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In his 16 years of life, Lee Jeno never thought he’d see the inside of a jail cell. He’s a good kid. He’s never had any reason to be within five feet of a jail cell. But here he is. And God he wished he could say he shouldn’t be. Going back to Korea after nearly six years of living abroad was supposed to relax his mind. Reconcile with old friends and family. Catch up on things. Have a good time. Honestly, he had done just that.

But six years is a long time. His little town had grown even littler. The residents older. The friends he had made in kindergarten and early grade school were now enrolled in high school. They’d all grown and changed. So had he.

He must’ve. None of his friends in America would believe The Jeno Lee had been arrested. Jeno himself can’t come to terms with it. However, he figures it all started from Huang Renjun. No, it definitely started from Renjun. And it should end with him too.

Only days after moving back, his close friend, Renjun, had paid Jeno a visit. Then, he started to come over every odd day and Jeno would go to his house every other day. Hanging out with Renjun was a lot more fun when it wasn’t over Skype calls or text messages.

Jeno noticed though, almost every night, that Renjun would disappear for a couple hours. It didn’t bother him, Renjun had other friends afterall. It was Jeno who was lonely. But curiosity got the better hand of him, eventually. Renjun had always been extremely organised, but the punctuality of his evening disappearances was abnormal. And he always returned scruffy and dirty, as if he’d been rolling around on wet ground for the whole two hours he was gone.

So, he asked. Renjun hesitated. But he replied. “Come with me tomorrow,” he said. “It’s about time you met them.”
“Who?” Jeno had pried.
“You might know them,” said the older boy. “Just trust me. You won’t regret it.”

 

He’s still not sure if he does.

 

The first person Jeno was introduced to was Mark Lee; the so-called leader. “He’ll teach you how to play,” said Renjun.

“Play?” Jeno repeated dumbly.

“Yeah. Play. This is what we do every night.”

Mark led him away to sit and explain ‘The Game’. “It’s basically Mafia. You know Mafia, right?” he started.

Jeno nodded.

“Yeah. It’s Mafia, but a little more violent.”

“What.” Was Mafia supposed to be violent at all? Jeno’s concern went ignored.

Mark held up a box of black bands. “These here, are the roles. You pick one, and your role will be written on the inside. You can be a villager, a serial killer or a demon. Villagers gotta stick together to win. Serial killer and demon have to kill everyone. If a serial killer or demon catch you, you’re dead. If you get their band,” he held up a black rubber bracelet, “they’re dead. There’s a couple exceptions but you’ll learn. We’ll keep it simple tonight.”

“How do I know who’s who?” Jeno asked.

Mark laughed and leaned back on his hands. “That’s the point. You don’t. It’s a game about trust and deceit.”

Jeno nodded again. He was still lost. And confused.

The elder boy continued: “There’s three rules. One: You can’t lie to the narrator.
Two: Don’t reveal others’ roles. It’s rude. Three: No hiding in one place.”

“No hiding?!”

“For too long. That’s why you need to run.” Mark winked.

Great.

“Here. Give me your phone. I’ll add you to our group. We use it to keep up with the game. One of the other guys narrates the story.”

Jeno watched the older boy type his digits in. His own phone lit up with multiple dings.

“Sorry, they talk a lot,” he apologized. “But it looks like they’ll be here soon enough.”

 

The rest of Renjun’s friends arrived at nine sharp. Jeno observed them silently as Renjun introduced them one by one. He was looking for a familiar face amongst the many unfamiliar ones.

“So this is Jisung, the youngest, that’s Chenle, he’s Chinese, Donghyuck…”

“Oh! I know you!” Jeno exclaimed. Donghyuck had been his neighbour and close friend in kindergarten years ago. Back then, he was a chubby, excited kid, or so Jeno remembered. Now, he still had the mischievous smile, but he was taller, more well-built, although his face still looked the same.

“Long time no see,” Donghyuck grinned. “I couldn’t even recognise you. How’ve you been for the past, like ten years?”

“Six,” Jeno corrected automatically. “I’ve been alright.” Just alright. He cringed at his tone, but Donghyuck's piercing stare had caught him off guard. Put him on defence.

“Yeah, I told you, you might know them,” Renjun interrupted. “Anyways, this is Lucas and you know Mark, and last but not least, Nana.”

Nana~,” Chenle mimicked.

The boy in question rolled his eyes and playfully shoved Chenle. “It’s Jaemin,” he directed at Jeno. “Na Jaemin.”

“Na Jaemin?” Jeno repeated. “I think I know that name.” He also looked oddly familiar, but Jeno kept that to himself. Just in case he was wrong. And thank God he did, because Jaemin quickly shook his head.

“Can’t be. This is the first time I’ve heard of you.”

Mark stepped into the middle with the box. “Introductions over. Let’s begin.” He held the box out and they all lunged at him, like a group of cats. Jeno stepped back to wait for the rest to finish first, but Renjun pulled him forward.

“Don’t be a stranger, Jeno!” he yelled over the others’ shouts.

They peeked into the rubber bands and put them on. Jeno copied them. The word Clumsy was scribbled on the inside of his. He hadn’t a clue what it meant.
Before he could recall what Mark had taught him, he heard said person shout. “Game starts in 20 seconds! Go! Go!” Then to Jeno. “You stick with me this time, Lil’ Cub. I’ll teach you our ways.”

The six other players ran in different directions. Mark left the box on the ramp and signalled at Jeno to follow him. “We can go as far as the subway and the warehouse,” he said. “Any further is against the rules.”

Jeno nodded. It was the only thing he knew to do.

“What’s your role?”

“It says clumsy.”

“Okay good. That means you’re a villager. I’m Doctor.” Mark kept his eyes on his phone. Jeno realised he was texting the group chat. At the top of the screen, a timer counted down. When the timer hit ten minutes, Mark pressed the send button.

He looked at Jeno, eyes serious and steely.

“Game starts now.”

Chapter Text

“Game starts now.”

Jeno halted at the older boy’s sudden change in demeanour. A sudden heavy weight fell on his chest. Exactly what had Renjun gotten him into? A cult? A gang? How did he know he wasn’t going to get mugged by them? He was blindly trusting a friend he hadn’t seen in half a decade.

Mark’s face broke into a grin at Jeno’s expression. “Chill, Lil’ Cub. I’m just messing with you.” He punched Jeno gently. “Relax. We’re all friends here.”

Jeno rubbed his arm. He laughed awkwardly and was caught by surprise when Mark pinched his cheek. “You’re so adorable when you smile,” he cooed. “You might just beat Nana at smiling.”

Ah yes. Na Jaemin. The familiar name he couldn’t put his finger on.

Mark’s phone diverted his attention once again. “Chenle’s dead,” he announced causally. “Can you check the group? Ten wants you to PM him.”

Not knowing what else to do, Jeno obeyed orders and opened up the group chat.

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[22 April 2016]

Mark Lee added you.

[20:36] Mark lee: Guys this is Jeno. Be good to him

[20:36] Lucaaas: Hiii jenoo

[20:36] Ten: Welcome to chaos

[20:37] Ddonghyuck: Who tf

[20:37] Huang Renjun: Be nice to him Hyuck or face my wrath

[20:38] Ddonghyuck: like u could take me on

[20:38] Ddonghyuck: I can squish u in 5 secs

 

Jeno scrolled to the bottom. He wasn’t going to read all those texts.

 

[21:04] Mark Lee: 20 seconds for initiation

[21:04] Mark Lee: 10 secs

[21:05] Mark Lee: Start

[21:05] Mark Lee: Game ends at 915

[21:05] Ten: Im narrating

[21:05] Ten: Everyone pm me

 

Alright. He had no idea who this person with a number for a name was, but he opened up a chatroom with the other.

 

Ten [Private Message]

[22 April 2016]

[21:08] You: Hi?

[21:08] Ten: Role?

[21:08] You: Clumsy

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[22 April 2016]

[21:05] Ten: It was a dark and stormy night

[21:06] Ten: The villagers were living in pain

[21:06] Ten: Zhong chenle the farmer was paid a visit that night by the infamous serial killer who mutilated his body and feasted on his flesh

[21:06] Zhong Chenle: IM DEAD

[21:06] Jisung Pwark: Ew

[21:07] Huang Renjun: It’s probably Jisung

 

Suddenly, Mark grabbed his arm. Jeno almost dropped his phone in shock. “What happened?” he asked.

Mark put a finger to his lips. “This is the running part of the game,” he whispered. “I just saw Hyuck. Look, I’ll go talk to him, but if I give you the signal, run like crazy. Got it?” He hesitated a second, then asked, “you won’t get lost right? ‘Cause Injun would kill me.”

“I won’t. I grew up here,” Jeno reassured him.

Mark nodded once and stood up. “Hyuck!” he yelled.

Jeno saw the other boy raise an arm in hello.

“What are you?” Mark shouted across the street.

Donghyuck cupped his ear and moved closer. Mark yelled again. Donghyuck crossed the street towards the both of them. He was only a few metres away now.

“Get ready,” Mark whispered.

Donghyuck looked ready to jump. He had the biggest smile on his face. Then he charged. “I’m the serial killer you bastards!” he screamed.

“Jeno! Run for your fucking life!”

Jeno ran. He ran, and he ran. He didn’t like running, but he was good at it. Mark was just beside him, trying his best to keep up. Donghyuck wasn’t so far behind either. Jeno risked a glance back, yelped and pushed himself to run harder. He heard one of the boys screech something that was unintelligible over the sound of the wind rushing through his ears and the blood pumping through his head.

He vaguely registered Mark’s voice from a distance. It sounded something like, “look at him go!”. Once he decided he’d placed enough distance between them, he slowed to a stop and leant against the subway wall to catch his breath, grimacing when he realised how sweaty he’d gotten. It was a humid April night, what did he expect? He removed his jacket to wipe at his face and took out his phone. Now that he’d lost Mark, he should probably keep up with the group.

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[22 April 2016]

[21:08] Ten: While doing a magic ritual occult thing, Renjun and Jaemin managed to summon a demon

[21:09] Ten: Renjun sacrificed Jaemin to save himself

[21:09] Ten: Fortunately the demon got him too

[21:09] NaNa Jaemin: KARMA BITCH

[21:09] Lucaaas: Ihjuuniee dued aftr he sadi jiiisung ws sk

[21:10] NaNa Jaemin: …what?

[21:10] Lucaaas: IM DURRUUNKKKK

[21:10] Mark Lee: You’re always drunk

[21:10] Zhong Chenle: [replying to Lucaaas] He said, Injunnie died after he said Jisung was the serial killer

[21:10] Ten: Lucas was completely wasted when he ran into a demon and thought he was a hot girl. The demon possessed him and caused him to kill himself

[21:10] Ten: Dont drink kids

[21:11] Ten: Mark the doctor was attacked by the serial killer. He died. Just like all his patients

[21:11] Lucaaas: HE JUMPED ON ME WHEN I WAS LOOKING AT MY PHONE

[21:11] Mark Lee: Whos left now?

[21:12] Ten: [replying to Mark Lee] hyuck jaemin jisung jeno

[21:12] Zhong Chenle: Jaemins still alive????

[21:12] Lucaaas: THAT MEANS HES THE CURSED ONE

[21:12] Mark Lee: So he’s also demon now and Jisung probably turned him

[21:12] NaNa Jaemin: Lol

[21:13] Ten: 2 mins left

Chapter Text

Mark Lee [Private Message]

[22 April 2016]

[21:12] Mark Lee: Jenooooo

[21:12] Mark Lee: You’re the only one left

[21:13] You: If i take their band they’ll die right

[21:13] Mark Lee: No no you dont want to fight Hyuck trust me

[21:13] Mark Lee: Just don’t let them catch you

[21:13] You: okay

“Where are you, Lee Jeno?”

Uh-oh. Jeno shuffled backwards. That sounded like Donghyuck.

“You can run but you can’t hide~” he heard the boy sing. “Literally. It’s against the rules, dude.”

Mark had told him not to fight Donghyuck, but Jeno figured, if he didn’t get the upper hand from the start, Donghyuck would probably get him. So, he took a chance and pounced. He was lucky he got the element of surprise.

Before Donghyuck could react, Jeno wrapped his legs around the boy’s waist and trapped his arms against his sides. Donghyuck bent over to balance the extra weight and that’s when Jeno managed to snatch the rubber bracelet. He heard Donghyuck sigh underneath him.

“I was actually going easy on you cause you’re new, but I think you got the hang of this, so good job I guess,” he said. He was holding onto Jeno’s thighs now and Jeno kept his arms locked around his neck while he shouted his celebratory victory cheer.

“It’s not over yet, you know,” Donghyuck told him. “If Jaemin or Jisung get you in the next 60 seconds, they’ll win.”

“I’ll just stay here then,” said Jeno brightly. It would take the remaining two players 60 seconds just to find him. Donghyuck huffed a laugh.

“Get off now,” he demanded. “I need to tell Ten you killed me.”

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[22 April 2016]

[21:14] Ten: THIS JUST IN

[21:15] Ten: THE SERIAL KILLER HAS BEEN ELIMINATED BY THE DAINTY HANDS OF A VILLAGER

[21:15] Johnny: Dainty

[21:15] Ten: LEE JENO THE CLUMSY VILLAGER MANAGED TO KILL HYUCK THE SERIAL KILLER

[21:15] Ten: TIMES UP BITCHES THE VILLAGERS HAVE WON!

[21:15] Mark Lee: GO JENO!

[21:15] Zhong Chenle: Yay Jeno!!!

[21:16] Huang Renjun: Hes got a knack for this game

[21:16] Jisung Pwark: Pfff its beginners luck obv

[21:16] Jisung Pwark: Next time well get you

[21:17] Ten: WINNERS; THE VILLAGERS!

                                Jeno, clumsy, won

                                Jaemin, cursed, lost

                                Jisung, demon, lost

                                Hyuck, serial killer, dead

                                Injun, traitor, dead

                                Lucas, drunk, dead

                                Mark, doctor, dead

                                Chenle, farmer, dead

[21:17] Huang Renjun: Jeno your role suits you so well

[21:18] Lee Jeno: shut up injun

[21:18] Jisung Pwark: HE SPEAKS

[21:18] Mark Lee: okay everyone back to where we met

 

Jeno walked back to the skateboard park with Donghyuck. On the way there, they talked, and they laughed, and they caught up a little bit, and they wasted time playing rough. Mark was waiting impatiently, arms crossed, one foot tapping the ground.

“You took your time,” he pointed out.

Jeno smiled apologetically and Chenle screeched, “Ack, the smile! It’s blinding!” He grabbed his chest with his hands dramatically. The scene only made Jeno smile wider.

Mark sighed, “I can’t even pretend to be mad at him.”

Donghyuck put an arm around Jeno’s shoulders when he shied away, trying to hide from embarrassment. “Don’t leave yet, Jeno,” he said teasingly. “I still need to get my revenge.”

Fuck.

He was a little too close. All eyes were on them. Jeno could feel his face burning and he knew Donghyuck knew. He knew exactly what he was doing, that he was making Jeno’s chest flutter from the contact. It might be the adrenaline, the rebellious spark being lit, but Jeno wanted to do it back. He wasn’t a flirt. He wasn’t. But he wanted to… to… break rules? He wanted to do something he wouldn’t.

So, he turned his head to face Donghyuck. They were already so close. Donghyuck met his eyes straight on, dropping only for a second, lingering a millisecond too long. Jeno held his gaze bravely.

The boys began to catcall and whoop. Someone and someone else threw in a couple suggestive comments. Finally, Jeno pulled away, oddly satisfied with himself. There was something else; a feeling he couldn’t describe. Was it rebellion or contentment? Or something else entirely?

Lucas whistled. “He’s been here half an hour and he’s already snatching hearts.” He looked over at Renjun. “I don’t think Renjun approves.”

Donghyuck didn’t make any comment but the small smile on his face and the glimmer in his eye spoke lengths; they weren’t done yet.

In the end, Mark interrupted the moment. “So, round two?”

 

During round 2, this time with no time limit, Donghyuck volunteered to mentor Jeno. Both being demons by chance, they made the perfect team. They attacked in pairs.

Their first target was Jisung, because Donghyuck said they should take out the most annoying one first. The youngest boy pranced around them, throwing hearts and kisses teasingly, somehow managing to slip away every time Jeno got close enough.

Then came along Jaemin. He watched the three boys curiously at first, then moved to Jisung’s side. “You’re a villager?” he asked Jisung. Jisung nodded. “I’m the whore,” he said and winked at the other boy.

Jaemin snorted. “Lucky you. I’m the exorcist.”

Jeno heard Donghyuck curse softly beside him. “Exorcists can kill demons without taking the band.”

He sighed. There was a still lot to learn.

The two pairs stood motionless opposite each other.

“I‘m guessing you’re both demons?” Jaemin shouted.

“Maybe,” Jeno replied.

“Let’s finish this off then.”

Chapter Text

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[22 April 2016]

 

[21:25] Ten: The sky was cotton candy and the clouds were raining potatoes

[21:25] Ten: The villagers were enjoying a quiet day in their gingerbread houses

[21:25] Huang Renjun: It won’t be quiet for long.

[21:26] Mark Lee: Do you realise how suspicious that sounds?

[21:26] Huang Renjun: :)

[21:26] Mark Lee: //narrows eyes//

[21:27] Ten: indeed it was not quiet for long

[21:27] Ten: Mark the farmer’s wife found his body in the pig pen surrounded by mashed potatoes

[21:27] Lucaaas: is mark the farmer or the wife

[21:28] Ten: Marks wife is jaemin

[21:28] Huang Renjun: @NaNa Jaemin your husband just died wyd?

[21:29] NaNa Jaemin: fighting demons

[21:29] NaNa Jaemin: im coming after you next

[21:30] Ten: THE CHAINSAW KILLER HAS STRUCK AGAIN

[21:30] Ten: King lucas is the next victim

[21:31] Ten: and because he was too busy drinking, chenle has been executed for failing to protect the king

[21:31] Zhong Chenle: THAT S NOT FAIR

[21:31] Zhong Chenle: HNNNG TEN HYUNGGG

[21:31] Ten: Im the narrator i can do what i want

[21:32] Mark Lee: Technically it’s not against the rules

[21:32] Ten: Thats why i always pick narrator

[21:32] Ten: I control this world

[21:33] Huang Renjun: Guys the real action is going down in the park.

[21:33] Huang Renjun: I’m just gonna stay over here

[21:33] Huang Renjun: Where it’s safe.

[21:33] Mark Lee: Yo im coming hold on

[21:33] Ten: Dont just stand there tell us whats going on

[21:33] Huang Renjun: Okok

[21:34] Huang Renjun: So it’s Jisung and Jaemin vs Jeno and Hyuck

[21:34] Lucaaas: DUDDES THEY JUMPED JISUNG

[21:34] Lucaaas: THEIR ROLLING ON THE GROUND

[21:34] Huang Renjun: Jaemin’s trying to pull them off

[21:35] Mark Lee: JAE JUST TACKLED JENO HES ON TOP OF HIM

[21:35] Mark Lee: THIS LOOKS SO WRONG

[21:35] Ten: Oooh Nana’s getting some

[21:35] Mark Lee: Chenles like dying rn

[21:35] Huang Renjun: I think Jisung got Hyuck’s band

[21:35] Huang Renjun: No he didn’t

[21:36] Huang Renjun: Ji just ditched Jaemin and ran

[21:36] Huang Renjun: Duty calls. brb

[21:37] Ten: Okay jisung the hoe has learnt a valuable lesson from renjun

[21:37] Ten: Dont fuck with guys with chainsaws

[21:37] Johnny: Don’t fuck in general. You guys are still minors

[21:38] Mark Lee: Its over. They won

[21:38] Ten: Jaemins exorcism skills are no match for two demons

[21:38] Ten: sadly he was defeated

[21:38] Huang Renjun: I forfeit.

[21:39] Ten: WINNERS: JENO AND HYUCK THE DEMONS!

[21:41] Ten: Losers: Renjun, chainsaw killer
jaemin, exorcist
jisung, hoe
chenle, drunk
lucas, king
mark, farmer

[21:42] Lucaaas: Oh shittttt

[21:42] Ten: what what what what

[21:42] Ten: what happened

[21:43] Ten: hello?

[21:43] Ten: Lucas u cant just say that and disappear

[21:43] Ten: kids

[21:44] Ten: whered you go

[21:44] Ten: WONG YUKHEI

Chapter Text

It’d be easier if they took Jisung out first, Donghyuck had said. So, on his call, he lunged at the youngest like a hungry tiger and sent both of them flying to the ground. Jeno quickly went to his aid, kneeling by Jisung’s head to hold his arms away, but Jaemin wasn’t about to let that happen.

He pushed Jeno so that his back fell against the grass and promptly sat on top of his hips. Somewhere, he could hear Chenle shrieking.

Na Jaemin smirked down at him and for a moment, Jeno forgot they were still in game. He was frozen all over. It was all Na Jaemin. Sweat glistening under the streetlamp, shadow of his jawline, quick breaths through parted lips. And that smile. Beautiful. Jeno’s gay ass was sweating. Twice in one day, he sighed to himself. Not a great record.

Suddenly, Jaemin was violently thrown off him and sent sprawling to a side.

Jisung had gotten away but Donghyuck had still come to Jeno’s rescue. He was up in a second, dusting himself off. To a side, Renjun was chasing a now exhausted Jisung, Chenle was on the floor, half-dying of laughter, Lucas was cheerleading, and Mark… Mark was shouting at him. “Go get him, Jeno!” he was saying. Right; the game.

Jeno turned back to the ‘fight’, or rather, the wrestle. Jaemin was already up and running. Since there was no time limit this round, it would be pointless for Jaemin to keep avoiding them. He would have to take them out, or forfeit and lose. But he was getting tired, Jeno could tell by the way he was leaning over, one hand on his hip, the other reaching down to his knees.

Jeno ran at him, forcing Jaemin to run the other way, towards Donghyuck. The other boy managed to grab hold of Jaemin’s jacket by the edge. While Jaemin struggled to get the clothing off, Jeno approached. They had him captured between them. Donghyuck wasn’t satisfied though. He wanted to get the band too, “just to make it official,” he said. “Toss him over.”

Once again, Jaemin was tossed onto the thankfully-soft-grass. But apparently, as soft as the grass was, it wasn’t soft enough, because Jaemin groaned, loudly at that too, and scrunched up his face in pain. Jeno didn’t like that look.

Donghyuck bent over to grab Jaemin’s wrists but the boy smacked him away. Literally. And painfully.

Jaemin’s brows knitted together in a tight frown, lips turned all the way down, face red. A stark difference to the smiley boy straddling Jeno only minutes earlier. “Fucking hell, Donghyuck! Don’t you know when to stop?” he shouted.

“Woah, calm down.” Donghyuck took a step back. His palms were raised in defence.

There was a fire in Jaemin’s eyes, the way he glared at Donghyuck. It almost – almost – scared Jeno. Then he noticed the way he cradled his left wrist in his right. “Did you hurt yourself?” he asked softly.

I didn’t hurt my-self,” spat Jaemin, eyes never leaving Donghyuck's. The other boys crowded around in a wobbly semi-circle. Jeno stepped back, feeling a little out of place and a little a lot guilty.

Donghyucksnorted. “Don’t be so dramatic, Nana. Man up, you’re fine.”

“Dramatic is his middle name,” Jisung helpfully put-in.

“And brat is yours,” quipped Jaemin.

Jisung stuck his tongue out in response.

Chenle must have seen the guilt on his face because he patted Jeno’s shoulder and reassured him, “don’t worry. You didn’t do anything.”

“Hyuck is too-” Lucas raised his hands like claws and roared as an explanation.

“-aggressive,” Mark translated, sending Donghyuck a look.

Donghyuck shrugged, but he managed to look apologetic. “Sorry. But it’s an aggressive game.”

Jaemin stood up and dusted himself off with his good hand. It didn’t do much to clean the dirt so much as to smudge it more. “Whatever. I’m done for tonight.” He turned from the group and walked away to the exit.

Sighing, Mark ran a hand through his hair. “I think,” he said, “we should call it a night too.”

This was met with immediate complaints from Lucas, (“Oh, c’mon man!”) and grumbles from Chenle, who was still upset about his execution, and Donghyuck, who enjoyed the game the most out of all of them. Jeno, however, lacked the energy and the enthusiasm for another round. The game was hectic, chaotic and wild, too much for a quiet kid like him. But… for the first time in a long time, he really felt alive. “I think I’m too tired,” he told them. “I’m gonna go to bed.”

“Okay,” said Renjun. “Don’t get lost.”

“I won’t.”

He knew he’d come back tomorrow.

 

Ddonghyuck[Private Message]

[22 April 2016]

[22:19] Ddonghyuck: Hiii

[22:21] Lee Jeno: Hi

[22:21] Ddonghyuck: Sooo?

[22:21] Ddonghyuck: How was it?

[22:22] Lee Jeno: It was fun

[22:22] Ddonghyuck: So ull come back tmrw?

[22:23] Lee Jeno: yeah

[22:23] Ddonghyuck: Gd ;) cause i want to see you

[22:23] Ddonghyuck: I haevnt seen ur face in like 8 yrs

 

Jeno rolled over in bed. He held his phone up and sent a reply. The phone dinged with a new notification. That’s how it started. And then it kept going. Hours passed, and they were still texting each other, losing sleep over catching up on their lives then wilding over TV shows till it was 1am and the blush on Jeno’s face when he saw Donghyuck the next day was the only hint at what they’d gone on about the night before.

Unless you looked through their text messages…

 

Ddonghyuck [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[00:07] Lee Jeno: Guess what

[00:07] Lee Jeno: Its my birthday

[00:08] Ddonghyuck: Wait rlly?

[00:08] Lee Jeno: yeah

[00:08] Ddonghyuck: HAPPY BIRTHDAYYYY!!!!

[00:09] Ddonghyuck: We have to celebrate

[00:09] Lee Jeno: Haha thanks

[00:09] Lee Jeno: Nooo we don’t have to

[00:10] Ddonghyuck: We MUST

[00:10] Ddonghyuck: TF WE DONT ITS UR SWEET SIXTEEN WE HAVE TO

[00:11] Ddonghyuck: Im texting everyone

[00:11] Ddonghyuck: done

[00:12] Ddonghyuck: Even Jaemin will come. ik he will

[00:12] Lee Jeno: its not normal for him to come?

[00:13] Ddonghyuck: no its just ik i pissed him off today and jaemins rlly petty when he’s mad

[00:13] Lee Jeno: oh

[00:14] Ddonghyuck: if it was a normal day he wouldnt come tmrw cause he’s mad at me but bc its your birthday he will which is good cause I can apologise

[00:15] Lee Jeno: it’s my fault too. you guys are being too nice to me

[00:15] Ddonghyuck: we cant help being nice to a sweet kid like u

[00:15] Lee Jeno: haha sure

[00:16] Ddonghyuck: its not my problem you’re so cute

[00:16] Ddonghyuck: go send that problem to heaven’s customer service

[00:17] Lee Jeno: they’re sending down too many angels, huh?

[00:17] Ddonghyuck: they sent down one and hes so beautiful he keeps distracting me

[00:18] Lee Jeno: what can I do?

[00:18] Ddonghyuck: idk maybe stop being so damn cute?

[00:19] Lee Jeno: that’s not so hard

 

The flush on his face was a secret he kept to himself.

Chapter Text

On the morning of April 23rd, Renjun took him to the neighbourhood’s favourite ice-cream shop as a birthday treat. Donghyuck joined, and with him, he brought Chenle, who brought Jisung, who brought Jaemin, and now they were all sitting in the back table of the ice-cream shop with different flavours of ice-cream.

Jeno didn’t miss how Jaemin sat as far from Donghyuck as possible, or how the sleeve of his hoodie was pulled low over his left wrist. He didn’t miss how Donghyuck was making futile attempts to involve Jaemin in the conversation or how Jaemin answered only in hums and nods or that his bowl of mint-choco-chip sat mostly untouched.

He didn’t miss how Jaemin was detached and uninterested but no one else seemed to notice. Jisung and Chenle were far too occupied with their mega-sized, three-scoop, banana-split sundae and Renjun was busy making sure Jeno was comfortable.

And as for Donghyuck, he kept a lively conversation. “We need to throw a proper party for him tonight,” he was saying. “We need balloons! And cake! And people!”

“I can be people,” said Chenle. Jisung nodded in agreement. “You can meet the whole gang! It’s Saturday, they’ll be free.”

“I’m not,” Jaemin interrupted softly. He glanced at Jeno quickly, then back at Donghyuck. “I’m not free. I can’t come tonight.” It was the first time he’d spoken all day.

“Nana, it’s Jeno’s birthday! Don’t be a spoilsport!” whined Donghyuck.

“Sorry, Jeno, but it’s too sudden,” the boy apologised. Jeno quickly shook his head. It was okay. He understood.

“What’s so important that you can’t cancel?” argued Donghyuck.

“Things,” said Jaemin curtly. Coldly. “I have a life outside you guys.”

“Ugh, Nana, stop being so dramatic.”

“We have lives too but we make time,” input Jisung.

Chenle snorted into his ice-cream. “You,” he flicked his spoon at his friend, “Park Jisung, you do not have a life.” A spot of ice-cream landed on Jisung’s nose and that was the start of the spoon-flicking-fight between the two youngest.

Jaemin rolled his eyes and stood up. “Clearly you all don’t have the capacity to understand, so I’ll leave first.” He pushed a 10,000 won note towards Renjun and nodded at Jeno. “Thanks. And happy birthday.” With that, he turned and left.

Donghyuck's jaw was clenched. He looked irritated. “I’m trying to be nice, okay?” he said to Renjun who was giving him a side-eye. “But he’s not making it any easier for me! He ignored me the whole time and when he finally talks to me, he talks in that tone!”

The other boy kept silent and turned his attention to the youngest two covered in ice-cream. “Clean yourselves up,” he ordered, throwing them a handful of napkins. Donghyuck, clearly unimpressed, frowned and leant back in his chair. He met Jeno’s eye.

“I promise the party won’t be this shitty.”

Jeno could only smile in thanks. From the corner of his eye he saw Jaemin walk past the shop’s window. He hastily finished the last spoonfuls of ice-cream and got up. “I should head home. My mom owes me a present,” he told them. “Thanks for the ice-cream, Injun.”

Renjun nodded silently. Donghyuck looked at his own glass, still partially full and sighed. “I guess I’ll see you tonight then.”

“Yeah.”

Jeno left the shop, but he didn’t walk in the direction of his home. No, he followed the mop of chestnut hair at the end of the street. He wasn’t sure exactly why he was following him, but he did. He followed him all the way to the edge of the town, where a low wall outlined the perimeters and separated them from the vast nothingness.

On the other side of the wall where the roads ended, was a field of dirt that spread out far and wide till dust and fog obscured it. There were a few trees placed at random here and there, a small sort-of-forest further up, and Jeno knew there was a thin river somewhere as well though he couldn’t pinpoint the location.

Jaemin was sitting on top of the wall. One leg hung down and the other, he brought up to rest his chin on his knee. He didn’t hear Jeno approaching.

“Hey.”

Jaemin startled. “Oh. Hey.” He turned back to the view, a little more awkward now that he knew he wasn’t alone.

Jeno hoisted himself up next to him. “Bad day?” he asked.

Jaemin scoffed. “Bad week, more like.” He pulled at his shoelace absently.

“You wanna talk about it?” Jeno tried. “I know we don’t really know each other… but if you want to, I can listen.”

“I’d rather not.” He was struggling to redo his shoelace with one hand.

“Oh. Well, that’s okay. I don’t want to press you.” It was getting awkward quick. Jeno could feel his face heating in embarrassment. What was he thinking? That they’d have a nice heart-to-heart?

The other boy hummed. “I’m really sorry I can’t make it to your birthday.”

“It really doesn’t matter,” Jeno reassured him. “I don’t know half the people coming anyways.”

A sudden breeze whipped through the air and ruffled Jaemin’s hair. Jeno almost reached out to comb it back into place. Almost. But he held himself back and focused on Jaemin’s shoelace struggles.

“I’m also really sorry for acting out earlier. Donghyuck's right. I’m way too dramatic.” He laughed quietly (bitterly, Jeno thought). “I don’t know. Everything kind of just ticks me off lately. It’s frustrating. And then that makes me mad all over again.” He sighed. “Sorry.”

“You sound stressed out.”

“We’re on spring break. There’s nothing to stress over.”

Jeno shrugged. “You can get stressed out over things other than homework. Moving can be stressful. Meeting new people can be stressful. Sometimes being around your family can be… stressful.”

“Yeah, that.” Jaemin finally gave up on his shoes and looked up at the horizon. “Did you know there’s a huge lake all the way over there somewhere?” He waved his hand towards his right.

“I know there’s a river. But not a lake.”

“Yeah, I don’t think many people do. It’s much, much further away,” he said. “My dad took me once. We stayed there overnight; slept in the car. And then we drove back the next day. It was fun. But my mom was really pissed. She thought my dad ran away with me.”

“Oh… Maybe he’ll take you again. With her this time," Jeno offered.

Jaemin shook his head. “No. He won’t.”

The reply was cryptic and Jeno was curious. He was pondering whether it would be a bad idea to ask where Jaemin’s father was now when he gave the answer himself.

“He did run away eventually. Without me. Now there’s this other asshole living in my house.”

“An asshole, huh. Sounds like one.”

“You don’t even know anything about him.”

But Jaemin was smiling. A big, bright smile, radiant enough to rival the sun shining behind him. The most beautiful smile on a beautiful boy.

It was then that Jeno realised he had a major problem; he found the real angel and he was so beautiful it distracted him. Heaven’s customer service was going to hear from him.

“Speaking of which, I need to go home,” announced Jaemin. Then he remembered his untied shoelace and smiled sheepishly at Jeno. “Could you help me with this though?”

Chapter Text

There were three doors to Jeno’s grandma’s house.

The first one was a faded purple and placed directly before the road. There was a key for this door. When you pass the purple door, you come face to face with the second door. This door was once dark blue, but now was painted green and it could only be opened from the inside. The green door led to the garden that made the perimeters of the house. From there, you could either enter through the back door or the front door. Both had complicated locks. In a town like this, you could never be too careful.

It was a big house and a big family used to live here. Eventually everyone in the house got married off, and it was just his grandma. But now Jeno and his mom have moved back in. Jeno felt bad for his grandma, who had to live alone for so many years. He felt guilty he hadn’t visited her as much as he should have, growing up in his father’s home. She was sweet. And she absolutely doted on him.

Walking into the house, Jeno was met by his mother. She called him over the half wall separating the kitchen and the living room. On the kitchen table was a bowl of seaweed soup, rice and several side dishes.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” she whispered, bending down to press a kiss to Jeno’s hair. “Where’d you go so early in the morning?”

“Renjun treated me to ice-cream.”

His mum hummed softly. “I hope you aren’t too full for Birthday Breakfast.”

Jeno grinned. “Never. You know I can’t resist your cooking, mum.”

“That’s right,” she nodded.

He dug in, making sure to finish the last grain. His mother left at one point and returned just as Jeno finished washing up. In her hands, she held a gift-wrapped box. She set it on the table and stepped back, watching Jeno approach it curiously.

It was a branded pair of sneakers. Jeno marvelled at them in awe. “Thank you, mum. Seriously. You’re the best.”

She smiled smugly and pulled him into a hug.

“I’m gonna show them off the boys tonight,” he told her.

“You’re going again? You went out so late last night too. What did you boys even do?”

“Sports, mum,” Jeno reassured her. “They’re in the middle of the school year, they’re only free at night, you know.”

“I thought it was spring break…” she muttered, concern lacing her voice.

Mum,” Jeno spoke slowly with emphasis. “I promise it’s nothing illegal. It’s just sports. We just mess around.”

She frowned but she nodded. “Okay… okay, yeah. Renjun’s a good kid. Keep safe, yeah?”

“Mmhmm.”

She kissed his cheek, too short to reach his head now that he was standing. “I love you.”

“Yeah, mum. Love you too.”

 

When Jaemin had told him about his parents, Jeno had understood to an extent. After his dad got the job in America, he began to drift apart from them to focus on his work. Being in a foreign country, his mum had nothing; she was unhappy, homesick and she grew tired of waiting. They divorced and Jeno’s mother moved back to Korea with Jeno. His father was still far, far away, both literally and figuratively, his mind filled with only blueprints and architecture.

 

Evening came around and Donghyuck showed up at his door asking for him. His mother was delighted to see him, God knows how she still remembered the boy, and Jeno had to drag Donghyuck away before his mother could smother him.

They walked to the skate-park together, side by side. Donghyuck had a lot to talk about and at the same time, nothing in particular to discuss. They switched topics every other minute and they poked fun at each other. Bantered like the old friends they were. What they didn’t talk about, was flirting-over-text-at-1am.

There were more strangers at the skate-park than there were the previous night. Jeno was still having trouble keeping track.

“Fellas, meet our newest recruit and my old buddy, Jeno,” Donghyuck introduced.

Jeno nodded in hello and the boys waved back. He said boys, but some of them looked more like men. Apart from the ones he’d met last night, there were 6 others:

A very soft-spoken boy Donghyuck introduced as Jungwoo.

A boy with an odd resemblance to a rabbit named Doyoung.

A sweet, Chinese boy who Donghyuck called Winwin.

Brightly smiling, yet also slightly skeptical, Yuta.

And the narrator from the last game; Ten.

The sixth boy, Jeno recognised from a summer camp some years ago. Jung Jaehyun. Handsome. Dimpled. Popular. Also Jeno’s cub-scout pack leader. He’d only grown more handsome over the years and Jeno was not afraid to admit that at one point, he had had a small crush on the older boy.

Jaehyun pulled him into a hug and ruffled his hair, mumbling something about how tall Jeno had gotten and how he still looked the same. Jeno hugged him back gratefully. “I would have gotten you a present, but I didn’t think it was the same Lee Jeno I knew,” he apologised.

Jeno shrugged the apology off. “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you here either.”

“I see the grandpas didn’t bother to show up,” commented Donghyuck.

“Responsible adults give up parties to work,” said Ten.

At this, the bright-smiled boy sat up straight, smile no longer bright. He looked offended. “Are you saying I’m not a responsible adult?” he accused. There was a slight accent to his speech.

Jaehyun laughed out loud. “Yuta. You’re hanging out with a bunch of high-schoolers and you still can’t do your own laundry.” Jeno muffled his own laugh behind his palm.

“Hey.” The boy named Yuta pointed an accusatory finger at Jaehyun. “You’re here too. And so is Doyoung.”

“Yeah, but I’m halfway through my project. You haven’t even started,” input Doyoung.

Yuta, unimpressed kicked out at Doyoung. “You don’t know that.”

Mark, Lucas, Chenle and Jisung were there too. The only person missing was Renjun, but surprise, surprise, there was someone else.

“Na Jaemin. You actually showed up.”

The boy in question smiled softly.

“I thought you had, quote unquote, ‘better things to do with your life’,” pointed Donghyuck.

“I didn’t say that,” Jaemin reminded just as the other boys began to ‘ooh’ at the sound of drama. “But I figured I should show up for someone who deserves it.”

“Prince Jaemin only makes time for those he finds worthy of his attention,” sniped Ten. He earnt a smug grin from Jaemin.

Donghyuck opened his mouth to send another retort but was stopped by Jaehyun’s hand on his shoulder. “No fighting today boys. It’s Jeno’s day and I have 6 years worth of birthdays to make up for.”

“We can’t start without Renjun-” Jisung began just as said boy ran towards them, carrying two bags of boxes.

Thank you,” he squinted at Jisung and Chenle, “for helping me out with these.” He gestured to the bags. The youngest boy winked. “No problem.”

Renjun arranged the boxes on the flat top of a ramp; three pizza boxes and five boxes of donuts. “I couldn’t get cake, so these are birthday donuts,” he was saying.

Jeno hadn’t been expecting cake, he was touched enough that they’d bought donuts. Renjun lit candles on the biggest one and carried the box towards Jeno. The birthday boy couldn’t help but smile shyly at this group of overly friendly strangers – he reminded himself – they were strangers; he barely knew their names yet at the same time he felt that he did know them.

They sang some out-of-tune, haphazard version of happy birthday in a mix of languages that Jeno couldn’t tell apart. Behind them, the sun was starting to set and the shadows on their faces were highlighted with the last rays of the sun and the candles’ glow. Something warm bloomed in Jeno. His only wish was that the feeling would last longer.

 

Ten clapped his hands. “Okay. Game time.” The bunny-resembling boy, Doyoung, shook the box of bands. “Let’s go.”

Mark pulled Jeno to a side. “Since there’s more of us, Ten and Doyoung are both narrating, and they can call breaks whenever they like. So keep an eye on your phone, yeah?” he explained.

Jeno sighed. “Isn’t it easier to play it the normal way? While sitting?”

Mark scoffed and slapped his back playfully. “What’s the fun in that?” he asked.

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[23 April 2016]

[18:55] Ten: We start at 7 everyone pm me

[18:55] WinWin: Ok

[18:58] Ten: total players 12

[18:59] Ten: we have almost all the characters so this is going to be fun

[18:59] Ten: even cupid ;)

[18:59] Takoyaki Prince: whoever cupid is leave me alone

[19:00] Ten: Game start! Gooooo!!!!

Chapter Text

Kim Doyoung [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[18:57] Ten: this gon be a good game ;)

[18:57] Doyoung: Ten please. The list.

[18:57] Ten: give me a minute ohmygod

[18:59] Ten: Injun is drunk
lele exorcist
hyuck whore
lucas n ji demons
nana is cursed
mark traitor
jungwoo serial killer
jeno doctor
jaehyun cupid
sicheng king
yuta farmer

[19:01] Ten: total 12

[19:01] Doyoung: what sort of serial killer?

[19:01] Ten: kills with love

 

Jung Jaehyun [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[18:55] Jung Jaehyun: I’m cupid

[19:02] Ten: cupid who u wanna shoot?

[19:02] Jung Jaehyun: Yuta.

[19:02] Jung Jaehyun: and winwin.

 

Takoyaki Prince [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[18:56] Takoyaki Prince: farmer

[18:56] Takoyaki Prince: i got a lame role :(

[19:03] Ten: cupid shot you. ur now madly in love with winwin

[19:03] Takoyaki Prince: so nothing changes

[19:04] Ten: thats gay

[19:04] Takoyaki Prince: so r u

 

Junguwu [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[19:02] Doyoung: Ten said you kill by love so all you need to do is love them

[19:02] Junguwu: do hugs count?

[19:02] Doyoung: If they don’t pull away

[19:03] Junguwu: ok! ^w^

 

NaNa Jaemin [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[19:03] Jisung Pwark: tell me honestly what r u

[19:04] NaNa Jaemin: You tell first

[19:04] Jisung Pwark: demon

[19:04] NaNa Jaemin: Im cursed

[19:04] Jisung Pwark: perfect

[19:05] Jisung Pwark: Lele is exorcist

[19:05] Jisung Pwark: lets team up

[19:05] NaNa Jaemin: Against Hyuck and jeno? Im in

[19:06] Jisung Pwark: we’re by the subway

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[23 April 2016]

[19:06] Doyoung: Peace in the village is interrupted by the death of the drunk villager Injun!

[19:06] Doyoung: what was thought to be liver failure turned out to be a loving murder!

[19:06] Ddonghyuck: Loving?

[19:07] Doyoung: killed him with love

[19:10] Doyoung: THE SERIAL KILLER STRIKES AGAIN

[19:10] Doyoung: King Winwin was found smothered with kisses in his bed

[19:10] Takoyaki Prince: NO

[19:10] Takoyaki Prince: NOOO

[19:11] Doyoung: with the death of their king, the villagers ordered the execution of Queen Yuta who was nothing but a farmer before royalty

[19:11] Takoyaki Prince: NOOOOO

[19:12] Takoyaki Prince: FUCK ME CUPID

 

NaNa Jaemin [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[18:56] NaNa Jaemin: Im cursed

[19:09] NaNa Jaemin: Ji turned me into a demon

[19:10] Ten: ok

 

Team Demons [Group] – 3 members

[23 April 2016]

[Jisung Pwark created this group]

[Jisung Pwark added NaNa Jaemin and Zhong Chenle]

[19:08] Jisung Pwark: I saw hyuck hiding on the road

[19:08] Jisung Pwark: I think hes a villager

[19:09] Zhong Chenle: yeh hyuck is safe

[19:09] NaNa Jaemin: Ji you take him

[19:09] Jisung Pwark: on my own???!!

[19:09] Jisung Pwark: jenos with him!!!

[19:10] NaNa Jaemin: I only have one functioning hand :))

[19:10] Jisung Pwark: ugh fine ill try

[19:13] Zhong Chenle: I just ran into Lucas

[19:13] Zhong Chenle: hes also demon

[Zhong Chenle added Lucaaas]

[19:14] Lucaaas: HEYYYY

[19:14] Zhong Chenle: thats all the demons

[19:15] Jisung Pwark: LUCSA HELPBME

[19:15] Lucaaas: what

[19:15] Zhong Chenle: help. him.

[19:15] Lucaaas: I AM COMING

[19:17] Jisung Pwark: lol no its okay I got away

[19:18] NaNa Jaemin: BUT DID YOU GET HYUCK??!!!

[19:18] Jisung Pwark: :))

[19:18] NaNa Jaemin: HNJDSNJDG

[19:19] Jisung Pwark: I tried

[19:19] Jisung Pwark: and I nearly died trying leave me alone jaemin

[19:19] Lucaaas: me and you and nana can fight hyuck together

[19:19] Zhong Chenle: That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard you say

[19:20] NaNa Jaemin: olright let’s go

 

“Do you think that little ass Jisung will come back?” asked Donghyuck. They had chased the youngest boy through the empty subway before they’d given up and gone back out. Donghyuck was lying down on the subway bench, his legs stretched out on Jeno’s lap.

Jeno hesitated, his eyes focused on the moving shadows ahead. Three tall shadows trying to creep around, but their height not doing much to help them. The light of a streetlamp hit one of them and Jeno caught a glimpse of fluffy blonde hair. “He’s already here,” he answered finally. “And he brought friends.”

“Oof, Na Jaemin,” Donghyuck hissed, quickly sitting up. “And Lucas.”

“Should we run?” Jeno shook his knee impatiently. The three were moving faster. They probably knew Jeno and Donghyuck had noticed them.

“Yeah.”

They sprinted back down into the subway and hid in the space between two cable cars. The gap was small, so they had to squeeze in back-to-back… or front-to-front. Donghyuck grinned at Jeno impishly. “Hi,” he said in English.

Hello,” Jeno chuckled.

Jeno shifted slightly and his nose bumped with Donghyuck's. Suddenly, he felt that same sudden burst of confidence from the previous night, when he had slung his arm around Donghyuck. A sense of déjà vu. Donghyuck's eyes dropped to his lips again and came back up to meet his eyes. Neither of them blinked.

Around them, the three other boys ran into the subway. Their footsteps thundered in the deserted tunnel and faded away as they ran straight through and out of the next exit.

They still held their breaths.

“Let’s go,” Jeno whispered, his voice soft, afraid to disturb the atmosphere they created.

Donghyuck was silent. Then he moved slightly. And by a flash, a blink of an eye and you would have missed it, he pecked Jeno of the lips. And while the boy stood stunned, frozen to the spot, he took his chance and dashed.

“What.” What. Jeno ghosted a finger over his lips. “What was that?” Then he realised. Donghyuck was the whore. “Goddammit, Donghyuck.” He shook his head in disbelief but couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him.

 

Team Demons [Group] – 4 members

[23 April 2016]

[19:24] Zhong Chenle: PEASANTS

[19:24] Zhong Chenle: GIVE ME UPDATES

[19:25] Lucaaas: ok ok

[19:26] Lucaaas: we are outside

[19:26] Zhong Chenle:

[19:26] Lucaaas: jeno is gone

[19:27] NaNa Jaemin: cant find jeno hyucks on his own we cornered him

[19:28] Jisung Pwark: we got hyuck

 

Jeno walked out at the wrong time.

He’d come out of the subway to find Hyuck surrounded.

And it was too late to go back.

Lucas grabbed his arms and held him so that Jeno’s back was against his chest. He was chortling happily. Jaemin approached him while Jisung continued to pester Donghyuck. The boy smiled when he saw Jeno’s attempt at a ‘cool’ escape.

“It’s over,” he told Jeno. “Lucas is a demon. We all are. We don’t even need your band.”

Jeno sighed. “Oh well.” Lucas loosened his hold and jumped around to Jaemin’s side. He enthusiastically hi-fived the younger boy, screaming, “yeah!”, then picked him up and shook him in the air like a trophy.

Jaemin yelled out in shock and gripped onto Lucas’ neck for dear life. The expression on the poor boy’s face had Jeno gasping for air as he laughed. Unfortunately for him, Lucas took that as an invitation to lift Jeno with his other arm. He was pressed into the taller boy’s chest despite his protests and he could feel Jaemin on the other side of him.

When they were finally released from Lucas’ loving, albeit crushing grip, Jaemin stumbled backwards and straight into Jeno. Instinctively, he reached out to catch him, only to be met with that blinding smile looking up at him.

He was embarrassed to say that he immediately dropped Jaemin.

Some few metres away, Jisung doubled over and fell to the floor in laughter.

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[23 April 2016]

[19:28] Doyoung: Hyuck the whore made a deal with a demon

[19:28] Doyoung: it ended up taking his life

[19:32] Doyoung: by the time doctor Jeno arrived, it was too late

[19:32] Doyoung: The demons got him too

[19:32] Doyoung: Meanwhile the serial killer paid cupid a visit

[19:33] Doyoung: He said he blamed Jaehyun for making him the way he is

[19:33] Doyoung: he shot cupid with all of his arrows

[19:33] Jung Jaehyun: I don’t know what I did wrong but I’m sorry

[19:34] Ddonghyuck: i know what the demons did wrong

[19:34] Ddonghyuck: that was not fair play

[19:34] Doyoung: the serial killer is on a roll!

[19:35] Doyoung: Mark the traitor is dead

[19:35] Doyoung: no one will be attending your funeral

 

Team Demons [Group] – 4 members

[23 April 2016]

[19:35] Zhong Chenle: Just Jungwoo left now

[19:35] Lucaaas: he is serial killer

[19:36] Jisung Pwark: yeah but theres 3 of us

[19:36] Jisung Pwark: weve practically won

[19:36] Zhong Chenle: AHEM

[19:36] Zhong Chenle: I'm still here

[19:36] Zhong Chenle: And I'm going to win

[19:37] NaNa Jaemin: okay

[19:37] NaNa Jaemin: Lele wins

[19:37] Jisung Pwark:

[19:37] Jisung Pwark: Fine

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members

[23 April 2016]

[19:41] Doyoung: The serial killer had been cornered by demons

[19:41] Doyoung: Before he went down, Jungwoo the serial killer drew his last kill

[19:42] Doyoung: apparently demons are weak to love

[19:42] Doyoung: NA JAEMIN THE DEMON AND KIM JUNGWOO THE SERIAL KILLER OUT

[19:42] NaNa Jaemin: I made sure to kiss him back ;)

[19:43] Ten: on the lips?

[19:43] NaNa Jaemin: duh

[19:43] Ten: :’) Im proud of you

[19:43] Junguwu: it was a nice kiss :3

[19:44] Doyoung: FHDAJKDSAK JUNGWOO

[19:44] Lucaaas: really :(

[19:44] Takoyaki Prince: kick the gays out pls

[19:44] Ddonghyuck: LOOK WHOS TALKING

[19:44] Ten: u r really in no position to say that yuta

[19:45] Doyoung: EVERYONE SHUT UP

[19:45] Takoyaki Prince: No

[19:45] Doyoung: Chenle wins game over

[19:45] Ddonghyuck: WHAT

[19:45] Zhong Chenle: YAAAAAS

[19:46] Mark Lee: HOW TF

[21 unread messages]

 

Huang Renjun [Private Message]

[23 April 2016]

[19:45] Lee Jeno: Jaemin is gay?

[19:46] Huang Renjun: Yeah

[19:46] Huang Renjun: He’s not very quiet about it either.

[19:46] Huang Renjun: [replying to Lee Jeno] Most of them aren’t straight.

[19:46] Lee Jeno: oh okay

[19:47] Huang Renjun: Why? You’re interested?

[19:47] Lee Jeno: no… just curious

[19:47] Huang Renjun: Mmm sure.

[19:47] Huang Renjun: You don’t need to be embarrassed. Ik he’s pretty

[19:48] Huang Renjun: I used to have a crush on him too

[19:48] Huang Renjun: It’s the smile

[19:48] Lee Jeno: Yeah the smile sure is something

[19:49] Huang Renjun: interesting… ;)

[19:49] Lee Jeno: Wby? I know you aren’t straight (idk why you didn’t tell me before)

[19:49] Huang Renjun: I don’t really know tbh (It just seemed irrelevant)

[19:49] Huang Renjun: Definitely not straight tho lol

[19:50] Lee Jeno: Yeah same (you’re not irrelevant)

[19:50] Lee Jeno: And you’re right

[19:50] Lee Jeno: I think he’s cute

[19:50] Lee Jeno: But

[19:52] Huang Renjun: ??

[19:52] Lee Jeno: nothing lol

[19:52] Huang Renjun: Okay…

[19:52] Huang Renjun: Get home safe.

[unsent message] Lee Jeno: Hyuck kissed me and I think it was a joke but it didnt feel like a joke I dont know :(((

Chapter Text

They threw two more rounds before exhaustion finally got to them and they called it a night. Donghyuck didn’t text him that night – Jeno was a little bit relieved. He didn’t know what to say, or if he should say anything at all.

He liked Donghyuck.

He liked him.

As a friend.

And he didn’t want to hurt him, because he liked him, but he’d been stolen by a certain pretty boy with a blinding smile and he had no room to consider anyone else. (He crossed his fingers and hoped the pretty boy wasn’t dating anyone yet.)

 

Most of that Sunday went uneventful. It was the last day before the boys’ spring break ended and they had to return to school. Not Jeno though. He’d be joining for the next year. Renjun had whined about it while they both lounged lazily in Renjun’s room playing with his PS4.

“I swear everyone only visits me for my PS4,” complained Renjun.

“That’s not true. We also hang out with you for your A/C,” said Jeno, earning a jab in the hip.

“Chenle has a PS4 too,” the other pointed. “And air-conditioning.”

“Yeah, but he only shares with Jisung.”

Renjun folded his arms across his chest, displeased.

At that moment, Renjun’s balcony window slid open and a certain pretty-boy, smile absent, snuck in. He faltered when he saw Jeno. “Oh, uh- Hello.”

Jeno blinked. “Hi…” Did Renjun’s friends usually sneak into places? “What happened to the front door?” he bent on asking instead.

“Nothing.” It was Renjun who answered. He hadn’t given more than a glance towards Jaemin, who had joined them on the bed.

“What are you playing?” asked Jaemin, and like that the conversation was dropped.

“Mortal Kombat,” Renjun tossed his controller at him. “Play. I’m gonna get snacks.”

Jeno shifted closer to fill Renjun’s place. “So,” he began. “Has your shitty week gotten any better?”

Jaemin sighed. “What are you talking about. School starts tomorrow. It’s about to get even shittier.” He paused, thinking his next words over. “I had fun yesterday though.” He spoke softly. “Sorry, I couldn’t get a gift.”

“No, no, no. That’s fine, honestly. You don’t need to,” Jeno quickly reassured. “You showed up even though you were busy. That’s more than enough. Seriously. I really appreciate it.”

Jaemin cracked a smile. “You’re real nice, you know? You deserve more.”

“So do you.” He spoke without thinking, but he meant it. And when Jaemin’s smile turned shy, and he elbowed Jeno, embarrassed, Jeno felt a bubble of pride burst in him. He made him smile.

“We totally beat your ass yesterday. Every. Single. Match.”  Jaemin hurriedly switched the subject.

“Four against two isn’t what I call fair play,” grumbled Jeno. He accepted the change in topics begrudgingly.

“And neither is two on one.” Jaemin raised his eyebrows pointedly, side-eyeing Jeno.

Jeno imitated Jaemin’s expression- “You had Jisung on your side.”

-And Jaemin mimicked Jeno’s tone, “Jisung ran away~”

They both burst into laughter, suddenly a lot more comfortable with each other.

“Anyways,” started Jaemin, once their laughter subsided, “What’s your relationship with Hyuck?”

“Hm?” Jeno choked on air. What sort of question? Why now? Out of the blue? When he still didn’t know what the kiss meant.

The Kiss- “I saw him kiss you in the subway.” Oh. He saw that?

Jeno breathed sharply through his nose. “He was the whore,” he explained.

Jaemin nodded though he looked unconvinced. “You sure that's it?" he teased.

“You kissed Jungwoo,” Jeno countered.

“Nuh-uh, Jungwoo kissed me.

Jeno chuckled. “And you totally didn't kiss him back."

Jaemin smiled sheepishly. “Guilty. But we're just friends.”

"Me and Hyuck too," Jeno repeated. "He's nice, but I'm- I'm interested in someone else..."

Before Jaemin could comment on it, Renjun returned with a platter of sandwiches and chicken (lucky Jeno). Jeno shuffled closer to Jaemin so Renjun could sit on the side of the bed. He passed the platter to Jaemin who took it gratefully.

“Since neither of you are playing, I’m turning on a movie,” said Renjun.

Jaemin nodded approvingly, mouth too full of chicken to speak. Jeno swallowed before proposing they watch a horror movie. Renjun only hesitated a moment before flipping through his horror folder. “Let’s go old school. I want to watch The Shining.”

“Fine by me,” shrugged Jeno. Jaemin also nodded his approval, moving the almost empty plate onto the dresser. The movie started rolling on screen and Jeno tucked his legs under Renjun’s blanket.

It was around when Jack snapped and Wendy began swinging a bat at her husband that Jeno felt a touch on his shoulder. He flinched, quickly turning to find the source, only to discover a very sleepy Na Jaemin struggling to keep his head up. Every time he nodded off, he shot back upright, squinting his eyes like he was trying to make sense of the TV screen. Jeno laughed quietly, then felt bad about it and shifted Jaemin’s head onto his shoulder. What luck.

Renjun noticed. He gave Jeno a knowing smile that Jeno couldn’t help return.

By the time the movie ended, Jeno himself was half asleep. Renjun’s mother had come in half-way through to suggest he stay over for the night. Afterall, their families were close enough that Jeno could come and leave as he wanted. Plus, Renjun wouldn’t mind if Jeno borrowed his PS4 while the boys were at school.

“Should I wake him?” Jeno gestured to the sleeping boy on his shoulder.

“Nah,” said Renjun. And that was that. Jeno shared the bed with Jaemin while Renjun slept on the couch by the balcony. He wondered if the sole purpose of the couch was just that.

 

Jaemin left through the balcony just as he came. When Jeno questioned him how he got from his window to Renjun’s without crossing any streets, the boy had simply replied, “skills.” Turns out, he meant he swung from the balcony railing, hopped from roof to roof and climbed window-ledges. Still, that required some mad skills in Jeno’s opinion.

Jeno wasted the morning going through Renjun’s CDs and he wasted the afternoon at his own place scrolling through Instagram. It was evening when his friends finally finished their extra classes, courses and homework and boy was Jeno relieved. He was about to consider being taught crocheting by his grandma hadn’t Mark texted him to ‘hang at his place’.

Other than himself, and Mark, obviously, only Donghyuck had showed up. It was a little troubling for Jeno, who wanted to avoid Donghyuck as much as possible. He didn’t know how to reply to Donghyuck 's affection, but he didn’t want to reject the other when he knew he had led the boy on.  

He had had a change of heart. Did that make him a bad person?

They didn’t do much other than talk about their day. Donghyuck was bursting with the latest gossip that he relayed to them very animatedly. Mark interrupted now and then to add a sentence or to laugh very loudly (that was received with glares).

Suddenly, the door was shoved open and in came Jaemin, half carrying Renjun. At once, the boys were on their feet. Mark rushed to the bathroom and Donghyuck quickly locked the door behind them. Jeno, lost amongst the chaos and the sudden change in atmosphere, could do nothing but observe.

“What the fuck happened?” questioned Mark. Jeno could second that.

Donghyuck cornered Jaemin. “Jaemin. Answers. Now.” He demanded.

The boy raised his hands angrily. “This isn’t my fault, fuck off Hyuck.”

“Hey, hey,” Mark quickly intervened before the argument could escalate. “Calm down. One thing at a time.” He tilted his head at Renjun. “First, we fix him. Jeno. Give me a hand.”

Jeno startled at the sound of his name, but he got up immediately. Mark emptied out the first aid box, picking out a bandage and a bottle of something. “I don’t know what this shit is, but it looks right,” he told Jeno.

Renjun breathed deeply. He didn’t look too great but he also wasn’t passing out which Jeno figured was a good sign. However, his t-shirt has a pretty ugly bloodstain on it; probably the source of the problem. There’s a neat slice right across the boy’s abdomen, not too deep, lucky for him. Still, Jeno grimaced.

“Shouldn’t we take him to a hospital?” he suggested.

“No.” “No!” “Absolutely not.” They shut him up immediately.

“But he’s been stabbed?” Jeno argued. “We should tell the police!”

Renjun shook his head in a firm no. “We can’t tell anyone. Least of all his parents,” said Jaemin.

Mark poured disinfectant onto a rag and cleansed the area as gently as he could, yet it wasn’t enough to keep Renjun from hissing in pain. He muttered apologies to the injured boy. Jeno took Renjun’s hand in his and let him squeeze it. Finally, Mark unrolled the bandage, then he stopped. “How the fuck do I bandage that?” he asked no one in particular.

“Wrap it all the way around his waist,” offered Jaemin.

“Google it,” said Donghyuck.

“You could, uh- cut it? And tape it on?” tried Jeno.

“Just google it you dumbfucks,” moaned Renjun.

With Donghyuck's narration, they managed to pull together a decent dressing. It held Renjun together, fulfilling its job enough to satisfy the doctors. Renjun, worn out from the pain, informed them he was going to rest, leaving the story telling to Jaemin.

“So.” Mark turned on the boy in question. “What. Happened?”

Jaemin shoved his hands into his hoodie pocket and took a deep breath. “Those kids from JYP academy were picking on Jisung again so Renjun snapped and he punched Felix and they both started fighting and then he pulled out his pocket knife and stabbed Seungmin so they got mad and did the same to him, the end.” He spat out the whole story in one breath. His audience was just as breathless by the end of it. “I couldn’t stop it, I was checking on Ji,” he added more quietly.

“How is Ji?” questioned Mark.

“He’s okay. Just shaken up. Chenle’s got him.”

Mark nodded. “Okay.” He rubbed a hand across his face. “What a mess.”

“You tell me,” Jaemin sighed.

“Why was he carrying a pocket knife in the first place?”

“He always keeps it on him. He’s been saying he wants to fuck them up for a long time now,” answered Donghyuck. “I never thought he was serious about it.”

They sat in silence for a long while. Jaemin was the first to break the ice. “I need to go home.”

Donghyuck hummed. “I should too.”

“I’ll tell Renjun’s parents he’s staying at your place,” said Jeno.

They walked together the first few streets. Neither wanted to make any comments on the events that occurred. The only words they spoke were ‘goodbye’ when they had to part ways. They thought it would end there, for then at-least. Any fight that could occur if the two groups met was unavoidable and they knew it. But little did they know that things would tumble downhill much faster than they expected.

And it’s all because of a text message from Felix Lee himself; asking for a fight, fair and square to avenge their friends. How could they say no to that?

Chapter Text

Jeno was last to arrive. The other boys stood opposite each other in lines. It was six on six. Mark, Chenle, Jaemin, Donghyuck and Lucas, each with stoic expressions facing the six boys from the other group, only one of whom Jeno recognized – the blonde boy with the freckles; Felix.

Next to Felix was a tall, dark haired boy. He was very pretty, with a mole beneath his eye, but the aura around him was dangerous. Beside him, a shorter boy in a large black hoodie that covered most of his face. Despite his height he was intimidating.

There was a boy with full cheeks and a confident smirk, a very young-looking boy with slanted fox eyes, almost as young as their Jisung, and the eldest, or so Jeno guessed, a tall, good-looking guy who stepped forward to speak.

“You know the rules,” his eyes were narrowed in Jeno’s direction. “But I’ll say them again. No weapons, no biting and no killing. Your friend didn’t play fair so be grateful we’re being civil.”

Donghyuck patted Jeno’s back comfortingly. “You didn’t have to come,” he whispered.

“You’d be outnumbered,” Jeno whispered back. “Plus, it’s for Renjun.”

The tall boy raised his arm. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“We’re ready,” said Jaemin.

The tall boy smirked. “Okay. Go.” He brought his arm down… and lunged.

The suddenness of it left Jeno frozen and unable to process anything as Jaemin narrowly avoided being tackled down. He almost didn’t see the pretty boy coming at him.

He was relentless; the pretty boy. He didn’t pause between his jabs and shoves. Jeno wasn’t ready. As soon as he recovered from the punch to his stomach, the boy’s fist connected with his jaw. He knew the boy could’ve easily knocked him out if he wanted to, but he was playing with him.

Jeno took a blind swing at the other boy. He missed but the boy grinned. “Good. It was getting boring.”

Jeno rubbed his jaw and pulled himself together. He’d taken basic taekwondo classes some 7-8 years ago. Now would be a great time to remember what Mr. Jung had taught him. (Silently, he regrets quitting the course).

The pretty boy took a defensive stance, so Jeno attacked. He wasn’t the best taekwondo fighter, but he was flexible, and he used his legs to kick the pretty boy down. Unluckily, the boy caught hold of Jeno’s shoulder and managed to steady himself, then used that as leverage to turn Jeno’s attack onto himself.

As his opponent loomed over him, Jeno kicked, and he swung, and he felt some sort of achievement when the boy recoiled, pressing his hand against his now bleeding lip. He quickly stood up and prepared for the next hit.

“You’re not that bad actually,” the pretty boy admitted.

“Thanks?”

“But you’re going to have to try harder if you want to take me on.” Suddenly, the boy was on top on him, and Jeno’s head was colliding with the ground. Stars erupted behind his eyes.

“I’ll try not to hit your face,” he heard the boy say before feeling a hard smack against his ribs. “I’m Hyunjin by the way.”

“Lee Jeno,” he groaned. He gripped Hyunjin’s forearms and struggled to wrestle him off his chest. “I’d say nice to meet you, Hyunjin, but I don’t appreciate getting my ass beat.”

“Maybe in another world where your buddy doesn’t stab my boyfriend-” Hyunjin faltered as Jeno turned the tables and ploughed him into the dirt.

“Maybe in another world where your boyfriend doesn’t stab my best-friend,” mimicked Jeno. He brought his fist up to land a good hit.

“Actually. That was me,” confessed the pretty boy. He shut his eyes tight, waiting for the blow that never came.

Jaemin was holding onto Jeno’s hand. “Get up! Let’s go!” he urged.

Jeno let himself be pulled up. Hyunjin, looking equally confused, looked around, then dashed.

“What?” he asked.

Jaemin nodded behind him. “Cops are here.”

As he spoke, a man shouted at them from only a few metres away.

“Shit,” said Jeno. And so they ran.

With the policeman close on their heels, running on wide roads wouldn’t help them get away, no matter how fast they ran. Jaemin looked back and loudly huffed “fuck”, but he was grinning widely and seemed to be enjoying himself rather than being afraid. Jeno didn’t know he was smiling just as widely.

Jaemin tugged on his arm again, urging him to run faster. He pulled them into a narrow street littered with cardboard boxes and large rubbish bags that hadn’t been disposed. They made it through to the end, onto the main street, but the chasing footsteps weren’t far behind.

“Come.” Jaemin led him through shortcut after shortcut, one dirty alley after the other, a maze of streets in a tiny town until he was sure they had lost him. Then, and only then, did he stop to rest against the grimy walls and breathe.

Jeno didn’t know when their fingers had intertwined. He didn’t let go. Neither did Jaemin.

They laughed. There was nothing funny, but they laughed. They giggled and sniggered and cackled at nothing and at everything. Each laugh brought pain on the bruises blooming on his chest, his arms, his chin. He felt the tingle of each cut and scrape on his body and he felt the heat of the sweat trickling down the back of his neck. Each cold, needle-like drop of rain that touched his skin and the sparks of electricity between their fingertips.

Hyperaware. Hypersensitive. Exhilarated.

He never felt more alive.

The drizzle turned into a downpour in the sudden way rain does sometimes, but that didn’t stop them both from dancing like wild creatures and throwing their arms open to welcome the storm home. They screamed over the sound of the thunder and the crash of raindrops on metal roofs and watched the lightning crackle and branch out over their heads till they were soaked to the bone; drenched and wet.

And still they laughed.

And they lived.

 

And they loved.

Chapter Text

“We need to go somewhere,” said Jaemin.

“Your house?”

He shook his head; no.

“My house?”

“Sure.”

“You’ll have to be quiet.”

“No problem. The thunder is loud.”

 

They muffled the sound of the door creaking open with thunder and hurriedly wiped their boots on the welcome mat. Then, on the tips of their toes, feet padded with socks, they ran into Jeno’s room.

Jaemin shut the door behind them. Both of them still laughing, delirious, high on adrenaline, drunk on 3am escapades. Jeno collapsed at the foot of his bed. The exhaustion was finally seeping in. For a solid minute, there was nothing save for their gasps for air and the thumps of their hearts, the blood in their veins pounding in their heads, vivid flashbacks to a wild chase minutes ago.

Then their eyes met, and they broke down laughing again.

Jaemin slid down the wall opposite to him. The smile on his face was at its widest. Pearly whites were on full display. Eyes curved into crescents. And Jeno realised that Jaemin wasn’t the sun, but the moon. Although his smile seemed to radiate the blinding rays of the afternoon sun, it was shy, and it hid. Occasionally, did it appear in full; the bright round orb that was the moon. When it did, it bathed everything in its soft glow, and it made everything around it sparkle. Like twinkling stars. Even the smallest of things appeared brighter when Na Jaemin smiled.

“Penny for your thoughts?” asked the boy with the prettiest smile.

I want to kiss you and your smile. “I should go grab the first-aid-kit. And a towel.”

“Good idea. I’ll tell the group we’re safe.” He brushed away his wet fringe from his eyes. Bright, black doe eyes. Jeno melted into them. He could’ve sworn there were galaxies in the depth of his pupils. A whole universe held in Jaemin’s eyes – a universe Jeno would never be able to discover even given all the time in the world; he was already lost in them.

He was breathless. Jaemin was breath-taking and Jeno was breathless.

He snuck down and back up in record time, cradling the first-aid-kit and two towels to his chest. When he returned, Jaemin was by Jeno’s place at the foot of the bed, typing on his phone. His wet socks and shoes were neatly lined up by the wall.

“Are they alright?” Jeno asked, as a means of conversation. He sat next to him, then placed the box between them as an afterthought.

“Yeah.” Jaemin switched off his phone. He smiled again; reassuringly. “They’re alright.”

“That’s good.”

Jeno wrapped his towel around his neck and watched Jaemin dry his hair. The short chestnut strands clumped together and stuck out in all directions despite Jaemin’s efforts. Jeno couldn’t help snorting.

“Let me,” he offered, taking the towel out of Jaemin’s hands. Smiling as if he knew something Jeno didn’t, the boy obediently turned around. When he was done, Jeno combed the strands of hair into place with his fingers and Jaemin wiggled around to face him again.

 

He wiped away the droplets on Jaemin’s face and Jaemin waited patiently, studying how Jeno’s lips pouted in concentration. “Done,” he heard Jeno whisper soflty. He smiled in appreciation.

 

For a second, Jeno thought he might’ve seen Jaemin’s gaze flit down. The first-aid-kit wasn’t doing much to put any space between them. Then Jaemin smiled.

 

They were high on adrenaline and drunk on 3am escapades.

 

Maybe that’s why Jeno managed to close the gap.

 

And he realized.

 

“You kissed me before.”

“Yes.”

“In first grade.”

“Yes.”

“Why did you pretend?”

Jaemin sealed their lips again. Softly. Gently. But he didn’t give an answer.

And frankly, Jeno didn’t really need one. “That’s why you’re so familiar,” he mumbled.

He couldn’t think for the hands that caressed his face, the palms that cupped his chin and drew him in. Their faces pressed together, foreheads lightly touching. Smiling into kisses, still shy, still so gentle. Soft as the dim yellow of his bedside lamp. He couldn’t think. He was drunk on Na Jaemin.

“You are so beautiful,” he breathed. His palms pressed on the flat of Jaemin’s back as the other wrapped his legs around Jeno’s waist. “So. Fucking. Beautiful. Have I told you?”

“Yes. Twice now, actually,” Jaemin chuckled. He brought their foreheads together again. “I like this…” he whispered. “Just being here. Like this.”

“Me too… I’ve wanted to kiss you, Jaemin-”

“You have no idea.” Another peck on the corner of his lips. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited… to kiss you again.” He nuzzled sleepily into Jeno’s neck, bringing his arms around him and Jeno leant back against the bed.

“You’re shivering,” he observed as he held the taller boy.

“I’m drenched and so are you,” reminded Jaemin softly.

“I can find you a shirt-”

“Maybe later.” He was falling asleep.

“You’ll get sick, Nana,” Jeno said fondly. Yes, he was fond.

Jaemin’s breath hitched. “You called me Nana.”

“Huh. I guess I did.”

He untangled himself from a reluctant Jaemin and rummaged through his wardrobe. “Here.” He handed Jaemin a pair of sweats and a T-shirt that was a little too large for himself. “Go get changed in the bathroom and we can cuddle in my bed.” Even as he spoke the words he couldn’t help feeling giddy. Cuddle. In his bed. The old Jeno would never believe it.

The blankets were warm, but Na Jaemin was warmer. Figuratively. Literally, they were both cold. But they warmed up a lot quicker with Jaemin spooning him and their legs tangled together and Jeno’s arms wrapped around Jaemin’s .

The first-aid-kit lay forgotten. They could deal with that in the morning.

Chapter Text

They never figured out who won in the end. Maybe it was better that way. But if you asked Jeno, he’d tell you that he’s the real winner. He woke up in the morning to Na Jaemin snug under his blanket, tucked into his side, snoring softly in his bed. Ah, and the pleasant memories of soft kisses in dim lighting.

He reached over his bedside table for his phone, wincing slightly at the pain in his muscles. The second he pressed the Wi-Fi button, the device buzzed endlessly as it flooded with messages from their game group and a separate group Donghyuck had created for The Fight™. Jeno skimmed through the messages till he reached the most recent ones. And oh shit.

“Oh shit,” he swore.

Beside him, Jaemin shifted and blearily blinked his eyes open. “Oh shit?” he asked Jeno.

Jeno bit his lip. He glanced at the clock. Short hand on ten, long hand on twelve. “Oh shit, Jaemin,” he repeated. The boy groaned and mussed up his already messy hair, still too sleepy to figure it out for himself. So Jeno took pity on him and pointed at the clock. “Jaemin. It’s past ten.” he said slowly, watching the other boy’s eyes widen in realisation.  “You’re late.”

“Oh shit,” Jaemin agreed. He grabbed his phone, suddenly awake and upright and completely panicked, but his phone was dead. He groaned again and fell backwards. “I’m screwed.”

“Oh yeah, you are.” Jeno scrolled through the rest of the texts in the smaller group. “But so is everyone else.”

“What.” Jaemin promptly sat up, a hint of fear on his face. “No- How?”

Jeno showed him the screen.

Jaemin scrolled up and own. The chat had begun with ‘good morning!’s and ‘are you at school yet?’s then progressed from ‘where tf is Jaemin?’s to ‘Jaemin get your ass here before you get your ass beat!’ and, the prize winner; ‘THE POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR US WHICH SHIT SOLD US OUT?’.

Oh, they were more than screwed.

 

SM vs JYP [Group] – 6 members

[26 April 2016]

[09:28] Ddonghyuck: Theyre holding an assembly so suddenly

[09:28] Ddonghyuck: I have a bad feeling abt this

[09:28] Zhong Chenle: Me too.

[09:28] Zhong Chenle: What’s happening?

[09:29] Lucaaas: Guuys the police got the jyp guys

[09:29] Ddonghyuck: Fuck really?

[09:29] Mark Lee: Yeah really. I have a friend there who texted me.

[09:29] Mark Lee: We’re next.

[09:30] Zhong Chenle: Did they see any of your faces?

[09:30] Ddonghyuck:

[09:30] Ddonghyuck: didn’t jaemin say he n jeno were chased

[09:30] Lucaaas: but jaemin is not here

[09:31] Mark Lee: it’s a good thing

[09:31] Mark Lee: right?

 

[…]

 

[09:46] Ddonghyuck: @NaNaJaemin WAKE UP

[09:46] Ddonghyuck: @NaNaJaemin WAKE

[09:46] Ddonghyuck: @NaNaJaemin UP

[09:46] Ddonghyuck: @NaNaJaemin JAEMIN

[09:46] Ddonghyuck: @NaNaJaemin GET UP YOU ASS

[09:46] Ddonghyuck: YOURE IN TROUBLE BIG TIME GET YO ASS HERE BEFORE YOU GET YO ASS BEAT

[09:47] Zhong Chenle: THE POLIVE ARE LOIKING FOR US THEY HVAE NAEMS

[09:47] Zhong Chenle: THEYTR ACTUAKKY GOINHTO TAKE US TO TEH STATION

[09:47] Zhong Chenle: WHICH SHIGT SOLD US OUT

[09:50] Ddonghyuck: @NaNaJaemin were trying to buy time hurry up before they go looking for you at home

[09:50] Ddonghyuck: @LeeJeno they have your name too idk how but you better come over

[09:51] Zhong Chenle: THEYTR NOT PCJKING UP

[09:52] Mark Lee: Guys NO ONE MENTIONTHE STABBNIG OKAY???

[09:52] Mark Lee: if they findout about renjun we’re fucked x50

[09:53] Lucaaas: aye aye captain

 

[…]

 

[10:03] Lee Jeno: We’re coming

[10:03] Lee Jeno: 3 minutes

Jaemin didn’t even get dressed. He left everything and jumped out the window while Jeno was still pulling his jeans on. Jeno instead, rushed downstairs and out the front door like a normal person. He heard his mother call after him worriedly. All he could do was swallow the guilt and promise to make it up to her later.

The other was running haphazardly through the traffic, weaving through cars and motorcycles. Jeno was terrified he’d be run over any minute. He followed the younger boy a little way behind, a little more cautiously. They arrived in under five minutes with no casualties (miraculously) and halted by the gates.

Two police cars were parked right outside the entrance. Jeno’s gut twisted. God, they were fucked.

Jaemin bent over his knees to catch his breath. “I don’t know what went wrong…” he panted. “We’ve fought before. Guys fight all the time. No one gave a shit before.” He flung an arm at the cars. “They never went this far!”

“Well I guess we’re the lucky firsts,” Jeno sighed. He raked a hand through his hair. “How did they get my name though? Those guys don’t know me- oh.” He had told Pretty Boy his name. Pretty Boy Hyunjin. He groaned. Stupid, Jeno. Stupid.

“Does it really matter now?” asked Jaemin.

Jeno sighed. It didn’t. Jaemin patted his back and led him inside.

They were directed to the principal’s office as soon as they walked in. The teacher who had come across them gave Jeno a curious stare but didn’t ask questions. Inside, the other four boys were sat opposite the principal’s desk. They each looked an unruly state but it was clear they’d tried to cover themselves up (albeit done a very bad job of it).

Lucas had a bandage plastered across his nose bridge and several dark-brown bruises across his jaw. Chenle’s face was mostly clean, save for a tiny cut on the edge of his lips but his knuckles were blotched red. Donghyuck was in a similar state to Lucas. His bottom lip was split straight down the middle. Mark didn’t look any better. Suddenly, Jeno became aware of scruffy he must look as well. Worse than them, probably. Neither he nor Jaemin had gotten around to cleaning themselves up properly.

He looked at Jaemin who was still dressed in the sweatpants and t-shirt Jeno had lent him, hair a bird’s nest, dirt smudged on his collarbone, bruises colouring his arms, eyes swollen and sleepy.

Two police officers at the side frowned at them. The principal sighed. “What do you have to say for yourselves, boys?” They looked at the floor to hide their guilty expressions.

“You didn’t send them to my house did you sir?” Jaemin spluttered suddenly, eyes never leaving the officers.

The principal frowned. “No. Your friends told us you were on the way,” he reassured the boy. Jaemin relaxed just a little. “Sit down.” The principal gestured to the vacant chair. The only vacant chair. Jeno and Jaemin exchanged a silent argument: “You sit.” “No, you can sit.” But ultimately, Jeno won the stupid miniature contest, and Jaemin sat down in front of the desk.

He moved to stand behind Jaemin, placing his hands on the back of the chair so he could play with the boy’s hair. It was to distract himself as much as to comfort Jaemin. He knew the principal was watching him curiously, trying to figure out who he was and what he was doing here with him.

“I don’t know you,” he finally pointed.

“Lee Jeno, sir.” Jeno ducked his head.

“We have his name,” spoke up one of the officers. “Not from this school?” he directed at Jeno.

“I just moved, I’m enrolling later,” Jeno explained quietly. He wiped his sweaty palms on his pants.

“Not a very good first impression you’re giving, Mr. Lee,”

Jeno nodded, not knowing what else to say.

“I heard from these two officers this morning, that you boys were in a fight with boys from another school. Care to tell me why?”

No one answered. No one moved. They each kept their head down, avoiding eye contact. They had made a promise to Mark, swearing not to bring Renjun into this. Honesty would just land them more trouble, especially since Seungmin was injured first.

Lucas spoke up in the end. “They asked us to fight.” It wasn’t wholly a lie.

“So you agreed? Just like that?” he sounded exhausted.

Lucas shrugged. “We don’t like each other.”

They told us that they asked for a fight in revenge,” one of the policemen said carefully. The boys stiffened. “Apparently, one of you stabbed their friend.” Now they were all alert. Sirens were going off in their heads. They weren’t supposed to know of the stabbing. Even the principal’s eyes widened at this new information.

His mouth hung open comically, but nothing could strike them as funny. “Stabbed?” he repeated in disbelief. His eyes trailed over each of them in turn, as if he could figure out which of his students was the culprit if he stared hard enough.

Jeno heard Mark suck in a deep breath. They had to act quickly to prevent involving their friends. Mark was the most rational amongst them; the younger boys followed his lead. And to protect them, Jeno knew he’d go lengths. He knew what the older boy was about to do.

“I did it.”

All eyes are on him, shock forming on their faces. They all whipped their heads to look at him, but he kept his eyes steady. Surely. ‘Don’t say anything’ he pleaded to them silently. Mark’s lips are parted. Breath leaving him but no words spilling out. He hadn’t spoken in time.

Jeno had beat him to it.

I did it.

Chapter Text

“You’re an idiot.”

Jeno smiles at the insult.

“An absolute moron,” the other boy continues.

Jeno nods in agreement, still softly smiling. He hears the other boy huff angrily.

“The stupidest, stupid dumbass to ever grace the earth.” The boy kicks his chair. “Hey! Are you even listening?”

Jeno hums. When is he not listening to the other boy? All five of his senses are always tuned to him. He looks up at Jaemin, who has his arms crossed over his chest, eyes dark under his fringe, narrowed, glaring at him. “I’m an idiot, moron, stupid, dumbass,” Jeno recites. Chenle snorts.

“Good,” says Jaemin. He unfolds his arms and moves his hands to fiddle with the loose strings on his Jeno’s shirt. “Aren’t you scared?” he asks.

“I am,” Jeno admits. But he wasn’t scared for himself, he was scared for Renjun. He was scared they’d find out it was him and not Jeno who did it. And that Renjun would get into trouble with his parents who Jeno knew were far stricter and less understanding than his own.

“We’ll figure something out, Jeno. I promise.” Mark misunderstands Jeno, but he’s grateful anyways. The quieter they resolve this, the faster Jeno can go back to normal times. Less chaotic times. Less dramatic times.

Who would’ve thought so many things could unfold in such a small town?

The police station is quiet in the late morning. One by one, they’re being questioned about the fight and the stabbing (mostly the stabbing). The police want the whole story, not because they’re interested in teen-boy drama, but because it’s protocol (and a very slow day). It’s only him, Jaemin, Chenle and Mark left; soon it’ll be Jeno’s turn.

Chenle goes in next.

Mark stretches out in his seat, bringing his arms over his head. “You know,” he says, “you have to pull a stunt like this once in your life. It’s living. It’s life, it’s- it’s being alive. You know?” He stuffs his hands into his jacket pockets and stares blankly at the window. “I’m not saying you should go stab someone. That’s stupid, don’t do that. Just- I’m just trynna tell you that… that it’s okay. It’s a good experience. You know? Life is about experiences. Fighting and making friends, and running crazy at night like hooligans,” he chuckles to himself.

“Dancing in the rain, kissing strangers and falling in love,” Jaemin continues. He glances at Jeno and The Smiles form automatically.

Mark looks over at them, a knowing twinkle in his eye and a teasing smile at the corner of his lips. “And sometimes stabbing a guy in revenge,” he adds jokingly. He pulls himself up and sighs. “Anyways, I’ll leave you two to yourselves.” On the other end of the room, a policeman beckons him into the interrogation room.

Mark leaves.

“Falling in love?” Jeno asks once Mark is out of earshot.

Jaemin grins. “Falling in love. Over and over.” He traces circles onto the back of Jeno’s hand. “Falling in love with the same person, for the first time, and for the first time a second time; it’s better than a high rush.” His eyes dart up to meet Jeno’s. “What do you think?”

Jeno gulps. Jaemin is almost pressed against his side, their faces close enough that he could count the constellations of freckles formed from days under the sun, and each fluttering eyelash framing those big, dark eyes that crinkled at the corners. He’s completely intoxicated with him, obsessed with him, fuelled by him. Falling in love with him is falling into a pool of bliss and colour, both at once.

The words slip from his mouth before he can catch them.

“I’m in love with you.”

He doesn’t get Jaemin’s reply before he’s ushered into the next room, but the wide-eyed, starstruck look on his face was an answer enough.

 

“What did you tell them?” asks Donghyuck, voice full of curiosity. The cell door locks shut behind Jeno. There’s four people in this cell, Jeno included, the other three being Donghyuck, Lucas and the short, intimidating boy from JYP Academy.

“I told them what I knew,” says Jeno. He sits next to Donghyuck but leaves a generous gap between them. “They were pestering Jisung, I got upset, I stabbed their guy and they called a fight in revenge.”

The short boy’s head perks up as Jeno speaks. They meet gazes. One astonished and one guarded. He nods softly; a silent understanding and a thank you. Thank you for keeping Hyunjin’s involvement secret.

“We weren’t going to tell anyone about the… the stabbing,” the boy speaks, his voice low and gravelly. “But Seungmin’s mom found out and…” he shrugs. “It just happened.” If Renjun was brought into the whole deal, the JYP kids would be knee-deep in trouble too. Specifically Hyunjin, who had turned the knife on Renjun.

“You guys owe us so much for this,” snarls Donghyuck.

“Not us,” corrects Lucas. He points at Jeno. “You owe him.”

The boy fixes his cap absently. “We know.”

They fall into an awkward silence after that. The short boy has nothing left to say and they have nothing else to say to him. They sit motionless, having nothing to do while their guardians are phoned in. Obviously, conversation with the short boy is out of the question. Lucas leans against the wall and falls asleep so Jeno can’t talk to him either. And Donghyuck… Donghyuck is the last person he wants to be locked up in a small room with. Even if Jeno feels the weight of the awkward air, Donghyuck doesn’t show any signs he’s bothered about his presense. Until he speaks, that is.

“Why are you avoiding me?”

Jeno feigns innocence with a loud offended noise that sounds fake, even to him. Donghyuck’s eyes roll dramatically.

“Don’t even try, Jeno. You don’t talk to me, you don’t text me. You’ve been so distant, I mean- you’re literally, physically putting distance between us!” He gestures aggressively at the wide empty space between them. “What is this?” He points at the floor.

Jeno almost wants to give him a dumb reply like ‘air’ or ‘concrete probably.’, but he keeps his mouth shut.

Donghyuck sighs. “I don’t know what I did wrong, so it would be nice if you could tell me, Jeno.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Jeno tells him. “It’s just me.”

“Then for the love of God, why? Whatever this is, I really hate it, Jeno.”

The main door opens again and Jaemin walks in. He catches Jeno’s eye when he walks past his cell, and a feeble (yet still fond) smile that Jeno returns (with an equal amount of fondness neither of them will admit to). Jaemin soon disappears from Jeno’s view and he turns his attention back to Donghyuck.

“Donghyuck,” he says, and the boy leans in earnestly. “What did that kiss mean?” He does hesitate, and when he speaks, he watches Donghyuck’s expression carefully. His eyes widen by a fraction and his lips part slightly, like he’s grasping for the right words, unsure of what to answer. Then his face relaxes into a blank expression.

“It can mean anything you want it to,” he says.

“But what did it mean to you?”

“Something new.” He grins a little, and Jeno feels the tension ease away. Donghyuck leans back against the wall, facing away from Jeno again. “Honestly, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I was the whore, and you were a couple inches too close,” he confesses. “I’ll admit, I thought you were cute. You grew up when you left.” He side-eyes Jeno and mutters ‘damn sexy’ under his breath, just loud enough for Jeno to hear. Flustered, he splutters and smacks Donghyuck’s knee, making the boy guffaw.

“See that? You’re so easy to fluster, Jeno. You made me get carried away with the flirting,” he laughs. “Seriously though, if you’re not interested in me, if you’re into someone else…” Donghyuck pauses, eyes focused on where Jaemin should be, could he see through walls. “Then that’s cool,” he finishes quietly. “I’ll still be your best friend.”

Jeno shuffles closer to Donghyuck and joins their hands together. Donghyuck huffs as if he’s irritated, but he doesn’t let go.

 

His mother doesn’t speak to him for the whole walk home. She stomps ahead of him, one hand gripping his wrist harshly and Jeno lets her pull him on.

She had run into the station looking beyond shocked, disappointed and absolutely livid. One look at Jeno’s battered, untidy self had proved that there was no mistake in what she had been told. Jeno winced when the police sat them both down at a desk and explained the sort of punishments Jeno could expect.

They reach home without any words spoken and sit in the living room facing each other. Jeno’s mother has her arms crossed under her chest, demanding reason. Jeno keeps his palms flat on his knees. He promised he’d tell her everything. The truth.

“I can explain!” he blurts.

She raises an eyebrow. Go ahead.

And so he tells her. Starting from the very beginning of the story; the Game. He starts with Renjun, and he ends with Renjun. He explains to her why. She nods affirmingly. She says she understands, but she tells Jeno he shouldn’t take the blame. That’s the final push Jeno needs.

“And then,” he says, gulping. “And then there’s Na Jaemin.”

“Na Jaemin?” his mother echoes. Her arms are no longer crossed. She’s leaning towards the coffee table, towards Jeno.

“Na Jaemin.” Says Jeno.

He comes clean about everything.

 

She hugs him tightly at the end of it.

Chapter Text

The punishment for violence and minor assault in their small town varies from a fine to house-arrest to detention. Which part of the spectrum Jeno lands on is to be decided the morning, his mother tells him.

The Mafia group-chat blows up that day. The boys who weren’t involved demand details from Jeno, who is the only one who hasn’t been grounded and deprived of mobile-phone rights. Jisung and Renjun chime in to add the bits Jeno didn’t know. Their older friends are half-impressed, half-disappointed, but nevertheless, when the full story gets told, Jeno is renamed a hero.

When Renjun’s part comes out, he bravely recounts everything and finishes with a shameful ‘sorry’. Kun and Doyoung immediately declare that they’re going to visit him in the evening and make sure his wounds are treated right. As regretful as Renjun is, they repeat that they don’t blame him. Sweet, little, Jisung goes out of his way to write Renjun an extra-long message thanking him.

Then Renjun finds out Jeno took his place. He goes quiet on the group-chat and instead, bombards Jeno privately with ‘WTF’s and ‘why’s. Jeno has to call him to persuade him not to turn himself in and make things worse.

Renjun comes over. He stomps up the staircase, slams the door open and slaps Jeno on the chest. He also might have cried a little bit, but that’s a secret between the two of them. Jeno’s mother brings him (and only him) a mug of ice-cream. It’s her way of showing she doesn’t hold anything against Renjun.

“What about me?” Jeno pouts.

“You served me more than enough trouble today, Lee Jeno.” But she brings another mug up and leaves it on the dresser.

They talk about the fight. Jeno tells Renjun how they beat each other up and shows off the bruises on his knuckles and chest. He tells him about being chased by the police and how Jaemin had held onto his hand and pulled him through the streets, running through rain. He isn’t able to go on into how Jaemin had kissed him (how he kissed Jaemin?) because Renjun suddenly grabs his shoulders and shouts.

“They called Jaemin’s parents in too?!”

Startled, Jeno nods. “They- they called everyone’s parents- Hey! Renjun, wait- where are you going?”

Renjun turns around from where he’s standing by the door. “We have to go to Jaemin’s.” He’s shifting his feet impatiently. One hand repeatedly pulls at the doorknob – a sign of nervousness. He’s scared. And that scares Jeno too.

“I can’t. I’m not allowed to leave the house until tomorrow,” he says quietly. He’s stuck until the cops decide what to do with him.

Renjun sighs. “Then I’m going by myself. I need to make sure he’s okay.”

It’s the last bit that makes Jeno’s stomach churn; something akin to a stone dropping into his stomach – weighing him down, making him unable to move. “Why wouldn’t he be okay?” he asks gingerly. There’s a series of possibilities playing around his head. Every single angsty drama scene he’s ever watched; abusive fathers, druggie boyfriends, obsessive parents, mothers who neglect their kids, and Jaemin in the middle of it all. The boy he has quickly become familiar with. Obsessed with.

Renjun’s eyes are pleading. He says, “make up your mind quick,” and makes a beeline to the front door. Jeno makes his decision. He follows.

Downstairs, his mother calls out to him. Asks him where he’s going.

“Jaemin,” he replies. “Please, I’ll be quick.” He begs with his eyes. She’s uncertain. She has a reason to be, but she still puts her trust into him. Hesitantly, she nods.

“Okay,” she says. “Don’t get into more trouble, Jeno, please.” But Jeno is already chasing Renjun down the street. Instead of Jaemin’s house, they take two paths down to Renjun’s, much to Jeno’s confusion. When Jeno moves to take off his shoes, Renjun stops him and brings him upstairs.

(Jeno thinks he’s starting to understand.)

The couch by Renjun’s window is empty.

Renjun swears and opens the door to the balcony. It’s mid-afternoon. The sun is still out but the grey storm clouds cast dark shadows over the town making it look like early evening. They loom overhead like a bad sign. It might begin to pour any second.

Renjun points at a clustered patch of houses not too far ahead. “Do you see that window? The blue, square one? With the plant hanging on the side?”

“Yeah.” Jeno nods. It’s a bright sky-blue splat on a grey wall; hard to miss.

“That’s Jaemin’s room.”

“Okay.”

“We’re gonna go there.”

“Okay?”

“From the roof.”

Jeno raises his eyebrows.

“We can’t go in from the front door. Plus, it’s faster anyways. Jaemin comes this way all the time.” Renjun is already climbing over the balcony and dropping down onto the roof below. He flicks his head to call Jeno over.

The sound of Jeno’s shoes on the metal roof is muffled by the rumble of thunder. A big drop splashes on his nose. “Well this is new…” he sighs.

More drops hit the metal plated roofs around them, making sort-of-pleasant ting-ing sounds. It almost sounds like music, Jeno thinks. The rain’s lullaby, as dull and sad as itself.

 

The two boys run across roof after roof, using the pots, bricks and planks of wood Jaemin had left behind during his frequent trips. The houses are pressed so closely together, it’s hardly any trouble. They have to stretch over one or two balconies; Jeno slips once, thanks to the rain and Renjun trips over a wire in their rush but they make it to Jaemin’s window in less than ten minutes.

There’s a small gap between the roof and the window, a seven-foot drop between the two houses, but the window is close enough that if they leaned across a bit, they can climb in. There are also two planks of wood, courtesy of Jaemin, weighed down on one end by two large rocks. They made a plank and closed the gap between the window and the roof.

Renjun puts a finger to his lips and shuffles across the plank, careful to keep out of view from anyone inside. He cups his hands around his face and peeps in. Jeno watches him from the side. He keeps an eye on Renjun’s expression and the boy looks around the room.

Then he gasps softly.

Jeno jumps to his feet.

“What? What’s happening?” he questions.

Renjun doesn’t reply. Instead, he bangs his fist on the window. A second later, Jaemin’s head pop’s up beside his. “It’s locked,” the boy mouths, pointing at the handle.

Jeno crosses the planks to stand next to Renjun. They creak under his added weight; the bridge is made only to support Jaemin. “Are you okay?” he inquires, unsure if Jaemin can hear him through the glass.

Jaemin nods reassuringly, a faint smile making an appearance. “And you?” his lips form.

Jeno returns him a thumbs-up and Jaemin chuckles silently.

Meanwhile, Renjun, who has been picking at the lock mechanism, steps off the plank. His fingernails are chipped, the skin at the tips torn and bleeding, but he holds a triumphant grin on his face. Jeno feels him tug on his wet sleeve, pulling him backwards.

The blue window swings open.

“My knights in shining armour,” Jaemin jokes. He throws a large backpack at Renjun and leaps from the sill to the roof. “I knew you’d come.” He presses his lips to Renjun’s cheek.

The older boy wipes at the spot with faux disgust on his face and shoves the backpack at Jaemin’s chest. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s hurry back, I think I’m going to get pneumonia.” He starts trekking back and doesn’t check whether they are following.

Jaemin carefully closes the window and presses the lock back into place with a pair of tweezers. Jeno waits for him to finish. Then, pushing against the doubts and insecurities in his head, he wraps an arm around Jaemin’s waist, bringing the boy close. “Don’t I get a kiss?” he questions.

Jaemin smiles, startled by the contact. “Of course,” he replies softly. Lightly, he brushes Jeno’s wet strands of hair from his forehead and places a kiss on that spot. Then on his nose. Gentle. On each eyelid. Hesitant. He freezes over Jeno’s lips. Nervous almost. Scared maybe. Jeno realises he’s trembling.

“Are you really okay?” he asks.

Jaemin’s eyes flit to the window. “The faster we get away from here, the happier I’ll be.”

Suddenly, an irritated voice carries over to them.

“Are you two done flirting yet?”

Jeno breaks away, grabbing Jaemin’s hand. “Come on. He’s getting cranky.”

Jaemin throws his backpack over his shoulder. They walk hand in hand to where Renjun sits, legs hanging off the edge of someone’s terrace, then lets him lead them back to his room. They wring off their wet clothes on the balcony so that Renjun will let them inside. Jeno gratefully accepts the towel Renjun passes to him. He wraps the towel around himself and sighs happily.

“Is that all last night’s work?” Renjun points at the colourful array of bruises on Jaemin’s face. Jaemin sheepishly tries to hide them behind the towel. Then Renjun looks at Jeno and scoffs. “Either you’re a really good fighter, Lee Jeno, or you were too pussy for them.”

“Obviously I’m a great fighter.” Jeno rolls his eyes. “Hyunjin is no match for these guns.” He pats his biceps.

“Hwang Hyunjin?” Renjun gawks. “No way, it was his boyfriend who I- …I, uh…” he shakes his head. “Whatever. He must’ve been raging.”

“What did I say? He’s no match for me.”

It’s Renjun’s turn to roll his eyes. He ignores Jeno’s smug grin to look over at Jaemin and his large backpack. He sighs. Looks at Jeno. Sighs again.

“You need to go back home before they arrest you again,” he directs at Jeno. “Jaemin, are you going to stay with him, or are you gonna take the couch?”

“You’re more than welcome to stay with me,” Jeno insists before Jaemin can answer.

The boy in question smiles shyly, giving him an ‘okay’.

Renjun observes their syrupy-sweet-smiley exchange.  “So, you two are officially a thing now?”

Their extra-fond-reassurance-glances and beetroot-red ears answered well enough. Renjun sighs for the nth time, a little painfully, but he snipes at them to leave their ‘disgusting flirting’ out of his presence.

There’s a little tingle in his chest and a trickle of guilt follows it.

Maybe he liked having Jaemin over; when he shuffled in through the balcony window on the days he’d rather spend elsewhere. Maybe he liked being his source of comfort – when he woke up to find him curled up on the couch – the pleasure in knowing he was the one Jaemin came to. And maybe he is a little bit disappointed that that was Once Upon A Time and no longer – that Jaemin found his Happy Ever After in someone else.

 

“How long are you planning to run away?”

They’re huddled in Jeno’s bed. Jaemin on the left side, splayed on his back, blankets pulled up till his chin, and Jeno on the right, hoisting himself on his elbow.

“I’m not running away.” He pulls his hands out from under the blanket to pick at the plasters on his knuckles. There’s a matching one on his jaw, and on Jeno’s knee.

“Sorry- how long are you gonna stay with me?”

“Forever, if you like.” The words fall so nonchalantly, far too light for the meaning they carried and Jaemin doesn’t even look up.

Of course, that wasn’t the answer Jeno needed. The more serious side to him tells him to brush it away and remind Jaemin that he still has a mother who might worry (or might not, Jeno doesn’t know the details) and that logically, he has to go home at some point. However, he’s far too gone for Jaemin, and he finds himself whispering instead, that he’d ‘like that very much’. “But I want to know why,” he tries to bring his words across as gently as he can.

“Because I like you,” Jaemin replies just as easily, but his eyes are focused on pulling the sticky band-aids rather than meeting Jeno’s. Then more softly; “because I’m in love with you too.”

Jeno is patient. There is a story that he has been trying to piece together – he’s hoping Jaemin trusts enough to tell it to him. But if he isn’t ready, if he wants to avoid the topic, then Jeno won’t force him.

“Afterall we have all the time in the world if you stay forever.”

 

Morning come, Jeno has to get dressed early to leave for the station. Jaemin watches him fumble around with the buttons on his shirt and pace back and forth across the threadbare carpet.

“Calm down, I don’t think they’ll throw you in jail just yet,” he assures the panicking boy.

Jeno’s mother runs in, equally flustered, and she combs her son’s hair into place, fixes the collar of his shirt and pats him down straight. She’s wearing a blouse, and her hair is pulled into a tight bun, rather than let loose on her shoulders as it was yesterday. They’re both dressed smart. First impressions are usually based on appearance, Jaemin thinks.

She holds Jeno’s shoulders and meets his eyes with her motherly reassurance. “It’s going to be okay,” she whispers. Jeno breathes. “Okay. I’m okay.”

Jaemin shifts more towards the corner of the room. He feels as if he was intruding in their business, which is partially true, he muses; he is an intruder. Unfortunately, Jeno’s mother senses his movements. She smiles her warm smile and Jaemin manages to return it with his shyer one. She had been so sweet, so welcoming to him, and although Jaemin had seen the concern and hesitancy behind her eyes, (he’s a bad influence, she was thinking), she had asked him no questions other than: “What do you like to eat for dinner, Jaemin?”. He owes the woman much more than the simple thank-yous he’d given.

“There’s eggs and bread in the kitchen if you’re hungry. Jeno’s halmeoni will be around if you need anything,” she tells him.

Jaemin shakes his head hurriedly. “It’s okay. I don’t usually have breakfast- I’ll just be off to school.”

“Do you have detention?” Jeno asks.

Jaemin grimaces. “After school community hours.” He slides off the bed and slings his backpack over his shoulder, a grin bright on his face. “I’ll see you when I finish cleaning bathrooms.”

He pats Jeno’s arm, as if the touch will pass Jeno some good luck, bows towards his mother and rids them of his presence. As he scutters down the stairs, for a second, he stops, and glances back at the bedroom door: Jeno’s mother is watching him. Her lips appear curled up, faint, and he almost thinks it’s in fondness. With a slight wave of her hand, she sends him off.

He jots down a mental reminder to stop at the florist on the way back.

 

Seungmin sits with him in the station while their parents discuss the punishment with the officer. He’s cladded in a shirt and tie, dress pants, shoes polished to the tip; appearances make impressions.

The interrogation had gone quick and smooth, much to Jeno’s relief. Seungmin had looked more than confused at Jeno’s false confession, but he quickly caught on. That, or his friends had warned him beforehand to play along. Maybe he realised it was safer to play it Jeno’s way, lest Hyunjin gets dragged in too.

The story, they told as it was, with the minor alterations: Seungmin, Felix and Hyunjin picked on Jisung. Jeno interrupted. They got into a fight. Jeno supposedly stabbed Seungmin by the hip with – not with Renjun’s knife, or his own – but with Jisung’s pocketknife.

Then what Jeno learnt from Seungmin, was that the reason it all occurred in the first place, is because little Jisung has taken the top position at their local dance centre for 3 consecutive months. Jealousy; Seungmin had summed up.

Now, while Seungmin’s mother sends Jeno dirty looks and Jeno’s own mother sends the other glares of her own, Seungmin shifts awkwardly in his seat. Neither boy had spoken directly to the other. Jeno would much rather observe the cracks in the walls and the loud ticking from the wall clock – TICK, TICK, TICK, it’s suffocating. He wants to get it over with.

“Lee Jeno?”

Jeno perks up. “Yes?” His voice doesn’t rise above a murmur. His ears only catch the key words.

House-arrest.

3 months.

Compensation fines.

He shuts his eyes. Reminds himself it could be so much worse.

 

Jaemin doesn’t return till late evening. When he does, he’s not-so-discreetly hiding a small bouquet behind his back. Whether it’s from embarrassment or shyness, or the result of community service labour, Jeno can’t tell, but Jaemin’s face is flushed red when he stutters his way through to handing Ms. Lee the bouquet (it even has a little ‘thank you ^^’ note that Jeno coos over and does not stick onto the fridge).

On the other end of the room, Jeno’s grandma cackles silently at them.

 

The problem with being on house-arrest is that it’s unbearably lonely. Especially when all his friends are always working community hours as punishment. Even Renjun, voluntarily, joins them. They tell him no. They tell him no every day. But he insists, and he stays.

For Jeno, it’s punishment enough that he’s obliged to follow a tight curfew and be constantly supervised, but now he must wait days before his friends can finally visit him (given they’re not still grounded). Jeno still shares his bed with Jaemin at night, but even so, their waking hours are lost till the weekend.

Jisung and Chenle become his best friends during those lonely days. Jisung because he was the only one who hadn't attacked a person, and Chenle because his money easily paid off his sentence. They form a tight bond over 90s musicians, embroidery (with Jeno’s grandma), cold hot-chocolate and a 3000-piece puzzle that takes them a week and lots of hair loss to piece together. (Really, Jeno did most of the work while Jisung and Chenle provided moral support).

Two weeks into detention, they’re sitting on Jeno’s bed, their embroidered handkerchiefs in their pockets (Chenle’s is easily the prettiest with all his colourful flowers and sequins, Jeno is too careless with his patterns, Jisung acts like he hates it, but they all know it’s just an excuse for his big hands being too clumsy with the needle), their cold-chocolate mugs warming on the dresser, when Jisung brings up Mafia again.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Jeno tells him honestly.

“We can play the normal way,” argues Jisung. “Sitting down. On our phones. Texting.”

“I think it’s a good idea,” pipes in Chenle, always on Jisung’s side.

And because Jeno can’t say no to either of them, late into evening, five of them huddle together, each on their phone. Jeno leans against Renjun, Jisung on his other side. Jaemin has his head on Jisung’s lap and Chenle is splayed across all their legs.

Elsewhere around their small town, thirteen other boys stop their idling to pick up their phones.

Chapter Text

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[19:52] Lee Jeno: Mafia anyone?

[19:52] Jisung Pwark: mafia safe ver

[19:52] Qian Kun: Define safe

[19:52] Jisung Pwark: text only

[19:53] Ten: yES

[19:53] Johnny: no.

[19:53] Ten: hi im god

 [19:53] Ten: im gonna text you your roles. Youre all my minions now

[19:53] Johnny: You guys gave him too much power

 

Doyoung [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[19:54] Ten: so like I spun a wheel of fortune

[19:54] Ten: i assume everyone is playing

[19:56] Ten: Jisung is the queen

[19:56] Doyoung: HaH this is already good

[19:58] Ten: chenle servant
Jaemin demon
jeno mayor
hyuck drunk
mark demon
Renjun cupid
lucas serial killer
jungwoo demon
jaehyun exorcist
winwin cursed
kun whore
yuta king
Johnny fool
taeyong fortune teller
taeil traitor

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[19:57] Doyoung: We’ll play in days
every night you can vote to execute
easy peasy

[19:57] Doyoung: rules are the same
no revealing others’ roles
no lying in pm
ten and i are god so whatever we say happens and that’s that

[19:58] Junguwu: thats not fair

[19:58] Jung Jaehyun: when were those two ever fair?

[19:58] Takoyaki Prince: ten and doyoung are the biggest cheaters

[19:58] Takoyaki Prince: that’s why we never let them play

[19:58] Ten: DONT argue with god

[20:00] Doyoung: DAY ONE

 

TY Track [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[19:56] Ten: you’re the fortune teller

[19:56] TY Track: or I could be the fool

[19:59] Ten: so who’s role do you wanna know?

[19:59] TY Track: Jaehyun

[19:59] Ten: wait i need to check

[19:59] Ten: exorcist

 

Johnny [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[19:56] Ten: you’re the fortune teller

 [20:01] Johnny: tell me Lucas’s role

[20:01] Ten: he’s the doctor ;)

 

Demon squad [Group]
[11 May 2016]
[Ten created a new group]
[Ten added NaNa Jaemin, Mark Lee and Junguwu to the chat]

[19:59] Ten: hey there demons, its me, ya boy

[19:59] Ten: there’s been a slight change of rules

[20:00] NaNa Jaemin: SIGHHHS

[20:00] Mark Lee: sighing intensifies

[20:00] Ten: there can only be one kill per night
pick. Now.

[20:00] Junguwu: I vote Lucas.

[20:01] Mark Lee: No, that’s obvious.

[20:01] NaNa Jaemin: no it’s not obvious bc they would expect us not to choose lucas bc it’s obvious

[20:01] Ten: okay lucas

[20:01] Mark Lee: wiat we havent decided yet

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]
[16 unread messages…]

[20:00] Takoyaki Prince:

[20:00] Takoyaki Prince: I bet hyuck pours milk before cereal

[20:00] Huang Renjun: I bet he pours it before the bowl too

[20:01] Ten: Jungwoo the demon tried to kill the serial killer and died.

[20:01] Junguwu: wHat

[20:01] Mark Lee: well we know who the serial killer is now

[20:01] Junguwu: MARK!!

[20:01] Mark Lee: oh shit i didn’t meant to send that here

[20:01] Lucaaas: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

[20:01] Ddonghyuck: DEMON MARK!

 

Jung Jaehyun [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:01] TY Track: let’s team up
I’m fortune teller

[20:01] Jung Jaehyun: how do you know you’re not the fool

[20:01] TY Track: you confirm for me
you’re the exorcist

[20:01] Jung Jaehyun: mm yeah


[20:02] TY Track: you can get rid of mark
and we’ll vote to execute the serial killer

[20:02] Jung Jaehyun: k.

 

Demon squad [Group] – 4 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:02] NaNa Jaemin: GOOD JOB MARK
[20:02] NaNa Jaemin: WE’VE LOST ALREADY

[20:02] Mark Lee: whoops?

[20:03] NaNa Jaemin: hdjjjsjh i think jisung is onto me
[20:03] NaNa Jaemin: he’s looking at me weird

 

Jung Jaehyun [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:02] Jung Jaehyun: i need to exorcise mark

[20:02] Ten: you sure?
if you’re wrong
and mark isn’t a demon
you’re dead

[20:02] Jung Jaehyun: ?? that’s not in the rules

[20:02] Ten: it is now.

[20:03] Jung Jaehyun: whatever. i’m sure

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]
[23 unread messages…]

[20:03] Takoyaki Prince: you don’t want to kill me. Im your king

[20:03] Jisung Pwark: im married to YOU?
[20:03] Jisung Pwark: I’d rather die

[20:03] Zhong Chenle: does that make Yuta a pedophile?

[20:03] Takoyaki Prince: seriously?

[20:03] Qian Kun: Isn’t it normal for kings to hoard pretty, young girls to get married to?

[20:03] Jisung Pwark: I’m! Not! A! Pretty! Young! Girl!

[20:04] Qian Kun: Sorry. You’re a pretty, young boy :*
[20:04] Qian Kun: ;)

[20:04] Jisung Pwark:

[20:04] Takoyaki Prince:
You’re the whore aren’t you

[20:04] Ddonghyuck: HES A HOEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

[20:04] Zhong Chenle: Aaaand hyuck is drunk

[20:05] Doyoung: The exorcist has exorcised Mark.
He’s no longer a demon, he’s now a villager.

[20:05] Zhong Chenle: BURN HIM AT THE STAKE

[20:05] Jisung Pwark: Yes. I agree. Burn him.

[20:05] Takoyaki Prince: BURN HIM. THE QUEEN SAYS SO.

[20:05] Huang Renjun: BURN HIM BURN HIM BURN HIM

[20:05] NaNa Jaemin: SET HIM ON FIRE! MAKE HIM BURNNNNN!

[20:05] Junguwu: BURN HIM! BURN HIM! BURN HIM! BURN HIM!

[20:05] Ddonghyuck: TEH BOYI ON FUIREEEE

 [20:06] Doyoung: The people have voted to burn Mark at the stake.

[20:06] Mark Lee: you traitors

[20:06] WinWin: I dont think we should burn him

[20:06] Mark Lee: YES THANK YOU

[20:06] Moon Taeil: Gasp is Winwin a demon too?

[20:06] WinWin: No. Why would I support him if I was a demon? He’s a villager now

[20:06] Jung Jaehyun: ooh, getting defensive, aren’t we?

[20:07] Doyoung: Anyone else against burning Mark?
Speak now or forever hold your word.

[20:07] Moon Taeil: Burn at the stake

[20:07] Jung Jaehyun: what was the point of exorcising him if he’s gonna die anyways?

[20:07] Doyoung: Are you going against?

[20:07] Jung Jaehyun: nah burn him.

[20:07] Mark Lee: I hate all of you
[20:07] Mark Lee: except Winwin

[20:07] WinWin: :D

[20:07] Doyoung: Goodbye Mark.

[20:08] Doyoung: Now. Execution. Who’s the serial killer?
You have five minutes to discuss

[20:08] TY Track: Everyone spill your roles
[20:08] TY Track: I’m the fortune teller

[20:08] Johnny: Hold on. No, I’m the fortune teller

[20:08] Jung Jaehyun: no taeyong is the fortune teller
[20:08] Jung Jaehyun: youre the fool
[20:08] Jung Jaehyun: im the exorcist. taeyong told me to exorcise mark

[20:08] TY Track: Anyways, we’re safe

[20:08] Takoyaki Prince: I’m the king and Jisung is my queen

[20:08] Jisung Pwark: blegh

[20:09] Lucaaas: I’m the doctor! You need me!

[20:09] Johnny: yeah that’s right, I asked Ten and he told me Lucas is the doctor!
That means taeyong and jaehyun are lying
whoever the exorcist is he probably exorcised mark because it was obvious
and Jaehyun got lucky

[20:09] Jung Jaehyun: my god he really is the fool

[20:09] Moon Taeil: You’re all liars. I’m the real fortune teller.

[20:09] TY Track: NO YOU’RE NOT SIT DOWN TAEIL

[20:10] Lucaaas: WE NEED TO GET RID OF JAEYONG
[20:10] Lucaaas: THEY’RE WORKING TOGETHER

[20:10] Lee Jeno: I AM SO CONFUSED

 

WinWin [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:07] NaNa Jaemin: So what’s your role? :)

[20:07] WinWin: What’s yours? :)

[20:07] NaNa Jaemin: If you were willing to work with Mark,
I’ll work with you.

[20:07] WinWin: I’m cursed

[20:07] NaNa Jaemin: Fantastic
I’m a demon
:D

[20:07] WinWin: :D

[20:07] NaNa Jaemin: I’ll turn you tmrw night
For now play along with me

 

Lucaaas [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:09] WinWin: Are you really the doctor?

[20:09] Lucaaas: who’s side are you on?

[20:09] WinWin: The winning side obv

[20:09] Lucaaas: ??
which side would that be?

[20:09] WinWin: Not Taeyong’s side

[20:09] Lucaaas: So Johnny’s side ?

[20:09] WinWin: no. Johnny is a fool
I think Taeyong’s the real fortune teller
which means you’re not actually a doctor

[20:09] Lucaaas: So… uh… who’s side?

[20:10] WinWin: -_-
I’m on Jaemin’s side whatever

[20:10] WinWin: You’re sk aren’t you?
we’re demons
join us lucas :D

[20:10] Lucaaas: hmmmm…

 

Demon squad [Group] – 4 members
[11 May 2016]
[NaNa Jaemin added WinWin to the group]
[WinWin added Lucaaas to the group]

[20:10] WinWin: Lucas is sk

[20:10] WinWin: we can’t let Johnny or Taeyong die or Lucas will be revealed

[20:10] NaNa Jaemin: but Taeyong is dangerous if he’s the real fortune teller

[20:10] WinWin: what about Taeil? Why is he also saying he’s the F.T?

[20:10] Lucaaas: idk its confusing

[20:10] WinWin: We need to put the blame on someone

[20:10] NaNa Jaemin: WHO

[20:11] Lucaaas: Taeil. What about him?

[20:11] NaNa Jaemin: why not

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]
[24 unread messages…]

[20:11] NaNa Jaemin: well Taeil is definitely lying
so instead of arguing we can get rid of him first

[20:11] Jeno Lee: But then we’ll be allowing a potential demon to escape

[20:11] WinWin: Neither of them are demons
one is real the other is a fool

[20:11] Qian Kun: both I’ve slept with ;)

[20:11] Zhong Chenle: HSJDSHKS HYUNGSOMEONE STOP HIM

[20:11] TY Track: YOU HAVEN’T AND YOU WILL NOT-

[20:12] Huang Renjun: But then what about Jaehyun

[20:12] NaNa Jaemin:  If he’s really the exorcist then we need him

[20:12] Moon Taeil: Hey Jaemin, what’s your role? :)

 

Demon squad [Group] – 6 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:12] NaNa Jaemin: HELP

[20:12] Mark Lee: loll you’re screwed

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:12] Doyoung: You guys have 30 seconds left to vote.
Text your votes to Ten. Hurry up.

 

Demon squad [Group] – 6 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:12] Junguwu: @NaNaJaemin you’ve been saved by doyoung

[20:12] NaNa Jaemin: BLESS HIM

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:14] Ten: THE VOTES ARE IN.
Taeil has been chosen for execution

[20:14] Moon Taeil: FINALLY. I can go to sleep

[20:14] Ddonghyuck: Its barely 8 old man

[20:14] WinWin: Goodnight

[20:15] Moon Taeil: hdkajlals :’))) gppdnihgt

 [20:15] Doyoung: After he was guillotined the villagers found
a stash of Girls’ Generation CDs in his basement
Taeil was the traitor.

[20:15] Takoyaki Prince: HE ACTUALLY KEEPSA GG
ALBUM STASH UNDER HIS BED I CAN CONFIRM

[20:15] Moon Taeil: YOU. TRAITOR.

[20:15] Takoyaki Prince: This whole game is about betrayal, friend :)

[20:15] Jung Jaehyun: That was the most pointless execution
why didn’t we execute johnny? He’s a liar

[20:15] Johnny: no. you two are the liars.
there’s something very fishy going on

[20:15] Jung Jaehyun: THATFISHY SMELL IS COMING FROM YOU AND LUCAS

[20:15] Lucaaas: no I smell like pepperoni pizza

[20:16] Junguwu: you have pizza?

[20:16] Lucaaas: yes

[20:16] Junguwu: Open the door. I’m outside.

[20:16] WinWin: that was quick

[20:16] Doyoung: END OF DAY 1

Chapter Text

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:16] Doyoung: DAY 2

 

Lucaaas [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[19:56] Ten: serial killer

[19:56] Lucaaas: YEEEESSS

[…]

[20:17] Ten: Pick your kill

[20:17] Lucaaas: yuta ;)

 

Demon squad [Group] – 6 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:17] Ten: You guys are gonna die

[20:17] NaNa Jaemin: hyung what do we do

[20:17] Lucaaas: I picked Yuta so Jisung might die as well

[20:17] WinWin: pick me. you need to turn me

[20:17] NaNa Jaemin: right right I almost forgot

[20:17] Ten: ok so WinWin is a demon now.

[20:17] Lucaaas: wait you weren’t a demon?

[20:17] WinWin: I’m Cursed

 

Huang Renjun [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[19:55] Ten: cupid

[20:15] Huang Renjun: shoot taeyong and johnny

 

TY Track [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[19:56] Ten: you’re the fortune teller

[…]

[20:15] Ten: you’ve been shot by cupid
johnny is your new husband <3

[20:15] TY Track: WHO IS CUPID?!
I’M GOING TO KICK HIM

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:18] Doyoung: Late at night, a serial killer snuck into
the castle and slit King Yuta’s throat

[20:18] Doyoung: The demons don’t seem to have attacked tonight

[20:18] Takoyaki Prince: UHM what about my QUEEN?

[20:19] Jisung Pwark:

…………………./´¯/)
………………..,/¯../
………………./…./
…………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
………./’/…/…./……./¨¯\
……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
………\……………..’…../
……….”…\………. _.·´
…………\…………..(
…………..\………….\

[20:19] Moon Taeil: Very creative :)

[20:19] Takoyaki Prince: you little shit

[20:19] Doyoung: The queen went into hiding with his trusted servant
[20:19] Doyoung: They can now live together in peace without
worrying the king will find out about their affair

[20:20] Zhong Chenle: what affair
we’re not having an affair

[20:20] Takoyaki Prince: Do I sense denial?

[20:20] Jisung Pwark: No, we’re having an affair and Na Jaemin
is NOT fucking whipped for Jeno AT ALL

[20:20] NaNa Jaemin: Hey hey hey don’t bring us into this
[20:20] NaNa Jaemin: you can’t blame me
look at him. How can you NOT be whipped?

[20:20] Jeno Lee: <3<3<3<3<3<3<3

[20:20] Jisung Pwark: EWWWW THEYRE EYEFUCKING

[20:20] Huang Renjun: Hey. Stop that. That’s disgusting.

[20:20] NaNa Jaemin: That’s funny coming from you Mr. cupid

[20:21] TY Track: YOU’RE CUPID???!!

[20:21] Jeno Lee: love how Jisung and chenle are deliberately
trying to draw the attention away from themselves

[20:21] Zhong Chenle: WERENOT HAVING AN AFFAIR

[20:21] Huang Renjun: Chenle, I can see you sweating.

[20:21] Jeno Lee: Chill out its just a game lmao

[20:21] NaNa Jaemin: Jisung was your face always that shade of red?

[20:22] Jisung Pwark: yYES

[20:22] Mark Lee: HAHAHHHA HAHA

[20:22] Doyoung: SHUT UP
[20:22] Doyoung: It’s voting time.

[20:22] Lucaaas: VOTE FOR JAEHYUN

[20:22] Jung Jaehyun: uhhh no vote for lucas

[20:22] Takoyaki Prince: Vote for Jaehyun bc he’s not a
fortune teller and therefore not IMPORTANT

[20:22] Jung Jaehyun: ouch im hurt

[20:22] TY Track: He’s the exorcist, we need him!

[20:22] Johnny: No hes not

[20:22] Qian Kun: Vote for him and then we’ll find out who’s lying

 

NaNa Jaemin [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:22] WinWin: JAEMIN
[20:22] WinWin: We need to get them off our back

[20:22] NaNa Jaemin: OOF is it just us two left?

[20:23] WinWin: I propose we sacrifice Lucas
[20:23] WinWin: And save ourselves.

[20:23] NaNa Jaemin: :D
[20:23] NaNa Jaemin: I like that idea
[20:23] NaNa Jaemin: And then we can eliminate Taeyong

[20:23] WinWin: :D
[20:23] WinWin: No one suspects us yet anyways

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:23] WinWin: What about Lucas?
[20:23] WinWin: He’s not an exorcist or a fortune teller
[20:23] WinWin: And we’ll find out who’s lying

[20:23] NaNa Jaemin: mmhmm winwin is right

[20:24] Lucaaas: WHAT
WHAT THE CHOCOLATE FUDGE

[20:24] Takoyaki Prince: There’s only one braincell
between all of us and it belongs to winwin <3

[20:24] Doyoung: YALL HOES HAVE 45 SECONDS

 

Demon squad [Group] – 6 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:24] Lucaaas: WHAT ARE YOU DOING

[20:24] NaNa Jaemin: Surviving

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:25] Doyoung: The votes have been casted
[20:25] Doyoung: Lucas the serial killer was tried for his crime
he was electrocuted to death by the Mayor’s orders

[20:25] NaNa Jaemin: YEET

[20:25] WinWin: SEE
[20:25] WinWin: TRUST me

[20:25] TY Track: WHAT DID WE TELL YOU
[20:25] TY Track: AND JOHNNY IS WORKING WITH HIM

[20:25] Johnny: what. no. I thought he was the doctor
[20:25] Johnny: I didn’t know I swear
[20:25] Johnny: Im just the fool

[20:26] Doyoung: Day 3

 

WinWin [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:26] NaNa Jaemin: So what’s the plan?

[20:26] WinWin: Kill Taeyong, execute Johnny, kill Jaehyun
[20:26] WinWin: make an alliance with your boyfriend

[20:26] NaNa Jaemin: hhfahsdkja
[20:26] NaNa Jaemin: my BOYfrie n d

[20:26] WinWin:
[20:26] WinWin: get over it.
[20:26] WinWin: do you think hyuck will ally with us?

[20:26] NaNa Jaemin: Hyuck? idk
[20:26] NaNa Jaemin: he doesn’t like me very much

[20:27] WinWin: bullshit
[20:27] WinWin: that’s your own fault

NaNa Jaemin is typing…
[20:28] NaNa Jaemin: Fine whatever
[20:28] NaNa Jaemin: I’ll ask him
[20:28] NaNa Jaemin: and Jeno

 

Jeno Lee [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:28] NaNa Jaemin: Hey babes <3

[20:28] Jeno Lee: hfasjkskds
[20:28] Jeno Lee: YOU CANT JUST
‘hey babes’ me like
HAVE SOME FUCKING RESPECT FOR MY HEART

[20:29] NaNa Jaemin: Would you forgive me if
I asked you to ally with me?

[20:29] Jeno Lee:
[20:29] Jeno Lee: see I havent played this game that much
but im pretty sure that’s not how it works
you do something for me and I’ll forgive you

[20:29] NaNa Jaemin: okay i’ll ally with you ;*

[20:29] Jeno Lee: but what if I don’t want to be allies

[20:29] NaNa Jaemin: JENNNN
Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

[20:29] Jeno Lee: STOP POUTING OH MMYGOD
THE KIDS CAN SEE YOU
DO YOU KNOW HOW SUSPICIOUS WE LOOK

[20:29] Jeno Lee: You’re going to get me killed and then
there’ll be complete chaos I promise you

[20:29] NaNa Jaemin: And I promise you that if
you ally with me and winwin,
your safety is guaranteed

[20:30] Jeno Lee: ohmygod
[20:30] Jeno Lee: its you. you’re the demon

[20:30] NaNa Jaemin: and if my calculations are right
you’re the mayor
[20:30] NaNa Jaemin: let us win this one time sweets, please

[20:30] Jeno Lee: …fine

[20:30] NaNa Jaemin: love you mwah
[20:30] NaNa Jaemin: I’m gonna ask hyuck too
he won’t agree to me but can you convince him?

[20:31] Jeno Lee: I’ll see what I can do

 

Ddonghyuck [Private Message]
[11 May 2016]

[20:30] NaNa Jaemin: hey hyuck

[20:31] Ddonghyuck: ??
[20:31] Ddonghyuck: tf?? You want???

[20:31] NaNa Jaemin: there’s nicer ways to say that but okay
[20:31] NaNa Jaemin: and im here trying to be civil for once

[20:31] Ddonghyuck: what do you want jaemin?

[20:31] NaNa Jaemin: an alliance

[20:31] Ddonghyuck: with you?

[20:31] NaNa Jaemin: me and Jeno and Winwin

[20:31] Ddonghyuck: and what do I get from this?

[20:31] NaNa Jaemin: I’ll be nicer to you?

[20:31] Ddonghyuck:
really? That’s it?
I kinda expect that from you, like,
unconditionally

[20:32] Ddonghyuck: I mean it’s not like we’re not friends, Nana
we’ve known each other for years, so…
I dunno where or how our friendship went wrong
Or if I did something wrong

[20:32] Ddonghyuck: And don’t tell me this is still
about that time I tossed you and you sprained your wrist
because that’s bullshit and you know it
I’ve punched you in the face before and we were fine

[20:32] Ddonghyuck: don’t fucking leave me on read asshole
say something
tell me what’s going on between us because I don’t know

[20:33] NaNa Jaemin: im sorry
ive just been really fucking stressed and shit
ugh im sorry im making excuses
and im sorry ive been taking it out on you
ive been a shit friend I know

[20:33] Ddonghyuck: yeah pretty shitty
but I’ve been shitty too
im sorry

[20:33] Ddonghyuck: Jaem that time you sprained your wrist
it wasn’t completely because of me was it?

[20:34] Ddonghyuck: Nana?

[20:34] NaNa Jaemin: yeah

[20:34] Ddonghyuck: oh.
I kind of suspected there was something else when you
told us you’ve been staying at Jeno’s place
[20:34] Ddonghyuck: and you sleep over at Jun’s so much too…
and your mum’s boyfriend…
oh shit… im so sorry I should’ve figured it out

[20:34] NaNa Jaemin: can I be honest?
I was kinda pissed that you didn’t know

[20:34] NaNa Jaemin: I know it’s stupid like
how do I expect you to know when I didn’t even tell you
but like,,
I was hoping you’d realise without me having to say anything?

[20:35] Ddonghyuck: it’s not stupid
you’re not obliged to talk about shit you don’t want to

[20:35] Ddonghyuck: but you know what really is stupid?
me getting pissed off at you because im jealous Jeno
doesn’t like me the way he likes you

[20:35] NaNa Jaemin: you like jeno?
is that why you didn’t come today?

[20:35] Ddonghyuck: hahaha yeahhhh…
what’s there not to like about him

[20:35] NaNa Jaemin: point taken

[20:36] Ddonghyuck: it’s okay tho
you guys are cute together
and you knew each other before I did
hell you kissed him wayyyy before I did

[20:36] NaNa Jaemin: I was born a confident gay ;)

[20:36] Ddonghyuck: yeah 6 yr old you had more game than 16 yr old you
anyways I’ll get over it. I already talked to jeno and we said we’re friends
maybe I’ll date Renjun instead

[20:36] NaNa Jaemin: pffffff I’d like to see that happen
Huang Renjun having a boyfriend

[20:37] NaNa Jaemin: OH
BACK TO MY FIRST POINT
allies or nah?

[20:37] Ddonghyuck: yeah yeah we can be allies

[20:37] NaNa Jaemin: jsyk winwin and I are going to winwin

[20:37] Ddonghyuck:
that was awful

[20:37] NaNa Jaemin: we’re the demons

[20:37] Ddonghyuck: of course you are…

 

Demon squad [Group] – 7 members
[11 May 2016]

[NaNa Jaemin added Jeno Lee…]

[20:31] WinWin: And what about Hyuck?

[20:32] WinWin: He’s disappeared

[20:32] Jeno Lee: He went into the bathroom

[20:32] Ten: oh you’re allied with them now?
very very interesting ;)))

[20:32] WinWin: There’s nothing interesting about it.
everyone knows they’re dating.

[20:32] Mark Lee: UMM?? I didn’t???

[20:32] WinWin: You’re oblivious. We know.

[20:33] Ten: You guys still need to pick a kill
chit chat time ends at 36

[20:33] WinWin: We already said Taeyong
And then for the vote we’re gonna try execute johnny
But if Jeno is the mayor…

[20:33] Jeno Lee: I can talk to Doyoung…
maybe I can call for Jaehyun’s execution without votes

[20:33] WinWin: But if he says no…
then you’ll have to reveal yourself as mayor so you can put two votes

[20:33] Jeno Lee: But if I vote for Jaehyun instead of Johnny
it’ll be obvious im on the demon’s side

[20:33] Lucaaas: And everyone knows Jeno will play for Jaemin’s side

[20:34] WinWin: Yeah I’m sure Kun or the kids will realise Jaemin is demon
[20:34] WinWin: It’s too risky

[20:34] Junguwu: Who’s still left in the game?

[20:34] Ten: Jisung and Chenle
You three: Jeno Jaemin Winwin
Renjun and Hyuck
Jaehyun Taeyong Johnny
and the old Chinese fossil

[20:35] Jeno Lee: We need more people on our side
I’ll bribe the kids and Renjun to vote for Jaehyun

[20:36] WinWin: Where’s Jaemin?

[20:36] Jeno Lee: He’s still in the bathroom

[20:36] WinWin: what? Does he have diarrhoea or are
he and Donghyuck fighting again?

[20:36] Ten: ooh I sense tea

[20:36] NaNa Jaemin: There’s no tea
Hyuck and I just had a nice heart to heart actually

[20:36] WinWin: good.

[NaNa Jaemin added Ddonghyuck]

[20:37] Ddonghyuck: sup bitches
let’s get this show on the road

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:37] Doyoung: RISE AND SHINE LITTLE SHITS IT’S FUNERAL TIME

[20:37] Jung Jaehyun: Who died? I hope it’s Johnny

[20:37] Johnny: I hope it’s Jaehyun

[20:37] Doyoung: WRONG. It’s @TY_Track the fortune teller

[20:37] Ty Track: BUT
I found CRUCIAL information

[20:37] Doyoung: Too bad. You’ve been silenced forever.
The demons have stolen your voice and your soul.

[20:37] Johnny: WAIT HOLD ON A SECOND-

[20:37] Doyoung: Grieving the death of his lover…

[20:38] Johnny: NO
NOOO!
DOYOUNG DON’T DO IT

[20:38] Doyoung: Johnny the fool jumped into
the river and drowned himself

[20:38] Johnny: tragic.
Well I have about 3 projects to finish
Have fun kids

[20:38] Doyoung: OKAY IT’S TIME TO VOTE

[20:38] Jung Jaehyun: Who do I trust now

[20:38] Zhong Chenle: Us
Me and Sungie
The King and Queen

[20:38] Jisung Pwark: You mean Queen and King

[20:38] Ddonghyuck: SUnGiE

[20:39] Jisung Pwark: shut up

[20:39] Zhong Chenle: No I’m King now.

[20:39] WinWin: You can trust me Jae,
I caught Johnny and Lucas for you

[20:39] NaNa Jaemin: And I’m clumsy so I’m safe

[20:39] Qian Kun: I’m the whore

[20:39] Huang Renjun: And I’m cupid so someone is lying
[20:39] Huang Renjun: What’s your role Hyuck?

[20:40] Ddonghyuck: Farmer

[20:40] Jung Jaehyun: Hang on, didn’t you say you were drunk earlier?

[20:40] Ddonghyuck: uhhhh no….?

[20:40] Jung Jaehyun: WE CAUGHT HIM

 

Dream Chasers [Group] – 7 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:40] Ddonghyuck: I’LL PAY ALL YOU SHITS 20
EACH IF YOU VOTE FOR JAEHYUN

[20:40] Huang Renjun: 50.

[20:40] Ddonghyuck: 30. Final offer.

[20:40] Zhong Chenle: My allowance is more than your yearly
pocket money combined. I don’t need your cheap wages

[20:40] Ddonghyuck: we get it lele, you’re rich

[20:40] NaNa Jaemin: me and jen will pay too

[20:41] Jeno Lee: 100 total. I’ll pay you each 50

[20:41] Jisung Pwark: Now we’re talking…

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:42] Doyoung: the votes have been totalled
im tired
Jaehyun the exorcist has been voted for execution

[20:42] Jung Jaehyun: what
what the fuck
how did that happen

[20:42] Huang Renjun: wow how absolutely shocking
I had no clue it would turn out this way

[20:42] Jung Jaehyun: what the fuck????

[20:42] Doyoung: the night has arrived again
go back to sleep

 

Demon squad [Group] – 8 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:43] Ten: so?

[20:43] Ddonghyuck: Let’s kill Chenle

[20:43] Ten: No objections? Okay

 

Mafia [Group] – 18 members
[11 May 2016]

[20:44] Doyoung: Ding dong wake up the king is dead again
and his beloved Queen Jisuliet followed him to the afterlife
Hurry up and place your votes
We’ve been playing for an hour

[20:45] Doyoung: OHMYGOD NEWS
Jeno has revealed himself as the mayor
His votes now count as three because I want to SLEEP

[20:45] Huang Renjun: It’s not even nine and you guys need to SLEEP?

[20:45] Jeno Lee: Right, I’m voting for Kun so if everyone
else could vote for Renjun that’d be helpful, thanks

[20:45] Huang Renjun: I expect double pay for letting you do this.

[20:45] Jung Jaehyun: You bribed them to vote for me?!

[20:46] Doyoung: BETTER NEWS
THE VOTES ARE TIED!
CUPID RENJUN AND KUN THE WHORE
POLAR OPPOSITES WITH THE SAME FATE
BOTH HAVE BEEN SET TO GUILLOTINE BY THE MAYOR

[20:46] Doyoung: Day 5
let’s get this shit one with

[20:46] NaNa Jaemin: So I’ll be giving Jen the dementor’s kiss

[20:46] Huang Renjun: Gross.

[20:46] NaNa Jaemin: And we’ll be voting Hyuck for execution

[20:47] Ddonghyuck: Can I vote for myself?

[20:47] Doyoung: DONE.
WE’RE DONE.
The demons have won.

[20:47] Ten: Jaemin and Winwin won

[20:47] Johnny: Winwin was a demon??!

[20:47] Lucaaas: YEAH I WAS THEIR ALLY BUT THEY BETRAYED ME!

[+64 unread messages…]

[…]

Chapter Text

“Jeno, darling, can you boil the kettle for me?”

Jeno’s mother is mixing a large bowl of rice and what looked like a little bit of everything in their fridge. There’s no real occasion, but it’s a weekend, 3 days after the last mafia game, and in a town as small as theirs, sudden unexpected visitors are… not so unexpected.

Jeno plugs in the electric kettle and fills it up slowly. Slowly, to stall because he can see the slight furrow of her eyebrows and the way her lips are pressed tight together – holding herself back from asking something that’s clearly bothering her. It’s not quite tense, per say. He’s not scared of what his mother wants to discuss. Not with his grandmother sitting in the kitchen with them, hand-sewing patterns onto some neighbour’s sister’s daughter’s birthday dress.

Ms. Lee glances over her shoulder, past the half-wall to the living room. It’s empty. “Is Jaemin still sleeping?” she asks, trying to make her tone sound casual.

Jaemin. A topic they’ve bounced around but he had expected to come up again sooner or later. “Yeah,” Jeno answers, with the same tone. “He was tired last night. School and detention… you know.”

She stops mixing the rice bowl. “And you boys are okay? Like this? The bed’s not too small?”

“No, we’re alright.” Jeno has absolutely no complaints about the lack of space and even less about the fact that Jaemin’s a cuddler.

She sighs. The spoon is mushed into the bowl defeatedly. “Jeno.”

“Yes?” This is it. She’s going to tell him he needs to leave. They can’t keep him any longer. Jeno meekly turns around to face her. One of her hands is placed on her hip, her teeth worrying at her lip.

“Jeno,” his mother repeats. “you know I don’t mind Jaemin staying over, but sweetheart, it’s almost been three weeks, and I can’t help worrying about his parents. He can’t stay forever.”

Jeno absently reaches for the sugar jar as she brings a hand up to her cheek. “There must be laws for this sort of thing… It feels like we’ve kidnapped him.” At the last part, she turns to her own mother with wide eyes. “Oh God, what have I done? We should’ve gone to child protective services!”

Jeno’s grandmother merely smacks the table with her palm and sneers at her daughter. “You’re not in America anymore, girl. Nobody here cares about those sorts of things. Let the boy stay here long as he likes. If his parents want to find him, all they need to do is ask anybody.”

With, his ears perked and attentive to the conversation, Jeno quietly prepares three mugs of tea. The fourth, he fills with coffee.

“I… I suppose so, but-” starts Jeno’s mother before his grandmother interrupts. Though his back is turned to them, Jeno can feel his grandmother’s hard stare.

Here, we are a community. We help each other. It is our duty to help each other. It doesn’t matter whether or not we know why. We don’t know what is happening in that Jaemin boy’s life, but we know he needs a place to stay,” her voice turns gentle, “and someone to love him. And that is enough. He needed help and we gave him that.”

She picks up the six-year-old’s dress that she had laid across the dining table and resumes her handiwork. Sighing, Jeno’s mother lifts the bowl and stores it in the fridge. Jeno helps her clear and set the table for brunch.

“Do his parents even know he’s staying with us?” she asks again.

Jeno pauses in the midst of placing plates to think of an answer that could ease his mother’s concerns. “I don’t think so. And,” he adds a little louder, “I think it’s better that way.”

“Well. You probably know more than I do about that,” his mother replies, sighing. “Alright. At least he’s more helpful than you around the house.” She shakes a glass at him, but she’s smiling.

“I- really?” Jeno splutters, wildly gesturing at the mugs of coffee and tea, and the plates he’s so helpfully arranged. He puts on his most betrayed face but all she does is laugh and turn away from him towards the sink.

“Jeno, you never clean up! Jaemin is so clean, and he’s such a brilliant cook, I was so surprised! You, I would far rather you stay out of the kitchen than help me at all.”

Eomma, you can’t blame me if you won’t even let me help you in the first place!” Jeno sulks. He sits beside his grandmother and buries his chin in his arms.

At that moment, the bell rings; unexpected visitors.

Eager to prove what a kind, loving, helpful son he is, Jeno almost slips on the rug in his haste for the door. “I’ll get it!”

To add to the fact that these Unexpected Visitors are usually expected on weekends, there’s also a degree of expectancy as to who would show up so unexpectedly. A neighbour on their street, a family relative, an old friend. Maybe it’s Renjun. Maybe it’s the mailman. Maybe it’s Jaemin’s mother, finally deciding it is time to bring her son home.

None of these expectancies can prepare Jeno for what is to follow; the most unexpected outcome of all expected possibilities.

The person behind the door is a man, looking likely to be in his late thirties, with long, greying hair tied back with a rubber-band, a sharp, pointed chin and a thin moustache above his lip. The similarities were there from first glance, but what really gave away his identity, was the doe eyes that Jeno immediately recognises as Jaemin’s.

“Oh shit,” he whispers. His shock completely overtakes the embarrassment of swearing in-front of an adult.

Startled, the man raises his brows. Then he shakes his head and regains himself. “Are you Lee Jeno?”

Oh no. Or maybe he’s a police official coming to inquire about that day™. “Uh, yeah. Why?” Jeno asks.

“I’m looking for Na Jaemin.”

Nevermind. The universe sure knows how to time things just right. How coincidental that they were just discussing Jaemin not two minutes ago, then his lost father turns up on their doorstep like the answer to all of Ms. Lee’s worries.

“I’m his father,” the man continues as if Jeno hasn’t already realised. Of course, he doesn’t know. There is a lot he doesn’t know. Like the fact that Jeno is dating his son, for example. “I went to Soo- uh, his mother’s flat, and she told me he ran away? So, I asked around and they told me I’d find him here.” He wrings his hands nervously.

Just as his grandmother had said, ‘to find him, all they need to do is ask anybody’.

Jeno steps to a side. “Do you like mixed rice?” he asks.

 

During the first few days Jaemin had stayed over, Jeno had found out that not only is Jaemin a deep sleeper, he is also impossible to wake in the morning. Now that Jeno isn’t beside him to be his personal heater, he’s bundled up and buried under all the blankets. All that’s visible is the mess of chestnut hair on the pillow.

Jeno poked the bundle with his foot. “Nana,” he calls. “Wake up.” He already knows it won’t work. Sighing, he rolls up his sweater sleeves and grabs the corner of the blanket. The moment the cold air hits his skin, Jaemin whines and curls up into a ball. An irritated crease forms between his eyebrows.

“Up, up, come on.” Jeno grips the sleepy boy’s shoulders and forces him to sit up. Jaemin unhappily obliges, pouting at Jeno’s direction with his eyes still shut. He tries to burrow into Jeno’s chest but Jeno quickly moves away, causing the boy to fall over.

“Ugh, Jeno is Saturday!” Jaemin whines into the mattress.

“There’s a visitor downstairs waiting to see you,” Jeno singsongs.

“It’s too early for visitors,” the younger boy grumbles.

“Jaemin, it’s almost eleven.” He tugs on Jaemin’s arm. “Trust me, you want to see him.” He manages to manoeuvre the boy out of bed and into the bathroom. “Now go wash your face and brush your teeth. Get changed.” He shoves a pile of clothes at Jaemin’s chest. Jaemin frowns, his eyes squinting open by just that much. “And come downstairs looking pretty, okay?” He pecks Jaemin’s lips and shuts the bathroom door.

Now he has to plan an improvisation in case the father-son reconciliation doesn’t go as smooth as he hopes it will. On Jeno’s birthday, when Jaemin spoke about his father, he hadn’t sounded as though he held any grudges against him. But Jeno still knows very little about Jaemin’s true feelings on the topic. It was one he tended to dodge if Jeno ever brought it up.

He thought back to the day they first met. When he had looked at Jaemin and called him familiar, because that wasn’t the first time they met, he knows now. But Jaemin had been so quick to tell him otherwise that he’d believed it.

The very first time they met went way back to first grade. Jeno remembers that it was a cloudy day, and his class was out on the pitch for P.E. Grade school meant a brand-new school with new students, and it took Jeno a while to get to know each of his many classmates. Especially with his more introverted personality.

Jaemin: he hadn’t noticed until that particular cloudy day. Their teacher had singled Jaemin out during that lesson and told him to sit on the yellow benches on the side. Said something about his back. For their group of six/seven-year-olds, this was shocking news. Gossip worthy. Why wasn’t Jaemin playing with them? Jeno was just as curious as the few friends he had made.

He let his curiosity get the better hold on him and approached Jaemin. Little Jaemin, at that time shorter and scrawnier than little Jeno, had explained to the best of his ability about his bad back, and how his ‘appa’ had given him a note to hand to his teacher, to say he couldn’t play sports till he was better.

A heart too large to be contained in his tiny body, Jeno had sympathised with Jaemin. He took the teacher’s permission and gave up his P.E lessons to sit with Jaemin and entertain him. They talked nonsense and played endless games of ‘I spy’ and chopsticks. Jaemin would collect bits of rock and stone that their then imaginative minds saw shaped as letters and animals and things that weren’t rock shaped at all. Jeno preferred to starfish on the tarmac and cloud gaze. They hit off.

Then one day, while they were both waiting for their parents at home-time, Jaemin snuck him to the back of the classroom and kissed him full on the lips, just like all those scenes in Disney his mother skipped over. He never forgot.

Not even when their classes were switched, and they made new friends or when he moved halfway across the world. Although soon he had forgotten his face and most of the memories, he never forgot that moment, and he never forgot how special it was to him. How special he was.

You don’t really forget your first kiss.

And you don’t really forget a boy like Na Jaemin.

 

While Jeno lets his train of thoughts carry him own memory lane, Jaemin freshens up and reappears a little more awake. “Who’s downstairs?” he asks.

Jeno jolts back to reality. Seeing Jaemin, his lips automatically pull into a smile. “It’s a surprise.” He pats Jaemin’s cheek. The other boy is still pouting, clearly not a morning or afternoon person for that matter. The night always suited Jaemin better.

“Your hair’s a mess,” Jeno comments noticing the unruly bedhead. Similar to the messy way his father styled his, he notes. Jaemin shrugs, grinning sheepishly. Jeno sighs. “Let’s go.”

 

Adding to the list of un-expectances, Jeno doesn’t know exactly what he expected to happen when he brought Jaemin downstairs. That they’d run into each-other’s arms? Hug it out, forgive and forget? He was prepared for tears and he was prepared for an outburst.

What he wasn’t prepared for, was for Jaemin to freeze up at the bottom of the staircase. Absolutely motionless. His eyes are fixed on the familiar figure on the couch. Usually bright and expressive, it’s a stark change for Jeno to see him so devoid of any emotion. So closed in.

The man on the couch stands up shakily. Jeno’s mother exchanges a look of unease with his grandmother. Jeno slinks to a side, unsure whether or not it would be a good idea to hold Jaemin’s hand.

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Na croaks quietly. So quiet they wouldn’t have heard if it wasn’t for the heavy, dead silence that had fallen over the house.

Jaemin doesn’t respond. Doesn’t do so much as blink.

Jeno decides it’s better not to touch.

There’s a slight shuffling as his grandmother leaves the room. His mother hurriedly follows, but Jeno stays behind. He tries to blend himself into the wall. It doesn’t matter, neither of the two would have noticed him even if he had stood between them.

“Nana-” Jaemin’s father steps closer. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t know- I thought you’d be better off with your mother.” Seeing as Jaemin isn’t going to speak up any time soon, he continues. “I had no idea where I was going. I had no plans. Barely anything on me. I didn’t want to- I didn’t want you to live like that, with that uncertainty. With nothing.” His voice fills with anger. “But maybe that would have been better… I just wanted the best for you, Nana. But I was wrong, I know.” He looks up at his son, absolutely devastated. “I shouldn’t have left you behind.”

Carefully. He moves towards his son carefully; with the same cautiousness you’d use around a frightened animal. The reactions unpredictable, afraid of scaring it away. Careful not to shatter the fragile moment around them. Both weighing down thin ice in a glass bubble.

Jeno holds his breath.

A tender hand reaches to cup his face.

Jaemin breaks.

It’s not sudden. Not how glass falls and shatters all at once. It’s a crack in the wall. A quivering breath. Wet eyes. Shaky sighs. Tight embraces. Soft kisses.

Quiet tears.

“I missed you, appa.”

 

They stand like that for a good 20 minutes. Jaemin sniffling into his father’s shirt and his father petting his bedhead into place. Placing a kiss there every now and then.

Jeno’s mother returns with a tissue roll that Jeno gratefully accepts. So, he’s a sappy crier, sue him. She puts her arms around him, and he doesn’t pull away. Instead he buries his face into her neck and hugs her back. He really can’t thank her enough for all she’s done and put up with.

Jaemin lifts his head when Jeno sniffs, and laughs. His cheeks are wet, eyes and nose red making the noise sound congested, but he manages to smile. And beautifully so. “Why’re you crying, Jen?” he asks, wiping at his eyes.

“Jus’ happy for you,” Jeno manages to choke out. “Happy tears.”

He feels more than hears his mother laughing. Jaemin’s father chuckles too, releasing the hug but still keeping one arm around Jaemin’s shoulders.

“Thank you for looking after him,” the older man says after a moment. He bows a full 90 degrees.

“We didn’t do much to thank for,” says Jeno. “Besides, it’s our duty to help each other.” He catches his grandmother’s eye. She nods duly. “Anyways, Renjun was there for him longer than we were.”

He’s so far lost in the heart-warming moment that it takes him a minute to realise that this sounds far too close to a goodbye. Suddenly, he feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

What is going to happen to Jaemin now? Where will he go? Is his father going to take him away with him?

Jeno has become accustomed to mornings where their bodies are tangled and a routine that included Jaemin in all parts. He remembers reading somewhere that three weeks is the time it takes to fall into a pattern. The problem is that Jaemin’s father came from far away and Jeno likes the current pattern far too much. He doesn’t know if he can take a change if it means Jaemin will have to leave him.

It must have shown on his face. Or maybe Jaemin’s just become that good at reading him. “What’s wrong, Jen?”

And because Jeno has never had a filter when it came to Jaemin, he blurts it out. “Are you going to leave?”

Jaemin’s eyes widen, the realisation hitting him a little late. His head jolts to look at his father, then back at Jeno, then back again at his father. He opens his mouth to protest but his father beats him to it.

“You don’t have to come back with me. I’m not going to ask you to leave.” He smiles apologetically at Jeno’s mum. “Actually, if you could let him stay a couple more days, I can pack up my stuff and maybe rent out a room somewhere. Just until I can settle things down, and then I’ll take Jaemin off your hands.” He turns from Ms. Lee back to Jaemin. “Is that alright?”

“Yeah,” Jaemin whispers. “Yeah, that sounds great, but,” he moves out of his father’s embrace, “there’s something else.”

The older man’s face creases into confusion. His arm is still reaching out towards Jaemin, but Jaemin has his hand held out for Jeno. Jeno takes it and lets Jaemin intertwine their fingers. “He’s my boyfriend,” Jaemin announces.

“Oh,” says his father. “Oh. I missed out on that one.”

“And?” Jaemin presses. Jeno gives his hand a supportive squeeze.

“And I think I need to catch up on the last few years,” he finishes good-naturedly. “What else changed? Other than your hair?”

Jeno feels the tension seep out of the other boy’s skin. The tight grip on his hand loosens. “I grew taller,” replies Jaemin easily. And like that, it looked like everything was finally going to be okay.

Jeno’s mother steps forward then. Hands on her hips and her steely eyes looking Jaemin’s father up and down with the expression she wears when Jeno has done something wrong. “Listen very carefully to me, Mr. Na,” she orders. “I haven’t known Jaemin for very long, but if I hear one word that he isn’t being treated right, you will personally hear from me. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mr. Na grins with that same likelihood of his son before his expression melts into something softer. “I’ll be a much better father to him, I promise you.”

“Good,” Ms. Lee concludes. “Would you like to stay for lunch?”

 

That night, they lay on the bed with the lights turned off. Jeno’s head on Jaemin’s chest. The younger boy’s arm wrapped around his middle. Keeping him close. Jaemin’s cheek pressed against his crown. He can hear the other boy’s slow heartbeat; a sign he is falling asleep. Feel the soft tickle of his breaths on his head. The warmth of the arm on his waist.

The bedroom window is pushed open just slightly to let the cool air in. It’s reached the time of the year when the weather changes from warm to cool abruptly. It’ll get warmer as the days progress.

Soon it’ll be summer. The season for frozen ice-pops and trips to the lake in Mr. Na’s old jeep. Summer vacation. Road trips with all eighteen boys down past the rushing river. Swimming against currents and cannonballing off cliffs into waterfall pools. Campfires and squeezing into tents too small to fit seven teenage boys. Speeding empty roads with the windows down – at night when the hot summer air becomes a little more bearable. No driver’s licence needed. Eventually Mr. Na will be able to finalize his divorce and take full legal custody of Jaemin.

Come Autumn, the start of the new school year. Jeno’s first year. Stolen kisses in empty classrooms. Linked pinkies. Jeno’s second year. And then graduation. Celebrations in the Na’s new house. Doughnut parties in the skateboard park. First sips of alcohol. So many more firsts yet to come.

After that will be college. University. Bigger things. Choices. Tough choices. Some of them will leave. Some of them will have already left. Promises.

But now, Jeno anchors himself down. He focuses on now. On Jaemin’s warmth, on Jaemin’s breaths, on Jaemin’s heart- on the boy he loves to the ends of the universe. And for all that has happened in the short month he’s been back, he owes it to Renjun.

While he does want to punch the older boy for the stupidity and the chaos, he realises, he’s gained so much. He’s grown so much. He has friends he knows he can trust his life with. Twelve older brothers. A criminal record. A boyfriend.

It’s been a crazy, wild month. He realises he wouldn’t really have it spent any other way.

 

~ fin ~