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day zero

 

“We’re having an intervention,” Donghyuck announces one day at dinner, sliding into his seat and fixing Jaemin with a blank stare. Mark sits down next to Donghyuck, and they fold their arms across their chests at the same time.

“Wow, impressive,” Jaemin says, drumming his knuckles on their dinner table. Their pots of succulents (Michael, Bruno, and Justin— Mark bought them, Donghyuck named them, and Jaemin’s the one who diligently waters them every week) shake with every beat. Jaemin shares a small apartment on the south side of campus with Donghyuck, an environmental science and applied music double major he met in his freshman writing class, and Mark, who used to be in Jaemin’s business club before he defected and decided his talents would be better off in computer science instead. Their place is decorated with all of the junk they’ve somehow managed to accumulate in the past year, and their little family of succulents are no exception. “Did you two plan that?”

“Nope,” Donghyuck says at the same time Mark says, “Yeah.”

“Fuck, I hate you so much sometimes,” Donghyuck mutters under his breath, and Mark only grins sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Anyway. We’re having an intervention.”

“What for? The only intervention any of us really need is one that addresses Mark’s ugly-ass shirts.” Jaemin cuts a glance at the shirt Mark’s wearing right now, a blue and yellow number with pink palm trees printed all over it. “My poor eyes.”

“Don’t be mean,” Mark says. “Donghyuck brought this back for me from Hawaii.”

“I mean, yeah, but I didn’t actually think you’d wear it? Wait, stop distracting me, our intervention’s actually about Jaemin and his dick and how he can’t seem to go a week without putting it in someone new.” Donghyuck leans back in his chair. “Am I right or am I right?”

Jaemin scoffs. “I do not need an intervention. My dick and I are doing perfectly fine, thank you very much.”

“Hey, I’m sure no one’s going to miss it much,” Donghyuck says, his voice like steel, “based on what little I’ve seen of it.”

“Don’t be an asshole, the world is a better place because of me.” Jaemin puts a delicate hand over his heart, sighing and putting on his best impression of a trashy romance novel heroine. “So cruel of you to rob the masses of me and Jaemin Junior.”

Jesus.”

“Okay, okay, what I think Donghyuck is trying to say,” Mark interjects, placing a hand over Donghyuck’s so he won’t try to hit Jaemin out of sheer disgust or anything, “is that we’re just a little bit worried for you. We just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I’m not worried at all. He can go get someone pregnant for all I care.”

“Hey,” Jaemin says, suddenly offended. “I’d make an awesome dad. You don’t know me. I’d be the best dad in the entire world.”

“That’s the part of the conversation you’re going to argue? Really? Not your tendency to find yourself in a stranger’s bed every morning?”

Mark shoots Donghyuck A Look before he turns to where Jaemin’s already started to zone out. “Come on. Jaemin, I think you should listen. I don’t want you to, I don’t know. Catch some disease or get emotionally invested in a friend with benefits. You know how it is.”

Donghyuck rests his chin on his palm. “Basically, Lent is coming up, so let’s all give something up. Mark and I already decided he’s not allowed to say the words ‘haha’ or ‘let’s get it’ for the next forty days.”

Mark makes a noise that sounds like a bastard child of a whine and a groan, and Donghyuck pats his hand in consolation. “And also alcohol. He’s not drinking for a month. And meat. That was his real Lent thing. What I’m giving up is my Amazon account. I’ve been told that I’m, quote unquote, ‘fucking up my credit,’ whatever that means, so I’m going cash only and not using my card on anything that isn’t rent or utilities or essentials.”

“You want me to give up sex for Lent? While you two are learning how to be decent human beings with normal spending habits?” Jaemin raises an eyebrow, and Donghyuck nods. “That’s not happening. This is so dumb, especially when I know Mark’s just going to be having sex with his boyfriend and your Tinder dates are just buying you dinner anyway?”

Donghyuck slouches back in his chair and grabs at the sleeve of Mark’s shirt. “See Mark, I told you he wouldn’t do it. I told you. Jaemin would never take steps to cultivate healthy habits because that’s just the kind of person he is.”

Mark shrugs. “It’s okay, we tried. C’mon, let’s go. We were really looking forward to giving things up for Lent together and suffering to ultimately become better people, but I guess it’s too bad our housemate’s a sex addict.”

Jaemin’s head jerks up, his attention suddenly drawn by Mark’s words. “Dude, I’m not a sex addict. Seriously. I can stop whenever I want.”

“Then prove it,” Donghyuck says, a challenge in his eyes, and Jaemin suddenly realizes that that’s been their game all along. But he can’t back down now.

“Fine, I’ll do it. Whatever, no biggie. No sex for forty days,” Jaemin says, extending a hand to Donghyuck. “But what do I get if I win?”

“Wait, Lent isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about reflection and learning about the sacrifices that Jesus made,” Mark butts in, always the square, and Donghyuck shushes him.

“For once, you get a chance at having a loving and fulfilling relationship instead of fucking anything on two legs and dropping them the day after,” Donghyuck intones ominously, and Jaemin laughs. Happiness can’t be measured in anything but— “Also, I’ll give you a $250 Amazon gift card I got from Mark’s boyfriend’s housemate.”

“Wait, holy shit, really?” Donghyuck nods, and Jaemin can practically already feel the new Switch games he’s going to order with that gift card in his hands. “Okay, shit, I’m down. Just watch, you guys. I’m gonna so win Lent.”

 

 

 

day one

 

They say the first day of giving anything up is the hardest, but honestly, Jaemin’s having a great time. He went over the ground rules with Donghyuck last night, laying down the law so that they’ll have a fulfilling Lent.

Donghyuck has it about fifty billion times easier than Jaemin does, which is really saying a lot, since Donghyuck’s entire life revolves around his online purchasing power. And, to make matters worse, after Mark’s boyfriend came over and Donghyuck left to crash at the library or something, Jaemin had go to to sleep last night to the sound of a headboard hitting the wall that didn’t belong to him, but it’s totally fine. Jaemin’s cool. It’s cool.

The rules are written out in twenty point Comic Sans and printed out with rainbow ink and stuck onto their fridge with a magnet of a beaver Mark got for their apartment when he went home to Canada last break. Donghyuck tells Jaemin that he very painstakingly changed each individual letter to a different color of the rainbow and that he’s actually extremely proud of the poster. Jaemin and Mark beg to disagree on the relative merits of having rainbow-colored font, but the rules are as follows:

1. Jaemin Na is not allowed to have sex for the duration of Lent, as defined by the Bible a.k.a. Wikipedia as “a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday”

2. Sex is defined, for the purpose of Jaemin Na v. Donghyuck Lee, as:
     A. Jaemin Na engaging in sexual intercourse with anyone in any way, shape, or form
          i. Sexual intercourse includes: oral, intercrural, vaginal, and anal intercourse
     B. Jaemin Na masturbating in any way, shape, or form
          i. Jaemin Na is not allowed to get himself off with any type of implement manufactured for the purpose of sexual pleasure
          ii. Addendum: Jaemin Na is allowed to masturbate once (1) every ten days for the duration of Lent. Reason: it would be cruel and unusual punishment if Jaemin Na is not allowed to, as he says, “polish my meat rod”

3. Jaemin Na is to report to Donghyuck Lee and/or Mark Lee when he has failed to achieve his goal for Lent at the earliest convenience
     A. Addendum: By earliest convenience we mean ASAP so if you accidentally put your dick in anyone and realize you’re not supposed to anymore, you have to take your dick out and let us know
     B. Addendum to the addendum: But if I’m already busy don’t fucking interrupt me

4. If Jaemin Na is successful, Donghyuck Lee will set Jaemin Na up with someone who is hot and sexy and 110% Jaemin Na’s type. GUARANTEED
     A. Failure to complete goal for Lent will result in termination of the blind date guaranteed above, no ifs, ands, or buts
     B. Addendum: Donghyuck Lee can be persuaded to give up this someone’s number if certain bribes are made, especially those involving limited edition Michael Jackson vinyls
     C. Addendum to the addendum: NO HYUCK NO!! YOU'RE STRONGER THAN THIS

5. Remember: No sex for 40 days (plus Sundays)!!!!!!

It’s imposing, sure, but Jaemin can do it. All he needs is some good old fashioned discipline, and he’s sure he can show both Mark and Donghyuck up for ever doubting him. He can give up sex for forty-four days, including the Sundays— after all, he’d spent the first eighteen years of his life celibate.

How hard can it possibly be?

 

 

Jaemin’s morning shift at the bakery is usually calm, or as calm as a bakery that doubles as a café closest to the main campus can be right before classes start. He’s worked here for the past few months, picking up hours every other day before class starts and substantially increasing his coffee consumption with it— hey, it’s not his fault he gets free drinks. Jaemin’s gotten to know most of their regulars, like Jiwoo, who comes by every Wednesday to order a slice of strawberry shortcake for her and her girlfriend to share, Seungmin, who comes by every Monday and tells Jaemin he wants his coffee as black as his soul before grinning up at him and asking him for the sweetest drink he has instead, and Chenle, who always grabs a package of gummy bears by the counter and slaps it down right in front of Jaemin on Fridays.

(“You know you can get these off campus for cheaper, right?” Jaemin asked once, ringing it up.

“Yeah, but you’ll give me the employee discount anyway,” Chenle said, beaming at him, and Jaemin only sighed before keying it in. “Thanks, I love you!”

Jaemin’s always had a soft spot for small animals, and Chenle Zhong, who looks like one of those balls of algae that you can buy for your aquarium with his newly dyed hair, is no exception.)

Jaemin likes to think that he has a good handle on his regulars and the type of people who show up at seven in the morning for some coffee. He’s used to the monotony of it all, the same familiar faces over and over again, and it’s automatic, the way he hands Jiwoo her slice of cake.

What he isn’t used to is someone he’s never seen before walking into the bakery and beelining straight for the cashier, and it wouldn’t take as long for Jaemin to reorient himself if this newcomer weren’t the hottest guy Jaemin’s ever seen in his entire life.

Clearly, he’s spoken too soon about this being easy, and now he kinda-sorta wants to die. He’s supposed to see people this hot and interact with them and not be allowed to take them home? He’d rather die. Under the counter, he texts Donghyuck if i die do i automatically win and Donghyuck texts him back no it just means ur a quitter, which means Jaemin can never die now. At least not before Donghyuck does.

His fingernails dig into his palms, and he feels himself honest to god almost start sweating. He’s fairly certain he’s going to look down and see blood on his hands with how hard he’s been digging his nails into them, and he’s probably going to need a bathroom break after this. Probably.

“Um,” the guy says for the fifth time, and his tongue darts out to wet his lips. Jaemin can’t stop staring. There are so many other uses he can think of for that mouth. “What did you say?”

Jaemin blinks. He hadn’t been aware he was even saying anything at all. “Sorry, what?”

“I asked if you had any recommendations for someone who doesn’t usually drink coffee. I’m more of a tea kind of guy, and you kinda, like. Just started mumbling to yourself.” The guy’s eyes dart toward the display case of pastries. “Oh, I’d like a chocolate chip bagel, too. Just cream cheese inside, please. To go.”

“Sure,” Jaemin says, defaulting back to his training sessions. Work is easy. He can do this. He reaches over and picks up a bagel from the case with a pair of tongs, dropping it onto a tray and passing it to Chaewon, who gets to work slicing the bagel in half. “We have a selection of loose-leaf teas if you’re interested in those. I’d recommend the Pomegranate Green or the Jasmine Reserve if you’re looking for something to wake you up before class.”

“Hmm.” The guy stares up at the board with their options lovingly hand-lettered on it. He bites his lip as he thinks, and Jaemin can feel his eye start to twitch. “Could I get a cup of the Pomegranate Green, then? Just a medium is fine.”

Jaemin grabs a cup, writing down the order before he pauses. He looks up at the guy, who cocks his head. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Jeno,” he says, and he smiles. “Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Jaemin says, scribbling Jeno’s name down onto the cup and into his memory. He rings up Jeno’s order. “Your drink and bagel will be ready in a few minutes, and we’ll call you over when we’re done with them.”

“Sure thing. What’s your name?”

“I’m Jaemin.”

Jeno hums, and Jaemin watches as Jeno’s lips form the syllables of his name. “Thanks for the rec, Jaemin. See you around, yeah?”

Jaemin doesn’t even remember replying. All he can see is the curl of Jeno’s lips and the pink of Jeno’s tongue and the curve of Jeno’s eyes when he smiles, and it’s only after he’s handed Jeno’s drink and bagel to him that he realizes he’s going through it.

“I hate this so much,” Jaemin tells Donghyuck that night, pointedly ignoring the way Mark has a brand new hickey on his neck. “I really, really hate this so much.”

“Why?” Donghyuck asks from where he’s perched on the edge of the couch. “Are you gonna lose on the first day? Did you invite someone over tonight? Ha, I knew it. He was never gonna last.”

“I didn’t bring someone home,” Jaemin hisses. He thinks about Jeno, and his mind wanders places it’s not supposed to this month before Donghyuck coughs and jerks him back to reality. “Not gonna lie, I sure wish I did, though. But I’m gonna win this Lent thing. Just watch me.”

“Lent isn’t about winning, guys,” Mark reminds them.

“Dude, shut the fuck up. I just had to pass up an auction for an autographed poster because of your stupid Lent,” Donghyuck groans. “It feels like I’m losing.”

“Hate this so much.” Jaemin kicks the back of the couch, earning an indignant shriek from Donghyuck. “Life is supposed to be for living, not repressing yourself into the sixties.”

“Think of it this way,” Donghyuck says. “I’ll seriously set you up with this special someone I know if you make it through. He’s totally your type. I’ve seen you lose your shit over guys like him before, so you’ll definitely have a good time. Guaranteed.”

“Like, in a horizontal kind of a good time? Or what?”

Donghyuck wrinkles his nose up at Jaemin. “God, you’re awful. It seriously makes me not want to do this anymore. No, asshat, you’ll have a good time because he’s just a fun person to be around. Even if you don’t end up dating or hooking up or whatever, he’s still a good friend to have.”

“Lame,” Jaemin snorts. “You can keep your ‘he’s a good person’ friend, I’m going to try to make out with one of my new customers tomorrow. Or the next time he comes by. I’m really not picky, just as long as I get to find out what kinds of cute noises he makes once this shit is over.”

“Ooh, a new customer? What’s he like?”

Jaemin tunes out the sound of Donghyuck’s voice, still lost in his memories. “Oh, sweet Jeno, medium Pomegranate Green and a chocolate chip bagel with a cream cheese schmear. Wait for me. I’ll treat you the way you deserve to be treated, but in, like. A month.”

Mark’s staring at Jaemin with something like confusion in his eyes, and when he opens his mouth, Donghyuck’s hand shoots up to cover it almost immediately.

“You poor, sad, depraved soul,” Donghyuck whispers, staring at Jaemin before shaking his head, and Jaemin flips him the middle finger as he traipses back to his room.

Jaemin most definitely doesn’t spend the rest of the night staring blankly at his problem sets while thinking about Jeno’s perfect lips. Definitely not.

 

 

 

day two

 

Jaemin takes an extra shift just to try to see Jeno again, switching with one of the older part-timers. Chaewon gives him a sour look over her morning latte when he comes in at five in the morning, whistling something he just heard on the radio and generally being too happy for such an ungodly hour.

“Stop that, it’s annoying,” Chaewon hisses, accidentally smacking a hand on the sink when she goes to slap his arm. “Ow, shit, that hurt.”

“Not my fault you’re a dumbass.” Jaemin gets his americano with four shots of espresso ready, ducking behind Chaewon as she stands and stares at the recipe cheat sheet above the table. “What classes do you have again today?”

Chaewon shrugs. “I have an Integrative Bio seminar at nine, so basically just one and a half hours for a nap. And then after that is Intro to Entomology. We’re just gonna catch butterflies, it’s gonna be great.”

“You actually get units for that? Seriously? What the hell kinda shit are you IB majors learning?”

“You’re getting a degree and an internship for putting numbers into a spreadsheet and thinking you’ve solved the answer to the universe, so I don’t think you should be allowed to say anything at all. Like, no offense.”

Jaemin snorts and turns away, slurping his americano down in quiet protest. It tastes like jet fuel, just the way he likes it. Delicious.

He spends a good four hours there from opening until he has to run over to his first class in the school of business, and all he can think about while his professor drones on and on about the prisoner’s dilemma is that he didn’t get to see Jeno today amidst the crowd of uncaffeinated zombies he calls his regular customers. Whatever, Jaemin thinks as he writes down me no sex hyuck no spending mark no drinking = prisoners?? snitch to god to win at life and prisoner’s dilemma = solved, he’s just been pent up as of late.

He’s strong. He just has to focus on things that matter, like keeping his grades up and landing interviews at the Big Four and getting Jeno’s mouth around his—

Fuck.

Donghyuck, who’s on his phone in the kitchen, gives Jaemin a knowing smile when he walks through the door that night at nine, like he’s a cat who’s gotten his face into some particularly delicious cream. Jaemin only spares him a tired glance.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Donghyuck singsongs. “You’re looking kinda, well. Shitty.”

“Dude, I had a morning shift, and I had three back to back lectures, and I had to run all the way from one end of the campus to another twice, and I had my goddamn consulting club meeting today.” Jaemin trudges towards his room, pausing only to toss his Herschel on the ground. “God, I hate everything.”

“Wait, morning shift? Since when did you work on Thursdays?”

Goddamn, since when has Donghyuck ever been this observant? Jaemin racks his brain for a suitable excuse, but it’s late and his neurons have been fried to oblivion. “Switched with a coworker so I’m not working tomorrow morning. Got no class until noon, so I’ll probably just sleep in.” He scratches his head, marveling in the blissful silence that comes with only two people in their apartment. “Where’s Mark?”

“Out.” Donghyuck angles his head in the vague direction of the door. “Probably in the student center studying, I think he just likes it there because of the free printing.”

“No, he never prints shit out there, it’s because of the Gongcha on the ground floor. He has a stamp card that he’s been trying to fill up since forever.” Jaemin blinks. “Wait, but that Gongcha sucks ass, though? Why’s he always there?”

“Dunno,” Donghyuck shrugs. “I never want to be seen there because he and his boyfriend’s clique go, like, every day. I swear, it’s like some weird gathering of all the rich international kids. Plus Mark. The outsider. The only poor international kid at this entire school.”

Jaemin’s about to text Mark to bring him back a milk tea when he comes home when he realizes that not only does Donghyuck have his shoes on, he also has his messenger bag slung over his shoulders. He narrows his eyes, his earlier fatigue completely replaced by the desire to be annoyingly curious. “Hey, Donghyuck Lee, where the hell are you going?”

Donghyuck looks shiftily away. “Nowhere.”

“That sounds fake as hell, but I’m literally about to fall asleep right here on this couch and I don’t even remember how to take my clothes off anymore. You’re dead meat next time, Donghyuck.” Jaemin gives Donghyuck his best I’m Watching You glare, but he’s so sleepy that it probably just comes out looking like he’s trying to seduce him or something. Not that he ever would.

“Aw, sleepy baby, don’t hurt your brain too much thinking so hard, god knows it barely gets used,” Donghyuck coos, and he slips through the door before Jaemin can tell him to shut the hell up. He closes his eyes for half a second once he hears the lock turn, which means he ends up accidentally taking a half hour nap on the couch, and by the time he opens his eyes again, Mark’s in the kitchen with his boyfriend next to him, and they’re talking in quiet voices. Jaemin doesn’t know what they’re cooking, but it smells good. Kind of.

“Oh, you’re home,” Jaemin says, his mouth feeling cottony, and he pushes himself up into a sitting position. “When’d you get back?”

Mark glares up at his boyfriend, whacking his arm with the bendy spatula. “I told you we had to be quieter,” he hisses, and Lucas rubs a hand along the back of his neck.

“Sorry,” Lucas says in a mock whisper, which Jaemin actually kind of appreciates. His head is still ringing, and he’s not sure he can take loud noises right now. “But I told you not to put so many onions in and you just wouldn’t listen.”

“Sorry,” Mark says again to Jaemin. “He’ll be leaving soon, I just wanted to get him something to eat before he goes home. You want anything?”

Jaemin considers the prospect of dinner, but he’s already grabbed a slice of potato pizza on his way home, and maybe the combo of toppings they used today was just weird, but his stomach doesn’t quite feel right. He shakes his head, getting up off the couch and reorienting himself. “I’m good, thanks. Probably just gonna sleep now and get shit done in the morning, I’m literally so tired. Have fun and drive safe, yeah?”

Lucas gives him a warm smile. “Yeah, thanks, dude. Sleep tight.”

Jaemin somehow manages to fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow, but before he drifts off, he can barely make out the faint sound of laughter coming from the kitchen and he can remember thinking to himself distantly that I want that, too.

 

 

 

day three

 

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
how much were utilities for last month
gotta know so i can figure out how much to budget for alc lol

From: Satan
prob less now that ur not washing your sheets every other night anymore lmfao
also mark cant drink remember
bc hes a square

From: Baby Jesus
Lmao guys can you stop?

From: Satan
sry mark
it hurts not buying things anymore
where else am i going to get external validation

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
seek help

From: Satan
never

 

 

 

day six

 

It’s only with the siren song of caffeine that Jaemin manages to drag himself out of bed, smacking his phone so hard it bounces onto the ground. He sits up, rubbing his eyes and yawning blearily, and it’s times like these he’s never been happier to have his own room. Sure, Mark and Donghyuck have a room that isn’t the size of a walk-in closet, but at least he has the privacy to sit up and stare at the wall at goddamn four thirty in the morning like a man possessed.

His entire body aches during the walk to the coffeeshop, which he knows he can’t blame on anything but his inability to turn down going out. He’d ended up pregaming with Lucas and Lucas’ clique, the ones with the shiny sports cars, while Mark just sat there on the couch and drank coke as per his alcohol ban, before going over to a friend’s kickback on Saturday night, and it was only the increased blood flow to his brain that told him it’d be a good idea to wander over to frat row completely smashed.

So yeah. That happened.

Jaemin doesn’t remember too much of it, just remembers grinding against a few warm bodies before some higher part of his brain shouted $250 AMAZON GIFT CARD FOR NO SEX at him, and then he just has a vague recollection of grabbing the closest person that looked the most like Donghyuck and absconding back with him to their apartment. It’s all kind of a blur now, if he’s being honest. He’s still paying the price two days later, and it’s only because he went out for fried chicken and soju last night. Again, no impulse control.

Once that quadruple shot hits his veins, though, he’s alert and awake, tapping his fingers furiously against the counter after he’s finished up setting up for the day. “Why don’t we open later?” Jaemin demands, whirling around to look at Yerim, who spares him the slightest glance before she goes back to choosing which filter she’s going to use. “Literally no one even comes in until seven, so what’s the point?”

Yerim opens her mouth to respond, but before she can, the tell-tale ringing of the windchimes above the door sounds out. It’s barely six, but in walks in Jeno, looking like he’s just dragged himself out of bed and rolled down the hill to get here.

“Rough night?” Jaemin says sympathetically, and Jeno only groans.

“I want death,” Jeno says. “Just, like. Stab me with those pointy wooden things you put in the coffee. End my suffering.”

“Shit. Here, lemme just. You need something to wake you up?” Jaemin turns towards their selection of teas again, trying to rack his brain. Come on, think, what did Jeno order the last time he was here? “You already tried the Pomegranate Green, right?” Jeno mutters something that sounds like acknowledgement, and Jaemin hums. “How about the Jasmine Reserve this time?”

Jeno nods, and in Jaemin’s sleep-deprived state, he’s starting to resemble one of those cute bobbleheads, the solar-powered ones people put on their cars. Jaemin gets to work, opening the tin of Jasmine Reserve and filling up a disposable tea bag up with it before tottering over to the hot water dispenser.

“Let it steep for three minutes,” Jaemin says, handing the cup over to Jeno, who’s been waiting patiently at the counter. He’s still the only customer. Mondays are always slow, everyone still recovering from the weekend. He swipes Jeno’s card, and it’s the first time he’s noticed the design on it. “Is this—?”

Jeno stares at him, blank-faced as he takes the cup of tea. “Yep. They’re my cats.”

Jeno’s card is very clearly a custom design, three cats staring up at him when he inserts the chip. Jaemin wonders if anyone’s ever felt guilt-tripped for charging the card by such cute kittens, and he doesn’t realize he’s actually said it out loud until Jeno laughs, a weird sound to be hearing at six in the morning.

“I mean, no, not yet? If the guilt trip works, let me know.”

“It works, trust me, but I can’t just give you free drinks.” Jaemin slides the card back over to Jeno, spinning the display over to face him. Jeno signs with a flourish, and the door chimes open again. “Thanks for coming by again, Jeno.”

“Hey, where were you on Friday?” Jeno asks, holding the cup in front of him like a barrier. He has his fingers wrapped around it, almost protective, and there’s just the slightest hint of a pout on Jeno’s lips. “I came by, and you weren’t there.”

Oh.

Oh.

“Uh, I switched shifts with someone to get the Thursday morning shift, so I didn’t come in on Friday.” Jaemin doesn’t dare ask. For some reason, it feels weird to flirt with Jeno, to treat him the way he and his occasional hookups joke around with each other. But he does anyway, curse his impulsive as fuck Leo sun, or whatever it is that Donghyuck says makes him the worst at making rational decisions. “Why? Were you looking for me?”

“Yeah. Got a discussion section at eight around here and you were so nice to me last time, so I was looking forward to seeing you again.” Now Jeno’s really pouting, his lower lip upturned, and Jaemin stares. He doesn’t remember the last time he’s ever been this openly flirted with in a way that doesn’t involve copious amounts of alcohol or borderline illegal swaths of exposed skin. He’s completely sober and completely clothed, but for some reason, he feels naked.

And all he can choke out is a, “You too, Jeno,” before the customer behind Jeno coughs and Jeno shuffles off to the side. Jaemin keeps an eye on Jeno the entire time he’s there, sitting at a corner table with a Macbook pulled out in front of him and the Jasmine Reserve on the side. It gets busier and busier as the morning drags on, and Jaemin barely has enough time to breathe, let alone to go over to Jeno’s table and make small talk.

By the time Jaemin looks back over at seven during a lull of the waves of caffeine-starved students, Jeno’s gone.

 

 

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
i literally don’t get it
how do ppl flirt
like.. how

From: Satan
tell them u wanna fuck
oh wait lmfao
you cant

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
I WILL SHIT IN UR BED

From: Satan
LMFAO BITCH TRY ME!!

 

 

 

day seven

 

To be honest, Jaemin’s never had a real relationship.

Oh, but there’s that long period from second grade until eleventh when he was convinced he was going to marry the girl with the prettiest smile in the entire school, or at least until she came out at the end of high school. There’s also Jaehyun Jung, who’d been the president of his business club when he was a freshman and the star of many of his nighttime fantasies. And then, of course, there are all of his hookups and friends with benefits, Tinder dates and Bumble matches, and none of them have really amounted to much.

He doesn’t know why, but it’s always been so easy for him to charm, to flirt. A pretty face, a practiced line, an easy smile, and he gets what he wants. A night of fun, no strings attached.

It’d be easy to tumble someone like Jeno into bed. Find out what he tastes like, make good use of those mouth, tell him what a good boy he is. He looks like the type to want that, at least, and Jaemin would be lying to himself if he said he hadn’t considered the prospect at least once. He’s cute enough, easy enough on the eyes, and from what Jaemin can tell, his body isn’t half bad either.

But he has his eyes on the prize, and if Jeno’s the first stepping stone on his way to having a relationship that doesn’t end the morning after, that doesn’t end in blocked numbers after miscommunications, that gives him someone to bring home every night, then so be it.

Now he just has to figure out how the hell to do something about it.

 

  

 

day eight

 

The third time Jaemin sees Jeno isn’t actually at the coffeeshop.

They’d been so busy in the back prepping for a pastry catering order that Jaemin was holed up there the entire shift, and it was with a slight twinge of regret that he left that morning, power walking up to the business school. He’d been planning on asking Jeno if he wanted to study together sometime, if he wanted to maybe grab lunch at the new pop-up that opened up downtown, or if he wanted to maybe put Jaemin out of his misery, but he didn’t see Jeno at all.

Jaemin doesn’t usually take this path between classes, but he got out of econ early so he has just a little bit more time to kill on the scenic route. He’s leisurely walking down the path that leads down campus, winding around a large glade in front of the main library, when he spots an extremely familiar head of hair, one that’s attached to a body that’s attached to a hand holding a red and gold thermos, and Jaemin almost rushes forward to smack the offending thermos out of his hand.

Instead of ruining a perfectly good thermos and potentially ruining his chances at a relationship, he moves so that he’s directly in front, and says, “Hey, Jeno.”

Jeno looks up, taking his earbuds out, and when he smiles, the clouds above them part and the sun shines down. Okay, maybe correlation isn’t causation, but it’s still suspicious. “Hey. Can’t believe you’re a real person.”

“I’m not a real person? I feel pretty real to me.”

“No, I mean,” Jeno makes a vague gesture at their surroundings, “outside. Like, not at the café?”

“Hey,” Jaemin says, mock-affronted. “I’m an actual student, too, I have classes and I go outside.”

“Yeah, sure, I don’t buy it,” Jeno says, and then he darts a quick look at his watch. “Wait, shit, sorry, I’d love to talk but I’m totally going to be late to my midterm if I don’t start walking again, I’ll see you some other time, yeah?” He gives Jaemin one last apologetic glance before he’s putting his earbuds back in and prepping to start power walking again, and—

“Wait,” Jaemin blurts out. Jeno stops dead in his tracks, his expression shifting into confusion, and Jaemin almost loses his nerve. What if he’s read the mood wrong? “Um. Do you wanna study together sometime? I have a room reserved in the student center, third floor.”

It’s not even his room’s, it’s his club’s, and the other members are going to be pissed, but like hell he’s giving up this opportunity. He takes out a napkin he wrote his phone number on before he left the café this morning and hands it to Jeno, who takes it and stares at it before realization dawns on him.

Jeno’s smile becomes something oddly knowing, something oddly mischievous, that sends an itch all the way up and down Jaemin’s nerves. “I’ll text you,” Jeno promises, and he’s gone again, sprinting up the path before Jaemin can respond.

Jaemin only barely manages to make it to psych in time, bursting in eleven minutes after the hour and slipping into a seat at the very back of the auditorium after squishing his way past five people’s knees. Thank god, the professor’s only still on her intro slide.

When lecture’s nearly over, his phone buzzes with an incoming notification, and he pulls it out.

 

 

From: Unknown Number
Hey! This is Jeno
Sorry I just finished my midterm and I don’t get good service in there anyway
Gotta go to my next class tho
Ttyl? :)

 

  

 

day nine

 

This is what Jaemin learns about Jeno Lee when they meet up to study together:

One: he just transferred to this school, shirking the palm trees and daily sunshine he grew up around for moss and rain and perpetual sadness. It isn’t that bad, Jeno protests, but Jaemin can hear the seasonal depression already starting to kick in. His voice even already sounds sadder than what it was the first time they met. Poor Jeno, another optimistic soul lost to the cruelty of constantly rainy skies. “I’ll keep you warm,” Jaemin says to Jeno almost a hundred percent on impulse, reaching over so he can pat Jeno gently on the elbow, and Jeno blinks at him, and he immediately backtracks. “I mean, like. So you don’t get cold or anything. Gets kinda chilly here around nighttime.”

Two: he’s a good dancer. Like, really good. He joined their campus dance team as soon as he transferred, passing all of the auditions with ease and even managing to land a spot on the lauded competition team. Jeno shows him the photo he just changed his profile picture to, and holy mother of god, he’s wearing this fitted black turtleneck and ripped jeans and he’s standing on a set of stairs and looking back at the camera in that stupid unrealistic back-breaking pose he’s seen so many comic book heroines in, but it’s Jeno this time. Jaemin shifts in his chair, and Jeno smiles at him before pocketing his phone again.

Three: he’s crazy smart. Jeno tells Jaemin that he only transferred here because the civil engineering curriculum at his old school wasn’t “challenging enough,” or whatever the fuck that means. Jaemin doesn’t know why anyone would willingly give up an easy A and an almost guaranteed six-figure job after graduation to come here and suffer, but. See Bullet Point One: Jeno Lee is clearly not a normal human being, which means Jaemin is even more attracted to him than he was before. Jaemin’s after that double-income household, so if they can get married and settle down somewhere with a nice view of the bay and a dog and a cat and two children, that’d be great. Okay, back on track.

Four: he cleans up so well. Morning Jeno is a different Jeno from Afternoon Jeno, and Jaemin doesn’t even want to think about what Night Jeno must be like. Morning Jeno always has a hoodie and sweatpants on, and he always looks like he’s about five seconds away from keeling over and passing out. Afternoon Jeno is, for lack of a better word, hot. The weather’s just starting to warm up, and he’s ditched the hoodies and sweatpants for a form-fitting tee and tight jeans, and Jaemin can barely keep his eyes from wandering to the shine of Jeno’s belt buckle. Which does nothing but contribute to a problem that later comes up, again and again and again.

Five: he’s so, so distracting. Jaemin’s problem is that he already has a relatively short attention span, his eyes darting to every flash of color and movement outside their cubicle door, his neck craning to the side so he can try to make out what the group of students next to him are working on. Anything is more interesting than figuring out how much money Big Pharma Company A has to invest into marketing in order to recoup the costs of research and development. Jeno only makes matters worse, biting his lip and his pen and his finger and literally anything he can get his mouth on.

Jaemin’s fingernails dig into his palm again, and when he looks down at his print out, the words have somehow rearranged themselves to spell out TELL HIM YOU WANNA FUCK, and Jaemin reads it to himself in Donghyuck’s voice. Goddammit.

“What’s wrong?” Jeno asks, looking up from his readings. Jaemin hadn’t even known civil engineers had readings to do, hadn’t even known they were even capable of reading, but Jeno keeps surprising him more and more. Jaemin forces his fists to unclench, forces himself to think about Jeno’s cats. Think about the mackerel tabby, think about the white one with the spot on its nose, think about the cute calico.

“Nothing,” Jaemin answers smoothly, and Jeno’s eyebrows furrow at him.

“Really.”

“Yes. I’m just,” Jaemin squints at his paper, and oh, look, his optic nerves and cerebral cortex have finally decided to cooperate with him again, “thinking about how much I hate fucking econ. God, numbers. Literally the worst.”

“Well, I’d hope you weren’t fucking econ,” Jeno murmurs, completely straight-faced, and Jaemin stares at him.

“I’d never fuck econ,” Jaemin says after a moment of trying to figure out how the hell to respond to something like that. “That’s gross.”

“First time we’re actually speaking and we’re talking about how you don’t like fucking numbers, this totally bodes well for the rest of our relationship, Jaemin.”

“Hell yeah it does.”

 

 

As soon as Jaemin gets home, promising to Jeno that they’ll totally set up another time to study and promising to the rest of his club members that he won’t steal their cubicle space for a personal meeting (“You can’t use consulting club space for your date,” Yewon admonished, and Jaemin barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “It wasn’t a date,” Jaemin protested. “I just needed some time to myself, okay? And besides, I saw you making out with that one girl from KASA last week in here, so there.” Yewon had flushed a bright red, and that was that), he hops in the bathroom.

It’s not long at all before he’s spilling into his hand, Jeno’s face front and center in his mind, and Jaemin mentally checks off a box.

There it is: his first jerk-off of Lent.

 

 

 

day twelve

 

To: Jeno Lee
hey did i just see you at the gym??

From: Jeno Lee
Oh haha yeah that was me!

To: Jeno Lee
cool cool i thought i recognized you
you wanna work out together sometime? (ง •̀_•́)ง

From: Jeno Lee
Sure!! I’d love to have someone there with me for once :)
I get kinda lonely sometimes haha

To: Jeno Lee
cool cool i can’t wait

 

 

 

day fifteen

 

After another few agonizing days of watching Jeno chew on the ends of his pens during their study sessions in the campus library and spotting for Jeno on weights (quick recap: it truly fucking sucks, and Jaemin’s gotten annoyingly used to taking ice-cold showers to get rid of his inconvenient hard-ons), it officially hits fifteen days of this madness. Jaemin would give himself an award if he could. He says as much to Donghyuck, who rolls his eyes at him.

“You really haven’t hooked up with anyone yet? Isn’t this your record?” Donghyuck pauses. “Wait, no, there’s been your dry spells during finals and stuff, right?”

Jaemin thinks back, and. “Nah, last dead week, I got head from one of Yerim’s roommates in the library. Don’t ask.”

“What the fuck.”

“Also on the bench outside the music building. And in the auditorium. And—”

“Stop, oh my god.” Mark puts a hand up, and Jaemin clamps his mouth shut. “Progress report, guys.”

“No sex, nothing for fifteen days. Honestly, I’m proud of myself,” Jaemin announces proudly, leaning his chair back on two legs. “And you guys thought I couldn’t do it.”

“You literally don’t have that great of a track record, Jaemin, it’s really not that hard to tell why we thought you couldn’t. Anyway, haven’t bought anything I didn’t need, you can check my credit card statement if you want.” Donghyuck sniffs. “I had to log out of all of my accounts, though, the temptation is way too strong.”

“I can’t believe you guys still went out without me,” Mark says glumly. “Haven’t touched red meat in over two weeks, and I got Lucas to help monitor me. Sometimes I still get those urges to take a shot before I study. Like, as an incentive to do well.”

“Isn’t that counterproductive?” Jaemin wonders.

“Maybe it’d be fun for you if your tolerance weren’t shit,” Mark suggests, the barest hint of a smile curving at his lips, and Donghyuck slaps his leg.

“Alright, have fun tonight, kiddos,” Donghyuck announces, standing up and backing away from the table. He grabs his keys and says, “I’m going out.”

Mark looks up so sharply that Jaemin can almost hear the whiplash as it occurs. “Wait, where?”

“Renjun’s place.” As soon as the words leave Donghyuck’s mouth, he pales, slapping his hands over his mouth, but it’s too late. The damage is done, and the wheels have begun turning in Jaemin’s brain.

“I thought you said Renjun was, quote unquote, ‘just a one-night stand!’” Jaemin exclaims, a vivid memory of accidentally walking in on Renjun pressing Donghyuck back onto the couch and sucking kisses into his neck rushing to the forefront of his mind. Donghyuck assured him later that the thing with Renjun was nothing, was just a hookup, and Jaemin was immediately placated by the reassurance that he wouldn’t have to live with the fact that his roommate was dating the guy who almost ran over him in his car last semester. “Dude, what the hell?”

“Um,” Donghyuck says, his eyes shifting wildly between them. He looks a bit like he’s watching a tennis game, like he’s trying to determine if Mark or Jaemin is more likely to follow him out the door and shake the answers out of him like he’s a piñata. “Things changed?”

And then he’s gone, the door slamming behind him with a resounding finality, and Jaemin puts his face into his hands and sighs.

“Hey, it could be worse,” Mark says, patting Jaemin on his hand, and Jaemin makes a sound that’s like the bastard child of a moan and the dying whimper of a beached whale. “No, I’m serious. He could be dating Hendery.”

Jaemin lifts his face out of his hands, locking gazes with Mark, and they both take a brief moment to think about how Donghyuck was the one who accidentally fucked up Hendery’s car while they were all at Lucas’ place, putting it out of commission for a good four months. Donghyuck almost left the country, afraid for his life and the terrifying reality that Hendery could very well sue him for the repairs on his Maserati.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jaemin remembers Hendery telling them one night, his hands tucked into the pockets of his angora sweater and smiling with his eyes. Donghyuck very nearly fainted of relief, collapsing against Mark and holding onto Jaemin’s hand for support. “It’s not a big deal anyway. My family can take care of it.”

“You’re right,” Jaemin says solemnly. “It really could be worse.”

“Yeah, haha,” Mark agrees, and then Jaemin stares at him again. “What? What?”

“You just said haha. That’s against your Lent rules. You lost Lent.”

“Oh my god, those aren’t even my real resolutions, mine were no drinking and no red meat! Donghyuck was the one who came up with the other ones.” Mark rubs his face.

“But it’s a rule that he gave.” Yeah, so what if he’s whining?

“Ugh, It doesn’t even count, and as far as I’m concerned, I haven’t lost anything at all. Which isn’t the point of Lent anyway, it’s about giving up luxuries in life.”

Mark gets up to leave, probably to go wash his face and sleep because he’s the resident geriatric in their apartment, and when Jaemin sees that Mark’s disappeared into the bathroom down the hall, he mutters to himself, quietly and sullenly, “You lost.”

 

 

  

day sixteen

 

Donghyuck is in the bathroom when Jaemin gets home from the gym one night, and he stalks forward and bangs against the bathroom door as loudly as he can. He can hear the familiar dulcet tones of Donghyuck’s latest recital piece drowned out by the water, so he’s definitely in there, and he’s definitely ignoring Jaemin.

“Hey! Donghyuck Lee!”

No response.

“Donghyuck! Satan’s asshole! Caramel cheese corn cupcake!”

Still no response, so Jaemin draws in a deep breath and prepares his Ultimate Move.

“Donghyuck Lee, if you don’t open this door right the fuck now, I’m telling Mark it was you who accidentally peed his bed and not your hookup that one time.”

The water shuts off in a flash, and the door’s yanked open so quickly that Jaemin almost stumbles backwards. Donghyuck’s hiding his body behind the door, and only his face is visible, his expression stormy and his cheeks rapidly reddening, and not just from the steam.

“What the fuck,” Donghyuck hisses, “do you want.”

Jaemin smiles at him, placid and serene, and he can already feel Donghyuck’s annoyance at him ratchet up another notch every second that he dawdles. “Oh, nothing,” Jaemin croons, before whipping out the padfolio he’d been hiding behind his back. “I should be allowed to jack off as many times as I want. I found some papers on PubMed that say that if I don’t jack off once every five days, my sperm become bad. And you want future Jaemin babies to be just as beautiful and smart as their daddy is, right?” For emphasis, Jaemin gives Donghyuck his best pout.

Donghyuck slams the door in his face.

“I’ll leave the papers on your desk!” Jaemin calls through the door, and he hears the decisive click of the lock turning in place. “Remember what I’ll tell Mark if you don’t!”

Hey. It’s not his fault he had to blackmail Donghyuck to raise his number of maximum allotted masturbation sessions. He’s just been working out with Jeno a lot, and, well, what can he say?

Jeno’s hot, with wide shoulders and a trim waist that Jaemin would die to get his hands on, and when Jeno’s lying on the bench like that, his chest heaving with exhaustion and his fingers slipping under his sleeveless tank to rest on top of his heart, Jaemin can’t handle it. Jaemin Junior especially can’t handle it. It’s why earlier today, he excused himself to go shower and change first, which was just a really transparent excuse to run off and jam his hand into his basketball shorts and think about having Jeno bent over in front of him, his fingers scrabbling at the wet tiles in the shower, and. Yeah.

“You clean?” Jeno asked when Jaemin came back outside, smelling for all the world like baby powder and soap.

“Yup.” Jaemin nodded, and when they walked over to the campus cafeteria for dinner, Jaemin could almost swear that the back of Jeno’s hand was bumping his the entire time.

 

 

 

day seventeen

 

The next morning, Jaemin is pleased to notice that the poster taped up in the kitchen has been edited to give him as many dates with his right hand as he needs “in honor of your great service to the campus population by not having sex with any of the poor girls, boys, and everyone in between who deserve better than your dick.”

Whatever, he’ll take it.

A win’s a win, after all.

 

  

 

day eighteen

 

To: Jeno Lee
hey you’re still kinda new around right
you wanna grab brunch tmr? \(^▽^)/

From: Jeno Lee
Well kinda, this is only my second semester here
Yeah sure!
Got a place in mind?

To: Jeno Lee
mmm not rly, where do you live?
i have some recs but we can go wherever is easier for you

From: Jeno Lee
I live downtown~
Is that ok?

To: Jeno Lee
oh shit nice there’s a place downtown i rly like for their chicken and waffles
it’s like a korean fusion place i’ll send you the yelp link ╰(▔∀▔)╯
does 10 sound ok with you? it gets hella packed around lunch lol

From: Jeno Lee
Ok I’m gonna try my best not to be late
Waking up is hard
Hope that’s not a dealbreaker

To: Jeno Lee
it might just be lol
jkjk
(─‿‿─)♡

From: Jeno Lee
LOL :(
Ok see you tomorrow?

To: Jeno Lee
see ya ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ

 

 

 

day nineteen

 

There’s already a line at the brunch spot when Jaemin gets there, and he’s just about resigned himself to a thirty-minute wait when Jeno taps him on the shoulder.

“Hey, you’re here. Just in time,” Jeno says, looking like a typical Morning Jeno— hoodie, jeans, and, wait, are those glasses perched on his nose? “I made us a reservation online earlier, I think our table’s gonna be ready soon.”

Jaemin’s brain to mouth filter usually works pretty well, but it’s decided to abandon him completely today because the first thing that comes out of his mouth is: “You look cute in glasses.” His brain catches up with his mouth in time, but by then, there’s not much he can do to salvage the situation. “Do you usually wear contacts?”

“Um. Thanks? Yeah, I usually wear contacts for class, but it’s Sunday, so. Wasn’t planning on going to class or anything.” Jeno laughs, a high and nervous sound, and Jaemin feels oddly flattered by that. “So, let’s go in?”

Jaemin gets the bulgogi scramble and Jeno gets the Korean fried chicken and waffles, and Jaemin makes Jeno wait for a few minutes as he takes some perfectly angled shots for his Instagram with their shared French toast in the back of the entrees. Jeno tries to stab his fork into his waffles at least three times, spearing them into the air with a single-minded intensity, and Jaemin has to grab his wrist and hold it away every single time, hissing at him to stop it already.

“Jesus,” Jaemin mutters under his breath as he picks up a forkful of food and chomps into it, “can’t a guy get some aesthetic shots around here?”

“Thanks, I’m flattered, but you can just call me Jeno.”

Jaemin can hear the wide smile in Jeno’s voice, and he chooses not to dignify that with an answer. They fight about six more times over who gets to eat the strawberry on top of the French toast (Jaemin) and who gets to eat the cream in the middle (Jeno), and the biggest fight that morning is about who gets to pick up the check. Jaemin slaps his card down the same time Jeno does, and Jeno holds his stare for a good thirty seconds.

“Jaemin,” Jeno says sweetly, “I’m paying. You invited me here. It’s the least I could do.”

“Exactly,” Jaemin responds. “So that’s why I’m paying. Because I invited you here. No splitting. So there. Ha!”

Jeno’s lips purse into a tight line, and Jaemin takes the opportunity to yank Jeno’s card out of his fingers and tuck it into his pocket as he hands the server the check with his own card. Jeno’s sulky the entire time, his hands shoved into his pocket and making the occasional face at Jaemin whenever he looks over, at least until they head next door to get boba and Jeno hip checks Jaemin out of the line to pay.

“One soy matcha latte with boba and one black milk tea with boba, please,” Jeno tells the cashier, grinning at Jaemin after he pays, and Jaemin rolls his eyes. Jaemin finds a table in the back for them to wait at, and he plops down before looking back up at Jaemin. “Wait, I just noticed, why’d you bring your backpack?”

“I was just gonna study here after brunch, actually. They have free wifi and I have some presentations to work on for next week.”

“If you want to, you can come over to my place.” Jeno shifts from side to side, and Jaemin’s attention completely derails as soon as Jeno says come over to my place, all context be damned. “If you don’t mind cats, that is… I’m kinda fostering some kittens right now, so I get it if you’re allergic.”

“I’m down,” Jaemin says immediately, and Jeno gives him a small smile.

Jeno’s place ends up being right across the street, and the first thing Jeno does when he unlocks the door is to kick off his shoes. “My roommate is pretty anal about this,” he explains. “If you don’t take off your shoes, he’ll know and then he’ll murder me with a spatula.”

Jaemin winces, toeing off his sneakers. “Sounds rough.”

“Yeah,” Jeno says, and makes a wide, sweeping motion with his arms. “Well, welcome to my humble abode. I’ll type in the wifi password if you need it, the network’s called Foxxxy Babes, don’t ask.”

“Sexy,” Jaemin says, wiggling his eyebrows at Jeno, and Jeno scrunches his nose up before he points at the couch.

“You can sit there, my roommate doesn’t really like having too many people over because it’s pretty small… I mean, it’s fine if it’s just friends coming over to hang out, so we can just work here on the couch? I sleep over there on the futon in the corner, by the way. Just so you don’t think you can go around putting your ass on it.”

“Your roommate just has a single?”

“Yeah, I’m in the converted living room. He has a pretty big room, so whenever he has people over, they just stay in there.”

Jaemin hums, and he lets Jeno get back to his own work. The two of them work in silence, and Jaemin hears the occasional exhale of air that means Jeno’s found something funny online. When Jaemin’s halfway done with editing his presentation, he feels a light bump on his leg. He looks down, and there’s a black cat staring up at him.

“Hello,” Jaemin whispers to it, and it mewls at him. “What’s your name?”

“Her name is Berry,” Jeno says, passing by on his way to the kitchen. “She’s one of the cats I’m fostering for the humane society. The other one’s Butter, she’s inside the bathroom right now.”

“Hi, Berry,” Jaemin whispers to her again. “Do you have any brothers or sisters? How old are you?”

“Two of each and a year and a half,” Jeno calls out from the kitchen, the sound of him boiling water in the background.

“Wow, Berry. I thought you would sound prettier, but you sound very masculine. Very chic.”

“God, shut up, Jaemin, Berry has a cute baby voice! Listen to her purr, it’s so cute!”

Jaemin leans down to pick Berry up, hefting her into his lap, and gives her a few scritches until she’s purring in his hands, nudging the palm of his hand with her nose. He can see, out of the corner of his eye, Jeno staring at him, and he ducks his head quickly to hide the smile on his face.

“You do have a cute baby voice,” Jaemin murmurs in her ear, just quietly enough that he’s certain Jeno won’t be able to hear him, “but I think your dad is cuter.”

 

 

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
gonna kms i think i like someone lol

From: Satan
WHAT?????

From: Baby Jesus
Omg congrats ^_^ I knew you could do it!!!
Who’s the lucky guy or gal?

From: Satan
god shut UP MARK
we should be warning that poor soul away from him
and telling them to run as far as fuckin possible

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
PLS I HATE THIS TOO!!!!!!
someone pls call me stone cold i need to feel like myself again

From: Satan
you’re abt as stone cold as overcooked tteok these days

From: Baby Jesus
^

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
i hate you both
die

From: Satan
:*

 

  

 

day twenty

 

“Halfway there,” Jaemin sighs into a pitcher of yakult soju, staring into it like it holds the answers to the mysteries of the universe.

“Are you talking about Lent or the soju?” Donghyuck asks, pushing some radishes from Mark’s plate onto his own. “Because I really can’t tell.”

“Both,” Jaemin mumbles. “Twenty— no, twenty-two days since I had sex. Didn’t have sex the two days before it started. Does my dick even work anymore?”

Donghyuck gives him a disgusted look over his corn cheese, and he doesn’t even do anything when Mark takes his radishes back. “Gross. I would never have sex. My dick will never fall off like yours is going to someday.”

“You just went to Renjun’s place last night to get laid, what the hell,” Mark says, and Donghyuck shushes him.

“That’s not important. Fake news. Dunno who you heard that from, but it’s not true.”

It’s the first day of spring break, which means they have a table in the back of one of their favorite fried chicken places, with Jaemin and Donghyuck squished in the inside and Mark in one of the middle seats. It’s not long before more people join their table, Lucas sliding in next to Jaemin, and Hendery and Dejun taking the seats on the outside, and like magic, once their table is full, their chicken arrives.

“You’re so disgusting,” Jaemin says, watching Mark feed Lucas a drumstick like a mother bird feeding her chick, and Donghyuck scoffs.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have fucking made it happen. You’re literally the reason they exist.”

Well. Donghyuck’s not wrong. Back in his freshman year, Jaemin tagged Mark on a picture of a big fluffy Samoyed that looked oddly familiar (“@Mark Lee @Donghyuck Lee ISN’T THIS ON CAMPUS I SWEAR I’VE SEEN THIS DOG BEFORE??? TELL ME I’M NOT GOING CRAZY”), and Mark used his limited internet abilities to navigate to the poster’s page and found out that they were actually, surprise surprise, in the same sophomore writing class.

The story of how they got together goes a little bit like this: the very next time they had class, Mark rushed out of his chair, stumbled straight into that boy with the blindingly white smile and said, “Your dog is so beautiful I saw her online and I love her,” only choking on his words once. The boy with the blindingly white smile turned that smile on him and said, “I’m actually going to go home to walk Milky right now, if you wanna come see her,” and Mark said, in what Jaemin considers the second stupidest thing Mark has ever said, “Her name is Milky,” and well, the rest is history.

“Should’ve snagged me a hot boyfriend with a dog, why does Mark Lee get one and I don’t?”

“Dumbass,” Donghyuck sneers, “that’s why your Lent goal is to give up sex for an entire forty days. Learn to form meaningful relationships that don’t revolve around your dick for once.”

Jaemin’s about to answer with some scathing retort regarding Donghyuck’s ass and his inability to stop leaving socks at his hookups’ places, but his attention gets stolen away by a familiar face that comes in through the door. It’s Jeno, flanked by some girls he can’t quite recognize in the low light, and he knows for sure that if Donghyuck ever finds out about whatever this tentative friendship-slash-courtship is that he has going on with Jeno, Jaemin’s going to be in for a world of emotional torment.

So he masks his distraction in pretending to be staring at the LED TV screens blasting the latest k-pop music videos, before he turns back to Donghyuck and says, equally acidic (he hopes), “At least I don’t have to keep buying new socks every other week, since I actually remember to bring them back during my walks of shame.”

Donghyuck blinks at him. “What the fuck?”

“Never mind.” God. That was awful. “Jesus, just. Never mind.”

Jaemin spends the rest of the night steadfastly ignoring everyone around him playing footsies (Mark accidentally slides a foot up Jaemin’s leg, and when Lucas smiles blankly instead of playing along, Mark knows he’s made a Huge Mistake and immediately drops his foot; Jaemin just gives Mark the filthiest, smarmiest wink he can, and Mark flushes) and wallowing in his single-ness. Even Donghyuck texts Renjun, and judging from the smile that spreads across his face after reading one of Renjun’s replies, Jaemin can already tell that it’s nothing he wants to ever be involved in.

Mark, Donghyuck, and Jaemin took the bus to dinner tonight, but the only reason they invited Lucas and his housemates to dinner tonight was to hitch a ride on the way back. Mark, by virtue of being Lucas’ Official Boyfriend, gets shotgun, which means Jaemin has to squish uncomfortably in the back with Donghyuck and Dejun and Hendery, and he’s fairly certain he’s the biggest one of them all but has the least amount of space.

“Hey,” Donghyuck says, completely aware that they’re in a car with four other people, three of whom Jaemin barely knows. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah, I’m alright.” There’d been a lot of soju going around, and the yakult one goes down like there isn’t any alcohol in it at all. He only has his storied past of rushing and pledging a frat freshman year to thank for his tolerance; without it, he’d probably be out by now. “Just kinda… Lightheaded. I’m okay.”

Donghyuck rolls his eyes, an impressive feat in the dark. “No, dumbass, the Lent thing. It’s just for fun, so you don’t have to go through with it if you don’t want to. I’m already this close to quitting, and the only thing that’s keeping me from blowing my savings on a signed Michael Jackson record is the fact that I kind of have to eat to survive.”

Weird question, coming from Donghyuck Lee of all people. Does Jaemin trust him enough to give him an honest answer? Probably. Jaemin goes for straightforward. There’s no use beating around the bush, since Donghyuck already told all of them just what Jaemin was giving up for Lent over corn cheese and soy garlic chicken.

“I’m okay,” Jaemin says, flippant. “It’s alright, like. I’m not gonna lie and say it isn’t cold at night, but that’s what blankets are for, right?” He grins and runs a hand through his hair, knocking his head against the window.

“Stop it.” Donghyuck leans into Jaemin’s space, pressing him even further against the car door, and his voice lowers. “Stop. I’m serious, Jaemin. I don’t— Mark and I never meant to make you feel bad about sleeping with tons of people, god only knows how many unknown dicks I’ve found on Tinder. We just wanted to do something fun, but you don’t have to be okay with it if you aren’t. You don’t, you never had to do this.”

“Christ, Donghyuck. I’m okay with it, I swear.” Jaemin laughs, easy. He curls a hand around Donghyuck’s neck, pulls him close. He smells like chicken and alcohol, the way they always do after a night out like this. He’s glad that Donghyuck brought it up first— he’s not sure how he would’ve ever brought it up to them, if he would’ve ended up bottling up his resentment and letting it explode along the line, but he’s glad. “Trust me, don’t I know myself the best?”

“You’re okay?” Donghyuck’s gaze looks uncannily focused. The conversation around them is still loud, but Jaemin can practically sense Mark listening in on them, keeping an ear on what Jaemin’s saying. He wonders how long they’ve been thinking about this, too.

“Yeah, I’m good. It’s been good.” He tries not to let his mind wander to specifics, but he fails, coming up only with crinkled eyes and fingers that worry at sweater sleeves. The smile comes easily. He means it this time, and he hopes that Donghyuck knows. “Besides, I’ve always wanted to try barebacking it.”

“Gross, but alright, whatever you say,” Donghyuck chirps, turning his focus back to an incoming message from Renjun. Jaemin can barely make out the word “huge,” and yeah, he really, really does not want to know.

“There’s also that $250 gift card Dejun gave you too, right?” Hendery asks from where he’s currently squished against the car door, bracketed in by Dejun’s thin frame. Donghyuck’s head whips up from his screen to stare over at Hendery, then Dejun. “Lucas told me. There are no secrets here.”

“Your internship money’s going to a good cause, Dejun,” Jaemin says solemnly, and Dejun just raises an eyebrow. “Yes, really. You’re all invited over to play Smash with me whenever you want.”

“I’m down,” Hendery says automatically, his eyes shining, and Mark whirls around from the front seat.

“Dude, don’t you guys have a PS4 and a Switch? And two TVs?”

Dejun shrugs. “You can never play too much Smash.”

They drop Donghyuck and Jaemin off at home on their way back to their northside apartment, and Mark waves at Jaemin from the passenger seat. “I’ll be going to the engineering library to work on a project, it’s literally due in two days and I failed the last midterm so I can’t not do well, see ya don’t wait up for me!”

“Five bucks he’s just ditching us because he thinks we’re uncool now,” Jaemin murmurs out of the corner of his mouth, and Donghyuck scoffs.

“Hell no, I’m not taking that bet, I’d lose.” Donghyuck opens the building door, and when they make their way up to their apartment, there’s an oddly shaped package in front of the door. Donghyuck’s face looks pinched, almost green, when he sees it, and Jaemin can see that it’s labeled TO: DONGHYUCK and FROM: RENJUN :). He’s already terrified.

“You’re not going to Renjun’s tonight?” Jaemin asks, testing the waters of how serious the I’m Sleeping With the Guy Who Nearly Ran Over My Roommate affair is, and Donghyuck nudges the package with his foot.

“Nah,” Donghyuck says, weirdly strangled, “Said he was out tonight, but maybe some other time? He didn’t say anything about a package, so I wonder what this is…”

That night, Jaemin has his headphones on blasting away at full volume, partly so he can disguise the moans coming from the other room, partly so he can concentrate on quality music, and partly so he can drown out the weird sobbing noises he makes when Jeno sends him more pictures of the cats he’s fostering.

So maybe he’s got it bad.

So what?

 

  

 

day twenty-one

 

From: Satan
yo did u hear anything weird last night
just wondering

To: Satan
uhh nah
lol why? had my music on rly loud
were you doing some shit you weren’t supposed to

From: Satan
oh lol
nothing nvm

 

 

To: Jeno Lee
LMAO REMEMBER WHAT I WAS TEXTING YOU ABOUT LAST NIGHT
GUESS WHAT MY ROOMIE LITERALLY JUST SAID TO ME
Attached: IMG_0807.jpg
Attached: IMG_0825.jpg

From: Jeno Lee
LET YOUR ROOMMATE RIDE HIS NEW DILDO IN PEACE OMG >:(

To: Jeno Lee
WHY

From: Jeno Lee
DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE

To: Jeno Lee
(╥﹏╥) ok

 

 

To: Baby Jesus
hey mark do you think i’ve been a better person recently

From: Baby Jesus
Uh not particularly
Well I guess you have been smiling a little bit more
But

To: Baby Jesus
COOL THANKS

 

 

  

day twenty-two

 

Jaemin’s woken up by the shrill sound of his phone ringing, and it takes him a good few seconds to smack his hand around the bed and actually find his phone. He’s still half asleep when he answers. “Hello?”

“Hey, Jaemin? It’s me.”

Jeno.

Jaemin sits bolt upright, suddenly completely awake. “Oh, shit, hey. What’s up?” He glances at the window. It’s not even that bright outside. “You okay?”

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, did I wake you up?” An exhale. “Yeah, I’m fine, it’s just. I totally forgot that my roommate’s out of town for break and I was going to visit some relatives and stay with them for a few days. My cats are gonna be home alone, so I’m just a little worried about them.”

“Are they gonna be okay? Do you need me to check up on them? Give them water, food, anything?”

“I mean, I didn’t want to straight up ask because you’re probably busy. If you are, it’s totally fine, I can ask someone else?”

Hell no. Ever since Mark said he was going on that trip with his boyfriend to Cancun for the rest of break and Donghyuck decided he was going to be missing since yesterday, Jaemin hasn’t had any concrete plans except to catch up on dramas, jerk off, and compose a few love letters to Jeno. Not necessarily in that order. So as far as procrastinating on his problem sets and refusing to study goes, he’s doing a great job.

Besides, isn’t this a chance to bond with Jeno’s cats and earn brownie points with him?

“No, I can do it. I’m super super free these days, anyway.” Jaemin’s already out of bed, ambling to the bathroom— because Mark and Donghyuck aren’t home, this means he can walk around in only his boxers and no one’s around to give him shit for it. Living alone is such an underrated luxury. “Do you want me to take them over to my place or just come over to yours?”

Jeno hums. “If you could just come by every day and make sure they have enough food and water, that’d be great. I can buy you dinner or pay you back if you want, sorry this came so last minute.”

“No, it’s totally chill. You already have food and stuff for them, right? It’s all good, I might as well just get used to studying downtown and just check up on your cats when I leave or something.”

“Jaemin, you’re such a lifesaver. For real.” Jeno sighs again. “I was freaking out so much this morning wondering if I’d need to take them with me, but thank you so much. You can even study over at my place if you’re okay with the cats using you as a chair. Seriously, I’ll buy you dinner or something when I get back.”

“Yeah, sure, no prob. You want me to swing by and you can show me where everything is?” Jaemin brushes his teeth in record time, putting his phone down and turning on speaker so he can still hear Jeno.

“Yeah, can you come by sometime before noon? I think my uncle and my aunt want to come by to pick me up, and I can give you my keys and stuff. Promise not to run away with my shit?” Jeno sounds so fake-intimidating that Jaemin laughs, spitting out his toothpaste. “Hey! I’m serious!”

“Don’t worry, if I steal your shit I’ll be sure to return it. Besides, I’m sure your cats would literally claw me if I tried.”

“They better,” Jeno hmphs. “See you later?”

“Later,” Jaemin agrees.

 

 

Jaemin gets dressed in record time, and in just under thirty minutes, he’s inside Jeno’s apartment, following him around as he shows Jaemin where everything is. Kitty litter and food on the shelf next to the fridge, food and water bowls on the ground next to the table, and box of cat toys near Jeno’s bed.

“Got it?” Jeno asks, his eyebrows knitted together, and Jaemin laughs at how serious he looks. Butter, an orange tabby, pads over and rubs her back against Jeno’s calves. “Hey, stop looking at the cat. Got it?”

“Yes sir,” Jaemin says, and obediently holds his hand out for Jeno to drop his house keys in. They have the little key covers on them, little cats that look like the ones on Jeno’s credit card. “Did you get these because they reminded you of your cats at home?”

Jeno flushes and ignores the question, which is a definite yes. “This one, the calico, that’s for the gate outside. The tabby’s for this actual apartment door, and the white one’s for the gate in the back if you can’t get in through the front.”

Jaemin resists the very strong urge to make a joke about going in through the back, but he’s trying to impress Jeno by showing him how responsible he can be. What a good guy Jaemin is, Jeno will think to himself, when Berry and Buttercup are returned safely to me at the end of break, I will definitely date him and let him into my pants.

“Got it,” Jaemin says, and he flashes Jeno the winningest smile he can. “You can count on me.”

 

 

From: Jeno Lee
ARE MY BABIES ALIVE

To: Jeno Lee
yes
Attached: IMG_0906.jpg
Attached: IMG_0911.jpg
Attached: IMG_0929.jpg
the kids are okay (♡°▽°♡)

From: Jeno Lee
Oh thank jesus
Wait why does Buttercup look… wet

To: Jeno Lee
ummmmmmmmm
long story short
she bumped into me when i was holding a cup of water
and i spilled it on her
(。•́︿•̀。)

From: Jeno Lee
Oh my god

 

 

 

day twenty-four

 

“Jeno,” Jaemin says into the phone, idly toying with the straps of his backpack. “I’m bored.”

There’s the sound of shuffling, then a door slams closed. More shuffling, then. “Don’t you have better things to do?”

Jaemin looks over at Butter, who’s perched on the arm of the couch and staring at him, and he has the vague feeling that she still hasn’t forgiven him for accidentally spilling water on her. Keeping his gaze firmly fixed on her, he says, “Not really, no.”

Jeno sighs into the phone. “I don’t understand why you couldn’t just text me like a normal person?”

“I would if you actually responded to my texts like a normal person.”

Jeno sighs again. They both know it’s true: Jeno’s absolute shit at checking his texts and responding in a timely manner unless it’s about either food or cats. “Are my babies doing okay?”

“They’re good. I think Butter’s going to murder me in my sleep.” He cuts a glance at the tabby, who’s licking her paw. “She’s going to follow me home and then murder me dead. If I die due to mysterious circumstances, it’ll be because she decided to claw my eyeballs out in my sleep.”

“She wouldn’t do that, she’s a baby. And if she does, I’m sure you’ll have deserved it.”

Jaemin gasps in shock. “This betrayal! I’m going to let Buttercup pee all over your futon.”

“Whatever,” Jeno sneers, tinny over the connection. “It’s not like they haven’t already peed on it, what’s a little more?’

“Gross. Guess I’m never getting anywhere near your futon.” Jaemin wrinkles his nose.

“You’d be so lucky,” Jeno quips, and it takes a second for Jaemin to realize what Jeno’s implying. Oh my god, if only. Jaemin’s quiet for a little bit, his brain trying to figure out how to respond to that come-on, and Jeno quickly fills in the hole in the conversation. “Anyway, was there anything you actually needed?”

“Oh, yeah. Where were the extra cat toys again? I think they got bored of the ones you have out already.”

“They’re in an Adidas shoebox next to the futon. There’s also a bag of treats for them on the counter if you want to give them some. Don’t give them too many, though, Berry’s getting kinda fat.”

“Got it, see you soon,” Jaemin says, hanging up, and rubs his hands over his face. God, he’s flushing. What is he, twelve? When was the last time he’d been flirted with like this? Jaemin shakes his head, crawling over to the futon. There’s an Adidas shoebox there, and when he reaches down to pick it up, his hand knocks against another one, Nike this time, and Jaemin can’t help but be curious. Are there more cat toys inside?

Jaemin opens it up, and as soon as he realizes what’s inside, he immediately replaces the lid, his face burning now. Yeah, there are toys inside, but not the ones for cats. Jaemin hadn’t even known Jeno could ever be like this, but it’s all starting to make sense now.

Butter’s still sitting on the edge of the couch, staring at him, and he hisses, “Don’t tell your dad I saw anything. Got it?”

She doesn’t respond. Jaemin picks himself up off of the ground, his hands shaking for some odd reason, and he only checks the food and water bowls before sprinting back home. And if he ends up flopping into bed and sticking his hands down his shorts when his brain refuses to stop thinking about Jeno spreading himself wide and sinking slowly onto a black dildo? Well, that’s no one’s business but his own.

 

 

  

day twenty-six

 

“So,” Jeno says over his ramen. Jaemin very stubbornly refuses to look at his fingers, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on Jeno’s face. “How was it?”

Be normal, be normal. Didn’t find anything weird under your futon, nope.

“It was good. Cats were fine. Buttercup only tried to bite me once. Didn’t let Berry get too fat, either,” Jaemin recites, and Jeno visibly relaxes. He takes a good-sized slurp of his soup, stuffing as much food as he can into his mouth, because the faster he can finish dinner, the faster he can get home and work on his problem sets. Whatever it takes to get Jeno’s very distracting face out of his mind.

“I knew I could count on you,” Jeno says before he smiles, and Jaemin stares at him, conflicted between wanting to kiss him senseless and wanting to push him onto the bench and have his way with him. Jeno’s fingers are long and thin and pretty, and Jaemin watches as he lifts the straw to his mouth, sucking down the rest of the Coke.

Fuck.

 

  

 

day twenty-eight

 

To: Jeno Lee
hey
random weird question but
do you have an english name? | ʘ‿ʘ)╯

From: Jeno Lee
Yeah
It’s Kevin
Why?

To: Jeno Lee
oh my god why are you literally every korean kid ever
the number of kevin lees i went to high school with…
THE NUMBER OF KEVIN LEES AT THIS DAMN SCHOOL……

From: Jeno Lee
LOL SHUT UP!!!
What’s yours? Do you have one?

To: Jeno Lee
guess

From: Jeno Lee
James

To: Jeno Lee
holy shit you’re good

From: Jeno Lee
James.. Jaemin.. It’s so obvious please

To: Jeno Lee
maybe you’re just a genius
maybe it’s maybelline ☆⌒(ゝ。∂)

 

 

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
hey guess what
you still have the worst english name out of all of my friends
donald ψ( ` ∇ ´ )ψ

From: Satan
duDE SHUT THE FUCK UP
I TOLD YOU MY MOM DOESN’T KNOW ENGLISH

To: Baby Jesus, Satan
NONE OF OURS DO THAT’S NOT A VALID EXCUSE

 

 

  

day thirty-one

 

Friday morning finds Jaemin at the café, and his favorite customer isn’t here at opening like he usually is. The morning rush comes and comes and and refuses to ever leave, and Jaemin spots Jeno out of the corner of his eye when the café is particularly packed, full of students rushing in for caffeine before their first classes at eight. Jeno takes a seat in the corner, squeezing in past two girls on their Macbooks to snag that last spot on the bench, and Jaemin feels his heart swell at the sight of him drowning in a hoodie.

Jaemin waits until there’s a brief lull in the rush and switches off cashier duty with Chaewon. He snags a pastry from the basket of day-olds and puts it into a napkin before he ducks out behind the counter and makes his way to Jeno.

“Come here often?” Jaemin asks in the deepest voice he can muster, and Jeno looks up in mild irritation before his eyebrows smoothen out. “Oh my god, you should’ve seen your face, you were like,” and Jaemin does his absolute worst imitation of how Jeno’s face had looked back then, and Jeno’s face scrunches up even more.

“Shut up,” Jeno mumbles. “Not funny, you seriously sound like my grandpa trying to relive his good old days.”

“Wait. No, I don’t want that. Take it back, Jeno,” Jaemin huffs. “Take it back, I’m no Korean grandpa!”

“You have one part of that down already, so Korean grandpa Jaemin is happening in, like, fifty years. Give or take ten or so.”

Jaemin grumbles, but he holds out the pastry nonetheless. “You want one?”

Jeno eyes the pastry, like it’s going to sprout claws and go straight for the jugular. “I mean, I’m never going to turn down free stuff, but are you literally even allowed to do this?” Jeno’s voice dips to a whisper. “Is this… illegal?”

“No, we usually sell them for half off, but today, I’m giving you my esteemed employee perk of free day-old pastries.” Jaemin drops it into Jeno’s waiting cupped hands, and Jeno looks up at him like he’s just told him the answer to the universe.

“I don’t suppose I could get drink discounts as well?” Jeno asks, just a little bit hopeful. Jaemin can hear the desire for cheap things dripping off of his voice.

“Only if you go surfing with me this weekend.”

“I thought you said you had a midterm on Thursday?”

“I mean, yeah, but. It’s literally just entrepreneurship. Fuck entrepreneurship. You’ve never been to the marina, right? Come on, let’s blow off some steam, ride the waves.”

“You did not just say let’s ride the waves.” There’s an amused smile playing at the corner of Jeno’s lips, and fuck, Jaemin’s never wanted to kiss anyone more. Objectively, Jeno looks like any other Korean kid at their school with his glasses and bangs, but damn if this one isn’t looking particularly delicious right now. Jaemin hasn’t has breakfast yet, though, so maybe that’s why. There are also about two other things Jaemin can think of that he’d prefer Jeno to ride, but he’ll keep those thoughts to himself. He’s in public.

“Is that a yes?”

“I’ll come with you,” Jeno acquiesces, “but only on the condition that I never have to hear you say ‘ride the waves’ ever again.”

“Damn, and I was looking forward to it,” Jaemin whispers under his breath before he goes back to his normal speaking register. “Also, if you want drink discounts, come by around opening. Less people around. Doesn’t look as sketchy.”

“Alright,” Jeno says, and he fishes for his card in his backpack. “While you’re here, could you just get me a Passionfruit Jasmine? That one sounds really good.”

“Sure thing,” Jaemin says, taking a quick glance at Jeno’s three cats once he’s back behind the counter, and goddammit, the emotional guilt trip is working. He doesn’t swipe Jeno’s card, instead comping it out of his own employee free drinks, and isn’t quite sure what to call the emotion that burbles from his chest when Jeno cups the drink gratefully and chirps a quick “thank you!” up at him.

That? Now that’s the four-letter word Jaemin’s most afraid of.

 

 

 

day thirty-three

 

Jaemin’s always loved the ocean. He loves the taste of salt on his tongue, loves the sound of the waves in his ears, loves the way that the blue of the sea stretches into the sky above them. There’s nothing like a quick dip in the water to help him relax and to calm his nerves, and he’s rarely as happy as he is when he’s on the water and feeling the spray of the surf on his face.

He suits up easily, slipping into his wetsuit, a number that clings to his arms and legs like nothing else. He’s just sitting outside the club, playing on his phone, when he hears footsteps and looks up.

Jeno’s staring at him with wide eyes, and Jaemin grins up at him. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” Jeno hisses, but his face starts to pink, and Jaemin only smiles wider. He knows perfectly well what he looks like in a wetsuit. He’s just glad it has an effect on Jeno. “God, stop it. Where do I get one of those? Do they have them for rent?”

“I knew this would happen, so I brought you one of my old ones that I had laying around in my apartment.” Jaemin digs around in the duffel he brought before he finds it. “There’s a bathroom inside, you can go in and change. Don’t worry, I washed it. You’re not gonna get any weird diseases or anything, trust me.”

“That’s a really specific denial there, Jaemin,” Jeno calls out even as he goes inside, and Jaemin twiddles with his thumbs as he waits. Jeno’s gone for a suspiciously long time, and Jaemin starts to freak out, wondering if maybe Jeno’s fallen down the toilet or knocked his head on the paper towel dispenser and passed out. Or, god forbid, if he’s decided that Jaemin in a wetsuit is too much of a threat to his blood pressure and he’s made up his mind to run away.

“Jeno?” Jaemin calls out after a minute of debating if he should check up on Jeno.

“In here,” comes out muffled. Jaemin follows the sound to the stall at the very end, and he knocks on the door.

“Hey, you okay?”

“No, help.” There’s a quiet shuffling and the sound of the lock slipping free, and then the door opens. Jaemin’s met with Jeno’s back, pale against the blackness of his old wetsuit, and Jeno’s fingers scrabble at the material. Jaemin can think of about a hundred other things he can imagine Jeno in now that he knows what his bare back looks like, namely nothing, and he has to pinch himself back to reality. “I can’t get the zipper up.”

“Dumbass,” Jaemin says, doing his very best to stare at anything but Jeno’s bare skin. He resists the very strong urge to run his hands along the length of Jeno’s back, to press his fingers against Jeno’s spine. He grabs the zipper, regretfully dragging it up and securing Jeno’s wetsuit closed for him. He pats Jeno’s shoulder when he’s done. “You’re good.”

“But am I?” Jeno jokes as he steps away, and damn if that doesn’t send heat shooting down Jaemin’s spine. The sight of Jeno’s tight body in that wetsuit doesn’t help, either. Jaemin only thanks any deity out there listening that it’s a fairly cold day today out in the marina.

Jaemin’s mouth goes dry when Jeno gets into the water on a loaned board.

He’d been planning on showing Jeno the ropes, maybe getting to sidle up behind Jeno, pull him up against his chest, and slide his hands down Jeno’s hips. He was looking forward to dunking Jeno beneath the waves, to watching Jeno’s jaw drop open as he watched Jaemin surf, to getting to sweep Jeno up in his arms and kiss him on the lips.

He watches instead as Jeno gets on the board like a pro, and when Jeno actually manages to catch one of the waves that come in through the marina, Jaemin has to stop himself from salivating. This is fine, Jaemin thinks distantly, and whatever hurt he’d felt at his pride being shaken by a competitor is completely replaced by nothing but want.

Jaemin won’t let himself go down that easily, though; he paddles out to where Jeno’s lying on his stomach on his board and grabs his hand.

“Watch me,” Jaemin says, and Jeno does. Jaemin can feel the weight of Jeno’s gaze on him when he does his absolute most to show off, and even when he paddles back to shore, Jeno’s watching him, the board floating off somewhere in the distance, holding out a hand to pull Jaemin back in.

Jeno’s hand is warm. His fingers tighten around Jaemin’s and pull him closer. And Jaemin’s very suddenly aware of how close they are right now. Maybe this was a mistake, maybe he shouldn’t have come here at all, not when he’s felt like this for a while, maybe this will ruin their budding friendship, but when Jeno licks his pink lips and stares at Jaemin’s mouth, Jaemin knows it wasn’t a mistake at all.

Jeno’s the first one to lean in. He puts a hand on the board to stabilize it, puts the other on Jaemin’s cheek. His hands were warm before, but now, his fingertips feel like they’re burning. Jeno tastes like salt, and Jaemin drags his teeth along Jeno’s lip, sucks on it like an apology.

“Jaemin,” Jeno murmurs, quiet against Jaemin’s lips, and Jaemin slips off of the board, standing in the shallow water and pushing the board away. Water drips from Jeno’s hair, rivulets snaking down Jeno’s face and neck, and Jaemin tugs him closer, slipping a hand onto Jeno’s waist. He dips his head, mouthing at Jeno’s neck and sucking an ugly bruise into his skin, and Jeno moans, fisting his hands into Jaemin’s hair and arching his neck to give him easier access.

This is exhibitionism, or something close to it. He’d been lucky enough to find them a partially hidden cove, and it’s early enough that no one is around, but Jaemin’s fully aware of the sight they’re making, especially with their skin-tight wetsuits. He backs them up against a rock formation, out of view from the beach, with his back to the rough rock. Jeno’s heart beats so close to his, and when Jaemin slips a leg in between Jeno’s thighs, he can feel just how hard Jeno is.

Jaemin’s heart stutters.

“Jaemin,” Jeno repeats, and he loops his arms around Jaemin’s neck and ruts against his thigh, riding it the way the Jeno in Jaemin’s favorite dreams does. “Wanted to do this with you for so long, you don’t even know.”

“I can probably guess,” Jaemin pants out, his hands dipping lower to squeeze Jeno’s ass when his pace increases. “Can probably bet it’s around the same time as me.”

Jaemin’s name leaves Jeno’s lips like a prayer when he’s finished, and he collapses onto him, boneless. “We should go out,” Jeno mumbles, lips on Jaemin’s neck, mouthing lazily at his pulse, nuzzling into his shoulder, spreading his fingers over Jaemin’s stomach. “Hang on, lemme get you off, too.”

“Sure,” Jaemin says to both, banishing all thoughts of the dreaded word that starts with an L and rhymes with bent from his mind as Jeno palms the front of his wetsuit. That’s a bridge he’ll cross when he gets to it, and he kisses Jeno on the nose. “I’ll grab dinner next time?”

 

 

Jaemin isn’t sure how he makes it home alive. Between Jeno sliding up behind him in the shower and slipping a hand into Jaemin’s half-open wetsuit and Jeno refusing to move his hand from Jaemin’s thigh the entire bus ride back to campus, he’s fairly certain he’s going to have a heart attack before he even manages to get onto his own street. By some miracle of god, Jaemin ends up living through the bus ride, and he walks Jeno home, their hands interlaced. When they get to Jeno’s apartment, Jeno looks at him expectantly.

“Come inside?” Jeno asks, and his voice is tinged with hope. It’s not time to cross that Lent-shaped bridge yet, though; he has a convenient excuse.

“I can’t tonight, sorry,” Jaemin apologizes, and Jeno’s face falls. “I’m just. God. This midterm. I’m going to die.”

“That’s okay.” Jeno’s hand comes up to rest on Jaemin’s jaw before he’s leaning in, his lips brushing against Jaemin’s before he pulls back, wide-eyed and rosy-cheeked and looking for all the world like he hadn’t just rubbed one out against Jaemin’s thigh. “We can celebrate after your midterms are over?”

“Yeah,” Jaemin says, his throat choked with some sort of guilt, some odd sort of affection. “I’ll make it all worth it.”

 

 

  

day thirty-four

 

Jeno offers to study with Jaemin if he wants to come over, and Jaemin stares down at the text with something like suspicion. He doesn’t trust Jeno anymore, not after finding out how unnecessarily touchy-feely he is. So he calls Jeno instead, leaning back against his headboard and fiddling with the ties on his hoodie.

Jeno only picks up after three rings. “Why are you calling me? I’ve even been texting you!”

“I’ll study with you,” Jaemin starts, “on the one condition that you don’t try to, well. Distract me.”

There’s silence on the other end of the phone. “I’m never distracting,” Jeno whines after some time. “Since when have I ever been distracting? We studied so well for econ together!”

Right. Econ. Literally the only thing Jaemin remembers about econ isn’t how to maximize consumer surplus, or how to minimize deadweight loss, or what abatement costs are— all he remembers is that Jeno brought milk tea and a slice of cake with him into the study room and instead of wiping some leftover cream off of his finger like a normal person would, Jeno stuck his finger into his mouth and sucked on it, cheeks hollowing out. Jaemin hasn’t quite been able to forget it.

“Don’t you have a physics thing to study for?”

“Yeah, but that’s on Friday.” Jaemin can practically hear Jeno’s pout over the phone. “Yours is earlier, why don’t I help you study for that instead?”

Jaemin wants to protest. He wants to stubbornly sit down and tell Jeno, no, I’m not going to study with you because you’re the most distracting person on this entire planet and every single time I hear your voice I think about how you said you’ve wanted me forever, but what ends up coming out, damn his vocal cords to hell and back, is, “Alright, fine, you win. Where do you wanna go?”

“You can come over,” Jeno suggests.

“Absolutely not. I think Buttercup wants me dead.”

“Student center?”

“Club president’s gonna murder me.”

“What about at the library?”

The central library, the place where all happiness goes to die. Its white columns and vaulted roof where tourists come to take photos and students come to suffer. Those hallowed halls of learning, where no food and drinks are allowed, where no sound louder than a whisper is tolerated, and where Jeno can do absolutely nothing to distract him. Jaemin can feel his dignity start to return to him, slowly but surely.

“Hell yeah,” Jaemin says, altogether sounding far too excited to be doing something as mundane as going to the library to study. “It’s a date.”

Jeno laughs into the phone. “First official date and you want it to be at the library? Really?”

“On second thought, no,” Jaemin amends, ignoring the flutter in his chest when Jeno calls it a date. A date! “Ignore that. I’ll take you on a better date next week, baby.”

There’s silence, and Jaemin’s first thought is OH NO, I FUCKED UP. HE DOESN’T LIKE BEING CALLED BABY.

“Can’t wait, Jaemin.” Jeno’s smiling, Jaemin just knows it, and he mentally pumps a fist in the air. He likes baby. He barely hangs up the phone before Donghyuck is sticking his head into his room and pushing the already-ajar door open even more, suspicion written into every single pore on his face.

“Who was that?” He asks, and Mark pops up behind him like a mushroom.

“That voice doesn’t sound familiar. Jaemin, you have friends?”

“Of course I have friends,” Jaemin says, affronted. “So many people offer to give me their notes whenever I oversleep or ditch.”

“Wow,” Donghyuck mutters before turning to leave. “They’re only giving you their notes to get into your pants.”

“Hey!” Jaemin yells at his retreating back, but he doesn’t fight it. It’s not like he’s wrong.

 

 

 

day thirty-five

 

“Jaemin,” Jeno hisses over the table, and Jaemin jerks out of his reverie. He looks down, and there’s the eraser end of a pencil stabbed into his arm.

He blinks. “Sorry, did you say something?”

“You told me to tell you if you looked like you were zoning out.” Jeno’s eyebrows furrow, and he stares at Jaemin’s notebook. He looks up, gives Jaemin an incredulous smile. “Uh, did you even get anything done?”

The long answer is: well, he usually takes fairly shitty notes, so he was supposed to get through the chapters this midterm covers in the past hour and finish making basic notes for all of them. Instead of writing anything productive down, he managed to not only draw a spectacular series of doodles of the squirrels that he’s befriended around campus, but he also sketched out an uncannily realistic portrait of his professor in the margins.

The short answer? No.

Jaemin admires his handiwork, pausing only to erase a smudge on the notebook where his sleeve smeared the graphite across some of his actual notes. Jeno watches him and sighs. “You have to study for your midterm, Jaemin. It’s in two days.”

“Your words don’t bother me if I can’t hear you,” Jaemin says, furiously rubbing away another smudge. Christ, where do they keep coming from? He’s never been more glad that he had the foresight to book a private room in the dungeons of the library, five floors down. No one but Jeno can hear him scream due to a economics-induced and smudge-exacerbated breakdown.

A hand slams itself down onto Jaemin’s notebook, forcing him to look up and into Jeno’s eyes. “Jaemin,” Jeno says, sugar-sweet. “I came here with you to study. You told me I wasn’t supposed to distract you, so I didn’t. I was working on my pointless problem set for fluids this entire time, and I’ve been extremely, extremely good about not distracting you. And this is how you repay me? By doodling pictures of the fat squirrel who ate my fucking fries yesterday?”

“Jeno, holy shit. Holy shit, Jeno Lee, oh my god,” Jaemin breathes out, a hand on his heart. He gets out of his chair, ignoring the way it makes an ugly screech across the linoleum floor, and drops to a knee in front of Jeno, who leans backwards instinctively.

Jeno just watches him, bemused. “Jaemin, what the hell are you doing?”

“Jeno Lee, I have only known you for, like, thirty days, but I want you to know that was literally the hottest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Jaemin digs through his jeans pocket and pulls out, in order, a rubber band, a paper clip, a crumpled up napkin, and two receipts for boba. He dumps everything on the ground but one of the receipts. “Oh, perfect. So, Jeno Lee, will you do the honor of marrying me and being the one to keep me on task for the rest of my life? Also, I’m a little hard right now. Just so you know. That was really hot.”

He straightens out the receipt and ties it into a loop, holding it out between his thumb and index finger like it’s something precious. Jeno laughs, incredulous, and Jaemin’s face falls. “Is that a rejection? The first rejection of my entire life?”

“The first rejection of your— never mind. Jaemin, you could’ve just used the rubber band as a ring. It’s literally right there.”

“Oh.” Jaemin blinks, and he shakes the boba receipt ring at Jeno instead. “Well, this is more personal, so there. Will you accompany me through life and death, through econ and physics, through all the hardships that I may endure in the next two years of suffering in this godforsaken school?”

“If I say yes, are you going to study?” Jeno tilts his chin into his palm, and Jaemin nods. He holds out his left hand, staring down at Jaemin through his lashes, and wow, he’s pretty damn cute. Jaemin likes this angle. He slips the ring onto Jeno’s finger, and Jeno makes a show of examining it the way any would-be bride would, tilting his hand this way and that, before he trills, “It’s perfect.”

Then his face hardens and he taps a finger against Jaemin’s notebook and says in a voice that leaves no room for further discussion, “Study.”

“Dammit,” Jaemin mumbles even as he picks himself up off the ground and drags himself into the chair. “I was hoping you would forget about that.”

 

 

  

day thirty-seven

 

From: Baby
Good luck on your midterm!!!
You can do it!!!!!!!!
Here’s a picture of Butter
Attached: IMG_1013.jpg

To: Baby
(´;д;`)
NO!! I LOVE HER
give me more of her and berry
for good luck ( ˙꒳˙ )

From: Baby
Attached: IMG_1003.jpg

To: Baby
(^• ω •^)(^• ω •^)(^• ω •^)
^ my fav cats

From: Baby
I’m only fostering two though

To: Baby
you’re the third one (*゚ー゚)ゞ

 

 

 

day forty

 

Jaemin’s never had much of a romantic bone in his body.

He’s never really felt the desire to make grandiose gestures of affection for anyone, never really felt like he had to do something more, something meaningful. Alright, so maybe part of that is just because he’s never had a relationship he had to put more of himself than just his dick into, but still. He’s almost sweating the morning of The Date, his fingers picking nervously at his sleeve as he waits at the bus stop.

This is what he has planned: he’s going to take Jeno to the botanical gardens that are just a short bus ride away, they’re going to spend a few hours among the roses and daisies, he’ll say something like “So many flowers here, but you’re the prettiest one,” Jeno will probably kiss him and think he’s a catch, and Jaemin will take them to dinner at this nice Thai place down the street from where Jeno lives. Jeno’s roommate is out, so maybe he can come over and make out after locking Berry and Buttercup in the bedroom, and maybe, just maybe, Jaemin can get some heavy petting in. That’s not against Lent rules, after all.

This is what happens instead: Jeno gets to the bus stop five minutes late, sweating because of the uphill walk, and the bus has already left, ten minutes early. Jaemin checks his watch— okay, the next bus is in another twenty minutes— and looks up to see the clouds rolling in. This won’t be too bad, he thinks, it’s just an overcast day. And then he feels the first drops of rain hit his cheek.

“The forecast said it wouldn’t rain,” Jeno says, staring up at the sky with something like betrayal. “The forecast said it wouldn’t rain.”

“First rule of this goddamn city,” Jaemin sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Never trust the weather forecast and always bring your umbrella with you.”

As luck would have it, Jaemin’s brought his backpack with him, but as he rummages through it, he realizes that he usually leaves his umbrella by the front door, ready to be grabbed on his way to school. The rain doesn’t look too bad now, but he knows by personal experience that it’ll only get worse over the next hour or so— he sighs and gives Jeno the most dejected pout he can.

“No?”

Jaemin shakes his head, zipping his backpack closed and swinging it over his shoulder again. “Nope. Do you wanna just do something else? We could go to the art museum or theater or something?”

“They’re kinda far… Do you think we can make it before the rain gets really bad?”

“Ugh, probably not?” Then something like inspiration hits him, strikes him like lightning finds the tallest tree. “Do you wanna come over to my place?”

Jaemin’s room is messy, clothes strewn on the ground, and Jaemin picks through them before tossing them onto a chair. He turns, places his hands on his hips and asks, “So, I have movies, what do you wanna do?”

Instead of answering, Jeno backs Jaemin up against the bed, tracing a finger down Jaemin’s chest. Danger, Jaemin’s brain registers faintly, but when Jeno leans in and kisses the corner of Jaemin’s mouth and whispers, “You?” Jaemin can’t find it in him to complain.

 

 

 

day forty-two

 

To: Baby Jesus
i miss you so much can’t wait to see you tmr ( ૢ⁼̴̤̆ ꇴ ⁼̴̤̆ ૢ)

From: Baby Jesus
What the fuck Jaemin are you drunk

To: Baby Jesus
FUCK
FUCK
I NEED TO DIE
SHIT I’M SORRY MARK WRONG PERSON
FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED

From: Baby Jesus
WAIT JAEMIN ARE YOU DATING SOMEONE????
WHAT THE HELL WHO IS IT

To: Mark Lee
lol i never said anything
brb i’m changing your contact info

 

 

To: Baby
please kill me (づ-̩̩̩-̩̩̩_-̩̩̩-̩̩̩)づ

From: Baby
What the heck why!! I could never :(

To: Baby
if you really loved me you’d do it.. no questions asked 。゚( ゚இ‸இ゚)゚。

From: Baby
NO!!!! You said you weren’t gonna die until you, and I quote, ate this ass
Attached: IMG_1104.jpg
And my ass has not been eaten

To: Baby
wow icb you rly pulled out the receipts
shit ok you’re right……. past me was rly a genius
ok gotta finish lent and then eat your ass and then i can die
ilu bb (/ˍ・、)
don’t forget me even when i’m gone
remember me and my dick fondly (இ﹏இ`。)

From: Baby

 

 

From: Mark Lee
HELLO?? JAEMIN HAS A MANS??? A GIRL???? CODE RED

From: Satan
what the hell lol since when

To: Mark Lee, Satan
Read: 8:32 pm

From: Satan
dude shut the fuck up

 

 

 

day forty-four

 

Jaemin manages to avoid Mark for a few days by strategically being asleep whenever Mark wants to talk to him, since talking to him means that he’ll find some way to wring all of Jaemin’s secrets out. Jaemin’s so busy with Operation Avoid Mark that he forgets his secondary mission, Operation Avoid Donghyuck, and Donghyuck grabs him one night when he comes home from a seminar.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Jaemin says reflexively, and Donghyuck only stares at him before letting go of his arm.

“Dumbass, nothing’s going to happen to you,” he exhales. “Come on, we’re going to have a house meeting.”

“I have to study.”

“When have you ever studied? Ugh, hurry up, I have a movie at ten and I’m not letting you make me late.”

Jaemin slouches into his usual chair, and when he looks over at Mark and Donghyuck, their hands clasped in near-identical poses, he has this odd sense of déjà vu.

“Isn’t this how it all started? The intervention?” Jaemin asks, fiddling with his bracelet. “You guys totally planned this again.”

“Did not,” Mark exclaims, and Donghyuck puts his head down on the table.

“It’s okay, we did.” Donghyuck peeks at Jaemin through his fingers. “So, the forty days of Lent are over tonight. Who wants to go first and tell the class how they did?”

“I’ll go. I just got back from evening Mass, and Lent is over now. Didn’t eat meat, didn’t drink anything but water and soda, and now I really want to get wasted,” Mark says. “I mean, it wasn’t that bad, though? The others in my youth group were really good about keeping us all on track, so.” He shrugs, drums his fingers on the table. “Plus, you guys were doing it, too.”

“Check my credit card statements, guys, I didn’t buy shit. Didn’t even ask Renjun to buy me anything, either.” Donghyuck leans back into his chair, tipping it back on two legs. “Easy.”

The two of them turn their gazes on Jaemin, and he has the oddest feeling, like he’s being studied under a microscope. He swallows. “Well,” Jaemin hedges. “For the sake of your poor brains, I’m not going to go into too much detail, but I followed all of the rules, and I have a boyfriend now. Hope you’re both happy. Do I get a special prize?”

Mark’s eyes are shining with glee. “I’m so proud of you, Jaemin, it’s only been nineteen years. I knew you had it in you all along.”

“Me too,” Donghyuck adds, and when he reaches across the table, Jaemin instinctively jerks backwards. “Chill out, I’m just giving you your prize.”

“Okay, thank god, I thought you were going to try to throttle me again,” Jaemin sighs. Donghyuck slips a card across the table, and Jaemin picks it up. There it is, the promised $250 gift card, but somehow, it doesn’t feel like all that much anymore. He turns his attention back to Mark and Donghyuck— it hadn’t felt like that long, but forty-four days is a long time. “I love you guys.”

“Gross, never say that again,” Donghyuck sniffs, and Jaemin bats his wandering hands away, laughing all the while. Mark disappears off into the kitchen. He comes back bearing a box, one that he sets in front of them before opening it up. “Mark, you didn’t.”

“Pie,” Mark announces with the air of someone who’s presenting the medals at the Olympics. He sweeps his arms out, and Donghyuck’s already started to dig into it when Mark suddenly jerks up and stares at Jaemin. “Hey, wait, you should tell us who you’re dating. I want to meet the person who managed to chain you down!”

“Oh yeah,” Donghyuck says around a mouthful of cream. “Who is it? Do we know him?”

“You probably wouldn’t know him. He just transferred here this year.”

“Try us,” Donghyuck challenges.

“Jeno Lee?”

The silence that stretches out between them is punctuated only by the noise Donghyuck’s mouthful of cream pie makes when it falls onto the table from his open mouth. Jaemin stares at him, something like alarm starting to crawl up his neck. “What? Wait, what the hell is wrong with Jeno Lee? Is he, like, a creep or something? Oh my god, what’s wrong?”

Mark’s in tears. It takes Jaemin a second to realize the reason he’s curled in on himself is because he’s laughing so hard.

“Jeno’s my fucking cousin,” Donghyuck says finally, miserably, and he pushes the box of pie away from him. “I’m going to murder you, then him, and then I’ll kill myself.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I was going to introduce him to you if you actually managed to make it through Lent alive, but what the fuck? Oh my god, I need a drink. Never speak to me again, Jaemin. You’re dead to me.” With that, Donghyuck gets up and meanders over to the fridge, where he pulls out last night’s half-empty bottle of soju and one shots the entire thing.

Jaemin looks over at Mark, who’s calmed down and just stares at Jaemin with a fond smile. “Oh no, what is this smile?”

“Nothing,” Mark coos. “Didn’t you know he’s Renjun’s roommate? I’m glad you guys found each other.”

Renjun’s roomma— and holy fuck, it all makes sense now. The weird reaction Donghyuck had the very first time Jaemin met Jeno, all of the times both Donghyuck and Jeno’s roommate had been out, that time Jaemin had to catsit for Jeno when he’d gone back to his relatives’ place— Donghyuck’s family’s home. It was all so obvious from the very beginning, and Jaemin can’t believe that it took him this long to put all of the pieces together.

“Fuck,” Jaemin mutters, mostly to himself, before he gets up to join Donghyuck at the fridge. Donghyuck only gives him a despairing look before he moves to the side so Jaemin can reach in. “I need a drink, too.”

Mark barely spares him another glance before he takes up Donghyuck’s discarded fork and digs into the pie. “Happy Lent, guys!”

 

 

It’s later, when Jaemin’s finally finished up his screaming match with Donghyuck (“Can’t believe you’re dating my fucking cousin—” “You literally could’ve introduced me to him earlier and you didn’t—” “My god, Buttercup should’ve clawed your face off—” “Buttercup fucking loves me now, you damn furby—”) that he shuts the door of his room behind him. Donghyuck’s still stomping around, and Jaemin hopes Donghyuck can get laid tonight. He hopes they all can get laid tonight.

Jeno picks up on the first ring. “Hello?”

“Hey,” Jaemin says, and he can barely keep the smile off of his face. He hopes Jeno can hear it. “Can I come over?”

 

 

 

 

 

“Alright,” Jaemin says, his throat dry. “Okay, this is fine.”

Jeno just leans down to peck him on the nose. “My cousin texted me like, an hour ago,” he says casually, like he isn’t sitting on Jaemin’s lap, like he didn’t just spend the last five minutes with his hand down Jaemin’s pants, like he isn’t stark naked. “I didn’t know you guys were housemates.”

“Please, I really don’t want to think about Donghyuck Lee right now,” Jaemin doesn’t beg, because he never begs, but this might be the closest he’ll ever come to it. He lets his eyes roam over Jeno’s body, the freckles dotting his chest, his toned arms. He slips a hand down Jeno’s side, his fingers resting at Jeno’s hip, and tries to ignore how painfully hard he is, tries to keep himself from bucking up against Jeno’s thighs. “Can we talk about, like, literally anything but him?”

“You’re right, I guess,” Jeno says with his lips curled downward, a face that makes Jaemin immediately want to say I was wrong, I’ll do anything to make you smile again. He cups Jaemin’s chin and leans in, and Jeno’s mouth tastes like strawberries and alcohol.

Jeno licks into Jaemin’s mouth, and Jaemin reaches around, squeezes Jeno’s ass, and he can’t help it— he slaps the curve of it, and Jeno moans into his mouth, low and wanton in a way that should be illegal. “Jaemin,” he whines, kittenish, his fingers digging into Jaemin’s shoulders, and Jaemin buries his smile in Jeno’s chest.

“Yeah, baby?” He mouths at Jeno’s nipple before he’s licking a broad stripe over it, and Jeno sighs, his thighs clenching around Jaemin’s jeans.

“Want you in me.” Jeno lifts himself up from where he’s been leaning against Jaemin to suck two fingers into his mouth, and Jaemin watches, entranced.

There’s a paper ring encircling one of Jeno’s fingers, and Jaemin’s heart leaps. He takes Jeno’s hand from his mouth so he can kiss his palm, so he can take Jeno’s ring finger into his mouth, so he can lick into the vee of Jeno’s fingers, and Jeno watches him with his mouth wide open. His gaze is dark when he meets Jaemin’s eyes, and his fingers slip out of Jaemin’s mouth with a wet pop when he pushes Jaemin back against the futon and crawls above him, reaching behind him to palm Jaemin over his jeans, to pinch Jaemin’s zipper and drag it down.

“I’m glad I met you,” Jaemin whispers, and Jeno kisses him in response, slow and languid and sweet.

“I’m glad I met you, too,” Jeno says, “but you still haven’t given me what I want.”

Jaemin rolls his eyes, and Jeno giggles against Jaemin’s lips, and fuck it. It’s easy enough to tumble them over, and Jeno’s eyes are wide when he looks up at Jaemin, but he curls a leg around Jaemin’s hips all the same, tugs him closer, closer to him. The noise Jeno makes when he pushes in is music, and Jaemin leans in, close to Jeno’s ear.

“Told you I’d make it worth your wait, didn’t I?”