Chapter 1: Chapter One
February 28th, 2019
Sweat drips down his neck as he surveys the room. Tiny, but livable, with his neatly made bed in the corner and his desk next to it, topped with all of his pens and pencils he really doesn’t need but owns anyway. His walls are mostly bare, with the exception of a few photos he had strung on the wall.
Jinyoung had just spent the day moving into his new college dorm room. He leans back against the wall as he remembers the long string of events that have left him exhausted, including his brief altercation with the resident assistant that hates him for no apparent reason, and then when he actually moved into his dorm, discovering that the fridge was molding.
He had hoped for a relaxed move-in. This is his first year at this university, and being a transfer student gives him a lot of stress. Jinyoung has been trying his best to embrace it, to take the stress and melt it away.
The positive feeling doesn’t last long, predictably.
The front door opens, and in walks a man that is noticeably tall, dressed in baggy plaid. He is pulling a plastic bin behind him and uses it to prop the door open.
“Hey,” the man greets, sounding not at all out of breath. “You’re Jinyoung, right? Choi Jinyoung, or something like that?”
“Park Jinyoung,” he corrects. He assumes this person must be his roommate, and his brief panic subsides. How else would he have the room key?
“I’m Kim Yugyeom.” He shoves his box all the way in the room as he looks around at their small living space and kitchenette. He glances back towards Jinyoung, who is still awkwardly standing there. “You’re a transfer, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Older students usually don’t live on campus.”
“Do I look old?”
Yugyeom lets out a snort kind of laugh. “They told me your age when I got the roommate confirmation email. Although, now that I’m looking at you…”
Jinyoung flushes red. Day one and he’s already his roommate’s victim. “Hey!” he protests.
“Kidding.” He walks off into the hallway again, presumably to move the rest of his things in. Jinyoung lets him be, despite the countless questions he has about this new character he’ll be living with till June.
I’m going to stay positive about this, Jinyoung thinks to himself as he flops back onto his bed, staring at the ceiling. At least he doesn’t seem to be a criminal or anything. Regardless of his personality, I don’t plan on staying in the dorm that often anyway. If he turns out to be annoying, I can just study elsewhere. Simple as that.
He calls his parents to assure them that he is okay, and not very long after the phone call ends does he get a knock at his bedroom door. “Yes?”
Yugyeom peeks in, looking like a guilty puppy. “Um.”
Jinyoung’s internal alarms are going off in an instant. “Is everything okay?”
“My bed is… molding.”
“What… are you sure?”
“I’m pretty damn sure,” Yugyeom says, rolling his eyes. “As if the weird green shit on it could be anything else.”
Jinyoung pushes himself off the bed to investigate. Entering Yugyeom’s hardly assembled room, he can already smell the familiar odor he smelled from the fridge that he cleaned two hours ago. “You should go and report this. Maybe they’ll replace the bed. I wouldn’t sleep on that. Who knows how deep the mold could be in the mattress.”
He takes his keys and leaves Jinyoung looking, dejected, at the mattress. First the fridge, now this. Can’t the damn university handle basic upkeep of the dorms? He briefly regrets transferring before he remembers why he transferred in the first place.
Yugyeom returns and Jinyoung gives him an expectant look. “So? What did they say?”
“They said that they’ll take the mattress out and replace it but it’ll take a couple days,” he reports.
“Figures. Do you have an air mattress or something?”
“Why would I own an air mattress?”
“In case you have a guest or something,” Jinyoung points out, as if it were obvious. “It’s convenient to have one for situations like this.”
Yugyeom rolls his eyes. “Guess I’ll just have to sleep with you.”
“What?” he deadpans.
There’s a teasing look in his eyes that makes Jinyoung want to slap the everloving shit out of him. Yugyeom shrugs. “I don’t have a bed to sleep in, and you do. I’m sure the bed can fit the both of us.”
“But you’re tall as fuck!”
Yugyeom just grins. “What do you say?”
Jinyoung takes a deep, steadying breath as he contemplates how his life has lead up to this moment. He ultimately decides to follow a good moral compass and be a decent person, even if it means accommodating his roommate who could just go out and buy himself an air mattress. “Fine. Just, fine.”
“Thanks,” Yugyeom says brightly. “By the way, do you want to go get dinner? We should probably get to know each other, since we’ll be living together for the next year.”
Startled, as he was planning on eating in the dorm before the first day of classes, Jinyoung pauses. He figures eating with Yugyeom would be nice. He can see what kind of person the guy sleeping in his bed is like.
“Okay,” he agrees. And that is what brings him to a small Chinese place near campus, eating as if he hadn’t in ages.
“So, Mr. Jung Jinyoung, what’s your major?” Yugyeom asks in between a mouthful of noodles.
“Park Jinyoung,” he corrects, for the second time. “And I’m double majoring in psychology and linguistics.”
“What about you?” he asks as he considers what kind of major this spirited dumbass might have.
“Engineering,” Yugyeom responds without missing a beat, causing Jinyoung to choke on the food that was already halfway down his throat. He just smiles stupidly. It leaves Jinyoung in utter awe, and he doesn’t push the topic much.
“I’m sure that’s… exciting,” Jinyoung says, a little lost for words.
Yugyeom nods as he continues to eat. “Yep. Speaking of classes, did they all transfer well for you? I know credits are a bitch to transfer.”
He is unfortunately reminded of the class that he’s fearing the most. “Yeah, I’ve got a required English class to take that isn’t even for my major. According to all the reviews online, the teacher is a jerk and I’m not looking forward to it at all.”
“Good luck with that,” Yugyeom says unhelpfully. “I might know a few people in the class, if it means anything.”
“Do you know a lot of people?”
“I’m known for having a lot of connections,” he says, voice peppy. “I make friends easily.”
Jinyoung sighs. “That must be a useful skill.”
He sets down his chopsticks, fake-pouting. “Don’t say that, acting like you haven’t just gotten me to go eat Chinese food with you.”
“It was your idea.”
“You offered to let me share your bed.”
Jinyoung snorts. “Again, that was your idea.”
“Unless you’re going with some kind of fake persona right now, based on my first impression of you, you seem like a cool guy,” Yugyeom remarks, and Jinyoung can’t tell if it’s genuine or sarcastic. “Although you’re a little high strung at times.”
“Thanks,” he mutters bluntly.
Yugyeom leans back in his chair comfortably, resting his hands on his stomach. “No problem. Maybe I can introduce you to a few of my friends.”
I wonder what kind of friends they are. “Maybe.”
“We should also meet our neighbors.”
“Maybe they have an extra air mattress,” Jinyoung says, causing Yugyeom to gently smack him on the arm.
“Don’t try and get rid of me that quickly.”
“Oh, watch me.”
The dinner ends with playful banter. It leaves Jinyoung feeling more relaxed about having Yugyeom for a roommate. Although he can be a bit much, he seems to be a good person when it comes down to it. Someone who won’t kill him in his sleep.
Back at the dorm, Jinyoung is lounging in bed at midnight when Yugyeom knocks at the door and enters. His tall figure looms in the room lit by only Jinyoung’s bedside lamp. He’s wearing a baggy t-shirt and boxers alongside the shit-eating grin on his face that he tries his best to ignore.
“Just get in the damn bed,” Jinyoung says, scooting as close to the wall as he can. Maybe I won’t even notice he’s there, he hopes.
He finds out seconds later that he will, in fact, notice that Yugyeom is there. Yugyeom is simply a large human being, and he takes up more than his share of the bed with his shoulders and long-ass legs. Jinyoung tries to distance himself as far away as possible while still being comfortable.
He manages it, for a while. He is about to fall asleep when Yugyeom asks, “When is your first class tomorrow?”
“9:00, why?” Jinyoung mumbles.
“I just wondered when you were going to need to be awake,” he says, and the words go straight through Jinyoung’s head as he falls back asleep.
He awakens to his quite persistent alarm, and he also awakens to a stranger’s face on the pillow next to his. A wave of panic courses through his body, his life in current chaos as his heart beats faster than he can process. Did I sleep with someone? I don’t remember going out…
In seconds, he remembers the bed incident, and that his roommate Yugyeom exists. He calms down, taking deep breaths as he maneuvers over Yugyeom to get out of bed.
His first stop on campus is the local Starbucks. He approaches the counter, mentally planning out his day as he walks. There’s one class in the morning, and then he can eat lunch-
Any thoughts he had were interrupted by the voice of the barista talking to him. “Good morning! What can I get for you?”
Jinyoung looks up and he instantly becomes flustered. “Um, a grande caramel iced coffee please.”
“Sure thing.” The barista cheerfully pulls out one of the plastic cups. “What’s your name?”
“Jinyoung,” he says. And even though he knows the name is for the purpose of writing on the cup, it flusters him even more. Because damn the barista is cute as hell. He never thought he would say this about a person, but his eyes sparkle even in this fairly dim lighting.
He glances at the nametag on the boy’s shirt as he hands him his credit card. It reads, “Youngjae.”
“Do you have early classes today?” Youngjae asks conversationally as he hands one of the other workers the plastic cup with his name on it, and gives Jinyoung his credit card back.
“At nine, if you call that early,” Jinyoung says.
“I’d consider that early. Even though I’m a barista and everyone assumes I like being awake in the morning,” he responds. “I stay up too late for that.”
Jinyoung tilts his head. It seems counterproductive for someone who works early shifts at a Starbucks to be a night owl. “Why?”
“Too much work to do for school,” Youngjae says simply, but somehow he still has a smile on his face. “Like everyone else, I guess.” He turns away to clean the counter, leaving Jinyoung a little disappointed. He was curious about what kind of work is keeping him up drastically late in the morning. Maybe he’s a med student.
He goes to stand nearby and wait for his coffee. There doesn’t seem to be much of a rush despite it being early morning. The coffeeshop is cute in the morning, with the golden morning sun shining in through the windows. I could come here often.
“Iced caramel coffee for Jinyoung!” Youngjae calls out, sliding it across the counter with a straw.
Jinyoung takes the coffee, thanking him. “Have a good morning,” Youngjae says brightly before turning away.
He takes a moment to collect himself outside the cafe before heading to class. There’s no reason to get overwhelmed over the cute barista that doesn’t sleep. He has class to focus on, after all.
There is also the lingering thought that this is his new start at this university, and he hopes to any entity out there listening that it goes well for him, at least better than the last time.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Jinyoung breaks a sink and meets his (cute) neighbors.
or, Jackson is convinced he knows how to fix a sink
March 4th, 2019
The rising level of murky sink water is another check off the list of malfunctioning dorm furniture. Jinyoung stands in the kitchen with his head between his hands, dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt because it is eleven at night and who wears actual clothes that late anyway? His attire is the least of his problems, though- he just needs to find someone handy enough to fix it. He really doesn’t want to approach the RA because he hates him already. Yugyeom is out of the house, so he can’t ask him. What a shame, the engineering student might be able to fix a sink.
He thinks for a second. Fixing this himself with Wikihow is the last resort option. He doesn’t know any other people yet beside Yugyeom…
The neighbors. Jinyoung grabs his keys eagerly and flies out the door. His knocks on the neighbor’s door are rapid.
The door opens after a solid minute. A guy that is short yet lanky answers the door, pulling it open with a look of surprise. “Um, hello.”
“Sorry, I, I’m your neighbor. My name is Jinyoung,” he introduces himself. “I was wondering if you knew anything about fixing sinks.”
“My sink is broken and my roommate’s out,” he explains.
He tilts his head. “Why don’t you ask the RA?”
Jinyoung sighs in frustration. “Long story short, the RA hates me and I don’t want to interact.” He looks at the man, pleadingly. “Please tell me you’ve fixed a sink once in your life.”
“Mark, who is it?” a voice calls loudly from inside the dorm.
The man at the door glances over his shoulder. “Come meet him, it’s our neighbor.”
Jinyoung looks inside, watching a guy with a sleeveless shirt come toward the door with a smile on his face. “Ooo, I haven’t met either of our neighbors yet!” he exclaims. “Hi, I’m Jackson Wang. Neighbor one.”
“I’m Mark Tuan. Neighbor two,” the other one says with a laugh. “We’re exchange students, so our Korean is not that great. Sorry.”
“Oh, uh, that’s okay.” Jackson is looking at him very closely, Jinyoung notices. He’s probably waiting for a name. “I’m Park Jinyoung.”
“Do you have another roommate?” Jackson asks, curious.
He nods. “Yeah, his name is Yugyeom, but he’s not here right now… if he were here, I’d be getting him to help me.”
Jackson looks like he has some burst of energy. “What do you need help with?” Mark looks vaguely embarrassed at his outwardness, pressing a hand to his shoulder to remind him that they just met Jinyoung two seconds ago. It doesn’t really stop Jackson’s enthusiasm, though. It’s funny, though. The two of them are really cute, and if Jinyoung weren’t currently having a crisis, it’s something he’d pay attention to.
“My sink isn’t working.”
Without missing a beat, Jackson’s walking into the hallway in only his socks. Mark stares after him, bewildered. “Jackson, you don’t know anything about plumbing!”
Jinyoung lets Jackson into his dorm, glad to at least have someone who will try to help. Mark trails in after him as Jackson makes a beeline for the sink.
“My mom taught me to be the handyman I am today,” he announces to no one in particular as he observes the sink. Jinyoung has no idea what he’s looking for exactly, but he doesn’t question it.
Meanwhile, Mark lounges on the couch, watching from afar. “I don’t know how well this will go, Jinyoung. You may as well make some popcorn.”
“I’m offended you don’t believe in me, Mark,” Jackson says as he crouches down to look in the cupboard below the sink. “Do you own a wrench?”
Jinyoung shakes his head, doubtful of what a wrench could do anyway, but he doesn’t know anything about plumbing anyway. “I didn’t bring any tools with me.”
The door opens, interrupting the conversation. Yugyeom walks in with a very large but empty Starbucks cup in hand. His eyes are wide as he looks from Jackson to Jinyoung to Mark. He wouldn’t have expected visitors. “Hi,” he says, not knowing what else to say.
“Yugyeom, this is Jackson and Mark, our neighbors. They’re here to help fix the sink,” Jinyoung informs him.
Mark gives him a little wave and Jackson stands up to greet him properly, with the bro-handshake-thing guys always seem to do. Yugyeom looks behind him with curiosity. “What’s wrong with the sink?”
“It won’t drain,” Jinyoung says. “And I’m clueless when it comes to this sort of thing.”
“I know a guy that is training to be a plumber,” Yugyeom says. Because of course he knows someone.
Jinyoung’s heart leaps, though, but Jackson looks disappointed. He frowns. “That’s not necessary. I can fix it.”
“Can you now?” Mark teases.
Jackson gives Mark a glare, but the look quickly melts away. He just shakes his head, laughing a little to himself as he looks at Mark.
There is yet another knock at the door, and Jinyoung is the closest so he answers it. Some person with a university name tag stands in the doorway looking less than amused. “I’m here to collect a mattress for cleaning,” he says.
Yugyeom perks up. “Oh, that’s mine.” He leads the staff to his room, Jackson following them out of curiosity. He wrinkles his nose when he sees the mattress. The staff quickly collects it and leaves.
“Where have you been sleeping for the past couple days?” Jackson asks as he watches the man take the mattress out.
“Jinyoung hyung’s bed,” Yugyeom answers shamelessly.
Jackson’s eyes widen. “Oh, so are you two like, a thing, then?”
“No, we’re not,” Jinyoung intervenes, face reddening already. “The idiot just demanded to sleep in my bed. I was being a good person so I let him.”
“Goddamn, what goes on in room 215…” Jackson whistles, and then proceeds to make himself at home on their couch, plopping down next to Mark. He throws his arm around the other boy’s shoulder and looks around. “You all decorate nicely, I have to admit.”
“It’s Jinyoung’s doing, not mine,” Yugyeom says as he grabs something out of the fridge.
“Trust me, I can tell by looking at your room,” Jackson tells him. “The orange rug tells it all.”
Jinyoung lets out an ugly snort-laugh, but it’s okay because it is because of Yugyeom. His roommate is so easily teased. It’s a level playing field, though, because sometimes Jinyoung makes himself an easy target, too.
They chat for another half hour before Yugyeom’s plumber friend arrives. Mark dips out, saying he has to sleep because he has a morning class tomorrow. Jackson stays behind for a couple moments. As Yugyeom talks to the plumber, Jackson approaches Jinyoung. “Can I get your number? So you can text me next time you have an issue, instead of knocking on my door.”
“Okay,” Jinyoung agrees, taking Jackson’s phone from him to type in his info. He’d say today was pretty successful, considering he met two of his neighbors and got along pretty well with them. Another disaster avoided.
The next morning, Yugyeom is awake before he is. Jinyoung walks into the kitchen to find a blurry-eyed, messy-haired boy standing at their kitchen counter with a bowl of cereal. “Good morning… is there a reason why you’re up so early?” Jinyoung asks.
“I have an early morning lab on Tuesdays,” Yugyeom explains. “I’m going to need hella caffeine to stay awake for it.” He sets down his bowl. “Do you drink coffee?”
“Come get Starbucks with me, then. I’ll drive you,” he offers.
Jinyoung accepts, because why the hell not?
They walk into Starbucks together, and Jinyoung is surprised to see the barista from the other day, Youngjae, working there. He is even more surprised when Yugyeom greets him. “Youngjae, hey! Long time no see.”
Youngjae looks up and smiles. “Good morning, Yugyeom. How is your English major going?”
English? Jinyoung looks at Yugyeom in surprise. “You told me you’re an engineering major.”
“I switched,” Yugyeom corrects quickly. “I had a lit class with Youngjae and I contemplated doing that for a major since the class was so easy.”
“Why’d you change?”
“Because I wouldn’t get a job with that. No offense, Youngjae.”
He laughs. “It’s okay, I’m not offended. I get that a lot.”
Yugyeom glances at Jinyoung. “Youngjae is a literature major. He helped me with a lot of the essays for the class we had together. Bless him.” His attention turns toward the menu board above them. “Can I get an americano?”
Youngjae writes his name on the cup and then looks toward Jinyoung, and pleasant surprise comes over his face. “Oh! You came in last week, didn’t you?”
Jinyoung just nods, unable to speak as Yugyeom laughs. “Jinyoung is double majoring, I think the caffeine is probably apart of his diet.”
“Says you.” Youngjae gives him a knowing look. “You’d come here multiple times a day if the drinks weren’t expensive. I remember you nearly fainted from how awake you were in English class.” He rolls his eyes. “Anyway, Jinyoung, what would you like?”
“Iced caramel coffee, please,” he answers. Same as last time. He likes to keep the consistency.
“How was your morning?” Youngjae asks the two of them as he starts prepping one of the coffees. He’s definitely a talkative one, but Jinyoung can’t complain.
Yugyeom answers first. “Tiring. Jinyoung and I had a crisis last night. Our sink broke and we had to find someone to fix it. Then, Jinyoung was an asshole and couldn’t stay still in bed last night. So I got no sleep.”
“Oh?” Youngjae raises his eyebrows.
“Please don’t misconstrue it. Yugyeom didn’t have a mattress, so as his roommate, I was apparently obligated to let him sleep in my bed with me,” Jinyoung explains, trying to keep his voice from getting agitated. He’ll have to keep explaining this a million times over until Yugyeom gets a new mattress from the university staff.
“Ah. Yeah, I can see Yugyeom doing that.” Youngjae slides them their drinks over the counter. “Have a good day, both of you.”
Jinyoung glances at his phone to check the time, and realizes, somehow, that if he doesn’t leave at this moment, he’s going to be late for class. “Fuck,” he mutters under his breath. “Gotta go bye!”
Yugyeom and Youngjae are left laughing as Jinyoung sprints out of the Starbucks, trying desperately not to spill any of the coffee on himself.
He’s been a little scatterbrained lately, and maybe it’s the new people he’s meet that are messing with his focus. He’ll adjust soon, though. He’s got to.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Jinyoung meets Jaebum, a boy in his English class who wants to be there as much as he does. He also finds out the downsides of Yugyeom's coffee addiction.
Jaebum is here~
March 6th, 2019
His eyes blink slowly as he is lulled into a dazed state by his professor. He couldn’t care less about this particular English class. Nothing of worth is taught, requiring him to do menial thinking about trivial topics. He’d much prefer to be back in his dorm and back in bed, sleeping. Even if Yugyeom were there, suffocating him. He’d like that better than this… torture.
A loud noise, a snap, startles him and causes him to jump back in his seat. He refocuses his eyesight and sees the teacher standing in front of him, looking pissed. Her lips are pulled into a tight frown and she glares at Jinyoung as if he’s just sinned.
“Please pay attention to the lecture or else you will surely fail the class,” she says, looking around at the other students as if her words are a warning. “This class is not a blow-off. You have to put in an effort to get a good result. I don’t care what your major is. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all English majors here.”
Jinyoung notices the boy sitting in the seat two away from him rolling his eyes, and he has to withhold himself from laughing. He wants to inform the teacher that this class is entry level and therefore some slack must be given, but he’d rather not make her hate him and grade him harshly on the first essay.
The hour and a half is a miserable experience to sit through, but it’s a necessary suffering, he decides. It must be worth it in the end. Probably.
I have my doubts, he thinks.
At the end of the class, Jinyoung begins putting his notebooks away when he feels a tap on his shoulder. The boy is leaning over, across the empty seat between them. “Just to let you know, you aren’t the only one finding a personal hell in this class.”
Jinyoung blinks, sighing. “That’s good to know. God, I’ve read things about this teacher online that make her out to be horrible, but I couldn’t not sign up for this class. I’m a transfer, so it screwed up my credits a lot.” He feels bad for ranting to a stranger, but the boy just laughs, sympathetic.
“That’s rough. I just put this off as long as I possibly could, and now I’m here,” he says. “I’m not usually a procrastinator, but…” He shrugs. “I really don’t want to be here.”
Deep down he’s glad there’s another soul that hates everything about this, and he isn’t surrounded by the talented English people. “Me neither,” Jinyoung agrees, smiling a little, feeling comforted.
The boy stands up and swings his backpack over his shoulder. “I’m Jaebum… in case we run into each other.” He puts an earbud in and walks off, out of the classroom, leaving Jinyoung stunned in his seat.
That was a very basic human interaction and yet Jinyoung is proud of himself for meeting someone in his classes. Youngjae doesn’t count, because he only sees him at the coffee shop, and he’s 95% sure that Youngjae is hardly aware of his existence. Mark and Jackson he’s only ever seen in the dorms and Yugyeom is a given. But with Jaebum he’s had a fleeting conversation and they may or may not even talk to each other again. But it’s a start.
Empowered, Jinyoung stands up, pushing his seat out a little too violently, causing something to fall off the seat next to him. He glances to see a blue hoodie fall onto the floor from the seat that Jaebum was sitting in. It must’ve been his, and he left it behind.
Jaebum left only a minute ago, maybe he is still hanging around, Jinyoung thinks quickly, grabbing the hoodie and speed-walking out of the room. He tries not to attract any attention as he scans the hallways and subsequently the parking lot for any signs of Jaebum.
What is this, Cinderella? He huffs when he realizes that Jaebum is gone, and he is now in custody of a hoodie that is not his. As he walks to his next class with the hoodie slung over his shoulder, he figures he could probably return it next class, if this Jaebum even shows up. He might be a skipper.
When he returns to the dorm at six, he finds Yugyeom making something in a pot over the stove. He looks up and greets him, looking wide awake and caffeinated (but Jinyoung decides not to comment on that). “Hey, hyung.”
“Hi,” he says tiredly. He remembers, all of a sudden, his roommate’s strange possession of weird connections. “Yugyeom! Do you know a Jaebum, by chance?”
Yugyeom stares off into space for a second. “Hm, I don’t think so. Do you have a last name on him?”
He shakes his head. “No, but I guess it’s not that urgent. A guy in my class left this hoodie in the classroom and I want to return it to him.”
A laugh comes from his direction. “You’re stealing hoodies from men and you don’t even have a boyfriend.”
Jinyoung becomes flustered. “What do you mean?”
“When someone dates a guy, they generally end up hoarding their hoodies and t-shirts. I’ve had a couple that’ve gone missing over the years,” Yugyeom reflects. “It’s honestly a shame. One girl kept my SHINee tour hoodie and I tried to track her down on facebook but she blocked me.”
“Well, I didn’t ask for this,” Jinyoung says, holding up the offending hoodie. “I feel like someone’s child has been dumped on me.”
“Hopefully it didn’t have any sentimental value to him. Does it say anything on it?” Yugyeom asks as he tastes something from a wooden spoon and makes a displeased face.
He looks at the front of the hoodie, which has something written on it in Japanese. “I don’t know, it’s in Japanese. It might be a tourist thing.”
“Or he could be an anime nerd.”
“I’ll go with the first assumption.”
“There’s nothing wrong with liking anime, Jinyoung.”
“I didn’t say there was-”
A phone starts buzzing on the counter, and Yugyeom looks at the screen. “It’s my mom, I gotta take this.” That effectively puts an end to the conversation. Jinyoung is glad.
He goes to his room, throwing the hoodie on top of his dresser. He could also really use a nap, but it’s too late in the day for that. Nevertheless, he changes into sweatpants and crawls into his bed to relax, and maybe watch something on Netflix.
The next time he wakes up, he opens his eyes to Yugyeom shirtless and about to turn the light off. Jinyoung is surprised when he notices Yugyeom’s toned abs, which he didn’t really expect him to have. He doesn’t know why, because now that he looks at him, he is quite buff, especially in his shoulders and arms.
The sweatshirt he fell asleep in is suddenly too hot, so he sits up and starts to take it off. But he hears a laugh from Yugyeom, and he says, “Wow, are we all stripping now?”
Jinyoung throws his sweatshirt across the room and turns on his side to face the wall, his head hitting the pillow hard. “I just got hot,” he says simply.
“Yeah, well, I’m hot,” Jinyoung says, stubborn. Changing the subject, he asks, “What time is it? I think I fell asleep on my phone.”
The bed leans as Yugyeom rolls into place beside him. “It’s 3AM.”
“What are you doing up so late?”
“I had a little too much coffee,” he says. “I’m tired now, though. We’re good.”
Yugyeom’s words, in short, were false. Because not twenty minutes after the light is off and they’re both in bed, Yugyeom is whispering, “Jinyoung hyung, when do you think they’ll get me the new mattress?”
He sighs, wishing he could just sleep without Yugyeom trying to have a conversation. But he entertains him. “What, are you already tired of me?”
“No, not at all. I’m just questioning how long it takes to wash a mattress or get a new one from somewhere,” he says. “They must be lazy.”
“Thrilling conclusion, Yugyeom. I have to sleep now,” Jinyoung mumbles into his pillow.
He whines, shaking Jinyoung’s shoulders. “I can’t sleep. Don’t let me suffer alone.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much fucking caffeine.”
“You don’t know how hard it is. You aren’t a caffeine addict, like I am. Youngjae can vouch for that,” Yugyeom says. “He’s taken so many of my coffee orders by now, he probably has it memorized. It’s like the start one of those fanfictions. Have you ever read one, like the kind where-”
Jinyoung interrupts him. “No, I’ve never read a fanfic. I have more productive things to do, like sleep. Which is what I should be doing right now.”
“Why sleep when you can have intellectually deep conversations with me?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an ‘intellectually deep’ conversation with you. It sure as hell isn’t starting now,” he mutters. “Yugyeom, please. Sleep. I beg of you.”
His words, surprisingly enough, work, because he isn’t woken up again until his alarm.
But he does wake up with Yugyeom’s arms wrapped tightly around his waist, his warm chest pressed up against his back. Jinyoung can’t even process the situation, being half-awake. He just scrambles out of his arms, waking him up in the process. Yugyeom blinks open his dreary eyes. “Hey,” he mumbles as he sits up.
“Do you have a reputation for cuddling people in your sleep?”
“Because that’s what happened last night.”
Yugyeom just laughs, falling back onto his pillow. “Oops,” he says, sounding not at all apologetic. He stretches his arms over his head, drawing attention back to his shirtless figure. Jinyoung flees the situation immediately as he nearly launches himself off the bed and out of the room to start the day.
As he walks into the kitchen, there’s a knock at the door. Jinyoung looks through the peephole to see the neighbor, Mark, standing idly in the hallway. He opens the door for him in mild confusion. “Um, hey.”
Mark looks up, relieved. “Hi. I’m glad I didn’t wake you up. I wouldn’t have come this early, but Jackson convinced me to… the point is, he wants to go out together, all four of us as a neighborly thing.”
“He could’ve texted me to ask. He has my number.”
“Ah, about that,” Mark says, and he doesn’t finish but Jackson is walking right up behind him.
There’s a pout on his face, and Jinyoung suddenly panics, thinking he may have offended him or something. Jackson seems like too much of an innocent soul. But the boy just says, “Jinyoung, I’ve tried texting you like five times!”
“That’s weird, I never got any texts,” he replies.
“You gave me the wrong number, didn’t you!”
Jinyoung startles. “No! No, I didn’t. Or at least, I didn’t mean to. Let me see the number,” he says, reaching out for Jackson’s phone. He notices that his contact name was changed from Park Jinyoung to “Neighbor Jinyoungie” with three green hearts after it. Brilliant. The phone number appears to be mostly correct, with the exception that it is missing the last few numbers. Jackson must’ve accidentally deleted them and neglected to notice. He fills it in again and gives it back to him. “Should be good now.”
“What do you think about going out with us? We could get smoothies on Friday, if you don’t have class,” Jackson suggests excitedly. He vibrates with energy that contrasts to the calmer but still hopeful Mark beside him.
I do have that essay to write, Jinyoung reflects, hesitating. But he really does want to get to know the neighbors… I’m sure I could finish it in time, even with a couple hours taken out of the equation. “I’m cool with it,” he announces to Jackson and Mark.
The two boys smile, and their attention catches on the now completely awake Yugyeom that has left the bedroom. He still doesn’t have a shirt on, despite the presence of guests. Jinyoung supposes he’s the type to not care about that sort of thing.
“Damn, Yugyeom,” Jackson whistles shamelessly. “What’s your workout routine?”
“I don’t workout,” he jokes. “This is just my natural body.” He poses next to the pillar in the living room, and Jinyoung thinks that he looks like a complete dork, but it’s kind of cute.
“Mark and Jackson are inviting us out for smoothies on Friday,” Jinyoung tells him, bringing this early morning conversation back to the main topic. He does have actual shit to do.
Yugyeom stops posing and nods happily. “Okay, sounds fun.”
“That was easy. You all must have pretty free schedules,” Mark comments.
“I’m just good at prioritizing my time,” Jinyoung says defensively. “I’ll have you know I’m very busy these days.”
Yugyeom rolls his eyes and Jinyoung notices. If he weren’t on the other side of the room, Jinyoung would’ve elbowed him in his gut.
“I’ll leave you both to your ‘busy schedules,’” Jackson says as he begins walking out the door. “I’ll text Jinyoung the details later. See ya.”
Mark follows him, giving them a small wave. Jinyoung closes the door behind them and goes straight back to getting ready for the day. So there’s his Friday settled, then. Seeing what kind of chaos lives next door.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Loud neighbors interrupt what little peace Jinyoung has in his life. Additionally, he finds himself continually frazzled by his local barista's charms.
Bam is here~
Also, sorry for the wait! I'll be more consistent in the future with updates.
March 8th, 2019
“Jinyoung, they’re fucking!”
He blinks slowly, half-awake after having been shaken by Yugyeom. His thoughts are cloudy and slow as he tries to make sense of why the hell Yugyeom is in his bedroom in the middle of the night. He could’ve sworn the college staff returned Yugyeom’s mattress yesterday. He remembers how disappointed the boy pretended to be in order to get on Jinyoung’s nerves (which didn’t work, by the way).
“Why are you here?” he mumbles. He shifts over to turn on his lamp, lighting up Yugyeom’s mildly disgusted face.
“The neighbors. They’re fucking.”
“Which neighbors?” Jinyoung asks. “And why does it concern you?”
“It concerns me because it’s the neighbors that live on the other side of my wall and they’re loud!” Yugyeom insists. “I’m trying to do my engineering homework but I obviously can’t.”
Jinyoung sits up. “You mean Mark and Jackson?”
“Yeah, apparently they’ve got something going on, which is the only way to explain that.”
He glances at his phone. “Why are you doing your homework at nearly four in the morning away?”
“Long story,” he claims. “But you should let me finish it in your room and let me sleep here, too.”
Jinyoung gives him a look. “I can’t escape you, can I?”
“Fine. Just let me sleep and don’t wake me up when you get in bed,” he relents, not in the mood for any kind of compromise at this hour. He’s still half asleep and can’t negotiate.
Yugyeom plops down at Jinyoung’s desk happily, and Jinyoung falls asleep again without a care in the world except getting enough sleep to survive the next day.
He gives the neighbor situation little thought until he’s on the way to their roommate-smoothie-double-date. Confrontation is inevitable.
“Please don’t mention this to them,” Jinyoung begs Yugyeom as they walk. “It’s going to make things awkward if you tell them you heard them having sex.”
Yugyeom shrugs. “Okay, but they need to know they were being loud.”
“Don’t say a thing.”
Their conversation silences when they walk into the smoothie shop. Jinyoung’s never been to one, and all the brightly warm colors make it visually pleasing to him, with all the tiles in different reds, pinks, and oranges. He could see this as somewhere he hangs out with friends, like the stereotypical friend meeting point in sitcoms.
“I’ll buy your smoothie,” Yugyeom volunteers. “What do you want?”
Startled, Jinyoung shakes his head. “It’s okay, I can pay for my own.” He pulls out his wallet as he eyes the menu. The exotic flavors such as papaya and passionfruit seem like too much for a smoothie flavor, in Jinyoung’s opinion, so he decides to get himself a simple strawberry smoothie.
“Let me buy you something,” Yugyeom whines, taking his wrist and holding him back from approaching the counter.
Jinyoung swats at him with his other hand, finding that Yugyeom’s grip is actually pretty strong. He leans forward and tries to wriggle away and get to the cashier quick enough. After slipping away, Yugyeom catches him again, this time locking his arms around his waist. Jinyoung turns to face him and he sees the pout on Yugyeom’s face. His eyes have a melting power that is very convincing.
“C’mon, Jinyoung. You can repay me later,” he persuades in a high-tone, soft voice. “Please?”
His lips tighten. He doesn’t want to let Yugyeom pay, but he’s being so insistent and genuinely wants to do something nice for him…
“What the hell goes on with you two?”
Jinyoung startles, jumping closer to Yugyeom as their eyes both fix on the two entering the shop. Of course, Jackson and Mark have arrived on time and both look incredibly amused at the situation in front of them.
“Hi,” Jinyoung breathes, face a little red from his struggle and proximity to Yugyeom.
“I’m buying Jinyoung’s smoothie but he’s refusing,” Yugyeom informs them. He lets go of him and goes to the counter, grabbing Jinyoung’s wallet as he passes him and shoving it in his own pocket.
Mark laughs and glances at Jinyoung. “Just let the man buy you something.”
“It’s not like I have a choice,” Jinyoung says, mildly embarrassed but also a little pleased. It’s a nice feeling when someone so desperately wants to do something for you.
“I’ll have a medium coffee banana smoothie,” Yugyeom reports to the cashier, and then turns to Jinyoung. “What do you want?”
“Strawberry,” he answers with a tiny smile.
After all the smoothies are bought (Mark and Jackson paying separately- “They’re the couple and I’m paying for you and they aren’t,” Yugyeom had said), they find a table near the window that has just enough chairs for all of them.
“First of all, Yugyeom, your drink sounds gross,” Jackson remarks. What an excellent conversation starter.
“It has caffeine, therefore I’ll drink it,” he says simply. “I got no sleep at all yesterday; I need something to keep me awake.”
Jinyoung freezes in the middle of sipping his smoothie. Thank god he didn’t choke. He puts all his energy into begging to some kind of higher being that Yugyeom doesn’t mention what he heard last night.
“That sucks, why?” Mark asks curiously.
“Had a lot of homework,” Yugyeom replies. Jinyoung nearly sighs of relief, but he doesn’t get to because Yugyeom wasn’t done. “And it took even longer because of noises I heard from your side of the wall.”
Jinyoung wants to curl up on the dirty, cold, tile floor and let the universe swallow him.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t think we were being that loud,” Mark apologizes. “Jackson was the one that wanted to play video games so late, so it’s his fault.”
Yugyeom cackles. “‘Play video games,’ huh? Is that what they call it these days?”
Something’s wrong here, Jinyoung can feel it. He looks between the other boy’s confused expressions. Jackson fills the momentary silence and says, “Wait, what?”
“You two were having sex at four in the morning and I couldn’t concentrate on my homework,” he says, as if it were obvious. “I just thought I’d be a chill neighbor and let you know so it wouldn’t happen again.”
Mark just stares, open-mouthed, before Jackson starts laughing so hard he falls out of his chair onto the ground where Jinyoung wishes he was. “Yugyeom,” Mark says.
“We were literally just playing video games. You probably heard Jackson making the absurd noises he always makes when he plays Mario Kart,” he manages to explain in between breathe-y laughs.
Jinyoung’s heart suddenly feels light again, as everything clicks, but he goes straight to swatting Yugyeom’s arm. “You listened for two seconds and if you listened for any longer you might’ve heard the video game music,” he scolds, but can’t help but laugh at the nonsense of the situation. He laughs into Yugyeom’s shoulder, gripping the boy’s jacket as if he, too, might fall over if he doesn’t.
For once, Yugyeom is flustered, but he plays it off. “Listen, it was four in the morning and I was delirious from equations… so wait, you two aren’t dating?”
Mark shakes his head. “Nah. We seem like we’ve known each other for ages, but truthfully, it’s only been about a month. We’re both exchange students, that’s why we’re rooming together. The hall sent us each other’s info a couple weeks before move-in so we could get to know each other, and we’ve been pretty close since then.”
A hand appears, gripping the table’s edge as Jackson pulls himself in his chair, breathing heavily from his laughter. “You two are funny. I’ll have to make you the honorary neighbors of the month.”
“Our neighbors on the other side are straight from hell,” Mark explains quickly. “Loud country music, late into the night, constant. The RA’s are afraid of them and won’t do anything about it. I’m afraid to confront them with the language barrier since my Korean isn’t the best, and I don’t think I’ve ever argued with anyone in Korean.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit!” Jackson exclaims. “You and that Thai exchange student had that petty little argument over the team building activity in our Korean language class. And you were good at it, I’d say. Words were flying at of your mouth, maybe not grammatically correct words, but words nonetheless.”
“What’s your majors, then?” Jinyoung asks.
“I’m a business major,” Jackson answers. “Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.”
Mark rolls his eyes. “And I’m a sociology major. What about you two?”
“Psychology and linguistics.”
“Engineering.” Yugyeom finger-guns.
Jackson nearly chokes on his smoothie. “So you’re like, smart-smart?”
“Kind of,” he says without elaboration.
“He’s intelligent, but he’s also a fucking dork,” Jinyoung explains, patting Yugyeom’s shoulder affectionately. “That’s what I gathered.”
“Engineering is just easier for me than everything else.”
“So you’re smart,” Jackson concludes. “Wish that could be me.”
Mark gives him a glare. “You’re smart. You’re in some pretty advanced math courses.”
“The only class I’m feeling good about this semester is that Korean class because they put us in one that’s really below our fluency level. And I’m not complaining,” Jackson says gleefully. “Me and Mark just screw around and pester that other kid, but he’s pretty fun to talk to. He’s a dancer.”
Talk comes to how long they’ve been in the university, and they find that Jinyoung is a transfer student.
“Why’d you transfer?” Mark asks. “This school is pretty far away from the other one.”
Jinyoung hesitates for a second. “It has a better degree program for my majors.” A simple enough explanation.
“Mr. Double Major is out here flexing,” Jackson teases. “You must be smart too.”
“I’m not, I’m just very organized.”
Jinyoung becomes flusters when Jackson laughs and winks at him. Why did he have to wink? Jinyoung does not know. But he does his best to stare at the logo on his now-empty smoothie cup instead. Graphic design is my passion.
But he’s eventually pulled back into the conversation, and he finds that it is such an easy thing to talk to Mark and Jackson. They’re both talkative and funny and Jinyoung wonders how he managed to get a good roommate and good neighbors, too. The world must be on his side this time.
Maybe my bad luck will come later, the voice in the back of his mind worries. He’s already had some bad luck, although it managed to resolve well. But he pushes these thoughts away, not wanting to stress. He just wants to hang out with these new friends and enjoy his smoothie and his Friday.
When he heads home afterwards, he dresses to take naps and not leave the house, and does not expect to be dragged to Starbucks ten minutes before the store closes. So he waits at the counter with Yugyeom, with bedhead, glasses, and sweatpants.
“Remind me again why I had to come,” Jinyoung mutters.
“I didn’t want to go alone and be scolded by the staff for placing an order five minutes before closing.”
“So you wanted to pin this on me, too.” Jinyoung rolls his eyes, before he freezes. The staff that comes to the counter is recognizable, unfortunately. I didn’t think this through.
“Hey, guys! Why are you here so late?” Youngjae asks with a brightness too great for someone who has to close a store soon.
Yugyeom replies, detailing how he has a massive essay to write. Meanwhile, Jinyoung panics. Youngjae is too pretty to see me like this. My hair is a fucking mess and-
“I like your glasses, Jinyoung,” Youngjae compliments, his smile sending Jinyoung reeling. And it completely freezes his entire known list of ways to respond to a compliment. So he just awkwardly smiles as Youngjae goes to make the coffee. Much to his embarrassment, he notices Yugyeom laughing at him. He promptly receives an elbow to the stomach.
“Youngjaaaae!” A loud voice resonates in the rather empty building. Yugyeom and Jinyoung glance towards the entrance to see a man with bleached hair and sunglasses walking through the glass doors.
Youngjae greets him. “Hey Bam! I’ll be done in a few minutes. I have to get their order first.”
The man leans against the counter, making a small awkward silence, but Youngjae solves that problem. “Yugyeom, Jinyoung, this is my roommate, BamBam. He picks me up from work if I have late shifts.”
“I’m Yugyeom,” he introduces himself. “Jinyoung is my roommate.”
“BamBam,” he says. “Youngjae is my roommate, who needs to learn how to balance his school and work life.”
Youngjae gives Yugyeom his coffee. “It works out for me.”
“You have morning and late shifts, and you have hella credit hours this semester,” BamBam points out. “You need to chill before you become overwhelmed. We’re a week in and someone in my Korean class already cried.”
“I’ve got everything organized. It’s okay, seriously,” Youngjae says with a smile. Bless his heart. Not many can overload their schedule like that and still have a smile on their face. Jinyoung wonders how much stress he’s under.
“Are you Thai?” Yugyeom asks suddenly.
BamBam gives him a weird look. “Yeah, why?”
“Do you have two classmates named Mark and Jackson?”
He snorts. “Yeah, they’re annoying as fuck.”
“They’re our neighbors. Small world,” Yugyeom laughs.
“Do me a favor and tell Jackson that his Thai is terrible and he needs to stop trying,” he jokes. His eyes sparkle a little; they’re really pretty, Jinyoung notices.
“Will do. I’ll get back to you on his response,” Yugyeom nods, taking his task very seriously. Jinyoung knows he’d love to tell Jackson to his face that his language skills are subpar.
“Time to go, Bam,” Youngjae announces, ushering the three out the door. “Sorry to rush you all, but I really need to get home. I have a collaborative essay to work on that I’ve hardly touched.” Breathlessly, he faces Jinyoung and Yugyeom. “I’ll see you two soon!” He walks with BamBam to the parking lot after saying goodbye.
Jinyoung feels really satisfied to have gotten a compliment from a good looking person, especially after having put zero effort into his appearance. Another accomplishment to add to his small list that he keeps in his mind for moral support. Accomplishment number three- pretty barista Youngjae likes my glasses.
He strolls down the sidewalk, feeling quite good about himself, for the first time in a while.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
Jinyoung finds solace in Mark and Jackson's company.
Things will definitely be picking up from here on~
March 11th, 2019
He arrives early to his English class, Starbucks coffee in hand as he leisurely takes a seat at his desk. Admittedly, he had went in hopes that Youngjae might be there, but it was just some guy that smelled strongly of cleaning fluid. Jinyoung didn’t let the disappointment get to him, because Youngjae has a steady track record of overscheduling his shifts and he’ll probably see him there next time.
It’s a sunny March day and uncharacteristically warm, but Jinyoung enjoys it. His spot near the window lets the sunlight shine through onto his desk. Outside, the leaves of a tree flutter in the breeze and knock against the glass and it feels like summer again. It overwhelms Jinyoung with a strange contentedness. He can’t pinpoint why, but all these sensations make his shoulders lighter than they had on the darker days.
Of course, Jinyoung’s brightness dims when he sees his teacher come in the class and he’s reminded of what class he’s in right now. He had checked the syllabus earlier, and a group project will be announced today. That is something he isn’t looking forward to, because he doubts he’d have the luck to be paired with someone who actually puts effort in.
“Is anyone sitting here?”
Jinyoung looks up at the hesitant but smiling Jaebum. He looks a little shy as his hand lingers on the back of the seat next to Jinyoung’s, asking for permission. At the same time, Jinyoung remembers his existence and the whole Cinderella fiasco of last time.
“No, you’re good,” Jinyoung confirms, a little too eagerly.
Jaebum sits down beside him, but not a word can be said before the teacher is starting class. And no one dare interrupt her, because they all know the semi-public humiliation they’ll receive if they do.
“Today we’ll be starting our essay projects, which will be written in pairs. Each pair will read a chosen piece of literature and write an analytical essay on its components,” she announces. “You’ll have two weeks to complete it.”
Two weeks, Jinyoung thinks. That’s not a horrible deadline.
The rest of the class is the teacher rambling about what kinds of books they shouldn’t pick, Fifty Shades of Gray being an example (Jinyoung was thinking that maybe he should chose that, just to spite her), and how to properly share effort on the assignment with a partner as well as time management. Hopefully those who don’t have these skills are paying attention now. For my sake.
This takes nearly the entire class period, and Jinyoung has almost fully zoned out when the professor says, “I will allow you to pick your own partners. Know that your choice is your responsibility.” With that, she begins packing up as the rest of the class chatters on as they pick their partners.
Jinyoung glances around him. The entire row next to him was empty (who knows where the hell Jaebum went). Everyone else around him was turned to each other, sorting out pairs among the friend groups. He feels like he’s in middle school again and it’s the worst feeling. He doesn’t really care about being the odd one out this time, but he cares that he gets a good partner. The last person standing probably isn’t his best choice.
Amid his internal turmoil, he notices Jaebum return to his seat with a can of strawberry kiwi sparkling water and a pack of peppermint gum. “What’d I miss?” he asks as he unravels the wrapper of a piece of gum and throws it in his mouth.
“We’re picking partners for the project.”
Jaebum glances around, his eyes traveling the room before landing back on Jinyoung. His laugh is breathy and he can smell the peppermint on his breath. “Out of luck? … Guess you’re stuck with me.” He offers Jinyoung a piece of gum, which he takes with gratitude. The gift of gum is an early sign of friendship.
“I guess so,” Jinyoung replies. He doesn’t know how he should feel about this pairing. He didn’t pick it, but Jaebum doesn’t give off the slacker vibe Jinyoung was worried about. Maybe it’ll be okay. He shouldn’t judge just yet, though.
The boy takes his empty gum wrapper and fishes a pen out of his backpack. “My phone’s dead, but I’ll give you my number and we can work on meeting dates, okay?” He scribbles things down and slides it over to Jinyoung. On the small piece of paper, numbers are written out of inky blue streaks, finished with the initials “JB” in the corner in large, swooping letters.
Jaebum looks at him, apologetic. “Don’t worry, I won’t stick you with all the work, I promise. I’m not an asshole.”
“I didn’t think you were, I-”
“Jinyoung, right?” He nods. “Trust me.”
Jinyoung just nods again, stunned at how easily he believes this boy. A complete stranger who wears hoodies for most of his outfits and who gives out numbers using broken pens on chewing gum wrappers.
“I’ll see you later,” he says as he collects his items and leaves. This time, Jinyoung is mindful enough to check that Jaebum hadn’t left anything behind.
The next day, Jinyoung is wide awake in the morning to show up at Starbucks and finally have a decent conversation with the resident beautiful barista. His hopes of this are shattered when he walks in and sees a girl working the counter with Youngjae nowhere in sight. He half-considers just walking out, but he craves the coffee anyway, so he places an order with slightly more dejection.
“So, your barista friend, Youngjae, do you know him well?” Jinyoung asks Yugyeom as the two eat ramen together on their tiny sofa in dim lighting. Their lightbulb is shorting out and he’s been meaning to replace it, but neither of them have gotten around to it.
Yugyeom shrugs. “Decently. Why? Do you think he’s cute?”
“I never said that!” Jinyoung protests.
“No one just randomly brings up someone they’ve met once without any intention behind it,” Yugyeom points out, grinning. “Unless you hated him.”
Jinyoung huffs, regretting the decision to even talk to Yugyeom about Youngjae. “No, I just want to make friends, is it that unbelievable?”
“You can come along with me to one of my meetings,” he suggests with an eagerness that almost has him jumping off the sofa.
“Meetings?” Jinyoung repeats, unamused. “Sounds like some kind of cult thing. Not interested.”
Yugyeom pouts. “Do I look like I belong in a cult?”
He rolls his eyes. “I’ll try not to be hurt by that comment. Anyway, no. I’m in a lot of clubs so I can hook you up with almost any kind of person. If you want to befriend some geeks, the engineering club is full of them. If you want someone to seduce you with well-written prose, there’s the poetry club.”
“You’re a part of the poetry club?”
“Stop bullying me,” Yugyeom complains. “And no, I’m really not. I’m signed up but I rarely go to the meetings.”
“Why’d you sign up?”
“I had a cute classmate that was in the club and I thought I may as well join, but she left it like three days later.”
Jinyoung snorts. “Maybe that’s why she left.”
Yugyeom playfully pushes him, nearly spilling Jinyoung’s ramen. A little splashes up onto Jinyoung’s chin and lips. He sticks out his bottom lip in a pout, pretending to glare at Yugyeom but there’s nothing hostile at all in his gaze.
Yugyeom laughs. “You spilled a little,” he teases. Jinyoung’s brain goes into overload as Yugyeom reaches up to brush it off his lips with a fond smile. His hand lingers for just a millisecond- a millisecond too long for Jinyoung. He tries to fight off a blush, because if Yugyeom noticed him blushing he would never let it die.
“Thanks,” he says dumbly as he stands up to throw away the now empty cup. “I’m, uh, I’m going to take a shower.” He uses that opportunity to hide away in their tiny bathroom.
He stares at himself in the mirror, brushing his hands through his black hair that has been getting a little long. It’s only been two weeks since the semester started and he feels as though he’s aged ten years.
It could be worse, he thinks as he undresses and steps inside the shower. The mildly warm, low-pressure water runs down the bare skin of his back, soothing him a little. He’s starting to think that Yugyeom really is a good roommate. Although he teases Jinyoung relentlessly, he isn’t rude and is actually quite sweet. He’ll show him memes he saw online and he tries to have dinner with Jinyoung when he isn’t out with his friends or Jinyoung isn’t out late studying. It makes the experience a little more homely, to have someone to see on a regular basis.
His train of thought is interrupted by a sputtering noise from the shower head. The water slows to a trickle before stopping completely, leaving Jinyoung naked and staring at it like it betrayed him. “For fuck’s sake,” he mutters under his breath. I don’t need this right now.
Waiting to continue the shower with a fixed shower head really isn’t an option. Who knows how long it’d take for dorm staff to fix it. Maybe Yugyeom’s plumber friend who fixed the sink could help them out, but he didn’t want to wait for that, either.
Irritation at the world bubbling under his skin, Jinyoung dries off a little and puts on some shorts, storming out of the bathroom with soaked hair and wet skin. Yugyeom glances up from his phone. “Sexy.”
“The shower is broken,” Jinyoung announces, like there was a death.
He just groans, falling sideways onto the couch. “How much more of our shit is going to break?”
“That’s a good question.” He crosses his arms in thought. “I don’t know what to do.”
Yugyeom shrugs. “Go ask Mark and Jackson to use their shower, if they’re home. I’m sure they’d let you.”
He perks up, already running to the hallway. “Thank you!”
After a few knocks on their neighbors’ door, Jackson answers it. His eyes widen, and he whistles. “Hi Jinyoung, I love your outfit.”
“Can I use your shower?” he asks, pleadingly, as he begins to shiver. “Please?”
“What, is yours broken? I can fix it,” Jackson volunteers.
Mark appears beside him. “Yes, Jinyoung, you can use our shower. No, Jackson, don’t try and fix their shower. You’ll make it worse.”
“How am I supposed to build my plumbing skill? It’ll be useful when I’m thirty and have a house and a couple kids that are always breaking everything they touch,” Jackson points out.
“You’ve got time.” Mark pulls Jinyoung in by the wrist, shoving him in the direction of the bathroom. “Go shower before you freeze to death.”
“Thank you,” Jinyoung says before he closes the door. Finally, he has peace again.
That’s how he ends up in one of Mark’s sleeveless shirts, sitting on their couch watching Jackson play YouTube videos of puppies on their TV.
Jackson leans over to Jinyoung. “I want a puppy but Mark says we can’t have one,” he whispers loudly, still loud enough for Mark to hear, who is in the kitchen cleaning out their microwave.
“It’s residence hall rules. No pets,” Mark reminds him. “I’m not trying to pay any fines or get kicked out. I’m too broke for that.”
Jackson lets out a whiny noise, wrapping his arms around Jinyoung’s shoulders. “Would you get a puppy with me Jinyoungie?”
His cheeks feel hot. “Are you drunk?” he asks, trying to edge away from his touch, but Jackson only wraps him in a tighter hug.
“Your shoulders are so broad,” Jackson comments, patting them as he stares at Jinyoung’s skin. “You know what material your shirt is?”
“This is Mark’s shirt.”
“Boyfriend material,” he answers as if Jinyoung had given an actual reply.
Mark can be heard cackling in the background. “Jackson’s a flirty drunk, if you couldn’t tell. He got really drunk on one of our first nights here and it was funny to say the least.”
He laughs, glancing down at the round-eyed Jackson. “Cute.”
The thought of drunk Yugyeom comes to mind… what type of drunk he might be. Jinyoung is curious for a few seconds, but decides he’d rather not know. At least right now. Yugyeom will probably try to get him drunk at some point in the semester.
“I made tea,” Mark says, placing a cup in Jinyoung’s hands. “You look cold.”
Surprised, but thankful, he accepts it. “Thank you. You didn’t have to.”
“Think of it as an apology on behalf of the residence hall staff for providing shitty appliances,” he jokes. His laugh is light and very pleasant to listen to. Jinyoung stares into his hot tea and decides that he’d like to hear it often.
“Are you adjusting well?” Mark asks, sipping at his own cup. “I know you’re a transfer, and changing schools can shake people up. I know it did, for me.”
Jinyoung is genuinely touched by Mark’s curiosity. “I think I’m doing the best I could be, right now,” he answers. “What was it like, coming here, for you?”
Mark looks off into space as he hums. “Well, it was a chaotic adjustment. I’m not used to speaking Korean on a daily basis.” He gestures to Jackson, who is on his phone now. “I can speak English to him, which makes living in the dorm a little more comfortable and homely. That’s the right word, I think.” The tone in which he speaks about Jackson is affectionate. “Of course, nothing is really smooth-going yet. It’s still very stressful and I can’t sleep sometimes. But I’ll get through it.”
“Do you think it’s worth it, coming here to study?”
Mark shrugs, but there’s a sparkle in his eyes. “We’ll see, won’t we?”
The words echo in Jinyoung’s mind, reminding him of the endless chain of events that can happen in the coming weeks, and the coming months. It scares him a little. His life could be ruined, at this university, and then he’d have to transfer again.
Or maybe he’d have the best days of his life.
Jinyoung wakes on Mark and Jackson’s couch. It doesn’t immediately register, so he panics and grabs his phone. He has a few unread texts from Yugyeom asking if he was okay, and then he remembers that he spent last night watching dog videos with his neighbors.
His first instinct is to worry about being ready for class on time, but he lets himself laugh a little. The two boys were nowhere to be seen, so they must’ve let Jinyoung sleep, not wanting to wake him.
Jinyoung leaves with a warm heart, sending both of them a text as he goes. He has a bounce in his step as he walks back, the night with Jackson and Mark on his mind.