It was in the way he smiled, eyes crinkling up at the corners. In the way he sang, voice smooth and silky. In the way he took care of the people he was close to, in the way he could subtly comfort them when they were down. It was in the way he was bookish and very perceptive (well, except for one thing).
It was in the way he was currently sleeping next to Mark on the same bed. Eyes peacefully closed, head sinking into the soft pillow, oblivious to the secret Mark had been hiding for a long time now.
Mark wasn’t supposed to be staring, or even be awake for that matter. It was late, and they’d have to get up early tomorrow because of morning college classes and a test tomorrow. But he had just been laying awake, thinking about the earlier events of today that had spiraled into a sleeping Jinyoung in his bed.
(Jinyoung, smart as he was, had ended up in the same math course as Mark and had come over to help Mark that afternoon to study for their exams tomorrow. This wasn’t the first time they had done this, and usually study sessions were mostly productive, so Mark had easily agreed. But this time it had somehow ended up being a lot less studying and a lot more wasting time and playing around—
“Second prize - martial arts tricking competition,” Jinyoung had gotten up from his seat and was currently on the opposite side of the room, reading off the label on Mark’s medal.
“..yup,” Mark had answered absentmindedly, trying to figure out a particular calculus problem that they were supposed to be solving.
“That’s actually really cool,” Jinyoung had continued. “How come you never told me you could do martial arts tricking?”
“I thought you knew,” Mark had replied, scribbling down a mess of variables on the paper. “Now could you please come back here and help with this problem because the test is tomorrow?”
“Wait, I really want to see this now.”
“What, martial arts tricking?”
“Yeah!” Jinyoung had declared, eagerly going back to Mark and spinning the swivel chair around so that Mark was now facing him.
"C’mon, let’s see it,” he had prodded.
“Have you seen the size of this room? There’s no way I could do anything.” Mark had said, about to turn his chair back around and make a second attempt at the annoying math problem. Except, well, he had made the mistake of looking into Jinyoung’s eyes as he spoke again.
“Let’s just go outside really quick then. There’s a park only a couple blocks down.”
“I know, but…” ...but Mark also had difficulty forcing an absolute ‘no’ out of his mouth. Especially when Jinyoung was looking at him like that. “Okay,” he reluctantly agreed, hating the way he felt when Jinyoung’s eyes grinned their happy smile at Mark like he was the sun.
“Alright! It won’t take that long anyway, and we’ll still have time to finish going over the chapter,” Jinyoung had reassured.
Except he had lied, and Mark doing a couple backflips had turned into a dumb game of tag, intrigued toddlers watching as two college students chased each other, laughing, across the field. Then that had turned into getting drinks and sandwiches at the cafe closeby, and that had turned into Jinyoung dragging him into the bookstore next door because he had just remembered a book (which turned into three) that he wanted to buy. And by the time they got back to Mark and Jackson’s shared apartment, two hours later, Jackson was already back from his part-time work and watching them carefully as they entered, Mark probably displaying the dumbest smile he’d had in a long time. His eyes trailed after their drinks and Jinyoung’s bag of books and he raised and eyebrow at Mark, who chose not to reply as he and Jinyoung went back to his room.
“We should totally do that again,” Jinyoung had said once Mark had shut the door behind them and locked it (only to keep out a nosy Jackson, nothing else). He had set his books and their drinks on the desk, and his eyes and his mouth were both really beaming now. It was having a contagious effect on Mark, who was trying not to let out a very goofy grin.
Rather than sitting back down at the desk, Jinyoung had taken off his jacket and flopped back onto Mark’s bed, arms spread out in some sort of snow-angel pose. At that moment, Mark supposed he looked angelic enough, hair curling softly over his forehead and eyes reflecting the fiery orange April sunset through the window.
“We can get back to studying in a few minutes. I’m just going to calm myself down so that my brain can get ready to do some challenging math again.” Jinyoung had explained, yawning as his eyes fluttered shut. His mouth was still quirked up in a smile, and Mark had to resist from staring at his entrancing lips for too long, even if he wouldn’t be able to see Mark doing it.
Instead, Mark had grabbed his calculus textbook and some binder paper before sitting next to Jinyoung on the bed, trying to get his mind to focus back on the test he had tomorrow. Only it was a little more difficult with Jinyoung right next to him.
Mark stared determinedly at the problem he had tried to solve earlier. Maybe he’d had better luck now that he hadn’t just exhausted his brain doing math for the past two hours.
A few minutes later, he was no closer to the answer than before.
...and Jinyoung, who was supposed to be helping him with studying by now, had fallen asleep, chest rising and falling in even breaths.
Mark glanced at the clock. It was only eight in the evening, and he couldn’t help but wonder how early Jinyoung had gotten up today, as he had mentioned something about doing work in the campus library during mornings sometimes.
The sun had almost fully disappeared by now and Mark’s room was cast in shadows, but the boy he liked still looked as pretty as ever and seemed so, so, comfortable on his bed that Mark decided to just let him sleep. He took a pillow and slid it under Jinyoung’s head, holding his breath as he stirred, but didn’t wake up. Mark would decide what to do with Jinyoung when it came time for he himself to go to sleep.
Flicking the lamp on his desk on, Mark flipped to a different practice problem and resolved to study for a few more hours, just because he wanted to maintain a safe B in the class.
Then later, when he was done, Mark still didn’t have the heart to wake Jinyoung up, so he had pushed Jinyoung’s breathing form to the side of the bed next to the wall and lied down next to him, pulling up the blanket over them both. Jackson was probably asleep in the room next door now too, but all Mark could think about was Jinyoung, Jinyoung, Jinyoung.)
And so here Mark was, running through earlier events and wondering if Jinyoung had also thought of it almost as a date. Almost.
Mark stared at Jinyoung’s outline next to him for a few moments before turning his back to the wall and trying to fall asleep himself. He’d deal with the situation in the morning. Chances were, Jinyoung would treat the situation as nothing out of the ordinary and things would return to normal study sessions. Even though Mark hadn’t gotten to review as much today, he still kinda hoped that they’d do this again sometime, go to the park and get food and walk around and have fun.
There was no harm in hoping.
Especially when Mark woke up before his alarm that morning feeling refreshed, and so, so warm. Despite having not fallen asleep, mind filled with wishful fantasies, until almost past midnight, he hadn’t felt this well-rested in a while, and he definitely hadn’t felt that good. Comfortable. Warm.
He realized why soon enough. His back was pressed into Jinyoung, whose arm was nested around his waist, hand palming his stomach through the thin shirt that he had gone to sleep in. Jinyoung was still sleeping, oblivious, as he curled against Mark like he was a stuffed animal. It felt really nice, even when Mark was well aware that this was something a couple would do, even when it made Mark come to the hard terms of reality that Jinyoung would never do this on purpose. (Though there was no harm in hoping.)
And so he drifted off again, mind very elated for a Monday morning.
Not much later, the alarm was blaring loudly throughout the room, and Mark’s hand grappled around on the nightstand nearby, palm finally slamming down on the snooze button. All too quickly, he was aware that Jinyoung was finally awake now, arms still protectively wrapped around Mark and groggily nuzzling his head into his back. It felt domestic, too domestic, and then Mark couldn’t take it anymore, jerking himself away from Jinyoung’s arms and sitting up in bed.
It was probably because he was still sleepy that Jinyoung gave him a fleeting look of bewilderment (like, why did the stuffed animal just move?). But Jinyoung’s confusion was a lot better than anger, though, so Mark let himself to calm down and allowed the small spark of hope he had to rekindle.
Mark’s eyes met Jinyoung’s, and then Jinyoung was smiling at him, smiling! And then he was pulling him back down under the blankets and wrapping his arms around him again and now Mark was the one confused. Maybe, maybe, Jinyoung was just still really sleepy and unaware of what he was doing.
And so Mark turned around in Jinyoung’s grasp and looked up at his face and—big mistake—Jinyoung was still smiling, soft and contented. “Just five more minutes,” he whispered, lips almost tickling Mark’s forehead.
Mind swimming, Mark wondered if this was a dream. (It wasn’t. Otherwise, how could Jinyoung’s arm around his waist feel so warm and real?)
“Uh,” Mark finally said, unable to speak coherently.
And then maybe Jinyoung had finally registered what he was doing because he was shooting out of the bed, sending a quick glance at the clock and then looking back at Mark, panic evident in his eyes. All Mark could register was the sudden loss of warmth and Jinyoung’s agitated look, and his stomach was already curling with trepidation. Of course it was too good to be real.
Then Jinyoung was picking up his jacket, pushing his arms through the sleeves, grabbing his bag of books and his backpack. He was unlocking Mark’s door, leaving him.
“Don’t be late for class. Good luck on the exam,” Jinyoung said so quietly it could be a whisper, and then he was gone. Down the hallway, and Mark could hear a “Hey, Jackson! Bye, Jackson!” before the front door opened and slammed closed. Then silence.
Then Jackson was in his room, and fixing his flatmate with a look. Confused, surprised, and sympathetic, all at once.
“So. Care to tell me what happened?” Jackson asked.
Mark was pulling on his clothes and realized he really did have to run or be late to class. “I’ll tell you later. Maybe. I really have to go,” he said, before snatching his backpack and rushing out the front door in Jinyoung’s wake.
They were in the same calculus class, so Mark could think of no good reason as to why Jinyoung would have just left before him. His brain reasoned that the safest path now was avoidance.
And so when he entered class that morning to take the test, he kept his eyes trained on the side of the room that he knew Jinyoung wouldn’t be sitting at and plopped his backpack down besides a seat very far away. A quick glance, and he saw his normal seat next to Jinyoung conspicuously empty.
The exam started, but he couldn’t focus.
Sometimes, there was harm in hoping.
That night, Mark’s phone buzzed with a text from Jinyoung.
Jinyoung: Hey. I’m sorry about this morning. Definitely sorry about just running out like that. Sorry about the other things too.
Mark stared long and hard at the message, until three dots under it appeared, signaling that Jinyoung was typing again.
Mark waited. And waited. Finally, the telltale buzz.
Jinyoung: ...you don’t want me to?
Mark: don’t want you to what?
Jinyoung: Be sorry.
The text shouldn’t have sent butterflies through Mark’s stomach, but it did. The hope he hated came back, and he found himself thinking that maybe it was all a big misunderstanding.
Mark: well, you should be sorry for just running away this morning.
Mark: about the other stuff
Mark: so i’m assuming we both know what ‘stuff’ you mean
Mark: so what if i don’t want you to be sorry
Mark was about to throw his phone onto the bed in embarrassment like a lovesick high-schooler when he he got a reply.
Jinyoung: Actually sorry for asking that. I was probably just misreading things.
Jinyoung: Ignore that first message because I just saw your reply.
Jinyoung: I’ll be over in fifteen minutes, we should probably just finish this conversation in person.
Mark promptly threw himself onto the bed to calm his racing heart. It really felt like he was in high school again. Two years later, and he was still as nervous and anxious and giddy at the same time.
And also dumb, because if Jinyoung was implying what he thought, then he had just missed all the signs of having his even dumber crush being reciprocated.
The doorbell rang.
Mark rushed out into the hall, thankful that Jackson was off working a later shift tonight so that he couldn’t ask what the fuck is going on, Mark?
Mark pulled open the door to see Jinyoung standing right in front of him, looking way more composed but also slightly nervous.
“So.” Jinyoung said, sliding off his shoes and making his way towards Mark’s room.
Mark followed, jaw having clamped shut. Again.
Jinyoung decided to sit on Mark’s bed and Mark did the same, carefully leaving enough space between them.
“So…” Jinyoung repeated. “Sorry for just leaving you earlier like that. But if you meant what you said, then I guess I’m not—at all—sorry for—uh—cuddling you?—because I thought I was dreaming and it just felt really—really—nice.”
“It did,” Mark agreed simply, mouth finally working again.
They stared at each other, Mark taking in Jinyoung’s eyes, which were sparkling again, crinkling at the edges again, and his mouth, soft lips lifting up into a beautiful curve.
“Okay.” Jinyoung replied.
And then the space that Mark had put between them was disappearing, disappearing fast as Jinyoung scooted closer and soon all Mark could see were his smiles, in his eyes and in his mouth.
“Okay.” Mark agreed.
Their mouths met in a delicious kiss, tentative and somewhat shy, but so very good. Jinyoung’s lips really were as soft as they looked, and all Mark could feel was pure, pure bliss. The warmth he had felt that morning returned in full force and he put a hand on the back of Jinyoung’s neck, pushing him closer. He felt a hand loop around his own waist again, before Jinyoung pulled away and regarded Mark with the brightest smile he had ever seen, even brighter than before. Mark was warm, warmer, skin burning where Jinyoung’s fingers were sliding under his shirt. Emboldened, they moved forward for another kiss, and Mark only tasted sunshine and paradise, felt Jinyoung smiling into the kiss and felt himself melting into Jinyoung because his dreams were finally a reality.
When his eyes blinked open the next morning Jinyoung was already awake, looking at him softly and fondly and in every way that Mark wanted as he brushed his finger over his lips.
“Just five more minutes?” Jinyoung whispered, pulling Mark closer and pressing a gentle kiss against his forehead.
“Yeah,” Mark breathed, reveling in the warmth of the boy next to him. The sun was already out, but it felt even brighter with him to his left, with the knowledge that he was his.
Because, really, it could never hurt to have just a little bit of hope.