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like a moth to a flame

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Jeno meets Na Jaemin on a cold July morning.

Specifically, at 8:49am before the first 9am Business Law lecture of the winter semester. More specifically, stood outside of the lecture theatre because the lecture before theirs in the hall has run overtime and they have no option but to wait outside in the cold.

As he’s walking towards the hall, Jeno notices Renjun (a friend he’d made via Donghyuck, Jeno's oldest friend and dormmate, who’d made friends with Renjun via their university choir and then subsequently forced Jeno and Renjun together so that he could save time and hang out with them both at once), huddled near the door, the operative word being huddled because he’s got another person tucked tightly under his arm.

Renjun is small, almost fine-boned, but he looks even smaller with a person wrapped around him like a blanket.

This other person, Jeno notes, is wearing what appears to be a hoodie and a zip up jumper over it, with a big padding coat over that, all 3 hoods pulled snug over their head as they cuddle into Renjun. Renjun, who: has only got one hoodie on and has started to go rosy in the face from the cold.

As Jeno walks towards them, the human shaped blob of cuddly fabric reaches up and grabs a chunk of Renjun’s cheek and coos loud enough for Jeno to hear, several metres away. He also hears Renjun’s almost-growl in response.

Jeno’s eyebrows furrow. He doesn’t remember Renjun saying anything about having a boyfriend. Especially one for him to be tangled up with outside of their Business Law lecture.

Renjun’s eyes find him as Jeno gets close enough for them to call their hello’s across the dewy grass (which is sign enough that it’s too early to be learning).

Snuggly Human looks up too. Snuggly Boy, Jeno realises. Snuggly Really Cute Boy with pink hair.

“Hey, Jeno,” Renjun chatters out, his teeth clacking in the cold.

Snuggly Really Cute Boy must squeeze Renjun where his arms are tight around his middle, because Renjun squeaks and looks down at Snuggly Cute Boy with in something between annoyance and disbelief.

“This is Jaemin,” Renjun says, motioning down at Snuggly Cute Boy, or Jaemin, with a tilt of his head because that’s all he can move without dislodging him.

The boy is looking at Jeno when Jeno follows the movement of Renjun’s head to look down at his face. His eyes track down Jeno’s body like he’s appraising him.

The boy makes a noise of consideration.

“He looks warmer than you, Junnie,” he says, head tilted up to look at Renjun from where it’s laid against Renjun’s chest.

Renjun grunts a sharp noise and lifts his free arm, the one that Jaemin isn’t crowded under, to flick him hard in the forehead. Jaemin whines. “Go fucking bother him then,” Renjun says, using both hands to try and yank them apart.

Not boyfriends then.

Jaemin’s face lights up like he’s been given permission, and he looks straight to Jeno, who tilts his head with a slightly furrowed brow.

Jaemin finally undoes his knot of arms from around Renjun’s waist (who sighs, loud and dramatic, in relief). “Do you mind if I-?” He asks, but by the time he’s even barely through the question, he’s walked right up to Jeno, facing forwards, and wrapped his arms around him. He then walks himself closer so they’re chest to chest, nuzzling a little into Jeno’s neck, and letting out a contented hum right as Jeno makes a shrill noise of confusion.

Renjun sighs again and Jeno has to peer around the puffiness of the hood of Jaemin’s outer coat to see him.

“This is Jaemin,” Renjun says again, “he’s a pain in my ass, and now, he’s a pain in yours,” Jeno feels his eyes widen a little bit more. “Also, he gets cold easily.”

Jaemin giggles into his neck, a little noise but the vibration makes Jeno shiver. Jaemin burrows in closer, like Jeno’s shiver was an invitation to warm him up.

“Not even cold,” Jaemin whispers, giggle still present in his voice, shifting his head so his lips are closer to Jeno’s ear. He barely represses another shiver. “I just like to snuggle.”

Jaemin doesn’t let go until the previous class files out of their lecture hall more than 5 minutes later and Jeno can’t feel his toes.

His upper half is quite toasty though.

He thinks he can feel someone’s eyes on him in the rows behind where he’s sat in the front row and Jaemin and Renjun are sat in the back but he puts effort into paying it no mind and focuses on the Professor explaining their assessment plan for the semester.

\ (★^∀^★) /

The next time Jeno sees Na Jaemin is at 1 o’clock in the morning at a frat party, two nights later.

And it’s by pure chance, because Jeno is only at this party on an extraction mission for Donghyuck after receiving several voice memos of him crying. Crying about what, Jeno isn’t sure, because the voice memos were more blubber and wet noises of anguish than actual words. Jeno took this as even more reason to rescue Donghyuck urgently, forgoing putting actual clothes on in favour of just staying in his pyjamas. He has no one to impress anyway.

He’s been looking for a crying Donghyuck for at least 6 minutes when he spots a head of pink hair. A head of pink hair attached to a body wearing a crop top and glitter on his face that shimmers under the ugly, orange, Tungsten light of the living room and makes his cheekbones stand out like they’re carved.

The strands of pink flash in and out of sight as Jeno stands there, almost rigid, and watches the crowd move around Jaemin and Jaemin move within it. Jeno thinks the music is too loud, has thought so since he had to knock 4 times to be let in, but Jaemin looks lost in it.

Jeno is only at this party to make sure Donghyuck doesn’t cry himself to death in a frat house. Jaemin looks like the life of it.

Jeno loses sight of Jaemin’s bright hair for maybe the 6th time and decides he should put more effort into saving Donghyuck, who might well have passed out and/or away by now.

He checks all the rooms he can get into on the first floor, then treks up the stairs, past several couples making out far too passionately for 1 o’clock in the morning to check upstairs.

He’s losing confidence in his mission by the time he’s walking back down the big staircase sans Donghyuck.

As he’s on his way to check outside, in case an emotional Donghyuck has decided he needed some crisp middle-of-the-night air, he spots Jaemin again, this time with a cup in his hand, facing towards Jeno as he dances.

Jeno watches him for another few seconds, it again leaving his mind that Donghyuck could very well be dead. Jaemin looks up right as he’s about to turn away.

The boy’s eyes twinkle like the glitter pressed on his skin as his eyes widen in recognition quickly, before he winks right at Jeno.

Jeno waves, stilted.

He finds Donghyuck sat in a plant pot with only one shoe on when he finally makes it outside, his face pink and wet. He’s looking down at his exposed sock, where there’s quite a big hole over his pinky toe, which seems to be what making him cry. (Jeno can tell this because Donghyuck lets out another sob with every wiggle of his toes).

“Oh, Hyuck,” Jeno says, after a particularly loud, hiccupy wail. “Let’s get you home.”

He ends up getting soil all over his shoes, and later all through the inside of his car from both Donghyuck’s ass and his own feet, as he heaves his sloppy roommate out of the pot and onto shaky legs.

Donghyuck whines like a kid when his socked foot is forced into contact with the floor and Jeno makes a short noise of empathy, strangled by the fact he’s currently baring Donghyuck’s entire weight.

“Hope you weren’t too attached to that shoe you’ve lost,” Jeno says, to which Donghyuck just makes a wilted noise of audible pout.

He doesn’t see Jaemin again as they walk (struggle) back through the party to the front door. Jeno just assumes he’s off glittering somewhere else.

\ (★^∀^★) /

The class before them must have been let out early before their Business Law lecture the next week because the door is wide open when Jeno arrives. As he steps into the classroom to find a seat and get himself ready for the class, he notices Renjun and Jaemin sitting up at the back of the room again.

Jeno is a second away from beelining it right to his soon-to-be usual seat at the front when Jaemin spots him and starts patting the seat next to him with bright eyes.

“Jeno!” Jaemin whisper-shouts, pausing for a second before resuming his thumping at his neighbouring chair.

Renjun, sitting on the other side of him, looks disparagingly at Jaemin and then pleadingly at Jeno as other people in the lecture hall start to turn toward all the noise Jaemin's making.

Jeno, tightening his hands on his backpack straps, starts up the stairs to where Jaemin has just made a noise similar to a hoot of joy.

“Hey, Renjun. Hey, Jaemin,” Jeno says, sitting down heavily in the seat next to Jaemin. Jaemin’s got a half-peeled orange in his lap that he picks up and resumes peeling once Jeno’s sat down, cheekily-content smile on his face.

“Hey, Jeno. Did Hyuck get home safe on Thursday night? He called me at like midnight and cried about that kid in his sound engineering class for like 10 minutes,” Renjun says, looking across Jaemin, who’s started eating his orange, to look at Jeno.

“Yeah, actually. I got a couple calls too, except he was past the point of making words by then, and was sobbing about a hole in his sock when I got there,” Jeno replies, and Renjun huffs a laugh.

Jaemin makes a high noise of recognition.

“Oh my god, I thought I saw you there! I didn’t know whether I’d imagined you,” he says, a step too enthusiastic for 9am on a Tuesday morning.

Renjun snorts.

“Why would your imagination conjure up an Asian man in his pyjamas, whilst you’re maximum sheets to the wind?” Renjun laughs, taking a segment of Jaemin’s orange as it’s offered to him. Jeno shakes his head when Jaemin offers him his own (he’d just brushed his teeth and that would be gross) and doesn’t even bother to argue with Renjun about the pyjama’s thing because he isn’t wrong.

Jaemin hums around his mouthful, swallows and then pops another segment into his mouth. “Hot Asian man in a tight t-shirt and flannel pants, while I was politely drunk,” he corrects, chewing.

Jeno feels his face warm over the sounds of Renjun quiet but passionate gag and Jaemin’s pleased giggle.

Jaemin’s speaking directly to Jeno a few seconds later when he asks, “Do you usually wear your pyjamas to parties?” His eyes are wide with curiosity.

Jeno looks from him to their lecturer who’s just starting to get himself organised at the front of the room, just so he doesn’t have to look at Jaemin anymore.

“No. I mean, I've been to one other party but I wore jeans to that one,” Jeno replies, and Jaemin makes an affronted noise.

“One other party?” Jaemin says it like Jeno's said he's been to the moon.

“Jeno hates parties. Doesn’t go anywhere except to boring uni shit and to Donghyuck’s aid when he’s danger drunk in a stranger’s house,” Renjun says, simply.

Again, Jeno doesn’t bother to argue with him because he isn’t wrong.

“Noooooooooo,” Jaemin just-about yowls making the lecturer look up at them sharply in alarm, so Jeno has to quickly look away from him as well, his only option to look back at Jaemin.

Jaemin has his brows pulled tight together in a show of mock insult, his lips puffed out.

“You’re missing out on the uni experience! Your degree feels so much shorter when you can’t remember two days of each week cos you’ve blacked out every Thursday night! I’m stuck here for 4 years but at this point, I’ll only remember about 2 and a half!”

Renjun barks a laugh but Jaemin doesn’t break his now innocently persuasive expression, eyes still trained on Jeno so he sees just how wide Jeno’s eyes go.

“I’m kidding,” Jaemin amends, cracking a smile, and waits just long enough for Jeno’s worried expression to smooth before he says, “More like 3, probably.”

Jeno makes a stressed noise and Renjun laughs again.

“God, he’ll be insisting you call him when you’re too drunk like Donghyuck does if you scare him anymore.” Renjun mutters, flicking Jaemin on the shoulder, causing him to drop his expression to laugh.

“I wouldn’t mind that. I do always manage to get home but I'll be missing something the next morning. Lost one of my favourite shoes once. Just the left one,” Jaemin says on a laugh, gathering his finished orange peel to take it to the bin before their lecture starts.

Jeno makes another, more stressed, sound.

Jaemin laughs and pats Jeno’s leg, getting up and skirting around Jeno to get out into the aisle. “I’ll give you my number. You’re welcome to come and rescue me.” Jaemin winks, like he did the other night, and then he’s gone, off down the hall stairs to the bin at the front of the room.

Jeno watches him go.

A seat away from him, Renjun makes a noise of dismay, reaching across Jaemin’s empty seat to pat his arm consolingly.

“You’re never getting rid of him now,” he declares.

\ (★^∀^★) /

Less than a week passes before Jeno sees Jaemin again.

And on a glance (then a second glance because he had to do a double take), Jeno wasn’t even sure it actually was Jaemin he was looking at.

Because why would Jaemin be perched, leaning on his elbows with his chin in his hands, in a booth for Student Orientation Day? Specifically, under a big sign that, in clearly hand-painted font, announced the booth to be, ‘Open For Kisses!!!!!!!! :D”

Him and Donghyuck had been walking back from lunch at the campus cafeteria, Jeno full of food and Donghyuck’s pockets full of stolen packets of ketchup from the condiment bar so he doesn’t have to buy his own. They’d decided to walk the long way past the lawns, having seen the Student Orientation Day booths setting up there on their way to classes earlier. Jeno had even entertained the idea of joining a club or two.

And then, he spots Jaemin, his pink hair shiny and golden in the sunlight and his body very definitely stood right under a sign declaring him open for kisses.

Jeno stops in his tracks, so haltingly that Donghyuck, who’d been a few steps behind him, walks right into his back with a thud.

“Jeno, fucking hell. I think you’ve given me a concussion.” Ever-dramatic Donghyuck grumbles, hands patting down his sides to check for injuries. Even though the most he could have gotten is a scuffed shoe toe from where he’d kicked Jeno in the back of the ankle on impact. To be fair, Jeno’s probably likely to have sustained worse injury.

“Sorry, Hyuck. Just saw something.” Jeno says sheepish but still not quite on balance, not looking at Donghyuck as he pats an apologetic hand over his shoulder.

“What could you have possibly seen in amongst the-,” Donghyuck pauses to make a show of surveying their surroundings, “Student Orientation Day booths that made you stop dead and nearly kill me?”

Jeno watches, silent, as a shy looking girl gets pushed towards a cheeky looking Jaemin by a laughing friend, watches as she drops a coin into a very full glass jar. Watches as Jaemin says something quick which makes the shy girl ease a little, then watches as she leans forward and pecks Jaemin softly on the cheek. Jaemin grins and says something else, to which the girl laughs.

By this point, Donghyuck has followed a mute Jeno’s line of vision and is also watching the interaction, mischievous smile growing on his face.

He hums loudly, in mock, exaggerated contemplation, and Jeno jumps a little, eyes jumping back to Donghyuck, who hums again after sighting Jeno’s caught expression.

“Do you want a kiss? My sweet, little, gay Jeno?” Donghyuck wheedles, pinching at Jeno’s cheeks. Jeno scrunches his face up and flicks his hand away, which makes Donghyuck laugh. “C’mon, let’s go and get Jaemin to kiss you.”

Donghyuck starts to yank at Jeno’s arm to pull him in the direction of the booth.

“Wait, you know Jaemin?” Jeno asks, dragging his heels as Donghyuck uses all of his strength to move him across the lawn. He tuts at Jeno’s question and lets go of his arm with one hand to poke him in the ribs.

“Of course I know Jaemin, everyone does. He goes to all the parties I do and he’s fun. You’d know him too if you weren’t geriatric at 19.” Donghyuck rolls his eyes and Jeno lets himself be dragged closer to the booth. “Besides, little old you isn’t going to get the chance to kiss Na Jaemin ever again so you may as well take this opportunity like the blessing it is.”

Jeno splutters and Donghyuck uses this pause to give a final yank so they both end up right in Jaemin’s line of vision.

Jaemin looks every part as relaxed and calm as he did from 20 metres away as he stands up when he sees the two of them.

“Jeno! Hey, Hyuck!” He says excitedly, brushing a hand back through his hair.

From here, Jeno can see that there’s a little board just inside the booth that displays a short but long-enough-to-make-Jeno-blush-and-swoon price list. Kisses on the cheek are $2, kisses on the mouth are $10 and pink ribbon pins are $5, and all money donated goes towards the university’s breast cancer research fund.

“Hey, Jaem. How’s your afternoon been?” Donghyuck asks mirthfully, eyes zipping from the almost-full jar to Jaemin’s lip-balmed lips, and Jaemin laughs.

Jeno starts patting down his pockets to find his wallet.

“It’s been good. Worst part is that I haven’t had break for lunch yet because we’re bringing in such good tips so far that our campaign manager won’t let me leave the booth for any more than 3 minutes until the event’s done.” Jaemin replies, smacking his lips and Donghyuck laughs.

Jaemin’s eyes cut to Jeno, who’s found his wallet and is in the process of pulling out a $20 note when Jaemin makes a noise of interested delight.

“Wow, Jeno,” he says, shuffling around behind the booth to lean out towards them more comfortably, looking like the cat who got the cream, as Jeno moves over to put his money in the jar. “Now, do you want 20 cheek kisses or 2 on the lips? You know what, cause you’re currently our top contributor, I’ll cut you a deal. 4 on the lips and I’ll give you my autograph. Or, I guess you can have 4 ribbon pins but that’s not as fun.”

By the end of his sales pitch, Donghyuck is laughing quite openly and Jeno’s ears have gone red. Jaemin tilts his head, with a soft, inviting smile on his face.

Jeno shakes his head.

“No, it’s okay. You don’t have to do anything. Actually, wait, a ribbon please? Just one. I just want to donate. It’s a good cause.”

Jaemin looks shocked for one second before his smile grows and he turns to grab Jeno a pin from his little stash behind the booth.

“You’re sweet,” Jaemin says as he hands it over to Jeno but then he makes a short noise of disappointment as Jeno grabs it. “I want a kiss though.”

Donghyuck inhales a laugh and slaps Jeno hard on the back.

He looks positively gleeful when Jeno turns around with his red cheeks to wince at the hit. Donghyuck shakes his head almost mockingly. “I’m going to see if Mark’s running the Christian Club booth. Maybe I’ll pay him to give me a kiss. Don’t be stupid while I’m gone,” he says as a warning, and then he’s off into the crowd.

Jaemin’s looking at him with innocent expectance when Jeno turns back around.

“I’m not going to pay you to let me kiss you? It feels like that would be taking advantage.” Jeno explains, shoving his wallet back into his jeans and busying himself sorting his pin out on the front of his t-shirt.

From where he’s looking down at his front, he just about sees Jaemin reach out with two hands to fist in his shirt and pull him in so he can land a solid, tingly kiss on the high of his cheekbone.

“Not taking advantage if I do the kissing though,” Jaemin says, hands loosening in Jeno’s top. His eyes rake over the cheek he’s just kissed and then he’s raising a hand to swipe his thumb over the spot his lips had touched. “Sorry, left a bit of lip balm on you,” he apologises, letting go of Jeno and leaning back to wipe his tacky thumb his own jeans.

Jeno’s cheek is still tingling.

“Do you wear Carmex?” Jeno asks, spoken a bit like they’re the first words he’s ever said and Jaemin looks at him, his eyes creasing as he reaches into the front pocket of his jeans to pull out his Carmex tube.

Jeno nods but doesn’t say anything.

“How did you know?” Jaemin laughs lightly.

Jeno taps his own fingers over the spot Jaemin kissed.

“Tingles. Should have guessed you were a tingly lip-balm type person,” Jeno says, smiling because Jaemin is.

Jaemin smiles bigger, with bright eyes then looks at the jar like he’d forgotten for a second.

“Thank you for your donation. And for the kiss,” Jaemin murmurs, leaning back down onto the booth so his weight is on his elbows and he’s looking up at Jeno.

“You’re welcome. For both,” Jeno replies.

And then, when he leaves Jaemin to his booth and finds Donghyuck (specifically, finds him kissing Mark Lee inside an unmanned Christian Club booth), he doesn’t say anything to Donghyuck’s probing questions other than pointing at his new pink ribbon pin.

\ (★^∀^★) /

That is, until Donghyuck ambushes him about it while he’s on the phone with his brother.

To be honest, Jeno should have expected something from Donghyuck when he’d given up so easily on his inqusition, then smiled like he’d been presented a golden opportunity for meddling when he walked out into their living room to see Jeno on facetime with Doyoung later that afternoon. Donghyuck is nothing if not an opportunist.

Doyoung had just finished filling Jeno in on the most recent episode of the drama he’d been watching when Donghyuck sidles right up to Jeno and snuggles into his side to watch Doyoung and make his presence known.

“Hey, Hyuck. How are you, kid? Anything happening?” Doyoung asks, his face creasing in a smile looking at his boyfriend’s younger brother who's his younger brother’s best friend.

(The story of how Donghyuck and Jeno got forced together into friendship is similar to that of Jeno and Renjun. Doyoung and Johnny, Donghyuck's older brother, started dating when the younger two were in 7th grade and the older two were in 12th. And of course, being in love in senior year meant driving to school together. But Johnny was the only one who had a car, and Doyoung was under a mandated oath to accompany Jeno to and from school every day for his freshman year so he didn't get kidnapped, so Donghyuck and Jeno got forced into the backseat of Johnny's little Kia and subsequently forced to be friends. Jeno regrets not putting more effort into resisting in moments like these, among others as he watches Donghyuck smile back in the little rectangle of their faces at the top right of his screen. He notices Donghyuck’s eyes twinkle with mischief and had only a split-second to worry absently before Donghyuck speaks.)

“Hey, hyungie. I’m good. Actually, something interesting did happen today,” Donghyuck intones almost melodically. Doyoung’s eyebrows raise in a mirthful smile and he hums in encouragement. Jeno feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Today was Student Orientation Day, right? So they had all these booths set up for clubs and fundraising stuff,” Donghyuck pauses and Doyoung makes a noise of assent.

“And there was a kissing booth,” he continues, to which Doyoung makes an inflated noise of enthralled curiosity.

Jeno whines.

“And right, so the booth is being run by this boy called Jaemin, right? Super cute, kind of a golden boy, you know? You know the type,” Doyoung nods in steadfast understanding, and Jeno makes an aborted noise that makes his brother laugh.

Donghyuck is almost grinning by this point. “And Jeno spots him from, like, a mile away and stops dead in his tracks, nearly murdering me in the process, and then gets all weird and spacey about it,” he’s got his hands up to gesticulate at this point.

“And then,” he emphasises and points a finger in the air, “he does his whole meek and mild thing with him, pays him $20 and then clams up when Jaemin starts flirting, at which point I leave because Jaemin is unbridled and I didn’t want to be an accomplice to Jeno’s death by excessive blushing,” Doyoung nods again, laughing but engrossed in the story.

Jeno has his head lolled back on the couch cushion behind him, staring listlessly at the ceiling and whining every few seconds.

“But!” Another one of Donghyuck’s fingers shoot up in the air. “I come back, and Jeno won’t speak a word of it!” Donghyuck exclaims and Doyoung sounds a plaintive hum.

“Now, I know you must share my concern,” Donghyuck lowers his voice, feigning seriousness. “Please, help me solve the puzzle of how Jeno remains alive when I was sure I was going to return to his lifeless, kiss-killed body.”

Jeno gurgles.

“Jeno, why would you keep this from me? You let me talk about Hotel De Luna, full well knowing we could have been talking about you being kissed!” Doyoung demands, laughing, at which point Johnny’s head pops into the frame of the Facetime screen. Doyoung's phone camera jolts as Johnny pulls Doyoung back towards him, into his chest.

“Jeno got kissed? Nice, bro,” Johnny says, resting his chin on the flat of Doyoung’s shoulder from behind.

Jeno groans and Donghyuck laughs.

“Fucking hell. Alright. God,” There’s a tight silence and Donghyuck pulls in a harsh, anticipatory breath. “He kissed me on the cheek,” Jeno grits out, ears flaming.

Donghyuck squeals like a pig.

“Oh my fucking god, you’ve gone red. You loser! What has this boy done to you?” Doyoung exclaims and Jeno sighs.

“Fuck, I don’t know? There’s just something interesting about him.” Jeno replies, just as lost as Doyoung.

Donghyuck scoffs.

“Well, yeah. He’s the exact anti-thesis of you. He’s a flame and you’re a moth,” he has his head titled forward on an angle like what he’s saying is obvious fact. Maybe it is. “Of course he’s got you interested.”

“Oh my god, Jeno has a crush,” Doyoung mutters, more to himself than to any of the other three.

Jeno huffs air out of his nose in discontentment.

“Nice, Hyuck. And doesn’t that sound like the most requited situation ever,” he says, disgruntled.

Donghyuck shrugs.

“Jeno, you should see him at parties. It’s genuinely like he’s magnetic. You’re not the only person who he has like this. You heard what he said about the booth donations,” he says, and Jeno slumps into the couch cousins a bit in defeat because he’s right. Donghyuck pats his chest consolingly.

“Hey, you should still try!” Johnny says, and all three of them look at him like he’s silly. “He might like moths,” he finishes, easy smile on his face.

Doyoung laughs and Jeno slides flatter down the couch.

“No one fucking likes moths, hyung,” Donghyuck laughs.

Jeno can’t even argue.

\ (★^∀^★) /

Jeno isn't planning on telling anybody about this thing he has for Jaemin. Except then he does.

“How did you meet Jaemin?” He asks Renjun, about 45 minutes into their study session at the library the next day.

Renjun snorts a quiet little laugh, like he’d been expecting the question, which is weird because Jeno hadn’t even anticipated it coming out of his mouth until he heard it at the same time as Renjun did.

Renjun keeps flicking through the pages of his textbook across from Jeno like whatever he’s looking for is more important that looking at Jeno as he responds.

“He asked me to go to the Law Ball with him in first year,” Renjun says, like it’s nothing, to Chapter 18 of their Property Law textbook readings.

Jeno pauses for a second.

“Oh,” he says, stilted because that isn’t what he’d expected, and Renjun makes that laugh noise again then casts his eyes up at Jeno, who is absently aware he’s pulling a stupidly vacant expression.

Renjun makes the noise for a third time. Then looks back down at his textbook and keeps flicking.

“Ask me what I said back to him,” Renjun says.

Jeno asks him what he said back to him.

“I said no,” Renjun replies, finding the right chapter the textbook then focusing his full attention on Jeno.

Jeno’s still pulling the same face.

“Oh,” he says again, differently this time.

Renjun raises his eyebrows like he’s expecting follow-up questions. Jeno is apparently very easy to predict.

“So, he asked you out,” Jeno says slowly then pauses and Renjun tilts his head, eyebrows still up, “and you said no,” Jeno pauses again and Renjun nods once, “but now you’re friends?” Renjun nods again.

Jeno nods back.

“When I said no, I told him we could be friends instead because I felt bad. And so, our friendship was born out of his unwavering confidence and my misplaced guilt,” he then apparently gets bored of the conversation again because he goes back to looking at his textbook.

Jeno thinks on what he’s said for a second.

“I don’t think I’d ever let you see my face again if you rejected me,” Jeno says, almost wondrously.

Renjun sucks his teeth, as if in mock regret.

“I hope that’s not you saying you have a crush on me because I’ll reject you and you’d have to stop coming to lectures,” he gets a pen out of his bag and starts taking notes on the page he’s reading. “He told me a couple of months later that he’d asked me purely because he wanted to be friends but didn’t think I’d say yes to that. And by that time it was too late to get rid of him. He’s a pain in the ass.”

Jeno laughs.

“He’s definitely interesting.”

Renjun makes that noise again and doesn’t look up.

“Hyuck told me to expect you to ask about him. He said interesting was the word you were using,” he gets his highlighter out and highlights a few words in his notes. Jeno watches. “If you told Jaemin you had a crush on him and he rejected you, you’d still have to stop coming to lectures,” Renjun says.

“Don’t know what’s a better reason to not tell him then, getting rejected or getting a sleep in on a Tuesday morning,” Jeno says, mock contemplatively, resigning himself to opening his stupid, fat Property Law textbook.

Renjun laughs.

Consider Jeno effectively discouraged.

\ (★^∀^★) /

Jeno starts seeing Jaemin everywhere after that.

He’ll walk the campus cafeteria to pick up a snack and spot Jaemin sat in amidst a crowd of other attractive people that Jeno’s never seen before. He’ll notice Jaemin pop into the coffee shop in the Business Building from where he himself is sat trying and failing to study in one of their booths. He’ll see Jaemin and his head of now faded pink hair swaying in the back of Snapchats Donghyuck posts on nights where he goes out.

And of course, he sees him every Tuesday for Business Law.

Jaemin whispers comments to the two of them and gets a pinch on the thigh from Renjun every time because he’s the only one out of the three of them (and probably the majority of the room) who’s actually listening to what the lecturer's saying.

Then Jaemin will turn to Jeno and they’ll share a secret little moment where Jeno’s smiling because he’s kind of enamoured or something, and Jaemin will smile because Jeno’s smiling at him.

And it’s fine.

Jeno’s nursing a kind-of crush.

He thinks it’s because there’s a thin line between Na Jaemin making him nervous because he’s scarily open and nervous because Jeno would like to kiss him.

He feels a bit like he’s playing hopscotch on the line.

The whole situation is made even more just fine by the fact that Jeno knows Jaemin is still going out to parties, looking like a daydream, because he sees him in various states of very drunk every time he has to go pick up Donghyuck. Which is often. And yet, Jaemin hasn’t called him once.

Jeno reasons it’s probably because Jaemin doesn’t want to burden him, or something like that.

Which he wouldn’t be.

Because Jeno would love another opportunity to see him, and also his mum says his way of giving love is acts of service so it really, really wouldn’t be a burden. Far from it.

Or maybe, he really doesn’t drink as much he’d made it sound. Maybe he’s completely safe and well and fine without Jeno’s help.

Jeno had asked Renjun one Tuesday morning when Jaemin had been late for their Business Law lecture and Renjun had said that Jaemin had lost his phone every time he’d gone to a party since first year of uni.

Renjun had also lamented that Jeno’s ‘infatuation’ with Jaemin was still weird because Jaemin’s a pain in his ass.

Which Jeno doesn’t agree with. Because Jaemin’s not even letting himself be a pain in Jeno’s ass.

It’s fine, though. Jeno understands.

He doesn’t have his hopes up.

But then, a couple of weeks later, Jeno’s an hour and 34 minutes through a tactical nap he’d decided to take after getting bored scrolling Instagram while waiting for Donghyuck to call him, when his phone (which is under his head, another tactical move for maximum reactibility) buzzes with a text message.

He blinks blearily at the unsaved number before his vision and rational though kick in.

hey! pls come and get me and hyuckie we’re drunk :/ pls thank u, sending kisses muah that was a kiss muah another one Muah that one was from hyuck :D

Jeno puts his shoes on and is out the door in minutes.

He finds Jaemin after a few minutes of scouring the sweaty party with eagle eyes, stalling a bit when he notices Jaemin is sitting with a head of light brown hair tucked into his neck, his face turned towards the person like they’re speaking to each other.

Then the head leans back and it’s Donghyuck and Jeno’s stomach unclenches.

Jeno starts walking over, his Drunk Person Protection Senses kicking him into movement before he has the thought to wonder if he’s interrupting something.

Jaemin notices him on his way over when he’s a few steps away and starts making grabby hands in his direction, the movement of which jostles Donghyuck, who leaps out of his seat as soon as he spots Jeno.

“Jeno! Hi! I was just telling Jaemin that you wouldn’t be long. My knight in shining armour,” Donghyuck says, grabbing at the sleeves of Jeno’s long sleeved pyjama shirt and dragging him back over to the couch.

“Your armour looks really comfy,” Jaemin says from his seat next to Donghyuck and Jeno looks down at him. All the loose-limbed, glossy, relaxed inches of him on display in the noisy room.

He looks good. But he usually does, so Jeno doesn’t let it affect him.

“Yeah, I was asleep. It is 3am on a Friday morning.” Jeno gripes, weirdly self-conscious unlike himself, quite tired and feeling minorly ambushed.

“Well, let’s get you to bed then,” Donghyuck says, standing up from the couch, “and also me to bed. I have a group meeting for a project in five hours. And I’m drunk.”

He reaches behind himself to grab at Jaemin’s arms and pull him up to his feet, then leans all of his weight on Jeno for him to drag back to the car. Jaemin laughs and hooks his arm around Jeno’s other bicep for ease of crowd-splitting probably, but otherwise holds his own weight for the walk back to the car.

Donghyuck falls asleep with his head lolling on Jeno’s shoulder somewhere between them walking through the kitchen and out the front door, because by the time they’re passing the welcome mat and emerging out into the frankly freezing night air, Jeno can hear little snores into his collarbone.

He’s lugged Donghyuck across his backseat, wrapped him up in his seat belt and opened the passenger side door for Jaemin before they speak again.

“Thanks for coming to get us,” Jaemin says, his eyes bright and his skin glowing silver in the streetlights as Jeno looks over from where he’s turned in his seat to reverse out of his parallel park.

“Of course,” Jeno replies after a second, looking back at the road and kind of at a loss as to how to respond. He doesn’t need thanking. It’s just what he does. “You live in student housing, right?” He asks, for something to say.

He sees Jaemin nod in his peripherals.

“Yeah, I live in Building 1, but you guys live in Building 4, don’t you? Just drop me off at yours and I’ll walk back,” Jaemin says, looking out the window as they drive down frat row back towards campus and their student housing.

Jeno’s eye widen, and he shoots a quick glance over at Jaemin.

“No,” he says quickly and Jaemin looks over at him, “it’s only like two more seconds in the car. I’m not picking you up from a house party just to make you walk home from a different house.”

Jaemin’s eyes track over his face and Jeno watches him and wonders what he’s thinking. Jeno looks back at the road. Donghyuck snores loudly.

“You’re so nice,” Jaemin murmurs, looking down at his hands and shifting his rings around on his fingers. He says it in the tone of voice that kids used to use to call Jeno shy, but softer. Like he’s just surprised.

Jeno hums, not sure how to reply, and drives them to Building 1.

“Thank you. Really,” Jaemin says again as he unbuckles his seatbelt after Jeno pulls into the Building 1 residents car park.

He looks so different than he usually does. Attainable. Even though he probably isn't, really.

“Of course,” Jeno says again, then realises he’s already said that, so he tacks on, “I told you you could call me if you needed me.”

Jaemin opens the car door and steps out, turning around to face Jeno again where Jeno’s turned in his seat to face him and they look at each other for a few seconds quietly. Donghyuck’s still snoring, except now they’re little snuffles like he’s lying face down with his nose smushed into the leather of the backseat.

“Yeah,” Jaemin says, his eyes round and roaming around Jeno’s face again before they stop on his mouth for a second then flick back to his eyes. “Goodnight, Jeno.”

Jeno blinks and tightens the one hand he still has on the steering wheel.

“Night, Jaemin. See you on Tuesday?” He asks, the end lilting with a little bit of hope.

Jaemin smiles, soft and toothy.

“See you on Tuesday.”

And with that, he smiles again and steps back from the car door to close it, walking backwards from the car to the steps of the building to wave before he turns around and disappears through the doorway.

Jeno waves back, feeling a little goofy. He sits there for a couple of seconds after Jaemin’s left his sight, then Donghyuck lets out a big huff of air, a big, heavy sigh. Jeno hums a laugh.

“Yeah. I know,” He says to his sleeping friend, starting to put the car in reverse to take them home before his phone rings.

Jeno freezes for a second, then puts the car back in park and reaches for his phone in the centre console. He looks, for the second time that night, at the unsaved number in confusion for a second before he slides the answer bar across the screen and holds the phone up to his ear.

“Hello?” He asks.

“You told me to call you if I need you, right?” Jaemin replies, sounding part apologetic and part embarrassed.

“Yeah?” Jeno says, already starting to smile.

“Well. Turns out I’ve misplaced my keys at some point during the night,” he pauses, a little like he doesn’t want to continue. Jeno waits. “Do you happen to have a couch I can borrow for a few hours?”

Jeno smiles at how out-on-a-limb Jaemin’s voice sounds.

“Yeah. Come back down. You’re lucky you caught me before I left the parking lot.”

Jeno puts his phone on speaker, then puts it back in the centre console, hearing Jaemin hum through the phone.

“I get the feeling you would have come to get me even if I’d called once you’d gotten back into bed,” he says, and Jeno can hear his steps in the background.

“You’re right,” Jeno agrees, without shame.

“So nice,” Jaemin says, his voice further away than it had been, like he didn’t intend for Jeno to hear him.

Jeno smiles.

\ (★^∀^★) /

They end up arguing about who’s taking the couch on the short drive to Jeno and Donghyuck’s building. And with neither side ready to concede, the argument continues after they get out of the car.

“Yeah, but you’re letting me stay out of the pure goodness of your little gold heart. I cannot take your bed. Won’t be taking advantage of your kindness like that,” Jaemin says decisively when they reach the dorm door, standing behind Jeno, who reaches around Donghyuck with the arm he’s using to keep the sleeping boy upright to grab his keys out of his pyjama pants.

“Right, but I don’t have class tomorrow. I can handle a sore back for the day. I’m not letting you walk home tomorrow morning with a hangover and a crick in your neck too,” Jeno replies, turning his key in the lock and forcing the stubborn door open.

Donghyuck sniffles and Jeno feels a little drip of drool wet the divot of his collarbone where Donghyuck’s burrowed. He pulls a face.

Jaemin just about dives to secure the couch as soon as Jeno has the door to their dorm room open.

“Considering the fact I didn’t drink tonight and feel absolutely fine, your point is moot. I’m taking the couch,” Jaemin says, with the same finality he’s had in his voice since the argument started.

Jeno’s eyes narrow and he squints at Jaemin, who’s looking up at him with smug defiance, taking Jeno's momentary pause as evidence that he’s won the argument.

“Alright, you’re lying. How the fuck did you manage to lose your keys if you aren’t drunk?” Jeno says, pointedly.

Jaemin’s expression goes sheepish.

“About that… I genuinely have no idea?” He tries and Jeno tsks in disbelief, walking further into the dorm room to where his and Donghyuck’s beds are pushed against opposite walls. “I know that sounds like a drunk me thing to do, but! I know I had them when I left home 'cause the door was locked when I tried to get in before and I live in a single so no one else could have locked it.”

Jeno hums in consideration, absolutely not having a bar of what Jaemin’s saying.

“I must have lost them at the party,” Jaemin says. “The party I didn’t drink at by the way,” he adds quickly.

“Right,” Jeno says dryly, throwing Donghyuck across his single bed once he’s close enough to it.

Donghyuck flops when he lands, not unlike a fish on land, but settles on his back, huffing in his sleep. The sweater he’s wearing rides up over the waist of his jeans in the process, so Jeno can clearly see the big, green, truly quite scary-looking teddy bear keychain hanging out of the front pocket of his pants. Which Jeno has never seen before.

Jeno’s eyebrows furrow for a second. Then it clicks.

“Do your keys happen to have an ugly teddy bear on them?” he says to Jaemin, staring at the thing that looks less like a teddy bear the longer Jeno spends looking at it.

Jaemin hums a questioning noise, like he thinks he’s misheard. “Yeah? Kinda upset that I’ve lost it actually, my younger brother made it out of a pair of socks when he was a kid,” he says fondly, then pauses. “How do you know about the sock monster?” He asks, confused.

Jeno leans down and grabs the weird-looking stuffed thing out of Donghyuck pocket, a set of miscellaneous keys coming out with it.

He turns to Jaemin, who’s swivelled himself around on the couch so he’s sitting facing the back of it and towards where Jeno’s standing, and holds the ring of keys up towards him.

Jaemin’s eyebrows raise, he blinks once and then his face bends into a toothy grin.

“That makes sense actually,” Jaemin says, in humoured understanding. “I remember using them to key a beer for him. He must have nabbed them after I said-,” his eyes widen just enough for Jeno to notice as he breaks off and doesn’t finish his sentence.

Jeno looks from Jaemin to the teddy bear thing then back to Jaemin. Donghyuck wriggles, like he knows even in sleep that he’s being caught out.

“After you said what?” Jeno tries.

Jaemin blinks, reaches out for his keys and smooths an endeared thumb over the sock object with an absently fond expression on his face when Jeno hands them to him, then puts his keys in his lap.

He looks up at Jeno.

“I told him I wanted to see you,” Jaemin says, looking a little bit caught. “And then he said that I should text you to get you to pick us up because he didn’t feel well. Clearly he was planning something.”

Jeno blinks, feeling a little bit lost.

“Oh,” he tilts his head. “You could have just texted me, like yesterday? The day before? Last time you got drunk? Anytime,” Jeno shuffles on his feet, feeling weirdly vulnerable.

“Didn't want you to see me drunk and messy but you only told me to text you when I needed you. And I wasn't about to text you for help on the Business Law homework," he laughs, almost depricatingly. "Rules out all of my options.”

Jeno nods, because what else is he meant to do.

“Well, I guess I give you express permission to text me whenever you want then,” he says, and smiles tentatively at Jaemin, who smiles back. "Also, seeing you drunk isn't going to ruin how I see you or anything? You don't have to worry about that," he explains, trying to sound genuine.

Jaemin's smile goes lopsided.

"And how do you see me?" He asks.

And how is Jeno meant to respond to that?

"I think you're interesting," he says, after a second.

Jaemin blinks a smile.

They're silent for a second, just looking at each other. Jeno still doesn't know if he's said the right thing. Then Jaemin says:

“Jeno, do you wanna go out with me?”

And Jeno pauses. He blinks once, opens his mouth like a fish, then blinks again. And again.

Jaemin raises his eyebrows and cheeks and squints, pulling a weird face of anticipation.

“Go out with you like Renjun type go out with you, or like,” Jeno stops, “like, go out with you, like out with you? Um,” he manages and Jaemin looks confused for a second before he barks out a laugh, which the volume of shocks Jeno into a jolt.

“He told you about that? Oh my god, I only told him I’d asked him out to be his friend when I'd gotten over him so that I could be less embarrassed that he’d rejected me. He’s fucking scary,” Jaemin laughs. “So yeah, I guess in a Renjun type way. The other way too. They’re the same,” he finishes. And waits for Jeno to respond.

Jeno choses to go about responding to what Jaemin's said in bite-sized chunks so that he doesn’t overload himself.

“You get embarrassed?” He asks, sounding shell-shocked even to his own ears.

Jaemin laughs again and lays an arm on the back of the coach, leaning his chin on it.

“Hard to believe?” He giggles, and Jeno is warm. “You’re gonna get a front row seat to me being embarrassed soon if we don’t stop talking around the fact I’ve just asked you on a date because I think you’re really hot and really sweet,” he pauses, and Jeno goes from being warm to being overheated in seconds. Jaemin smiles. “And I can’t even pretend it’s a friend thing because that would be very transparent of me.”

Jeno ends up smiling back at Jaemin despite himself.

Jaemin lifts his chin at Jeno, his eyes soft and encouraging, still waiting for a response.

“Let’s go on a date,” Jeno says and Jaemin’s eyes go all sparkly.

Donghyuck makes a noise in his sleep that sounds vaguely like a victory hoot. Maybe Jeno’s just projecting.

“Okay,” Jaemin says, toothy smile and shiny eyes.

\ (★^∀^★) /

They go on a lot of dates after that. And it’s great.

Jaemin really does make him feel like a moth to a flame most of the time, but! Most moths can’t say that their flames end up having a crush on them back, so.

And it ends up being Renjun who stops coming to Business Law lectures, after all. Purely because there’s, “No way in hell I’m sitting through both your honeymoon phase and Business Law simultaneously,” he says when Jeno asks why he’d missed class.

Also, Donghyuck takes full credit for getting them together, because he “May well be a drunk thief, but I’m also a drunk, thieving, Mastermind, Jeno. Don’t be fucking mean to me.”

Jeno still hates parties though. Even Jaemin can’t change that.