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It is a beautiful day when Jinyoung gets run over.

Just by a bicycle, and the speed demon riding it, but still. Jinyoung has his earphones in, his book bag slung across one shoulder, when he steps off the curb. He looks to the left before he does so, of course, and the street is empty. It’s a small, one-way street on campus, so it’s no surprise that the street is devoid of any cars, or bikes, or even pedestrians – other than Jinyoung.

But then he hears a shout, but it is too late. Jinyoung whirls his head round in the direction of the sound, but all he sees is a blur. He feels something smash into him, feels the force of the impact lift his feet off the ground, feels the jolt of pain that shoots up his arm when his left elbow makes first contact with the hot tarmac. Jinyoung winces as he tries to prop himself up with his other arm.

“Oh my god, fuck – I’m so sorry – are you okay?”

Of course not, thinks Jinyoung sharply, cradling his left arm against his chest. He glares up at the figure leaping off the bike and crouching over him. “What the fuck?” he shouts, “You’re going the wrong way!”

The person frowning at him with a look of panicked concern furrows their brows more deeply. “Huh?” he says, not understanding.

“The street!” yells Jinyoung, furious. “It’s a one-way street! You’re going the wrong way!”

“Oh,” the person mumbles, seeming at least slightly contrite, and Jinyoung’s anger dulls slightly. “I was late for class – this was the shortest way.” Never mind – the excuse makes Jinyoung more enraged. This must show on his face, because the person grimances, holds his hands up. “Not an excuse, I know,” he adds, “I’m really sorry. Do you need me to take you to the emergency room?”

Jinyoung narrows his eyes at the sheepish-looking figure hovering around in front of him, but turns his attention to his arm. He lets out a sharp exhale of pain as he straightens his arm experimentally.

“Oh god, that doesn’t seem good – did you break your arm?” the guy asks, and Jinyoung wants to snap that he didn’t break his arm, his arm was broken for him by an inconsiderate cyclist charging round the corner the wrong way down a one-way street.

But the pain in his elbow seems to be fading, and he’s able to move his arm fairly well, so Jinyoung doesn’t think he’s broken anything. Plus, he has classes to get to, and he really doesn’t want to spend any more time than necessary in the presence of this annoying stranger. Even if said stranger is actually kind of attractive, now that Jinyoung considers it, dark hair pushed back off his face messily, small studs and hoops decorating his earlobes.

Jinyoung doesn’t say any of that, of course, or let it show on his face. He just climbs to his feet, picking his book bag up and settling it on his right shoulder stiffly. “No, I don’t think so,” he says, “Just a bruise, probably.”

The – unfairly attractive – stranger looks unconvinced, his brows knitting together as he peers at Jinyoung. “Are you sure you don’t need to a see a doctor?” he asks.

“No,” Jinyoung says, sharply. His elbow aches dully, and he’s pretty sure his left hip does as well. But he’s tired of this interaction now. “No, it’s fine.”

“Okay,” the cyclist says, dragging the word out as if he’s still not sure. Then he stretches a hand out, says, “how about I give you my number – if it’s bad and you need to see the doctor I’ll pay for whatever you need. Or take you to the emergency room.”

Jinyoung stares at his outstretched hand. He doesn’t really want to hand his phone over to this stranger, but the hand doesn’t go away, even after Jinyoung just stares blankly at it for longer than necessary. Finally, heaving a sigh of exasperation, Jinyoung pulls his phone out of his bag.

“Cool,” the guy in front of Jinyoung says, tapping his number into the phone. “I mean it,” he adds as he returns the phone, “please do call me if you need to.”

“I won’t need to,” replies Jinyoung, but the stranger’s face falls, and something in Jinyoung softens. “But fine – if I need to – which I won’t – I’ll call.”

This brightens up the stranger’s face, and it’s annoying and endearing all at the same time, so Jinyoung just deepens his scowl and says, “weren’t you late for class or something?”

“Ah, fuck!” The stranger picks his bike off the ground, hops on with a casual ease that surprises Jinyoung. “Yeah, okay I should go,” he mumbles, “uh – hope you’re okay!” He hesitates, like he feels bad about leaving Jinyoung. Which, fair enough, he should, after running Jinyoung over. But Jinyoung just waves him away with his good arm.

“For god’s sakes, just go,” he grumbles. The boy on the bike grins sheepishly, pushes off on his bike and speeds off down the street – still going the wrong way.

Jinyoung glares at his retreating figure. “You’re still going the wrong way!” he shouts. The guy on the bike just waves one hand over his head in reply, and then he’s disappeared round another corner, and Jinyoung is alone on the quiet street again.

He pulls out his phone, glances at the new number that’s been entered into his contacts list. Im Jaebum.

Jinyoung has no intention of ever contacting this Im Jaebum, and doesn’t expect to meet him again. In this regard, and as will become customary when it comes to Im Jaebum, Jinyoung is hopelessly wrong.

 

*

 

Jaebum gets told off by his professor when he gets to the lecture – “good to see you’ve finally decided to join us, Jaebum-ssi” – and he slinks guiltily into a seat to Youngjae. They’re both music majors, but with Youngjae being a year behind Jaebum, and with a focus on performaning rather than production, this music theory lecture is one of the few they have in common.

“This is a new low, even for you,” Youngjae whispers, when Jaebum has settled into his seat and the lecture resumes. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” mumbles Jaebum in response, tugging his notes out of his bag. “I just hit someone with my bike.”

Youngjae’s eyes widen dramatically, and Jaebum grimaces. “It’s not as bad as it sounds,” he adds hastily, “I’m fine, and they’re fine too – I think.”

“You cycle too quickly,” is all Youngjae says, after a moment’s pause. “It’s dangerous. I bet you weren’t even wearing your helmet.”

Jaebum scowls. Youngjae knows him too well. He doesn’t even know where his helmet – which he only bought because he’d promised his mom that he would – is.

But then Youngjae just softens his gaze, sighs lightly. “Take care of yourself, hyung,” he says. And this is why Jaebum is friends with Youngjae, despite being a year ahead of him. The younger boy is unfailingly kind, always concerned about others before the instinct to tease kicks in – an instinct which didn’t even seem to exist before he got to know Jackson.

Jackson, on the other hand, leaps on the opportunity to tease before anyone can even get a word in. When they meet him for lunch, and Youngjae shares this information, Jackson immediately lets out a shriek of laughter.

“You’re a walking disaster,” he jokes, “Remember that time we went to dinner and you tried to pick up the candle and burnt your finger?” Here, Jackson lets out another cackle. Even Youngjae can’t help himself but giggle.

Jaebum groans, puts his head in his hands. “Shut up,” he grumbles, but without heat. He’s known Jackson since they were roommates in their first year, and though he found Jackson’s exuberance annoying at first, he’s since gotten used to it. Plus, Jackson is fiercely loyal and that makes up for all the suffering Jaebum has to endure as his friend.

Then Jackson is asking, “who was it, though?” and Jaebum’s frowning in confusion.

“Who was what?”

“Who did you run over, silly!” clarifies Jackson. “Were they cute? It’s like the movies. Maybe you’ll fall in love.”

Jaebum gives Jackson a look of horror mixed with bewilderment. “What?” he says, gaping at his friend. “No one is falling in love with anyone. I don’t even know his name.”

Jackson sighs dramatically, leaning heavily into Youngjae, who is enjoying this far too much. “Why?” Jackson exclaims. “You fool! You should have gotten his number.”

Maybe he should have. The guy had been kind of cute, after all, even despite the anger and the shouting at him for going the wrong way down a one-way street. There had been a fiery sort of passion in his eyes that didn’t quite match the pretty, delicate features of his face. But too late for that now.

Except instead of shrugging it away, Jaebum volunteers, “I gave him my number,” not quite sure what he’s doing or why he’s doing it.

As expected, Jackson leaps up in delight, clapping his hands together. “I bet he’ll call you soon,” he states with unfounded certainty. “No one can resist our sexy Jaebummie!” Jackson pinches Jaebum’s cheeks, which – along with the nickname – makes Jaebum twist away with an annoyed yell. He ignores the thought at the back of his mind, that maybe – just maybe – it would be nice if the boy with the pretty face and obsession with observing traffic rules gave him a ring.

 

*

 

Jinyoung does no such thing as call, or even text. He renames Jaebum in his phone as ‘Evil Cyclist’ and essentially forgets about the encounter.

At least, until a week later, after one of his classes, when he’s stepping out of the overly-warm faculty building into the chilly autumn air. He’s got books in one hand, trying to pull his scarf out of his bag and wind it round his neck at the same time, when he punches someone in the face.

Punch is a little bit of a strong word, perhaps, but Jinyoung’s fist, balled around his scarf, definitely makes contact with someone’s cheekbone as he attempts to loop the scarf around himself.

“Oh shit, sorry,” Jinyoung mutters, turning to see who the unfortunate victim of his clumsiness is, only to see a rather familiar-looking dark-haired guy wincing and rubbing his cheek. “Oh, shit,” he says again, only this time not because he’s hit someone, but because of the someone he’s hit.

“Nah, that’s alright –” the guy – Im Jaebum – starts to say, then he blinks as he notices Jinyoung. “Hey, it’s you!” he exclaims, face breaking into a grin.

Jinyoung is much less happy about their chance encounter than his victim appears to be. “Yeah,” he replies, reluctantly, “it’s me.”

“How’s your arm? Not broken, I assume, since you managed to punch me in the face with it?” Jaebum says, with a light laugh.

For some reason, his good humour annoys Jinyoung. Joking about like they’re friends. “That was my left arm,” he says sharply, shoving his books back into his bag.

Jaebum recoils slightly at the hostility in his voice. “Sorry about that again,” he says. “But hey – at least you got your revenge, eh?” He mimes punching himself in the face.

“I didn’t hit you that hard,” snaps Jinyoung.

“Right, okay,” replies Jaebum, holding his hands up in defeat. “Sorry – you don’t have to get so defensive.”

“I’m not defensive,” Jinyoung says quickly. Defensively. He scowls at himself for proving Jaebum right. “I’m not. You’re just being annoying.”

At this, Jaebum narrows his eyes. “I’m the one being annoying?” he repeats, his voice lower and more guarded than before.

Jinyoung notices the shift in tone, notices the implication that Jaebum thinks he’s the one doing the annoying, but ignores it. He’s always been proud, almost to a fault, and he isn’t about to back down now. “Yeah,” he says hotly, “yeah you are. First you knock me over with my bike because you were too inconsiderate to think about anyone else, and now you’re waiting here outside my building – like some sort of stalker – and not being remorseful at all.”

Jaebum shoves his hands into his pockets, his shoulders going rigid as he tries – and fails – to mask the anger in his eyes. Jinyoung muses absently that Jaebum switched from friendly to furious with almost alarming speed.

“First of all,” Jaebum starts, slowly, but forcefully, “I apologised for knocking you over, even offered to take you to the hospital.” He pauses, glances at the building from which Jinyoung had appeared. “Secondly, if anyone is being rude it’s you – you’ve not even apologised properly for hitting me in the face!” He scowls darkly. “And finally, I was waiting for my friend. I didn’t even know you had classes here. I don’t even know your bloody name!”

Despite himself, Jinyoung feels the hot flush of embarrassment creeping up his neck. He supposes he was being a little unreasonable, but this Im Jaebum just had no respect. And he had the gall to suggest that Jinyoung was being annoying when Jinyoung had every right to be cross with the person who had run him over and was now joking about it like they were old friends.

Pushing down the mild feeling of guilt, Jinyoung shoots back, “and let’s keep it that way,” referring to the mention of his name, and ignoring everything else that Jaebum had said.

Jaebum lets out a snort of laughter at Jinyoung’s words. “Fine by me,” he replies with a twist of his lips, like he’s disgusted by Jinyoung’s presence.

Jinyoung rolls his eyes, turns away to leave. “See you never,” he calls out as he strides away.

 

*

 

“Mate, you look mad,” says Jackson as he bounds out of the theatre building, slinging an arm around Jaebum. “Who’s pissed you off this time?”

Jaebum glowers at Jackson, who is tugging him down the sidewalk towards the dorms where they live. “No one,” he says sharply. Jackson quirks a disbelieving eyebrow, and Jaebum sighs, some of the rage seeping out of him. “Just that guy I ran over last week,” he explains, knowing that Jackson won’t let him rest until he gets the full story. “I bumped into him and we got into an argument.”

“Oh, he must be cute if he’s got your panties all in a twist,” coos Jackson, grinning, “Did you find out his name?”

“Not cute,” snaps Jaebum quickly, “annoying. And no, I didn’t – and I don’t want to. He’s unfriendly and highly-strung and I hope I never see him again.”

Jackson skips ahead, turning round to blow kisses at Jaebum. “Sounds like your perfect match, Mr. Grumpy-pants,” he yells, laughing boisterously. Some freshmen walking past them jump in surprise, turning to look at Jackson. Jaebum is used to this, just strolls along in Jackson’s wake.

“I’m not grumpy,” grumbles Jaebum, but without force. He knows he’s a little hot-tempered, and has a tendency to sink into a mood that he can’t be extricated from without a lot of threatening and cajoling. And he knows that Jackson knows this about his, and – though he would never admit it – he is grateful that Jackson is just carefree and stubborn enough to keep him out of the worst of his funks.

“Yes, you are,” argues Jackson lightly, throwing an arm around Jaebum, resting his chin on his shoulder. It puts them in a slightly awkward position to walk in, but Jackson is undeterred as he bats his long lashes up at Jaebum. “But I love you anyway – which is lucky because you don’t have any friends,” he adds, giggling as he darts away from Jaebum’s smack, which he clearly knew was coming.

“Extra lucky for you, though, is that I – as your official best friend – always have your best interests at heart,” continues Jackson, barrelling straight through Jaebum’s protests that he does have friends, “there’s a guy in one of my drama classes, and I think you’d get along. You’re both prickly on the outside but soft on the inside.”

“I’m not soft on the inside,” says Jaebum.

Predictably, Jackson ignores him. “Plus, he’s so your type,” he adds, with a wink.

“I don’t have a type.”

“Bullshit, you do,” Jackson retorts, snorting with laughter.

Jaebum will not be cowed. He rolls his eyes as he scans his student ID to let himself and Jackson into their building. “What is it, then?”

Jackson slips in through the door that Jaebum pulls open before Jaebum can step in himself, grinning slyly as he does so. “Pretty,” he says, waggling his eyebrows at Jaebum, “Your type is pretty. And trust me – this guy? He is so very pretty.”

 

*

 

They’re at one of the local restaurant-slash-bars near campus over the weekend, when Jackson abruptly declares that he’s invited a couple of new friends along. He gives Jaebum a knowing wink, leaving Jaebum in no doubt that one of these new friends includes the supposed pretty boy that Jackson was determined to introduce to Jaebum.

Yugyeom and Bambam, the two youngest members of their little group, look excited at this announcement. They’re second-years, like Youngjae, one of them a dance major and the other a fashion major. They were brought on board when Jackson ended up as one of the models for Bambam’s fashion photography project at the end of the previous school year. Jackson introduces new people to the group all the time, the social butterfly that he is, but Yugyeom and Bambam are the only ones who have stuck around.

Jaebum smiles like an indulgent parent at the two youngest members of their group, as they start to pester Jackson for more information. He finds out, in the subsequent ten minutes, that though Jackson had met his supposed ‘pretty boy’ in one of his acting classes, said boy is actually is a literature major, who takes a couple of theatre modules for fun. He’s a third-year as well, and he lives with a fourth-year art history major that Jackson has met once, which is apparently enough for Jackson to describe him as “the most handsome man he’s ever met”. Jaebum idly wonders if this is Jackson’s ulterior motive for inviting these new people into their group – an excuse to get to know the roommate, rather than the theatre buddy.

Jaebum doesn’t think too much about any of this information, just sips his beer quietly, enjoying the cheerful chatter surrounding him. He watches as, across the table from him, Jackson gesticulates wildly, having moved on to a story about something that happened to him on his way over here. Next to him, Youngjae giggles a little drunkenly, a notorious lightweight who laughs at the slightest provocation even when sober. Jaebum pushes the plate of nachos towards Youngjae, nudging him to eat something.

And then Jackson is shouting, “Mark-hyung! Jinyoung!” and beckoning at something behind Jaebum – his friends, presumably. Jaebum casts a glance over his shoulder, but the bar is full of people, mostly college students, and poorly lit on top of that. He can’t pinpoint who Jackson is waving wildly at, not with the people threading their way back and forth across his line of sight, carrying pitchers of drinks, or playing darts, or dancing along to the loud music even though the dance floor hasn’t even been properly opened yet.

Giving up, Jaebum turns back to his beer, taking another sip. He’s looking forward to meeting the guy Jackson’s been talking about, if he’s being honest with himself. Jackson’s absolutely right about his type – has been his roommate for long enough, seen enough of his hook-ups the following morning, to know that – and Jaebum can’t see any harm in getting to know someone who might be a bit of fun. That’s what college was all about, wasn’t it?

He throws back the last of his drink, feeling buzzed and happy as he turns to greet the two people who have walked up to their table.

That’s when his face falls.

“Everyone, these are my friends,” Jackson shouts eagerly, completely missing the look of horror on Jaebum’s face, “Jinyoung – he’s a literature major, and this is Mark-hyung, who does art history.”

Jinyoung. So that’s his name. Jaebum narrows his eyes at Jinyoung, who doesn’t seem to have noticed him yet, still grinning cheerfully at Jackson.

“And these are – Yugyeom, dance major and our beloved maknae,” Jackson continues, gesturing to them one by one, “Bambam, fashion major and fashionista” – this makes Bambam colour and laugh – “our power vocal, Youngjae” – and then Jackson turns to Jaebum, and so do Mark and Jinyoung,

Jaebum sees the moment that Jinyoung recognises him, sees the surprise and then annoyance flicker across his face.

“Im Jaebum,” Jinyoung says, taking Jackson – and everyone – aback. His voice is level, civil, but he is staring at Jaebum still. Jaebum is surprised that Jinyoung knows his name, though he supposes he did put it into Jinyoung’s phone. “We’ve met.”

“What?” Jackson asks, looks at Jaebum in confusion, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Jaebum looks away from Jinyoung, shrugs at Jackson. He goes to take a sip of his drink, then realises he’s finished it, ends up just gripping his empty glass. “I didn’t know his name,” he says, truthfully.

“He ran me over with his bike a couple of weeks ago,” explains Jinyoung, his face still betraying nothing.

But Jackson, when this new information registers, has no qualms about keeping his emotions hidden. He beams, lets out a shout of laughter. “You’re the one Jaebum-hyung ran over?” he exclaims, in a mixture of disbelief and amusement. The younger boys, all of whom have heard this story as well, join in laughing.

Even Mark, the tall, slim boy that Jackson is not far off the mark in describing as “the most handsome man in the world”, chuckles to himself. He slides into one of the spare seats, tugging Jinyoung to sit in the other one. The one right next to Jaebum. Hesitating, Jinyoung casts a glance at Jaebum, before sitting down reluctantly.

Jaebum groans internally. This night is going just splendidly.

 

*

 

Any hopes that Jaebum might have had of the group hating Jinyoung and insisting that Jackson never invite him to join them again are quickly quashed. Not that Jaebum is overly surprised – Jackson’s a pretty good judge of character. He may get along with everyone on the surface, but when it comes to actually making new friends, he has a discerning eye.

So Jaebum spends the rest of the evening sulking, thinking bitterly to himself that if he hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot with Jinyoung, he might be able to see what the rest of the group sees in him. As it is, all he can think of is how rude Jinyoung was when he was only trying to be friendly, and he shoots daggers at the back of Jinyoung’s head when he gets up to try his hand at darts, in a team with Mark against Yugyeom and Jackson.

Then Bambam and Youngjae wander off in search of drinks, leaving Jaebum alone at the table, and Jackson is suddenly at Jaebum’s side.

“So…” Jackson starts, leaning against Jaebum heavily.

Jaebum sighs. “What do you want, Jackson?” he asks, knowing for a fact that he’s going to have a headache after this conversation. “Aren’t you playing?” He gestures to the dartboard.

“Not my turn,” Jackson says off-handedly, before leaning close to Jaebum again. “What a coincidence that Jinyoung’s the boy who’s been getting you so riled up,” Jackson muses, glancing to where Jinyoung is grinning smugly at Yugyeom and Mark after throwing a bull’s eye, “I was right, though – he’s gotten under your skin because he’s cute.”

“He’s not cute,” says Jaebum grouchily, even though Jinyoung – painfully obviously – is. From the dark fringe hanging across his forehead to the big eyes and full lips, from his slight frame to his frustratingly perky butt, he is undoubtedly extremely attractive – and also extremely Jaebum’s type. When Jackson gives Jaebum a doubtful look, Jaebum rolls his eyes and corrects, “Fine, he’s not the worst looking man I’ve seen. But – I don’t know – he seems a little…judgey.”

Jackson is unconvinced. “He called you inconsiderate one time and you decide he’s judgey?” he asks, and Jaebum regrets providing Jackson with so much detail the multiple times he’d ranted to him about the person who he now knows is Jinyoung. “Sounds like you’re being the judgemental one.”

And damn, Jaebum hates it when Jackson has a point. He grunts, takes a large swig of his beer. “I’ll be polite,” he concedes, “but he doesn’t like me either, so don’t expect too much.”

“That’s all I can ask, Jaebummie!” Jackson coos happily, nuzzling his face into the crook of Jaebum’s neck. Complaining loudly, but laughing at the same time, Jaebum shoves Jackson away. He is inexplicably fond of this noisy rascal.

And then Jackson is calling out to his fellow darts players, saying that he wants a break and that Jaebum will take over for him, and Jaebum takes it all back. Jackson is the devil. But he’s promised to at least try, so he shuffles over, takes the darts that Yugyeom is reluctantly handing over to him.

“No offense, hyung, but you’re bad at darts,” Yugyeom says. Jaebum smacks the back of his head. The maknae has been getting bolder and bolder ever since becoming more comfortable in the group. But he’s not wrong. Jaebum is strong, but quite frankly terrible at anything that requires hand-eye coordination.

Jaebum gives it his best regardless of Yugyeom’s lack of faith, but none of his darts even come close to the bull’s eye, and one of them even stabs itself into the wood wall behind the dartboard.

It’s fine, Jaebum’s used to being teased for being bad at games, and he’s about to chuckle and shrug it off, when he hears Jinyoung snicker. And a fire blazes up in him.

“Wow, Yugyeom was right – you’re really bad at this,” Jinyoung says from where he’s leaning the corner of the bar, watching Jaebum.

Jaebum whirls round to glare at Jinyoung. “Hey, asshole – let’s see you play, then, if you think you’re so much better than me,” he says hotly. He feels Yugyeom’s hand on his arm, tugging him back, but he shakes it off.

All Jinyoung does is to take a long sip from his drink, before looking up to meet Jaebum’s gaze. “I don’t have to be that good to be better than you,” he says, voice level, but laced with mockery.

“Yah!” Jaebum shouts, takes a large step towards Jinyoung. If this intimidates Jinyoung – which it should, because Jaebum has an imposing presence, and people usually shrink away from him when he confronts them like this – he doesn’t show it. But now Jackson has leapt up from his seat, has physically stepped between him and Jinyoung.

“Hyung, for god’s sake, calm down,” Jackson says, nudging him away gently. Jaebum steps backwards into Yugyeom, whose hands go to his arms, not grabbing him but ready to do so if he decided to charge at Jinyoung. Which Jaebum thinks is unfair, because yes, he has punched someone in a club before, but that was one time, and it was only because the guy was harassing Youngjae.

Mark, on the other side of Jackson, has curled an arm around Jinyoung’s waist, holding him back as well, though Jinyoung looks to be in no danger of doing anything rash. “Don’t be rude, Jinyoung-ah,” Mark is saying, which makes Jinyoung roll his eyes.

But then, completely unexpectedly, Jinyoung heaves a sigh, and nods. “Sorry,” he says, looking directly at Jaebum, “I was just teasing, I didn’t think it would bother you this much.”

Jaebum is suspicious of this apology. He’d pretty sure that Jinyoung knew exactly what he was doing. But Jackson is giving him a hard look, and now it is Jaebum’s turn to sigh in defeat. “That’s okay,” he replies, “I over-reacted. I’m sorry too.”

“Great,” declares Jackson, clapping his hands together, “now – I think I see those two coming back with our drinks, after only a fucking eternity – I know the queue’s long but how long could it possibly be…” He trails off as he charges into the crowd to open a path for Youngjae and Bambam.

Jaebum watches Jackson disappear, chuckling to himself at how quickly Jackson can switch from one mode to another. When he turns back, Jinyoung is looking at him, frowning slightly. Their eyes meet for a second, before Jinyoung turns away and is whispering to Mark like he hadn’t been staring blatantly at Jaebum. Probably just thinking of how much he hated Jaebum, is what Jaebum concludes, but there seemed to be something almost – curious in the way he was looking at him as well.

But then Jackson is emerging from the crowd balancing a tray of drinks, and Jaebum pushes all thought of Jinyoung to one side. So maybe he can’t quite figure Jinyoung out, but then again, what does it matter?

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Jinyoung watches as Jaebum shuffles into the living room, and they exchange polite nods. He can’t believe he let Mark convince him into a movie night – of all things – with his number one arch nemesis Im Jaebum.

“Don’t be childish, he’s not your arch nemesis,” was all that Mark had said, when Jinyoung had objected to Mark’s insistence that they accept Jackson’s invitation to watch a movie with them at his and Jaebum’s shared apartment. Jinyoung was convinced that Mark just thought Jackson was cute and wanted to spend time with him, though Mark would never admit it.

And that is how Jinyoung ends up squashed between Mark and the armrest of a remarkably tattered-looking but surprisingly comfortable sofa, Jackson on the other side of Mark with a bowl of popcorn. Yugyeom and Bambam are sprawled across the other sofa, long limbs in a tangle.

“There’s nowhere for me to sit,” Youngjae whines as he finally wanders into the room from the kitchen, carrying a bag of crisps.

“That’s your own fault for being late to the party,” Jackson scolds, unhelpfully. “Go sit over there with the maknaes.”

Neither Bambam nor Yugyeom move to make room. “There’s no space here,” they complain, “it’ll be squished. Youngjae-ah, go sit over there with Jaebum-hyung.”

“Call me hyung, you idiots,” says Youngjae. “And Jaebum-hyung is in an armchair, there’s even less room!”

In response, Yugyeom and Bambam just let out pitiful whining noises.

“Yah – if I could be bothered to get up I’d come over there and smack the two of you,” says Jaebum, but he’s smiling lazily, and it is evident that he isn’t angry. “Youngjae-ah, there’s space here, come on.” He shifts, pats the space next to him. Grinning, Youngjae scurries over, but not before Jackson shouts at him to turn the lights out.

As the movie starts, Jinyoung can’t help but glance towards Jaebum out of the corner of his eye. There isn’t enough space for two on the armchair, not really, everyone can see that. After a few moments of shifting about, Youngjae’s ended up in Jaebum’s lap.

Jinyoung looks around the room. No one seems perturbed by Jaebum and Youngjae’s closeness. Not that Jinyoung isn’t himself excessively physically affectionate with Mark, but he can’t stop himself from wondering if maybe Jaebum and Youngjae are a thing.

Not that it matters, of course, but Jinyoung is curious by nature, and once the thought enters his mind he just can’t quite shake it. He finds himself constantly distracted from the movie, eyes darting to the side every time he sees some sort of movement in his peripheral vision.

Most of the time Jaebum is just leaning against the back of the armchair, and Youngjae has his legs dangled off one of the armrests. But sometimes, when something particularly funny happens, for example, Jaebum leans forward and snakes his arms around Youngjae’s waist, buries his face into Youngjae’s sweater. Or sometimes his fingers reach out to play with the frayed edges of the rips on Youngjae’s jeans, or at the hair on the back of Youngjae’s neck.

By the time the movie ends, Jinyoung is more confused than when he started as to the status of Jaebum and Youngjae’s relationship, and he also has no idea what happened in the movie. He blinks in bewilderment as the lights come back on, Jackson loudly enthusing about how funny the ending was, while Yugyeom and Bambam stretch lazily on their sofa.

“Did you like it?” Mark asks, turning to him, and Jinyoung startles. Everyone else looks at him as well, because for some reason Mark speaks with such purpose and gravitas that everyone always pays attention to him.

“Uh, I guess,” Jinyoung manages to get out, “it was okay.”

To his left, Youngjae is clambering off Jaebum, which leaves Jaebum free to lean forward, and ask, “Really? I thought it was really good. What didn’t you like about it?”

Jinyoung turns to glare at Jaebum. He can’t quite tell if Jaebum is just trying to make friendly conversation, or if he’s sussed out that Jinyoung has no idea what he’s talking about, but Jinyoung suspects it’s the latter. “I thought it was fairly…forgettable,” Jinyoung says, a note of challenge in his voice, daring Jaebum to push the question further.

But before Jaebum can say anything, Youngjae is there, reaching for Jaebum’s hand and tugging him up. “I thought it wasn’t that good either, hyung,” he says, oblivious to the daggers Jinyoung is shooting at Jaebum.

“Mm,” hums Jaebum, a sly smirk coming to his lips as he casts a sideways glance at Jinyoung, “I guess you’re right, Youngjae-ah. I guess you’re right.”

Later that evening, back in their shared apartment, Jinyoung asks Mark if he thinks Jaebum and Youngjae are an item. He does so as he flips idly through his book, because he’s just curious and the thought has just popped into his head, of course.

Mark gives Jinyoung a pointed look that Jinyoung ignores. “I don’t know,” Mark says, slowly, “Do you think they are?”

Jinyoung glances up at Mark briefly, before refocusing his attention – or at least, pretending to do so – to his book. “They just seemed awful cosy earlier,” he says coolly, like he’s commenting on the weather.

But Mark knows Jinyoung too well – they haven’t been living together for two years for nothing. And Mark is eerily intuitive. “Why do you ask?” Mark asks, his voice as light as Jinyoung’s.

“Just curious,” Jinyoung replies, “Wondering how someone who seems as sweet as Youngjae would ever go for someone like Jaebum.”

The smile that crosses Mark’s face makes Jinyoung want to scream, but thankfully Mark is also good at respecting Jinyoung’s boundaries and not pushing the teasing too far. So all he says is, “I see”, and then he’s leaning back, picking up his own book, and leaving Jinyoung to stew in his own thoughts.

 

*

 

Jinyoung ends up getting the answer to his question the following week. He and Mark seem to have been adopted by Jackson and, by extension, Jackson’s group of friends, because it’s an unusually sunny Friday afternoon and they’re all lounging on the lawn in the middle of campus. Groups of students are dotted around, reading, napping, enjoying one of the last warm days before autumn fades into winter.

The only one who isn’t there is Youngjae, and Jinyoung is about to ask where he is when the younger boy appears, a wide grin splitting his face. Yugyeom and Bambam instantly start cheering and whooping, which Jinyoung doesn’t understand, while Jaebum shuffles over where he’s laying back to make space for Youngjae.

“Youngjae-ah!” shouts Jackson, slinging him arm around Youngjae’s neck. “Good news, I’m guessing?”

Jaebum laughs, a deep throaty sound. “Look at his face,” he says, propping himself up on his elbows, eyes crinkling up into crescents as he grins up at Youngjae, “It’s got to be good news.”

Curiosity getting the better of him, Jinyoung pipes up, “Good news about what?”

“Youngjae was going to ask this girl in our year out on a date,” Yugyeom says excitedly, giggling.

“I told you to call me hyung!” says Youngjae, but he’s still beaming and trying to stop himself from joining in Yugyeom’s giggles.

This is news to Jinyoung. He supposes Youngjae and Jaebum aren’t going out after all, despite what he had thought. Mark glances over to him, and Jinyoung tries to keep his expression neutral, but of course Mark knows what he’s thinking because Mark always knows what he’s thinking.

“Funny,” Mark says, his voice light, like he’s just musing aloud, but Jinyoung knows him better than that, Mark never says anything without thinking it through very carefully first, “I always thought Youngjae and Jaebum were going out.”

This revelation instantly cracks everyone up. Yugyeom and Bambam are rolling around, clutching their sides, a little over-dramatically, Jinyoung thinks, but it’s cute. Jackson leaps to his feet and shrieks with laughter, while Youngjae throws his head back as he chortles at the ridiculousness of Mark’s statement. Even Jaebum is chuckling to himself.

“Absolutely not,” says Jackson, sitting back down and using his arms to make an ‘X’ in front of his face for emphasis, “they’re basically brothers. It would be like incest.”

Jinyoung thinks comparing it to incest is a little extreme, but he just smiles, leans back on his hands. The conversation seems ready to move on, but Jackson isn’t done talking.

“It would be different if it was, like – me and Jaebum-hyung, you know,” Jackson adds, by way of explanation, but it only opens up more questions. Jinyoung cocks his head at Jackson, exchanging a look with Mark.

“Jackson-ah,” Jaebum groans, “not this again.”

Bambam pouts. “Hyung, please don’t tell the story again,” he whines, “it’s gross!”

“Gross?” Jackson shouts, mock-enraged, jumping to his feet again, “What is gross about the physical act of love?” He swivels his hips around and waggles his eyebrows suggestively, which makes Bambam shriek and duck behind Yugyeom.

By this point Jaebum has his head in his hands, which Jackson is pointedly ignoring. He drops back down next to Mark, leans in conspiratorially. “You guys are new, so you don’t know,” he says, in an extremely loud faux-whisper, “but back when Jaebum-hyung and I were freshers, we used to hook up every so often. Just, you know, as friends. With benefits.”

Jaebum shakes his head at Jackson. “I thought you said you fancied Mark-hyung,” he complains, and Jinyoung wonders if he is dropping this fact as a way of getting back at Jackson, “why would you tell him about that?”

Predictably, Mark flushes a little upon hearing that Jackson likes him, but – just as predictably – Jackson is completely unperturbed. “Because I’m not ashamed,” he declares, “and besides, it’s not like it’s abnormal for roommates to hook up. We’re in college! Everyone does it!”

“No way!” objects Yugyeom. He darts his eyes round, lands on Mark and Jinyoung. “Right?”

Jinyoung can’t get any words out of his mouth. Beside him, Mark seems just as tongue-tied. Because they know what answer everyone is expecting, but unfortunately, it’s not an answer they can truthfully give.

Their hesitation is all the answer anyone needs.

Jackson breaks out into a gleeful cackle, clapping his hands together. Jinyoung feels his neck grow warm. Everyone is staring at him and Mark now. Even Jaebum, his dark eyes trained on the side of Jinyoung’s face, and Jinyoung can feel the heat of his gaze even though he is studiously not looking at anything but the ground.

“Yeah, um, we slept together a few times when we first moved in together,” says Mark, trying to appease Jackson, “but it was too weird, and we didn’t feel that way about each other, so we stopped. It was just a bit of, uh, physical attraction. When we first met.”

And with that, Jackson gives a flourish and a bow. “Point proven,” he declares.

“Well, Bambam and I are roommates and, unlike all the rest of you sex-starved demons we’ve managed to stay out of each other’s pants,” says Yugyeom, “so point not proven!”

Jackson rolls his eyes. “Shut up, Gyeom,” he says, “don’t think I don’t know you and Bam made out at Tacyeon-hyung’s back to school party.”

“We were drunk and that was one time!” protests Bambam, as Yugyeom colours and hides his face. Then they start arguing with Jackson about something to do with absinthe at said party, and the conversation – mercifully – moves on.

But Jinyoung doesn’t say anything else as the sun sets and they start to disperse, off to their various evening plans. He can’t help but notice that Jaebum doesn’t say anything else either.

 

*

 

Jinyoung is starting to think that maybe Im Jaebum isn’t so bad after all, so when he sees Jaebum walking into the main school administration building just ahead of him, instead of slowing down so they won’t bump into each other, he hastens in after him.

Jaebum’s getting into one of the lifts in the lobby, black headphones over his ears and his hands shoved into his pockets. The very stereotype of a music production major, Jinyoung thinks to himself as he jogs across the lobby.

“Jaebum-ssi!” he calls out, waving, as Jaebum steps into the lift and turns around, pressing the button for his floor. He doesn’t get a response, but then Jaebum starts jamming one of the buttons forcefully, and the doors start to close, and Jinyoung realises that Jaebum is trying to get the door to close on him.

Furious at how rude Jaebum is being, Jinyoung finds in himself a burst of speed, wedges himself between the doors just as they shut. The doors slam into his back and shoulder, and Jinyoung winces slightly from the impact.

“Jinyoung-ssi?” Jaebum says, sounding startled, but Jinyoung will not be fooled.

“You tried to close the doors on me!” he says in an accusatory tone.

Jaebum looks bewildered. “What? No, I didn’t,” he says, “I didn’t see you.”

How could Jaebum not have seen him? He was running across the largely empty lobby, waving and shouting his name. The audacity of this lie enrages Jinyoung. “Do you not have eyes?” he demands.

“I just didn’t, okay – why are you so unreasonable?” Jaebum counters, his eyes – which he most definitely does have, and so must have spotted Jinyoung with – narrowing with annoyance. “And can you get in the lift already?” he adds, because Jinyoung is still standing with one foot in the lift and one foot out, and the doors keep trying to shut on him.

Jinyoung glares at Jaebum. “Oh, are you in a hurry to get somewhere?” he asks innocently, stepping into the lift. Then, with a huff, he stabs wildly at all of the buttons for all of the floors. Jaebum had pressed the button for the seventh floor – the top floor – so he was just going to have to wait as the lift went through all the other floors.

“You know I can just get off the lift at the next floor, right?” snaps Jaebum as the lift starts to move. This thought had not occurred to Jinyoung in his fit of rage, so he just purses his lips and says nothing. “Why are you so petty?” Jaebum continues, his temper clearly rising along with his volume. “I had my headphones in, I was thinking about something, I just didn’t see you – oh for god’s sake!”

The last exclamation might have been directed at Jinyoung, but – more likely – it was probably directed at the lift. Which had progressed slowly up towards the next floor, and then just – stopped.

“You have got to be kidding me,” says Jinyoung, stabbing violently at the ‘door open’ button. “Is the lift stuck?”

“Obviously,” snaps Jaebum in reply, “and it’s all your fault as well, by the way.”

“How is this my fault?”

“You were jabbing at all of the buttons! You probably overwhelmed the lift.”

“The lift isn’t a human, it doesn’t get overwhelmed like that.”

“Can you at least stop pressing the ‘door open’ button? Press the alarm to call for help, you twit!”

“Did you just call me a twit?”

They’re shouting quite loudly now, which must alarm the security guard on the other side of the intercom, who assures them that the engineers have been called and the lift will be fixed as soon as possible. As the intercom shuts off with a click, Jaebum heaves a sigh and slides down the wall to sit on the floor. Jinyoung folds his arms across his chest and remains standing.

“You gonna stand there this whole time?” asks Jaebum, after a moment’s pause. “We might be here a while.”

Jinyoung just huffs haughtily, and Jaebum shrugs, slides his headphones back on. Left alone in the silence of the lift, Jinyoung has time to consider his actions. He supposes it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Jaebum had genuinely not seen him. And Jaebum seemed so genuinely surprised to see him, and so utterly outraged at his accusation, without the slightest hint of shame at being caught out.

There’s something about Jaebum that gets under Jinyoung’s skin. He glances down from where he’s standing, watches as Jaebum bobs his head ever so slightly to the music that must be pumping from his headphones. Jinyoung grimaces as he realises that he is most definitely the one in the wrong this time.

“Hey,” Jinyoung says, “I’m sorry.”

No response from Jaebum. He mustn’t have heard Jinyoung. Further evidence that it was entirely possible that he hadn’t closed the lift doors on Jinyoung intentionally. Jinyoung groans, nudges at Jaebum’s foot with the toe of his shoe. When Jaebum looks up questioningly, Jinyoung gestures at his headphones, motions for him to take them off.

“What do you want?” asks Jaebum, pulling his headphones down so they’re slung around his neck. He sounds suspicious, which Jinyoung supposes is fair.

“I’m sorry,” Jinyoung says, quickly, before he changes his mind, “I over-reacted. And you’re right, I was petty. Sorry.”

To Jinyoung’s eternal bafflement, after a short pause, Jaebum just chuckles. “Park Jinyoung,” he says, a smile quirking his lips, “you’re the most inexplicable person I’ve ever met.”

“What? Why?” Jinyoung asks, slightly offended, but more curious. He sits down on the opposite side of the lift to Jaebum, their legs stretched out parallel to each other across the centre of the small metal box they’re in.

Jaebum shrugs. “You get really annoyed about the strangest things,” he says, “but you’re also really quick to apologise, even if you do it grudgingly. I wish I was like that.”

“What, a grudging apologist?” jokes Jinyoung, but he knows what Jaebum means. And Jaebum knows that he knows, because he just smiles, looks down into his lap. This time, the silence is less uncomfortable. It’s by no means natural, Jinyoung still itching to find words to fill the pause with, but it is at least no longer skin-pricklingly hostile.

“What were you doing here?” Jinyoung asks, desperate to break the silence. “In the admin building, I mean.”

Jaebum looks up with surprise when Jinyoung speaks. “I lost my student ID,” he explains, “was coming to collect a replacement one.” Here, he pauses, grins sheepishly. “I keep losing my ID, the admin staff hate me,” he admits, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand. “What about you?”

“I missed one of my lectures yesterday,” Jinyoung says, shrugging, “and my professor leaves extra handouts in her cubby hole.”

This seems to be amusing to Jaebum, who raises an eyebrow and tilts his head to the side. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a skipper,” he says, considering Jinyoung with an inquisitive expression on his face.

Jaebum’s estimation of Jinyoung is spot-on, but he doesn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing this. Instead, he just says, “Mark locked himself out of our apartment. I had to go back to let him in.”

“Mm,” hums Jaebum, “you’re a good roommate.” Then they both pause. The memory of their recent conversation with Jackson about what it means to be a ‘good roommate’ shoots to the forefront of Jinyoung’s mind. Judging by the slight flush rising to Jaebum’s cheeks, and the way his eyes are looking everywhere except at Jinyoung, the same memory has come to Jaebum’s mind.

The silence builds, and Jinyoung feels himself cringing internally with awkwardness. When he finally speaks, he regrets it instantly, blurting out, “so, you and Jackson, huh,” because he is a fool and can’t think of anything else to say.

Thankfully, Jaebum looks up at him for a second, before laughing lightly. “No, not me and Jackson,” he says, shaking his head. “Not like that. We got drunk once when we were both freshers, and then for a little bit whenever either of us went through a bit of a dry spell we’d just…fool around.”

Despite himself, Jinyoung’s curiosity is piqued. “Do you guys, still, you know?” he asks, cheeks feeling warm. He prays that they aren’t also colouring.

Jaebum looks alarmed. “No, not at all,” he says hastily, “not since first year. Once we became better friends we just kind of…grew out of it, I guess. And once we weren’t so new to college life it was easier to find other guys, and girls, too – it feels weird to think about now, to be honest.” He wrinkles up his nose and for a split second Jinyoung lets the thought flash across his mind, that it’s a little cute. Then he stamps that thought into the ground.

“Yeah, same with me and Mark,” offers Jinyoung, not quite sure why he’s volunteering this information, and to Im Jaebum of all people. But it’s quiet and comfortable, and Jinyoung lets himself relax a little against the cool wall of the lift. “I mean, he’s obviously a very good-looking guy, and when I was a fresher he just seemed like this really cool second-year. But once that went away we were just really good friends.”

Jaebum nods. “I mean, that’s what college life is about, right?” he says, shrugging. “Getting to know whoever and not having it mean too much.” His tone is light, but he’s staring at Jinyoung with intensity, eyes dark and sending a jolt of electricity to Jinyoung’s core.

“Yeah,” Jinyoung replies, and his voice sounds much lower, much more breathy, than he had intended. He swallows, watches as Jaebum’s adam’s apple bobs up and down as he mirrors the action. “Whoever.”

Then the intercom crackles back to life, and both of them jump, visibly startled. Jinyoung hops to his feet, averting his eyes from Jaebum. The security guard tells them that the lift has been fixed, and should get moving again shortly. Jinyoung thanks him, painfully aware of Jaebum’s eyes burning into the back of his neck.

When the lift judders back into life, all of the buttons are off. “Seven, right?” Jinyoung asks, hitting the button for Jaebum’s floor.

“Yeah, thanks,” Jaebum says, “where’s your professor’s cubby?”

“Uh – second,” Jinyoung replies quickly, stabbing at the button for the next floor. The lift doors open and Jinyoung almost leaps out.

Jaebum looks mildly startled by Jinyoung’s jumpiness, but the expression on his face quickly smooths away into neutrality. “See you around, Jinyoung-ssi,” he says, as the lift doors slide shut.

Jinyoung watches the numbers on the floor indicator creep up as the lift rises, takes Jaebum up to his floor. He groans, runs his fingers through his hair in frustration. His professor’s cubby is on the fifth floor. He ends up taking the stairs up.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jaebum doesn’t see Jinyoung for over a week after they get trapped in the lift together. Then Mark turns up alone when Jackson organises another movie night, saying that Jinyoung had a paper to finish, and Jaebum wonders if Jinyoung is avoiding him.

As quickly as the though comes into his mind, he dismisses it. It’s a little narcissistic of him to think that he might be the reason why Jinyoung isn’t at movie night.

But he’s curious, and he’s considering the pros and cons of asking Jackson for Jinyoung’s number – pros, he would be able to check if Jinyoung’s okay; cons, Jackson would never let him hear the end of it. The latter is a much more significant downside than the potential benefit, and so Jaebum doesn’t say anything.

It’s a cold morning when he next sees Jinyoung. He’s leaning his bike against the brick wall as he uses his shoulder to push open the door to the coffee shop right by the music faculty building. And there, standing by the counter, a familiar figure in a thick, blue sweater and khaki-coloured chinos, is Jinyoung. He seems to be fumbling about in his bag, his pockets, and as Jaebum approaches he realises that Jinyoung must have forgotten his wallet.  

Before he knows what he’s doing, Jaebum is stepping up to the counter, saying, “I’ll get it,” to the barista, handing over his card, as well as his travel coffee cup. “And a double shot americano as well, please.”

Jinyoung turns to him in surprise, and then it’s Jaebum’s turn to be surprised, because Jinyoung has on a pair of black-framed glasses. He’s never seen Jinyoung in glasses before, but now that he’s seeing it, it looks so natural that he’s struggling to recall what Jinyoung looks without them.

“Uh, thanks,” Jinyoung says awkwardly, “you didn’t have to do that.”

Jaebum shrugs. He takes off his baseball cap, rakes his fingers through his hair, replaces the cap. Nervous habit. “No, don’t worry about it,” he replies, “you can get me back next time.” Then he realises he’s suggesting that there will be a next time, and Jaebum could kick himself.

But Jinyoung just smiles, nods. “Thank you, Jaebum-ssi,” he says.

The name sounds so formal, it’s jarring to Jaebum’s ears. So he doesn’t let himself think too hard about it, just says, “Hyung.”

Jinyoung looks up, confusion written across his brow. “Huh?”

Great, that just sounded like Jaebum was calling Jinyoung ‘hyung’. Jaebum wants to melt into the floor, but he just squares his shoulders, shoves his hands into his pockets in a perfect imitation of nonchalance. “I mean, you can call me ‘hyung’, you know,” he explains. “Everyone else calls me that, it’s weird if you don’t.”

At this, the corner of Jinyoung’s lips lifts into a half-smile. “Alright,” he replies, turning to get his drink from the barista, “hyung.”

“What are you doing here, anyway?” asks Jaebum, “Do you come here often?” Then he realises that it sounds like he’s hitting on Jinyoung, which he most definitely is not doing, so Jaebum adds, “I mean, because I’m here quite often – it’s on my way to the class – and I don’t think I’ve seen you.” He gestures vaguely in the direction of the music faculty.

“It’s on my way too,” Jinyoung says, pointing in the opposite direction, “the literature faculty is over there. I’m here almost every day, but today I’m a little late. Snoozed my alarm too many times.”

“Oh, if you’re late, don’t let me keep you,” says Jaebum quickly. He turns to grab his coffee from the barista, thanking her as he does so.

Jinyoung makes a murmur of ‘it’s okay’, and just takes a sip from his takeaway cup, waiting for Jaebum so that they can walk out of the coffee shop together.

“Are going to cycle while holding your coffee?” asks Jinyoung, once they’re outside, and he’s noticed Jaebum’s bike. He eyes it warily.

Jaebum shrugs. “I usually do,” he replies. “You only need on hand to cycle. Sometimes even none.”

Jinyoung sniffs disapprovingly. “That’s dangerous,” he says, “that’s why you end up running people over.” But there’s a small smile tugging at his lips, and a lightly mocking tone to his voice.

“I forgot I was talking to Mr. Traffic Rules,” Jaebum teases back, and Jinyoung just rolls his eyes. But Jaebum makes a big show of closing the metal tumbler holding his coffee, and shoving it into the side pocket of his backpack. “Happy now?” he asks, grinning.

“Ecstatic,” shoots back Jinyoung, then adds, “Thanks again for getting my coffee. I’ll get your drink next time.”

Jaebum shrugs and waves it off, hopping onto his bike. He’s about to speed off, when he hears Jinyoung call out, “See you, hyung!”

And then Jaebum is grinning despite himself, even as the cold wind whips across his face.

The following day, he gets up a little earlier and heads straight to the coffee shop. He ignores the happy flip his stomach does when he sees Jinyoung walking down the path from the other direction.

 

*

 

Later that day, Jaebum’s back in his room, tinkering idly about on his keyboard, trying to write a piece for class, when his phone buzzes. Jaebum’s a fairly terrible texter, and so he doesn’t get many texts. It’s probably Jackson, sending him some inane memes again, and so Jaebum ignores it.

When he finally glances at his phone, half an hour later, his heart skips.

The text is from an unknown number, and it reads, simply: Thanks again for the coffee.

It’s got to be Jinyoung, Jaebum thinks, because he hasn’t gotten anyone else coffee – that he knows of – but he’s still in mild disbelief. Jinyoung has his number, of course, from the time Jaebum ran him over with his bike. But Jinyoung’s never gotten in touch, and so Jaebum figured he must have deleted the number.

Jaebum stares at his phone. It’s weird, receiving a text from Jinyoung. Sure, they’re in the same friend group now – even Jaebum has to admit that to himself – but they’re not exactly friends, the two of them. They’ve barely spoken to each other unless they were arguing about something.

No need to thank me, he types back, you already got my coffee this morning.

And then he waits.

It’s barely a minute before his phones buzzes in his hand. Still. You didn’t need to bail me out.

Jaebum’s about to start typing a reply when his phone buzzes again, and it startles Jaebum so much he almost drops his phone. He stares at the new message that’s popped up on the screen.

I thought you hated me.

The ridiculousness of that statement makes Jaebum cough out a surprised laugh. If anything, it seemed like Jinyoung was the one who hated him. He wants to tell Jinyoung this, lets himself hesitate for a moment to wonder if it’s rude, before he’s already sending the message: I thought you hated me too.

There’s a longer wait to the next message, but only a couple of minutes, and then a new message appears: We got off on the wrong foot.

Jaebum smirks to himself, because that is a serious understatement. His phone buzzes again, and the next message actually brings a chuckle out of him.

It’s because you’re so annoying.

Jaebum’s grinning as his thumbs fly over the screen, tapping out a response: Don’t be rude to your elders.

Jinyoung’s reply comes through almost instantly.

It’s because you’re so annoying…hyung.

That makes Jaebum grin despite himself, and then he’s chucking his phone onto his bed, because he needs to focus on his classwork, and his phone – Jaebum doesn’t think about the someone on the other end of the line – is distracting him.

 

*

 

They meet in the coffee shop almost every morning. Jaebum doesn’t tell Jackson, because he knows that Jackson will just tease him, and it’s not what Jackson thinks it is. He’s just been making an effort to be friendlier with Jinyoung, since he and Mark are a part of their friend group now and don’t seem to be going anywhere. Jaebum doesn’t think too hard about the fact that he’s not been making any similar efforts with Mark.

He doesn’t see Jinyoung much in a group setting for a bit, their schedules never quite overlapping, until one day he’s headed to one the common areas on campus to meet his friends, and Jinyoung’s standing by their table, pulling his coat on.

“Jaebum-hyung!” calls out Jackson once he spots him, and Jaebum nods a hello, ambling over. Yugyeom and Bambam are hunched over at one end of the table, absorbed by something on one of their phones, and barely notice him, but Youngjae is there too, and he waves brightly at Jaebum.

Jinyoung turns when Jaebum approaches, smiles at him, calmly, evenly, his face unreadable.

“Hyung, tell Jinyoung not to leave,” whines Jackson, “he just got here.”

“Actually, he got here almost an hour ago,” corrects Jinyoung, “and he needs to go finish a paper.”

Jackson waves his excuse away, already turning his attention to Jaebum. “And where have you been, mister? We barely see you around anymore,” Jackson complains.

“What are you talking about? You see me all the time,” Jaebum says, slipping into the empty seat that Jinyoung must have recently vacated.

“Only because we live together,” Jackson presses on, “but like, not around. Right, Jinyoungie?”

Jaebum glances at Jinyoung. They’ve obviously seen each other very often, basically every morning, in fact, and sometimes in the afternoons at the same coffee shop if their classes happen to end at a similar time. But Jackson doesn’t know that.

Jinyoung doesn’t even miss a beat, though, just shrugs coolly and says, “Yeah, that’s true.” He picks up his scarf from where it’s lying in a heap on the table, winds it round his neck. “Anyway, I really need to go,” he says, “bye, guys.”

He turns to leave, is barely a few steps away when Jaebum notices a pair of gloves on the table. They’re a soft, grey leather, and Jaebum’s seen them before. Nearly every morning, wrapped around a takeaway coffee cup.

“Jinyoung-ah,” he calls out without thinking, picking them up and waving them at Jinyoung’s retreating figure, “your gloves!”

Startling, Jinyoung turns, hurries back. “Oh,” he exclaims, and their fingers brush as Jinyoung takes the gloves from him, smiling gratefully, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Thanks, hyung,” Jinyoung says, and then he’s slipping them on and slipping out the doors.

It takes Jaebum a second to realise his mistake.

Jackson and Youngjae are gaping at him from across the table, and even Yugyeom and Bambam have abandoned whatever they were watching on their phone to stare at him.

Jaebum groans. “What?” he asks, even though he already knows what.

“Jinyoung-ah? Hyung?” Jackson asks, incredulous. “Last I saw the two of you it was still ‘Jinyoung-ssi’ this and ‘Jaebum-ssi’ that.”

“Why is that weird? All of you brats call me ‘hyung’,” Jaebum protests, but futilely. His friends are vultures, and they’re not about to let this go.

“We call you hyung because you told us it was okay to,” pipes up Yugyeom excitedly, “When did you tell Jinyoung-hyung it was okay to call you hyung as well?”

Bambam leans across Yugyeom to peer curiously at Jaebum. “Are you guys friends now?” he asks, and there’s a cheeky glint in his eyes.

“We’re not friends,” Jaebum insists – it’s not like they’ve dropped all formalities, Jinyoung still calls him ‘hyung’ and doesn’t use banmal with him, after all.

Youngjae isn’t to be deterred, either. “You know what we mean,” he says, beaming, “you’ve really stepped your relationship up a level, haven’t you?” Jaebum glares, but Youngjae continues smiling sweetly up at him. Jaebum wonders how Youngjae has gotten away with the reputation for being the sweetie-pie when he’s just as devious as the rest of them.

“Why are you guys being so weird about this?” Jaebum scowls at his friends, but all it does it make them all grin at him even more.

“Because you obviously have a thing for him,” says Jackson, sounding triumphant, and sending Yugyeom and Bambam into fits of giggles.

“I do not have a thing for him!” protests Jaebum, “Stop making shit up.”

“You think he’s pretty, though,” says Youngjae coyly. “Don’t you?”

And Jaebum’s caught, because it’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Jinyoung is extremely good looking, all big eyes and full lips and chiselled jaw. If he denies this fact, it’s just going to further his friends’ insistence that he has something to hide.

But if he admits that Jinyoung is pretty, which everyone already knows he is, his friends are going to jump on that as well. Jaebum’s trapped, and it’s not fair. His scowl darkens.

His silence is enough for everyone, though, and they erupt into laughter at his expense.

Jackson, though, stops throwing his head back and cackling for a second, to cast Jaebum a sly side glance. Jaebum just knows he’s up to no good, but he doesn’t expect what Jackson says next.

“Don’t worry, hyung,” Jackson says, winking at him, “I know for a fact he thinks you’re hot, too.”

Jaebum blinks in bewilderment, but Jackson is already back to egging the maknaes on as they start cooing ‘Jinyoung-ah’ and ‘Jaebum-hyung’ in syrupy sweet voices. But Jackson’s words are just ringing in his head because, excuse me, but what?

 

*

 

When Jinyoung steps into his apartment later that day, his paper finally finished after a long session at the library, it’s to find Mark perched on the sofa, waiting for him. The tv is on, playing some variety show, but Mark mutes it when Jinyoung enters.

“Hi hyung,” Jinyoung greets, even if he’s slightly weirded out by the way Mark’s gaze is following him as he toes off his shoes, drops his bag on the sofa, heads into the kitchen for a glass of water. When he re-emerges, Mark is still watching him. Jinyoung frowns suspiciously. “What?”

Mark just smiles, like he’s sharing a secret with himself, and it annoys Jinyoung. “Do you want to tell me why I’ve received a whole slew of texts from Jackson, asking about you and Jaebum?” he asks, voice completely level and not betraying the slightest hint of emotion.

Jinyoung rolls his eyes, but his heartbeat is speeding up just the tiniest bit. “You know what Jackson’s like,” he says flatly, sipping from his glass as he joins Mark on the sofa.

“Yes,” Mark agrees, “but he’s saying something here about you and Jaebum dropping formalities? ‘Moving to the next level of their relationship’, I believe he called it.” He’s looking at Jinyoung expectantly, studiously, watching for the slightest hint of god knows what. Jinyoung squirms under his gaze, but tries not to show it.

“He asked me to call him ‘hyung’, that’s all,” Jinyoung explains, recalling how he had addressed Jaebum earlier in the day, “Jackson’s making a big deal of nothing.”

Mark nods, accepting this easily, but his eyes are still trained on Jinyoung. “Okay,” he says, then pauses. “So there’s nothing going on between you and Jaebum?” Jinyoung shakes his head in agreement, and he’s not lying – there isn’t anything going on. He waits for Mark to ask if he wants there to be something going on, wondering what his answer to that question would be, but Mark drops it.

He nudges Jinyoung with his shoulder gently. “You can tell me if anything’s up, you know that, right?”

“Yes, hyung,” replies Jinyoung, smiling faintly, grateful to Mark for not pushing him too hard.

But then Mark grins, and adds, “He’s hot, though, isn’t he?”

Jinyoung groans, but Mark is not to be deterred. “Come on, Nyoung,” he wheedles, using Jinyoung’s old nickname because even though he’s older he is a little brat, that’s why. “Admit it, you think he’s sexy!”

“I’m going to say what I said the last time you asked – he’s not un-hot,” Jinyoung concedes, even though Jaebum is so much more than that. Jinyoung can’t deny that Jaebum has that dark smouldering thing down, but then sometimes he just breaks into the widest grin Jinyoung’s ever seen, and his eyes are folding into crescents, and it is so endearing that Jinyoung wants to hit him because how dare he.

But he doesn’t say of any of this to Mark, obviously. He just huffs, leans his head on Mark’s shoulder, and unmutes the tv so they can watch a bunch of celebrities making fools of themselves on camera. Mark accepts this with a shit-eating grin, settles in against Jinyoung comfortably.

Jinyoung’s phone buzzes a few minutes later, and he picks it up to glance at the screen. It’s a text from Jaebum. Mark’s words still ringing in his head, Jinyoung doesn’t open the message, just switches his phone to ‘do not disturb’ mode and drops it back on the coffee table. He can feel Mark looking at him, but he ignores it.

“Hyunwoo was asking about you again,” Mark says, suddenly, abruptly. Out of nowhere. Jinyoung straightens off Mark’s shoulder, looks at his roommate curiously. Mark is still watching the variety show, but when Jinyoung turns to him he glances away from the tv.

“Hyunwoo-hyung?” asks Jinyoung. “Why was he asking about me?” Hyunwoo was in Mark’s year, a dance major, and they had been neighbours in Mark’s first year, before Mark moved off-campus. Jinyoung had met Hyunwoo only a handful of times in the previous year, but Hyunwoo had recently become single again and had been spending more time with Mark. And by proxy, with Jinyoung as well.

Mark smirks at Jinyoung. “You know why,” he says, a teasing tone dancing across his voice. “He asked me for your number.”

At this, Jinyoung feels a warm flush rise to his face. Hyunwoo was undeniably handsome, tall and tanned and with the kind of broad shoulders – not unlike a certain reckless cyclist – that sends flutters coursing through Jinyoung. The idea that Hyunwoo might be interest in him makes Jinyoung feel kind of smug, but also nervous. “My number?” he almost squeaks. “Did you give it to him?”

“I said I’d ask you first,” Mark says, shrugging. His smirk widens. “So…do you want me to?”

“Uh, yeah!” responds Jinyoung, a little too quickly. He swallows, tries to wipe the eager grin off his face. “I mean, yeah. Sure.”

Mark sniggers. “Don’t act all coy with me now,” he teases, “as if you haven’t been flirting like crazy with him ever since the school year started.”

“Shut up,” says Jinyoung, slapping Mark on the shoulder, “I have not been flirting with anyone.”

Mark barks out a disbelieving laugh. “Park Jinyoung, you are one of the biggest flirts on the planet,” he declares, and Jinyoung drops his face in his hands, even though he knows Mark is absolutely right. Mark digs an elbow into Jinyoung’s side, giggling. “You act all serious and emotionless, like you’re above flirting, but I know you. I know that look you get in your eyes, the little smiles you dole out like candy. I know how you seduced me!

“Hyung!” Jinyoung whines, burying his face into Mark’s neck as Mark ruffles his hair in delight. He’s having far too much fun with this. “We do not speak of that!” Jinyoung knows his face is definitely pink with embarrassment now, at the teasing about Hyunwoo, but now also at the memory of how many hints he had to drop in his first year, before Mark got the message.

Mark’s still giggling, but he relents, tugs Jinyoung into his arms. “Okay, okay, Jinyoungie,” he coos, “no more teasing. I’ll give Hyunwoo your number.”

Jinyoung pulls away, smiles brightly at Mark. “Thank you, hyung,” he says.

“Besides, when Hyunwoo becomes your ‘oppa’ he’ll beat me up for bullying you!” Mark exclaims, leaping out of the way as Jinyoung chucks a cushion at him.

“I take the ‘thank you’ back!” Jinyoung shouts as he gets up and heads back into his room, but he’s laughing as he does, and Mark is too.

Jinyoung pulls his phone out as he collapses onto his bed. He’s forgotten that Jaebum had texted him, but there the message is. Along with two others, also from Jaebum. There’s a small quiver of anticipation thrumming through him as he opens the message, but tries to Jinyoung ignore it.

Hey, hope you managed to finish your paper.

So far, so normal.

What are you doing Saturday?

Wanna get coffee?

Jinyoung squeezes his eyes shut. He can’t deny that he feels positively giddy with happiness, but he really, really doesn’t want to think about why he feels that way. Still, a smile creeps its way on his face, and Jinyoung has to take a breath to steel himself before replying.

Sure, coffee sounds good.

And then Jinyoung lets out a small yelp of nervousness, turns his phone completely off, and flings it across the bed.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jaebum doesn’t see Jinyoung for the next few days, because he’s busy putting some finishing touches on a song for one of his classes, and Jinyoung is apparently busy with school as well. But they text, at first just to organise where and when they’ll meet on Saturday. On their not-a-date, Jaebum tells himself firmly. But when he suggests a cool coffee place off-campus that he thinks Jinyoung will like, Jinyoung starts getting excited, and he discovers that Jinyoung likes discovering quirky spots to hang out in, and then they end up just texting on and off throughout the day.

He can’t deny that he’s…interested in Jinyoung. There’s something about the way he’s sharp and soft at the same time that intrigues Jaebum. But they barely know each other, and Jaebum definitely doesn’t like Jinyoung or anything silly like that. He just wants to get to know him a little better that’s all.

Which is what people do on dates, a traitorous voice in Jaebum’s head says. The voice sounds remarkably like Jackson, which is why Jaebum doesn’t tell any of his friends about his not-a-date with Jinyoung. Not because it’s a date, but because they wouldn’t understand that it isn’t a date.

Regardless of whether or not it’s a date, Jaebum can’t help but feel his gut fluttering with excitement as the week creeps by, and all of a sudden it’s Friday night and everyone’s gathering to watch a movie, like they always do, and Jaebum isn’t all in a tizzy because he’s about to see Jinyoung for the first time since asking him on their not-a-date, he’s not.

Jackson has to almost shout at him to stop pacing – “for god’s sakes, sit the fuck down, you’re driving me insane” were his exact words – before Jaebum finally parks himself on the sofa, waiting for their friends to arrive. Youngjae does, soon enough, and then Bambam and Yugyeom, and Jaebum finds himself relaxing into their easy, comfortable companionship.

But when Mark arrives without Jinyoung in tow, Jaebum finds himself alert again. He doesn’t want to be the one to ask the question, even though it’s already on the tip of tongue, so he is grateful when Bambam pipes up almost instantly, “where’s Jinyoung?”

Mark glances at him before answering, Jaebum’s almost sure of it. But Mark is unreadable, and he just settles himself into the armchair with exquisite grace, face completely neutral. Then he says the words that make Jaebum’s heart drop like a stone. “He’s on a date.”

“A date?” Youngjae asks, eyes darting over to Jaebum, which Jaebum ignores, because he doesn’t want to think about why everyone keeps looking at him like that, warily.

At the same time, Jackson rushes in from the kitchen, asks, “With who?

Mark shrugs. “I don’t know if you guys know him,” he says, “he’s in my year. Son Hyunwoo?”

“Hyunwoo-hyung?” Yugyeom exclaims upon hearing this.

“You know him?” asks Jackson, frowning at Yugyeom. He looks suspicious, or unhappy, about something, and he keeps glancing over at Jaebum when he thinks Jaebum isn’t looking.

Mark looks surprised for a second, then realisation crosses his face. “Ah, of course, you’re a dance major too,” he says. “Yeah, he asked Jinyoung out for dinner earlier this week.”

There’s something coiling in Jaebum’s gut. He wants to know when, exactly, whether it was before or after he’d asked Jinyoung on their not-a-date. Though he isn’t sure why he wants to know, since the thought of either makes him feel slightly ill.

“Hyunwoo-hyung,” Yugyeom says his name again, and there’s a touch of awe in his voice that Jaebum finds himself inexplicably resentful of.

Bambam elbows Yugyeom sharply. “Stop saying his name, tell us what he’s like!” he demands. “Is he cute? He must be cute, Jinyoung-hyung is so good-looking, he wouldn’t go out with just anyone, right?”

Yugyeom looks a little uncomfortable by Bambam’s questions, his round cheeks turning faintly pink. “Uh, yeah,” he says sheepishly, “he’s like – really handsome.” He glances at Mark, wrinkles his nose in embarrassment. “Everyone really looks up to him, he’s a really good dancer too.”

“Does he have Instagram?” presses Bambam, lighting up with excitement. “Let’s see!”

Jaebum really, really wants this conversation to be over, but unfortunately Hyunwoo does indeed have Instagram, and Yugyeom is right next to him, and Jaebum can’t help himself but peer over Yugyeom’s shoulder. And Yugyeom was definitely right about Hyunwoo being “really handsome”.

“Oh my god look at his abs,” breathes Bambam in awe, and Jaebum has to swallow a grunt of displeasure at the sight of Hyunwoo’s tanned torso in all its glory. “And he has such full lips, just like Jinyoung-hyung, they’d have such good kisses!”

The last thing Jaebum wants is to think about is Jinyoung and Hyunwooo kissing. He leans back against the sofa, tearing his eyes away from how utterly perfect Hyunwoo looks. Jackson’s looking at him strangely now, and their eyes meet across the room. He’s frowning slightly still, and Jaebum doesn’t understand why, but it makes him squirm.

“Okay, enough now,” Jackson says suddenly, interrupting the tittering of the maknaes, even though he’s usually the one leading their nonsense. But instead he just drags Yugyeom off the sofa, settling into the vacated spot as Yugyeom grumbles in complaint. “Let’s watch the movie.”

Jaebum doesn’t know what Jackson’s thinking. He barely even knows what he’s thinking, himself. He has no reason to get upset about Jinyoung being on a date. And maybe he’s not, he’s just upset that Jinyoung didn’t tell him, although Jaebum reminds himself that he and Jinyoung aren’t that close, and that Jinyoung has no obligation to tell him these things.

But the thought of their not-a-date, scheduled to happen less than twenty-four hours from that very moment, makes Jaebum’s insides churn with something he can’t identify. He doesn’t want to see Jinyoung tomorrow, not anymore, not like this. He feels like a complete and utter idiot, and there’s a little disappointment settling inside him, but more than anything it’s a burning feeling of shame, like he’s laid down his hand proudly only to be bested by someone with a better set of cards.

He’s grateful for Jackson, then, as his usually over-exuberant roommate just silently drapes his legs over Jaebum’s thighs, leans his head against Jaebum’s shoulder, winds his arms around Jaebum’s waist. The weight and warmth of Jackson is comforting, and Jaebum decides that he doesn’t need anything else for now, just lets himself drop steadily into the easy embrace of a friend that cares about him.

 

*

 

“Are you cold?”

Jinyoung startles, glances up to find Hyunwoo looking at him with concern his eyes. “Oh, no, I’m alright,” Jinyoung says, shaking his head, even though he is most definitely cold.

“Here – take this,” Hyunwoo says, and then he’s unwrapping the scarf from his own neck. Jinyoung tries to protest, but Hyunwoo’s already looping the scarf over Jinyoung’s head, and it feels so warm and cosy, and it feels nice to be taken care of, so Jinyoung lets him.

They continue their walk back to Jinyoung’s apartment. It’s not that late, but it’s already dark, autumn slipping quickly into winter. Jinyoung wonders if Hyunwoo would like to hold his hand, wonders if he should take his hands out of his pockets to give Hyunwoo the opportunity. But no, it’s cold, Jinyoung thinks. He keeps his hands firmly shoved into his pockets.

When they arrive at Jinyoung’s building, Hyunwoo offers to walk him up, but Jinyoung insists there’s no need. So they stand, out in the cold, Jinyoung with his hands still in his pockets, looking up at Hyunwoo as Hyunwoo looks down at him. The streetlamps glow a warm white.

“That was fun,” Jinyoung says, smiling, “Thank you for buying me dinner.”

Hyunwoo smiles back, at it’s such a dazzling smile, so genuine and warm and stretching all the way to his eyes. It lifts Jinyoung’s mood just to look at it, and he thinks about how easy dinner was, how smoothly conversation flowed, how comfortable it had been to just bask in the luminance of Hyunwoo’s company, of his attention.

“No need for thanks,” replies Hyunwoo, “I’m glad you agreed to come on a date with me.”

A date. Jinyoung feels his cheeks heat up with a shy flush, The word slips so easily out of Hyunwoo’s mouth, and Jinyoung finds himself envious of how self-assured, how confident, Hyunwoo clearly is.

“Oh,” he says suddenly, “your scarf.” Jinyoung starts unwrapping it from around his neck. “Thank you again.”

Hyunwoo tries to tell him to keep it, return it to him next time, but Jinyoung insists again, just as he had insisted that they should say their goodbyes out on the street instead of in the hallway outside Jinyoung’s apartment. He presses it into Hyunwoo’s hands.

“Will I get to see you again, though?” asks Hyunwoo, as he winds his scarf around himself carefully.

And Jinyoung is startled, because he realises that when Hyunwoo had suggested he return it ‘next time’, he had been angling for a second date. He didn’t mean for his insistence on returning the scarf now to come across as an unwillingness for there to be a next time, so Jinyoung smiles widely, nods. “Yes,” he says, “if you want to.”

“I want to,” replies Hyunwoo, his voice low, and Jinyoung feels sort of bubbly with happiness. But when Hyunwoo starts to lean in, Jinyoung panics because what if he’s going in for a kiss? And Jinyoung isn’t sure if that’s what he wants – though he’s not sure it’s not what he doesn’t want, either – so he does the only thing he can think of doing, which is to throw his arms around Hyunwoo’s neck, fling himself into Hyunwoo’s arms for a hug.

Hyunwoo’s definitely surprised, Jinyoung can see that when he pulls away, but he doesn’t look upset. He just grins at Jinyoung, an amused look in his eyes.

“Goodnight, then, Jinyoung,” he says, taking a step back.

“Goodnight, Hyunwoo-ssi,” replies Jinyoung, nodding his head politely.

Hyunwoo pauses, cocks his head at Jinyoung. “You can call me ‘hyung’,” he says, like he’s surprised that Jinyoung hasn’t started doing so already.

“Oh, yes,” Jinyoung says, nodding, “Goodnight, hyung.” But even as he watches Hyunwoo turn and walk back down the street, he’s reminded of a certain someone else who had said the very same words to him not such a long time ago.

 

*

 

When Jinyoung wakes up the next morning, he has two texts.

The most recent one is from Hyunwoo, just a short message saying that he enjoyed their date last night, suggesting dinner again sometime the following week.

Jinyoung smiles to himself, but can’t be bothered to reply just yet. He exits out of his chat with Hyunwooo to look at the other text, which is time-stamped just past midnight.

It’s from Jaebum.

Hey, I actually have a lot of stuff to do tomorrow, can’t make it for coffee. Sorry.

Jinyoung chews on his lip as he takes the words in, then reads them again, trying to imagine how Jaebum would have said those words. He can’t quite figure out if the curtness of the tone is because Jaebum is being curt, or because the medium of text just can’t convey anything more light-hearted.

He scrolls up through their chat conversation. Jaebum isn’t fond of using smiley faces or emojis, or even exclamation marks. He sometimes uses abbreviations or text speak, but never anything trendy or popular, it’s more like he drops letters when he’s too lazy to type them. It doesn’t give Jinyoung any insight into Jaebum’s tone in his most recent message.

It’s another long ten minutes before Jinyoung finally sends his reply. That’s okay. Tomorrow maybe?

Then Jinyoung chucks his phone onto his bed, tries to ignore it as he gets changed, brushes his teeth, gets ready for the day. When he comes back to it on his way out of his room to get breakfast, there’s already another message.

Busy tomorrow as well. Maybe next time.

Next time. That’s vague. Jinyoung frowns in annoyance, shoves his phone into the back pocket of his jeans.

“Why do you look so constipated?” asks Mark, as Jinyoung flops himself down at their small dining table. He spoons some cereal into his mouth, looking at Jinyoung quizzically.

Jinyoung pouts. “Good morning to you too, hyung,” he says pointedly.

“Good morning,” Mark replies coolly, ignoring Jinyoung’s tone. “But seriously, why are you frowning like that? How was your date with Hyunwoo? You were already in bed by the time I got back.”

“I’m not frowning,” Jinyoung says, grabbing Mark’s box of cornflakes from across the table, reaching a hand in to grab a handful and start munching. “The date was fine.”

“Just fine?” Mark asks, eyeing Jinyoung suspiciously. “He’s not still asleep in your bed now, is he?”

“What? No!” Jinyoung’s eyes widen. Not that he has a problem with sleeping with someone on the first date, but the thought was so far from his mind that Mark mentioning it startles him.

Mark just chuckles, doesn’t say anything. He’s waiting for Jinyoung to continue elaborating on how his date was, and after a short pause Jinyoung gives in. “I don’t know what you want me to say,” he sighs, “it was a nice date. We went to dinner in the city, some Italian place. Hyunwoo-hyung was nice. Really easy to talk to.”

Mark hums in agreement. “Do you like him?”

“I guess,” Jinyoung says. He isn’t sure. He certainly doesn’t dislike Hyunwoo, but aside from thinking he’s hot and nice to spend time with, he doesn’t really feel much more. “It’s early days yet, too soon to tell.”

“True,” muses Mark, “You gonna see him again?”

Jinyoung shrugs. “Yeah, don’t see why not,” he says in an off-hand way. He doesn’t want to talk about this anymore, has nothing more to say. “Anyway, do you want to hang out today? We could go see a movie if there’s anything good out.”

“Yeah, I’m free,” says Mark, tilting his head to the side and squinting at Jinyoung, “but I thought you had plans today.”

“They fell through,” Jinyoung replies, leaning back in his chair and looking away in what he hopes is a nonchalant manner. “I’m free as a bird.”

 

*

 

Mark asks Jackson to join them for a movie, and Jackson says he’ll ask Jaebum as well, and for a heart-stopping moment Jinyoung wonders if Jaebum is actually busy, or if he’d just made up an excuse to get out of having coffee with him. But then Jackson texts Mark back to say that Jaebum can’t join them, and Jinyoung tells himself off for being overly paranoid.

He texts Jaebum, after the movie. Shame we couldn’t have coffee, but I went to see that film that Jackson keeps talking about. It was good! You should go see it.

Jaebum doesn’t reply that evening, or the next day, or the next. Jinyoung can’t keep from wondering if Jaebum is cutting him off. He can’t figure what he’s done to warrant that, though, and so Jinyoung tells himself that Jaebum must just be busy.

Then Jaebum stops turning up at the coffee shop. Not that Jinyoung wants to see him there, of course, but it’s weird that Jaebum’s there almost every morning, and then suddenly he’s not there at all. And he’s mostly curious, that’s all.

He still hasn’t received a response to his previous text, but he sends another one after a week with no sign of Jaebum, at least not outside a group setting where Jinyoung can talk to him properly. Haven’t seen you at the coffee shop in a while – everything okay?

It takes a few hours, but this time he does get a response: Yeah, just busy.

In the meantime, Jinyoung goes on a second date with Hyunwoo, which is just as pleasant as the first one was. But Jinyoung still doesn’t kiss Hyunwoo, still doesn’t let Hyunwoo walk him to his doorstep, and still can’t stop wondering what’s going on with Jaebum.

He’s clearly alive, because when the whole group hangs out, Jaebum is often there. But he doesn’t really talk to Jinyoung, or even look at Jinyoung, and Jinyoung can’t help but feel slighted. Not that they ever interacted very much when in a big group, but when they were having their morning coffees Jaebum was at least being friendlier to Jinyoung, more welcoming. Now he’s back to being coolly civil and nothing else.

Jinyoung knows something is wrong, and in the end he decides the only way to get some answers is to corner Jaebum and force him to talk.

So he starts going to the coffee shop later, like the time he’d forgotten his wallet and Jaebum had bought him his drink. If Jaebum is trying to avoid him, Jinyoung figures that he would probably have switched to getting a coffee at a time that doesn’t overlap with Jinyoung’s own coffee run.

The first morning he goes, Jinyoung doesn’t see Jaebum. He’s almost starting to convince himself that he’s made all of this up in his head, that his sitting here watching the entrance to the coffee shop is utter insanity, when on the second morning, Jaebum pushes the door open with his shoulders.

Jinyoung’s heart both skips and drops when he sees Jaebum. He’s pleased to see Jaebum, of course, because that’s why he’s been sitting here all along, hasn’t he? But he’s also suddenly filled with a sense of dread. He just knows that this is going to go badly, feels it in his bones.

The feeling intensifies when Jaebum lays eyes on him, and he sees the surprise on his face fade into something more hostile – narrowed eyes, furrowed brow.

But Jinyoung isn’t one to back down easily, and so he gets to his feet, walks over to Jaebum with an air of complete serenity.

“What are you doing here?” asks Jaebum, and his voice is barbed, walled-off, no longer the open, lilting tone he had started using with Jinyoung recently, before all of this nonsense.

“Same as you,” replies Jinyoung, “getting coffee.” He looks directly at Jaebum, trying not to think about the hammering of his heart. “You’re here later than usual.”

“This is my usual,” Jaebum says, “I was only going earlier before because –” Here, he breaks off abruptly, releases a sharp exhale. “Doesn’t matter. Why are you here? You’re usually earlier.”

Jinyoung feels a twinge of annoyance building up in him. “You would know that, wouldn’t you?” he asks. “Is that why you’ve been coming later? To avoid me?”

“I’m not avoiding you,” Jaebum says, but a little too quickly. He glances over at the barista who’s making his drink, drumming his fingers on the counter.

“Yes, you are,” says Jinyoung. He’s filled with certainty about this now, even if he hadn’t been before. Seeing Jaebum here, like this, staunchly refusing to meet Jinyoung’s eyes for longer than a second, make it all so obvious to Jinyoung. But he still doesn’t understand why, and at the very least he wants to know what he’s done wrong to deserve this sudden silent treatment. Jaebum’s refusal to even admit that he’s avoiding Jinyoung pisses him off.

Jaebum huffs in frustration, thanks the barista gruffly as she returns his travel coffee mug to him. Jinyoung follows him out of the coffee shop, his hand shooting out to grab hold of the handlebars of Jaebum’s bike to stop him from cycling away.

“Jinyoung, let go of my bike,” says Jaebum sharply.

“No,” snaps back Jinyoung, his fist clenching more tightly around the cold metal. He hadn’t had time to put his gloves back on in his hurry out of the coffee shop after Jaebum, but he’s not going to release the bike now and give Jaebum a chance to cycle away from the confrontation. “Not until you tell me why you’ve been avoiding me.”

Jaebum glares at Jinyoung. “I don’t owe you anything,” he says, “I don’t have to tell you anything.”

His words cut, Jinyoung can admit that to himself, but he doesn’t let it show on his face. “We’re friends,” Jinyoung argues, “don’t you think cutting someone out completely a little harsh for friends?”

“I haven’t cut you out,” comes Jaebum’s sharp response, “we see each other all the time. We’re still friends.”

And, well, Jinyoung can’t really argue with that. They do see each other all the time, in a group. But that’s in a group. Jinyoung thought they had been on the road to becoming friends, just the two of them. Maybe even something more, whispers a voice at the back of Jinyoung’s head, but now isn’t the time to think about that.

“We’re in the same friend group,” is what Jinyoung says instead.

“And, what, that’s not enough for you?” asks Jaebum.

“That’s not what I mean,” says Jinyoung, frustrated that Jaebum seems to be wilfully misunderstanding him at every turn, “I just mean – I thought the two of us were becoming friends.”

Jaebum lets out a scoff, and the sound is so derisive that Jinyoung feels incredibly, vulnerably small. “Well, you thought wrong,” he says, voice even colder than the wind that whips around them. “I was just being nice because Jackson told me to.”

“What?” This is not at all how Jinyoung had hoped the conversation would go. Not that he’d expected Jaebum to be overly warm with him, but he’d thought that they’d at least be able to have a civil conversation. Instead, Jinyoung just feels even more confused than he did before.

“You heard me,” snaps Jaebum. “Jackson told me to be nice to you or else. That’s all. Now you’re well integrated into the group, so I’m not going to be fawning over you anymore. I’m sorry if that’s what you’re expecting, but you’re not going to get it.”

Jinyoung feels like his head is swirling. “I don’t – I never wanted you to fawn over me – what are you talking about?” Jinyoung manages to mumble out. But Jaebum barely hears him, he’s already barrelling on.

“Are you so greedy for attention?” Jaebum is asking, and Jinyoung blinks in bewilderment. He can’t seem to understand anything Jaebum is saying – everything is so muddled up and it’s like Jaebum is talking in a code that Jinyoung doesn’t understand. “Is Son Hyunwoo not enough for you, you have to be fawned over by me too? By everyone else?”

There are tears prickling at the back of Jinyoung’s eyes. He doesn’t understand where they’ve come from, but Jaebum is saying all these things in such a harsh, accusatory tone, and Jinyoung feels shaken. His fingers slip easily from the handlebars when Jaebum yanks his bike free of Jinyoung’s grasp.

Tears threaten to fall, but Jinyoung grits his teeth, uses the back of his hand to rub at his eyes angrily.

He doesn’t watch Jaebum cycle away.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jaebum hasn’t gone to a college party in a while. He’s by no means a wallflower, and he went to loads in his first and second years, but his third year is a third over and he’s been to only a handful of fairly tame gatherings. He doesn’t miss it that much, really, and especially doesn’t miss the hangovers.

But it’s nice to let loose once in a while, and he’s itching to have a wild night.

It doesn’t help that, after that absolute train-wreck of a conversation with Jinyoung outside the coffee shop, Jaebum can’t stop turning everything over in his mind. He’d been annoyed, sure, because if Jinyoung was seeing someone why would he agree to coffee with him? But the more rational part of his mind tells him that he hadn’t asked Jinyoung out on a date, after all. And even if he had, Jinyoung had every right to go on dates with more than one person at once.

So Jaebum’s been grappling with his own guilt, because he had absolutely no right to react the way he did. But he’s also fighting with his pride, which is holding him back from apologising. And there’s another part of him, the part that’s afraid to get hurt, that tells him to just leave it. That Jinyoung’s obviously interested in someone else, so Jaebum should stop thinking about him.

It’s just a little crush, after all. Just a stupid crush on a cute guy who happens to be funny and intelligent and, once you get to know him a little more, really quite nice.

But Jaebum’s had plenty of crushes before, and this one is no different. He just needs to distract himself, let time and distance do their work for him.

So when Jackson leaps on him, screeching about a party happening over the weekend, Jaebum finds himself inclined to agree.

Taecyeon’s a fourth-year – Jaebum’s never quite understood how Jackson knows him, but he does, and he gets them invited to all of his parties – and his parents live in a large house on the outskirts of the city, but fairly close to the campus. His parents are also relaxed about parties in the way that rich parents often are, which means that Taecyeon has hosted numerous parties over the course of Jaebum’s college life.

He wonders aloud what they’re going to do about parties once Taecyeon graduates, but Jackson’s already shouting him down.

“It’s going to be huge,” Jackson crows, “did you know that Tacyeon-hyung has a fire pit? In his backyard? Did you know that?”

Jaebum did, in fact, know that, because he’s been to almost all of Tacyeon’s parties, as has Jackson. But Jackson in a mood is fun to rile up, so he just quirks an eyebrow. “It’s a bit cold to be in the backyard, don’t you think?” he asks, sceptically.

“That’s why the fire pit is important!” shouts Jackson. “And he has those cool things, the lamps with the fire? You know? Please come, please, it’ll be fun!”

Jackson has a hold of his arm now, is shaking him violently while making pitiful whining noises. Jaebum laughs despite himself, trying futilely to shake Jackson off. “Fine, fine, I’ll go!” he yells over the din that Jackson is making.

“Oh, hyung, really?” Jackson seems surprised by Jaebum’s quick acquiescence. “I thought I’d have to work harder to convince you.”

“You thought I’d need convincing and you started with the fire pit?” asked Jaebum, with a laugh. Jackson’s mind truly works in weird and wonderful ways.

Jackson juts his lower lip out in a pout. “It would have worked on me,” he admits, because Jackson is in so many ways just an over-grown child, delighted at the slightest of novelties. “Seriously, though,” he adds, face falling, “I thought you wouldn’t want to come. You’ve been so down lately.”

Jaebum doesn’t like the direction the conversation is headed in, tries to play it off with a laugh. “No, I haven’t,” he says, “I’ve just been busy.”

“Bullshit,” comes Jackson’s reply, without missing a beat. “I’ve seen you busy. It doesn’t make you so sad all the time. And don’t try to tell me you’re not sad – I’m your best friend, I know these things.”

Jaebum gets a sinking feeling that the party was just a convenient segue for Jackson to corner him into having this conversation. And while he appreciates the concern, he really doesn’t want to talk about it. But Jackson has a way of cajoling anyone into doing anything, and after a few moments of Jackson pouting and batting his eyes at him, Jaebum caves.

“It’s not a big deal,” he says, defeated. “I just – um –” He pauses, wondering if there’s a way to tell Jackson what’s going without actually telling Jackson. To be honest, Jaebum thinks that Jackson will probably figure it out anyway, but it’s worth a shot. “I, um, had a small crush on someone.”

This doesn’t seem to come as a massive surprise to Jackson, who just frowns, curling his legs up under him on the sofa. He nods slowly, waiting for Jaebum to continue.

“It’s just a crush,” Jaebum continues, “I don’t know him very well, but I see him around campus and we talk, and we’ve been texting as well.”

Jackson doesn’t react at all to the disclosure that Jaebum has a crush on a guy. He knows that Jaebum likes guys, of course (and not just from first-hand experience), but he knows that Jaebum likes girls just as much. Jaebum tries not to read too much into why nothing he’s said thus far seems to have taken Jackson by surprise.

“So far so good,” says Jackson encouragingly, when it’s clear that Jaebum is unsure how to continue. “What’s the issue?”

Jaebum bites at his lower lip. “I asked him out on a date,” he says, “I mean, it wasn’t supposed to be a date. I didn’t say it was, and I didn’t think it was. And I don’t think he did either. It was just hanging out as friends. I wanted to get to know him a little better.”

This, at least, causes Jackson’s eyebrows to shoot up. “How was the date, then?” he asks. “Or did he say no, is that why you’re sad?”

“No, he said yes – again, I’m pretty sure he didn’t think it was a date, but he said yes,” explains Jaebum, “but we didn’t go on the date. I cancelled.”

Jackson’s frown deepens, and he tilts his head to the side slightly, studying Jaebum with confusion scrawled across his features. “Why did you cancel?” he asks, and Jaebum is so grateful to him for being so willing to ask the prompting questions that Jaebum needs to keep going.

“I found out he was going on a date with someone else,” Jaebum says, which Jackson looks confused by, and Jaebum doesn’t blame him. The explanation sounds weak even to his own ears. “I know, I don’t know what I was doing. I just got so mad, you know? I felt like he was playing me, and I was so embarrassed.” Jaebum groans, flops his face down into his hands.

Jackson lets out a soft laugh, tugs Jaebum’s hands down from his face. “You are a massive idiot,” he says, “but we already knew that. Possessive as well. I’m not surprised, to be honest.”

Jaebum shoves at Jackson. “Thanks mate, very helpful,” he says sarcastically.

“So what happened after that?” Jackson asks, ignoring Jaebum’s manhandling, “Are you still talking to him?”

Jaebum grimaces. “I kind of ignored him after that,” he says, “I mean, we’re in the same friend group, so I saw him around.” Jackson’s eyebrows rise again at the mention of being in the same friend group, but he doesn’t say anything, so Jaebum continues, “He got really mad and confronted me to ask why I was ignoring him.”

At this, Jackson lets out a groan. “Tell me you didn’t shout at him,” he pleads, “Im Jaebum, please tell me you didn’t start yelling at him.” When Jaebum just grins at him sheepishly, Jackson shoves at him with the sole of his foot.

“I just got really angry, because I just wanted him to leave me alone, you know?” Jaebum tries to explain, “I accused him of being greedy for attention, said that he was already dating someone, shouldn’t expect me to fawn over him.”

Jackson actually leans over and smacks Jaebum on the back of his head. “Greedy for attention? Fawn over him?” he repeats incredulously. “I would say that I hope you didn’t use those exact words, but I already know that you fucking did. You need to control your temper!”

“I try,” whines Jaebum plaintively, because he does, he really does, but things just explode out of him. He almost always regrets it immediately after, but he can’t seem to get that rational bit of him to engage before he starts shouting.

“So, what – what do you want now? Do you still want him?” asks Jackson.

“No. I don’t know. Probably not.” Rubbing his fingers against his temples, Jaebum sighs. “The crush is still there, obviously, but I think it’s probably for the best if I just got over it. I barely know the guy, anyway, so it shouldn’t be difficult. I just feel – I don’t know. Guilty. For how I treated him.”

Jackson shrugs. “What’s done is done,” he says sagely, “you can apologise to him someday. For now just focus on yourself. If you want to get over it, let’s help you get over it. And Taecyeon’s party is a great place to start.”

Jaebum knows what Jackson’s implying, and to be frank he’s considered it before, but he doesn’t really think he wants to sleep with a random person just to get over his crush. Although, it’s worked for him before, so maybe it’s worth a shot. He’s in college, after all – he’s allowed to use unhealthy coping mechanisms.

It suddenly occurs to Jaebum that Jackson hasn’t asked who the person in question is.

“Are you not going to ask who it is?” asks Jaebum, watching Jackson closely.

Jackson looks at Jaebum with an expression Jaebum can’t quite pin down. “Do you want to tell me?” he returns the question with a question.

Jaebum hesitates. “No,” he says, finally. “No, I don’t.”

Jackson shrugs, looks away. “Then don’t tell me. It’s not important.”

And that makes Jaebum’s heart swell, because Jackson knows, he so clearly, evidently, obviously, knows. Because they’re best friends, and there isn’t anything Jaebum can hide from Jackson. But he’s pretending not to know, pretending not to be curious, because he knows that Jaebum won’t want to say. It reminds Jaebum that Jackson, for all his loud-mouthedness and sometimes over-bearing personality, is one of the best people he’s ever met. He tugs his best friend closer, wraps an arm around him.

“You already know, don’t you?” he asks, not accusatory, not curious, just stating a fact. He wonders if Jackson’s known all along.

Jackson snakes his arms around Jaebum’s waist, presses his face into Jaebum’s chest. “Mm,” he murmurs, “yeah, I do.” Then, after a pause, “I mean it though – it’s not important who it is. It doesn’t matter. Only you matter.”

And Jaebum feels so blessed, so infinitely blessed, to have Jackson as a friend.

 

*

 

The day of the party, Jackson insists on helping Jaebum choose an outfit, because – in Jackson’s words – “if we’re going to find you a rebound you can’t wear one of those godawful over-sized hoodies you love so much”. Jaebum is a little affronted, because those hoodies are comfortable, but also because he does in fact know better than to wear one of them to a party.

He ends up in a black t-shirt, and ripped black jeans, and a black leather jacket. Jackson appraises him triumphantly, clearly proud of his handiwork. Jaebum doesn’t point out that the outfit is pretty much what he would have worn anyway, lets Jackson bask in the glow of his sartorial success.

“He’s going to be here, you know that right?” Jackson asks on the walk over.

“Yes, I know, you’ve said that many, many times,” replies Jaebum. He’s grateful that Jackson is looking out for him, but honestly – it’s not that big a deal. He had a little crush, he messed it up, now he’s moving on. It’s not like Jinyoung broke his heart or anything dramatic like that.

By the time they get to Taecyeon’s house, the party is in full swing. Once they get their hands on a couple of beers, Jackson says he wants to look for Mark, so Jaebum leaves him to it. Mark’s likely to be with Jinyoung, after all, and Jaebum’s still a little embarrassed by how he handled things.

So he wanders through the house, finds Yugyeom and Bambam playing beer pong in the dining room. They’re teamed up against a girl Jaebum vaguely recognises as being a dance major in Yugyeom’s year – Seulgi, he thinks her name is – and a girl with long, dark hair who Jaebum finds out is named Hwasa when she expertly pots another ball and Bambam screeches her name across the table. The two girls are absolutely trashing the two boys. Jaebum grins, leans back against the wall to watch the game.

That’s when he hears Jinyoung’s voice.

“Yugyeom-ah, you’re shit at this,” Jinyoung is saying, his deep voice carrying even despite the racket. Jaebum casts his eyes about, finally spots Jinyoung on the other side of the room, laughing and smacking Yugyeom on the shoulder. He looks good, Jaebum thinks, in a casual button-down shirt tucked into jeans, and a loose grey cardigan. But then again, he always looks good, managing to perfectly toe the line between casual and polished.

Jaebum doesn’t notice himself staring, until Jinyoung suddenly looks his way, and their eyes meet. He frowns, looking not overly pleased to see Jaebum, but nods politely in greeting. Jaebum raises his beer in reply, motions with his head towards the sliding doors leading out to the backyard. He isn’t confident Jinyoung will willingly head outside with him, but he takes the chance.

Jinyoung looks a little suspicious, but he nods, ducks out of the crowd and slips through the sliding doors. Jaebum winds his way round the room, follows him. Outside is much quieter, although also colder. Jaebum shuffles closer to one of the patio heaters Jackson had been so excited about, warms his hands against the flames.

“Mark said you’d be here,” Jinyoung says, and Jaebum feels a twinge of guilt. Jinyoung had probably told Mark all about how much of an ass he had been.

Jaebum turns to Jinyoung, chewing on his lower lip. “Look, Jinyoung,” he starts, and Jinyoung glances up at him curiously, “I just wanted to say – sorry. For being a jerk. And ignoring you, and then shouting at you. Uh, that wasn’t cool. So – sorry.”

Jinyoung looks at Jaebum appraisingly, one eyebrow slightly raised. “You were a jerk,” he agrees, but there’s a little lightness to his voice that gives Jaebum a sliver of hope.

“I really was,” adds Jaebum earnestly, “no excuses. I said a lot of things that were way out of line.”

“What, like how I’m an attention whore?” Jinyoung counters without missing a beat.

Jaebum grimaces. “Yes, that,” he says, “that was uncalled for, and also untrue. I was just – going through some stuff, and I wanted to be left alone, so I lashed out. But I don’t think that you’re a – uh, you know. I don’t think that at all.”

This brings a small smirk to Jinyoung’s face. “Fine,” he says, cocking his head at Jaebum, “since you’ve apologised so earnestly, I forgive you.” There’s a glimmer of teasing in Jinyoung’s eyes. Despite himself, Jaebum beams.

“Is the stuff you were going through sorted now?” Jinyoung asks suddenly. He looks nothing but genuinely concerned. But Jaebum has to keep the panic off his face as he tries to stay nonchalant. He suspects that “the stuff I was going through was a crush on you and no, it’s still there” isn’t the right thing to say.

So he just scrunches up his face, shrugs lopsidedly. “It was just – some personal stuff,” he says vaguely, “it’s fine now, don’t worry about it.”

“That’s good,” murmurs Jinyoung, turning away from Jaebum to warm his own hands against the heater. “Do you still want to get coffee sometime, then?” he asks, evenly, not betraying the slightest trace of emotion, “I still want to check out that cool coffee place you mentioned.”

Jaebum shifts his weight from one foot to the other as he thinks of what to say to that. On one hand, he would really like to go on a not-a-date with Jinyoung. On the other hand, Jinyoung clearly isn’t interested in him in that way – he just wants to discover an interesting new spot. And Jaebum doesn’t want to get his own hopes up, would rather just get this crush out of his system as soon as possible.

So he just shrugs in what he hopes is a nonchalant way, says cagily, “Yeah, maybe.” Then he shoves his hands in his pockets. “I could just text you the address and you can go there yourself.”

Jinyoung glances at him for a brief second, then looks away. “Right,” he says, firmly, like he’s saying it to himself, “of course. Sure. Text it to me.”

There’s something weird in the air between them now, but before Jaebum has a moment to think too much about it, someone behind them is calling Jinyoung’s name.

They turn, and even though Jaebum hasn’t seen him in person before, he’s been privy to some extensive Instagram stalking. There’s no mistaking it – Hyunwoo is emerging from the sliding doors, walking briskly towards them.

“Hyung!” Jinyoung says, looking somewhat alarmed, “I thought you said you couldn’t come?”

Hyunwoo just grins, slings an arm around Jinyoung. The gesture is so easy, so comfortable, that Jaebum feels a pang of envy. “I finished my paper early,” Hyunwoo explains, “thought I’d come surprise you. Yugyeom said he saw you heading out here.”

“Oh, that’s great,” Jinyoung says, but he looks quite flustered, shimmies himself out of Hyunwoo’s hold. His gaze darts awkwardly between Jaebum and Hyunwoo. “Uh, hyung, this is Jaebum-hyung, he’s Jackson’s roommate.”

Being introduced as ‘Jackson’s roommate’ – not even as a ‘friend’ – stings a little, but Jaebum figures he deserves it, after shouting at Jinyoung. He smiles wanly at Hyunwoo, extends his hand for a shake.

Hyunwoo seems oblivious to the crackle of tension in the air, but Jinyoung is positively bristling with discomfort, so Jaebum takes it upon himself to put an end to this painful interaction. He makes something up about needing to find Jackson, and excuses himself. Hyunwoo waves jovially at him, and Jinyoung makes an almost apologetic face at him.

Jaebum doesn’t want to think about what Jinyoung feels sorry for, but he can’t help turning back just before he steps back into the house. Hyunwoo has his hands on Jinyoung’s shoulders, is leaning down to press a kiss against his cheek. It shouldn’t make Jaebum feel annoyed, but it does. He takes it as a sign that he needs to have a lot more alcohol.

 

*

 

Jinyoung finds himself leaning against the wall in the sprawling living room of Taecyeon’s house a little later, Mark’s comforting presence by his side. Hyunwoo went to get drinks but Jinyoung saw him being accosted by some of his fellow dance majors, so he’s probably not coming back any time soon. Neither Mark nor Jinyoung have any idea where Jackson’s disappeared off to, but they periodically hear distant screaming and laughing that sounds like him, coming from somewhere in the house.

He isn’t searching, but Jinyoung does spot Jaebum across the room, talking to two music majors Jinyoung vaguely recognises – Namjoon and Yoongi, he thinks their names are. Jinyoung doesn’t notice himself staring, until Mark nudges him gently with his elbow.

“Something caught your eye?” Mark asks teasingly, and it’s obvious that he knows who Jinyoung’s been staring at.

Jinyoung quickly averts his eyes, takes a long sip of his drink even though his cup is almost empty, and ignores Mark.

But Mark is not giving up so easily. “I take it you’re not angry at him anymore?” he asks, a sly smile creeping on to his handsome features.

“I wasn’t angry at him,” replies Jinyoung, a little too quickly.

Mark just laughs lightly. “If you say so,” he says, “but you’ve been scowling every time his name comes up and rolling your eyes every time he speaks. I know you, Park Jinyoung.”

And he does, indeed. Jinyoung sighs. “Fine, he did something to piss me off,” he says, “but he came over earlier and apologised, so it’s all fine now.”

“He apologised and you just forgave him?” Mark asks, sounding a little surprised. “Doesn’t sound like the Park Jinyoung I know.”

Jinyoung considers this. He’s genuinely surprised how little anger he feels towards Jaebum now. He had been fuming after their blow up at the coffee shop, of course, and had been steeping in that rage ever since. But Jaebum had looked so earnest, so sorry, that Jinyoung found all his rage evaporating. It was a weird feeling, and he wasn’t used to it.

“Maybe I’m a changed man,” is all Jinyoung says, however.

Marks hums in agreement. “I’d say,” he murmurs, sipping at his drink delicately. Then he swings the conversation around abruptly. “How are things with Hyunwoo? You let him kiss you yet?”

Jinyoung colours, is grateful for the dim lighting in the room to hide it. “Yes,” he says sharply, “of course I have.” But it took four dates, and Jinyoung still hasn’t invited Hyunwoo into his and Mark’s apartment. It’s a glacial pace, even for him, and Mark knows this very well.

When Mark points this out, Jinyoung just huffs in annoyance. “Do you not like him?” Mark asks, and Jinyoung feels like he’s being led into a trap, but he doesn’t know what.

“Of course I like him,” he replies, “I wouldn’t still be dating him if I didn’t.”

“Then what is it?” continues Mark, pressing the issue, “do you like someone else more?”

Jinyoung rolls his eyes. “No,” he says firmly, but even as he does his gaze drifts helplessly towards Jaebum. He’s dancing in the middle of the room now, pressed up in a heaving crowd of bodies. It’s unfair how unbelievably attractive he looks, even with sweat glistening off his skin.

Mark follows Jinyoung’s gaze, smirks when he sees where it lands. “Why don’t you just tell him?” he asks, and Jinyoung wants to feign ignorance, but the alcohol coursing through his system makes him looser.

“He just wants to be friends,” Jinyoung says, without acknowledging whether or not he himself wants anything more, “and I’m fine with that.” He turns away from the dance floor pointedly, folding his arms and leaning sideways on the wall to look directly at Mark.

Mark looks like he’s about to challenge Jinyoung on that, when something behind Jinyoung catches his eye. His eyes widen, his mouth falls slightly open in surprise, whatever he had to say clearly forgotten. He reaches out to grab Jinyoung, to stop him from looking, but it’s too late, Jinyoung is already turning, curiosity getting the better of him.

Well, you know what they say about curiosity and the cat.

There is a mass of bodies between them, but Jaebum is tall, and broad-shouldered, and handsome, and he stands out to Jinyoung. So it’s not difficult to spot him, right there in the middle of the room. It’s not difficult to see the petite figure pressed up against him, her arms wrapped around his waist. And it’s impossible to miss Jaebum’s hands reaching up to cup her face, his fingers tangling into her hair, and him dipping his head down to capture her lips in a kiss.

And not just a kiss, either, but a full-on make-out session, right there in clear view of everyone. But it’s a college party, after all, and no one pays them any mind. No one except Jinyoung. He sees the girl’s mouth opening slightly, catches a glimpse of Jaebum’s tongue darting out to meet hers. It makes him feel sick, a coiling, churning sensation in his gut.

“Jinyoungie…” Mark is saying next to him, tugging at his elbow. “Are you okay?”

Jinyoung hears a laugh escape him, and it sounds a little hysterical, which frustrates him, because it makes it seem like he’s more affected by the sight than he actually is. Which is not at all. It doesn’t bother him at all.

He says this to Mark, words tumbling out one of the other, and Mark looks deeply unconvinced.

Then he makes the mistake of glancing at Jabeum again, and it just so happens that Jaebum is looking up, is looking in their direction. Their eyes meet, and Jinyoung feels his heart stop.

“Please, Mark,” Jinyoung says, immediately dragging his eyes away. He feels, all of a sudden, incredibly tired. “Let’s just go home.”

 

*

 

Jaebum didn’t intend on taking anyone home. Despite Jackson’s insistence that a rebound would make him feel better, he hadn’t been convinced. As he wakes up the following morning, though, his arms wrapped around the warmth of another human being, he thinks that maybe Jackson had a point.

He remembers leaving Hyunwoo and Jinyoung in the backyard, remembers doing shots in the kitchen with a loudly hooting crowd of people, some of whom he recognises, some of whom he doesn’t. He remembers talking to some of his music major friends, remembers everyone getting excited when a particularly popular song comes on.

He remembers being dragged into the crowd, remembers everyone jumping, and shouting. He remembers someone stumbling in front of him, remembers reaching out to steady her.

He recognises her. She has light brown hair cut into wispy bangs that hang over her eyes, and a bright smile. Her name is Momo, and she’s a dance major, in the same year as Yugyeom, and he’s met her quite a few times before through that connection. He’s always found her attractive, and this time is no different.

“Jaebum-oppa!” she’s exclaiming, when her eyes land on the person who’s saved her from face-planting, and then she’s throwing her arms around his neck. “I haven’t seen you in such a long time!”

The warm softness of her body pressed against his is nice, and Jaebum can’t help himself but smile. They try to exchange some pleasantries, but the music is so loud that this doesn’t go very well. In the end, Momo just throws her head back in laughter, shouts at him to dance with her.

She’s – obviously – a very good dancer, but there’s something in her easy confidence that draws Jaebum to her as well. She isn’t trying too hard, isn’t even trying to be sexy, but Jaebum feels that familiar wave of desire start to build inside him.

So he places his hands on her waist, draws her a little closer, but not too forcefully, gives her the chance to realise where this is going, and decide if she wants to continue. A look of surprise crosses her features for the slightest second, probably because he’s never shown any indication of interest in her, but then she’s smiling coyly up at him, slinging her arms around his neck, pressing against him a little more firmly.

When he takes her face in his, she slips her hands down to his waist, and then it’s just a case of leaning down to press their lips together. Heat coils in his gut, and Jaebum slides his fingers through her hair, and revels in the taste of their tongues tangling together.

They break apart, and she’s grinning at him so easily, like she’s having so much fun, and her carefree air makes Jaebum feel a little lighter.

But then he glances up, across the room, and there – Jinyoung. Looking right at him, with the stoniest expression on his face. When their eyes meet, Jinyoung instantly turns away, says something to Mark, and then they’re both weaving their way out of the room.

“Jaebum-oppa?” Momo’s voice brings him back to reality. “Is everything okay?”

He looks down, looks at her huge eyes staring up at him in concern, and he feels a wave of guilt crash through him. “Sorry,” he starts to mumble, “I shouldn’t have…”

But Momo cuts him off, circling her small hand around his wrist, pulls him out of the heaving crowd, out of the room, until they’re in a quieter spot, a small alcove with a bench. She sits down, gestures for him to do the same, then repeats her question, “Are you okay?”

Jaebum grimances. “Momo, I’m so sorry,” he apologises, “I shouldn’t have kissed you.”

“Why?” she asks, not aggressively but just in confusion. “I quite liked it.”

Once again, her easy confidence makes Jaebum smile. “I just – I kind of like someone else,” he explains feebly, “I think I was just trying to get over him.”

He uses the male pronoun on purpose, but Momo isn’t nearly as startled by this as he expects. “Him,” she repeats slowly, “do you like girls as well, though?”

“Uh, yeah,” Jaebum says, a little taken aback by the question, because it seems obvious to him – he was the one who kissed her, after all – but he supposes it’s a fair one.

“Hm, well, then what’s the problem?” Momo asks, blinking up at him. “Unless you’re like, seeing this guy?”

Jaebum shakes his head. “No, nothing like that,” he says quickly, “he doesn’t even know I like him. I just – I just don’t want to…use you?” He scrunches up his face at the choice of words, but he can’t think of anything better. He feels a little off-balance from how he’s gone from making out with Momo to sitting with her in a little alcove and telling her about his crush on Jinyoung.

Surprisingly, Momo just laughs a little. “Use me?” she repeats, like it’s some sort of joke. “Oppa, I’m a grown woman. I can make my own decisions. And I’m not looking for anything more than some fun – if you want to get over someone, I can help you with that.”

Jaebum’s mouth falls open in surprise. “Uh – you don’t have to do that for me,” he mumbles, which earns him another giggle.

“I’m not doing it for you, silly,” she says, rolling her eyes, “I don’t if you know this, but you’re hot. I want this too.”

All sensible thought flies out of Jaebum’s mind. “Oh,” he says, “okay.”

Momo slides a hand up Jaebum’s chest, snakes it round his neck. “If you’re not in the mood anymore, feel free to go,” she says, and her voice has taken on a darker tone, her eyes slightly hooded as she looks up at Jaebum through those long lashes. “But if you are, I’d like to kiss you again.”

Jaebum doesn’t need to be asked twice. Momo is pretty, and fun, and willing.

Even if she doesn’t make his heart flutter and his stomach do backflips. Even if she’s not quite Jinyoung.

 

Chapter Text

 

In a strange turn of events, Jaebum and Momo become fairly good friends. They don’t sleep together again, not after that first night, but Jaebum finds himself confiding to Momo more and more about his feelings. She’s a good listener, never judges him, and – perhaps most importantly – she’s not in the same friend group as him and Jinyoung, which makes it so much easier to be honest.

He’s having lunch with his friends one day when she spots him across the cafeteria, waves brightly as she approaches. Her own friends are hanging around behind her, waiting, so she doesn’t linger, just says hi to everyone, confirms that she and Jaebum are still on for coffee later in the day, and leaves.

When she’s gone, however, Jaebum turns back and everyone is staring at him.

“What?” he asks, a little irritably. “Why is everyone looking at me like that?”

Yugyeom makes a face. “It’s weird, hyung,” he says, “first you sleep with her and then now you’re best friends? How does that work?”

“It works because we’re mature adults,” replies Jaebum testily. He glances at Jinyoung, at the other end of the table, studiously munching on his sandwich and not looking at Jaebum. “Also, it’s none of your business.”

“Are you still sleeping with her?” pipes up Bambam, ‘it’s none of your business’ clearly meaning nothing to him. Jaebum glares at him, doesn’t dignify that with a response.

“Please, spare us the intimate details of your sex life,” Jinyoung says suddenly, his voice laced with a little more hostility than necessary, “some of us are trying to eat.”

Jaebum turns his glare to Jinyoung. “I didn’t bring it up,” he snaps, “you guys asked.”

Jinyoung doesn’t even look at him, and this enrages Jaebum. “Maybe if you didn’t parade your weird relationship with her around so much,” Jinyoung says, and it’s like he’s trying to pick a fight for no reason at all.

“I’ve not been parading anything,” Jaebum shoots back, and his voice is getting a little louder, but he can barely contain his annoyance. He doesn’t understand how Jinyoung can be so friendly with him one day, and so hostile the next. “And how is it different from anyone else? We don’t get on Youngjae’s case about Mina. Or what about you and Hyunwoo, huh?”

“What about me and Hyunwoo?” Jinyoung’s starting to raise his voice too. Mark places a placating hand on Jinyoung’s shoulder, which gets shrugged off. “You’ve had a problem with Hyunwoo from the beginning.”

“Have I now?” Jaebum scoffs loudly. Jinyoung’s absolutely right, of course, but Jaebum didn’t think that he’d done anything for Jinyoung to be able to pick up on that. But then again, Jaebum’s never been good at hiding his emotions. It wouldn’t be a surprise if his distaste for Hyunwoo had slipped out, one way or another.

“Yeah, and if I didn’t know better I’d say you were jealous of him,” Jinyoung hisses.

Again, true. But just because Jaebum’s attracted to Jinyoung doesn’t mean he doesn’t also find Jinyoung insufferable. He’s not about to let Jinyoung win this one. “And if I didn’t know better I’d say you were jealous of Momo,” snaps Jaebum in return.

That shuts Jinyoung up. He scowls darkly at Jaebum, and looks like he’s winding up to say something, but Mark steps in.

“That’s enough, guys,” he says firmly, “let’s just not pry into each other’s private lives any more, okay?”

Jaebum grumbles under his breath that he wasn’t the one who brought it up, and he can vaguely hear Jinyoung muttering something similar, but they both remain largely silent. After a couple of tense seconds, Bambam launches into a rant about the group project he has to do, which ends up becoming a meandering story about a girl in his class named Lisa, and the atmosphere slowly settles.

No one mentions Hyunwoo or Momo after that, but at one point Jaebum catches Jinyoung’s eye, and something flickers between the two of them that Jaebum can’t quite understand.

 

*

 

Jaebum wakes up one lazy Saturday morning to the sound of someone knocking loudly on his front door. He blinks blearily at the alarm clock on his bedside table. It’s eleven in the morning. Who the hell is bothering him on a Saturday morning at eleven?

He clambers out of bed grumpily, pulling a pair of grey sweatpants on but not bothering with a shirt. The apartment is empty – Jackson must have gone out first thing in the morning.

“Coming, hang on!” Jaebum shouts, staggering towards the door. He’s still rubbing his eyes groggily when he throws the door open. “What do you want?” he snaps, but then he notices the person standing outside his door, and he falls silent.

It’s Jinyoung. In a simple black jumper and jeans, but somehow still looking like he’d just stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine.

“Oh, uh – what are you doing here?” asks Jinyoung, blinking in surprise.

Jaebum frowns at him. “I live here,” he says, flatly, because Jinyoung knows this perfectly well.

“No, I mean – Jackson said that you wouldn’t be in this morning,” Jinyoung says, stumbling slightly over his words. He looks flustered, cheeks faintly pink either from embarrassment or the cold outside, Jaebum isn’t sure. Either way, it shouldn’t look so cute – but it does.

“Well, Jackson’s the one who isn’t here,” Jaebum replies. He’s getting suspicious now. “Did Jackson tell you to come over?”

Jinyoung nods. “Yeah, he said he had something to give to Mark, wanted me to pick it up?” he explains.

Jaebum grunts in annoyance, runs his hands through his hair. Jackson’s up to something, as always. “I have a feeling Jackson orchestrated this because he wanted us to talk,” he says, sighing heavily, “I don’t even know if he has anything for Mark.”

“Right,” says Jinyoung, “well – maybe I should just go, then.”

He’s shoving his hands into his pockets, beginning to turn away, and Jaebum doesn’t know why, but he suddenly interrupts with a sharp, “No!” Jinyoung freezes, turns back towards him in surprise, and Jaebum grimaces. “I mean – no, why don’t you come in and wait, I’ll give Jackson a call to find out what he wants you to give to Mark.”

Jinyoung hesitates, but then he’s nodding, and slipping past Jaebum to step into the apartment. It’s the first time Jaebum’s been alone with Jinyoung in his apartment, and nerves prickle at the back of his neck as he shuts the door, follows Jinyoung in.

“Just – sit anywhere,” Jaebum says, gesturing at the living room area vaguely as he pulls his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll give Jackson a ring.”

Jinyoung perches on the edge of the sofa, but his eyes don’t leave Jaebum. The intensity of his stare is unnerving, and Jaebum’s fingers hover over his phone screen. “What?” he asks, sharply, “Why are you staring at me like that?”

A flush rushes to Jinyoung’s cheeks, and he looks away. “Nothing,” he says quickly, chewing on his bottom lip. “I just – are you going to put a shirt on?”

Belatedly, Jaebum glances down at himself, at his bare torso. He’s so used to wandering around his own place without a shirt on – same as Jackson – that he hadn’t even noticed his topless state. A blush rises to his face to match Jinyoung’s.

“Ah – sorry!” he mumbles, shuffling hastily back into his bedroom, snatching a shirt off the floor and tugging it on. He taps on Jackson’s contact, wedges the phone between his cheek and shoulder as he paces the short length of his room. He can’t get the image of Jinyoung out of his mind – eyes wide, bottom lip sucked between his teeth, staring at him.

He manages to gather from a hurried call with Jackson that there’s a book he wants to lend Mark, but when Jaebum starts to ask why Jackson had asked Jinyoung to come over at this specific time, when he knew that only Jaebum would be home, Jackson just shouts a cheery goodbye and hangs up. Jaebum rolls his eyes. Jackson is always full of schemes and tricks. Too bad it’s not going to work this time, because Jinyoung hates his guts.

“Apparently Jacks wanted to lend this to Mark,” Jaebum says, when he comes back into the living room – fully clothed – with a book in his hand “And, uh,” he adds, sheepishly, “sorry about – you know, the shirt thing. I’m used to not wearing a shirt at home.”

Jinyoung looks up at him in surprise, a faint colour returning to his cheeks. “No, that’s okay,” he says, quickly, too quickly, like he’s nervous, “you looked good.”

Jaebum blinks. “Excuse me, what?” he says, before he can stop himself, the surprise taking hold of him. He must have misheard, because no way did Park Jinyoung just tell him that he looked good without a shirt on. “Did you just say I looked good?” It’s unusual to catch Jinyoung off-guard, and Jaebum can’t stop the smirk creeping its way to his lips.

But Jinyoung is already on his feet, shouldering his bag. “No,” he says sharply, “I just meant – Momo probably likes it.”

And there it is again, prickly Jinyoung. Jaebum swears he going to get whiplash from how quickly Jinyoung can switch from one version of himself to the other.

“What is your problem with Momo?” snaps Jaebum. He’s so sick of this endless bickering, when he knows that he and Jinyoung could get along. They had, before, during the nice interlude when they had been morning coffee buddies and on the road to something like friendship. (Or maybe more, but Jaebum doesn’t want to think about that now.)

“I don’t have a problem with Momo,” replies Jinyoung, “just give me the book so I can go.” He reaches out to snatch the book from Jaebum, but Jaebum takes a quick step back, hides the book behind his back. Jinyoung stumbles into his chest.

“No,” Jaebum says, fiercely, “I’m sick of you being so hostile when I don’t even know what I’ve done wrong. We’re talking about this, now.”

Jinyoung glares at him, venom in his eyes. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he snaps, tries to grab the book again, but Jaebum shifts it to his other hand. Jinyoung huffs in exasperation, tries to reach around Jaebum, but to no avail. “Give me the damn book!”

“Not until you tell me why you’re pissed off at me,” says Jaebum, “I thought we were good, after I apologised to you, at the party.”

“Oh, the party?” scoffs Jinyoung, giving up on the tussle for the book and folding his arms across his chest. “The party where you hooked up with Momo?”

Jaebum rolls his eyes. The conversation always comes back to Momo. He’s so furious now, because Jinyoung keeps bringing the whole Momo situation up, as if Jaebum has something to apologise for. Which Jaebum absolutely doesn’t, because he’s a free, single man – unlike Jinyoung.

“Yes, that party,” is what Jaebum says in response, voice cold with anger, “the same party where I first met your boyfriend.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” shoots back Jinyoung, so quickly it seems almost instinctive. His eyes glint with rage, and he steps forward, right into Jaebum’s personal space. “Why?” he hisses, “Are you jealous?”

Something fucking snaps inside Jaebum in the moment. The heat of Jinyoung’s body radiating against his, their chests just a fraction of an inch from touching. The slant of Jinyoung’s eyes, glaring up at him, the tilt of his chin in defiance.

He’s sick of pretending. But he’s also sick of Jinyoung thinking he has the upper hand.

Jaebum steps forward, bumping forcefully into Jinyoung. To his credit, while Jinyoung does stumble backwards a half step, he still stubbornly keeps his furious gaze locked on Jaebum. But he also swallows, hard. Jaebum doesn’t miss that.

“Yes,” Jaebum growls, tilting his chin down. Taking another step into Jinyoung, pushing them further back into the room. “Yes, I’m jealous.”

Jinyoung falters slightly, backs away from Jaebum, but the wall stops him before he can go too far. “W-what?” he says, tripping over the word. But his tone is still strong, his head still held high.

“You heard me,” Jaebum replies. His brain feels fogged over with all these weeks, months, of pent-up desire. He moves closer still, presses his hands flat against the wall on either side of Jinyoung’s head.

They’re both breathing heavily now, chests rising and falling in sync where they’re pressed up against each other. Jinyoung licks his lips, thick pink tongue darting out and leaving his lips shiny with spit. Heat coils in Jaebum’s gut.

“What are you doing?” Jinyoung asks. His voice is so deep, so thick with what Jaebum can only hope is a desire to match his own.

Jaebum’s heart is pounding in his chest, his insides twisting with a mixture of anxiety and arousal. “What do you want me to do?” he asks, and the husky tone to his voice surprises even himself.

Jinyoung’s eyes flick down to his lips, then back up again, but it’s enough to send Jaebum almost wild. He exhales sharply.

Then Jinyoung’s hands are coming up to his sides, his fingers curling around the hem of his shirt, tugging him closer. Their bodies are flush against each other now, from chest to groin, and with a jolt of pleasure Jaebum can feel that Jinyoung is definitely not unaffected by the position they’ve gotten themselves into.

“I think you know what I want,” Jinyoung breathes raspily.

That’s all the invitation Jaebum needs. He leans down to press a hard, bruising kiss against Jinyoung’s lips. His hands move to cup Jinyoung’s face, palms pressing against the sharp jut of his jaw line. Jinyoung groans, slides his hands under Jaebum’s shirt, rests them on his waist, fingers digging into his flesh.

There’s not the slightest breath of hesitation. Jinyoung’s teeth capture Jaebum’s lower lip between them, bites down hard. Jaebum flinches from the pain, but there’s pleasure as well, and his lips part slightly for a low moan to escape him. He uses the opportunity to dart his tongue out, licking teasingly at Jinyoung’s lips, before curling into his mouth.

Jinyoung sucks on his tongue for a moment, his hands roving up Jaebum’s back, burning hot against his bare skin. He rolls his hips up against Jaebum’s, and the friction it creates sends spasms of pleasure rocketing through Jaebum.

“Fuck,” he hisses, the word mumbled against Jinyoung’s mouth, but Jinyoung seems to like it, because he moans complainingly, and rakes his fingernails down Jaebum’s back.

Jaebum’s on fire, he can barely process the fact that he’s kissing Jinyoung in his living room, when Jinyoung slides one hand between them, palms roughly at Jaebum’s crotch. Jaebum lets out a frustrated grunt, ducking his head down towards Jinyoung’s neck.

“You’re – a fucking – asshole, you know that?” Jinyoung’s saying savagely, even as he tilts his head back to give Jaebum better access to his neck. In response, Jaebum just sinks his teeth into the soft, creamy flesh of Jinyoung’s neck, sucking hard, which elicits a tortured groan from Jinyoung.

“If I’m an asshole,” Jaebum murmurs, in between licking and biting on Jinyoung’s neck, moving down towards his collarbone, pulling the neckline of his jumper aside, “then so are you.”

“Don’t stretch out the collar, you jerk,” hisses Jinyoung, his voice stuttering around a sharp intake of breath, either from annoyance or from Jaebum’s hands sliding down his body and grabbing fistfuls of his ass. His hand keeps pressing, rubbing, against Jaebum’s dick, and it’s driving Jaebum absolutely wild with want.

“Then take the fucking jumper off and stop complaining,” snaps Jaebum in return, his hands moving to tug the jumper off, but Jinyoung’s already there, peeling it off himself, and the shirt underneath as well.

Jaebum lets out a low growl at the sight of Jinyoung’s bare chest, slides his fingers along the lean muscles of his abdomen. “Fuck, you look good,” he says, running his hands all the way up Jinyoung’s torso, round his neck, fisting them in his hair. He leans forward again to press his lips against Jinyoung’s, bites down hard on his plump bottom lip.

“Your – fucking – turn,” Jinyoung is grunting against his mouth, hands fumbling against the hem of his shirt, trying to pull it up.

“You’ve already seen me without a shirt on,” teases Jaebum, but he shifts back to pull his top off.

Even in a moment like this, Jinyoung manages to roll his eyes. “Yeah, well, I want to see more,” he almost snarls, pushing Jaebum away, his eyes roving all the way up and down his body. Then he darts forward, hands on Jaebum’s chest, sucks viciously at the skin of Jaebum’s neck.

Jaebum barely knows what’s happening before Jinyoung is sliding down, hands smoothing over every plane of Jaebum’s broad chest, firm abs, until he’s on his knees. Jaebum’s breath hitches in his throat as Jinyoung presses a hard kiss against the erection tenting his sweatpants.

“Are you going to take me to your room or am I going to have to suck you off right here?” Jinyoung purrs, looking up at Jaebum through heavy lids and thick lashes.

“Fuck,” hisses Jaebum, tugging Jinyoung to his feet and towards the bedroom, both of them still pressing hurried, messy kisses against any inch of exposed skin they can get to. Once the door slams shut behind them, Jinyoung’s hands are grabbing at the waistband of Jaebum’s sweatpants, yanking them down, while Jaebum fumbles with Jinyoung’s belt buckle.

They tumble haphazardly backwards into Jaebum’s bed, Jabeum kicking off his sweats as Jinyoung slaps his hands away, strips his jeans off himself. He straddles Jaebum’s, kissing and licking hungrily into his mouth, the heat of their tongues sliding against each other driving Jaebum wild with desire. They’re only separated by the thin fabric of their boxers now, and the friction that builds as Jinyoung grinds his hips down into Jaebum almost sends Jaebum reeling off the edge.

“Are we – really – doing this?” Jaebum manages to get out, as he feels Jinyoung’s fingers slipping in past the waistband of his boxers.

“Stupid question,” snaps back Jinyoung, because he’s still got that sarcastic streak in him, even when they’re rolling about in bed nearly naked.

Jaebum growls, grabs Jinyoung by the hips and flips them over. “So much sass,” he says, digging his teeth into the soft flesh of Jinyoung’s neck, which makes Jinyoung yelp and twist his hips enticingly underneath him. He slides his hands down Jinyoung’s back, underneath his boxers, squeezes his cheeks roughly, before pulling the boxers down entirely.

He gets up to pull his own boxers off, watches with the heat of arousal spreading through him as Jinyoung writhes, needy and desperate on his bed, fully on display. When Jinyoung reaches a hand down to touch himself, the sight is so erotic that Jaebum can barely believe what he’s seeing.

“Don’t,” Jaebum orders, shoving Jinyoung’s hand away, and then he’s on his knees, swiping a long, lazy lick up the length of Jinyoung’s cock.

Jinyoung hisses in pleasure, hands fisting in the sheets. When Jaebum slides his lips around the head of Jinyoung’s cock, sinks down slowly, Jinyoung lets out such a pleading whine that Jaebum feels his own cock twitch at the sound.

“Just – just fuck me,” Jinyoung’s saying, his voice raspy and breathy, like he can’t quite work his vocal cords properly.

Jaebum hums around Jinyoung’s length, drawing out another desperate whine from Jinyoung, and reaches over to his bedside table, fumbles around in it until his hands close around a condom and the small bottle of lube. While they are having maybe the most aggressive sex Jaebum’s ever had in his life, he’s still not an asshole, so when he lubes up a finger and circles at Jinyoung’s tight opening, he goes slow.

He waits until Jinyoung starts to rock his hips against his hand, before adding another finger, then another. The noises Jinyoung’s making are absolutely filthy, and Jaebum has to clench his jaw to remind himself not to rush things. He curls his fingers around Jinyoung’s prostate, relishes in the almost broken sound that slips out past Jinyoung’s lips, and in the way Jinyoung clenches around him.

“Please,” Jinyoung whines, eyes dark with want as he looks up at Jaebum, “please fuck me.”

Jaebum’s breathing so heavily now, as he climbs on top of Jinyoung, positions himself carefully. He’s expecting Jinyoung to feel good, but when he slides in slowly, the sensation of Jinyoung around him is better than he could have imagined. His elbows buckle slightly, and he collapses into Jinyoung, their sweaty bodies pressing flush against each other.

Jinyoung’s so hot, so tight, but Jaebum just pushes himself all the way in, and waits. Waits for Jinyoung to get used to the sensation. Waits for Jinyoung to start mewling, to start bucking his hips up into Jaebum.

Then he goes, sliding out of Jinyoung and pushing in again, each thrust ending with their bodies slamming into each other. He reaches a hand down between them, grasps Jinyoung’s cock in his hand, its heat like a fire against his skin. Jinyoung wraps his legs around Jabeum’s back, hooking his ankles together to rock their hips together.

Jaebum props himself up on one hand, looks down at Jinyoung beneath him. His eyes are closed, his head tipped back. His skin is slick with sweat. He looks utterly breath-taking.

“Look at me,” Jaebum growls, and Jinyoung’s eyes fly open. His pupils are blown wide.

Then Jinyoung’s shuddering, coming into Jaebum’s hand, across both of their bellies.

The sensation of Jinyoung clenching rhythmically around him is too much for Jaebum, and it isn’t long before he’s coming as well, fingers clenching in Jinyoung’s hair, teeth digging into his shoulder.

They’re both still breathing heavily, chests rising and falling visibly with each inhale and exhale, when Jaebum rolls off Jinyoung. They lie side by side without speaking for a moment, coming slowly down from their high.

“That was…unexpected,” Jinyoung says first.

Jaebum lets out a hesitant, sheepish laugh. “Yeah,” he replies, “it was.”

“I should go now,” Jinyoung says, but he doesn’t make any move to get up. It’s only when Jaebum murmurs in agreement and shifts to sit up, that Jinyoung follows.

Jaebum lets Jinyoung head to the bathroom to clean up, tries to sort himself out with a wad of tissues. And then they’re picking their clothes off the floor, dressing as they go, from Jaebum’s bedroom all the way out to the living room. They’re lucky, Jaebum thinks, tugging his shirt back on, that Jackson hadn’t come home in the middle of that impromptu fuck session.

“Don’t forget the book,” Jaebum says, picking it up off the sofa where he’d dropped it, holding it out to Jinyoung. “It’s what you came for, after all.”

The unintended double entendre isn’t lost on either of them, and as Jinyoung’s cheeks fade into a soft pink colour, Jaebum wonders if his are doing the same.

“Uh, thanks,” Jinyoung mumbles, shoving the book into his bag. He heads over towards the front door, and Jaebum trails after him. “I’ll, um – I’ll see you around?”

Jaebum nods, a little too eagerly, he thinks. “Yeah,” he says, “I’ll see you.”

It’s only when Jinyoung’s left, and the door’s shut behind him, that it all sinks in for Jaebum. He drops heavily into the sofa. What the hell just happened?

 

Chapter Text

 

Jackson doesn’t get get back to the apartment until a few hours later, which thankfully gives Jaebum enough time to get rid of any and all incriminating evidence. Not that he thinks Jackson will be rummaging through the bins in search of used condoms – but then again, with Jackson, who knows?

Jaebum can’t see any suspicious marks on his skin, but he’s still a little nervous, so he throws on a hoodie that obscures most of his neck from view. And sits down on the sofa to play some video games – the very picture of casual nonchalance – as he waits for Jackson to get home.

When the door opens and Jackson saunters in, Jaebum doesn’t even look up.

“Welcome home, asshole,” he snipes.

His harsh tone doesn’t seem to bother Jackson as all. “Hello to you too, sunshine,” greets Jackson cheerily, “I take it Jinyoung got what he came for?”

Jaebum feels his face heating up slightly, prays that it’s not also turning pink. Jinyoung had certainly gotten what he’d come for, and then some .

“Yes, no thanks to you,” replies Jaebum coolly. He pauses his game and saves it, before turning to look at Jackson. “What are you playing at?”

Still grinning, Jackson flops down on the sofa next to Jaebum. “I thought you might want an opportunity to talk things through with him,” he says, like he’s done Jaebum a favour. Which he has, in a way, because it’s gotten Jaebum laid, but Jaebum would rather stick a fork in his eye than admit that. Jackson stretches his legs across Jaebum’s lap, asks, “Have you guys kissed and made up now?”

Jaebum makes a noise of discontent at the back of his throat. They certainly have. But he just glares at Jackson, says vaguely, “We’ve worked things out, I suppose.”

Jackson raises an eyebrow at Jaebum. “That’s it?” he presses, looking suspicious. “Why do I get the feeling there’s something you’re not telling me?”

“You’re being paranoid,” replies Jaebum, in as casual a tone as he can muster. “You wanted us to stop fighting so we’ve stopped fighting. Congratulations, your stupid plan worked.”

This doesn’t seem to satisfy Jackson. “I was kind of hoping you’d seduce him and you guys would have passionate make-up sex, to be honest,” he admits, looking sort of crestfallen.

“W-What?” Jaebum splutters. In any normal situation, Jaebum would laugh and say that real life didn’t work like that, people didn’t go from fighting to fucking in the blink of an eye. Except that Jaebum knows now from first hand experience that that’s definitely something that can happen.

Thankfully, Jackson doesn’t pick up on any of this internal monologue, just shrugs. “I thought you still liked him,” he says, “I was trying to help. Give you an opportunity, you know?”

Jaebum cringes internally. Great, now he feels guilty about lying to his best friend, when all Jackson was trying to do was help. Granted, he could have helped in a more subtle way – but who was Jaebum to question Jackson’s methods when everything had pretty much worked out according to plan?

He settles for pulling Jackson in for a hug. While Jaebum isn’t the hugest fan of cuddles, he knows that Jackson is.

“It was just a crush, Jacks,” he mumbles into Jackson’s hair, “just a physical thing. You don’t need to worry – I’m over it now.”

Jackson hugs him back so tightly that Jaebum feels the air being crushed out of his lungs. “Okay,” he says, “if you’re over it, then – okay.”

But Jaebum wonders – if it was just a physical attraction, then surely having sex with Jinyoung would seem like the perfect way to get over his crush, get rid of the tension? Then why can’t he stop thinking about Jinyoung? And not just Jinyoung, needy and wanting beneath him, but also Jinyoung just being Jinyoung. Walking towards him at the coffee shop. Rolling his eyes at him. Smirking. Laughing.

He’s not in the slightest bit ‘over it’, Jaebum thinks. If anything, he’s in too deep.

 

*

 

They don’t get a chance to talk privately before the next group outing about the fact that they’d had angry – albeit extremely satisfying – sex, because the very next day they’re all out to dinner to celebrate Jackson getting cast as the lead in the drama society’s latest production. Jinyoung hasn’t even texted Jaebum, because he has no idea what to say. On one hand it seems weird not to mention their last encounter , but on the other hand Jinyoung really, really doesn’t want to talk about it.

He’s filled with nervous energy as he stands in front of the full-length mirror in his room, fussing about with his hair, straightening the cuffs on his shirt. This is the third shirt he’s tried on, and while he’s still not quite happy with how he looks, he knows that if he changes again Mark will have his head.

“For god’s sake, you look fine,” Mark groans, as he wanders into Jinyoung’s room, “can we please leave now? We’re going to be late.”

Jinyoung sticks his tongue out at Mark. “I just want to look presentable,” he sniffs, but he turns away from the mirror, follows Mark out into the corridor. “We’re going to a fancy restaurant.”

“It’s not that fancy,” replies Mark, which is true. It’s slightly nicer than the diners and bars they usually hang out in, but it’s still not the kind of restaurant that one needs to change their shirt three times for. But Jinyoung would be damned before he admits the real reason why he wants to look nice tonight.

As Mark predicted, they arrive fifteen minutes late, to find the rest of the group already seated at a table in the back of the restaurant. Jackson leaps to his feet when they approach, gives them both a warm hug. Jinyoung doesn’t miss the way Mark and Jackson exchange coy smiles as they break apart. There’s definitely something going on there – the two of them have been hanging out, just the two of them, loads. It’s only a matter of time before they make things official.

“Sorry we’re late,” Mark apologises, as he slips into the seat next to Jackson, “but Mr. Precious over here couldn’t decide what he wanted to wear, changed clothes about a million times before we could leave.”

Jinyoung rolls his eyes, ducks his head down as he sits down across from Mark. Next to Jaebum. He hopes Jaebum doesn’t think that his sartorial indecision has anything to do with the fact that Jinyoung wants to impress him.

“You changed clothes a million times and this is what you ended up with?” teases Jackson. “A plain button-down and jeans? That’s literally what you always wear!”

“It’s my aesthetic ,” Jinyoung shoots back primly, trying to aim a kick at Jackson under the table. Jackson shrieks and tries to kick him back, both of them grinning and holding back giggles.

Then Jaebum pipes up, “I think he looks nice,” and all coherent thought flies out of Jinyoung’s head.

“Uh, thanks,” he mumbles. His cheeks feel suddenly hot. He still hasn’t looked at Jaebum once yet, but he raises his eyes now, glances over.

Jaebum has his hair pushed back messily from his face, and his usual scattering of earrings decorate his earlobes. But he’s also in a t-shirt that’s a little more form-fitting than his usual, and he’s even thrown a casual, over-sized blazer over it. It’s a little fancier than his typical outfit, and Jinyoung can’t help himself but wonder if Jaebum had dressed-up for him as well.

“You look nice too,” Jinyoung adds, the words falling from his lips before he can even stop them. He darts his eyes away from Jaebum immediately, clears his throat as he reaches for the jug to pour himself a glass of water.

Jaebum grins sheepishly, runs a hand through his hair. “Thanks,” he replies.

Jackson pouts at them from across the table. “Is no one going to tell me I look nice?” he complains, turning to Yugyeom in search of praise. “It’s my celebratory dinner, after all!”

With the attention diverted elsewhere, Jinyoung breathes a small sigh of relief. He reaches for the menu, but at the same time, Jaebum reaches across him for the water jug, knocking their elbows together.

“Oh, sorry,” Jinyoung apologises hastily, handing the water over to Jaebum, who’s still grinning at him in that slightly shy way that sends something churning in Jinyoung’s gut.

“No, that’s my fault, my mom always has to remind me to use my right hand at the dinner table,” Jaebum replies.

Jinyoung nods, flipping absently through the menu. “It’s so cool that you’re ambidextrous,” he muses, “do you think I could learn to write with my left hand?”

What Jaebum thinks of that, Jinyoung never finds out, because Mark’s suddenly piping up from across the table.

“You guys are being weird,” he says, eyeing them both suspiciously. Then he elbows Jackson in the ribs, looking for support. “Jacks, don’t you think they’re being weird?”

Jackson turns, cocks his head to the side as he examines them carefully. Jinyoung can feel his cheeks colouring under the intensity of Jackson’s gaze. He doesn’t look at Jaebum, doesn’t want to know if Jaebum feels as awkward as he does.

Although – awkward isn’t quite the right word. It’s more like – guilty. Jinyoung feels guilty, because he – and Jaebum – have a secret that they’re keeping from their best friends.

“We’re not being weird,” Jaebum says. He sounds grumpy.

Jackson ignores Jaebum, continues studying them like they’re a lab specimen. “They’re being… nice ,” Jackson concludes, narrowing his eyes. “You’re right, Mark hyung. They’re not fighting. Why aren’t they fighting?”

“Maybe we’re being nice because we’re nice people,” retorts Jinyoung quickly. “And besides, I thought you guys were sick of us arguing all the time.”

Mark looks unconvinced. His eyes burn into Jinyoung, who avoids his gaze. “Yes, but – this is a real one-eighty,” he says, ponderingly.

Thankfully, it is at this moment that their waiter swoops down upon them, notepad in hand, eagerly asking if they’re ready to order food. Jinyoung quickly turns his eyes back to the menu, and Jackson’s already ordering a round of drinks for the table, so thankfully the conversation about him and Jaebum being weird stops right there.

But that doesn’t stop Mark from shooting him odd looks throughout dinner, which Jinyoung ignores with a staunch determination.

Besides, it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else when Jaebum’s sitting right next to him, close enough that their shoulders keep brushing, that their knees keep knocking into each other. Close enough that Jinyoung wonders if the reason why he feels so warm and flushed is because of the heat radiating off Jaebum’s body.

Jinyoung can barely focus on his food, can barely focus on getting through the meal. His mind strays persistently into dangerous territory – the smell of Jaebum’s skin, the taste of his lips, the sound of his hungry growl of desire.

Jaebum doesn’t say very much to him all evening, but every so often he glances over, and there’s just something about the way he looks at Jinyoung – like he knows exactly what Jinyoung’s thinking, like he’s thinking it too.

By the time dinner is over, Jinyoung feels like he’s so electric with energy that he might vibrate out of his skin. Jackson is arguing with Bambam about whether or not they should treat him to dinner, given that it’s a celebration for him, and Jinyoung decides that – fuck it. He pulls a few notes out of his wallet, drops them on the table.

“Bathroom,” he says, getting to his feet abruptly. Jaebum looks at him, surprised by his sudden outburst, as does Mark. Jinyoung flicks his eyes over to Jaebum for the briefest of seconds, then he’s striding purposefully away.

Jinyoung pauses in the dimly lit corridor leading to the men’s room. He wonders if this was all wishful thinking. If he was misinterpreting the signs. If the current of tension between him and Jaebum had been running only one way.

Then he feels a hand, large and warm, encircle his wrist. Feels himself being tugged around, pulled chest to chest with none other than Jaebum.

“Tell me if I’ve misunderstood,” Jaebum says, and his voice is low and husky, his eyes dark. The low light of the lamps on the wall cast shadows across his face, highlighting the sharp planes of his cheekbones, his strong brow.

“You haven’t misunderstood,” Jinyoung replies breathily, and then their lips are on each other’s, hands twining greedily through hair and gripping fiercely onto hips. He pushes his tongue impatiently into Jaebum’s mouth, which makes Jaebum step forward into his space, pressing him into the wall until their bodies are flush against each other. Jinyoung can feel Jaebum, already semi-erect, and he grinds his hips forward needily.

“Oh my god!” a sharp exclamation startles them out of the moment, Jaebum jumping away and Jinyoung pushing him away at the same time.

Thankfully, it’s not any of their friends. Just a young lady staring at them in mild horror. “Get a room,” she snarks, stepping past them, “and stop blocking the way to the bathrooms, people need to pee.

Jaebum clears his throat, rubbing the back of his neck. “Uh, that maybe got a little out of hand,” he mumbles.

“Yeah,” Jinyoung agrees, even though the only thing he can think about is how much he wishes it would get out of hand again. “We should probably, um, go back.”

Jaebum nods in agreement, and Jinyoung turns to return to their friends, when Jaebum grabs his wrist again. Turns him around sharply, hooks his other hand around the back of Jinyoung’s neck. Presses a fierce kiss against his lips. Jinyoung’s hands are flying up to hold on to Jaebum’s arms when Jaebum suddenly steps away. He’s grinning, a glint of mischief in his eyes.

“Sorry,” he says, looking not at all sorry, “couldn’t resist.”

Then he’s walking away without another look back. Jinyoung should be annoyed that he let Jaebum have the last word like that, which he kind of is, but mostly – mostly he’s just caught up trying to slow the rapid pounding of his heart against his chest.

 

*

 

Jinyoung knows that Mark isn’t going to let him off that easily. Mark’s been giving him funny looks their entire journey home from dinner, and they’re barely in the door of their apartment when Mark is grabbing him by the arm and dragging him over to the sofa.

“Sit,” Mark orders, and Jinyoung complies. There’s a determined look in Mark’s eyes that is a somewhat startling change from Mark’s usual easy-going nature.

“Do you want to tell me what the hell’s going on with you and Jaebum?” Mark asks, not giving Jinyoung even a moment to prepare himself for the interrogation. He looks up at Mark, who’s standing in front of him, hands on his hips.

“What do you mean?” Jinyoung asks. A delaying tactic, at best. One that Mark sees right through, because he’s shaking his head at Jinyoung like he can’t believe they have to go through this whole charade.

“You know what I mean,” Mark says back, a little snappishly. Then he sighs, flops down on the sofa next to Jinyoung. “I know you, Jinyoung-ah,” Mark says, and this time his voice is a little softer, “and even if I didn’t – I have eyes. I could see how flustered you looked when you came back from the – bathroom.” Mark puts ‘bathroom’ in air quotes.

Jinyoung’s eyes widen. “Was that obvious?” he asks, in a mild panic.

Mark just smirks, rolls his eyes. “To me it was,” he teases, “I know what you look like after someone kisses you, hard.”

“Oh my god,” Jinyoung groans, covering his face with his hands. “Please stop.”

“I’ll stop if you tell me the truth,” Mark insists. “I’m just worried about you, Jinyoung-ah. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Jinyoung peels his hands away from his face, scrunches up his nose. “I’m not going to get hurt,” he grumbles, “we’re not – anything . We just, you know.”

“Did you actually?” Mark asks, his mouth falling open. Then he shuffles closer to Jinyoung, grinning broadly. “Was it good?” he whispers loudly, in a conspiratorial way.

“I’m not telling you that!” yells Jinyoung, shoving Mark away.

Mark shrugs, leans back against the arm rest of the sofa, stretches his legs out across Jinyoung’s lap. “I’m going to take that to mean that you’re greatly enjoy getting dicked down by Jaebum,” he says breezily, which earns him another shove from Jinyoung.

Laughing deviously to himself, Mark rolls out of Jinyoung’s reach. “Don’t tell me you’re the one who tops!” he shouts, “No way!”

Jinyoung gives up trying to bully Mark into submission, just throws his face into a cushion.

Mark’s still giggling, but he calms down and huddles in close to Jinyoung, wrapping his arms around him. “Okay, enough teasing for now,” he murmurs comfortingly, and Jinyoung snuggles into his embrace. “To be honest,” Mark adds, “this isn’t unexpected, but it’s definitely a surprise. We didn’t think you guys were ever going to get your act together.”

Jinyoung makes a face. “We?”

“Me and Jacks, we gossip about the two of you, obviously,” Mark explains, waving his hand in the air dismissively. He ignores the look of displeasure on Jinyoung’s face. “Anyway – tell me everything. Are you guys like actually going out? Is it just physical? When did it start?”

Groaning, Jinyoung buries his face in a cushion again. “I don’t know,” he grumbles, voice muffled. “It was just one time.”

“Mm, maybe,” Mark says musingly. “But if he kissed you at dinner today – don’t say he didn’t, I know he did – then it doesn’t sound like a one-time thing.”  

“I don’t know,” mumbles Jinyoung, sitting up. ‘I don’t know’ is quickly becoming a familiar refrain. He hugs the cushion to himself. “We didn’t really talk about it.”

“Yes, you were too busy tearing each other’s clothes off,” Mark shoots back without missing a beat. Jinyoung tosses the cushion at him, which Mark catches deftly, grinning. “In all seriousness, though – do you think you’re going to sleep with him again?”

The answer to this should be easy. Jinyoung doesn’t care about Jaebum, after all. They’re barely friends. If anything, they’re closer to enemies.

But Jinyoung hesitates.

“I – I don’t know if he wants to,” he says, honestly. True, Jaebum had kissed him at the restaurant, but only because Jinyoung had implicitly suggested it. That wasn’t strong enough evidence of how Jaebum felt or didn’t feel.

Mark titles his head. “The question is,” he asks, forming his words slowly, “whether you want to.”

Jinyoung pouts. He doesn’t want to think about that right now. “You’re taking this news remarkably well,” he complains instead, for want of anything else to say.

Mark scoffs. “It’s not like you guys have been eye fucking across the table for – well, literally since you first met, really,” he replies, rolling his eyes.

“We have not!” objects Jinyoung. “And besides, the same goes for you and Jackson.”

Mark pats Jinyoung on the shoulder patronisingly. “Yes, but the difference is we actually admit it,” Mark says, unperturbed by Jinyoung’s attempt to turn the spotlight onto him.

Then he pauses, like he’s just remembered something. The next thing he says startles Jinyoung.

“What about Hyunwoo?”

Jinyoung frowns. “What about Hyunwoo?” he asks.

Mark furrows his brows in concern, but Jinyoung doesn’t understand what he’s concerned about. “Are you going to keep seeing him?” he asks.

“Are you worried he’s going to get hurt?”

“A little, but I’m more worried that you’re going to get hurt,” replies Mark. “Obviously it’s fine if you want to just see bunch of different people casually. But make sure that’s what you want.”

Jinyoung bites his lower lip. What does he want?

 

*

 

Jinyoung doesn’t see Jaebum at all for a few days, during which time he decides that all this angst over a hypothetical is pointless, and that he’s perfectly happy with Hyunwoo and should be satisfied with that. He’s just about ready to stop thinking about Jaebum, to stop wondering if there’s something – whatever that something might be – between them, when he sees Jaebum again.

And all rational thought flies out of his mind.

Because Jaebum’s standing at the counter of the coffee shop, collecting his travel mug from the barista, looking even taller and more broad-shouldered than Jinyoung had recalled. His hair isn’t pushed back today, instead it falls messily across his forehead, hanging into his eyes. It looks soft, and shiny, and Jinyoung wonders before he can stop himself what it would feel like to run his fingers through those loose locks.

When Jaebum turns around and catches sight of him, his eyes light up and his face breaks out into a broad grin. His jawline looks even more pronounced that usual. The sight makes something in Jinyoung’s heart clench.

“Hi,” he greets, once he’s ordered his coffee. For some reason all of his words dry up in his mouth, and he can only watch mutely as Jaebum takes a sip of his coffee. There’s no need for Jaebum to stand there, waiting for Jinyoung, but he does.

“Your hair – it’s different,” Jinyoung finally blurts out, desperate to break the tense silence. At least, tense for him. Jaebum looks remarkably comfortable, one hand holding his coffee cup and the other hand shoved in the front pocket of his jeans.

He takes his hand out of his pocket now, ruffles his fringe self-consciously. “Yeah,” he mumbles, grinning lopsidedly, “I was rushing out of the house this morning.”

Jinyoung tilts his head slightly, like he’s examining Jaebum. “It looks good,” he murmurs, letting a coy smile lift the corners of his lips. The flirtatious undertone isn’t subtle. Jinyoung hopes he looks more confident and casual than he feels right now.

Once Jinyoung gets his coffee, he and Jaebum fall into step automatically as they head for the exit.

“You know,” Jaebum says, without prelude, “the reason I was rushing this morning – I was hoping to catch you here.” He pauses by his bike, turns to look at Jinyoung with an unreadable expression on his face. It’s cold outside, but Jinyoung’s face feels warm.

“Yeah?” he asks, cupping his hands around his coffee cup, “why?”

Jaebum’s tongue flicks out to moisten his lips. Jinyoung thinks of the feel of that tongue against his skin, has to blink twice to snap himself back to reality.

“I’ve been coming early all week, but I guess you’re always too early for me” Jaebum continues, an easy smile on his face, brightening up his open, handsome features. “I suppose I could have texted you, but – I wanted to ask you in person.”

Jinyoung’s sure that the pounding of his heart must be audible to Jaebum – the sound is thundering in his own ears. He can barely find any words, just makes a murmuring sort of noise that he hopes Jaebum will understand to mean ‘ask me what?’.

“You know that coffee place I said I wanted to show you?” Jaebum continues, “I was wondering – well, I thought maybe we could go check it out this weekend?”

Like a date? Jinyoung wants to ask, a voice inside his head is screaming at him to ask, but he just forces himself to breathe slowly before he starts speaking. To keep his voice calm, and at a neutral pitch.

“That sounds nice,” he finally says, nodding. “I’d like that.”

Jaebum beams at him, and hops up onto his bike. “I’ll text you – Saturday afternoon sound good?”

“Sure,” Jinyoung says, but Jaebum’s already starting to cycle away. Still holding his coffee in one hand. “Yah!” Jinyoung shouts after Jaebum, “Don’t cycle one-handed!”

Jaebum casts Jinyoung a brief backwards glance. “Don’t worry,” he calls back, “I won’t run over any other pretty boys.”

And, despite himself, Jinyoung smiles. Because unless he’d misheard, Jaebum had just called him pretty .

 

Chapter Text

 

Saturday arrives alarmingly quickly, even though the week feels like it drags on. Jinyoung can’t believe he’s standing in front of his mirror yet again, stressing about what to wear. Fashion has always been one thing that has come easily to Jinyoung – he has a fairly safe style, but he knows his aesthetic and he likes it.

But something about Jaebum, who looks so effortlessly cool all the time, whether he’s in a leather jacket and skinny jeans, or just about the baggiest clothing Jinyoung’s ever seen, seems to make Jinyoung nervous about the way he looks. He wants to give Jaebum the same kind of flutters in his stomach that Jaebum gives him.

He settles, in the end on a black turtleneck under a denim shirt, with fitted jeans and his black wool coat. Simple, but casual, he thinks to himself. Plausible deniability that he hadn’t spent over half an hour trying on different outfits to find one that he was happy with.

When he arrives at the address that Jaebum had texted him, however, Jinyoung is still blown away by how good Jaebum looks. His hair isn’t pushed back, but his fringe is parted and swept messily across his forehead. He grins broadly and gets to his feet when he sees Jinyoung, waves him over to a table by the window.

“I can see why you chose this place,” Jinyoung says, smiling, as he sits down opposite Jaebum.

A sheepish grin crosses Jaebum’s face, which Jinyoung shouldn’t find so endearing, but he does. “Too cheeky?” he asks, and there’s just the slightest hint of teasing in his voice.

Jinyoung glances at the walls of the coffee shop, which are decorated with all manner of bicycles, from modern racing bikes to absolutely antique-looking penny farthings. The table they’re at seems to be made of a sheet of glass laid over an old bike wheel.

“A little bit cheeky,” he teases back. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll have traumatic flashbacks to the time I was run over by an incredibly inconsiderate cyclist?”

“Don’t worry,” Jaebum replies without missing a beat, “if you faint I promise to catch you.”

There’s no mistaking the flirtatious tone of his voice this time. This is almost certainly a date, even though neither of them has even gone close to bringing it up. Jinyoung licks his lips nervously as the thought crosses his mind. He hasn’t been so nervous on a date since high school, doesn’t know what it is about Im Jaebum that makes his heart flutter like he’s a teenager again.

Thankfully, the waiter saunters over to take their order, which gives Jinyoung a chance to bury his face in the menu and collect himself. When their coffees arrive, they have little bicycles drawn on them in latter art, which Jinyoung rolls his eyes at.

“This seems a little excessive,” he says, but good-naturedly, gesturing at the coffees.

But Jaebum is just beaming at him as he takes tiny sips from the corner of the cup, like he’s trying not to disturb the art. “I think it’s cute,” he argues. Then a playful gleam flickers across his eyes, and he sets his cup down, cheeks lifting as he smirks at Jinyoung. “Cute, like you.”

Jinyoung tries to bite down his grin, but he can’t quite manage to hide it completely. “Shut up,” he shoots back, “don’t be gross.”

Jaebum just laughs, and the sound is so bright, so carefree, that Jinyoung wonders how he could have ever thought that Jaebum was grumpy. They talk easily, about school, and their families. Jinyoung finds out that Jaebum does photography on the side, attends a couple of classes on top of his main music production modules. And Jinyoung shares that even though he does like writing, he likes reading more, and his dream job is to write book reviews for magazines, websites – something like that.

Conversation is flowing so naturally, that it’s hours later before they realise they should probably head home, and Jinyoung can’t help but feel slightly disappointed to say goodbye.

But then Jaebum is offering to send Jinyoung home, and Jinyoung doesn’t even have to think, just agrees because why wouldn’t he, when they’re right in the middle of an argument about what superpower they would choose to have.

And even when they arrive, finally, at the front entrance to Jinyoung’s building, Jinyoung still doesn’t want to Jaebum to go. He turns to face Jaebum, looks up at him. The air around them suddenly shifts, gets heavier with anticipation.

“Thank you for walking me home,” Jinyoung says. The memory of himself, standing in this exact same spot, after his first date with Hyunwoo, comes unbidden into his mind. But this time, it feels different. He isn’t itching to get away. His heart is pounding, his stomach twisting with nerves.

Jaebum smiles softly at Jinyoung. When he speaks, his voice is low, and velvety smooth. “Thank you for coming out with me,” he replies. On a date , Jinyoung thinks, but he doesn’t say anything. Neither does Jaebum, though the thought hangs in the space between them.

They’re a lot closer than Jinyoung had realised. His eyes flicker to Jaebum’s lips, with look soft, and plump. They had felt soft and plump, Jinyoung thinks. He wants to feel them again, pressed against his own lips, against his skin. He exhales slowly.

“Do you want to come up, for – uh –” Jinyoung begins, then trails off. It feels stupid to offer coffee, after they had just been at a coffee shop. Drinking coffee.

But Jaebum just murmurs agreeingly. “I would like that,” he says, and those words curl deep into Jinyoung’s gut, sends a frisson of anticipation twisting through him.

 

*

 

“Mark’s out with Jackson today,” Jinyoung says, as he’s unlocking the door to his apartment, and he can feel his cheeks heating with embarrassment. He’s trying to say it casually, but he knows that Jaebum knows what he’s implying.

Jaebum doesn’t say anything, just murmurs, “oh?”, as if he isn’t thinking exactly what Jinyoung is thinking. But Jaebum’s standing so close to Jinyoung, right behind him with his broad chest almost touching Jinyoung’s back, that – to be honest – Jinyoung isn’t thinking of very much right now.

“We’ve just had coffee, but do you want tea? Or anything to eat?” Jinyoung asks, once they’re inside. Jaebum shrugs off his coat and walks over to the sofa to set it down. He hangs up his own coat, gestures vaguely towards the kitchen, but he doesn’t – can’t – take his eyes off Jaebum. And Jaebum isn’t looking away from him either.

“Maybe,” Jaebum says, stepping closer to Jinyoung, though the way his eyes are raking up and down Jinyoung’s body suggests that he has something else on his mind other than food. “What do you have?”

Jinyoung swallows, exhales heavily as Jaebum steps closer, close to enough to touch if Jinyoung reaches out. “Biscuits,” he offers feebly, his breath catching in his throat, “apples. Ice cream.”

Jaebum smirks, stepping even closer, right into Jinyoung’s personal space, backing Jinyoung against the wall. He’s so close that Jinyoung can smell his cologne, faint now, but distinctly woody and musky. It smells just like him, just like how he is, that it makes Jinyoung want to press his nose into Jaebum’s neck and breathe him in.

“I don’t think I want any of that,” Jaebum murmurs, and suddenly his chest is pressed against Jinyoung’s, his lips hovering right by Jinyoung’s ear. “What do you want?”

Jinyoung can barely stay upright, he feels so light-headed. “I think you know what I want,” he says, a gentle whine to his voice, which turns into a moan when he feels Jaebum’s lips latch on to the skin on the side of his neck.

“I don’t think I do,” Jaebums purrs, nipping at Jinyoung’s neck with his teeth, drawing a whimper out from him.

But Jinyoung’s stubborn, so even as he angles his chin to give Jaebum better access, he’s still refusing to admit to how much he desperately wants Jaebum right now. Instead, he just hooks his fingers into Jaebum’s belt loops, pulls him impossibly closer, rolls their hips together.

Jaebum chuckles softly against Jinyoung’s shoulder, one hand bracing himself against the wall next to Jinyoung, the other hand digging into Jinyoung’s hip. “Fine,” he says, leaning back slightly to look Jinyoung in the eye. “If you won’t say it, I will – Jinyoung-ah, I want you .”

And the way Jaebum’s lips curl around Jinyoung’s name, the way his eyes darken as he looks at Jinyoung, ignites a fire within Jinyoung. His hands fly to Jaebum’s face, cupping his jawline, pulling him close, until their lips crash together and their tongues are licking into each other’s mouths.

Jinyoung feels like his brain is short-circuiting. He doesn’t know how they go from the living room to his room, doesn’t know how they end up both shirtless, doesn’t know when their jeans come off. Everything is happening in a blur and all Jinyoung can think about is Jaebum, Jaebum, Jaebum .

He’s running his hands down the smooth expanse of Jaebum’s chest, the ridges of his abs, the broad width of his shoulders, all of it so unreal in its perfection. He can’t believe he’s here, in his bed, and Im Jaebum in here with him, the same Im Jaebum that he’d been hate-thirsting over for months, that he didn’t think would ever cast him a second glance.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Jaebum hisses into Jinyoung’s ear, and Jinyoung’s going wild with desire. He palms at Jaebum’s dick through his boxers, and it feels so warm and so hard against Jinyoung’s hand that he just wants more, so he slips his hand under the waistband of Jaebum’s boxers, drinks in the delightful hiss of pleasure that escapes Jaebum when skin comes into contact with skin.

Then they’re fumbling about in Jinyoung’s bedside drawer for lube and condoms, and Jinyoung’s squirming under Jaebum as Jaebum slides one finger, then two, into Jinyoung, scissoring his fingers apart and making Jinyoung whimper with both pain and pleasure.

“Please,” Jinyoung whines, twisting his hips, trying to create more friction, “please, just fuck me. Hyung, please.”

Jaebum growls – actually growls – at this. “Say that again,” he demands, “call me that again.”

Jinyoung looks up at Jaebum with surprise, then dawning realisation. “What, hyung?” he asks, faux-innocently. “I want you to fuck me, make me feel so good, hyung .” He drags out the last word, bites on his lower lip as he looks up at Jaebum through hooded lids.

It has the intended effect, because Jaebum’s pulling his fingers out with a muttered, “fuck, you’re hot,” and sliding the condom on.

What Jinyoung doesn’t expect, though, is for Jaebum to flip them both over, and he has to steady himself with his arms so he doesn’t collapse into Jaebum.

“Ride me,” Jaebum says, fingers clenching into the soft flesh of Jinyoung’s ass. “I want you to ride me.”

The mere thought of it is so arousing that Jinyoung shudders with desire. He slides himself down onto Jaebum’s dick, slowly, carefully – but also teasingly, pausing along the way, wriggling his hips, until Jaebum’s a twisting mess below him.

“You like this, hyung?” Jinyoung purrs, when he finally drops himself down completely. The sensation of Jaebum filling him entirely is so, impossibly, wonderful. But what’s even better is the way that Jaebum groans, covering his eyes with his forearm, and bucks his hips up into Jinyoung jerkily, like he can’t help himself.

Slowly, as he gets used to the stretch of Jaebum inside him, as the ache fades away and is replaced by sheer pleasure, Jinyoung starts to move on top of Jaebum. He tugs Jaebum’s arm away from his face. “Look at me, hyung,” he says. “I want to see what I do to you.”

Jaebum groans again, but he obediently lets his hands fall to Jinyoung’s hips, where he clutches on tightly. “You look so good, so beautiful,” he mumbles somewhat incoherently.

“Yeah?” Jinyoung hums, arching his back even as he flushes with pride at the praise. “Then fuck me, hyung, fuck me hard, please – I want you, so, so bad.”

Jaebum doesn’t need to be asked twice. He uses his hold on Jinyoung’s hips as leverage, starts to pick up the pace, thrusting firmly into Jinyoung at first, then more quickly, and more quickly, until he’s hammering into Jinyoung, and Jinyoung is bouncing on top of him, delirious with pleasure.

“Touch yourself,” Jaebum orders, and Jinyoung does, but it takes only a few tugs before he’s spilling all over Jaebum’s stomach, and chest, and with a grunt of pleasure Jaebum’s coming undone as well.

They’re both slick with sweat, and breathing heavily, but when their eyes meet Jaebum just smiles so incredibly softly at Jinyoung, pushes himself to sit upright, and presses the gentlest of kisses on Jinyoung’s forehead.

Even though they’ve just had sex, the intimacy of the moment is suddenly overwhelming. The look in Jaebum’s eyes is so soft, so affectionate, that Jinyoung can’t bear to look at him anymore, looks away hurriedly instead, clambers off Jaebum somewhat ungracefully. His heart is pounding, and he can feel himself being weird and awkward, even as he’s pointing Jaebum towards where the shower is, and getting himself cleaned up and dressed.

But Jaebum’s just so unbelievably sexy while also painfully cute, so when Jaebum wanders out of the bathroom with his hair wet and a towel wrapped around his waist, Jinyoung has to clench his fists to stop himself from either pressing a thousand kisses into his cheeks, or throwing him onto the bed and riding him until they both see stars.

“Will I see you again?” asks Jaebum, as he’s pulling his jeans back on. He peers up at Jinyoung, and there’s a hint of nervousness in his expression that makes Jinyoung’s heart swell.

“Yeah, I guess,” Jinyoung mumbles, trying to sound casual. Cool. Effortless. Instead he thinks he sounds like a bundle of nerves, which isn’t surprising at all, because that’s exactly what he is.

He walks Jaebum to the door, lets Jaebum give him a peck on the lips, which was a mistake – the slight contact reignites the flame of desire within Jinyoung, and he has to force himself to move back, instead of what he actually wants to do, which is to throw himself into Jaebum’s arms and drag him back to bed.

“Thank you for coffee,” Jinyoung says, smiling shyly. He can’t understand how Jaebum manages to make him feel so young, so nervous, so inexperienced. It’s nice in a way, where everything feels new and exciting again, but it’s also terribly unnerving.

“My pleasure,” replies Jaebum, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Well, uh – I’ll text you? I guess?”

Jinyoung nods slowly, reminding himself not to look too eager. He doesn’t want to complete freak Jaebum out, after all. “Yes,” he says, tone completely level. “Do.”

And then Jaebum’s waving awkwardly, grinning that stupid adorable lopsided grin at Jinyoung, and walking back down the corridor towards the lifts.

When Jinyoung can no longer see him, he shuts the door, leans against it heavily. Then a grin slowly breaks out over his face, and Jinyoung can’t help but clench his fists and do a little jig of happiness.

It’s stupid, how happy being with Jaebum makes him, when a few months ago he couldn’t even stand the guy. But he supposes that’s the way these things go. And he’s really, really not complaining.

 

*

 

Jinyoung and Jaebum were terrible at talking about their feelings before they had sex. The fact that they’ve both seen each other naked doesn’t change this.

What happens, instead, is that they try to go about their lives as if nothing has changed.

Even though they have started going to their coffee shop – it’s their coffee shop now – every morning, not just to get takeaway coffees, but for breakfast before their classes. And on Tuesdays, Jaebum’s lectures finish half an hour before Jinyoung’s, so he sometimes grabs them both a coffee and waits for Jinyoung outside his faculty, walks him home.

It’s all so unbearably cute that Jinyoung sometimes feels a swell of joy wash over him during odd moments in his day, but at the same time it’s frustrating to be so happy and not be able to talk about any of it. He can’t even smile too much – he had beamed so broadly after receiving a message from Jaebum that Bambam had asked if he was plotting someone’s murder.

But no. It was just because of a selfie Jaebum had texted of himself curled up in a pile of blankets, with the caption, I love naps .

That was it. That was enough to make Jinyoung grin so hard that his cheeks hurt and he frightened the maknaes .

There was also the thrill of keeping things a secret. Mark sort of knows, of course, but Jinyoung’s still being coy about how often he’s sleeping with Jaebum. As far as Mark knows, it was still a one-time thing. And thankfully, Mark hasn’t really been prying that much, because he has enough to contend with as it is.

Nor has anyone else really noticed anythign amiss, because everyone’s too busy teasing Mark and Jackson, especially after Jackson loudly announced one day that they have officially moved from being ‘ friends with benefits ’ to being ‘ boyfriends’ . The most surprising thing about this announcement is that Mark doesn’t even get cross at Jackson for shouting this in the middle of the dining hall, just giggles and covers his face with his hands.

Whipped, thinks Jinyoung. Then he thinks of Jaebum possibly, maybe, doing the same one day – thinks of Jaebum as his boyfriend – and his cheeks heat up instantly. He’s no better than Mark. Maybe even worse than Mark, because at least Jackson actually is his boyfriend. Jinyoung, on the other hand, is fantasising about something that is miles away from actually happening, if it even happens at all.

Friends with benefits is fine for now, Jinyoung thinks. He doesn’t want to worry about the future, not this time, even though worrying is his specialty. But being with Jaebum – both physically and otherwise – is so great that for the moment Jinyoung doesn’t want to do anything to ruin it.

In any case, the upshot of this is that Mark and Jackson were at each other’s places having sex basically all the time. Which meant that Jinyoung and Jaebum always knew when one of them had their apartment to themselves, and there isn’t too much of a need for sneaking around.

But with that false sense of security comes a complacency, and they aren’t as careful as they should be, and Jinyoung doesn’t do a proper check of how he looks when Jaebum leaves his apartment one day.

Mark’s barely in the door from his date with Jackson, when he pauses. Stares at Jinyoung, who’s sitting on the sofa reading a book.

“How was your date?” asks Jinyoung, trying to stay casual. The way Mark’s narrowing his eyes at him is unnerving, but maybe it’s nothing.

“Fine,” replies Mark, hopping onto the sofa next to Jinyoung, curling his legs up underneath him, “how was yours?”

Jinyoung whirls his head round. “What?”

Mark smirks, reaches out to grab Jinyoung’s chin in his hand, tilt it to the side. Exposing Jinyoung’s neck. For a heart-stopping second Jinyoung thinks that Mark is going to kiss his neck, because Mark is leaning his head down towards Jinyoung’s collarbone, but at the very last minute, Mark stops.

“Yep,” Mark says, a note of triumph in his voice, as he releases Jinyoung’s face, “the angle’s perfect.”

Now that he’s had a second to recover from the shock of having his face grabbed, Jinyoung glares at Mark. “Perfect for what ?” he snaps irritably.

“For a hickey,” Mark declares. He reaches out and taps the side of Jinyoung’s neck with two fingers. “Right there.”

Jinyoung colours, one hand flying to his neck to cover the bruise. He and Jaebum had been so careful, at the start, about where they marked each other. Clearly all caution had been thrown to the wind.

“Did Jaebum give you that?” asks Mark. “And before you try to lie, I know it wasn’t Hyunwoo – Jacks and I bumped into him on our way back, he was coming out of the library after what he described as ‘an endless day of studying’.”

It wouldn’t be too difficult to lie, Jinyoung thinks, to just say it’s someone new, someone Mark doesn’t know. But, for some reason, Jinyoung doesn’t want to do that. Not anymore.

“Yeah,” he says, “yeah, it was Jaebum.”

Mark’s eyes widen, and his eyebrows raise. “So, you guys are doing this, huh?” he asks. “Is it like, official?”

Jinyoung scrunches up his face. “No, it’s not, it’s just casual,” he says, words flooding out of him in a panic.

“Okay,” says Mark, contemplatively. “Do you want it to be official?”

“No,” replies Jinyoung, quickly. A little too quickly. Then he hesitates. “Maybe? But probably not. I don’t know.”

Mark sighs. “Look, you’re not going to like this – but I think you should talk to him.”

Jinyoung pouts. “You’re right, I don’t like it,” he complains.

Mark raises an eyebrow. “At the very least, you should talk to Hyunwoo,” he says. “I know you guys aren’t exclusive, but you’ve been going out for a few months now. Even if you haven’t had sex. It’s still been a while.”

This makes Jinyoung grimace. He’s been putting off thinking about Hyunwoo. They haven’t seen each other very much since Jinyoung had started sleeping with Jaebum. Jinyoung knows that he and Hyunwoo are just dating casually, that he doesn’t owe Hyunwoo anything, but some part of him still feels guilty.

But at the same time, ending things with Hyunwoo when they’re going perfectly well seems like too much of an admission that he wants to focus on whatever this budding thing is with Jaebum.

“You’re right,” Jinyoung admits, “I know, it’s terrible – but I will sort it out, I promise. I will.” He nods firmly at Mark, making a promise to himself as well. No more messing about. He’s going to figure out what he wants and what he can have and what he’s going to do.

 

Chapter Text

 

Mark and Jackson happen to be going away for the weekend – to what Jackson described as a romantic log cabin in the woods, though Mark has his doubts – so it’s the perfect time to sit Jaebum and have a proper conversation. For once in their damn lives.

Jinyoung invites Jaebum over to the apartment for dinner, making sure to emphasise that Mark is going to be gone all weekend, and that he can stay the night if he wants. They’ve never stayed over at each other’s places overnight before, so Jinyoung’s a little nervous about asking, but Jaebum replies to his text almost immediately.

I’ll bring a toothbrush, then!

So far, so good.

Jinyoung spends the entire day cooking – soondubu jjigae, which he recalls Jaebum mentioning liking. He makes a mess of it, most of the tofu disintegrating into much smaller fragments than intended, but in the end it tastes pretty decent, and Jinyoung supposes that’s good enough.

When the doorbell rings, Jinyoung actually jumps. He buzzes Jaebum in, fidgets nervously on the spot as he waits for Jaebum to climb the stairs to his floor.

“Hi,” Jaebum says as he steps through the front door, and he’s just in a white t-shirt under an over-sized blue button down top, and faded blue jeans, but god he looks good.

Jinyoung smiles, shutting the door behind him. “Hi,” he replies.

There’s a moment of hesitation between the two of them, and Jinyoung sees Jaebum’s eyes flick down to his lips, and he wonders if Jaebum’s resisting the urge to kiss him as well. Because Jinyoung is certainly fighting against every fibre of his being to not just jump Jaebum right there and then.

“I brought soju,” Jaebum says, pulling a small bottle out of his bag and offering it to Jinyoung, who takes it and goes to set it on the table. This is maybe the most awkward they’ve ever been around each other, Jinyoung thinks, cringing internally. He knows that it’s at least in part because he’s so caught up in his own head, thinking about how and when he’s going to try and talk to Jaebum about what they are .

But then Jaebum is walking towards Jinyoung, resting his hand on the back of Jinyoung’s neck, and teasingly saying, “Nice apron,” and the awkwardness is broken.

“Shut up,” jokes Jinyoung, elbowing Jaebum in the ribs, but they’re both laughing. “Don’t insult the chef.”

They spend most of dinner goofing around with each other, and Jinyoung laughs so hard and so often that his cheeks start to ache. But the more soju he drinks, the more he can’t help but think about what happens after dinner. And how much he can’t wait.

When Jinyoung gets up to bring the dishes into the kitchen, Jaebum stands up and follows him.

“What are you doing?” Jinyoung asks, trying to sound annoyed, but his voice hitches. Jaebum’s standing behind him, snaking his arms around his waist. “I need to do the dishes,” Jinyoung protests, but it sounds feeble even to his own ears.

Jaebum nips at the lobe of Jinyoung’s ear. “We can do that later,” he hums, and the warmth of his breath sends shivers down Jinyoung’s spine.

For all the talking they’ve done over dinner, they haven’t actually done any of the talking that Jinyoung had told himself very firmly they would do. But Jinyoung’s helpless to resist, not when he can feel his own want coiling inside him.

He twists round in Jaebum’s arms, smiles teasingly. “What do you propose we do instead?” he asks, cocking his head to the side in an expression of faux-innocence.

Jaebum grins at him, and then he’s dipping his head down to catch Jinyoung’s lips in his. Jinyoung can feel him smiling, even as they kiss, and there’s something so pure and innocent about that – it makes Jinyoung feel weak-kneed in a completely different way.

And even as they’re stumbling back into Jinyoung’s room, they’re giggling like children, and Jaebum’s tugging Jinyoung along and peppering his face with soft, affectionate kisses. Jinyoung tumbles on top of Jaebum into bed, their limbs all in a tangle, and Jaebum places his hands on Jinyoung’s cheeks.

“You’re so beautiful,” Jaebum whispers. His voice is mellow, and his eyes sparkling with what Jinyoung can only describe as fondness. It makes Jinyoung want to bury his face into Jaebum’s neck.

So he does, and he tongues at the hollow of Jaebum’s collarbone, which elicits a tinkling laugh from Jaebum. The sound fills Jinyoung with a warm diffusion of joy, and then they’re rolling over and Jinyoung’s on his back, looking up at Jaebum.

Jaebum opens his mouth, looks like he’s about to say something, then hesitates. Shuts his mouth again, and smiles at Jinyoung instead. “I really like being with you,” he murmurs. The words make Jinyoung’s heart clench and unclench in excitement.

“Me too,” he replies, and then he’s dragging Jaebum down by the back of his neck for another kiss.

Something’s different about the sex this time. It’s more laid-back, more languid and lazy – all smiles and soft kisses and unbearably intimate eye contact. Jaebum’s hands on his skin don’t set him aflame, they send waves of warmth spreading through him slowly, until he’s ready to melt.

Jaebum comes first, shuddering with pleasure, his lips pressed into Jinyoung’s shoulder. The feeling of their bodies pressed flush against each other is so comforting that Jinyoung isn’t even thinking about getting himself off. He wraps his arms around Jaebum to pull him even closer, even though they’re about as close as they could be.

Then Jaebum’s wriggling out of his grasp, and getting rid of the condom, and Jinyoung’s reaching down to take care of himself. But Jaebum tugs his hand away, and slips down Jinyoung’s body, lavishing kisses on his skin along the way.

When Jinyoung feels the wetness of Jaebum’s tongue dragging up along the length of his achingly hard dick, he almost comes on the spot. But he clenches his fists in the sheets, tries to hold on, even as Jaebum’s looking coyly up at him and sliding his lips around the head of Jinyoung’s cock, his tongue swirling and lapping away until Jinyoung’s trembling with the effort of not bucking his hips into Jaebum’s mouth.

Jaebum moans throatily around Jinyoung’s dick, and starts moving in earnest. The sight of his head bobbing and down, added to to the fact that Jaebum’s practically swallowing him whole, finally sends Jinyoung over the edge.

“Jaebum-ah,” he croaks out, “I’m going to come–”

But, instead of lifting away from his dick, Jaebum just gives him a lusty look and deep throats him. With a grunt, Jinyoung comes, and he feels the muscles of Jaebum’s throat clench around him as he swallows.

Jinyoung throws an arm over his eyes. “Oh god,” he moans feebly, “you’ve killed me.”

Incredibly, Jaebum giggles. Actually giggles, his eyes creasing into crescents, and he’s showing off his perfect, blindingly white teeth. “That good, eh?” Jaebum hums, climbing to his feet and pulling his clothes on. He looks so proud of himself, and it’s so endearing that Jinyoung’s heart hurts.

“You’ve spoilt me for blowjobs forever,” Jinyoung says, reaching down to pull his own boxers on. “I’ll never get one that good ever again.” It’s an exaggeration, probably – but not definitely. Jinyoung’s mind is definitely foggy with satisfaction, and it’s the best he’s felt in a while.

Although, maybe that wasn’t entirely down to the blowjob. Maybe it was just the sex. The soft, affectionate, intimate sex.

Jinyoung doesn’t want to think about what that means, the fact that he very possible, maybe, just made love to Jaebum. Nor the fact that it’s sent him into such a daze of happiness.

Jaebum lets out a muted chuckle. He’s turned away from Jinyoung, pulling his t-shirt back on.

“As long as I’m better in bed than Hyunwoo,” he says, lightly, still not looking at Jinyoung.

“What?” Jinyoung asks. His heart beat is speeding up. Jaebum’s voice is breezy, but there’s something about it that’s also slightly off. It’s almost too breezy, like he’s trying to hide something. Like he’s probing for an answer to a question he doesn’t want to ask. But Jinyoung isn’t sure what the question is.

Jaebum turns, finally. He shrugs, clambers back into bed with Jinyoung. “Just making a joke,” he says, wrapping his arms around Jinyoung and pulling him into a cuddle.

It’s not the first time they’ve cuddled after sex before. Jinyoung hooks his head into the space under Jaebum’s chin, his cheek pressed against Jaebum’s chest. They fit so well together, legs intertwined, Jaebum’s arms around Jinyoung’s shoulders, and Jinyoung’s around Jaebum’s waist.

But something isn’t sitting right inside Jinyoung. It’s the perfect moment to ask Jaebum where he sees them going, Jinyoung knows this. The nerves are making it difficult for him to form any coherent thoughts, though, or to turn those thoughts into words.

“I haven’t slept with Hyunwoo,” Jinyoung says, finally. They’ve kissed, but nothing else. Hyunwoo hasn’t even been to the apartment.

This is met by a moment of silence. Jinyoung thinks that Jaebum’s probably surprised. Which is fair enough, given he’s been dating Hyunwoo for a good few months now.

When Jaebum finally speaks, his voice is so controlled, so even. “You’re still seeing him, though?” he asks, like he’s just making conversation.

Technically, yes. But they’ve barely seen each other in the last month or so – around the same time Jinyoung and Jaebum started sleeping together, totally a coincidence and not connected – that Jinyoung doesn’t even really know if he and Hyunwoo are still a thing.

He half-shrugs, which is a little awkward while he’s curled up against Jaebum. “Yeah,” he says, because that’s the truth. “Sort of.”

Jaebum makes a non-committal sort of noise of agreement. “Hyunwoo seems nice,” he says.

“Yeah,” agrees Jinyoung. Hyunwoo’s so nice, so understanding, that Jinyoung feels terrible about not liking him more. But being with Hyunwoo just doesn’t make his heart race. He had thought that maybe he’d just needed to give it more time, but nothing’s really changed in all the time they’ve been going on dates.

And he certainly doesn’t make Jinyoung feel anything even close to the way Jaebum makes him feel.

“Would you like me to stop seeing Hyunwoo?” Jinyoung blurts out, before he can over-think it and psych himself out. Because he would stop, if Jaebum asked. He would stop seeing anyone else. It wouldn’t even be difficult – he hasn’t been interested in anyone, really, not since Jaebum had come along.

Jinyoung swallows tightly, heart pounding as he waits for Jaebum’s response.

It’s not the response he wants.

“No,” Jaebum says, after a breath of silence, “no, of course not.”

“Are you sure?” Jinyoung asks again. Maybe Jaebum’s just being polite. “Because I can. I can stop seeing him. If you want me to.”

Jaebum laughs, like it’s a comical suggestion. The sound pierces through Jinyoung’s chest.

“Don’t be silly,” he says, “don’t stop seeing him because of me. Do what you want.”

Jinyoung shifts in Jaebum’s arms so that he can tilt his chin, look up at Jaebum. The expression on Jaebum’s face is unreadable. He glances down at Jinyoung briefly, flashes him a breezy smile.

“So you – don’t mind?” asks Jinyoung, slowly. “You don’t mind if I keep seeing Hyunwoo?”

“Of course not,” responds Jaebum. “Why would I mind? It’s not like we’re boyfriends or anything. We’re just having fun.”

Jinyoung forces himself to smile back at Jaebum. Folds himself back against Jaebum’s broad chest.

“Yeah,” he murmurs, squeezing his eyes shut.

He tries to ignore the prickling feeling at the back of his eyes. Clenches his jaw with the effort of focusing on making sure that not a single tear makes its way out past his eyelids.

“Yeah, of course – we’re just having fun.”

But suddenly, it doesn’t feel like it anymore.

 

*

 

Jinyoung makes it through the night with Jaebum by stubbornly ignoring the weight pressing into his chest. They spend most of their time awake just curled into each other’s sides in bed, talking while idly tracing fingers across skin. And when it’s time for bed they brush their teeth standing side by side in the bathroom, giggling and nudging each other playfully.

They fall asleep in a tangle of limbs, Jaebum sprawled across Jinyoung, who’s tucked against his side. And they wake up in a slightly different tangle of limbs, Jaebum spooning Jinyoung, their legs intertwined.

It’s Jinyoung who wakes up first, blearily blinking his eyes open to bright sunlight flooding the room. He feels the warmth and the weight of Jaebum behind him, and for a moment he lets himself pretend that he can stay here forever.

But the memory of their conversation from the night before comes back to him, and even though Jinyoung doesn’t know what to think about it, he at least knows that he needs to do some thinking about it. Needs to sort through the knotted mess of emotions balled up in his chest.

He shifts, trying to extricate himself from Jaebum’s arms, but the movement makes Jaebum stir.

“Mm,” murmurs Jaebum, tightening his grip around Jinyoung’s waist, his lips moving against the skin at the back of Jinyoung’s neck. “Morning. You smell nice.”

Jinyoung is fairly certain that he does not smell nice, but hearing Jaebum say that makes him feel all funny inside. He wriggles more, twists around to look at Jaebum. His eyes are still shut, and Jinyoung traces a finger softly across those twin moles above his left eye.

Jaebum squints at Jinyoung through one eye. “You examining me?” he asks, smirking. Even though it’s barely ten in the morning, and no one should look so charming so early in the day.

“We should get up,” is what Jinyoung says, propping himself up. “Mark said he’d be back around midday.”

Jaebum stretches lazily. “Does Mark know about us?” he asks.

Us. There isn’t an us, Jinyoung wants to say. You’ve made that very clear.

But he just shrugs. “Sort of,” Jinyoung replies, “but I don’t want to give him more ammunition for teasing than necessary.”

“Fair enough,” agrees Jaebum, clambering out of bed and hunting for his jeans on the floor.

Jinyoung watches Jaebum move through his room, looking so comfortable and at ease in his space, feels a odd pang of nostalgia.

“What about Jackson?” Jinyoung asks. “Does he know?”

Jaebum hesitates midway through pulling his shirt on. “He suspects there’s someone, but no – I haven’t told him,” he says, finally. He stares at Jinyoung questioningly. “Should I tell him?”

Jinyoung considers this for a moment. If things had gone differently, he might be grinning cheekily and saying, ‘yes, yes, tell him’. He might not be so worried about keeping things a secret.

But as it is, he barely knows himself what’s going on between them.

“No,” Jinyoung says, firmly. “No, don’t tell him.”

Not for now, at least. And maybe not ever.

 

*

 

When Mark gets home, Jinyoung is sitting alone at the dining table, eating lunch. There’s leftover rice from last night, but nothing else, and Jinyoung can’t be bothered to cook when he’s feeling so down, so he just scoops out a small dish of kimchi.

“I’m home!” announces Mark in a sing-song voice as he saunters in the front door, dropping his bag on the floor. Then he takes one look at Jinyoung and his face scrunches up in concern. “What happened?” he asks, sitting down at the table across from Jinyoung.

Jinyoung looks up at Mark. “Is it that obvious?” he tries to quip playfully, but he just sounds morose.

“You’re eating a sad lunch,” points out Mark, gesturing to the plain rice and kimchi sitting in front of Jinyoung. “Why are you eating a sad lunch? Did you talk to Jaebum?”

“Kind of,” says Jinyoung, half-shrugging. “I think he doesn’t want things to be any more serious.”

Mark frowns. “Are you sure?” he asks. “What did he say?”

Jinyoung chews on his bottom lip. The conversation keeps replaying in his head, but he really doesn’t want to talk about it. So he just sort of vaguely mumbles, “He said we were just having fun.”

“Is that it?” presses Mark. “Did you ask if he wanted something more?”

“I asked if he wanted me to stop seeing Hyunwoo,” replies Jinyoung. “He said no.”

“Wait, what?” Mark sounds confused.

Jinyoung purses his lips. “He told me to do whatever I want,” he says sharply.

Mark’s features twist into a sort of frustrated scowl. “That doesn’t necessarily mean–”

But Jinyoung cuts him off. He’s heard enough.

“I think if he wanted something more he wouldn’t have told me to go on seeing someone else!” snaps Jinyoung irritably.

A moment of silence passes, and Jinyoung hands his head in guilt. He’s not angry at Mark, and certainly shouldn’t have snapped at him. But he’s just – well, sad.

Mark understands, though, because Mark always understands. He gets to his feet, shuffles his chair around the table so that he can put his arm around Jinyoung.

“Oh, Nyoung-ah,” he murmurs soothingly.

Jinyoung shrugs half-heartedly. “It’s not a big deal,” he says, even though he doesn’t believe it. It certainly doesn’t feel like. What it feels like is loss – which is ridiculous, because there isn’t anything between him and Jaebum to be lost. “We weren’t even going out.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t be sad,” replies Mark, leaning his head against Jinyoung’s shoulder.

“No, but it doesn’t make sense,” protests Jinyoung, “I was fine with the way things are, before. I was fine with whatever this is. Why should realising that this is all he wants change anything?”

Mark hums contemplatively. “Because you were hoping for something more,” he suggests, quietly, like he knows that Jinyoung already knows this.

Jinyoung closes his eyes, exhales long and slow. He can feel his chest tightening with that thick feeling of wanting to cry. “I feel so stupid,” he mumbles.

“It’s not stupid,” Mark says, tightening his grip on Jinyoung’s shoulder. “It’s stupider not to give things a chance.”

It may not be stupid, but it still hurts. Jinyoung rubs his palms across his face, pressing into his eye sockets. He can feel the dampness seeping out from between his eyelids. “I feel shitty,” he mumbles into his hands.

Jinyoung knows, in his head, that Jaebum likes him at least to some extent, wouldn’t be sleeping with him otherwise. But that doesn’t stop the realisation that Jaebum isn’t looking for anything more from feeling like a rejection of him as a person. Jinyoung’s never been good at not taking things personally.

“What are you going to do?” asks Mark, after a long silence.

And, for once, Jinyoung’s answer to this question isn’t ‘I don’t know’. But he doesn’t reply, because as much as he knows what he has to do – what would be the best thing to do, for himself – he really doesn’t want to do it.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jinyoung’s made up his mind, doesn’t want to give himself any time to back out of it.

So he waits just one day – and one night, which he spends sobbing into his pillow, because he’s decided he’s going to give himself just one night to wallow – before he pulls out his phone and texts Jaebum.

Are you free? Can we talk?

They arrange to meet at the coffee shop. Jinyoung had toyed with the idea of meeting at one of their apartments instead, for the privacy. But he doesn’t want to get distracted. Or, indeed, tempted.

It’s going to be difficult enough as it is.

Especially when Jaebum turns up looking casually ruffled, hair soft and flopping across his forehead, in big hoodie and jeans. He hops off his bike – that stupid bike that started this whole mess – and grins at Jinyoung as he walks over.

They sit in their usual spot, by the windows, Jinyoung cupping his hands around his coffee just so he can have somewhere to put his hands. He can’t bring himself to look Jaebum in the eye, looks instead out of the window at the slowly greening grass.

“You okay?” asks Jaebum. “You seem – odd.”

Jinyoung feels much, much more than just odd, but he just forces a smile at Jaebum. “Yeah,” he says. “I just – wanted to talk to you.”

A look of mild worry furrows Jaebum’s brow. “What about?” he asks, dragging out his words. Like he’s afraid of the answer. He looks so earnest, so concerned, that Jinyoung has to tear his eyes away from him, or he’ll never get the words out.

“I’ve been thinking, about this – whatever it is we’re doing,” Jinyoung says, looking down into his coffee cup. Watches the languid spirals of steam. Wonders idly if there’s another him, in another universe, one where he doesn’t have to have this conversation.

“Yeah?” Jaebum prompts. His voice is tense, and when Jinyoung peers up at him, he can see that his shoulders are rigid. He’s staring almost unblinkingly at Jinyoung.

Now or never.

Jinyoung grits his teeth.

“I think we should end things,” he says.

Silence descends, smothering and cold. Jinyoung doesn’t have anything else to say, but Jaebum isn’t saying anything either, so they’re just left hanging in the wilderness of silence. It makes him want to scream.

When Jaebum finally speaks, his voice is hard and cold as steel.

“Okay,” he says. “Sure. Let’s end things.”

There’s an ache in Jinyoung’s chest again, and it intensifies at Jaebum’s words. “That’s it?” he asks, despite himself, and he hates himself for it. What was he expecting? Did he think Jaebum would fall to his knees, beg for Jinyoung not to leave? That was never going to happen.

“Should there be more?” asks Jaebum, his voice completely cool and level. “If you want to end things, then let’s end things.”

“Right,” Jinyoung says, nodding. “Great.” But it doesn’t feel great. Not at all.

Jaebum lets out a sharp exhale. Pushes his chair back and gets to his feet. His coffee is sitting on the table, untouched.

The sudden movement throws Jinyoung slightly off balance. He looks up at Jaebum. “Are you leaving?” he asks.

“No reason for me to stay,” Jaebum replies, shrugging rigidly. He nods at Jinyoung. “I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah,” agrees Jinyoung, “see you around.” But Jaebum’s already walking out of the coffee shop. Jinyoung watches him hop on his bike, watches him cycle away.

Jinyoung’s the one who ended things. But somehow, it still feels like Jaebum’s the one leaving.

 

*

 

When Jinyoung gets home, Mark is sitting on the sofa waiting for him.

“Where have you been?” Mark asks, his worry evident in the tightness around his eyes. He gets to his feet, hurries over the Jinyoung. “Are you okay? You look – tired.”

Jinyoung forces a feeble smile. “I went to see Jaebum,” he says, shuffling listlessly into his room. Mark follows him in, sits on the edge of the bed as Jinyoung curls up into the fetal position and tugs the covers up over himself.

“Yeah?” Mark presses. “How was that?”

“Fine,” replies Jinyoung, out of habit. Then he groans, drags the covers all the way over his head. “No, not fine. I told him we should end things.”

Mark is silent for a moment, and Jinyoung is starting to wonder whether he’d heard him. But then Mark reaches a hand to squeeze Jinyoung’s shoulder through the covers. “You broke up with him?” he asks, quietly.

Jinyoung pokes his head out of the covers. “Can’t break up if you were never going out,” he says.

“Not the point,” replies Mark, gently flicking him on the forehead. “Are you okay?”

Jinyoung makes a sort of strangled noise in the back of his throat. “It sucks, but it’s for the best,” he mumbles, even though he just doesn’t quite believe it. “It’ll only suck more in the future, if I get more attached.” After all, it hadn’t taken long for him to get his hopes up this high. If he waited any longer, Jaebum’s rejection might actually just break him.

Mark hums softly, crawls under the covers with Jinyoung. It’s a little awkward trying to cuddle, with Jinyoung curled up into a tight ball, but Mark manages it somehow. He leans his chin onto the top of Jinyoung’s head, and Jinyoung buries his face into Mark’s chest gratefully.

“That’s surprisingly mature of you,” Mark says, rubbing soothing circles into Jinyoung’s back.

“What are you talking about – I’m very mature,” complains Jinyoung, but without heat. He curls his arms around Mark’s waist, presses the two of them together as he tries to keep the tears in his eyes from spilling out past his lashes.

They lie like that, tangled up in each other’s arms, for a few minutes. Jinyoung feels exhaustion starting to overtake him, feels his limbs start to slowly relax. He doesn’t remember falling asleep.

 

*

 

Jaebum arrives home in something of a daze, Jinyoung’s words ringing in his head.

I think we should end things.

He collapses onto the sofa, replaying that last conversation they’d had – the day before, waking up to the warmth of Jinyoung curled up in his arms. And the night before that, the first time he’d stayed over at Jinyoung’s place. How had things gone so wrong, so suddenly?

“I fucked up,” announces Jaebum to the empty apartment.

That’s the only explanation. He’d tried so hard to hide the strength of the feelings he was beginning to feel for Jinyoung. But somehow, Jinyoung must have seen through him. Seen the desperation in his eyes when Hyunwoo’s name came up, the burning flame of jealousy that coiled in his gut.

Whatever it was that they had, it was meant to be something casual, and fun. No strings – and most certainly no feelings – attached. Jaebum had gone and ruined it by doing something stupid like falling for Jinyoung.

Jaebum tosses over on the sofa, buries his face into one of the cushions, letting out a low groan of frustration. Tears sting at his eyes, but he refuses to let them fall. Lets them seep into the fabric of the cushion cover instead.

He hears the front door opening, hears Jackson clattering in while singing loudly. Hears the singing stop abruptly, presumably when he sees Jaebum lying face down on the sofa.

“What are you doing here?” asks Jackson, nudging at Jaebum’s shoulder with his knee. “I thought you were going out.”

Jaebum grunts and twists his head round to peer up at Jackson. “I did,” he replies, “and I’m back now.”

Jackson frowns, perches himself on the sofa next to Jaebum. “Did something happen?” he asks, but there’s a heaviness in his voice that suggests he already knows the answer to that question.

“In a sense, yes,” mumbles Jaebum, lifting himself off the sofa and clambering into a seated position. “But in another sense, no.”

This makes Jackson roll his eyes. He pinches Jaebum’s cheek, and Jaebum flinches away. But the look in Jackson’s eyes is filled with nothing but concern. “Does this have anything to do with Jinyoung?” he asks, out of nowhere.

“What? Why would you ask that?” Jaebum startles – he hasn’t told Jackson anything about him and Jinyoung,and Jackson hasn’t asked in a while. “Did Mark say something?”

Jackson just sighs, shakes his head. “I’m not stupid, you know,” he says, “I have eyes. And yeah, Mark let something slip once about you and Jinyoung going for coffee of something, but other than that he’s remained completely mum. Something about best friends and duties of confidentiality. But I don’t need to know what exactly’s going on to know that something is going on.”

Jaebum twists his mouth into a pout. “Why haven’t you asked about it, then?” he grumbles.

“Because you obviously don’t want to talk about it,” replies Jackson, softly. “I know you well enough. There’s no point pushing until you’re ready.”

This level of restraint from – of all people – Jackson makes Jaebum feel such a surge of fondness for his best friend. He hangs his head. “Sorry for not telling you,” he mumbles, “I didn’t really know what there was to tell, to be honest.”

Jackson hums, nodding. “Do you want to tell me now?”

Not particularly, Jaebum thinks, but he supposes it might be good to talk about it. Especially since so much of his reluctance to tell Jackson had been because of his fear of making things seem to serious, and scaring Jinyoung away. No need to worry about that anymore.

So he starts spilling – it’s an incoherent, messy story, but Jaebum thinks he covers all the main points.

It’s only when he starts talking about Jinyoung ending things with him that he feels his chest clench, his throat start to close up.

“I think I screwed up,” he manages to get out, before a sudden sob rips its way out of his throat. Jaebum grunts in frustration, rubs at his eyes with the heels of his hands. “It’s so fucking annoying – I don’t get it. I don’t get why I like him so much.”

Jackson’s just looking at him, his hand resting on his knee. He’s been remarkably silent for the last five minutes, as Jaebum’s relayed his story. Now that Jaebum pauses, Jackson takes a heavy breath.

“Do you want to be with him?” he asks, carefully, like he’s picking his words with extreme caution.

Jaebum considers this for a moment. Thinks about Jinyoung’s disjointed, barking laughs. Thinks about the crinkles in the corners of his eyes when he smiles. Thinks about how he looks, pupils blown, writhing beneath him. Thinks about his deep, velvety voice, his large, warm hands, his full, pink lips, his round, perky ass.

“Yeah,” Jaebum breathes. “Yes, I do.”

He doesn’t know Jinyoung all that well, but he knows enough to know that he would love to give things a proper go with him. Too bad it’s too late now.

When he says this, Jackson just pouts. “Did he actually say why he wanted to end things?” asked Jackson. “Are you sure it’s because he thinks you’re getting too serious? Wasn’t he the one who suggested you stay over at his place?”

Jaebum shrugs. Jinyoung hadn’t said specifically, but what else could it be? “The timing makes too much sense,” says Jaebum glumly. “Maybe when I stayed over he realised things were getting too serious, and he decided he wanted out.”

Jackson frowns. “It’s just – the way he looks at you sometimes,” he says, slowly, like he’s not sure if he should say it, “he just seems to like you, a lot.”

A wry, bitter laugh escapes Jaebum. “Maybe I’m just really, really good in bed,” he quips.

This, at least, makes Jackson lighten up slightly. He scoffs, shoves at Jaebum’s arm. Then he pauses, tilts his head contemplatively. “Seriously, though,” he says, “do you want me to try and find out what’s going on from Mark? I’m sure I could get something out of him.”

The mere thought of this makes Jaebum feel panicked. “No, please don’t,” he replies quickly. “Jinyoung’s made himself perfectly clear. I don’t want him to think I’m harassing him or anything.”

Jackson looks doubtful. “ Has he made himself clear? It doesn’t sound clear to me,” he mumbles. “You’re just guessing that Jinyoung broke things off because they were getting too serious. But maybe he broke things off because they weren’t serious enough . You ever think about that?”

No, he hadn’t. But the mere thought seems ludicrous.

The more Jaebum considers it, though, the more he wonders.

Jinyoung had asked if he wanted him to stop seeing Hyunwoo. Jaebum had heard an unspoken accusation – how dare you want me to yourself . But maybe Jinyoung had just been asking something much more simple. Something like – do you want me to yourself?

And he does, Jaebum so desperately does.

“I’m just saying,” nudges Jackson, “maybe you should talk to him. Maybe you’re right, and he doesn’t want anything more. But at least you get to know for sure. What do you have to lose by asking?”

Jaebum makes a grunt in the back of his throat to indicate that he’s heard Jackson. But he doesn’t know what he wants to do. He lies back down on the sofa, stares at the ceiling.

What does he have to lose?

 

*

 

Jinyoung watches Hyunwoo carefully, waiting for his reaction. After a long, tense moment, a slow, knowing smile breaks out across his face, and he sighs lightly.

“To be honest, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise,” Hyunwoo says, shrugging. “You’ve been avoiding me for a few weeks now.”

Jinyoung winces upon hearing this. He had deflected Hyunwoo’s suggestions that they hang out with choruses of ‘I’m busy, sorry Hyung’ – but evidently Hyunwoo had figured out there was something else going on beneath the surface of excuses.

He starts to apologise, but Hyunwoo shakes his head to stop him. “Don’t apologise for how you feel,” he says, smiling warmly. Those familiar twin dimples appear on his cheeks, and Jinyoung is once again startled by how simultaneously handsome and adorable Hyunwoo is.

Hyunwoo takes Jinyoung’s suggestion that they stop seeing each other so well, so good-naturedly, with so much grace, that Jinyoung almost feels a pang of regret that he messed things up. In a different world, maybe they could have worked out. As it is, Jinyoung is too hung up over someone else and in no state of mind to be committing to anyone else while he tries to work through those feelings.

And, because Hyunwoo is such a gentleman, he even insists on walking Jinyoung home. “One last time,” he says, “because I’m going to miss taking care of you.”

Despite himself, Jinyoung feels his heart flutter at these words.

“Thank you, hyung,” Jinyoung murmurs softly as they arrive at his apartment building, bowing his head slightly. “For walking me home – and for everything.”

Hyunwoo rests a finger underneath Jinyoung’s chin, tilts it upwards so that they’re looking at each other. “You don’t have to thank me,” he says warmly, “I should thank you, for all the lovely dates we’ve shared.”

Jinyoung blushes faintly. “It’s been nice hanging out with you,” he says, truthfully.

“It has,” agreed Hyunwoo. He’s staring at Jinyoung intently. “I hope – I hope that whatever is making you sad – I hope you manage to work it out.”

This startles Jinyoung. He hadn’t said anything to Hyunwoo about Jaebum, of course, but he had alluded to ‘personal issues’ to explain his recent distraction. But the genuine concern in Hyunwoo’s voice still surprises him. This man is too good, far too good, for him.

“Thank you,” Jinyoung says again. “I don’t think it’ll work out – but I’ll be fine.”

Hyunwoo nods, and with a light smile, pulls Jinyoung into his arms. After a split second of bewilderment, Jinyoung wraps his arms around Hyunwoo’s waist, returns the hug. Being with Hyunwoo has always felt safe, and comforting, even if it wasn’t the kind of burning passion that Jinyoung wanted.

“See you around, Jinyoung-ah,” says Hyunwoo, as they break apart. He places his hands on Jinyoung’s cheeks, leans down to press a firm kiss into the top of Jinyoung’s head. There’s nothing romantic about that, it just feels protective, and oddly tender, and it makes Jinyoung beam.

“See you around, hyung,” Jinyoung replies, waving as Hyunwoo turns and walks away.

He feels a small sense of pride – that break-up had gone so smoothly, and painlessly. Jinyoung wonders if this is what growing up feels like. He turns, heads into his apartment building, still smiling to himself.

He doesn’t see Jaebum standing across the road, staring at the spot that he and Hyunwoo have just vacated. Doesn’t see Jaebum rub a hand across his face, before turning and walking away.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jaebum buzzes for Jinyoung’s apartment, but no one answers. He supposes he should have called, or texted, before coming over, but he had a feeling that if Jinyoung told him to fuck off over the phone, he would have lost what little courage he had managed to muster up.

So that’s how he finds himself standing on the street in front of Jinyoung’s apartment building, hovering about awkwardly, trying to figure out what to do.

In the end he decides to slip into the small coffee shop across the street, have a coffee and maybe a cake, see if Jinyoung arrives back home in the next hour or so. It’s not creepy behaviour at all, he tells himself. He’s not stalking, he’s just – waiting. If Jinyoung doesn’t turn up, then so be it.

He’s done with his cake, and still nursing his coffee, when he spots Jinyoung through the front windows of the coffee shop. Walking down the street on the opposite side of the road, looking just as handsome as always in his glasses and a lightweight jacket.

But he’s not alone.

Jaebum feels his heart plummet like an anchor. Because, strolling along casually next to Jinyoung, is Hyunwoo.

It’s like everything he had been afraid of come to life. All of his anxieties, insecurities. His worry that Jinyoung had dumped him for Hyunwoo – although that’s a misleading way of thinking about it, since Jinyoung had started seeing Hyunwoo first.

Jinyoung’s wearing a small, shy smile, turning and nodding his head politely at Hyunwoo as they arrive at his building. It makes Jaebum want to punch something. Maybe himself, for being an idiot. For caring too much, wanting too much.

The smile wrenches something in Jaebum’s heart. That’s the way Jinyoung smiles at him whenever they say goodbye, go their separate ways. Not that he has any exclusive right over that smile, but Jaebum hates seeing it on display for someone else.

He gets up out of his seat, goes to leave. He doesn’t want to see any more of this. Not only does the sight of Jinyoung with someone else make him feel sick, he also feels like he’s intruding on a moment he has no right to witness.

But when he steps out of the coffee shop, he freezes. Hyunwoo’s placed a finger under Jinyoung’s chin, tilted it up. Jaebum’s so sure that they’re going to kiss, but he can’t bring himself to look away. Maybe he has a masochistic streak in him. His stomach lurches, and his chest tightens, squeezing a sharp exhale out of him.

Thankfully, they don’t kiss. But Hyunwoo pulls Jinyoung into a tight hug, and the way Jinyoung wraps his arms around Hyunwoo’s waist – the same way that he used to wrap his arms around Jaebum’s – it still feels like a sledgehammer has crashed into Jaebum’s chest. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, trying to will the stinging feeling away, desperate not to cry. It’s stupid to cry about something that had never even been a thing.

When he opens his eyes, it’s just in time to catch Hyunwoo pressing a kiss into the top of Jinyoung’s head.

Jaebum stands there, outside the coffee shop, frozen in place, as Hyunwoo turns and walks away. As Jinyoung beams and waves at him brightly. He keeps on waiting, and watching, as Jinyoung makes his way into his apartment building.

The corners of his eyes are damp. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

He rubs his hand across his face, and walks away.

He wanders down the street towards the subway station. He can’t believe how much of a fool he’s been. He’s annoyed with Jinyoung, annoyed with Hyunwoo, annoyed with how happy and cute they look together.

But he’s mostly just frustrated with himself. Because he had let himself get in too deep in the first place, freaked Jinyoung out and chased him away. And now he had gotten his hopes up that maybe this was all a big misunderstanding, that maybe Jinyoung did like him after all.

A silly conclusion to jump to, Jaebum thinks, given that Jinyoung had shown no evidence that he liked Jaebum as anything more than just a fuck buddy. If anything, Jinyoung had been nothing but antagonistic from the day they’d met.

Things had only started changing because they’d started sleeping together. But Jinyoung had never callled him his boyfriend, or hinted at the possibility of them still being together in the future, or even tried to make plans together that involved anything more romantic than coffee and sex.

Except, Jaebum thinks, slowing his rapid pace towards the subway station slightly, that maybe that isn’t a fair assessment. Jinyoung was the one to suggest that Jaebum stay the night when Mark and Jackson went out of town. Had even cooked him a nice dinner. So it had led to sex – but so what? That didn’t mean that Jinyoung didn’t genuinely enjoy his company.

Jaebum groans, stomping over to a nearby bench on the side of the road, and dropping into it heavily. He runs his fingers through his hair, resting his head on his hands and his elbows on his knees.

So, maybe, Jinyoung hadn’t given him any signals to indicate that he wanted something more from their relationship. But, now that Jaebum thinks about it, the same could be said of him as well.

Jaebum tries to recall if he’s ever told Jinyoung just how much he likes him before. If he’s told Jinyoung why he admires him, why being with him makes him happy. The best he can come up with is him telling Jinyoung that he’s really good in bed.

“Maybe he doesn’t know that I like him,” Jaebum says, abruptly sitting up straight. An elderly lady walking past him startles slightly, and Jaebum grimaces, quickly bows his head at her in apology.

Jackson’s words are ringing in his head. What do you have to lose?

Jaebum gets to his feet. “Fuck it,” he mutters. Turns and heads back the way he’d came.

 

*

 

Jinyoung lets himself back into the apartment, feeling suddenly exhausted. Mark’s not in, so Jinyoung doesn’t even have anyone to talk to. He tries to make himself a cup of tea, but his limbs feel so heavy and sluggish, that in the end he gives up and just clambers back into bed without even changing out of his clothes.

Breaking up with Hyunwoo – if it can even be called a break-up, since they were never officially going out – had gone much more smoothly and amicably than Jinyoung had been expecting. And while Jinyoung does feel a faint sense of ‘what if’, there isn’t really any sense of loss. Hyunwoo’s a lovely person, but something tells Jinyoung that they will still be able to be friends. And, when it comes down to it, Jinyoung doesn’t really want anything more.

Jaebum, on the other hand.

Jinyoung groans, throws his head face down into his pillow. He knows he’s done the right thing, because he deserves better than to fuck around with someone who doesn’t even want him in the same way. And because the longer he holds on, the more feelings he develops, the shittier everything is just going to get when it comes time to let go.

But Jinyoung can’t stop himself from thinking about Jaebum. The way his eyes fold up into crescents when he smiles. Or the way he doubles up over himself completely when he laughs. Or the blank expression he sometimes gets on his face when he’s confused about something.

“This is stupid,” Jinyoung scolds himself. But he’s reaching for his phone, scrolling to Jaebum’s contact. Which had once been named ‘ Evil Cyclist ’ but was now named ‘ Jaebum hyung ’. With a little emoji that was grinning so hard its eyes disappeared into slits. He should really get rid of the emoji, Jinyoung thinks.

His finger hovers over the contact name. It would be so easy, though, to just call Jaebum. Jinyoung doesn’t know what he would say, but he’s kind of craving the sound of Jaebum’s voice. It’s so bright, and smooth, and the way he slurs his words when he’s feeling relaxed – it lights up Jinyoung’s day.

He’s in the middle of daydreaming about Jaebum’s voice moaning his name when the doorbell buzzes, startling him so hard he almost tumbles out of bed.

Mark’s always forgetting his keys, so Jinyoung is well used to this. He clambers out of bed and shuffles towards the front door, grumbling to himself all the while about being the more responsible one of the two of them despite being younger. “Stop forgetting your keys!” he shouts at the intercom as he buzzes Mark up.

He unlocks the door, leaves it ajar, as he shuffles into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. The door opens, and closes, and Jinyoung rolls his eyes. “One day you’re going to lock yourself out, and I won’t be able to come get you,” he calls out, taking a big gulp of his water as he wanders back out of the kitchen.

But it’s not Mark standing by his front door. It’s Jaebum.

Jinyoung inhales sharply in surprise, and the water he’s drinking shoots down into his windpipe. He splutters ungracefully, staggering towards a side table to set the glass down so that he can thump on his chest as he coughs violently.

“Are you okay?” asks Jaebum, darting forward, his hands resting on Jinyoung’s elbows to steady him. But the contact makes Jinyoung feel more light-headed than anything else.

“I’m – fine,” Jinyoung chokes out, even though his throat and lungs are on fire. He tries to smile reassuringly at Jaebum, but is pretty sure it turns out like a grimace. Great. First time meeting his ex- whatever since not-breaking up with him, and he’s a coughing, spluttering mess. He takes a slow, deep breath, tries to compose himself. “What – what are you doing here?”

Jaebum shuffles away from Jinyoung slightly, runs his fingers through his hair awkwardly. “I, uh – I wanted to talk to you?” he says, but it sounds more like a question.

“Um,” Jinyoung says, “okay.” What on earth could Jaebum possibly want to talk about?

Jaebum gestures vaguely at the sofa, and Jinyoung goes to sit down obligingly. He’s mostly just too taken aback by Jaebum’s sudden appearance to object, or to question anything.

“Uh, this is a little weird,” Jaebum mumbles, rubbing the back of his neck. Now that he has Jinyoung’s feel attention, he seems not to know what to do with it. And, if Jinyoung’s being honest, Jaebum’s right about this being weird. And why isn’t Jaebum sitting down? It’s a little strange, Jinyoung sitting on the sofa and Jaebum standing in front of him, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“I know you...ended things, between us,” Jaebum begins, “but – there were a lot of things I should’ve said then, that I didn’t.”

Jinyoung’s chest tightens. He doesn’t think Jaebum’s the kind of person to lash out after being dumped, but still a surge of dread rises in him. If Jaebum starts criticising him – he doesn’t think he’ll be able to handle it.

But if Jaebum’s just going to do something overly nice – which would be more in character for him – like thank Jinyoung for all the time they’d spent together and express his sincere wish that they stay friends? Jinyoung thinks he might throw up.

He opens his mouth, starts to say something about how there’s nothing Jaebum needs to say, and of course they can still be friends, but please can he go now – but Jaebum shakes his head almost frantically.

“I have a lot of things I want to say,” Jaebum says, urgently, almost pleadingly, “and if I don’t say it all at once I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get it all out, so please – just hear me out?”

Jinyoung falls silent. He feels utterly bewildered. It’s just as well that Jaebum doesn’t want him to say anything, because Jinyoung isn’t sure there are any coherent thoughts in his head.

Inhaling deeply and slowly, Jaebum clenches his jaw like he’s steeling himself for some terrifying task. Maybe he is. Jinyoung has no idea.

“When you ended things – I don’t know why I didn’t say anything. I was taken aback,” Jaebum says, eyes darting between Jinyoung and the floor between them. “But then – I thought I would always regret it if I didn’t tell you how I feel, how I really feel about you.

“I – I like you, Jinyoung-ah,” Jaebum says, softly, shyly.

Jinyoung can barely believe his ears. He stares, wide-eyed at Jaebum. Is this some kind of joke? Or is he maybe dreaming? Jinyoung kind of wants to slap himself to make sure, but he seems to have lost all control of his body, lost all ability to move. All he can do is sit here, on the sofa, gaping up at Jaebum.

“At first I thought it was all just – physical,” continues Jaebum, looking down at his feet, before dragging his gaze up to Jinyoung’s face again. “But the more time we spent together – Jinyoung-ah, you’re so funny, and so intelligent, and beneath your icy exterior you’re so warm, and kind, and you have so much love and loyalty for the people you care about.”

That’s it. He’s definitely having a weird, romantic version of a sex dream. Are those a thing? Jinyoung blinks blankly at Jaebum. He looks real, though, and he sounds real, and the sofa feels real beneath Jinyoung.

“I saw you, with Hyunwoo, earlier – and I understand if I’m too late. Or if you don’t feel the same way. I won’t get in the way of your happiness,” Jaebum continues, and wait what? But Jinyoung doesn’t have any time to process this, because Jaebum is already barreling on.

“I just – I wanted to tell you how I feel. Because you deserve to know. And, I don’t think I’ve ever told you. But – I like you. A lot. And – if you’ll have me – I want to be with you. For real.”

Jaebum looks at Jinyoung with those eyes, sometimes so stormy with desire, but right now – right now they’re open, and vulnerable, and shining with hope. It’s the most beautiful thing Jinyoung’s ever seen. He can feel his heart swelling up inside his chest.

“Are – are you, confessing to me?” Jinyoung manages to stammer out.

Jaebum grins sheepishly. “I – I was hoping that would be obvious,” he mumbles, rubbing this hands over his face. But then he grimaces. “This was a bad idea, it’s weird, I’m sorry.”

“No, no – no!” Jinyoung quickly exclaims, a little more loudly and forcefully that he intended, because Jaebum jumps visibly. He stands up, starts to take a step towards Jaebum, then hesitates, ends up doing an awkward shuffle on the spot. “Sorry, I mean – no, it’s not weird, and don’t be sorry.”

Jinyoung swallows. Tries to think of the words to say. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?”

“Stupidity?” Jaebum suggests. “Pride? I was afraid of coming on too strong, of scaring you away.”

The idea of Jaebum coming on too strong – when Jinyoung had always thought of himself as the one who was getting too attached – is so ridiculous to Jinyoung that he almost laughs. But he catches himself, shakes his head. “I didn’t end things because you were coming on too strong,” he says, as earnestly as he can possibly manage. He needs Jaebum to understand. “I thought – you said we were just having fun. I ended things because that’s not what I wanted. Hyung – I like you too. And I want to be with you too. For real.”

Jaebum looks genuinely blindsided by this. “But – Hyunwoo?” he manages to mumble out.

“Hyunwoo and I – what you saw, earlier,” Jinyoung says, tries to explain, “we aren’t going out anymore. I was ending things with him.”

“Oh,” Jaebum says, “okay.”

Jinyoung stands up. Takes a hesitant step towards Jaebum, who watches him with such heat in his gaze that it makes Jinyoung tense with anticipation. Jaebum stands absolutely still, even as Jinyoung steps into his personal space, the two of them so close their chests are almost touching.

“Does this mean what I think it means?” Jinyoung asks. He isn’t sure when his voice got so low, or why it’s so breathy.

The air is suffocatingly thick with tension. “If you’d like it to,” murmurs Jaebum. His voice has taken on a raspy quality. The sound sends shockwaves shuddering through Jinyoung. He tilts his chin up at Jaebum, reaches out to rest one hand lightly on Jaebum’s chest. He can feel the thumping of Jaebum’s heart under his hand.

The electric sizzle in the room ratchets up another notch.

“Hyung –” breathes Jinyoung, not even thinking about it, the word dragging itself out of his mouth.

Whatever else he was about to say gets cut off, because suddenly Jaebum’s hands are on the sides of his face, and he finds himself being tugged closer, and then Jaebum’s lips are pressing against his softly. He lets out a happy giggle as Jaebum pulls back slightly.

Jaebum’s watching for his reaction, Jinyoung can tell from the careful way his eyes dart across his face. He doesn’t know how to reassure him that yes, this is what he wants, except to wind his arms around Jaebum’s neck, pull him back in for another kiss. This one harder that the first, hungrier.

He lets his eyes flutter shut, and then Jaebum’s lips are parting, and Jinyoung hears himself moan softly as their tongues slide together. All logical thought escapes him. They’ve kissed countless times before, but still the feeling of Jaebum’s tongue, wet and warm against his own, sends spasms of desire shuddering through Jinyoung.

“Hyung,” he whines again. He feels so needy, so desperate for Jaebum’s touch, the warmth of his skin against him.

It draws a gravelly growl out of Jaebum, whose hands trail down Jinyoung’s body to grab handfuls of his ass. “Jinyoung-ah,” he mumbles against Jinyoung’s lips, before pressing wet kisses along Jinyoung’s jawline, down his neck. “Missed you.”

Jinyoung gasps as Jaebum digs his teeth into the soft skin just above his collarbone, stumbling backwards until they’re both falling onto the sofa. “You have me now,” he murmurs reassuringly. His eyes feel damp, but he’s not sure why. The feeling of Jaebum pressed up against him, the sound of Jaebum murmuring his name fondly into his neck, sends such a burst of joy radiating through Jinyoung’s entire being.

“You have me – I’m all yours,” Jinyoung breathes shakily, his voice catching as Jaebum rolls on top of him and grinds his hips down. His hands fumble at the hem of Jaebum’s shirt, trying to pull it off but also to run his hands up along Jaebum’s back, feeling the smooth planes of his muscles rippling beneath his skin.

“Fuck, Jinyoung-ah, fuck,” hisses Jaebum as Jinyoung pushes him up and drags his shirt off him. Then Jinyoung props himself up, pressing sloppy kisses into Jaebum’s stomach. He drags his tongue along the subtle grooves of Jaebum’s abs, his hands already going straight to Jaebum’s belt buckle.

As Jinyoung gets his zipper down and – somewhat awkwardly – slips his hand into his jeans to palm his erection through the fabric of his boxers, Jaebum lets out an almost pained groan. “Should we – is this moving too fast, should we talk–”

Probably, Jinyoung thinks. But then again, maybe things are simple, and they’ve just been making it more complicated than it needs to be.

“It’s not difficult – do you want me or not?” Jinyoung asks, briefly removing his hand from Jaebum’s dick to yank his own jumper off.

“I do want you, so fucking much,” Jaebum replies, even as Jinyoung’s already flipping them over and pushing him down and straddling his hips. “Not just – not just like this, but in every way,” Jaebum continues, his voice hitching on every other word as Jinyoung rocks back on top of him, their erections rubbing against each other in a way that makes Jinyoung’s eyes roll back in his head.

He rakes his fingers through Jaebum’s hair, tugs lightly. Jaebum groans in pleasure, tilting his chin up and exposing his neck. Which Jinyoung latches onto immediately, sucking hard into the sensitive skin, making Jaebum yelp and squirm beneath him.

“Let’s do this then,” Jinyoung mumbles, tonguing the red mark he’s just made on Jaebum’s neck. “Let’s do this, for real.”

Jaebum arches his back, wrapping his arms around Jinyoung, pressing them together so tightly Jinyoung feels like he can’t breathe. Or maybe he just feels light-headed with happiness. “For real,” Jaebum repeats, and he sounds breathy and happy too. “Like – like boyfriends.”

The word sends explosions of joy coursing through Jinyoung. He nuzzles his face into Jaebum’s neck, trying to hide the wide beam on his face. “Am I your boyfriend now? I don’t recall you asking me,” he asks, teasingly, but he even to his own ears he sounds absolutely delirious with delight.

Jaebum growls, and then it’s his turn to twine his fingers into Jinyoung hair, tug his head backwards so that they’re looking into each other’s eyes. “Park Jinyoung,” Jaebum murmurs, their lips so close they might as well be kissing, “will you be my boyfriend?”

Jinyoung chews on his lower lip, trying to suppress the grin that’s already spreading across his face. “Took you long enough to ask,” he complains, but then he’s leaning his forehead down against Jaebum’s, whispering, “Yeah, yeah I’ll be your fucking boyfriend, you fool.”

The soft giggle that escapes Jaebum then is so gentle, so adorable, that Jinyoung thinks his heart might implode from how intensely he feels it clenching in fondness. He presses kisses into Jaebum’s forehead, his cheeks, onto his nose, all while Jaebum whines needily and rocks his hips upwards into him. Jinyoung’s getting a real surge of pleasure from teasing Jaebum, when he hears the click of a door opening, and a shocked intake of breath.

Jaebum’s trying to wriggle away from under him, and Jinyoung leaps into a seated position, whipping his head round in a panic. Mark and Jackson are standing in the front door, staring openly at him and Jaebum.

“Um, hello,” Jinyoung says feebly, casting about for his shirt so he can hold it up against his bare chest. He’s still straddling Jaebum, who’s given up trying to extricate himself and has just buried his face into the back of the sofa. “I – you’re home early.”

Mark’s smirking at him in an exceedingly smug way. “No, I’m not – I told you we were coming back here for dinner,” Mark says, gesturing the the paper bag of takeout Jackson’s holding. “We were afraid you might still be crying your eyes out. But it looks like someone’s done a pretty good job of comforting you.”

At this, Jaebum peers out at Mark with a pained look on his face, and groans.

“Are you guys like, back together now?” Jackson asks, raising his eyebrows at them. “Have you talked about your feelings? Is this a good thing, or should we be more concerned?”

Jaebum glares at him. “Can we talk about this when I have more clothes on?”

“It’s good, I think,” Jinyoung replies, ignoring Jaebum. He can’t help himself but grin. They’re boyfriends now. “We’re good.”

Mark rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Jacks, leave them the food. We can go out for dinner,” he says. Jackson giggles, setting the paper bag down on the counter, and the two of them turn to head out, no doubt going to gossip about their friends over dinner.

Just as Mark’s about to pull the door shut behind them, though, he pauses. Winks at Jinyoung. “Nice work, by the way,” he says. “You never told me that Jaebum was packing .” He drops his gaze to Jaebum’s crotch, where his extremely obvious, and very large, erection, is tenting his boxers.

“Leave!” shrieks Jinyoung, chucking a cushion at Mark, but he’s already slamming the door shut behind him. Jinyoung can hear him and Jackson cackling wildly outside.

Jinyoung turns back to Jaebum, grimacing apologetically. “Sorry,” he mumbles. The mood’s been somewhat ruined, but then again – there’s a faint pink flush of embarrassment colouring Jaebum’s cheeks, and his lips still look swollen and shiny with spit, and he’s half-sitting, half-lying down beneath Jinyoung, with so much skin on display. Jinyoung feels desire stirring within him, and his still-hard cock twitches in response.

“Not your fault,” Jaebum’s replying, and he sits himself up properly, trails his fingers along Jinyoung’s jaw. There’s a softness in his gaze, in the way he studies Jinyoung’s features so carefully, like he’s trying to memorise them. “If you feel bad, though,” Jaebum continues, sliding his gaze slowly down Jinyoung’s body, “I can think of a few ways you could make it up to me.”

Jinyoung licks his lips, his eyes following Jaebum’s gaze as it drags itself back up his body, until their eyes lock. Jaebum’s pupils are blown, his eyes dark with want. Jinyoung wonders if he looks just as needy, as desperate. He probably does.

“Let’s continue in my room,” Jinyoung suggests, though it’s taking him all of his willpower not to just tumble back onto the sofa, dragging Jaebum down with him for kisses. Instead, he clambers off Jaebum, tugs Jaebum to his feet.

“Sure,” Jaebum says contentedly, following Jinyoung in the direction of the bedroom. He wraps his arms around Jinyoung from behind clumsily, both of them stumbling in the process – it’s not easy to walk when one person is hugging the other from the back. But Jinyoung isn’t complaining.

He’s especially not complaining when Jaebum nips at his earlobe, and murmurs, “Anything for my boyfriend.”

That’s right, Jinyoung thinks, beaming to himself as he turns around in Jaebum’s arms, hands on Jaebum’s waist to steady himself as he leans up to press a hungry kiss against Jaebum’s lips.

Boyfriend.

 

*

 

Jinyoung rolls over in his bed, watches the gentle rise and fall of Jaebum’s shoulders and he breathes evenly, still fast asleep. The late morning sunshine streams in, bathes them both in a warm glow.

In some ways Jinyoung can’t believe they managed to get together at all. But in other ways, it’s incredible how long it took them. When they are, have clearly always been, so perfect for each other.

There’s so much heat between them, so much bickering, so much blazing passion. But there’s also so much affection and playfulness. And they’ve endured so much thanks to their poor communication, that they’ve even managed to work on actually talking to each other about their problems instead of just making assumptions and passive aggressively sulking about them.

But now they have each other. And the love in Jinyoung’s heart, the love he feels for this man, snoozing peacefully beside him, is so all-encompassing and all-consuming that Jinyoung sometimes wonders how he hadn’t seen it before.

Jaebum stirs, peers through half-shut eyelids at Jinyoung, makes a complaining noise as he stretches out in bed. Jinyoung smiles tenderly at him, a light laugh escaping him as Jaebum snakes his arms around his waist and pulls him close.

Despite all the little lights and flickers and interruptions – they still managed to find their way to each other.

 

***

 

The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
           This is almost bliss.

And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
           Gone under the twilight.

Only the twilight now, and the soft “Sh!” of the river
           That will last forever.

And at last I know my love for you is here,
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
            Troubles, anxieties, and pains.

            You are the call and I am the answer,
            You are the wish, and I the fulfillment,
            You are the night, and I the day.
                        What else—it is perfect enough,
                        It is perfectly complete,
                        You and I.
Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!

 

– ‘Bei Hennef’, D. H. Lawrence