair, fix his clothes. He looks like a kicked puppy. Jaemin shoves his hands inside the pockets of his jackets, as they shake from holding back from him.
“Aaaand you’re all home!” Lucas exclaims as he parks right in front of their building. Essentially, his car is the size of Jaemin’s room or something of the likes — he’s sure that he could nap here any day and Lucas wouldn’t even notice him on the backseat. Anyway, he leans to kiss Lucas’ cheek before getting out of the car, with the others following suit.
Jeno’s flowers take most of the space inside the elevator, so when Donghyuck makes a beeline for the stairs, Jaemin does an intricate gesture to Renjun to let him know he’s going to be handling things — which earns him a confused look and then a middle finger, so Jaemin supposes he’s spending too much time with Jeno and acquiring all of his weird habits —, and follows him up the stairs.
“So… Is there something you want to talk about?” he asks when they reach the second floor — only four more to go, plenty of time for conversation. Donghyuck makes a face as if he’d rather throw himself down the stairs, but he eventually nods.
“I, um… I had a fight? With Chani?” he responds, sounding a little unsure of himself.
“Okay,” Jaemin says softly. “How did it go?”
“It was stupid,” Donghyuck responds firmly. “And because it was stupid, it made me feel stupid, and I blew up and said that he was stupid and now I just— it’s honestly just a shitshow of stupidity.”
Jaemin watches as he comes to a stop in the middle of the staircase, and though it is a lot unsanitary to hang out in places like these, Donghyuck sits down on the steps, burying his face in his hands. For a moment, Jaemin is afraid that he’s crying, and so he immediately kneels down on the steps in front of him.
“Hey, these things happen,” Jaemin says, and gently tries to tug at Donghyuck’s wrists until he lets go. Fortunately, he’s not crying, but his face is just as sad. It breaks Jaemin’s heart into a million little pieces. “You’ll work it out, I’m sure of it.”
Donghyuck shrugs. “Yeah, I know, it’s just… We were so good, and I thought we’d never fight because I thought we were on the same page about everything, and even though we talked it out and said what we’re feeling, I feel so bad? And I feel bad for feeling bad still?”
He tries to picture what Jeno would say in a situation like this, because Jaemin surely doesn’t have the emotional control needed at the moment — he has no idea what the fight was about, but he’d easily have Chani’s head on a stick if he ever makes Donghyuck feel bad again. But instead of saying that, he swallows his thoughts and says:
“You can’t control the things that make you upset.”
“Yeah, I know.” Donghyuck stays silent for a while, playing with Jaemin’s hands between his own, and then adds: “I guess I can’t control what makes Chani upset as well. I mean, I don’t know— in that case, I think I can, but I don’t want to? I mean, it’s just that I think it’s so stupid…”
Jaemin breathes in, breathes out, and asks: “What did you fight about?”
Letting go of his hand, Donghyuck scratches his cheek. “Uhhhhh,” he replies eloquently. “Listen, you have to promise me that you’re not going to be one of those people that, like, hear a friend vent about their boyfriend and then hate that boyfriend, okay? Because Chani is really nice, and I like him a lot. I need you to remember that.”
“I’m starting to get worried just because you said all that, honestly.”
“Okay,” Donghyuck takes a deep breath. “Well, let’s say he’s kind of a jealous guy, alright? And, um, how do I say this? Like...”
Jaemin waits, and waits, and waits. Then, out of a sudden, Donghyuck adds: “He’s jealous of you, like, when you’re with me. And I think that’s stupid so we fought and I kept thinking of the billion reasons why I think he might have felt like that and—”
“Wow, wow, wait!” Jaemin rests a hand on his knee. He doesn’t even know what to say, he just wanted Donghyuck to stop talking so quickly. It’s like Mark has suddenly possessed his body, and Jaemin doesn’t know which thought is more haunting: that Donghyuck can be so much like Mark, or that his boyfriend is jealous of him? “Are you— you had a fight with your boyfriend because of me?”
Donghyuck looks at him like he’s stupid. He might be. “Yes? Like, what would you do if your boyfriend suddenly freaked out on you because of your best friend? That’s honestly such a dumb reason to be mad.”
Jaemin doesn’t want to admit out loud that he wouldn’t do anything because he doesn’t have the boyfriend in question, never has and probably never will, so he just motions vaguely. “I mean, well… He freaked out? As in, did he do something to you? Because if he did, I will give him a reason to freak out.”
“What? No! We just had an argument. And what the fuck? You can’t take anyone in a fight, less alone Chani.”
Jaemin scoffs. “I could, yes, if I tried. Your lack of faith in me is flattering.”
“You couldn’t and that’s fine,” Donghyuck tells him. “And you don’t need to. I told you that Chani is alright, he’s just… He got insecure, I don’t know. It’s not his fault. We talked it out, we’re going to be fine.”
“It kind of is his fault, though?” Jaemin frowns. “I mean, what have I ever— when have we ever— I don’t even know what to say. What do you want me to say?”
Donghyuck exclaims: “Nothing! I don’t even know why I told you all this. Seriously, I just… I don’t know, Jaemin.”
They stay in silence for what feels like a lifetime, unable to look at each other on the face, and Jaemin’s knees are hurting from kneeling on these steps but he can’t bring himself to move. He can’t wrap his mind around the fact that they had an argument about him, that Chani is jealous of him, of all people. Sure, Jaemin is a very affectionate person, but that has never been a problem before — he kisses Lucas on the face constantly, and Lucas literally has a boyfriend of years, whose cheeks Jaemin also is very fond of kissing. He kisses and cuddles and dotes on everyone, it’s not a big deal, it’s just who he is!
Well, he supposes it can be a big deal to other people. But he didn’t expect it to be a big deal for Donghyuck’s boyfriend, because Donghyuck is exactly like him, for God’s sake.
“I’m sorry for jeopardizing your relationship,” he blurts out at last, and Donghyuck simply slaps him on the shoulder. “What was that for, Jesus Christ?”
“It’s not your fault,” he says firmly. “It’s his problem. That’s what I told him. You and I are friends, and I’m not going to fucking change the way I am with you just because he felt insecure for a second. I told him there’s literally nothing to worry about, so if he worries, it’s on him, not on me. Or you, for that matter.”
“Oh,” Jaemin says.
“Yeah,” Donghyuck nods, probably to himself. “Yeah, well, I’ll get over being sad, and things will go back to what they were before. I’m already feeling better, actually.”
But Jaemin isn’t. He’s going to think about this all night. When Donghyuck gets up and offers him a hand, he doesn’t even know what to say, so he doesn’t say anything at all.
It’s funny how the others pretend they haven’t been waiting for them to arrive, Yangyang reading a book turned upside down on the couch and Jeno resting his back against the wall near the door in a totally unnatural way. As for Renjun, well, he’s busy heating up the food they had for lunch, but he does look at them in curiosity when Donghyuck walks straight to his room after kicking off his shoes at the entrance.
Out of fear that he’ll listen, Jaemin tries to motion fight with boyfie, but Renjun points chopsticks and says: “I have no idea what the fuck you mean when you do all that, can you, please, talk like a normal human being for once?”
“Well, you didn’t have to offend me to say all that, so fuck you, Renjun,” Jaemin responds as he takes off his jacket, and adds in a loud whisper: “He had a fight with Chani and he’s upset.”
Jeno pushes himself off the wall, alarmed, but Jaemin pats him on the arm. “It’s alright, I talked to him. I might be on cuddle duty tonight, troop.”
Sitting up on the couch, Yangyang throws his book to the side — Jaemin realizes it’s one of his obligatory readings for Post-Colonial Lit, and it lands on the floor with the cover folded. How nice of him to take care of Jaemin’s belongings so well. “So, you won’t mind if I stream tonight, right?”
“Overwatch?” Jeno asks. He nods. “Can I join?”
Jaemin waves it off dismissively as they chat about the game, and walks to the kitchen to get a glass of water for himself. He feels jittery, hands shaking a little, but if Renjun notices — he probably does, by the way he eyes Jaemin’s hands for a moment before looking up at him —, he doesn’t comment on it. “Want me to heat something up for you or Hyuck?”
“Later,” Jaemin replies as he opens the door to the fridge. “I think a sandwich might do him good, he doesn’t like full meals when he’s upset. But no pickles, he doesn’t like them.”
“Okay, I’ll fetch something for him,” Renjun nods, and goes back to eating his noodles. Jaemin squeezes his shoulders when he walks past him, and then heads to the corridor leading to their rooms.
The door to the bathroom is closed and the shower is running when he walks past it, so Jaemin makes a detour to his room so he can fetch himself a clean pair of pyjamas. Donghyuck always takes a while in the shower so he waits patiently, watching as Yangyang’s pets move around in their cages and tanks — he thinks, for a moment, of that one time in this very room when they were just hanging out, talking about silly things, watching as Yangyang chatted with his pet snails and all that. He can only wish that Donghyuck will soon go back to being that happy and relaxed.
And, well, he’s here for it! As soon as Donghyuck is done, he hops onto the shower and washes away this stressing day. When he steps into Donghyuck’s room, the latter is already under the covers, lazily scrolling through his phone.
“Scoot over,” Jaemin tells him, and Donghyuck hands him his phone so he can put it on the nightstand before rolling to the side, his back to the wall. Since he doesn’t have a roommate, Donghyuck managed to sneak in a double bed into his room, but honestly, even if it was a single, Jaemin would find a way to slide under the covers with him. There are very few things able to stop him from cuddling his friends.
Donghyuck’s arms wrap around him immediately, pulling him closer until his face is pressed to his neck, and Jaemin easily finds a more comfortable position for himself, draping an arm around Donghyuck’s waist. He knows that Donghyuck is the one seeking comfort right now, but it’s like he has taken all of Jaemin’s worries and thrown them out of the window. The both of them sigh, bodies relaxing, and it’s only when the world falls so quietly that Jaemin considers saying something.
He has no idea what, though. He just feels like he should, like it is the right thing to do. And because he can’t stop himself, he whispers: “Is this what he doesn’t like that we do?”
Donghyuck doesn’t reply straight away, so he’s either asleep or thinking that Jaemin is such a dick for bringing it up, but before he can hate himself any further for not being able to control his tongue, he replies quietly: “Yeah,” and Jaemin stops breathing for a hot second. “But I don’t care. Goodnight, Jaem.”
“Goodnight,” he replies, and even though it takes him quite a while, he, too, falls asleep.
The following week is weird, at the same time that it's not. Nothing has changed, but Jaemin feels as if everything has — even though Donghyuck is the same as he’s always been, Jaemin feels like he’s stepping over eggshells around him.
It’s honestly just a reflection of his anxiety. He mentions it to his therapist a couple of times during their session to try and see if they can figure something out, if he truly is somewhat ruining Donghyuck’s relationship by simply existing, but the answer is this: that their relationship is their business, so they’re the ones who should try to figure things out.
Jaemin figures that she’s right. He doesn’t know shit, but supposes that this old lesbian lady he’s been seeing once every two weeks for the past two years knows a thing or two about his life.
“Will you stop, for fuck’s sake?” Renjun asks around the fifth time he paces around the living room restlessly. “I’m trying to concentrate here.”
He motions for the ipad where he’s currently drawing a commission — a full back piece. Jaemin’s bottom lip juts out. “Sorry, I’m kind of going through it right now,” he explains, and Renjun raises one eyebrow at him. “Hyuck said he’d be talking to Chani today. Do you think they’re going to be fine? Do you think they’re going to break up?”
If they break up, Jaemin is going to be so sad. Well, a sick part of him won’t, but he tries to suppress that the best way he can. “I don’t know,” Renjun replies truthfully. He taps his bottom lip with the blunt tip of his pen. “Do you want them to break up?”
He stops, right in the middle of the living room, and looks at them with widened eyes. “What?”
“I mean, why do you care?” Renjun shrugs, looking down at his drawing. “You’re walking in circles like a father waiting for his child’s arrival or something. But the child is just the possibility of Donghyuck coming home as single or not.”
“I’m not—” Jaemin shakes his head, sitting down on the couch. “I don’t even know how to reply to what you just said. I feel like you’re setting me up.”
“It’s fine, I was just teasing. Relax a little, Donghyuck knows how to take care of himself just fine.”
He knows that’s not a lie, but Jaemin still worries. He lets himself sink on the cushions, watching as Renjun works on his commission, and wonders just how many times he’s going to sit here worried about what Donghyuck is doing with his love life. It’s worse when he knows that he, well, he’s kind of been dragged into this, hasn’t he? Because Donghyuck’s boyfriend was/is jealous of their friendship, and while Jaemin is fully aware that he's not at fault for him feeling somehow intimidated — who the fuck feels intimidated by Jaemin? Look at him! He's 70% water and 30% anxiety! —, he can't help but feel jittery.
Sighing, he closes his eyes. It's a good thing that he doesn't have any essays to hand in or exams to take (though he could be using his free time to read a little), because he can't even imagine focusing on anything else.
He might have fallen asleep, much to his surprise, because when Jaemin opens his eyes once more, it's to the sound of the front door opening, and he's got a blanket thrown over him messily. It must have been Renjun. He rubs the sleep off his eyes and watches as Donghyuck kicks his shoes off.
"Hey!" Jaemin greets him. "How are you doing?"
"Hello," Donghyuck smiles as he throws himself to the couch by his side. "I'm just peachy. I talked things out with Chani — we're good!"
He's smiling so brightly, it distracts Jaemin from the fact that he should probably return it. But when he does, his face feels weird, as if he doesn't really want to smile. It must be that he just woke up from a nap.
"That's good to hear," he manages to blurt out.
"Yeah, I know," Donghyuck rests his arm on the back of the couch, leaning his chin on his hand. "Well, I kind of just dropped by to say it because I knew you were worried. I'm sleeping at Chani's tonight."
"Oh," Jaemin nods. "Okay. Have fun?"
"I will!" Donghyuck says, and he cups Jaemin's face with both hands to lean in and press a kiss to the top of his head. "I'll see you tomorrow, hope you sleep well."
Jaemin naturally pouts because of what he just said, watching as Donghyuck rushes out of the apartment just as quickly as he got in. It isn't uncommon for them to sleep together — in fact, it isn't uncommon for Jaemin to crash with any of them, but he pretty much slept with Donghyuck every night since Jeno's exhibition.
And he has never slept so good. This is coming from somebody who has suffered from insomnia for the past years of his life, and Jaemin will tell anyone who's willing to listen that Donghyuck is better than melatonin.
It's just that he's so soft and cuddly, and his body is just the right temperature — for example, Mark is a living furnace and it's impossible to cuddle with him without wanting to take your clothes off (in a non-sexual way, naturally), and Renjun has low blood pressure so he's always cold. And they're both very bony. Yangyang is similar to Donghyuck in many aspects but he can't stay still in his sleep and kicks a lot. Jeno is a good cuddle buddy as well but Jaemin suspects that Mark is trying to steal his place, but he's not going to fight for it.
In conclusion, Donghyuck was made for Jaemin to cuddle him. He sighs sadly knowing that he won't be having that tonight, and envies Chani a little because he can have that whenever he wants to, and then slaps himself on the forehead once he realizes what he's thinking. What the fuck is he doing, really?
"So, here's the thing, I have something to tell you."
Jeno nods as they click their glasses of juice together. "Me too. You first or me first?"
Jaemin takes a sip. "Both at the same time?"
Nodding, Jeno takes a quick sip as well before putting the glass down. It's been quite a while since they last ate at their favorite hole in the wall restaurant, and Jeno has earned some money with some paintings he has sold in the past month, so he announced he'd be treating Jaemin to lunch. And since Jaemin loves free food and loves Jeno, he said yes.
"Okay," Jeno says. "On the count of three. One, two—"
"Is it bad that I kind of wanted Donghyuck and Chani to break up?"
"I've come to realize that I'm into someone."
Jaemin slaps his hands on top of the table. "WHAT?"
"I—" Jeno widens his eyes. "No, wait a minute there. You wanted them to break up? Why?"
"You've got a crush? On who?"
This is not going to work. Before Jeno can reply, Jaemin reaches across the table and presses his hand to his mouth. He bites him. "You bitch. When did you realize that? And why didn't you tell me before? You never have a crush on anyone."
Jeno shrugs. Jaemin can’t stand him — he’s been waiting for this moment for years, honestly. "Well, you were so busy worrying about Donghyuck for no reason — except that now I know why. You like him. You still like him. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I never said that, and you're avoiding the question. I don't think you realize our friendship is at the stake because you forgot to tell me you suddenly got the hots for someone after so many years of denying me the right to introduce you to cute boys. Who. Is. It?"
Jeno, most beautiful, loving, darling Jeno, brushes a bright red. Their food is untouched in the plates in front of them, but honestly, Jaemin doesn't care, because never has he ever seen his best friend blushing because of anyone. He didn’t think he’d live to see the day, and he loves it — he’s just decided that in love Jeno is his favorite Jeno.
"It's not suddenly," he replies. "I've been thinking about it for a while, buf I wanted to be sure before I did something about it."
Then again, Jaemin can only wish to be like him. Maybe they're friends because his fire sign ass needs Jeno's taurus sun somehow — the only time Jaemin will ever consider predestination. "Well, I'm sure that person, whoever it may be, is very lucky to be the object of your affection," he comments. "Now, if you'll please tell me who the fuck it is—"
Jeno points at him accusingly. "You're not changing the subject. Why are you praying for Chani's downfall?"
"Well, when you put it like that, you make me seem like a huge dick," Jaemin scoffs as he picks up a fork and starts eating his pasta a little too aggressively. "I'm not praying for his downfall, I just— I was just wondering if they'd break up. Innocent wondering. That's all."
"That's not what you said. You said you wanted them to."
He stares at Jeno, and then motions at his food, getting cold on the plate, but Jeno keeps staring at him like he knows all of Jaemin's secrets, and maybe he does.
Listen, it's not that he wanted them to break up, but he's thought about it. He's not going to lie, he's really thought about it. A part of him had been waiting for Donghyuck to get home that day with a totally different news to share, and Jaemin doesn't even know why he expected that, but he did, and it's eating him out from the inside.
"I think I just miss when Hyuck and I were single at the same time," he comments once he convinces Jeno to start eating. "We had so much fun. I miss those times."
Jeno lets out a long hum as he chews, and then points at him with his fork. "Yeah, I don't think that's the case."
"Jaemin," he puts the fork down and leans forward on the table. "Have you ever considered the possibility of you being in love with Donghyuck?"
"Nonsense," he replies promptly. "We're friends. Just friends. And every time you or Mark or anyone else talks about it like this, it's uncomfortable, so please stop."
Jeno rolls his eyes. "Well, alright, but let that thought simmer in your mind a little, will you?"
Jaemin won't. He eats in complete silence, torn between thinking of the absurdity of what Jeno just said — it took him nearly a year to get over his silly little crush on Donghyuck, he's not going back there! —, and wondering why the everloving fuck Jeno hasn't told him about his crush. Has he really been so caught up in Donghyuck's business that he's been missing out on the chance to finally have boy talk with Jeno?
That's literally his favorite activity, and he's been waiting for this moment ever since they were rommates, back in their first year. Jaemin stares at him for the rest of their lunch, all those thoughts swimming around in his mind like crazy.
He's not in love with Donghyuck. He's protective of him because they're very good friends and he enjoys taking care of him, and would choose him over any of his boyfriends. Hell, Jaemin would choose him over many people, but that's literally what comes inside the best friend package. It's not romantic love.
Sighing, Jaemin nudges Jeno on the calf with the tip of his shoe.
"Who do you like, though?"
"Not the point right now. What about Donghyuck?"
He doesn't reply. Jeno thinks he's so smart but he'll never catch Jaemin slipping. He's not in love with Donghyuck, end of discussion! If anything, all the times Jaemin couldn't sleep because he was thinking about Donghyuck spending the night with his boyfriend were because Mark, the insufferable and opinionated man that he is, had managed to sneak his little theories inside Jaemin's mind and he didn't have it in himself to take them out. So what that Jaemin has caught himself daydreaming about cuddling Donghyuck again, he daydreams about cuddling everyone. That and, well, cooking for him, and walking to class together, and brushing the hair off his face, and taking him to swimming pratice, and kissing—
Jaemin's cutlery falls to his plate with a loud clank!, splattering tomato sauce all over him, but he barely acknowledges it.
"Oh," he says. "Oh, fuck. Jen, I think I might have done a stupid."
"And I suppose you're not talking about the tomato sauce," Jeno muses as he hands him a napkin. "So, what are you going to do about it?"
Jaemin cleans himself the best way that he can, but when a wave of shame hits him full force, he can't help but bury his face in his hands. "Oh, my God, he has a boyfriend. What am I thinking? I'm a terrible friend."
"No, you're not, because you can't control what you feel," Jeno responds firmly. He reaches across the table to curl his hand gently around Jaemin's wrist and tugs at it until he's not hiding behind his hands anymore. "Honestly, we've all been there, so don't beat yourself up for it. Now, what are you going to do?"
Jaemin stares at him. "Nothing? He has a whole boyfriend. It’s not like I could just go there and snatch him for myself without getting punched in the face."
"Well, don't you think he at least deserves to know?"
“Chani? I don’t want to get punched in the face, Jeno, I love my nose.”
“No, stupid,” Jeno rolls his eyes. “Donghyuck. Don’t you think he deserves to know that you’re in love with him?”
"No?" Jaemin laughs, most out of self-pity. "He's going to hate me for it. How am I going to live if Donghyuck hates me?"
Jeno stays silent for a moment, leaning his cheek on a hand, and all the while Jaemin is imagining the ways he'd be able to leave the country and pursue a life on a farm in the countryside of France. His French is objectively bad, but that's because he stopped attending classes once Donghyuck decided he needed to cancel his subscription— Jaemin lets out a groan, pinching the bridge of his nose. Maybe he can convince Yangyang to run away with him so he won’t feel too lonely.
"I don't think Hyuck has it in himself to hate you, ever," Jeno says at last. "But he cherishes honesty more than anything else, so I really think he’d be happy to know that you like him.”
"I know," Jaemin sighs, letting both of his hands fall to the table. "This is ridiculous. I'm twenty years old, I thought we all left unrequited feelings back in high school!"
Jeno nods. "Actually, queer people tend to experience things later in life, so—"
"I know, Jen, it was a joke."
"Oh," Jeno laughs. He then reaches out for his fork and resumes eating. "Well, then, now that you got all that off your chest, I suppose this would be a good time for me to tell you that the person I was talking about is Mark, wouldn't it... ?"
This time, he knocks the side of his hand against his juice and watches, as if in slow motion, as the liquid floods their table. "Jeno, I swear to God, you can't simply say things out of nowhere as if I’m not going to have a heart attack at age twenty—"
Objectively speaking, now that Jaemin knows he loves Donghyuck, he can't remember how it was before he knew.
Which is stupid, of course, which is honestly just something that could've sprung out of the romantic comedies that Donghyuck likes to watch, and that should in no way resonate with him in real life.
His life is not a goddamn love story, it's not some fix-it fanfic in which all his worries wash away once he realizes he's infatuated. That’s for fictional, artificial love that is made for normal people to get sad over how much their life isn’t like that. But… But Jaemin does feel like the world has returned to its axis now that he knows he's in love, like some things — not everything, but some things, and those things are now very valuable for him — have just been pierced together, have just started making sense. He didn't know it back then, but he knows it now, and it's like he can't stop seeing Donghyuck everywhere that he goes.
"Because he lives with us, dumbass," Renjun tells him as he vacuums the couch. "And now that you mentioned his awful habit of leaving his shit everywhere, we have to find a way to get rid of that. Or I swear I'll start throwing his underwear out the window."
Right, of course. They're cleaning the apartment today, and Jaemin is holding onto one of Donghyuck's shirts that he found between the couch cushions. He’s sure that this one has belonged to Mark at some point, as it’s old and battered and has MOUNT AND DO ME written on the front, in the shape of Mountain Dew’s logo. No, thinking about it now, it’s quite obvious that it was Mark, and it’s only natural that Donghyuck stole it from him because they share the same crass humor that Jaemin tries very hard to pretend isn’t funny so he’ll hang onto his self-respect for a little longer. He caresses the front of the shirt fondly.
"Don't do that, it's bad for the environment," Jaemin mutters, throwing the shirt over his shoulder. He'll wash it and leave it on Donghyuck's bed later. "And he'd be upset as well."
Renjun does a talking motion with his hand, which means he doesn't give a shit about what Donghyuck feels when it comes to throwing his clothes out, and Jaemin returns to sweeping the floor.
It's been two days since his talk with Jeno, all of which Jaemin has sadly spent Donghyuck-less. He doesn't know if that's good or not — he's scared to confront him, or rather, be confronted about his feelings, but Jaemin has been missing him like crazy, too. It's ridiculous just how much you can miss someone once you realize you'd like them to be around all the time. He starts sweeping the floor a bit more aggressively.
"What time do you have class today?" Renjun asks once they're done, his head falling to Jaemin's shoulder when they throw themselves at the now clean couch.
"After lunch," Jaemin responds, leaning his cheek on top of Renjun's head. "I think I'm— um, I think I'm gonna—"
"Pick Donghyuck up at practice?"
He takes a deep breath. "Yeah."
"Okay. He texted me and said he needed a book from his shelf, I'll come get it for you so you won't forget either."
Jaemin nods, and watches as Renjun pushes himself off the couch and disappears on the corridor leading to their rooms. Then, he pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs audibly. One wouldn't be able to explain how he feels like knowing he'll be seeing Donghyuck later today. He wants to cry, and puke, and maybe cry and puke at the same time. But also, he's happy, you know? It’s everything out of happiness.
"Here, put it on your bag," Renjun says as he enters the living room once more, extending the book out for Jaemin.
He nods, dropping the book to his lap and running a hand down the cover. It's just another mandatory reading for their major, but he flips the pages and observes adoringly the little notes Donghyuck had made all over the book — while Jaemin prefers taking notes on his computer because he tends to forget his books everywhere, Donghyuck is very fond of pen and paper.
Jaemin lets out a sigh. Standing in front of him with his hands on his hips, Renjun raises an eyebrow, but walks away so he can get lunch started. When he does, Jaemin gets up as well — he still needs to shower and gather his things for today's class.
Lunch is quick, the two of them and a very late Yangyang who just got out of class and needs to go to work very soon, and Jaemin leaves with him, Yangyang going on and on about the field trip his class will be having as winter break begins. They walk to the metro station together but Jaemin needs to go the opposite way, so he kisses Yangyang on the cheek sweetly and is off to campus.
Hiiiii, I got your book!, he texts Donghyuck. I'll meet you at the entrance of the sports center. I’ll be the only best friend of yours around.
Donghyuck replies straight away with a picture — he's got his elbows on the edge of the pool, wet hair slicked back and flashing him a thumbs up. There are a bunch of his teammates in the background, but Jaemin doesn't have eyes for any of them. He spends an awfully long time staring at the picture and trying to remember what he used to think about Donghyuck — he's always been gorgeous but, well, it's different now, isn't it? Now the way his hair looks under the artificial lights of the indoor pool room is simply different.
OMFG just saw an angel, he writes because he can't stop himself. Donghyuck replies with a bunch of laughing emojis and a heart, and Jaemin locks his phone and shoves it deep inside his bag only so that he won't think too much about it.
At the sports center, Jaemin waits patiently on one of the benches at the entrance, lazily scrolling through his Instagram fee. He double taps Changbin’s newest selfie, hops onto Seunghun’s live as he showcases the newest products on his online shop where Jaemin has been dying to buy at but always forgets, and is in the process of replying to his chat with Mark after seeing the notification count go up and up when someone taps him on the shoulder, and he looks up to find Donghyuck smiling brightly at him.
“Hi!” he exclaims. “Ready to go?”
Jaemin nods, getting up, and finds himself at loss of words. He has never felt like this before — how dare Donghyuck steal his breath away? And he doesn’t even know it as he walks away, arms stretching over his head lazily. The swim team’s jersey is a perfect fit for him, so it rides up and exposes a patch of skin on his lower back, and Jaemin looks away.
“I’m so not up to today’s class,” Donghyuck tells him. “I don’t even like that professor, I can’t believe you made me sign up to his classes. Every time he speaks, I want to sleep.”
“He’s an expert on South Asian History,” Jaemin reasons, mildly offended on behalf of their professor. “He’s published more than thirty books, not to mention articles!”
Donghyuck shrugs. “Well, he can be a good researcher and a bad lecturer at the same time. There’s plenty of those in this university.”
“See? I’m always right,” Donghyuck brags, nudging him on the ribs teasingly, and Jaemin rolls his eyes.
“And ever so modest,” he adds.
Donghyuck giggles all the way to their building, his arm linked to Jaemin as he recalls what happened during practice this morning. In return, Jaemin tells him about Renjun’s evil plan to throw all of his clothing through the window, which offends Donghyuck profoundly as he’d never imagine his best friend was up to such evil business, and before they know it, they’re sitting by their usual spot near the window.
Immediately, Donghyuck brings their tables together and prepares himself for a nap — Jaemin tries to persuade him into at least pretending he cares, since Jaemin has even brought him his book, but he smiles mischievously before resting his head on his bag, eyes closing.
He spends an awfully long time pretending he’s not staring at the moles on Donghyuck’s cheek and neck. Never has Jaemin ever been so desperate to kiss. He feels sick to his stomach, even more so when Donghyuck does fall asleep, his mouth hanging open slightly and cheek squished against his bag.
Jaemin is barely able to pay attention to their long ass class — he just knows he’ll have to ask someone else for notes, because the document on his computer contains two lines of text and a bullet point only. How great for him. Forcing himself to look away from Donghyuck, he stares out of the window and drums his fingers on top of the table.
Suddenly, he feels fingers wrapping around his own. Looking back at Donghyuck, the latter is looking at him like he’s irritated to have been woken from his slumber by Jaemin’s incessant nervous habits, and he blinks once before closing his eyes again, He holds onto Jaemin’s hand tightly, and what can Jaemin do? Retrieve his hand? Fuck, no.
So he doesn’t type, and leans his chin on his free hand as he freely watches Donghyuck sleeping. When the class is over and Donghyuck wakes up, he’s still holding onto Jaemin’s hand as he stretches his arms, and Jaemin lets go only to tickle his stomach, purely for being a prick reasons.
“Asshole,” Donghyuck hisses, trying to retaliate, but Jaemin jumps out of his chair quickly as he laughs.
They take the bus home, and it’s crowded so their shoulders are pressed together, Donghyuck humming a song under his breath and Jaemin looking at him. Why can’t he stop looking at him? This being in love thing is dangerous. He clears his throat: “Wanna watch a movie tonight?”
Donghyuck nods, smiling softly: “The Kissing Booth?”
Groaning, Jaemin nods. Donghyuck lets out a joyful “woop!” and side hugs him, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to convince the others to watch that movie again. At this point, Renjun has developed such a violent knee jerk reaction to it that he’s afraid Donghyuck is going to end up in the hospital, or something like that.
Truth is, they don’t actually need to convince anyone — Yangyang is holed up in their room streaming, so Jaemin isn’t legally allowed to enter; Renjun is at work; and Jeno disappears inside his room as soon as he hears the title. They order takeout, then, and Jaemin showers while Donghyuck cleans the living room so they can eat on the coffee table.
“Hey,” he knocks on Jeno’s door, popping his head inside to find him drawing on his desk. “We ordered food for you, do you want me to bring something?”
“Hm, I do, actually, if it’s not a problem for you,” Jeno responds, and Jaemin would love to tell him that he’d do anything for him, but Jeno will only tease him for being such a sap. None of these people realize the lengths Jaemin would go for them. He nods, then, and rushes to the living room so he can get something for both Jeno and Yangyang before Donghyuck eats everything.
Their roommates are very happy with the treat, but Yangyang kicks him out before he can interrupt his stream any further — he’s known on Twitch for having super duper hot roommates, but Yangyang has prohibited them from appearing because “you’re stealing my spotlight” —, and soon enough Jaemin is sitting by Donghyuck’s side on the couch, all the takeout displayed on the coffee table.
He does not and will never care for this movie as much as Donghyuck does, but Jaemin does find it a little entertaining. Well, Donghyuck’s reactions to it are entertaining — as he cuddles up to Jaemin’s side, he lets out little oh’s and ah’s as if he hasn’t seen it a billion times and Jaemin, well, Jaemin adores him. It’s no use denying it now, and so he keeps watching him. He sighs happily when Donghyck wraps his arms around his waist and leans his head on Jaemin’s shoulder, completely comfortable in this spot on the couch.
No one said he wasn’t allowed to enjoy these small moments. He’s not doing anything — it’s not like he’s going to confess or something, or try to win Donghyuck over. Jaemin is more than glad to love him on the sidelines, to cherish him from the bleachers, to… Well, you get the gist of it.
At the end of the movie, he’s a little upset himself, because Donghyuck yawns as he rolls over to the other side of the couch. As the movie credits roll, Jaemin faces the undeniable truth of his life: he wants to reach across the couch and take Donghyuck's hand in his, and tell him all the things he's always wanted to hear ─ that Jaemin would watch bad romcoms with him, would wash his hair in the shower, would take him dancing, would buy him flowers, would serenade him outside his window if it meant Donghyuck would look at him the same way. But the TV screen has returned to Netflix's initial page, and Jaemin hasn't moved in what feels like years, and Donghyuck is busy texting his boyfriend, the sound of his nails against the keyboard as haunting as it can get. Jaemin takes a deep breath and grabs the remote to find something else to watch.
A few days before winter break begins, a party ensues at Hwang Yeji's place.
Naturally, it means that most of the student body is ready to have some fun before going back home for the holidays — Jaemin has no reasons to return to his family, but it doesn't mean that he's not ready to party with all he's got. The past few weeks had been stressing at least; from coming to terms with his feelings to feeling awful because Donghyuck will never like him back to going through so many exams, he puts on the nicest clothes he has and that Yangyang hasn't stolen yet, and he's onto it. He's onto having fun, and he won’t let anything ruin it from here.
Except for, well...
"You know we can't stay here forever," Jaemin tells Mark with a sigh as he leans against the bathroom wall opposite to the mirror. "We’re supposed to be having fun. Not only that, but people are gonna want to use the bathroom, Mark.”
"Sucks to be them," Mark replies promptly. He seems very comfortable sitting on the closed toilet and playing he loves, he loves me not with the flowers on the sink. He's been through three already, and Jaemin knows he should be preventing Mark from destroying Yeji's decoration, but it's so ridiculous, he can't bring himself to it because every time the petals come to the conclusion that Jeno doesn't like him back (which is a lie, but it's up to Mark to find out), Mark picks up another one, and he doesn’t seem like he’ll stop until he finds an answer that he likes.
"I can’t believe you’re like this because only because you made it up in your head that—"
"Jeno is being weird, okay!" Mark insists. "He's, like, sick or something. I don't know, but he's definitely acting weird, and if I go out there, he's gonna follow me everywhere! I told you he came down with something but nobody believes me."
"I thought you wanted that? I thought you genuinely wanted Jeno to be all over you 24/7. What changed? Genuinely asking, what changed?"
"I did want that… Back then! But that's different, I don't know what he wants when he keeps looking at me—"
Jaemin lets out a sigh as he pinches the bridge of his nose.
"—like he wants to eat me alive! Do you think I pissed him off or something? He's so intense." Mark shudders. "I'm both scared and turned on, seriously. I can't say that I hate this, but I don't know if I like this. Until I figure it out, I’ll be avoiding him."
"Oh, my God," Jaemin groans. "You're both so stupid, I can't do this."
Much to Mark's dismay, he reaches for the doorknob, and the latter has no other option but to follow him outside once the bathroom is taken over by none other than Yangyang. "Seriously, guys, peeing is a human right and you’re depriving me of such, which sucks!" the latter yells as he closes the door.
They take refuge in the kitchen, then, which means that Jaemin is searching for the strongest alcohol around and Mark is still whining.
"I seriously don't understand you," Jaemin says once he's found some tequila. "What's the problem with Jeno being obsessed with you? Not only you wanted that, but you managed to make everyone around here sick of hearing you talk about it. We had enough, love."
"I'm going to ignore what you just said," Mark announces as he props himself up on the counter.
"I'm just saying you have to enjoy your golden gay times. Ever considered making a move now that you got Jeno’s attention all for yourself, which is more than the rest of the student body will ever be able to say?"
Mark’s chest inflates with pride, but it lasts for a second only. "But the flower petals said—"
"Mark, the flower petals are bullshit." Jaemin takes a shot. Mark motions for the bottle and he very reluctantly hands it over, and snatches it back once he tries to drink more than Jaemin knows he can handle.
"I don't know what I'm going to do if I don't marry him in this instant," Mark whines sadly.
"You're twenty one, you're not getting married." Jaemin replies as he returns the tequila to the cabinet where he's found it. "But I'm sure Jeno would love it if you danced with him, okay? We'll go with baby steps."
"Okay. First step: dancing. Second step: passionately making out on Yeji's couch. Third step: we run away to get married and have mindblowing sex to make up for all of my pining." Mark taps a finger against his cheek. "Not that I'm, like, saving myself for marriage because it's kind of too late for that now, but it'd be so romantic. God is my homie, so he won't mind."
A beat of silence. Jaemin asks: "Why are you the way that you are?"
"I share a birthday with James Baldwin," Mark replies, as if it answers anything and everything. "It is my godly given right to be gay and tender, and also hate cops, so I will excel at all three."
You know how the saying goes; speak of the devil and he shall appear. Jeno walks into the kitchen in all of his pretty boy glory and Mark's face lights up immediately, meaning that Jeno's does as well — Jaemin, for one, believes that people who have a chance with the ones they love but are afraid to make a move deserve jail time. There are people who are literally suffering from unrequited feelings, for God's sake! But at the end of the day, Mark and Jeno are angels, and they'll be spending all of their nine lives together. Jaemin wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'll go check up on the others," Jaemin announces, not before he gives Mark's shoulder an encouraging squeeze.
And so he makes his way through Yeji's party. His friends are nowhere to be seen, but the few minutes he spends chatting with Chaeryeong are the most delightful. He's considering joining a round of beer pong when he catches a glimpse of a familiar leather jacket in the distance, and like a moth drawn to a flame, he finds himself walking towards Donghyuck.
As he should’ve expected, Donghyuck is not alone, and Jaemin considers turning around to leave before he’s noticed but Chani waves at him, motions for him to come closer even, and Jaemin feels all the blood rushing off his face when Donghyuck looks at him with a blank expression.
“Hi,” Jaemin says timidly. “Am I interrupting something… ?”
“No, it’s alright,” Chani responds, at the same time that Donghyuck says “Yes,” and Jaemin doesn’t know what to do. He’s about to fake a phone call or say that he forgot the stove on when Chani says: “It’s fine, really, I was just about to leave. You two have a good night, okay?”
And so he stands there, awkwardly, and it isn’t until Chani finally walks away that Jaemin reminds himself to breathe. He turns to Donghyuck in the same instant: “Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“It’s fine,” he echoes, and rubs a hand against his face. It’s hard to see in the dim lights, but he looks tired. Jaemin’s heart hurts a little. “I’m sorry, it’s just that—”
Donghyuck motions vaguely in the direction Chani went, and Jaemin nods. He looks torn between following him and staying.
“You should go,” Jaemin tells him softly. “If you feel like it’s the right thing to do.”
Surprised by his words, Donghyuck nods. “I’ll come back, okay?” he says, reaching out to squeeze Jaemin’s shoulder. Even through his thick jacket, his touch burns. “Go have fun, I’ll be back later.”
Jaemin doesn’t know when “later” is, but he feels as if time has slowed down on purpose. He tries playing beer pong, and prevents a drunk Renjun from promising to give Bong Jaehyun a free tattoo, and spends a good thirty minutes fixing Yerim’s makeup on the bathroom, but none of it is enough to take his mind off Donghyuck. It looked like they were arguing, but he’s not sure, and Chani was so nice to him — Jaemin doesn’t know anything. He didn’t like the look on Donghyuck’s face.
Sighing, he lets himself fall to Yeji’s couch and wishes that the cushions would simply swallow him whole. He’s not much for partying anymore. He hopes someone is having fun; he wonders where Mark and Jeno went.
Finally, finally he sees Donghyuck entering by the front door again, but Jaemin can’t bring himself to get up from this spot — he’s terrified. He watches as Donghyuck chats a little with a bunch of his friends, takes a detour to the kitchen and heads to the living room with a beer in his hands. He sits by Jaemin’s side in complete silence, uncaps the beer with his teeth and takes a large sip.
“You don’t even like beer,” Jaemin points out.
“I think he’s going to break up with me,” Donghyuck responds.
Jaemin is silent for what feels like a hundred years, watching as Donghyuck sips on his drink, and then asks: “How do you know?”
“I just know.”
He nods. “Do you… Why? Did he— did you do something?”
“No,” Donghyuck pauses, resting the beer on his knee. “I mean, yes. But I guess I don’t want to admit it to myself.”
“So it’s a bad thing.”
“No,” he echoes, immediately. “I don’t think this could ever be a bad thing. It’s just… Complicated. He keeps telling me that I should be honest with myself, and that he's going to be happy if I'm happy and… He's too nice. The problem is that he's too nice."
“That doesn't really sound like a problem to me.”
Donghyuck takes another sip, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “It’s a problem because...” he lets out a long sigh. “He's too nice to me and I’m breaking his heart, and so I’m breaking mine as well. I can’t protect him from what I’m doing to him and it kills me that he doesn't care, he's not even going to be mad about it because he wants—" he makes a quoting gesture. "What is best for me. The idiot. I liked him better when he was jealous for no reason."
Jaemin nods. He has no idea what to say, has no idea what Donghyuck is talking about — he adores Chani, there isn’t a single thing in the world he would willingly do to hurt him, so he’s either exaggerating or Jaemin is missing out on a lot of things when it comes to their relationship. It dawns on him, then, that he doesn’t really know how they’re like as a couple, because he’s never asked. He feels like a very bad friend. Before he can say anything, Donghyuck clears his throat:
“I guess that it’s on me because all those romantic comedies that I like don’t talk about what happens when two people are not on the same wavelength anymore, and they’re trying so hard to go back to what it was before but it’s just—” he motions vaguely. “It’s bullshit. All those love stories are bullshit, real life isn’t like that. People just hurt themselves and each other over and over because they’re trying to make themselves fit in places that aren’t made for them anymore.”
He stays silent for a while, then presses the heels of his free hand to one eye, sighing. “I just think that maybe I’m an idiot for ruining a good thing for just one tiny chance for a spark to become a flame, but at the same time I don't think it's such a bad idea."
“Are you afraid of burning yourself?” Jaemin asks, because he doesn’t know what else to say.
“Wouldn’t you be?” Donghyuck asks instead.
“Well, I think…” he muses. “Sometimes sparks are worth it. But that’s up to you to know if the risk is worth it or not, I suppose.”
Donghyuck lets out a hum, and doesn’t say anything else. He finishes his beer and then spends a good time just reading the writings on the back of it, and Jaemin watches him — he has no idea how to comfort Donghyuck in this situation, or tell if he needs comfort at all. Usually, it is so easy for him to read Donghyuck; to know if he’s hungry, if he needs to rest, if he needs to be left alone, if he needs distraction. Right now, it’s like Jaemin has never seen him before, and it leaves him with a funny feeling in his stomach.
It comes back to the fact that all people are often like the moon. There’s a part of them that’s always partially hidden, and there isn’t much you can do about it. He reaches out and squeezes Donghyuck’s shoulder, asking: “Do you want to go home? I can call an Uber, and we can watch a movie or something. Maybe even raid Renjun’s stash of ice cream, how about that?”
“No,” Donghyuck shakes his head. Suddenly, he gets up, and extends a hand for Jaemin to take. “No, let’s dance.”
Well, Jaemin can’t ever say no to him, can he? He takes Donghyuck’s hand, then, and lets himself be guided to the dance floor. Most of the people have stopped dancing already, but that has never stopped Donghyuck before — he throws his hands in the air, swings his hips to the beat, and Jaemin wonders how he has managed to spend twenty years of his life without him. He cannot think about it right now because he’ll surely either get sad or delusional; just because Donghyuck thinks Chani will break up with him doesn’t mean it will happen, and if it does happen, it doesn’t mean that he has a chance— he lets out a sigh. Donghyuck snaps his fingers to get him out of his haze.
“C’mon, dance with me!” Donghyuck asks, taking Jaemin’s hands in his. “Just for now, let’s not worry about other things. Can we do that?”
Jaemin nods. “Yeah,” he smiles. “Yeah, we can.”
And so they dance for what feels like years, until the playlist starts repeating songs and Jaemin’s lungs almost give out — Donghyuck isn’t in the same state, of course, as he has swimmer lungs and enough stamina to dance through the end of the world, but Jaemin is able to convince him to catch some air and maybe some water to drink. He hops onto one of the stools in the kitchen and spins on it, sipping on a glass of water, and Donghyuck rests his hip against the counter, watching him.
“What?” Jaemin asks.
“You’re a blessing to my lungs, did you know that?” Donghyuck responds.
If he blushes violently, it’s a good thing that it can be mistaken as the results of dancing for so long. Jaemin waves it off. “Such a sap.”
“No, really,” Donghyuck laughs. “You’re, like, whatever the kids have been saying recently — my emotional support boy.”
Jaemin raises one eyebrow. “I imagined that would be Renjun. Or Mark. Or the both of them at the same time. I’m honored to receive such an important title.”
Donghyuck bows in an exaggerated gesture. Jaemin laughs only so that he won’t end up saying things he’ll regret, and spins in his stool once more — he miscalculates his effort and ends up facing away from Donghyuck and towards the arch that leads to another side of Yeji’s apartment, where he finds—
“Oh, my God, Donghyuck,” Jaemin hisses, jumping off the stool. The latter, startled, tries to get a hold of his arm, but Jaemin pushes him against the wall. “Shut up, shut up. You won’t believe this.”
Donghyuck looks at him with widened eyes, his hands on Jaemin’s chest, and when the latter realizes how close they’re standing, he steps away. But not too much, because he doesn’t want to be seen. “What the fuck?” Donghyuck whispers.
“Follow my lead,” Jaemin tells him, and leans to the side so he can take a peek from over the edge of the wall. Donghyuck rests both hands on his shoulders so he can do the same, and he lets out a soft oooooh! that might as well be the cutest thing Jaemin has ever heard, but he’s too busy watching the other pair to fully acknowledge it.
Oh, if he could only bring the others here to see, but they’d cause too much of a ruckus — Jaemin can barely contain himself as he watches Mark and Jeno talking on their own, or rather singing along softly to the music while no one else is around. If anyone else saw them, they’d be just dorks, dancing to their own rhythm and laughing at each other like that, but Jaemin knows them, and knows that this is just how it’s supposed to be.
Donghyuck squeezes his shoulders, leaning to whisper in Jaemin’s ear: “If they don’t kiss, I’m going to fucking murder Mark. I swear to sweet baby Jesus.”
“Shut up,” Jaemin hisses, and Donghyuck pulls him back when Jeno turns to look in the direction of their voices.
They stand there, backs pressed to the wall and not daring to breathe, and the situation is so ridiculous that Jaemin has to silently count to twenty so he won’t burst out laughing. And Donghyuck, well, Donghyuck is just looking at him with a dumbfounded expression, and Jaemin pushes his face away with a hand.
Finally, they go back to their initial position, but Donghyuck pinches him on the arm so he gets to stay in the front and Jaemin lets him, naturally, so he leans his head on Donghyuck’s shoulder to look. This time, they’re standing closer, Jeno’s hand grazing the sleeve of Mark’s jacket, and Mark says something inaudible but undeniably funny because Jeno leans forward as he laughs — grabbing Mark’s waist as he goes, and Mark’s arms come up to rest on his shoulders, his hand grazing the hairs at the back of Jeno’s head as he whispers anything else. Donghyuck’s breath hitches.
Jaemin closes his eyes just for one second, to pray for whatever gay gods out there — no, he prays to James Baldwin and Mary Oliver that Mark must gather the courage he needs right now, that he must seize this opportunity, and when he opens them again—
Donghyuck pushes him back to the wall, pressing his body against it with his own, and Jaemin fights the urge to hit him hard for it. “What the hell, I want to see!” he whispers. “Lee Donghyuck, they’re about to fucking kiss in the mouth! How dare you deprive me of seeing that!”
“Because it’s their moment!” Donghyuck replies, exasperated. He’s holding up his elbow to Jaemin’s throat, and he can’t move. “It’s gotta be special and unique, and now you’re not going to pry on their business. Believe me, I want to as well, but it’s not right to pry on their first kiss. You know they’d hate us for it.”
Jaemin closes his eyes, inhaling deeply. He can’t believe this is the man he loves, depriving him from his well-earned nosy rights — he brought Mark and Jeno together. Well, kind of. He mostly bullied Mark into confessing, but that’s the only way Mark gets shit done around here. And Jeno doesn’t get to hate him for anything, Jaemin is his best friend. He opens his eyes, ready to fight.
And finds Donghyuck looking back at him. Unmoving, his face centimeters from Jaemin’s, with eyes this big and his mouth hanging open slightly. Jaemin doesn’t think he can breathe anymore, he didn’t realize they were standing so close; he’s sure that Donghyuck has never looked at him like this before.
“I—” Donghyuck whispers as he leans back, stepping away. “I think— I think I want to go home now.”
Jaemin nods, or thinks that he does. Maybe he doesn’t move until Donghyuck turns around and watches, dumbfounded, as Donghyuck flexes his hands nervously before tucking them inside the pockets of his hoodie.
He really wants to go home now, too.
That one moment back at the party fades away in time, as it has never been Jaemin’s to lose anyway. As soon as they get home, it’s like everything has changed in the world outside his tiny and brief bubble of ignorance — it’s as if the sky knows Donghyuck is in a gloomy mood, because it rains nonstop for the entirety of the week.
Which means, of course, that Jaemin is in distress as well — Jeno’s allergies are up the roof, Renjun is mad because the wifi signal is bad, it’s colder than usual so Yangyang steals more clothes than usual and, well, there’s Donghyuck. Jaemin finds himself constantly stopping by the door to his room just to check on him, but after their conversation at Yeji’s party, he hasn’t touched the subject.
The inevitable — in Donghyuck’s words — happens on Tuesday. He comes home two hours after class ends with two bags on his shoulders, stops by the living room where they’re all gathered, and announces: “I’m single.”
None of them dare to breathe. He just stands there, arms crossed over his chest, his face pale and hair wet from the rain, and then turns around on his heels and heads to his room. Naturally, Renjun jumps from the couch and follows him, and they spend the rest of the afternoon locked together in the room.
“Since you’re not going to acknowledge the elephant in the room, I will,” Jeno says as they’re preparing dinner. He nudges Jaemin on the ribs. “How are you feeling?”
“I don’t get to feel shit,” he responds immediately in a whisper. “If anything, I ruined their relationship. I don’t even know what to say.”
Jeno frowns at the carrots he’d been chopping. “I don’t think you’re to blame.”
“You don’t know the whole story.”
“I know you always think you’re at fault for everything.”
“Yeah, but this time—” Jaemin pinches the bridge of his nose, which is a mistake because he had been chopping onions and now he really wants to cry for multiple reasons. “—this time it’s different. I might not have been the reason, but I think I helped the situation. I feel so bad.”
Jeno stays silent for a while. They continue chopping ingredients and throwing them inside a pot for a stew, and it’s only when Jaemin is looking for some black pepper in the cabinets that Jeno clears his throat and says: “The did is done, though, and they’re both adults so they’ll handle it on their own. It’s sad, of course, but all break ups are, and soon enough Hyuck will feel better. Now, you shouldn’t blame yourself for things that are out of your control.”
Jaemin nods. Jeno asks: “Are you not going to argue with me? I’m shocked.”
“As much as I’d love to, I won’t,” he responds sadly. “I don’t think I have the energy for it. The weather is shit. You know what they say about seasonal depression.”
Humming, bumps his hip against Jaemin’s in a silent attempt to cheer him up. It works a little.
The weather doesn’t get better. He’s tired of spending the day with water inside his shoes, of waiting at the bus stop alone because Donghyuck doesn’t want to go to class, of seeing Jeno’s sad runny nose, and of not being able to spend precious time on his beloved balcony because it’s too cold and it doesn’t stop raining.
Finally, after five days, Donghyuck leaves his room. Jaemin doesn’t know what he’s expecting when he steps out of the shower, but it surely isn’t finding a human-sized lump under the covers of his bed. Cautiously, Jaemin pokes at what he assumes to be a head and asks: “Everything okay down there?”
Donghyuck pulls the duvet down so that his face is visible. He seems a lot better than he was before, his cheeks are even rosy.
“Jeno put my pillows and duvet to wash,” he explains.
“Oh.” Jaemin doesn’t know why he expected anything else.
“And...” he licks his lips, then presses his face to the pillow. “And I was looking forward to a cuddle session, if you don’t mind.”
Jaemin smiles. “Not at all! Scoot over, then.”
He does so, and once Donghyuck is in Jaemin’s arms, he lets out an audible sigh. His hair smells like he’s showered recently, which is good, and he very insistently tangles their legs until Jaemin doesn’t know where he ends and Donghyuck begins.
“How are you feeling?” Jaemin whispers.
“I thought it’d be easier, but I’ll survive,” Donghyuck replies. He presses his face to Jaemin’s neck until his voice sounds muffled. “My first real heartbreak and it is self-inflicted, isn’t that so cool? Now I’m licking my wounds in your bed. A first time for everything."
Jaemin wants to tell him that he’d rather have Donghyuck licking his wounds in his bed than anywhere else in the world, but can’t find the words to. He supposes he’d like to tell him many things more, but now is not the time — maybe in the future, when Donghyuck isn’t so hurt, Jaemin will be able to open his chest for him. For now, he settles with holding him close, arms tight around his body as if this could possibly shield him from the hurt, and quietly hums lullabies against his hair.
They both fall asleep, surprisingly. Jaemin awakens briefly when Yangyang walks into the room in search of something, and lets out a satisfied sigh as he receives a small kiss to the top of his head. Once the lights are out again, Donghyuck presses even closer, and Jaemin doesn’t know how he’s able to breath with his face pressed to his neck, but the other doesn’t seem that bothered. They’re warm and comfortable and the rain has subsided now, hitting Jaemin’s window softly, and he adjusts the covers around Donghyuck so he won’t feel cold. He can’t seem to fall asleep anymore, it would be too much luck for today, so he resorts to carding his fingers through Donghyuck’s hair.
Here, in the darkness of his room, with no one else around but the only person that matters, he lets himself think back to that moment back at Yeji's party. He pictures, just for a moment, what could've been of them if he had never introduced Donghyuck to Chani, had never encouraged them to go out. If Donghyuck had been single back then, would he have kissed him? Would he have held onto Jaemin's waist the way Jeno did to Mark? Would he have made him laugh before they kissed, or would he have stayed silent, so uncharacteristic for him, because he didn't want to ruin the moment? And when they kissed, would it be just like Jaemin dreamed?
Would it be just like Donghyuck dreamed, had Jaemin been the one? Wouldn't it have been fun, if he had been the one?
As if he knows Jaemin is thinking of him, Donghyuck rolls away from him for a moment, rolling on his back but never letting go of the hold he has on Jaemin's shirt. Maybe he just wanted to breathe, and Jaemin watches fondly as he does so, feeling Donghyuck's chest rising and falling steadily under his hand.
In the single most egoistic moment of his life, Jaemin leans in and presses his lips to Donghyuck's cheek, in the space between the four moles that he adores, and for a moment he even lets himself believe that the corner of Donghyuck's mouth perks up in a grin for a split second.
He brushes the hair off Donghyuck's face adoringly. Yes, it would've been fun if Jaemin had been the one.
The weather gets better gradually, though it does not get any warmer, and Jaemin finds out he definitely does not enjoy seeing people find other ways to get warm aside from wearing a thick sweater.
"Can you please—" he starts as he makes his way through the living room to water Jeno's plants. "—not rub in my face that you're gay and adorable? Some of us are painfully single."
Mark lets out a laugh in delight from where he's lying on the couch, Jeno wrapped around him in ways that make Jaemin wonder about that one law of Physics that says two bodies may not occupy the same space, or something like that. "You're gay and adorable too, Jaem," he responds. "Not only that but, like, mad sexy as well. Don't think too lowly of yourself. You’re doing great.”
"I'm well aware that I'm that good, but I don't have anyone to be gay, sexy and adorable with. So, would you mind?"
As if they have not been cuddling there in the couch all morning for everybody to see, Jeno even has the guts to plant obnoxiously loud kisses all over Mark's neck and face, which makes the latter explode in giggles and which also makes Jaemin want to explode in general.
He should honestly let all of Jeno's plants die, but he had come up with a foolproof plan consisting of naming his plants after each of them and now Jaemin can't possibly let himself or, say, Renjun die. He's not that cruel. He scoffs as he squirts water over the last batch of succulents.
As he tries to tune out the sound of his friends making out right in front of him, Jaemin fights the urge to squirt water on them — only because it's a chilly day and Jeno gets sick easily —, and returns to the kitchen to put away the sprayer.
Classes have ended and most people have gone back to their hometowns already — not them because, as Donghyuck likes to say, they're all a bunch of renegades who either ran away from home or were kicked out. The end of the year is always a good time for Renjun so he's booked and busy (Jaemin is so proud!), and Yangyang is only absent because of the field trip he'd been looking forward to all year. With that, Mark had turned into their unofficial roommate, but he spends so much time with Jeno glued to his back that Jaemin likes to think they count as one person only.
He sighs as he puts the sprayer back inside its designated cabinet, turning around to look at his friends in the living room. They're very cute, Jaemin will give them that, but he can't help but be so jealous that they've worked things out so easily.
Maybe he should've made a three step plan like Mark did. It sounded stupid back then and it probably still is, but Jaemin is getting desperate here. What was it again? First, dancing, second, making out… Anyway.
He's fetching some tea for himself when Donghyuck emerges from the corridor… in his usual swim team attire. Jaemin stares at him dumbfounded. "You are not going swimming in this weather!' he exclaims. "It's too cold for that, Donghyuck. You’re going to get sick."
The latter smiles brightly — admittedly, Jaemin has missed their bantering, but he's serious. He doesn't need anyone else in this household catching a cold.
"Relax, you mother hen," Donghyuck says as he heads to the counter to grab an apple from the fruit basket. Jaemin is shivering just by looking at how not warm enough his jersey is. Does that shade of blue make him look hot? Yes. But it does nothing to protect Donghyuck from the cold. "The pool's heated. And why don't you come join me? Practice's been called off, I'm just going to chill a little."
"Yeah, with no doubt you'll be chilling," Jaemin muses before he takes a sip of his tea.
Donghyuck rolls his eyes, resting his hip on the counter as he quietly eats his apple. Once he's done with the fruit, he pulls the mug from Jaemin's hands and takes a large sip himself, smiling at him as he hands it back.
"That was mine," Jaemin points out.
"Do you really care?"
He does not. Jaemin finishes the drink and starts washing the mug. When he's done, Donghyuck tugs at the sleeve of his sweater insistently.
"Come swim with meeeee," he whines. Jaemin ignores him, so he wraps a hand around his wrist and pulls him towards himself. Jaemin struggles to get away from his hold, but Donghyuck holds onto him for dear life. "Come on, do something nice for me once."
He scoffs. "Oh, I do plenty of nice things for you, Lee Donghyuck."
The latter smiles sheepishly as Jaemin frees himself from his hold, trying to fix the state of his sweater. "I know, and for that I love you," he says. "Come on, it's just for a few hours. I'll even get some floaties for you."
"I don't need floaties, thank you."
"Don't you?" Donghyuck winks, and Jaemin reaches out to pinch his arm but he runs away, giggling.
Jaemin crosses his arms, staring at the spot where he had just been, and it takes him twenty humiliating minutes to get ready to leave. He wasn't even sure if he owned swim trunks, but now they're shoved inside his bag and he's on public transportation with Donghyuck.
Cuddling up to him for warmth, Jaemin warns: "If you try any funny business, I'll let you drown."
"No CPR for me, then?" Donghyuck asks teasingly. "And here I was dreaming of some mouth to mouth action. How silly of me!"
Jaemin can't even bring himself to laugh, because what the hell? Did he really— is he really— he stares, but Donghyuck is chuckling softly to himself and looking out of the window.
Right, of course. The sun is out and so is Donghyuck, back to his usual self and ready to pull at everyone's pigtails. Jaemin is no exception. He stays silent for the rest of the ride only so that he won’t run his mouth off about what kind of mouth to mouth action he’d been hoping they’d engage with on one of these days.
Finally, they get to the sports center, and Jaemin lets himself be dragged all the way to the indoor pool. He's sure he has never set foot on this place ever, much differently from Donghyuck who has been here since day one — he walks with familiarity through the place, talking excitedly about his favorite spots, and it's easy for Jaemin to picture him here.
The indoor pool number 3 is vacant, not a single soul but them, and it even makes Jaemin doubt the veracity of Donghyuck's words but the latter has a card to unlock the doors so that must mean they're allowed to get inside. That, or Jaemin is trespassing private property for a boy. How fun! His skin is buzzing with excitement.
"So, this is what you do every week," Jaemin muses once they're inside. It's a big, big pool and the water is just at the right temperature — he has never swimmed in an Olympic pool before. "How fun. I’ll race you to the other side and whoever wins gets to do the other’s dishes for a week."
"Are you sure you want to do that?" Donghyuck asks before he dives quickly to help brush his hair back — Jaemin has to look away because it's absurd just how good someone can look with wet hair. Foolish mortals like the rest of the world don't have such privileges.
Honestly? Jaemin is not sure. But he's never going to back away. He nods, floating closer to the edge of the pool. "Why, are you afraid that I'm going to beat your ass?"
Donghyuck lets out a laugh as he swims closer. "Well, it's 25 meters long. Last chance to change your mind."
"I will not change my mind," Jaemin insists, and Donghyuck nods as he pushes himself off the pool.
Well, looking at it now, he can see that his idea was stupid. This pool is ginormous. He fakes a smile once he's stepping onto that little thing that swimmers step on before launching themselves onto the water like missiles — he's probably going to slip and embarrass himself in no time. He takes a look at Donghyuck on the other lane to say something witty but gets distracted by how hot he is, he barely listens as Donghyuck says:
"On the count of three. One, two—"
Shit. They dive at the same time, Jaemin less graciously of course, and he thinks he's doing fine — it isn't that hard. He just has to keep swimming, and swimming, and swimming, and swimming…
"Okay, I'm tired, I'm very tired!" he yells as he comes to a stop, his legs hurting and arms not doing much better. Fuck. “Oh, God, this sucks.”
And now he can't stop thinking of that one Teen Wolf scene in which Derek has been thrown into the pool but his body is paralyzed by kanima venom. Oh, my God, why did he start thinking of this now? Maybe he shouldn't have chosen a lane in the middle. He's going to drown—
"Got you," Donghyuck says as he appears out of nowhere, his arms around Jaemin's torso. His smile is blinding because he knows just how much he ate Jaemin up with this one.
"I'll give it to you, this is harder than I thought," Jaemin pants, and he lets his head fall to Donghyuck's shoulder for a bit so he can take a huge breath and not feel like he's going to die. "And now I'm never going to believe you when you say it's too tiring to do a grocery run. You do this, like, every day. What the hell."
"Yeah, I do," Donghyuck laughs. They're moving, Jaemin doesn't know where to, but he lets himself be dragged, and it isn't until they're floating near the edge of the pool that he speaks up again.
"Think I'll grow taller if I join the swim team?"
Donghyuck rolls his eyes. "No, look at me. But you'll have better posture for sure. And it'll help you improve your heart condition."
"I don't care for my heart," Jaemin replies. Oh, the implications of what he just said. He realizes then that he should probably put some respectful distance in between them, but if anyone asks, his legs are so tired. He plays with the hair at the back of Donghyuck's neck. "Maybe I'll just come here and have you carry me everywhere."
Donghyuck rolls his eyes again, but the way he spins them around the water tells him he doesn't absolutely hate the idea — his hands are on Jaemin's ribs, finger tracing each of them, and he says something but Jaemin barely registers it, too busy staring at his mouth.
There you have it. The elephant in the room, or rather the swimming pool. Jaemim wants to kiss him so bad that it makes him feel stupid, and he thinks he even accidentally lets out a groan in frustration as Donghyuck licks the water from his lips absentmindedly. It's insane just how much he wants him and that little curl on Donghyuck's top lip that renders him a permanent grin — Jaemin wants to kiss him so bad that he forgets his own name.
"What are you looking at?" Donghyuck asks. "Lost something on my face?"
He's such a little shit. Jaemin can't even bring himself to answer, just rests one of his hands on Donghyuck's shoulder and takes a deep breath. He feels like he has swimmed countless laps around this pool.
Then, one of Donghyuck's hands comes up to his face, brushing off the hair plastered to his skin. His touch lingers, curling behind Jaemin's ear for a moment, and then his thumb grazes his cheek, all the way to the corner of his mouth.
He can't breathe. Jaemin did tell him countless times just how much of a safety hazard Donghyuck is.
"I just realized you're a liar," Donghyuck tells him in a whisper. "You know how to swim. You’ve just been running from me all this time."
"I know how not to drown, it's different," Jaemin responds as he presses closer, not knowing where the guts to do so came from. Maybe it's the chlorine messing up with his senses. Donghyuck's hold on his waist tightens. "Maybe you can teach me how to butterfly swim one of these days."
"You do realize I’ll hold you accountable for this, right? You’re not getting away from me any longer."
He can't take it — Jaemin can't look at him knowing he can't have him. He'd sooner drown himself, but instead of doing so, he closes his eyes for what feels like a thousand years.
And then, suddenly, he feels a light kiss being pressed to his cheekbone. Jaemin doesn't dare open his eyes, afraid it was just a daydream, and tightens his hold on Donghyuck.
He feels another, then, this time lower on his cheek and more firmly. He leans into it, naturally, and exhales a shaky breath once Donghyuck presses their cheeks together, his eyelashes tickling Jaemin's face.
He's holding onto Donghyuck so firmly that it might as well bruise, afraid that if he lets go for a second, it will be over. His breaths come out ragged, were Jaemin to let go of him now, he wouldn't find the strength necessary to hold himself above the surface. When Donghyuck's thumb brushes against his skin once more, he's practically begging for a kiss, presenting his cheek to him pathetically, and this time Donghyuck's lips are on his skin for way longer.
Love me, Jaemin wants to plead. Choose me, pick me, do whatever you want with me. But his words are nowhere to be seen or heard. It wouldn't be the first time.
"Just so you know," Donghyuck whispers. "You were the spark."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Jaemin squeezes the back of his neck. God, Donghyuck is such an idiot for speaking— he opens his eyes. "Wait. Was I really?" Donghyuck nods. "Oh."
"Oh," Donghyuck echoes teasingly, and the next thing he knows, Jaemin is leaning in to close the distance between them.
It is not just like he dreamed, it is better. Jaemin wraps his arms around Donghyuck's neck and captures his lips. He wastes no time licking into his mouth — Jaemin has spent twenty years without this, and he's not about to slow down now. Donghyuck tastes like chlorine and his tongue burns against Jaemin's own, his lips velvety and so plump that when Jaemin sinks his teeth, he can't help but let out a sigh.
He doesn't know how Donghyuck is going to keep them afloat, but Jaemin tangles their legs together, very interested in not keeping an inch of them apart, but his reverie only lasts for a few seconds as Donghyuck leans back.
Before he can find it in himself to complain, they're moving, and Jaemin's back is pressed against the pool's wall. Donghyuck holds him up with his own body, chests pressed together, and Jaemin takes his sweet time mapping out the expanse of his back with his wandering hands.
It comes as no surprise that Donghyuck kisses like he swims: to win. He drinks in Jaemin's small sighs, licks at the seam of his mouth and slides his hands down Jaemin's thighs to hold him up. And Jaemin has never had shame in his life, so he's not shy about wrapping his legs around Donghyuck's hips, and laughs when the latter's breath hitches, the both of them sinking a little deeper in the water for a moment.
"Don't let me drown," Jaemin tells him as he cups his jaw with both hands, kissing at every patch of skin he can find.
"Wasn't planning to." Donghyuck replies, and Jaemin tilts his head to the side for better access.
Donghyuck pants as he holds onto the edge of the pool, and so Jaemin makes use of his free reign to lean down and press his lips to the column of his neck, mouthing at the wet skin until he bites down on the junction between his neck and shoulder. It's nothing, really, he wasn't planning on doing anything critical, but Donghyuck pushes himself away from the wall so quickly and so much strength that Jaemin finds him a few meters away.
"You're a heathen and I hate you," Donghyuck tells him before he sinks down on the water.
Jaemin is laughing once he resurfaces close to him again, and his hands come up to cup Donghyuck's jaw, so he can take a good look at his flushed face. Of course, he must not be in any better shape, but Jaemin leans in and kisses his cheeks adoringly like he's always wanted to do.
"Was it worth it?" he asks at last.
Donghyuck stares at him, dumbfounded for a moment before he nods, dropping a kiss at the corner of his mouth. "More than you can imagine."
There are some eerie things in this apartment at night that Jaemin is quite fond of, as one would naturally be fond of what accompanies them at night.
For one, the shadow that one of Jeno's plants casts beside the TV rack that is positively blacker than the usual shadow — sometimes Jaemin sees it move, or he likes to believe that he does. The glow of the moon where she touches the couch, coming through the large glass door that leads to a small balcony. The humming of the refrigerator; sometimes it makes a horrible sound that startles the shit out of Renjun at night, and both him and Jaemin pretend that doesn't happen. Jaemin himself, of course, who likes to sit on the small balcony when he can't sleep, his blonde hair like a halo under the moonlight.
"It scares the shit out of me," Donghyuck tells him as he adjusts the blanket over Jaemin's shoulders, kissing lazily at his jaw once he's done. "To see you sitting here alone. I'm going to have a heart attack at the ripe age of twenty."
"Is this why you've chosen to accompany me this time?" Jaemin asks.
Donghyuck hums accordingly. He wraps his arms tightly around Jaemin's waist, pulling him until he's partially on his lap, and Jaemin cups his face as he kisses him gently, like Donghyuck deserves to be kissed.
Well, when he's being nice. But he's been an angel and a dream all day, it's the least he can do.
"I must admit, it's kind of nice up here," Donghyuck comments amidst kisses. He leans his face to the view of the balcony, and Jaemin has half a heart to respond as he kisses his cheek, his jaw. He thinks he must've kissed Donghyuck a thousand times already — Renjun started keeping count only so that he could annoy them, but announced he had lost track around four hundred.
An exaggeration, of course. Renjun closes his eyes and groans every time they kiss because he's a little shit.
"It's nicer with you," he responds. Donghyuck lets out a giggle, and Jaemin brushes a thumb under his eye — he's sleepy, but refuses to do so before Jaemin sleeps. Which means his sleep schedule is very fucked up now, to say the least. "Everything's better with you,"
"Oh, my God," Donghyuck groans. "You're such a sap. I can't stand it."
Jaemin smiles happily, for he never said that he wasn't. It's two in the morning and he's got Donghyuck in his arms, another eerie thing to keep him company and perhaps the most important of them, so why exactly shouldn't he be a sap?
"You wanna kiss me so bad, it makes you look stupid," Jaemin teases, and Donghyuck rolls his eyes before dropping his head to his shoulder. "No, seriously, you like me so much, you don't even know what to say. How embarrassing."
Donghyuck hums, one of his hands rubbing at Jaemin's stomach under the blanket. "If I loved you less, then I might be able to talk about it more," he yawns. "But you know what I am..."
"Sleepy?" Jaemin suggests. Donghyuck nods. "Let's go to bed then, love."
Donghyuck gets up, pulling the blanket with him to wrap around himself, and it's put to Jaemin to close the door to the balcony and follow him inside the apartment. They take refuge in Donghyuck's room, naturally, as Yangyang is already planning to get rid of Jaemin's bed so he can buy a bigger fish tank, and Jaemin stops by the door to watch as Donghyuck throws himself on top of the bed, face first on the pillow.
Then, he rolls over, and opens his arms. Jaemin closes the door behind himself and moves around in the dark familiarly. When he climbs onto the bed, Donghyuck is positively half asleep already, but he lets out a soft sigh when Jaemin leans in to press a kiss to his neck, and wraps his arms around him.
Sleep doesn't come to him easily like it happens to Donghyuck, but Jaemin doesn't mind. He'll be lulled to sleep by Donghyuck's steady breaths sooner or later, be it now or in a few hours, and for once Jaemin doesn't look forward to sleep because he needs it, but because there isn't any other way he'd rather fall asleep. He kisses Donghyuck's cheek, wishes a very goodnight to the moon, and closes his eyes.