Jaehyun is thirteen the very first time he tells Doyoung he loves him. It’s his first month of high school and he’s being shoved into the lockers by a group of knucklehead jocks who’ve taken to picking on him. They push him against the lockers and hold him down as they rummage through his backpack and rifle through his pockets for lunch money and the only thing Jaehyun can do is stand still and hope they leave soon.
He squeezes his eyes shut and wills himself not to cry, but it’s already the third time they’ve cornered him this week and Jaehyun doesn’t know if he can take a whole year of this. It’s not his fault that he’s shorter and skinnier than his classmates, but the bullies don’t care about that—all they care about is how it makes it easier to step on him and throw him around.
If you told Jaehyun this was what high school was going to be like, he might have considered not going at all.
That’s when Doyoung appears, his crisp, clear voice cutting through the taunts of his tormentors.
“Let him go.”
Jaehyun cranes his head in an attempt to get a glimpse of his rescuer. Despite the busy hallways, it’s the first time someone has tried to help Jaehyun and he momentarily wonders who in the world was foolish enough to stand up for him against a pack of overgrown, brutish thugs. His eyes widen when he sees that the boy standing over them with sharp eyes is only a little taller than Jaehyun himself and just as lanky. He looks just as much a vulnerable target as Jaehyun himself.
The bullies turn their heads to look at whoever had dared interrupt them, and to Jaehyun’s great surprise, they don’t laugh or sneer or push the boy right up against the lockers next to him. Instead, a flash of hesitation passes over the face of the bully holding him in place, and to Jaehyun’s utter shock—his hold on the collar of his sweater loosens. Jaehyun sags back against the lockers, stunned, as the bullies frown and mutter amongst themselves, before dropping his backpack on the ground and scrambling away.
Jaehyun’s saviour takes a moment to glare at their retreating frowns with a smug smile before turning to check on Jaehyun with a concerned look.
“Are you alright?” he asks, voice soft and maybe the most beautiful sound Jaehyun has ever heard in his life.
Jaehyun stares at him in awe, so overwhelmed with gratitude and relief and admiration that he doesn’t notice the words slipping from his mouth until they’re out.
“I love you.”
The boy raises an amused eyebrow and Jaehyun kind of wants to beat himself up for saying such a stupid thing to what was essentially a total stranger.
“No—” Jaehyun stutters out quickly, already feeling the blush creep up his neck, “I mean—thank you. That was really cool.”
To his relief, the boy doesn’t seem bothered or put off, his face spreading into a genuine smile.
“It’s no big deal,” he says, picking Jaehyun’s backpack off the ground and handing it to him, “You must be hungry after all that. You can eat with me, I packed extra.”
Jaehyun offers a small nod in reply, perking up at the idea of not having to spend lunch hungry and alone again. The boy walks to his side and loops their arms together, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, before leading the way to the cafeteria.
The boy, as Jaehyun quickly learns, is named Doyoung and he’s a year older than Jaehyun. He explains how his brother is the coach of the school’s football team and the reason why the bullies dissipated so quickly after he showed up is because they don’t want to anger him or risk being benched. Ever since he got a star player benched for the whole season for trying to pick on him, the jocks know not to get on Doyoung’s bad side.
Jaehyun listens intently as he munches on his half of Doyoung’s shared sandwich, making sure to butt in several times to remind Doyoung how grateful he is that he came to his rescue.
“I told you,” Doyoung says with a shrug, “It’s no big deal. I know what it’s like to be on the other side.”
Even so, Jaehyun can’t help but beam at him. In that one little move, he’s just managed to turn Jaehyun’s entire semester around. He freezes when Doyoung’s hand suddenly reaches out to smooth out the top of his hair before ghosting his fingers down to brush over one of his cheeks. Jaehyun’s face feels hot.
“I’ve never seen dimples so deep before,” he says, voice so light and casual Jaehyun doesn’t know how to take it.
His face falls, feeling the familiar sensation of insecurity creep up on him, before Doyoung quickly speaks up again.
“It’s a good thing,” he says, making sure to look at him right in the eyes, “I like them.”
I like you. Jaehyun’s mind supplies out of nowhere, and he’s grateful he has enough sense to hold his tongue this time.
“Thank you,” he says instead, probably for the millionth time that afternoon and still meaning every letter of it.
Sophomore year brings with it a horde of changes. Jaehyun finally hits his long-awaited growth spurt and he shoots up like a tree. He gets stronger—wider—and the bullies don’t dare to pick on him and it’s no longer just because he’s best friends with Doyoung. He joins the football team himself and it doesn’t take long for Jaehyun to become the coach’s favourite. His older bullies can’t do anything but look on in poorly concealed envy as he’s the only player who gets to call Coach Kim ‘Gongmyung-hyung’. The very same Gongmyung-hyung he gets the pleasure of sitting across the table from every Saturday morning for breakfast at the Kim household during his weekly sleepovers with Doyoung.
Jaehyun gets a proper haircut and goes from being ignored in the halls on his way to class to being greeted by peers and teammates every few steps. He’s not used to the changes, finding all the newfound attention awkward and daunting, but he takes it in stride. It’s all background noise because he has Doyoung, his one constant through it all.
For better or worse, Doyoung still treats him the same—he still walks up and pokes his cheeks and invites him to lunch every day without fail—though there’s no need or anyone Jaehyun would rather eat with. He still brings extra portions of his sandwich to shove into Jaehyun hands, even when he has his own lunch. Jaehyun always accepts them without complaint each time, because Doyoung’s sandwiches are tasty and Jaehyun knows he won’t take no for an answer.
“Wait,” Doyoung stops Jaehyun in the halls on their way back from lunch, “stand still.”
Jaehyun obeys easily, freezing mid-step and watching curiously as Doyoung moves himself so they are standing face to face. He gives Jaehyun a funny look, raising a hand and moving it from his head to Jaehyun’s. It takes Jaehyun a second to realize Doyoung is trying to measure their heights.
“Huh,” Doyoung says, lips turning into a frown, “you’re taller than me now.”
It appears to be a surprising revelation for Doyoung, who looks Jaehyun up and down like it’s his first time seeing him. Jaehyun decides not to mention how he’s been at least a good inch taller for Doyoung for at least three months now.
“Oh really?” Jaehyun says, biting back a laugh, “I guess I am.”
Doyoung purses his lips, still looking displeased, “You grew up too fast.”
“It’s okay, Doie,” he assures him, smiling wide and proud, “I still love you, even if you are short now.”
Doyoung huffs, but his face begrudgingly breaks out in a smile. With a roll of his eyes, he takes a step forward and reaches up to ruffle Jaehyun’s hair.
The first time Jaehyun realizes he’s in love with Doyoung is midway through his junior year. There is no dramatic build-up nor is there a particular event that triggers the realization. All Jaehyun knows is one moment they’re trying to study and the next it feels as if he’s being hit by a train by how overwhelmingly beautiful his best friend is.
He’s overcome with the urge to kiss him and hold him—a feeling that comes from so deep inside his chest it makes Jaehyun wonders how long his subconscious has buried them for. Even Jaehyun isn’t deluded enough to attempt to write these thoughts off as platonic.
He’s in love with Doyoung, he’s heart-achingly head-over-heels in love with Doyoung and there’s no other way of going about it. The epiphany is so devastating that he wants to burst.
Jaehyun tries to hold it in at first, tries his best to keep his mouth clamped shut while his mind continues to chant I love Doyoung, I love him. His self-control only lasts so long because only a moment later his gaze shifts back over to Doyoung—who lies sprawled on his stomach on Jaehyun’s bed with his textbook wide open in front of him and his eyes trained on his phone sitting not-so-subtly between the pages—and suddenly, Jaehyun can’t hold back anymore.
“I love you,” he blurts out, the words ringing loud in the silent room.
When Doyoung’s head lifts up in surprise, his expression morphs into an amused smile as he looks over Jaehyun. He doesn’t seem shocked or appalled or overjoyed. Jaehyun feels like he’s been here before.
“Aw, thank you, Jaehyunnie.” Doyoung says with a fond curl of his lips, “You really are the sweetest.”
And just like that, Doyoung turns his attention back to his phone as nothing out of the ordinary had happened—as if Jaehyun hadn’t just had a life-altering revelation and confessed his entire heart. Jaehyun’s face falls, feeling upset and rejected by Doyoung’s easy reaction.
Turns out, confessing to your best friend doesn’t have quite the same impact when you’ve been regularly telling them “I love you” for the past two years.
In the time it took for Jaehyun to process his failed confession, he also decided it was probably for the best that things turned out the way they did. Perhaps this was the universe’s way of telling him to suppress his feelings or risk ruining the most important friendship in his life.
But to suppress one’s feelings is easier said than done, especially when said feelings are as steady and all-consuming as Jaehyun’s. So he allows himself to feel—he allows himself to savour his own affection and take joy in every smile Doyoung sends his way. He just learns to artfully hide this side of himself from Doyoung, disguising all those little touches and tender words under the mask of friendship, one which Doyoung accepts much too willingly.
Jaehyun loves him enough that he tells himself it doesn’t matter. He loves him enough to follow him to college, never once considering the option of any other school. He loves him enough to agree to be his roommate the moment he asks, not realizing at the time the implications of their increased proximity. He loves him enough to play the role of the supportive best friend when Doyoung gets his first college boyfriend, no matter how bitter his words feel on his tongue.
Jaehyun loves Doyoung enough to be the first set of arms he runs into when he gets his heart broken for the first time.
“I don’t get it,” Doyoung says, “I thought it was going so well.”
His voice is shaky, like he’s trying to hold back tears. Doyoung hates to cry, always trying to appear stronger than he really is.
“He was a dick,” Jaehyun says, placing a hand over Doyoung’s, “he didn’t deserve you.”
Doyoung snorts, although it comes out more like a wet sniffle. Jaehyun sighs, “I’m being serious, it’s his loss. You’re smart and beautiful and witty and you have the biggest heart out of everyone I know.”
“I thought maybe he loved me,” Doyoung says quietly.
Jaehyun shakes his head, “If you ask me, you were too good for him. He was unworthy of loving or being loved by you.”
“And what would you know about love?” Doyoung scoffs, but there’s no bite to his words.
Jaehyun smiles at his best friend. “I know plenty,” he says carefully, “I know that I love you.”
Jaehyun considers it a victory when he watches Doyoung’s expression break into a cautious smile.
“Thanks, Jaehyunnie,” he says after a pause, head falling to rest on Jaehyun’s shoulder, “Maybe I should just date you instead.”
Jaehyun knows Doyoung well enough to know there is no real weight to his words, but it still doesn’t stop his heart from skipping a beat.
“Maybe you should,” Jaehyun says with a dry swallow because he’s never been good at holding himself back, “maybe it’s a good thing you guys broke up because this means you can finally date me.”
Doyoung giggles, like he’s been told a joke. In his eyes, it might as well be. Jaehyun has stopped expecting anything less.
“You’re the best, you know that?” Doyoung says, pressing closer into Jaehyun’s side, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Jaehyun closes his eyes tight, grateful Doyoung isn’t looking at him.
“Don’t worry, Doie,” he whispers, “you’ll always have me. No matter what, I’ll always love you the most.”
Jaehyun sometimes wonders how far he can take this—this joke, one-sided as it is—until Doyoung starts to notice something is amiss. Maybe never, maybe tomorrow. He’s not sure which way he’d prefer.
It’s New Years. The music is loud and the chatter is louder. They’re gathered in Yuta’s living room, squished into a corner by the crowd, watching the countdown on the TV. Doyoung is snug against Jaehyun’s side, his glass filled to the brim with champagne and lips spread into a toothy smile as he counts down the seconds to the new year. Jaehyun holds him tightly with an arm over his shoulder, as if he’s afraid of letting go. He probably is.
A year ago, he watched the countdown across the room from Doyoung while he clung to his then-boyfriend. He remembers swallowing down glass after glass of champagne in an attempt to drown out the ugly thoughts in his head and making sure to look away right before the clock hit zero.
Suffice to say, he feels a lot better this year.
The room explodes with sounds of celebration and the crack of fireworks in the background. Jaehyun’s head spins from the combination of noise and the alcohol, but it all comes to a stop the second he meets Doyoung’s eyes.
“Happy New Year, Jaehyun,” Doyoung shouts, before leaning in and pressing his lips lightly against Jaehyun’s cheek.
He pulls back all too soon, leaving Jaehyun stunned and longing to touch his burning cheek. It’s not quite the new year’s kiss of his dreams, but it’s close enough. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, doesn’t know how to act, so he falls back on familiar habits.
“Oh my god, did anyone see that?” Jaehyun shouts dramatically, to no one in particular, “The Kim Doyoung just kissed me. I can’t believe it.”
A few of the people around them spare a glance, one or two even raise a glass in cheers to them, feeding the burgeoning sense of accomplishment in his chest. Doyoung, however, smacks Jaehyun in the shoulder and hisses at him to shut up—but even through his feigned annoyance, he can’t hold back his grin. His cheeks are tinted a bright red, whether from the champagne or something more Jaehyun can’t be sure.
It’s a custom that they go out for lunch on Fridays after class. Jaehyun likes to call them dates in his head. Doyoung has made it his mission to try all the restaurants within walking distance of campus Jaehyun is more than willing to join him on this quest. Today they’ve found themselves in a cozy French cafe, surrounded by the warm smells of coffee and pastries.
“Here are your drinks,” the waitress announces, as she sets their cups down on the table, along with a little plate of tarts neither of them remembers ordering.
“It’s on the house,” she explains, leaving him with a quick wink before she disappears to check on another table.
“Huh,” Jaehyun says as he turns back to Doyoung, who’s already got one of the tarts halfway to his mouth, “that was nice of her.”
“Sure,” Doyoung snorts, “looks like she left something else too.”
He tilts his head towards Jaehyun’s drink and it is only then that he notices something written on the napkin next to it. A phone number. With a cursory glance around the cafe to ensure the waitress isn’t in view, he crushes the napkin in his palm and throws it away in a nearby bin. It’s not unusual for people to slip him numbers here or there, but he never thinks much of it.
He brushes it off easily, so it catches him off guard when he looks back up to find Doyoung frowning.
“Why’d you do that?” Doyoung asks, curious, “She was cute.”
Jaehyun shrugs, “I wasn’t interested.”
His answer doesn’t seem to satisfy Doyoung. “You’re never interested,” he presses on, “and I know you get asked out all the time. Why don’t you ever date anyone?”
Jaehyun freezes, mind scrambling to come up with a reasonable excuse. Jaehyun’s dating life, or lack thereof, if not a topic they’ve ever broached. He might as well tell the truth. At this point, it’s just as good as any excuse.
“I’m holding myself out for you,” he answers simply, sliding his hands across the table for Doyoung to hold.
Doyoung shakes his head and gives a quick laugh in disbelief. Nevertheless, he reaches out to take Jaehyun’s hands.
“God, you’re so cheesy,” he says with a roll of his eyes.
Jaehyun smiles, “Only cus I love you so much”
Doyoung squeezes his hand and doesn’t say anything more. For now, the topic is dropped.
Jaehyun has tried his hardest to pretend not to notice it over the years but Doyoung never says I love you back, not even in a platonic way. He holds out hope that one day he’ll say it back, only to be disappointed every time he doesn’t. It’s okay though, Jaehyun tells himself, he’ll just make it up by saying it enough for the both of them.
At this rate, the movie playing on the TV is more background noise than anything. It’s a romantic comedy, that much he’d gathered but that’s about it. Jaehyun can’t remember who picked the movie, but Doyoung is really the only one paying attention. Johnny’s distracted by his phone and Yuta’s halfway asleep. Jaehyun has tried his best to pay attention, for Doyoung, because he knows he likes to discuss the movies he watches after. Instead, Jaehyun has found his eyes carefully trained on his best friend this whole evening.
Doyoung’s been off for the past few weeks, ever since his last boyfriend called it quits. It’s different this time. Doyoung is usually able to bounce back pretty quickly after a break-up but it’s almost three weeks and he’s still being unusually quiet and mopey around the apartment. Jaehyun didn’t think the guy was anything special either—this one didn’t even manage to make it to three months before ending it. And yet, Doyoung is more down than ever.
Tonight’s little movie night was Jaehyun’s attempt to get Doyoung out of his room he’s been holed up in and socializing again. Jaehyun can tell Doyoung has tried to make an effort to seem normal in front of their friends, but even Yuta has noticed he’s not as chatty as normal.
Jaehyun breathes a sigh of relief as the movie finally comes to a close with the protagonists predictably running off into the sunset together. Beside him, Doyoung stirs, clutching the beer in his hands tightly with a dejected look on his face. Jaehyun’s heart clenches at the sight.
Jaehyun scoots a little closer. “What’s wrong?” he whispers.
Doyoung lifts the bottle to his lips and takes a sip before answering.
“What’s wrong with me?”
He says this loud enough for both Johnny and Yuta to notice, their heads immediately turning with matching looks of concern. Johnny is the first to speak.
“What are you talking about? There’s nothing wrong with you. Where is this coming from?”
Doyoung looks down and fidgets with his beer bottle. “Then why does everyone keep breaking up with me?” he mumbles, “Ten called me cold and emotionally distant before he dumped me.”
Jaehyun nearly leaps out of his seat in anger, ready to run out the door and hunt Ten down. This was the most ridiculous thing Jaehyun has ever heard—Doyoung was the warmest person he knew. While he sometimes struggled with verbally expressing his emotions, they were there, if you knew where to look.
“Well, Ten’s an idiot,” Jaehyun spits and Yuta and Johnny nod along in agreement.
Doyoung sighs, “I can’t possibly have dated four idiots in a row. There must be something wrong with me. Am I just unloveable?”
Johnny leans in closer and fervently shakes his head, “Of course not. You’re extremely loveable. If I wasn’t already in love with Taeil I’d totally fall in love with you. Anyone would, right guys?”
Johnny looks to the rest of them for affirmation. Yuta simply shrugs.
“Sure,” he says with a playful edge to his voice, “but only if you nag me a little less.”
Johnny makes a disapproving click with his tongue, “Nevermind, don’t listen to Yuta. He’s unloveable. Just ask Jaehyun instead.”
Both Johnny and Doyoung turn to look at Jaehyun at the same time, Doyoung with a look of expectation and Johnny with a knowing smile. He’s the only one who has some idea of Jaehyun’s feelings for Doyoung, having been the victim of Jaehyun’s drunken meltdown a couple of Doyoung’s ex-boyfriends ago. He absolutely regrets telling Johnny, if only because of the less-than-subtle hints he likes to drop.
“No, yeah,” Jaehyun says, clearing his throat nervously when Doyoung raises a curious eyebrow.
“Of course I’d fall in love with you,” Jaehyun says quickly, mentally wincing because he can feel himself starting to run his mouth again, “In fact, I’m already in love with you—have been this whole time.”
In the background, he vaguely registers Johnny giving him a mini-facepalm at his words. Jaehyun shoots him a curse with his eyes for putting him in this position. Jaehyun can’t help himself, not when his tongue is loose and his heart is on his sleeve.
His attention is instantly snapped back to Doyoung at the sensation of two arms wrapping around his neck and a face burying itself into his shoulder. Jaehyun instinctively wraps his arms around Doyoung, trying his best to steel himself at the sudden closeness.
“You’re a good friend,” he mutters into Jaehyun’s shirt, “all of you are.”
That’s all it takes for the other two to join in on the hug and the four find themselves wrapped up tightly in a mess of limbs and whispered assurances. Even through the mess, Jaehyun doesn’t miss the apologetic look Johnny sends him—but he does pretend to not know what it means.
Jaehyun hears Doyoung enter his room before he sees him—hears the scuffle of his slippers across the floor and the creak of the bed as he gets comfy in his sheets. Jaehyun’s eyes are trained on his laptop screen, staring dully at the empty word document. He’s been trying to finish this assignment for the last two hours now and looking at his progress, he might as well have done nothing at all.
“Why are you moping?” Doyoung asks—Jaehyun can feel his eyes on his back.
Doyoung is bored, Jaehyun can tell. He has a habit of letting himself in Jaehyun’s room when he has nothing better to do. It’s not like Jaehyun could ever complain about the company. With one last frustrated groan, Jaehyun shuts his laptop and spins around in his chair, ready to unleash a lengthy rant about his assignment.
He halts, however, the moment he catches sight of Doyoung propped on his elbows and a lazy smile on his face. His heart aches a little and before he can stop himself, he’s pushing his assignment to the back of his mind.
“I’m just thinking about how you’ll never love me back,” he says teasingly, adding a dramatic sigh at the end for effect.
Doyoung’s response is instantaneous. “Shut up!” he huffs, reaching over to smack Jaehyun lightly in the knee.
“It’s a shame really,” Jaehyun continues because he enjoys watching Doyoung squirm far too much, “the greatest unrequited love of my life.”
Doyoung sits up with an exasperated noise. “You’re so annoying,” he says with a faux-glare but his face is smiling, “I’m leaving now.”
He moves to get up from the bed and stomp exaggeratedly out of the room.
“See!” Jaehyun calls out after him, slumping in his chair as he watches Doyoung leave, “Rejected again!”
“Finish your assignment!” Doyoung yells back and Jaehyun guesses he has no choice but to listen.
Yuta has decided to make it his mission to set Jaehyun up on a date. Ever since someone brought up Jaehyun’s chronic singledom, Yuta’s taken it upon himself to fix this, driven with the desire to help his poor, lonely friend out. Despite Jaehyun’s consistent rejections to his set-ups, Yuta only seems to try harder, especially now that he’s spurred on with the knowledge of one successful match under his belt. To make matters worse, that one match just had to be for Doyoung.
The last thing Jaehyun wants to do is go on a date knowing the love of his life is out there flirting with a new man.
“I think you’ll really like this one,” Yuta insists through the phone.
Jaehyun groans, “No thanks, Yuta.”
“C’mon, at least look at the pictures I sent you. He’s tall and very pretty, just your type.”
“You don’t know what my type is,” Jaehyun says flatly, “I’m serious, I’m not interested.”
“How about I just give you his number and you can—”
Yuta sighs loudly on the other end of the line but relents. They’ve had this argument too many times before.
“Fine, but please let me know if you change your mind.”
They exchange quick goodbyes and make plans to meet up for lunch before hanging up. He throws his phone on the coffee table and looks up to find Doyoung staring at him curiously from the other end of the couch.
“Another one?” Doyoung asks.
Jaehyun grunts, “Yeah, I’ve already told him no about a hundred times. I don’t know why he won’t stop.”
Doyoung tilts his head slightly, mouth quirked as if he wants to say something but is not sure if he should. Jaehyun has a feeling he knows what’s coming.
“Why don’t you give it a shot?” he says slowly, “Yuta seems pretty good at this matching thing. He did introduce me to Taeyong after all.”
A familiar lump forms at the sound of that name.
The words come out more bitter than he intended, which Doyoung seems to instantly catch onto.
“What’s wrong with Taeyong?” Doyoung asks.
His eyes flicker across Jaehyun’s face anxiously, as if Jaehyun might know something he doesn’t about the man he’s been seeing. Jaehyun immediately feels guilty for making him worry.
“Nothing,” he assures him quickly, taking a breath to calm himself down, “I’m sorry, Taeyong’s a great guy, I swear.”
The worst part is that it’s true, Taeyong is a really great guy. He’s worked with him in a few of his classes and knows he’s both handsome and kind, unlike many of the dicks Doyoung is prone to dating. Jaehyun knows Doyoung has the potential to really fall for him and that’s what bothers him the most. They’ve only been on two dates—both of which he had to listen to Doyoung rave about in excruciating detail afterwards.
“Okay,” Doyoung says, looking a bit more relaxed, “that’s good to know because I’m thinking about asking him to be my boyfriend on our next date.”
Jaehyun swallows, their next date is on Friday. That leaves just four more days until Doyoung is no longer single again. As much as he knew this was coming, Jaehyun’s heart still drops to the ground. But like always, he picks it back up and tries to plaster the most convincing smile on his face.
“You should,” sounding so sure he almost believes himself, “Just remember to be careful with your heart. You don’t want to make the mistake again of giving it away to someone who doesn’t love you back.”
Doyoung exhales loudly and shakes his head. Jaehyun can tell by the tight line of his lips that he’s said the wrong thing.
“You don’t know that,” Doyoung says, eyes stormy, “You don’t know they didn’t love me.”
Jaehyun doesn’t know why he can’t just drop it—can’t just leave the conversation now before Doyoung gets more upset—but something compels him to push on. Like he needs Doyoung to know.
“Perhaps,” Jaehyun says quietly, “but I’d like to think I have a good idea of what love looks like.”
Doyoung scoffs, he’s visibly annoyed now.
“You’re the last person who should be lecturing me on love,” he says, words harsh in Jaehyun’s ears, “You’ve never been in a relationship in your entire life. You won’t even take Yuta’s offers to set you up.”
“I told you, I’m waiting for you,” he mumbles under his breath, just loud enough for Doyoung to hear.
He knows it’s not the time or the place to be saying such things but it’s the only answer he knows. Doyoung lets out a disbelieving huff.
“I’m being serious, Jaehyun. This isn’t a time for your jokes.”
“And I’m telling you I don’t want to date,” Jaehyun says firmly, “Now, would you just let it go?”
Doyoung stares at him, he stares at him long enough for his expression to transform from annoyance to confusion to something akin to sadness. It’s amazing how Doyoung can go from being angry at him to concerned within a split-second.
“I’m worried about you,” he says, voice still firm but softer than before, “I just want to see you happy.”
I’m happy with you, Jaehyun thinks.
“I’m fine,” he says instead, “just forget it.”
Doyoung reaches to place a tentative hand on his shoulder, “You never let me into what you’re thinking. I’m just trying to be honest here.”
“SO AM I,” Jaehyun shouts, shrugging the hand off and turning his head to look Doyoung right in the eyes, “All I’ve ever been is honest about what I think. You’re the one that never listens.”
Doyoung gasps lightly, very much taken aback by Jaehyun’s reaction. Jaehyun doesn’t think he’s ever raised his voice at Doyoung before over the course of their entire friendship. His face crumples and Jaehyun hates that he’s the reason for it. He needs to get out of here, he’s already caused Doyoung enough grief today.
“What do you mean?” Doyoung asks, voice rising in panic when he sees Jaehyun get up from the couch.
Jaehyun doesn’t look at Doyoung. “It’s nothing,” he says, hurriedly grabbing his coat off the hook and making it for the front door.
“Wait, Jaehyun,” Doyoung says, frantic and confused, “where are you going?”
Instead of answering, he lets the front door click close behind him.
If there is one thing Jaehyun is good at, it’s avoiding his problems. It becomes a little trickier when your problem is also your roommate, but Jaehyun is stubborn enough not to let that stop him. So he spends the rest of the week like a thief in his own apartment—wherever Doyoung is, Jaehyun makes sure he’s not. He listens for the telltale sound of the front door when Doyoung leaves for class and only then daring to venture out into the living room.
However, that’s not the worst part. Jaehyun can live with taking meals at midnight and coming up with more excuses for missing class—the worst part of avoiding Doyoung is not being able to see Doyoung. He hates not being able to see him, to talk to him, to touch him. Jaehyun would have been running to Doyoung’s room and flinging his door open at the first opportunity if he weren’t so afraid of what happens after.
He figures, you don’t have to deal with the consequences of your actions if you don’t face them in the first place. He can’t be sure what awaits him on the other side—rejection, pity, anger—so he’d rather not find out at all.
It’s Friday now. The day Jaehyun has been miserably counting down to. Maybe if he can pretend hard enough he can delude himself into thinking Doyoung isn’t about to go out on a date and come home with a new boyfriend.
Despite his best efforts, when the time comes, Jaehyun finds himself with his ear pressed up against his bedroom door, listening to the shuffling in the living room as Doyoung gets ready. He’s memorized Doyoung’s routine by now and imagines the steps in his head as he matches them up to the sounds—the clatter of a cup on the counter, the creak of the shoe cupboard, the jingle of his keys as he takes them from the hook. He holds his breath through them all.
When he hears the front door finally click, he counts three seconds before releasing his breath with a gasp. Deeming it safe now, Jaehyun turns the handle of his bedroom door—he could use a glass of water and some much-needed relief from the confinement of his room.
Jaehyun doesn’t even make it two steps out of his room before he’s rendered frozen in place.
Doyoung stands in the doorway, arms crossed and eyes glued to the direction of Jaehyun’s bedroom. He’s fully dressed to go out, shoes on and keys in hand, yet he’s very much still in the apartment. They instantly make eye contact and Jaehyun feels a rush of cold run down his spine.
“Really?” Doyoung says with a disbelieving shake of his head, “Is this really what it takes to get you out of your room?”
Jaehyun gulps, eyes darting from Doyoung to the floor. “Just wanted a glass of water,” he answers meekly.
If he makes a break for it now, he can make it back to his bedroom before Doyoung even gets his shoes off. He’s ashamed of how tempting that option sounds. The only thing that keeps Jaehyun rooted in place is the fear of coming off as more pathetic than he already is. That and judging by the glare on Doyoung’s face, he’d likely kick Jaehyun’s door down if he tried to retreat.
In the end, it’s Doyoung who moves first, kicking off his shoes and throwing his keys back on the hook. Instead of walking towards Jaehyun, he heads into the kitchen, before re-emerging a moment later with a glass of water.
“Here,” he says, holding it out to him.
Jaehyun does nothing but stare at the offered glass, confused for a moment until Doyoung holds it out further, “You said you wanted water.”
Right, he thinks, accepting the glass while being extra careful not to let their fingers touch. He brings the glass up to his lips to take a slow sip, less out of thirst and more so he has something to do. Doyoung’s eyes don’t leave him.
“Now that you’ve gotten what you wanted, can I please get what I want?”
Jaehyun doesn’t reply, hesitant to agree to anything without knowing more information first.
“To talk, Jaehyun,” Doyoung explains with a sigh, “I want to talk. Preferably sitting down.”
Talking, that would probably be the smart thing to do. Jaehyun gnaws on his bottom lip nervously but gives Doyoung a little nod and follows him to the couch. It doesn’t look like he has much choice in the matter. He watches Doyoung sit down and carefully chooses a seat on the opposite end of the couch. As much as the distance pains him, Jaehyun is still a coward at heart. This doesn’t seem to deter Doyoung though, who moves on his own accord to shift his seat closer to Jaehyun.
“What are you doing home?” Jaehyun asks first because it’s been eating at his curiosity, “Don’t you have a—you know?”
He must have reached a new low if he can’t even bring himself to say the word date in front of Doyoung.
“It got cancelled,” he answers simply.
“Ah,” Jaehyun makes a noise of acknowledgement to hide his relief, “I’m sorr—”
“I don’t want to date Taeyong.”
Jaehyun’s eyes widen at the interruption. It forces him to look at Doyoung, who stares back intently. His expression is serious, more than he thinks he’s ever seen Doyoung before and it does nothing but make uneasiness churn in the pit of his stomach.
“What?” Jaehyun replies after a beat, confused.
“I don’t want to date Taeyong,” he repeats, his voice is even, betraying no hint of his emotions.
Jaehyun’s head swims as he tries to figure out what Doyoung means. It doesn’t make sense, just a few days ago he was ready to make Taeyong his boyfriend.
“But why?” Jaehyun asks slowly, almost nervous to hear the answer, “I thought you liked him.”
Doyoung twists in his seat and looks down at his fingernails—the furrow in his forehead betrays his discomfort with the question. Jaehyun is just about to tell him he doesn’t have to answer if he doesn’t want to when Doyoung speaks up.
“As you know, I’ve always spent a lot of time questioning why my relationships never worked out,” he takes a deep breath, “but the truth is, deep down, I already knew why.”
“Doyoung…” Jaehyun says, his regular assurances already on the tip of his tongue, “You—”
“No, just listen,” Doyoung interrupts, “I need to tell you this before I chicken out.”
Jaehyun clamps his mouth shut at this. His entire body itches to reach out and pull Doyoung into his arms but he knows touch would likely only serve to scare him off.
Doyoung nods before continuing, “For as long as I can remember, I’ve had feelings for this one person. I think that because of these feelings, I was never able to fully invest myself in any of my relationships. I could never give as much as I received.”
Jaehyun wants so badly to ask who this person is. The question burns in his mind but he forces himself to keep quiet and let Doyoung talk.
“As hard as I tried and as many guys as I dated, I couldn’t let go of these feelings for that person. Even when I knew he didn’t like me back,” Doyoung pauses, “Or so I thought.”
Doyoung lifts his head to meet his gaze and Jaehyun feels his breath catch in his throat—Doyoung’s lips are set in a nervous line and his eyes are shiny. Jaehyun watches the bob of his Adam's apple as he swallows.
When he speaks up again, his voice is softer than before, “You see, ever since we were young, he’s always been so open with his affection. He’d tell me that he loved me, just about every day. I always thought it didn’t mean anything, as much as I wanted it to, and thought of it as his way of joking around and being a good friend. I thought, if he really had feelings for me, he wouldn’t bring them up like that so casually.”
Doyoung’s mouth stretches into a sad smile, “That is, up until a few days ago when he said something that made me realize I might have been wrong all along.”
Jaehyun can hear his own heart thumping his chest, threatening to jump free of his ribs. He feels dizzy—this had to be some sort of fever dream brought on by his Doyoung-deprivation—there is no way this was happening.
“I learned to live with the longing and pain every time he said those three words. I felt so bad for myself, not realizing that he must have felt so much worse, confessing his heart every day without a single reply,” Doyoung’s voice breaks, “I couldn’t even say it back.”
Jaehyun reaches over to cup his face with both hands because he can no longer stand not touching Doyoung anymore. He feels so delicate in his hold.
“Doyoung,” Jaehyun whispers, gently thumbing at the wetness pooling on his bottom lashes, “Doyoung, I love you.”
This time, there is no laughing or thank yous or comments brushing his words off as a joke—this time, Jaehyun knows he is really listening.
“I know that now,” he nods with glistening eyes, “I’m sorry, Jaehyunnie. I didn’t realize it sooner.”
Jaehyun shakes his head, “You have nothing to apologize for.”
He watches as Doyoung releases a shudder. Their faces are close enough that he can feel the moisture in his breath. Jaehyun’s eyes instinctively flicker down to his lips. He is immediately struck with the urge to kiss him, and for the first time, Jaehyun realizes he can.
He leans in carefully, waiting for any sign of hesitation. Instead, he finds Doyoung tilting his head closer as well, mouth slightly parting in anticipation. With one final breath, Jaehyun dives in. A feeling Jaehyun can only describe as warmth floods through his body when their lips finally meet. It’s just a simple press of lips but Jaehyun thinks he could cry at how perfect and soft Doyoung’s mouth is.
“I love you,” Jaehyun says, pulling back just long enough to say the words before leaning in for another kiss.
And again, “I love you.”
“I love you.”
A hand covers his mouth, muffling the rest of his words. He looks at Doyoung with wide eyes, startled by the interruption, wondering if he’s done something wrong. He quickly searches Doyoung's face for any sign of displeasure.
Instead, Jaehyun finds Doyoung smiling at him.
“I love you too.”