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mind says check, body says mate

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It starts in Houston, Texas.

Halfway across the world and he sees him here again after what had been years.

He is setting up his chessboard at the far end of the hotel ballroom, dressed as white as a knight in a linen shirt with sleeves rolled to the middle of his forearms. It looks expensive in the way the fabric creases around his elbows, as if by design, and the collar is unbuttoned, exposing the sharp lines of his collarbone. Jeno sees it all the way from the other end of the ballroom: his broad shoulders, the slant of his jaw, and most of all, the curve of his bird bright eyes when he looks up and sees Jeno too.

At the next moment he’s pushing himself up and walking towards Jeno, his strides wide but leisurely. It’s almost as if he knows Jeno is watching every step carefully.

“Small world,” is the first thing he says when they’re face to face. Up close Jeno sees more clearly the way he’d aged. He’d lost his baby cheeks, revealing the sharp and high cheekbones underneath. His black hair is styled and parted down the middle, bangs falling over his forehead and ending a little underneath his eyebrows. Jeno’s trying to find the words. He gulps, and notices the boy doing the same.

“Jaemin,” he greets, breath leaving his body in a slow exhale. He feels like he’s in a walking dream.

“It’s been what, three years?” Jaemin chuckles, bringing his hands to his hips. He cards a hand through his hair, thinking, and Jeno pretends to not look at that so obviously like a fool. “What are you doing in America?”

Jeno straightens his body. “I’m going to college here. Just started. Same for you, I’m guessing?”

Jaemin nods, shoving his hands into his back pockets. “Yup. I’m all the way up in New York. And you, in…”

“California,” Jeno supplies.

“Ah. In-N-Out Burger.”

Jeno nods dumbly. His brain is frozen like a junk piece of shit computer. 

“Yes, the cheeseburgers. They are great,” he says, now sounding like an actual robot.

God knows how he’s going to play chess in thirty minutes.

Jaemin shifts his weight from his heels to his toes, then back again. He presses his lips into a thin, pink line and pops it. “Well, it was great seeing you today. Didn’t think I’d see a familiar face here,” he gives a small smile. “Maybe we’ll get to play each other, like old times.”

After Jaemin walks away, Jeno sprints to the snack table, where Renjun is helping himself to cheese and crackers. He pulls Renjun all the way to the male bathroom, dropping a few stray crackers on the way there as unfortunate collateral damage.

“Code Red,” he holds Renjun by the sides of his shoulders, and Renjun looks back at him with his plastic plate and cup of apple juice, half of it spilled onto his hand.

“My high school chess rival is here,” Jeno announces, panicked.

“All the way from Korea?” Renjun blinks. “Sweet.”

Not sweet,” Jeno grits.

“I don’t understand what this has got to do with chess,” Renjun says. 

And oh, god bless Renjun’s soul, because this has everything to do with chess.

“My high school chess rival. He got hot.”

 

 


 

 

Jeno would love to say he’d won all his matches. He would probably die from imagining himself sitting across from Jaemin, watching him think with those thick, furrowed eyebrows. Unfortunately, he loses half of his games, while Jaemin wins most of his. The fact that Jaemin doesn’t seem to have lost his touch irks him.

“I thought you said you were rivals,” Renjun teases, joining Jeno at the snack table. 

Jeno shakes the peanuts in his snack cup and sighs.

“I’m just out of practice. Two years of military and all.”

Renjun leans past him to get a cup for coffee. He lifts the dispenser nozzle and the liquid drizzles out pathetically.

“Didn’t he serve too?” He says, tilting the coffee dispenser dangerously. It makes a groaning sound from being lifted, and Jeno quickly offers help.

“We’re here to play chess, Renjun, not trivia.”

“Yeah, yeah. So,” Renjun takes a sip from his cup, eyeing Jeno knowingly. “You friends or what?”

Jeno tuts his lips. “Not really.”

Thinking back, he’d known Jaemin all the way back since middle school. When he was… thirteen? He mentally counts the years. He remembers that Jaemin is from North Jeolla; they’d never been friends, but he’d seen him every year at youth nationals, from junior division to senior division, all the way up to senior year of high school. 

They never talked much either. Sometimes Jeno won first place. Sometimes Jaemin did. But they always faced each other off in a game at each tournament because their performance scores were neck and neck. That was why it was so easy to recognize Jaemin after all these years, even without the baby cheeks and bad haircut. 

He’d looked at his face too long and too many times to forget it.

“Speaking of the devil,” Renjun chimes, pulling Jeno away from his thoughts. He swivels around to see Jaemin walking towards them, scoresheet taut between his hands. 

“You won?” Jeno asks when Jaemin’s within earshot. 

The grin on Jaemin’s face spreads. “What do you think?” He laughs, wobbling the scoresheet in front of the two of them, Jaemin’s name big in all caps with a large circle around it.

Jeno’s about to offer his congratulations, but then Jaemin continues speaking, his voice a register lower. Taunting. 

“Looks like you got rusty, eh?”

Jeno blinks. 

“Well, I’ve gotta get going. Maybe someday?” Jaemin’s voice is smug, teasing, and infuriating. It should get on Jeno’s nerves in all the wrong ways, yet somehow, it feels so right. Fuck. Jaemin salutes them goodbye, jogging off to the registration table to hand in his scoresheet, and Jeno watches Jaemin’s broad back shrink in the distance, both in awe and utter disgust with himself.

Oh, Jaemin. It’s on.

 

 


 

 

In the weeks leading up to the next inter-college tournament in Wichita, Kansas, Jeno immerses himself in chess study so deep, Renjun questions:

“I thought you wanted to go into quantitative finance.”

He eyes the library books on Jeno’s desk: Firmian’s Modern Chess Openings, Alekhine’s Best Games 1938-1945, Fine’s Best Chess Endings. All of them, lined with stickies and post-it flags. Jeno’s chessboard takes up half of his desk, while his econ textbook serves a different purpose as his laptop stand.

“Yea, I do,” Jeno replies, still studying his screen, not even turning away to look at the words he’s scribbling down.

“So… the homework?” Renjun asks.

Jeno waves him off. “Ya. I got it. I’ve put it in my calendar,” Jeno replies, pointing to the study schedule he’d mounted on his wall, hoping that will placate Renjun enough to stop disturbing him. 

Renjun leans over and squints at it. The back-to-back blocks of chess study and lecture and homework time. The near manic color coding that could make the library printer cry.

Jesus.

 

 


 

 

“God, I wish these chess tournaments were somewhere cool,” Renjun complains, stepping out of the taxi at the doorstep of Holiday Inn.

“Kansas is cool,” Jeno tries to comfort him. “I’ve never been.”

“Neither have I, but—” Renjun pauses to turn and look behind them. There’s nothing but a grass patch and a gas station in the distance. A lone truck speeds by, and Renjun thinks he sees cages of chickens in the back. He levels Jeno a flat look. “Really?”

“They could’ve put us in the city at least. We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Renjun continues.

Other students from their university’s chess team step out of the cabs and begin to file into the hotel.

Jeno hefts his duffel bag on his shoulder.

“If we perform well enough at these small tournaments, we’re eligible to enter the larger national ones. I hear the first of those is in Las Vegas.”

At the sound of Las Vegas, Renjun perks up. His mood instantly lifts and he picks up the pace.

“Well, if you’d told me that sooner, I would have joined you in chess study,” he says, marching into the hotel lobby. “Thanks for nothing, roommate.”

They check-in. Bum around in the hotel room for a few hours, going over old games and strategy. At three in the afternoon they head downstairs to the ballroom, now infinitely livelier with the full set of participants from around the country.

“You know where I’ll be,” Renjun winks, and Jeno doesn’t even need to ask because Renjun’s already making a beeline for the snack table.

Briefly, Jeno wonders what the chances are of catching Jaemin in Kansas. He doesn’t need to wonder long, however, because there he is in the crowd. Jeno picks him out as easily as a compass finds north. It’s gravitational. It’s built into his body. When Jaemin turns around, it’s almost as if his face catches the sun.

“Jeno!” He shouts excitedly from all the way across the room, so loud that even Renjun’s body startles as he’s reaching for the charcuterie board.

Jaemin pushes through a group of what Jeno assumes to be his college friends. Stumbles a little, when he trips on the way out, but even then he’s stupidly pretty. Stupid floppy dreamboat hair and stupid Levi’s jacket with the stupid sherpa lining when it’s thirty degrees celsius outside. 

How the fuck did this even happen? How is he real?

“Knew you’d be here today,” he greets, snapping his fingers to point at him. “Try and keep up, alright?”

Jeno holds his breath until Jaemin leaves. He is going to strangle him.

Unfortunately, the stars that day fail to align. Jeno’s chess rating doesn’t match him up with Jaemin’s, and they don’t get paired together for any of the five games. He does show an improvement in his performance, and he feels better about that, but he leaves the tournament feeling like he’s missing a piece.

He even checks his chess set, just to be sure.

 

 


 

 

Jeno does not do the following things:

He does not do a google search on Na Jaemin.

He does not stalk Na Jaemin on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

He definitely does not take screenshots so that he can look at Jaemin’s photos offline in peace.

“I have connected the dots,” Renjun announces, sliding Jeno a second piña colada at the poolside bar in St. Louis, Missouri. 

“What?” Jeno snaps out of his thoughts. He looks up at Renjun, whose sunglasses catch the glint of the noon sun. He looks entirely too relaxed, especially since they’d skipped Friday lectures just so they could laze about in the hotel a day early. Renjun removes his sunglasses and props it up in his hair.

“You have a huge crush on your high school rival, Na Jaemin.”

“What the fuck. No, I absolutely do not. Ani. Iie. Bu Shi,” Jeno begins to deny in all the foreign languages he knows, sounding more and more like a lost cause the further he continues.

“I have connected the dots,” Renjun repeats, settling into the bar stool next to him.

“You didn’t connect shit.”

Renjun points a finger to the air. “I’ve connected it.”

Jeno rolls his eyes, guiding his straw back into his mouth so he can angrily suck the rest of his tropical rum and let Renjun sense his displeasure from the loud, choking noises he’s making.

Renjun doesn’t have the patience for this. “Look. Jaemin is there—” Renjun says, blatantly pointing in Jaemin’s direction. Jeno flashes him a panicked look. “You are here,” Renjun continues, pointing at Jeno’s drink and the horribly bitten down straw, “being thirsty.”

Lastly, he ends his spiel by raising his two index fingers. He moves them closer and closer together, and Jeno watches, in absolute mortification, how Renjun connects the dots.

His face feels all of a sudden too hot. Maybe it’s the alcohol. It’s probably the alcohol. He tries to distract himself by looking away, but then he catches sight of Jaemin reposed on a lounge chair. He’s in a paper thin white tee that hangs off his shoulders loosely, revealing his wiry musculature. His wind-tousled raven hair seems perfectly in place. 

“Is this drool?” Renjun points at the puddle under Jeno’s glass, and Jeno slaps his hand away.

And just when Jeno thinks things can’t get any worse for him, Renjun says:

“Quick, take off your shirt.”

“What—”

Renjun dumps his entire piña colada on the front of Jeno’s shirt.

“Are you kidding me?” Jeno shrieks, looking down the front of his now wet t-shirt. Without thinking, he immediately begins to peel it off, and then. Renjun. He pushes his glass off the table and breaks it, making a sound so obnoxiously loud that the whole pool deck looks at him. Including Jaemin.

 

 


 

 

“Smooth, Renjun. Smooth,” Jeno hisses later, when they’re in the bathroom.

“Hey, I just dropped twenty dollars on an untouched piña colada for you. Show me some appreciation dude,” Renjun scoffs back at him. He washes his hands and wipes them off on one of the fancy towelettes on the dish by the sink. “I think it worked pretty well, don’t you think?”

“What did?” Jeno asks, because honestly he would like to know. Apart from the angry glare from the bartender, or the hundreds of eyes on his half-naked body, Jeno would really like to know what else he has to worry about.

“Jaemin was looking,” Renjun announces smugly. “His eyes were like, this big.” He makes mini explosions with his hands.

“I’m very sure that was exactly what he looked like,” Jeno deadpans, dunking his shirt into the sink to rinse out the alcohol. And this was a good shirt too! A good shirt worth more than twenty dollars.

“Hello, Jaemin has eyes. He plays chess. He’s smart. He will know hot when there are pecs right in his face.”

“Not so loud, Renjun,” Jeno pleads. Renjun stops to breathe, and in the bathroom there is only the sound of gushing water and the echoes of Renjun’s voice, bouncing off the walls.

Hesitantly, Jeno gives in. “He was… looking?”

“Yes, duh. That’s what I’ve been saying this entire time!”

All of a sudden, a toilet flushes.

Both Jeno and Renjun freeze up, watching in abject horror as the cubicle door creaks open. 

Someone with deep russet brown hair steps out nonchalantly with earphones in his ears. He’s short, and most importantly, he is not Na Jaemin. He washes his hands at the furthest sink, doesn’t hesitate to give them a weird look in the mirror, and then runs out of the bathroom.

“That was close,” Renjun heaves in relief.

“We wouldn’t have been in this situation if you hadn’t drenched me in alcohol.”

“As I was saying,” Renjun quickly changes the subject. “Jaemin was definitely looking. I mean, have you seen yourself? And I’m so super straight!”

“Said no straight person ever.”

“Straight like a ruler,” Renjun shakes his head. 

Jeno hums, knowing a liar when he sees one. “Rulers can bend,” he counters.

Renjun rolls his eyes. He even makes a show of rolling up his sleeves, because if this is what Jeno needs to get his head out of his ass, then he will take one for the team. He plants his hands on Jeno’s bare shoulders, twisting him so that Jeno can see, in its full glory, his upper body in the mirror.

“You have abs. So many I can’t count. Your abs have abs—”

“That’s not true,” Jeno interrupts, but Renjun barrels on, full speed ahead.

“Just look in the mirror and say it with me: I’m hot and I’m proud.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Jeno’s face is flushed all the way to his forehead.

“Look in the fucking mirror or I will go outside and scream.”

Jeno sucks in a deep breath and humors Renjun, just this once. So fine. Serving in the Marines did him well. He’s got abs. They’re nice. Jeno doesn’t really know what to say.

“I can sense your internal struggle. So let me just help you out here,” Renjun relents after seeing Jeno’s pained face. “You, my man, are a fine specimen of the human species. 90th percentile of all walking men. 99th percentile of all walking chess-playing men. Go forth and get your man, or I will step in and you do not want my involvement.”

 

 


 

 

Jeno demolishes his competition. Maybe it’s the adrenaline since the pool incident. Maybe it’s because Renjun stands behind him and he can practically feel him breathing down his neck. Motivation works in strange ways.

Finally, three games later — no, whole months of trying to seat himself at the same table — he’s here in front of Jaemin. Jeno closes his eyes and hears Renjun whooping in the back. It’s all just in his head, he knows it. 

Jaemin slides into his chair with a grin. He’s playing black, he’s wearing black, and the world is just so full of coincidences that Jeno feels kind of lucky too. He rests a fist to his mouth as he studies the board. Also, because he needs to stifle an internal scream. Subtly, he lifts his gaze to study his opponent.

He’s wearing a black oxford button-down that’s tight in the right places. He adjusts his hair, and that’s when Jeno realizes he’s got pierced ears too. My god.

“Shall we begin?” Jaemin suggests.

Jeno clears his throat, and Jaemin starts the clock.

Jeno opens the same way he always opens with a pawn to d4. He wonders if Jaemin remembers. Jaemin responds with the Caro-Kann defense, moving his pawn to c6. The pieces move as if in an unspoken dance, a variation well-known and well-practiced Jeno doesn’t even need to think. The knights shift to the front lines. Jaemin’s light score bishop slides across the board and Jeno’s queen captures it decisively.

Jeno watches Jaemin carefully to see which side he decides to castle on.

His mouth parts slightly in thought, revealing the way he’s biting on his bottom lip. He huffs, deciding to castle king side. 

They play quickly. Fast enough that Jeno’s heart is near thrumming in his ears. Even when they eventually slow down, whittling down to half their pieces, Jeno’s heart is still beating at hummingbird pace. He watches, rapt, how Jaemin’s eyes flit from one corner of the board to the other. He watches, entranced, how Jaemin plucks the white bishop off the board and trades it with his own. His long, slender fingers, wrapped around white’s body.

Honestly, Jeno should be more upset about this. But he isn’t. He isn’t close to being upset at all, even when he’s being cornered on the board.

In fact, it turns him on, in a perverted, unironic way. Ten bucks you pop a boner when you play Jaemin, Renjun had joked. Jeno defended himself with unfound confidence: Make it twenty

Jaemin’s long eyelashes flutter when they make eye contact. The air around them seems to hold.

“Your move.”

Well, shit. Jaemin could force a checkmate if he saw the moves ahead. Jeno could save it. Maybe.

Tentatively, he moves his rook.

Jaemin sinks his weight into his interlaced hands, frowning. His queen can capture a white pawn, but the rook will be there waiting.

He pushes out an exhale through his nose. Jeno doesn’t even remember when he’d stopped breathing — sometime between Jaemin frowning to Jaemin running a hand through his hair — then Jaemin breaks the silence, voice grated as a serrated edge. The first he’d heard his voice in over an hour.

“Draw?”

Jeno blinks. Surely Jaemin must see it. But hey, if he wants a draw…

“Draw,” Jeno agrees, taking Jaemin’s hand in his.

 

 


 

 

“He could have won,” Renjun analyzes the gameplay retrospectively, looking at the chess notations he’d copied down from Jeno’s scoresheet. “It’s surprising he didn’t see it.”

“Well, you know chess,” Jeno says, still a little spaced out. He feels like he’d just gone for a swim and stayed under the sun for too long. Despite himself, his eyes chase after the boy with the beautiful black hair, following him all the way until he disappears into the crowd. 

“Chess is just full of surprises.”

 

 


 

 

The tournament ends by eight in the evening, and after dinner they’re back in their hotel room.

“Come on, please, you have to go,” Renjun begs. Jeno doesn’t move from his spot on the bed. He kicks his socks off to emphasize how much he does not want to go to tonight’s mixer.

“Give me a good reason why we should socialize with other chess nerds,” he says.

Renjun groans, exasperated. “Because Jaemin will be there.”

“That’s really convincing, Renjun,” Jeno deadpans, giving him two slow claps. “All the more I don’t want to show up.”

In a flash, Renjun pounces onto Jeno’s bed and wrestles him into submission. “You know what happens when I get involved,” Renjun grunts, in between jabs to Jeno’s waist. Jeno curls up into a ball and pretends to not be a living thing. “Just go there and talk to him outside of a chess game for god’s sake. And then you can come back to the room and cry about how embarrassing it was later.”

Jeno wiggles away from Renjun’s devil elbow jabs.

“The drinks are free, Jeno! Think about that!”

Renjun holds Jeno over the edge of the bed like a pirate threatening a prisoner on a plank.

“Fine,” Jeno reluctantly agrees. “I’ll go for one hour. And then I’m coming right back here to sleep.”

“Perfect. Now drink this,” Renjun climbs off him and unveils the small bottle of vodka he’d kept in the fridge. “No way we’re going completely sober.”

Jeno can already see how this will be the beginning of a string of bad ideas, but again, he is easily convinced. On the second shot he shoves a twenty-dollar bill into Renjun’s hands, and Renjun looks at his palm numbly, blinking out the fog in his mind.

“Oh you don’t need to pay me back for the piña colada, I was just kidding—”

“It’s not for the piña colada.”

Renjun’s eyes grow so big, Jeno wouldn’t be surprised if Renjun pulled off mini explosions.

Oh. My. God. You did not.

War flashbacks run rampant in Jeno’s mind. He’d promptly taken care of his situation in the bathroom after his match with Jaemin.

“You mean you jerked off in the bathroom?”

“No!” Jeno flushes red all down his neck. “You think I’m some sort of exhibitionist freak?”

“Maybe?”

“No! I just stared at it until it died!” Jeno quickly downs his third and last shot, the vile taste of vodka hitting the back of his throat. He’s sufficiently buzzed enough to not give a shit, so he makes a point to pull Renjun to the door with him before his mind clears and regret sinks in.

 

 


 

 

The hotel bar is on the top floor, nested high to keep the noise out from the rest of the establishment. The music pulsates up Jeno’s legs right as he steps out of the elevator. The decor is all chrome finishings and sleek brass pipes, stretching from the front desk into the open dancefloor. Chess is infinitely cooler in America than it was in South Korea. Jeno chuckles at the thought, thinking of dusty classrooms and drab tournaments in community centers. Lights bleed red, blue, yellow, drenching the floor in motley colors.

Very different indeed.

“Gin and tonic. Two, please,” Renjun says to the bartender while Jeno’s distracted. 

“Here,” Renjun shoves the glass into his hands. “Something to keep your hands occupied. Don’t drop it.” 

Renjun has the audacity to grin.

“Tch—” Jeno shakes his head in disbelief. “That’s rich, coming from you. I swear, one day you’re—”

“The target is approaching,” Renjun announces gravely.

When Jeno turns around, the chemistry of the room shifts noticeably. It’s almost as if the entire universe is conspiring against him, turning the lights down low and fading the music out so that all Jeno can hear is his throbbing heart in his throat. In the low light Jaemin’s dark hair is blacker than black, eyes so big and blown they could consume him. And then some more, with the way he catches onto Jeno's unsubtle leering.

“Renjun,” Jeno calls for moral support, but he turns and Renjun is fucking gone. 

“You alone?” Jaemin asks, sliding in next to him. 

Jeno doesn’t believe this. He starts laughing. “Not anymore,” he replies, looking back at Jaemin. 

“I still can’t believe you’re here like, what are the odds?” Jaemin says. He takes a sip of his whiskey sour. Jeno does the same with his drink, thanking Renjun mentally for his foresight.

“I can’t believe you’re still this good even after the military. Did you bring your chess set to base camp?”

Jaemin scrunches his nose in retaliation. “No. Did you?”

“I just played it in my head.”

Nerd,” Jaemin teases.

“Takes one to know one,” Jeno fires back, feeling emboldened by the alcohol coursing through his veins, and the fact that their bodies are drifting closer and closer by the second. 

Jaemin bends to the music, pliant in whiskey’s grip, and he flashes him a wry half-smile. 

He must know, Jeno thinks, looking back at him. Those rosebud lips, the suggestion that hangs on the wick of his mouth. Jeno’s nape prickles under the intensity of Jaemin’s gaze. Jaemin’s carefully watching. Carefully calculating the next best move. His mouth parts just so, and he’s saying something Jeno can’t hear.

“What?” Jeno strains, voice sounding above the music.

Jeno short-circuits when Jaemin leans over, bringing his mouth to the line of Jeno’s jaw. “You’ve changed,” he says so clearly now, Jeno forgets how to breathe. The ghost of Jaemin’s warm breath lingers on his skin.

“You’ve grown up,” Jaemin smirks, sinking his weight onto his elbow on the counter. “Got jacked,” he clarifies, giving Jeno’s biceps a pointed look. “And oh, don’t look so modest. I totally saw the stunt you tried to pull at the pool.”

“I really didn’t—” Jeno is trying to correct him. It completely was not his idea.

And Jaemin’s doesn’t allow Jeno to self-deprecate. He pushes forward, right into Jeno’s space. He smiles so sweetly Jeno thinks he might break. The lights bleed cherry pink, and in this proximity all Jeno can see, all Jeno can taste, is Na Jaemin. 

“But some things haven’t changed either,” Jaemin continues.

“Queen’s pawn to d4,” Jaemin says, surer than anything else. 

Jeno goes very still. 

Still enough he knows exactly where his heart has lodged itself in his throat. He remembers.

He throws all caution to the wind, fists a hand in Jaemin’s shirt, and pulls him in.

Jaemin kisses the way he plays: aggressive, hungry, two — no — three steps ahead. The way he snakes his arms around Jeno’s neck. The way his body is already pressed flushed against Jeno’s. He moves so quickly Jeno doesn’t see it until he feels it — the want, the desire, pooling in his core.

The hand on Jaemin’s shirt comes loose, and it falls to hook around Jaemin’s belt loops.

“Mm,” Jaemin hums when he feels, undeniably, the extent of Jeno’s want. His fingers brush against the small hairs at the base of Jeno’s neck, a gentle coaxing. Jeno’s mouth parts, and Jaemin gives the bottom lip a teasing nip.

Jeno takes as much as Jaemin is willing to give. Kissing Jaemin, actually feeling Jaemin’s body move in response to his touch, is better than anything he could have imagined. When they part, Jeno feels like he’s just surfaced from a deep pool, his eyes still hazy and lungs desperate for air. Jaemin doesn’t hesitate to reel him back in. A dense wave washes over him, so decisively Jeno willingly lets himself be carried with it.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jeno suggests when they part for breath. 

Jaemin blinks slowly, stirring from his dream-like trance. His lips are beautifully pink, plump, and bitten raw.

“Your room, or mine?”

Jeno searches the dance floor for any sign of Renjun, and spots him by the pillar talking to someone else. He looks plenty occupied.

Jeno wraps his hand around Jaemin’s and leads him out of the bar.

“Mine.”

 

 


 

 

The rush to Jeno’s hotel room is anything but dignified. But they are there now, and Jeno has Jaemin pressed up against the door with an urgency he has not experienced in his life before.

“You could’ve taken the game earlier,” Jeno says, his hand firmly on the curve of Jaemin’s ass. 

“I know,” Jaemin smirks.

For a moment, wildness rises in Jeno. Something angry, but then Jaemin says, “But I was so turned on I couldn’t bear to wait another thirty minutes to finish you off.”

Jeno’s brain stalls. He thinks he might actually die right now.

“You.. were turned on… by me?” he says haltingly, because he really doesn’t believe it. The frowning. The controlled exhale that left Jaemin’s lips when he studied the board. It was all a front to hide the fact that he was… hard? 

“Have you seen yourself?” Jaemin asks. “You bite on your fingers when you’re thinking. Did you know that?” And then Jaemin takes Jeno’s hand and brushes said fingers on his lips. Cheekily, he ventures a small lick, and Jeno gasps. 

“I’ll finish you off right here,” he grits, pawing on the front of Jaemin’s jeans, the bulge on the front a sure indicator of how long he’d been waiting for this.

“Did you,” Jaemin gasps, between kisses, “bring the, you know?”

“No,” Jeno says. “I didn’t think I was going to get laid at a chess tournament.” 

Jaemin snorts.

“I want to suck you off,” Jeno says, honing in on his prey, and Jaemin thumps his head back on the door and stutters a God, yes.

His lips stay on Jaemin’s neck while he unbuckles Jaemin’s pants. He bites, growing satisfied by the way Jaemin’s lips part in a mix of pleasure and pain, all the while palming the front of Jaemin’s boxer briefs slowly. So slow it makes Jaemin groan in impatience. 

Jeno lifts his head out of the crook of Jaemin’s neck, inwardly pleased by the way his skin blooms. 

“Jeno, take your shirt off. Let me see you,” Jaemin winks suggestively. 

Nodding, Jeno peels off his shirt with one hand, and Jaemin does not hold back in letting Jeno know how much he appreciates it, trailing kisses along the line of Jeno’s jaw while running a touch across the flat of his stomach. 

“God, you’re just. Ugh,” Jaemin stutters.

“My mouth is not on you and you’re already sounding like this,” Jeno says.

Jaemin squeezes Jeno’s ass in retaliation.

“Maybe you should stop being a fucking tease and put your money where your mouth is,” he says. “Then we can talk about what I sound like.”

Jeno doesn’t need to be told twice what to do. He sinks to his knees and drags Jaemin’s boxers down wordlessly.

The hot breath fanning along the length of his cock is enough to send Jaemin reeling. 

It’s a little rough with just spit on his palm, but Jeno figures this will have to do. He wraps a hand around Jaemin’s length and strokes him, peppering small kisses as he makes his way up, thumbing over Jaemin’s already leaking head. He makes sure Jaemin is watching, running a long swipe from the base to the tip, before he swallows him whole.

The sound Jaemin makes is filthy. Jeno loves it. He’ll do anything to hear it again. So he bobs his head, fervently, just to elicit the same moan. He draws it out of Jaemin with a knowing tongue to the slit of the head, and when he sinks back down again, cock hitting the back of his throat, Jaemin pulls on Jeno’s hair and groans.

When he looks up, he finds Jaemin already watching him with hooded eyes, his eyes darkened until they are all black. He wants, so badly, to push Jaemin off the edge. He hopes, and latches onto the possibility, that Jaemin would reach for him — only him — pulling him down along the way. 

“Ugh. Jeno. Fuck, you’re so fucking good,” Jaemin says, his grip behind his head steady.

He’s so hot. God, Jeno’s own body starts to feel feverish. 

When Jeno moans, the vibrations run up Jaemin’s cock and all the way up his spine. Jaemin responds with a pleading whine. How quickly his composure can unravel, just with a series of touches. With his other hand, Jeno kneads the flesh of Jaemin’s thighs, up to his ass, until his fingers naturally find its way to Jaemin’s rim. He doesn’t need to do anything more, because Jaemin’s breath hitches, and it happens so quickly Jaemin doesn’t even have time to give Jeno a warning before he’s coming down Jeno’s throat. Warm, hot, and thick. Jeno swallows it all. He has no intention of stopping until Jaemin is spent and pliant in his grip.

“Jesus christ,” Jaemin releases in a slow exhale, voice quivering. “You’re just. Fuck.”

He catches his breath, sagging his shoulders against the door.

Jeno hopes to the high heavens that no one had walked along the hallway and heard them.

Jaemin looks wrecked, and it makes Jeno wonder what he’d look like if they went even further. Jaemin’s chest heaves. His black dress shirt is clinging to his body like a second skin, now several buttons undone and showing, openly, the path of destruction Jeno’s teeth had left.

“Your turn,” Jaemin says when his cloud of arousal somewhat clears. He pulls Jeno back up to his feet, catching Jeno when he buckles from his sore knees.

“I—” Jeno begins to say. But then he realizes what had happened. 

“I think I came just from sucking you off,” he admits, completely embarrassed.

Jaemin closes his eyes and groans. “Fuck, that’s hot.”

He backs Jeno back into the room, pushes him onto the nearest bed, and straddles him. So quickly Jeno misses the opportunity to tell him they’re on Renjun’s bed, but you know what, Jeno smirks, he was asking for it.

“Whatcha smiling at?” Jaemin asks, hovering over him to eclipse the ceiling light. His face is shrouded in shadow, but his eyes are bright.

“You.”

Honestly, Jeno doesn’t know what had come over him. One moment, he feels strong enough to haul the whole world on his back. The next, he forgets how to use his hands as soon as Jaemin climbs onto him.

“Shut up and kiss me,” Jaemin says. Jeno’s about to offer to rinse his mouth, but Jaemin goes in for it. It’s wet. It’s sloppy. It’s turning Jeno himself into a mess.

Jaemin leaves a last kiss on the underside of Jeno’s jaw, fingers hovering after the fact, as if to check if that’s enough to leave Jeno with something to remember him by. 

They stay like this for a long time, long enough for the both of them to come down from their high.

A long vibration from his phone shakes Jeno out of his stupor. He fumbles to search for it, spotting the cool white glow of his screen somewhere among the discarded clothes on the floor. 

 

Renjun (1:20)

can i come back to the room now

 

“I should get going,” Jaemin sits up. He starts to button his shirt, fingers fumbling in the dark, but then he eventually gets it right, and before Jeno knows it he’s climbed out of bed. 

“Maybe I’ll catch you at breakfast?”

Jeno watches him pull up his pants. He doesn’t look the least bit presentable when he walks out the door, but what can Jeno do. As much as Jeno wants to call him back for a kiss, he doesn’t know how to. Maybe a hug? Jeno frowns at himself. Even a handshake would have sufficed. But he just lets Jaemin walk out the door, only remembering how to move again when his phone vibrates the second time.

 

 


 

 

Jeno’s in the bathroom dunking his underwear into the sink when he hears the hotel room door open. And then, the unmistakable tenor of Renjun’s yelling:

“You defiled my sanctuary!”

Jeno turns off the tap.

Silence.

“Jeno,” Renjun sniffs. “I’m so proud of you.”

 

 


 

 

The next morning at breakfast, Jaemin is nowhere to be seen. Jeno sits down with his scrambled eggs and toast next to Renjun, looking listless. Last night felt like a fever dream, and he was afraid that things had now returned to normal. Everything that had been written, coming undone.

Then, there is a rustle of activity coming from the lobby elevators, a whole group of students pushing their suitcases out, and Jaemin. Jaemin, in a loose fitting white v-neck that does little to hide the line of hickeys that Jeno had clearly left on him the night before. Jeno’s grip around his fork and knife tightens.

Jaemin’s eyes are searching, and when he finds what he’s looking for, he winks.

See you in Vegas, he mouths, and Jeno’s mouth falls open uselessly.

“So you are an exhibitionist freak,” Renjun concludes at the end of it.

Jeno nearly flips the table.

 

 


 

 

Jeno does not look at the screenshots of Jaemin he’d saved on his phone. For real this time. Only because when he closes his eyes Jaemin is there, an afterimage burned onto the backs of his eyelids.

He replays four of Kasparov’s games. Borrows Capablanca’s memoir from the library, curious to see if there are any tips on how to avoid falling in love with your opponent. Nothing helps, of course, because as soon as they step into The Luxor in Las Vegas, Jeno only thinks about whether Jaemin’s already checked in.

“Ah, Vegas,” Renjun soaks it all in: the concrete sphinx at the foot of the hotel’s thirty-storey pyramid, the glittering neon beam shooting out the tip, and the palm trees, so green Jeno suspects they’re plastic.

“Capitalism is my religion, and I have arrived at my temple.”

 

 


 

 

They have a few hours of free time before the tournament begins. Jeno thinks he’ll take the opportunity to explore the hotel. He might possibly have enough time to walk down the Strip if he’s targeted in the tourist landmarks he wants to visit. Renjun had left on a mission of his own half an hour ago, armed with a shopping list.

Just as he’s packing his backpack, the doorbell rings.

When he opens the door, Jaemin is leaning against the doorframe, delivered like a present. When he sees Jeno, he lights up like a Christmas tree.

“How,” Jeno says, reaching out to touch Jaemin’s shoulder to check if he’s real. And he’s there. Solid and warm.

“I have my ways,” Jaemin chimes, pushing his way into the room. 

Once the door locks behind him, Jeno is pulled away into a smouldering kiss, the kind that makes his heart sing. Jaemin’s lips meet his like hot metal meeting water. He hisses from the sweet relief. If he’d known, two weeks ago, how much he’d be replaying Jaemin’s last kiss in his head like a broken recorder, he would have chased him down the hallway, just to kiss him again. He would have gone up to him, that morning in the lobby. He would have run after the fucking school bus.

But Jaemin is here now on his own volition. That alone gives Jeno a flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, Jaemin wants him, just as much as he wants him.

“I don’t think I said hello,” Jaemin realizes maybe thirty minutes later, when they’re tangled in bed. The right bed, this time. He pulls apart, propping himself up on the elbow.

“Hi,” he breathes, smile moony.

“Hi,” Jeno returns the smile.

They kiss again, grinding against each other. The friction is slow and addictive, and when Jaemin eventually rolls off him he immediately protests the loss of contact.

“The tournament’s going to begin soon,” he says ever so responsibly, to Jeno’s chagrin. 

“If you win…” Jaemin trials off, his lips slipping into something sinister. “Maybe I’ll let you fuck me.”

Jeno shoots up in bed.

Before Jaemin leaves, Jeno makes sure to grab him by the arm, giving him a kiss so telling that Jaemin has no difficulty understanding what Jeno thinks of his proposition.

 

 


 

 

Playing in the major league is nothing like playing in Houston, Wichita, or St. Louis. But with the appropriate motivator, Jeno just blitzes through his matches. There is no greater motivator for man than sex, Jeno realizes, accepting the fact that on a higher level he’s no different from a caveman fueled by carnal desire.

“Well, well, well,” Jaemin says, sauntering up to Jeno at the chessboard, where they’ll be playing next. He hadn’t changed out of his linen shirt since they last met. Wrinkles, running like rivers, from when they had tumbled around in bed. His collar is still crumpled, and Jeno has half a mind to reach out and fix it.

He knew Jaemin was hot. He didn’t know he was cruel too.

“What can I say. I respond well to the right incentive,” Jeno shrugs, trying to repress his thirst, but one can only do so much with natural bodily functions. 

He makes eye contact with him. “What happens if you win?”

“Mm,” Jaemin hums, pretending to consider, even though he’d already thought this through. “I get to shove my victory in your face. I know you hate to lose.”

“Well, then. Shall we?” Jeno says, sliding into his seat.

He plays white pawn to d4.

Jaemin mirrors him in response with a black pawn to d5. Jeno moves up the next pawn to c4, and Jaemin readily accepts the queen’s gambit. White sets up for a strong center, while black continues its development, advancing its bishops and knights pass the front lines.

Their pace slows when the play blends into middlegame.

Jeno introduces the threat of his knight and bishop attacking black’s pawn, so Jaemin thinks, chin sinking into his open palm, of the possibilities. He could move his dark score bishop away, possibly checkmate the king if Jeno didn’t see it coming. But Jeno knows what he’s thinking. He doesn’t fall into the bait.

Jaemin plays a brilliant move, and when he lets go of his knight to f4, he flits his gaze up to meet Jeno’s. Jeno sees the fire within them. Provocative. A challenge. Even if f4 is defended by three different pieces, any movement will open the path to the king, and Jeno knows he’ll end up playing a defender for the rest of the game.

No way.

He moves his knight to j1, leaving Jaemin’s black pawn untouched. Willingly, he lets Jaemin’s knight capture his bishop, and he counters with a knight trade, plucking the black knight off the board with a self-satisfied grin. 

Jaemin scowls, even resorting to pressing his leg on the inside of Jeno’s, which sends Jeno a different kind of jolt.

“Playing footsies is against the rules,” he whispers, even though there’s actually no rule for it. Because honestly, who would’ve thought chess could be sexy?

“Talking is against the rules,” Jaemin rebukes. And that is an actual rule. 

Jeno tucks his legs under his chair, Jaemin pouts, and the game progresses with increasing tenacity.

A crowd begins to gather around their table to watch their gameplay, concentrating Jeno’s attention inwards and onto the board. Even in his heightened alertness, it’s still difficult to tear his attention away from his opponent. Everyone around him thinks he’s just studying Jaemin's moves but no, Jeno is studying the man himself and appreciating the view. Just the private knowledge that he’d caused that disheveled look makes him feel like he’s going to ascend to heaven. Or descend down to hell, because if God knew the dirty things he had in his mind…

Jaemin checks white’s king with his rook, his moves starting to hint at his desperation. Jeno easily slides his king away, taking the rook sacrifice a step later. Jaemin tries to check the king again with his queen, but Jeno, already seeing where this is going, moves his king to the middle of the board.

He looks up at Jaemin.

There’s not much Jaemin can do — no matter where his pieces go, white’s pieces have the board covered.

Jaemin picks up his king and resigns with relief.

The crowd around them erupts into applause, but Jeno narrows in on one thing and one thing only: the shining-eyed look Jaemin gives him at the other end of the table, gleaming, possibly overflowing, with pride. Jaemin pushes himself up from the table, coming round to Jeno’s side to extend a handshake, but Jeno instead gives him a tight hug.

Friends give each other hugs, don’t they? Chess friends who suck each other off? Whatever. Fuck it all. Jeno tightens his embrace and buries his face into Jaemin’s shoulder.

Into the shell of his ear comes a whisper: I’ll see you tonight.

 

 


 

 

“My thirst radar is tingling,” Renjun’s voice is so loud Jeno can hear him, even if the boy’s in the bathroom getting ready for dinner. It’s late — almost eight in the evening, and Jeno is starving after a full five matches in the day. By some miracle, he manages to win his fifth match while blue balled, and by the time night descends Jeno is buzzing underneath his skin.

It’s not so much the sex. Sex is great, obviously. But by the end of his last game he wasn’t thinking about it anymore. At the end of his last game, after his opponent had stood up to leave, he was only thinking about how great it would have been to play Jaemin again. 

He’s stupid to think like this. He knows it. Outwardly, he groans.

“Tingling!” Renjun’s voice chimes like an alarm.

He should have asked for Jaemin’s phone number. How was he supposed to find Jaemin now? Was he supposed to just wait in his room like a date waiting to be picked up? A date, Jeno runs that thought by again one more time. 

He stands, arms akimbo, at the foot of his open suitcase and studies his options.

“You look like you need help,” Renjun stands next to him, leaning over. 

“What should I wear?” Jeno asks, genuinely, and Renjun gives him an absurd look.

“You’re going to be naked anyway so what’s the point?”

Jeno nearly screams.

As if on cue, the doorbell rings. Renjun tip-toes to the door, peers through the peephole, and presses his back against the wall very slowly.

“It’s him.”

Jeno quickly shuts his suitcase and fixes his clothes, giving Renjun a signal when he’s ready. 

Jaemin startles when the door finally opens. He looks past Renjun to focus on Jeno, his smile dapper. He’s shrugged on that Levi’s jacket with the sherpa lining. The one that Jeno had gone online to check how much it’d cost, promptly closing his browser after. 

“Jeno still needs a while to get ready, anddd—” Renjun wiggles his eyebrows at Jeno behind him. “I think your help’s going to be more useful than mine. So. See you guys later!”

He makes a run for it immediately.

“We could have waited together,” Jaemin says, watching Renjun go. “He runs fast,” he adds, noticing the way Renjun doesn’t slow at all to make a ninety degree turn.

“I just need to change into something different, that’s all,” Jeno says.

Jaemin tilts his head in curiosity. “Why?”

“... because I’ve been wearing this all day?”

“So?” His grin slips into something mean, and when he looks up at Jeno through his parted hair, Jeno’s heart leaps. “It’s going to end up on the floor anyway, so what does it matter?”

Right. Yes. Jeno opens his mouth. Closes it. It feels like he’s learning to breathe for the first time.

God, why does Jaemin make him feel like this?

“How’d your game with Williams go?” Jeno splutters. In actuality, he knows how Jaemin’s game with Williams went. It went swimmingly. Jeno caught up on the gameplay right after he finished his own game. He visualized it, looking at the chess notations in the elevator on the way back. 

Jaemin’s always been brilliant at planning his moves ahead, knowing how and when a game would come to its end.

“The pieces went right where I wanted them to go,” Jaemin replies, eyes twinkling. 

“Just like how your game went,” he continues, wrapping both his hands around Jeno’s waist. 

He sneaks a hand underneath Jeno’s shirt, the warmth of his hand spreading like fire. Check.

“But,” he pauses to stroke the bare skin. “I don’t think you really want to talk about chess right now, do you?”

His eyes flick down to Jeno’s lips.

Checkmate.

Jeno sways forward to kiss him. It feels natural like this — the way their bodies just seem to fit. He noses down to the line of Jaemin’s jaw, presses kisses into the blank canvas of his skin, desperately wanting to score it. He smells of citrus, a hint of mint. He presses another open-mouthed kiss, and Jaemin keens, tilting his head to bare more of his neck.

Jaemin touches everything. He feels for the defined muscles under Jeno’s shirt. He finds the pronounced ridges and splays his palm across it. Heat rises in Jeno again, wild and hungry. It’s hard to think about anything else, not when Jaemin teases the waistband of his boxers. Jaemin toes the line so finely it makes Jeno giddy; His unyielding grip around Jeno’s waist screams predator, but the bliss on his face when Jeno bites down on his neck makes him look like he wants to be destroyed.

“Please,” Jaemin whines when Jeno gives him another teasing lick. “Off,” he says, clawing at the buckle of Jeno’s pants. “Now.”

The shirt comes off. The pants do too. And Jeno’s on his bed, watching Jaemin strip as he walks toward him.

He’s absolutely beautiful.

He steps into the warm pool of light surrounding Jeno’s bed, body sculpted in light and shadow. God, he wants to touch him. Wants to tear off that last piece of clothing and touch him again. He doesn’t care how — Jaemin under him on the bed, Jaemin’s cock in his mouth — as long as he can make Jaemin feel good.

Jaemin clambers on top of him, slipping when they’re finally skin against skin. It sends electricity up his spine. Straddling Jeno, he sits in his lap, humming appreciatively at the broad shoulders, the strong, thick columns of his thighs.

The bulge in Jeno’s boxers is hard to ignore.

“How long have you been thinking about this?” Jaemin says, tracing the outline.

Jeno’s so sensitive. He already feels himself leaking at the tip, seeing it in the darkening patch underneath Jaemin’s fingers. When Jaemin rubs the head through the fabric, Jeno can’t hold back the jerk of his hips.

“It’s okay,” Jaemin winks. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you too.”

Oh, Jaemin. Don’t say that.

He pulls down Jeno’s boxers to free his cock, wrapping his fingers around his shaft while he strokes him. He bends forward while he’s at it, resting his weight on the side of Jeno’s body, dropping his head down so that his ear is next to Jeno’s parted mouth, where he hears Jeno’s pants and stifled moans in absolute clarity.

“Fuck, Jaemin. Just like that,” Jeno says, eyes half closed. 

“Yeah?” Jaemin’s eyes brighten at the encouragement. He’s glowing as pink and bright as the flush down Jeno’s neck, his hands moving slow and molten, heavy like the cock in his palm. 

He bites on the bottom of Jeno’s earlobe. Jeno bites his lips to suppress his groan.

Jeno doesn’t think he can last any longer like this. Not with Jaemin hovering over him with that feral grin.

“Stop,” he says. And in the split second Jaemin’s hand goes slack, Jeno flips him over. Jaemin’s back hits the mattress, his breath gets knocked out of him, and in the shadow that reigns over him Jeno sees how wide his pupils have become.

“I believe someone said that if I won, I’d get to fuck him,” he says, surprised at the words coming out of his own mouth. Oh, the things Jaemin does to him.

Jaemin’s needy, and the way his Adam’s apple bobs in anticipation gives him away. 

“I wonder who said that.”

“Mm,” Jeno plants a small peck on Jaemin’s lips. “You.” Another kiss. Then he rolls off briefly to find the bottle of lube and condoms he’d brought on the trip. He’d learnt his lesson the last time.

He kisses him again, parting Jaemin’s mouth with a calculated swipe of his tongue, and when Jaemin least expects it, when he’s lost in it, Jeno brings a slick finger to Jaemin’s rim. He traces the skin around his entrance — tracing, tracing, but never going in. It drives Jaemin insane. He’s writhing under him, brows scrunched and lips parted.

“Fuck, Jeno, don’t make me beg,” he pants.

Jeno’s lips twitch. “What if I want you to?”

“Fuck you,” Jaemin spits, his voice hoarse.

“Mm,” Jeno considers. “Maybe next time.” 

And then he pushes in. 

He does so slowly, watching Jaemin’s reactions carefully. When it seems like Jaemin’s gotten used to it, he adds another finger. Then one more, until Jaemin’s cock is hard, throbbing, and leaking pre-cum on his stomach, completely untouched. 

“More,” Jaemin says, clawing at Jeno’s back. “Please.

Jeno spreads his fingers to open him up wider, brushing against the insides of Jaemin’s walls. Where Jaemin’s breath catches, he makes sure to remember it, rubbing at the same spot over and over again until Jaemin has no more words left to give.

“You,” Jaemin heaves, struggling to catch his breath. “Inside me. Now,” he demands. 

Jeno rolls a condom on, and in the process of doing so Jaemin asks him, “How do you want me?”

Well, if he was offering…

He’d thought about it before in bed, with a hand around his cock and a head full of dirty thoughts. He’s imagined what Jaemin would look like, pinned under him. He’d stroked himself to completion and laid there, in his sheets, desperately wishing for it to be true.

“On your stomach,” Jeno says, eyes dark.

Jaemin flips himself over, and on his stomach Jeno appreciates the view of Jaemin’s back. He traces lightly the lines of his muscles, how they flow and connect, down to where they pool at the dimples at the base of his spine. He kisses the small mole at the juncture of Jaemin’s neck and shoulder. He inches over to lick the shell of his ear, right where his cartilage piercing is. 

Embarrassed at the sound that leaves his lips, Jaemin presses his face into Jeno’s sheets.

Jeno steadies himself. He lines up his cock, wet with lube, at Jaemin’s entrance. Just the sight of it pushing past the rim is enough mental image to fulfill weeks of fantasies. Jaemin’s breath hitches, choking when Jeno eventually bottoms out.

“Big,” he whimpers, registering how he’s completely filled. “Full,” he cries, when Jeno’s cock twitches at the compliment.

He sucks in a sharp breath, adjusting to the feeling of Jeno inside him, afraid that when Jeno moves it’ll tear him open. 

Jeno adjusts himself, shifting forward to press his chest against Jaemin’s back. He kisses up a trail along his shoulder and up his nape, nosing in the small hairs at the base. It feels strangely intimate. It feels like everything Jeno's ever wanted. 

“Move,” Jaemin grits when he thinks he’s ready. Jeno pulls out and thrusts back in, and Jaemin releases a cry of pleasure. 

Jeno starts off shallow. Then the thrusts grow deeper, sharper now, and Jaemin forgets words entirely. Only Jeno’s name, the perfect roundness of the O, hangs on his lips. 

Jaemin is perfect and tight around him. He presses his forehead to Jaemin’s shoulder. He hears his own strangled breaths.

“You’re so fucking perfect,” he says, because Jaemin is, and Jeno for a moment feels courageous enough to lay bare his thoughts. Jaemin preens, his back arching where Jeno’s cock strikes him at the right place. Jeno shifts them, so that his hand can wrap around Jaemin’s cock, and times it so that the thrusts match.

It’s too much for Jaemin.

“I— I’m going to come,” Jaemin chokes, his voice strained, and then he’s spilling all over Jeno’s hand in warm spurts. “Jeno, Jeno, Jeno,” he repeats like a mantra, when Jeno’s pace does not relent. The sounds Jaemin makes when he orgasms — Jeno swears he’ll never forget them.

Jeno’s so close now too, and when Jaemin says come on me, Jeno doesn’t hesitate. The condom rolls off, Jaemin hands are jerking him off, and when he comes he does so across the expanse of Jaemin’s stomach. Jaemin doesn’t stop until Jeno is overspent and weak in the knees. 

“God, that was,” Jeno gasps, lungs swelling and ragged for breath. “You were amazing.”

He opens his eyes and sees the aftermath: strips of cum along the length of Jaemin’s chest. Jaemin, knowing exactly how to push his buttons, swipes a little with his index finger and sucks it clean. Fuck. It turns Jeno on so much he could get hard again. 

“Like what you see?” Jaemin laughs.

Yes. Lord, Jaemin drives him crazy.

Jeno takes it all in. Jaemin moves lazily, in honeyed motion. So slow in honey he could be dripping with it, and it kind of reminds him of…

Shit

Don’t say it. 

Don’t fucking say it—

“Animal style.”

Jaemin blinks. “What?”

Jaemin stomach grumbles right on cue.

“Hey,” Jeno quickly recovers. He doesn’t want Jaemin to leave. “Want to go grab something to eat?”

 

 


 

 

They clean up in the shower. It takes every ounce of Jeno’s self control to not drool at Jaemin’s reflection in the mirror. They try their best to fix the bedsheets, so that they don’t scar Renjun when he returns to the room later.

“Where are we going? There’s a buffet in the hotel,” Jaemin asks when Jeno pulls him away in the other direction towards the taxi stand. They jump in a cab, and Jaemin doesn’t stop asking until the neon red and yellow sign emerges from the darkness.

No,” Jaemin mouth parts open in shock. “There’s In-N-Out… in Las Vegas?”

He leans so close to the car window his face could pass through it.

“I could kiss you right now,” Jaemin says. His eyes widen, as if something in his mind had clicked. “Oh wait, I can.”

He leans over, turns Jeno’s face towards him with a hand to his jaw, and kisses him slow and sweet. When they part Jaemin goes back to looking outside the window, and Jeno just stays there frozen like a statue, ghost of Jaemin’s touch still on his lips. The kiss is nothing like they’d ever had before. It feels... normal. Everything but a one time thing.

Jaemin has to tap him on the shoulder to shake him out of it.

“What will you have?” He asks Jaemin when they’re in line. 

Jaemin hums in thought. “You know best. You pick! I’ll find us somewhere to sit.”

Jeno orders for the both of them and slides into the booth Jaemin’s waiting at with a tray of food.

“I got you a double-double,” he says, handing Jaemin his food. “Animal style fries to share.”

Jaemin squints at the creamy sauce drenched fries in the center of the table. 

Oh.” He wiggles his eyebrows when he realizes what Jeno had meant earlier. He kicks him underneath the table. Jeno kicks back.

“Well. Moment of truth,” Jaemin picks up the double cheeseburger. He sinks his teeth into the soft bun and juicy beef patties, and when he starts chewing, he releases a noise that is so inappropriate Jeno almost spits out his food.

“This is so good,” Jaemin cries as he chews. “Mmmh. Ughh. Fuck.”

“Oh my god stop it,” Jeno seethes. He swivels his head to check if anybody is looking.

“Stop what?” Jaemin asks, directing his attention back to his burger. “ Jesus, this meat,” he moans.

“The sounds you’re making,” Jeno hushes his voice down low. “Your orgasm noises.”

Jaemin covers his mouth with the back of his hand, his turn to try and not to choke.

“What, you jealous?” Jaemin quips, and a fire ignites inside Jeno.

Jaemin makes sure Jeno’s watching when he picks up a french fry and licks the cheese clean.

In-N-Out Burger is never the same for Jeno again.

 

 


 

 

“My phone number,” Jaemin says, passing Jeno’s phone back. They’re back in the hotel and riding the elevator. “For when I see you the next time.”

Jeno latches onto the hope of a next time

Jaemin kisses him on the cheek right before he steps out of the elevator.

Briefly, Jeno forgets which floor he’s staying on.

 

 


 

 

The next tournament is a month away in New York City, and Jeno is positive he won’t make it till then.

“You’re being dramatic,” Renjun says, standing at the door of Jeno’s bedroom. He doesn’t attempt to hide his disgust at the way Jeno is moping over a screenshot of Jaemin’s LinkedIn profile picture right now.

“It’s only been two days,” he continues.

“That’s three weeks and five days to go before I see him again,” Jeno complains, then smushes his face onto his pillow to muffle his small scream.

“Then text him. He gave you his phone number, didn’t he?”

Renjun is making too much sense for his own good. 

“I can’t just text him,” he says like it’s the most obvious thing in the universe. “I don’t even know if he likes me like that.”

“Are you dumb?”

Jeno peeks up from his pillow. The look on Renjun’s face is motivation enough to continue smothering his face in cotton.

“You guys did it,” Renjun points out.

“Maybe he thinks I’m a good fuck is all.”

Renjun snorts.

“Maybe he just wants me for my body,” Jeno supplies another hypothesis. And then, quietly into his pillow, a pitiful: I’m hot and I’m proud.

“Oh Jeno,” Renjun’s face softens. “You really are dumb.” 

Jeno doesn’t move his face. He deadpans, “Just leave me alone to die.”

He hears Renjun shuffle into his bedroom, coming to his bedside to give him a pat on the shoulder. Jeno can sense Renjun hovering over him for a long time, as if looking on at a car crash in slow motion. He must enjoy it.

“You won’t know if you don’t text him first and ask him,” Renjun says. “So, I did it for you—”

“What!” Jeno rolls over and first sees Renjun’s unbothered face, then the phone in Renjun’s hands, big and bright and bad.

“You did what!” He snatches the phone from Renjun’s hands, narrowing his eyes.

 

jeno (14:35)

heyyyyyy

 

Mother of God.

“Why’d you add so many ys. Who does that? He’s going to think I’m lame!” Jeno frets, his hands going clammy. 

“Is he wrong?” Renjun’s lips twitch, and he flinches when Jeno pretends to karate chop his face.

“Well, that was fun!” Renjun gives his comrade a parting salute. “Good luck! Let me know how it goes! Bye!”

And then he runs away, like the coward he is, leaving Jeno to deal with the consequences.

His phone vibrates almost immediately. He doesn’t want to look at it. But he looks at it anyway. He can’t resist.

The app window pops open, and in the incoming speech bubble he sees Jaemin’s response.

 

jaemin (14:36)

heyyyyyyy

 

Jeno watches, horrified, how Jaemin starts to type. Stops typing. Starts typing again.

 

jaemin (14:38)

almost thought you forgot about me already ㅜ.ㅜ

jeno (14:38)

you could’ve texted me first haha

jaemin (14:38)

i didn’t have your phone number

jeno (14:38)

oh

 

Renjun was right. Jeno is the dumbest person on Earth.

 

jeno (14:39)

i’m dumb

jeno (14:39)

OTL

jaemin (14:39)

heh, it’s ok 

jaemin (14:39)

i can bother you a lot now ㅇㅅㅇ

jaemin (14:40)

oh! and here’s my profile picture. you can use this~

 

A minute later, a picture comes through. Jeno clicks on it and it enlarges to fill his entire screen.

It’s a picture of Jaemin by his window, his hair messy and smile wide. A wedge of the sunset comes through the slats of his shutter blinds and falls on right on the side of Jaemin’s neck. Jeno sees, ever so clearly, the blue-black hickies right above his collarbone. 

It’s so high definition Jeno feels tears welling in his eyes.

 

 


 

 

Jeno texts Jaemin into the night, until Jaemin has to tell him it’s close to his bedtime, and thanks to Jeno, he didn’t touch his homework at all. 

They continue talking the next day. And the day after that.

They talk about chess because it’s familiar.

The reason why Jaemin had maintained his skill was because of the free time he had during military service. He spent two years doing inventory instead of drills because of a herniated disc he’d sustained in high school.

I got exempted, he’d said, adding peace sign emojis at the end of his sentence.

He had a lot of time, zoning out at a desk, to think about chess.

Then afterwards, when there’s nothing much left to discuss about chess, Jeno sucks in a deep breath and bites the bullet. He asks Jaemin about his day. About the things he’s studying. About life in New York City.

Then his phone rings, and Jaemin’s voice is on the other end of the line. 

“I figured it’ll be easier to just hear you talk,” he says, voice lilting.

 

 


 

 

“You busy?” Renjun asks, peeking his head out from behind the door. “Can I borrow your charger? Left mine at school.”

“Yeah sure,” Jeno looks up from his chess game, waving him in. “Pluck it out from the outlet behind there,” he directs Renjun to the corner behind his bed.

“Hi Renjun,” Jaemin’s voice sounding out from Jeno’s phone, propped onto the wall. 

Renjun freezes, looking for the source. He hones in on Jeno’s chessboard in the middle of his desk, where he’s playing Jaemin in real-time.

“You know you can play chess online, right?” He asks.

“I know,” Jeno shrugs, returning his attention to Jaemin on the little screen. “Knight to f6.”

“Ugh,” Jaemin grunts, then plucks his white knight from the board and replaces it with Jeno’s.

Renjun rolls his eyes, crawling underneath Jeno’s bedside table to search for the power outlet.

Jeno ignores Renjun, continuing to advance his pieces.

“Oof, bad move, darling,” Jaemin shakes his head. “Your mind says check, but your body says mate.”

Behind him, Jeno hears the sound of Renjun mock vomiting. 

 

 


 

 

One night, when he’s feeling particularly needy, he calls Jaemin with his aching cock already in his hand, and Jaemin coaxes him through his orgasm with his voice alone.

 

 


 

 

There is never a boring conversation with Jaemin, even when they run out of things to say about chess, school, and what’s on the cafeteria menu. Jeno sends him memes. Jaemin responds with better ones. Jeno can talk just about anything with him, but he doesn’t ask:

What are we? 

It plagues him for days. The New York City tournament date looms closer and closer. And when it arrives, he’ll show up at the doorstep of Jaemin’s city and fall back into old habits. He would’ve been happy with that weeks ago, but he doesn’t want that anymore. He wants Jaemin, so badly. He wants to make him his .

 

 


 

 

“You should come a day early. Skip class and hang out with me,” Jaemin suggests when Jeno’s about to buy his plane tickets. “Sleep at my place,” he adds, in case Jeno’s worried about dropping money on a hotel.

Jeno nods dumbly, and upon realizing Jaemin can’t see him, croaks out a hoarse yes through the phone.

He tries not to think much of it. Jaemin just wants to see his buddy. His chess-playing fuck buddy who also calls him every day to talk about memes. 

By the time he arrives in New York after a five hour flight it’s the middle of the afternoon, and when he steps out of the arrival gates, Jaemin is there, waiting in the stupid sherpa denim jacket that Jeno had missed so dearly. 

“I brought you your cheeseburger,” is the first thing Jeno says when he approaches him.

“Who cares about the cheeseburger.” Jaemin rolls his eyes, pulling Jeno into a hug. “I missed you,” Jaemin mumbles into Jeno’s jacket, so soft Jeno thinks he hears it wrongly.

The train ride to Jaemin’s Greenwich Village student apartment takes longer than expected. They barely spend any time in the apartment when they finally get there. Jeno dumps his suitcase in the living room, and Jaemin whisks him out of the apartment immediately. 

“Times a-ticking, and there are so many places I have to bring you,” he says.

Jeno sees the list Jaemin had typed out on his phone when they’re on the train to Central Park. A whole bullet list with directions and notes of what to do at each location, along with timestamps so that they could accomplish them all in a day. They’re already behind, and it’s not a big deal really, because Jeno’s in New York to see Jaemin, not the city. He squeezes Jaemin’s kneecap, leaving it to linger.

The trees in Central Park scrape forklike against the slate grey sky. Soon, in a few weeks, the park will bloom in beautiful foliage. For now, the open canopy lets through strong gusts of wind, blowing the two of them along on the footpath. They bump into each other a lot, but not because of the wind. Jaemin clings to Jeno’s side when he walks, and there is never a moment his shoulder leaves the other’s.

He shows him the lake and tells him about the mandarin ducks. They don’t find any though, just small mallards sitting by the bank instead.

Jaemin takes him to Times Square, where they narrowly avoid getting conned by a man in a Mickey Mouse costume.

Dinner is at six in Koreatown. A cozy soondubu restaurant with an impressive selection of banchan that fills Jeno with delight.

“Let’s walk back,” he suggests at the end, face numb and sated.

Jaemin opens his jacket to pull out his phone. “We’ve still got places to see though,” he says, but pauses when Jeno snakes a hand around his bicep.

“I came to New York to see you, not the city. Come on, let’s take it easy.”

Jaemin looks down at Jeno’s hand.

“Okay, yeah. Okay.”

The walk back to Greenwich Village is refreshing. It’s not too cold and not too warm — the perfect weather for a night like this. Thin cloud wisps skim the evening sky, tinged a soft, hazy magenta from the saturated city lights.

Jeno’s hand doesn’t leave its position on Jaemin’s elbow. He only realizes it much later, and at this point, he just leaves it there. Gently, he gives Jaemin’s arm a squeeze, testing the waters. Jaemin doesn’t shake him off, so that must mean something.

 

 


 

 

Jaemin flicks on the switch by the door, shucking off his sneakers. 

“Your roommate in?” Jeno asks, peering down the hallway while untying his laces.

“Nope, he’s out at a party. We’ll have our peace and quiet here, thank god,” Jaemin laughs. He ambles to the living room to put something on the TV. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge!” He yells while fiddling with the remote.

Jeno takes the environment in. It’s neater than what he’d expected for two college kids, but then again, they’re nerds, and he’s always known Jaemin to be particular about the alignment of his pieces on the board. There are planters by the picture window, a stack of chess books on the coffee table by means of decor, and about ten mugs in the sink. Yep. College.

“True crime?” Jaemin asks, flipping through the options. “Comedy?”

“Anything, you can pick.”

Jeno opens the fridge door and crouches to look inside. There’s a five liter container of kimchi, a twenty-five pack of yakult, and oh my god— 

“How’d you get this?” he asks, picking up the bottle to show Jaemin, who’s now slapping the back of the remote with his palm. He raises the plastic bottle of chocolate milk for Jaemin to see. It’s not any normal chocolate milk. It’s the Korean Disney label chocolate milk. It’s the best chocolate milk he’s ever had, and he’s been thinking about how much he’d missed it ever since he left.

“They don’t sell these here,” he says.

Jaemin raises an eyebrow and gives him a sneaky half-smile. “Would you believe me if I told you I have a chocolate milk dealer?”

“Yes.”

Jaemin huffs in amusement. “You can have it.”

“Oh, I can’t, it’s the last one,” Jeno waves his hands and is already putting it back in the fridge.

“All the more. Please, Jeno. I want you to have it,” Jaemin insists. “I’ll send you some the next time I talk to my milk dealer too.”

Jeno looks back at Jaemin dumbly by the open fridge door until it starts beeping. Jaemin’s already moved on to something else — now replacing the dead batteries in the remote — but Jeno can’t tear his eyes away from him. His jet black hair, his sharp angles, his everything, to be fucking honest. 

“I think I—” love you.

“What was it?” Jaemin calls after him. He’s on his knees chasing after a battery that’s rolled away.

I think I love you.

Jeno surprises himself with the thought. He’s wanted Jaemin since the beginning — to pin him against the wall, to hold him face down on the mattress and fuck into him from behind. Now, he wants Jaemin like this — a life in an apartment chasing after runaway batteries, a bottle of premium chocolate milk, split between them both. 

He knows what he has to do now.

He opens the fridge and puts the chocolate milk back.

Jaemin frowns when he hears the fridge door open. “Lee Jeno, I told you mmpf—”

Jeno takes Jaemin’s face into his hands and kisses him like the world’s ending, because it will if Jeno drags this out any longer. His fingertips press onto the backs of Jaemin’s ears, tracing the lines of his neck. It ends with his palms against his chest when he pulls apart for air.

The air between them is as dense as a fog. He wonders if Jaemin can still see through it. See right through to him, and the maelstrom brewing in his eyes.

Jaemin leans back into the space for more, sinking into Jeno’s loose embrace around his waist. When Jeno rubs small circles into the small of his back, he melts into it.

“I really missed you, you know that?” He ventures, voice rising.

“I missed you more,” Jeno says, even though it sounds stupid, but he will willingly sound like the stupidest man on Earth if it can make Jaemin smile.

Jaemin visibly swallows.

“In my room now,” he says after, as if something’s taken over him. He doesn’t even turn the TV off before he’s pulling Jeno’s down the hallway into his bedroom, where he promptly shuts the door, backs Jeno onto his bed, and kisses him again.

He kisses Jeno with urgency, almost as if he’s afraid Jeno would run away the next moment. 

Jeno rubs his sides tenderly.

“I’m here,” Jeno says, in an exchange of breath. I’m not running away. Not before I say what I need to say.

Jaemin slides off his jacket. He claws at Jeno’s for him to do the same, and when bare skin meets bare skin, Jeno’s heart sings. While he’s no stranger to intimacy, today feels different. When he runs his hand down Jaemin’s side, he doesn’t miss the quiver of it. Jeno holds him like he’s something precious, like he’s something Jeno’s afraid to lose.

“Come inside me today,” Jaemin says resolutely. His gaze on Jeno burns. “I want you raw.”

Jeno’s lungs seize.

“I’m not seeing anyone else,” Jaemin’s gaze doesn’t waver, but his voice cracks on the last word, and in the slight pause his eyes begin to rim red. “I don’t want to see anyone else.”

A rush of relief washes over Jeno. His hand, his shaking hand, goes to Jaemin’s cheek. Upon the slightest pressure, a tear spills from the corner of his eye. Jeno’s swipes it away with his thumb.

“I don’t want anybody else,” Jeno says, point-blank. 

“Only you,” he says without hesitation, and those words are enough to push Jaemin over the edge. He closes his eyes, nuzzling into Jeno’s palm like he doesn’t want Jeno to see him.

“Jaem,” Jeno says softly. Guides Jaemin’s face back so that he can look at him. “Only you,” he says with finality. He could say it a million times more so that Jaemin doesn’t doubt his intention. He plants another kiss on the tip of his nose.

When their lips meet again, a little desperate noise rises out of Jaemin’s throat. Jaemin presses his hands onto him, hard enough to leave the whorls of his fingertips on the flesh. Jeno can feel the curve of his mouth on him, on his neck. The scrape of his teeth on his earlobe. It drives him mad with happiness.

“Jaem,” he repeats, guiding the other down onto his bed. “Let me show you how much I want you.”

Jaemin nods, swallows.

He’s half hard when Jeno wraps a hand around him, and he releases a groan when Jeno makes first contact. Jeno could be as cruel as Jaemin in bed if he wants to, but not tonight. He wants to make Jaemin feel so good. 

“First drawer,” Jaemin manages, and Jeno grabs the lube and coats his fingers with it.

He works Jaemin open with a finger, then two, loving the way Jaemin bucks his hips up when he presses against the wall. He never stops kissing him, pressing open-mouthed kisses down his torso, stopping by his chest to give his nipples a teasing lick. Jaemin lets out an appreciative moan. He grabs a fistful of Jeno’s hair and gives it a light tug.

“On my stomach?” Jaemin asks, blinking through his pleasure. His forehead is slick with sweat and his bangs plaster itself on it. Even the wet look is good on him.

“No, just like this on your back,” Jeno shakes his head at the question. “I want to see you when you come.”

Fuck, how does he even say these things without feeling embarrassed? But when he’s with Jaemin, wildness rises in him. It takes over him. He feels like he can do anything.

“God, Jen, I—” Jaemin whines when Jeno pulls his fingers out.

Jeno can’t look away from Jaemin while he’s stroking himself to hardness. Jaemin’s chest is heaving and his lips are parted, those maraschino cherry lips that have swelled and ripened. So beautiful. He wants to make Jaemin feel the way no one else’s made him feel before.

He hikes Jaemin’s legs up, positioning himself at Jaemin’s entrance, and pushes in slowly. The sensation of Jaemin enveloping his cock is nothing like he’s ever known. It’s warm and slick with lube, tight around him like an embrace. Being inside Jaemin like this stirs something primal in him. He moves the way his body tells him to, thrusting deep in Jaemin as he chases after his pleasure. He leans over him and touches their foreheads together, and with every thrust Jaemin lets slip a shallow gasp. He’s clawing at Jeno’s back, and it’ll leave marks for days, but Jeno doesn’t fucking care. It only spurs him on.

“I couldn’t stop looking at you,” Jeno whispers against the underside of Jaemin’s jaw. 

Jaemin arches his back, pushing himself further into Jeno’s chest when Jeno touches his cock again. 

“Will never stop, if you let me,” he says.

“Oh, Jen, yes. Fucking yes. Always.”

Jaemin squeezes his eyes shut, tilting his head back to expose the vulnerable skin of his throat.

“I’m close,” he gasps.

Jeno continues to thrust at the same pace. He watches Jaemin as he comes apart, and the image of Jaemin in orgasm pushes him closer to the edge as well. He focuses on the way Jaemin feels around him, the spasm of his hole around the base of his cock, the groan Jaemin releases when he comes over Jeno’s hand.

Jaemin watches him through his half-lidded eyes, pleasure washing over his features.

“Babe,” Jaemin says. He interlaces his fingers with Jeno’s. “Let go baby, come in me.”

And just like that, Jeno’s vision goes dark, and he’s swimming in a pool so thick it’s molten. All the heat that’d built up in his core is emptying, and he doesn’t know how long he’d come, or how long he’d stayed inside Jaemin, until he registers the tender caress of Jaemin’s hand on the side of his head.

He opens his eyes to the sight of Jaemin underneath him, face flushed a rosy pink. In the moonlight that pours in through the windows, Jaemin looks ethereal. He watches the shadows on his skin wax and wane with the subtle rise and fall of his chest.

“God, Jaem,” Jeno says when he catches his breath.

He shifts, slipping his cock out of Jaemin. The slickness of his cum along his length sends a frisson of thrill up his spine. The sight of his cum leaking out of Jaemin’s hole is one he’d never forget for days.

He releases his full weight onto Jaemin when he collapses over him, a mix of exhaustion and post-coital bliss. They really should clean up. Figure out what to do with the dirty sheets. But first things first—

Jeno cranes his neck up to capture Jaemin’s lips in a kiss.

“Was tonight a date?” Jeno asks when they part. Jaemin’s body goes stiff. 

“Because I wanted it to be,” Jeno says so that Jaemin doesn’t misunderstand.

Jaemin blinks in realization. 

“How’d you know?” Jaemin asks the most obvious question, and Jeno had been a fool to not see it from the beginning. The planning, the effort Jaemin had put into it. The fact that he’d shoved the tupperware of cheeseburgers into the fridge without a second thought, just so that he can take Jeno for a walk in a park.

“But yes,” Jaemin picks up the sentence again. “I’d… hoped. I didn’t know what I was doing… or how to tell you… I just. Ugh. I’m not good at this.”

Jaemin pulls at his face with his hands.

“You,” Jeno insists, prying Jaemin’s hands off his face to kiss him on the nose. “Are. Perfect.”

“And I’m horrible at this as well,” Jeno admits, thinking back to how dense he’d been. “I really like you, Jaemin. I really do.”

Jaemin breaks into a big smile, his mouth open and inviting.

“Come here,” he says.

And Jeno goes. He follows.

 

 


 

 

Jeno awakes to the sound of passing cars outside as the city stirs to life. Sunlight filters in through the half-shuttered blinds, painting mellow shadows on Jaemin’s walls. The room is bathed in a warm glow. The arm around his waist adds to the heat.

“Morning,” a hoarse voice comes from behind him.

Jeno rolls over to see Jaemin, blinking like a newborn. The side of his face is smushed against his pillow, the other cheek puffed like a baby, and oh, Jeno could wake up to this every day.

He remembers so clearly the night before. They’d got into the shower and went at it again under the pressure of the showerhead. Jeno then stared long and hard at Jaemin in the reflection of the bathroom mirror when he rolled up the sleeves of Jeno’s loose crewneck. 

“Honestly, I wanna go another round,” Jaemin says presently, fiddling coyly at the waistband of Jeno’s boxers. “Ride you, if you’d let me.”

Jeno swallows thickly.

“But! We have a tournament to get to, and I’m going to demolish your ass.”

“Literally?” Jeno raises his eyebrows.

“Tonight,” Jaemin winks, and then he rolls out of bed, leaving Jeno with dirty thoughts and dirty thoughts only. 

“I see what you’re doing, putting these ideas in my head before an important match.”

“I’m not psyching you out,” Jaemin shrugs. “If anything I’m psyching you up.”

“Yeah, leave me half-hard in my pants while I suffer through the whole day. How thoughtful,” Jeno makes a point to roll his eyes when Jaemin is looking at him.

“I’ll make you breakfast to make up for it,” Jaemin squeezes his shoulder.

Jeno shuffles out of the room behind Jaemin, and there’s already the sound of the TV playing in the background. Had it been turned on since the night before…?

“And you call me loud,” a voice says, by means of greeting. There’s someone sitting on the living room couch. He’s got a head of russet brown hair and a face Jeno has definitely seen before.

“Yo,” the boy waves, and it’s him. The one that gave Renjun and him the dirty look in the pool bathroom at St. Louis. Jeno feels his face go hot with embarrassment.

“This is literally the outcome you wanted. Don’t blame me for what you helped create,” Jaemin rebuffs, pointing a finger at his roommate.

He notices that Jeno hasn’t moved in the last few seconds, let alone breathed.

“Jeno, meet my roommate and overly concerned wingman, Donghyuck,” he introduces with jazz hands.

“Wingman?”

Donghyuck kicks back in his seat, eyes filled with mirth. “Oh you thought Jaemin was so smooth? Please. We had to write a whole script.”

A whole… script?

“Your mind says check but your body says mate? Sound familiar?” Donghyuck imitates the way Jaemin speaks, even picking up on the way Jaemin’s voice rises and falls when he tries to talk cute.

“And before you ask, no, I do not play chess. Jaemin just begged me—”

“I did not beg.”

“— he groveled so that I would go along for moral support. I pretended to know how to play chess long enough to set the course into motion. Now that I am no longer needed, I respectfully resign.”

Donghyuck raises his bowl of cereal to the air. “Cheers.”

“Please,” Jaemin frets, dismissing Donghyuck’s early morning attempt at vengeance. He pushes Jeno into the kitchen. “Ignore him. He’s insane.”

“Mm,” Jeno hums, crossing his arms over his chest. He leans his weight on the kitchen counter, watching Jaemin crack eggs onto a pan with one hand. “I’d love to hear more about this script.”

“We shall never speak of the script,” Jaemin huffs. He shudders at the thought itself.

“Come on,” Jeno prods, pulling at the sweatshirt Jaemin’s got on. It looks better on Jaemin anyway. He should keep it.

“Never!” Jaemin exclaims, sticking his spatula in the air.

“If you lose today, you have to show me the script.”

“Nuh-uh,” Jaemin shakes his head. “I won’t lose.”

“And you’re so sure.”

Jaemin’s mouth falls open, feigning hurt, “How dare you doubt my chess genius?”

Jeno crowds into Jaemin’s space, partly to intimidate him, partly to just give him a kiss because he’s cute. 

Later, Jaemin slides the sunny-side ups onto a plate — sorry, we only have one plate left — and picks up the chocolate milk in the fridge.

“Let’s share this?” He asks, and it’s the best thing Jeno’s ever heard. Then, “Oh, we don’t have any more cups. But we can just drink from the bottle if that’s okay.”

“Yes,” Jeno nods. It’s more than okay.

Jaemin’s shoulder sticks to Jeno’s while he eats. Doesn’t leave his side, even when he’s done eating. Jeno takes a deep breath, taking it all in. He can’t help but smile, feeling lucky. Jaemin will make a move forward on the chessboard, and Jeno will meet him where he is. Jaemin will refuse to show him “the script,” but that’ll be okay. He doesn’t need it to know how much Jaemin likes him. He knows it from how Jaemin saves the last sip of chocolate milk for him, pushing it towards his side of the counter. 

God, he thinks, glancing sideways at Jaemin. 

His heart is close to leaping out of his ribcage.

He can stand on the roof and shout so loud his voice can be heard from the moon.

“I won’t go easy on you during our match,” Jaemin says, resting his chin on his fist.

Jeno returns him a fond look.

I could love him like this.

Today, tomorrow, the day after.

Jeno steals a quick kiss. He says, smiling, his breath warm on Jaemin’s lips:

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”