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“Jinyoungie, c’mon. You know how much we need the extra practice time.” A voice whined and Jinyoung’s eyelid twitched in irritation. He glanced up at the ceiling of their cosy student union meeting room and cast a flat look at the other occupants in the room who had varying degrees of distaste directed towards the being who had rudely barged into the room. One with more fondness than distaste if Jinyoung was being honest.  The ‘intruder’ hadn’t even phrased it as a question, it was a bare-bone indirect demand.

That lack of pleasantries was enough to strike Jinyoung’s nerve. In addition to the sheer rudeness, there was absolutely nothing he could do about the issue raised. He’d cleared the closure of the campus auditorium at the last meeting with the club and sports team leaders. No one had voiced their dissent then and logically no one should have a problem with it - not when the institute's annual festival was so close.

Despite the disturbance to the tranquillity of the room, neither of the remaining two other members of the student union in the room saw fit in giving the ‘intruder’ a reaction. Jinyoung himself showed no outright reaction to the petulant whines that were coming from his side because he could recognise that whine from a mile away. He simply gritted his jaw and tried to focus on the budget report on his desk. There was a loud dramatic sigh and Jinyoung couldn’t help but allow the tension ease out from his shoulders - Good. Maybe he finally got the hint.

He’s a fool to have even thought that, that would be the end of it. He should’ve known that Jackson Wang wouldn’t be one to back down or be ignored. His wooden desk creaked and a large palm covered the document that he was finally getting headway on. Jinyoung’s irritation spiked, he cursed under his breath and directed his death glare at the male who dared to stop the student union president from his tasks. 

In his peripheral, he saw Youngjae straighten with his head cocked to the side and his brows furrowed. The younger wasn’t the only one who noticed the building tension between the sweaty and grimy athlete who not only encroached into Jinyoung’s personal space but had the guts to mess up his desk.

Mark, his quiet and dependable treasurer had stopped spinning his pen and narrowed his gaze, his chin perched on his palm. Their meeting room had been cleared out since five, with most members rushing around campus to finish organising and putting together banners and dusting off school memorabilia that only made its appearance yearly.

Jinyoung wonders if Jackson is aware of how obnoxious he’s being as he sighs and leans back into his rather uncomfortable chair and stares up at Jackson with the flattest expression possible. Jinyoung hates dealing with jocks, they prioritise brawns over brains and think everyone else in the world should so as well.

They’re self-entitled, with their egos being overinflated by the copious numbers of medals they win. It’s literally a piece of useless metal, that most likely got mass-produced with unpaid labour. Jinyoung doesn’t understand why they have the habit of biting those medals after winning them, it’s unsanitary and boorish. Given the opportunity, Jinyoung is sure he’s able to go on a rant that spanned a couple of hours about why he dislikes jocks - but that’s not the main issue at hand.

Jinyoung locks his gaze with Jackson, sighing a little at the resolute look in the other’s gaze. Well, two could play at that game. Jinyoung crossed his arms and raised both of his eyebrows, giving Jackson what Youngjae calls his trademark ‘you’re wasting my time’ look. 

“Well, Jackson - ssi, you should know that I cleared this with all the respective leaders at the last general meeting, two weeks ago. I gave all of them ample time to work out the details with me. You would’ve known this if you and your captain bothered to show up to the compulsory meeting.” Jinyoung snarked back unflinchingly. If looks could kill, Jackson would have been dead on the floor - foaming from the mouth.

Jinyoung hated dealing with the sports teams. Their members came from all different faculties and getting a hold of them was a nightmare. It wasn't as if the Student Union didn't have a hard enough job as it is. Their training schedules made coordinating large scale events hellish.

Something on Jinyoung's face must've conveyed his unwillingness to even consider Jackson's request. It prompted a dark look across the other’s face as he slammed his other hand on the table, with a resounding thud. Jinyoung has no choice but to look at him, and he tries his hardest to be unaffected by the other’s looming presence.

He’d dealt with the gaming club’s president Kim Yugyeom’s begging and whining for extra funding to fund a Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine for a whole month, surely he can deal with a little intimidation from a jock who not only knows nothing but sports ( he majors in sports science for crying out loud)  but who also thinks winning medals is a valid reason to have his way. Well tough luck, that’s not how the world works. 

Jinyoung raises a brow and nods imperceptibly at Mark who had quietly snuck behind Jackson and placed a firm hand on the other’s shoulder. Jackson merely glances at Mark’s grip on his shoulder, before turning his attention back to Jinyoung with that steely determination that Jinyoung is sure that it’s mirrored in his expression.

“Jinyoung. State championships are in a month, the team needs the auditorium. You guys can just set up for the festival after we’re done.” Jackson states and Jinyoung immediately bristles. How dare he? 

“After? Do you have any idea how long it takes to set up? You guys can do your stupid drills till you’re almost passing out from exhaustion and we still wouldn’t be done. You guys take forever to get your shit together, and by the time you clear out of the auditorium - it’ll be eight in the evening. I don’t know if you’re just stupid or just so god damn - “ Jinyoung rants, pushing back his chair and standing up to meet Jackson at eye level and he has half a mind to shove the other to get his hands off his damn desk.

The tension between them causes the temperature in the room to drop a few degrees, with Mark’s hold on Jackson being tight enough to hurt. 

“I think you’ve proved your point Jinyoung. Mark, can you please unhand my vice-captain?” A cool, velvety smooth voice reverberated through the room breaking the icy cold tension. Jackson shrugs off Mark’s grip and storms out the room but gives the figure who stands imposingly at the entrance a curt nod.

Jinyoung watches the other storm out of the room and doesn’t miss the worried expression that flickers across Mark’s features - which the elder quickly schools back into a nonchalant expression. Jinyoung knows Mark better than anyone else, and by extension, he knows a little bit about the bright and charismatic Jackson Wang too. 

“You should go check up on him hyung, make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid,” Jinyoung says offhandedly seemingly to not care for Jackson, but the reality is that he does. He knows that he isn’t the only one being stretched thin with commitments and that he isn’t the only one who’s desperate for more time. He knows all of this, yet he decided to let his anger get the better of him. Mark seems to hesitate, looking at the figure leaning on the doorframe who’s still staring at Jinyoung intensely and back at Jinyoung.
“It’s fine hyung. I can handle Jaebeom -ssi.”

“Good luck then Jinyoungie, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Mark says with a soft smile before ruffling Jinyoung’s hair and grabbing his things before booking it out of their meeting room. 

Jinyoung sits back down, letting out a long breath as he glares at the numbers that are seemingly mocking him. He has to finish this today if he even wants to stand a chance at sticking to the tight timeline stipulated.

There’s the additional issue of the looming presence of Im Jaebeom, who looks like he wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. With a frustrated sigh, Jinyoung glares at the other and hisses out a question that could barely qualify for being polite. 

“Can I help you Jaebeom-ssi?”

Somehow that translates to Jaebeom taking that as an invitation to fully enter the room and pick up objects placed haphazardly around the room. Jinyoung’s eyelid twitches and he’s so ready for the day to be over. He clears his throat and stares resolutely at the other’s broad back, making it clear that he was expecting an answer.

“I didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed to be here Jinyoung-ssi, I just wanted to take a look at how the Student Union operates - who knows maybe I’ll consider joining you guys as a temporary member. I heard that you guys were looking for additional members to increase your manpower.” Jinyoung scowls at the satisfied smirk that Jaebeom had on his face as he fiddled with the trinkets left at the side of the room. He doesn’t have the energy or basis to kick Jaebeom out - not when the student union room was open to anyone who had an interest in joining or at least claim that they’re interested. 

“Just don’t break anything,” Jinyoung mutters before shooting Jaebeom an annoyed look which the elder catches and it only serves to widen that godforsaken smirk on his sharp features. He turns his attention back to the document on his desk as he neatens up his desk, trying his hardest to ignore Jaebeom’s presence. He wonders if Jaebeom’s presence was affecting Youngjae as well, but upon a glance at the younger - Jinyoung notes that they’re both pretty good at ignoring the elephant in the room. 

Jinyoung’s frustration is beginning to eat at him, the numbers on the document didn’t match and he was so damn tired that they were starting to move on the page. He doesn’t know how long he’s been staring at the numbers before his phone lights up with a message from Wonpil, who in his sheer excitement of finishing the last task of his day - locked himself in the storage closet while trying to sort out the publicity materials. 

Jinyoung sighed for the millionth time that day, he pinches his nose bridge and looks up to sneak a glance at Jaebeom who doesn’t seem to have any plans on leaving and it’s apparent that he wasn’t just merely there to make sure Jackson didn’t get into a fistfight with anyone. Whatever Jaebeom had to say was only meant for Jinyoung’s ears and Jinyoung slides his gaze to the only other remaining member who actually had a valid reason to be in here - Youngjae. 

The younger was looking rather ragged and tired and that just made Jinyoung feel even guiltier that he’ll have to get him to do another task before heading home. Jinyoung had intended to rescue Wonpil himself but with Jaebeom’s looming silent presence and that pesky report, it would be a wiser move to delegate that responsibility to Youngjae.

Jinyoung noted Youngjae’s slumped shoulders and dark circles, with the younger’s exhaustion being a testament to how hard the union had been working recently, with Youngjae who despite being known as their resident sunshine student welfare representative looking more ragged as time passed. 

“Jae-ah, I’m really sorry but can you help Wonpilie out at the storage room before you leave?”

Jinyoung ignores the smirk and the one raised eyebrow of Im Jaebeom who had decided to make himself comfortable at one of the desks to Jinyoung’s left. The other had his feet kicked up on the desk, with him leaning against the back of his chair with a smirk that Jinyoung itches to wipe off his face. If it was any other day, Jinyoung would snap at him to get his feet off the desk - this wasn’t his home. It was the Student Union office, and he really shouldn’t even be here to begin here. 

Jinyoung doesn’t know what the other wants, to argue? If that was what he wanted Jinyoung will have to disappoint him, he wasn’t planning on picking a fight with Jaebeom - not when he was barely holding himself together. If he had any semblance of reason left in him, he would insist on Jaebeom leaving but there was that potential of Jaebeom wanting something more than to argue about the auditorium issue with him. That potential was enough for Jinyoung to simply seethe in silence.

“Did Wonpil hyung, lock himself in again?”

“Again? He’s done this before? When - you know what I don’t care. Just make sure he doesn’t suffocate in there. We can’t afford to lose any more manpower as it is.”

Youngjae lets out a bright chuckle and Jinyoung couldn’t help but grin to himself as the tension in his shoulders eased a little. It’d been a while since he’d heard Youngjae’s infectious laughter, and he swears that after this whole ghastly festival he’ll treat the union board to barbeque. It’s the least he can do to make up for overworking them and depriving them of a life outside of their responsibilities. 

“Sure thing hyung. I guess I’ll be leaving then?” Youngjae says hesitantly, and Jinyoung looks up from the document that he hadn’t made any headway on in tallying to see Youngjae fidget with his bag strap as his gaze shifts between Jinyoung and Jaebeom nervously.

“Get home safe Jae-ah. I’ll deal with Jaebeom - ssi.” 

Youngjae nods and bows awkwardly to Jaebeom who simply offers him a polite wave. He gives Jinyoung two thumbs up and mouths ‘Fighting’ before leaving the room and gently shutting the door behind him. Jinyoung doesn’t know what Youngjae’s impression of Jaebeom is, but he knows that the younger is under the impression that Jaebeom and Jinyoung hate each other and can’t be trusted to be civil around each other. He has to admit that the younger isn’t wrong in that there is tension between them - but it’s just not the kind of tension that he thinks it is. 

It was a shame that Jinyoung can’t explain to Youngjae that the scene he walked in on wasn’t a precursor to a physical fight but something else in entirety without breaking the rule of secrecy between him and Jaebeom. They’ve always had some close calls and Jaebeom likes to tell him that it adds to the thrill of the entire thing, but that scene with Youngjae was still too close for comfort.

The door shuts with a resounding click in a now silent room, with Jinyoung being acutely aware that it was only him and Jaebeom left in the room. Jinyoung locks his gaze onto the document in front of him, refusing to acknowledge the other’s presence in the room. Youngjae’s footsteps fade out of hearing distance and Jinyoung can only let out a defeated sigh when Jaebeom stands up from his seat - stretching his back like a damn cat.

Every time the elder is in the room, Jinyoung can’t help but drag his gaze to him. There was something oddly magnetic about the basketball captain Im Jaebeom, and the whole campus acknowledges that. The other wasn't just an athletic being, he was a film major to top it off. He was cultured and a jock. He had the best of both worlds and Jinyoung would be the world’s biggest liar if he were to deny that Im Jaebeom was attractive. Attractive or not, he was still a muscle head beneath that outer pretence of being cultured and Jinyoung knew better than to entangle himself with him. So sometimes, he wonders how they ended up with whatever it was between them.

“So ‘Jae-ah’? I thought that was specially reserved for me Nyoung-ah.” 

Jinyoung knows that Jaebeom wants something, and it’s definitely not to sit there and watch him like a creep. He knows that the elder was probably there to try and convince him to make an exception for the basketball team. On a usual day, Jinyoung would be open to negotiation if done in a way that’s mutually beneficial but not today. He wasn’t in a mood to take any direction from any more muscle heads today and not even the drop-dead gorgeous captain - who he had an arrangement with - could change his mind. 
He narrows his eyes at Jaebeom’s teasing lilt to his voice before scoffing at the elder’s statement and crossing his arms resolutely. Jinyoung pushes his wheeled chair away from his desk and makes a show of crossing his legs before flatly replying

“You’re not anything special Jaebeom. If you’re here to convince me to let you hold practice tomorrow. It’s not going to work. If you really cared that much about the team’s practice hours being reduced, you would’ve found time to talk to me about it.”

Jinyoung eyes tracked Jaebeom’s movements as the other sauntered over towards his desk with his hands shoved into his pockets. Jinyoung swallows when he realises that the elder’s hair was still damp from the shower he most likely had before entering the council room. In the time that they’ve been doing whatever the hell they’ve been doing, Jinyoung has made his displeasure at Jaebeom coming in here all sweaty and gross known.

Seeing that the elder had gone out of his way to shower in the locker rooms even though he usually showers when he goes back to his dorm does something to Jinyoung’s heart. It’s a small and thoughtful gesture, oddly different from the actions of the elder when they are together. 

Jinyoung doesn’t remember them ever doing anything slow, gentle or soft. It’s usually hard and rough, just how he likes it. They didn’t have the time to do things slow and gentle, not when Jaebeom was pushing his body to the limits every other day of the week while the other days were spent cramming assignments and projects. Jinyoung himself was swamped with responsibilities, with him determined to finish his stint as student union president well. If he was going to sacrifice sleep and having a social life for this thankless job, he might as well do it to the best of his ability.

"I'm pretty sure Jackson tried his hand at convincing you with words, I think I'm well capable of trying another method that you'll be more receptive to."

Jinyoung snorts and is prepared to snark back a reply about how irresponsible Jaebeom must be to sink so low to rectify something that was due to his own irresponsibility. His retort dies at the back of his throat when he feels a warm breath at the back of his neck - sending a shiver down his spine. Jinyoung was so caught up with the report that he didn’t even notice the other making his way towards him. Jinyoung couldn’t suppress his shudder and he’s sure that Jaebeom can feel it. The awareness of Jaebeom’s intention causes Jinyoung’s posture to stiffen - Jinyoung knows that they shouldn't be doing this, not here and not now. Yet, he can't bring himself to stop the other from trailing soft featherlight touches across his nape - which Jaebeom knows is ridiculously sensitive. 

"J...Jaebeom, what are you doing?"  Jinyoung’s a little stunned by how forward Jaebeom is being and he immediately winces at the stutter in his voice but he doesn’t do anything to discourage Jaebeom from his advances. He can’t help the involuntary blush that causes him to flush red.

The other hums before chuckling at how red Jinyoung is and Jinyoung can feel the elder's chest vibrate with how close he's pressed against him. The other threads his fingers through Jinyoung's hair, tugging and pulling trying to position Jinyoung's head and like a pliant puppet on a string - Jinyoung follows. 

"C'mon Jinyoungie, it's just us. You were right that if it really mattered to me I would have found the time. So right now, I'm making time for you.” Jaebeom murmurs and brings his voice closer to Jinyoung’s ear and Jinyoung can feel Jaebeom’s hot breath on his ear, while the elder pressed kisses under his ear - and all Jinyoung can do is hold his breath and stifle the moan that desperately wants to escape from his lips. Jnyoung’s eyelids flutter shut and Jaebeom pauses in his ministrations to whisper

“We haven't really had the time to do this, much less have had the time to talk. Haven't we baby?"

Baby. With that one word, whatever self-restraint or reservations Jinyoung had, were stamped as irrelevant and filed away in his brain to be dealt with later. Jinyoung turned his body, swivelling on his chair and yanks Jaebeom’s jersey shirt collar, the elder grunting out in response but eagerly returns Jinyoung's hungry kisses. Jinyoung closes his eyes, nibbling Jaebeom's lips before tugging at the elder's wet locks. They kissed like it would be their last, with every action fuelled by desperation and raging urgency. 

Jinyoung had always found Jaebeom attractive, the elder being built but not till it was grotesque bodybuilder standards. He was built in a clean, strong “can pick you up and have sex against the wall” kind of way. The elder was attractive to everyone he’d come across, and you would have to be blind to not see it or just very good at lying to yourself to not be able to at least grudgingly admit that Im Jaebeom was good looking. It just pissed Jinyoung off that Jaebeom was able to have anyone he wanted and that Jinyoung wasn’t the only one that was caught in his spiderweb. He hated that Jaebeom could have this with anyone he wanted, but he only had Jaebeom because as much as he hated jocks - he could trust Jaebeom that whatever they had would stay between them.

After all, they had to keep their respective reputations intact. Yet Jinyoung wondered what the student population would say when they found out that their muscular, alpha male basketball captain was interested in boys - and wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at being pushed around by one. With that thought in mind, Jinyoung pulls away from the kiss with his breath coming in pants before he pulls Jaebeom firmly into his lap. The elder stumbling but managing to steady himself by pressing a warm large palm against Jinyoung’s thigh, Jinyoung inhales sharply before licking his lips. 

Jaebeom’s sharp and dark gaze follows that action with startling focus, and Jinyoung can’t help but trail his gaze across the elder’s sharp jawline and prominent cheekbones matched with a pair of startling brown eyes that encapsulated all the shades of brown in the universe. There’s a reason that Jaebeom has been voted king of every social event, and that visibility is one reason why they’re making out behind the locked doors of the student union room instead of being able to sneak kisses in broad daylight before class.

Jinyoung doesn’t know what inspires him to say what he says next, but all he knows is that it’s too late to regret it once it slips past his lips  - mumbled against his skin as he pulls Jaebeom’s jersey collar and marks whatever area of skin his lips find that is hidden under the fabric. 

“You’re mine.” 

Once the last syllabus slips past his kissed swollen lips, Jinyoung freezes and Jaebeom notices it - the perceptive freak he is and he places a warm palm on the back of Jinyoung’s nape, a reassuring gesture. Jinyoung doesn’t know if Jaebeom heard it, but he renews his vigour in marking every available area of skin that is exposed but yet will remain nicely hidden under Jaebeom’s collar. 

When Jinyoung finally feels satisfied with how Jaebeom’s neck looks, he’s overcome with a sense of foolishness. Once the adrenaline fades, he realises how stupid he’s being and how ridiculous he’s acting. He was the one who wanted to keep this a secret, he was the one who refused to stay the night at Jaebeom’s place even though the elder offered. So who is he to feel jealous and possessive? 

He leans his head in the crook of the elder’s shoulder, suddenly feeling overwhelmed with how foolish he was acting. Usually, this is when they would do the deed that made them ‘friends with benefits’ but Jinyoung isn’t sure if he’s capable of doing anything else without losing his composure. He’s just so tired and he’s been losing sleep for the past week, kept up at night with work. He didn’t know how much he needed a hug until he found Jaebeom in his lap - with the other’s grounding presence almost pushing his frayed mental state over the edge. He doesn’t know how long they remain in that position, but he clutches onto Jaebeom’s jersey with a vice-like grip and refuses to lift his head from the other’s shoulder. 

Jinyoung expects Jaebeom to snap at him, or to pry Jinyoung’s grip off him but the elder doesn’t do either of those actions. He just gently threads his fingers through Jinyoung’s locks and rubbing between Jinyoung’s shoulder blades. It’s as if Jaebeom knows that he needs this. He needs the intimacy without the pleasure that they usually associate to it.  Jinyoung feels like he’s capable of breaking apart in Jaebeom’s embrace and with that - it dawns on him that he’s grown to trust Im Jaebeom. 

That realisation should be another blaring warning siren, but he’s just so damn tired - at that moment, he doesn’t give a shit about the stupid rules he’d set when they started their agreement. They had three simple rules, anything that happens is kept between them, no kissing if it isn’t for foreplay and that they could see whoever they wanted. They weren’t exclusive and Jinyoung likes to tell himself that it’s to Jaebeom’s advantage but if he was being honest; it was to give himself an out as well. Jinyoung duly notes that whatever they were doing is a flouting of rule number two. They didn’t do cuddling, they didn’t do hugging without the purpose of foreplay but Jinyoung can’t help but like this more.

Jinyoung is aware that their current position is a lot more intimate than they’re used to, but Jaebeom hadn’t shown any signs of discomfort and Jinyoung allows himself this moment to be selfish - and to really experience what it’s like to be comforted without the other wanting or needing anything in return. It’s a foreign feeling. 

He takes in a deep breath and finally lifts his head, tickling Jaebeom’s nose with his hair with that sudden unexpected movement. The elder wrinkles his nose but is unable to do anything about it unless he wanted to fall off the chair. At Jaebeom’s disgruntled look, Jinyoung can’t help but let out a peal of laughter which does surprise Jaebeom who gives Jinyoung a shocked expression before it shifts into a sheepish expression. 

Jinyoung is almost a hundred per cent sure that Jaebeom knows how devastatingly good he looks when his hair is tousled, with his lips swollen and shiny with spit. His train of thought must have been written as plain as day on his features, as Jaebeom’s expression shifts from sheepish into outright cocky with his shit-eating grin making its appearance again. 

With that Jinyoung clears his throat, and averts his gaze. 

“C’mon get off me Jaebeom.” 

“Nuh-uh. Not until you use your manners Jinyoungie, I’m sure your mother has taught you better than that.”

Jinyoung shoots the elder an incredulous look, trying his hardest to convey his annoyance but the edges of his lips curve upwards in amusement involuntarily as he fails to suppress the absolute childishness of this situation. He waits for Jaebeom to shove him jokingly, and climb off his lap but the elder looks at him and arches his brow slowly. He can’t believe this. 

“Can you please get off me Jaebeom.”

“Better, but that’s not it Jinyoungie.” Jaebeom teases while running his hands down Jinyoung’s sides, and keeping a firm grip on Jinyoung’s waist. Jinyoung wants to kiss the stupid shit-eating grin off his face but he doesn’t because he can’t. He’s not allowed to start on something he can’t finish and that moment of vulnerability had long passed. Jinyoung was only going to allow himself one moment of weakness, and this was the quota for the day.

“Can you please get off me hyung? You’re heavy.” He says, with his voice border lining on a whine. Jaebeom grins at him and as gracefully as a wall of muscle can be, climbed off Jinyoung’s lap and settles himself onto Jinyoung’s desk. Jaebeom attempts to place his sneakers clad feet on Jinyoung’s lap, and Jinyoung slaps them away with a disgruntled huff and shifts his chair away from Jaebeom. 

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be Jaebeom?”

Jaebeom frowns and rests his elbows on his basketball shorts clad thighs, with him raising a brow slowly as if trying to say ‘really? We were just over this.’ Jinyoung flushes and picks up the first object he gets his hands on to throw at Jaebeom, and that happened to be his favourite pen. His gaze widened comically when he realised what exactly he threw at Jaebeom, with the elder being prepared to duck until he notices the panic on Jinyoung’s features. In a rush to catch the pen, Jaebeom throws himself off the desk and barely catches the pen before losing his balance and crashing onto the ground. 

Jinyoung rolls his eyes and turns his attention to the accounting report which Mark has painstakingly put together and left the tallying to Jinyoung - which was something that he couldn’t even do right. Just as Jinyoung was about to start tabulating the figures, he notices that Jaebeom still hadn’t gotten up from the floor. 



“Hahaha Jaebeom, very funny. Can you at least give me back my pen if you want to lie on the floor like the sloth you are?”

Jinyoung can hear the seconds tick on the clock.

“Jaebeom hyung. This isn’t funny, I really need that pen back.” Jinyoung says as he gets up from his chair warily, his eyebrows furrowed in annoyance at the childish trick that Jaebeom was pulling. He expects Jaebeom to spring up and pull a fast one on him and maybe half startle him to death but he doesn’t expect the elder to be lying on the ground, curled up in a ball with Jinyoung’s pen lying a few inches away from Jaebeom’s open palm.

Jinyoung’s breath is caught in his throat as he squats down and nudges Jaebeom’s limp body, he pokes the elder but doesn’t get a response. That’s when Jinyoung starts to panic, his begins to mutter under his breath about a stupid athlete doing stupid things because they think they’re so freaking able, but they’re still humans who can get injured. He fumbles for his phone and places the phone on speakerphone as he dials for an ambulance. 

He wrecks his brain to think of what to do in this situation, and honestly, he curses himself for not taking Youngjae’s advice of learning first aid during the holidays. He pushes Jaebeom’s shoulder and tries to manoeuvre the elder onto his back because he’s pretty sure that Youngjae mentioned something like that. Did he?

 At that moment, Jaebeom yanks Jinyoung’s wrist and pulls the younger to his chest. 

Jinyoung lets out an undignified squeak and falls flat onto Jaebeom’s hard chest. Jinyoung’s mind went blank for a moment, blood thrumming in his ears before he peers up to see Jaebeom grinning at him mischievously. The elder had his arms wrapped around Jinyoung’s waist and their faces were merely inches away from each other, Jinyoung had to resist the urge to simply melt into the elder’s embrace which promised security and comfort. He can only hope that Jaebeom doesn’t feel how hard is pounding and in an attempt to calm his racing heart Jinyoung squeezed his eyes shut.

He doesn’t know much much time has passed but he feels a gentle touch on his cheek before a thumb gently traces over his cheekbone. His eyelids fly open and he’s met with Jaebeom’s concerned but oddly content expression. He didn’t have the mental capacity to pick apart what that expression meant and he defaulted back to defensive glare before flicking the elder on his forehead. With Jaebeom reeling backwards, Jinyoung escapes from the elder’s hold and scrambles to his phone to disconnect the call before the line does get connected to the emergency services. He can only imagine the embarrassment that would have resulted in the situation that the call did connect. What was he going to say? “My friend passed out after falling off a desk when he was trying to catch a pen I tossed at his head?”  He sighs and leans against his desk, with his shoulders slumping under the weight of what feels like a hundred cinder bricks. 

“Jinyoung-ah, I’m sorry for scaring you.” 

“Don’t ever do that again you idiot. I really thought you got hurt over catching my stupid pen.” 

Jinyoung mutters as he runs a hand down his face before offering Jaebeom a soft smile, which the elder mirrors. Jaebeom walks over towards Jinyoung and places the pen in his palm and closes Jinyoung’s fingers around it, with Jinyoung smiling softly at that action. Jinyoung looks at Jaebeom and he can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of adoration from looking at the usually confident jock, fiddle with the hem of his jersey because he was worried that Jinyoung was still mad at him.

“Quit giving me that look hyung. I’m not mad at you, you just worried me. No harm was done, though that was a pretty shitty thing to do.” Jinyoung replies with a half-hearted glare, as he returns back to the document that he still hadn’t made any headway on. Jaebeom chuckles and Jinyoung can see the tension bleed out of the elder’s broad shoulders, with Jaebeom finally no longer looking like a kicked puppy.

The elder pulls over a chair to Jinyoung's desk and waggles his brows at Jinyoung when the younger raises a brow in question at why he doesn't just go home. They do this odd thing by communicating without saying a word, and Jinyoung simple surrenders himself to having Jaebeom for company. Which is something he's secretly happy to get, but at the same time - he knows that this won't be something that he gets to have regularly. Whatever happened today wouldn't ever happen again. Jinyoung wouldn’t let it, not when it can jeopardize whatever they have going for them.

They fall into a comfortable silence and Jinyoung finally forces himself to focus on his task at hand. It doesn't take long for him to let out a frustrated sigh when he discovers that the math didn’t add up. 

He had checked, double-checked and triple checked. That numbers just didn’t seem to add up and he knows that it couldn’t be the fault of Mark - the elder was always so conscientious and careful. Not to mention that it would simply take too much effort and time that Jinyoung didn’t have to dig out all the files and cross-reference if the numbers matched to what Mark had neatly written down. 

He clicks his pen, frustration starting to eat away at his focus as his gaze begins to stray from the document to Jaebeom who had been strangely quiet since his earlier shenanigans. Jaebeom had propped his chin on his palms and rested his weight on the desk and while Jinyoung had been working on the document, the elder must’ve succumbed to exhaustion and begun to fall asleep.

The edges of Jinyoung’s lips curve up in a smile when he notices the elder nodding off and jerking his head back up when he catches himself falling asleep. Jaebeom had propped his chin on his palms  He doesn’t know how long he spends watching Jaebeom as the elder tries to stay awake, but it fills Jinyoung’s heart with inexplicable fondness and warmth. It felt nice to have company and to know that someone was waiting for you. He’s almost afraid to properly wake Jaebeom, in fear that the elder will realise how long he’d spent in Jinyoung’s company for no absolute rhyme or reason and decide to leave Jinyoung to agonise over a financial report.

He bit his lip observing Jaebeom with his amusement slowly fading into worry when he notices that the elder looks exhausted. He has dark circles under his eyes and even when he does nod off, those moments don’t look peaceful. His eyebrows were furrowed and Jinyoung thinks of pressing his fingers against that crease to smoothen his frown. He stifles the urge to move just a little closer, and offer his shoulder to the elder but they weren't close friends, like him and Mark. Jinyoung would hesitate to even call them friends because he knew nothing about Jaebeom's personal life other than the fact that he was good at basketball and good in bed. 

Just as Jinyoung was prepared to open his mouth to wake the elder, Jaebeom’s eyelids fluttered open and he blinked blearily. With a big yawn, he clumsily wiped away the drool on the side of his mouth. Jinyoung scrunches up his nose in disgust, using that as an excuse to why he was caught staring at Jaebeom - he could only hope that the blush on his ears wouldn't give him away. 

Jaebeom yawns widely and stretches, revealing the sliver of toned muscle that Jinyoung struggles not to ogle at. He thinks of the number of times he's run his fingers across the elder's stomach, and how firm his abs were under his fingers. Okay nope. No Jinyoung. Bad Jinyoung. He catches himself mid-thought, and he's immediately disgusted with himself for letting his mind stray. It's one thing to ogle Im Jaebeom, it's another thing to ogle the other when there's no intention of sexy times occurring. 

On some days Jinyoung wonders what about Jaebeom that reduces him to just his primal desires of wanting to climb the other like a tree. On other days, such as today, he gets his answer when Jaebeom licks his lips and gets up and does a full-body stretch, his jersey riding up and exposing his happy trail and those glorious muscles. Jinyoung really wonders how is this his life. 

"Jinyoung? Earth to Jinyoungie?" Jinyoung barely has the time to blink before he registers Jaebeom's fingers positioned to flick his forehead. Unlike the other who is grinning at him almost maniacally, Jinyoung lacks the reflexes and can only watch as Jaebeom flicks his forehead and pain blossoms across the spot.

He hisses out a pained "Oww", before shutting his eyes and rubbing the spot. You stupid shit. This is what you get for daydreaming. He scowls at Jaebeom, who was currently staring at the document that Jinyoung had been holding before it ended up in Jaebeom’s hands. The elder had rudely snatched it off Jinyoung’s desk when he was preoccupied with rubbing the spot the elder had flicked.

"Hyung, what the hell are you doing? Give it back." There's a sense of urgency that creeps into Jinyoung's tone, but he knows it's irrational to think that Jaebeom was scribbling on the document just to coax a rise out of him. 

"Sit down Jinyoung. Let me take a look okay? You've been working on this since I've entered the room. I'll see if I can figure out what's wrong."

Jaebeom sounds so fond and Jinyoung can't find it in him to care that no one else should know how much of the budget he's given to the gaming club. No one needs to know how much of a sucker he is for Kim Yugyeom. However, knowing Jaebeom and how perceptive he is there wasn't a chance in hell that he wasn't going to catch that. 

Jinyoung feels like dying, or maybe taking the first flight to the North Pole and living with the Eskimos. The more he thinks about it, the better the idea sounds. Not only would he be able to avoid the embarrassment of Jaebeom teasing him about his soft spot for Yugyeom, but he’ll also be able to pet the cute huskies. 

He watches as Jaebeom scribbles something on the document, and makes grabby hands for Jinyoung's calculator with Jinyoung wordlessly passing it over. Jinyoung can only watch it wonder as Jaebeom furrows his brows and nibbles on his bottom lip while frantically scribbling. The moment Jaebeom finally works it out, Jinyoung sees his entire face light up as brightly as a Christmas tree. 

"I figured it out."

Jinyoung stills as he looks at Jaebeom sceptically, with the elder pushing the document over to Jinyoung with such an earnest expression. He doesn't believe that he can make a mistake with basic arithmetic, despite being a linguistics major. He should still be able to do basic math. Jinyoung scans the document, and his eyes widen when he sees the final number tallied at the bottom - written in the neatest handwriting he's seen. It matched. Usually, Jinyoung would have felt indignant and would've forced Jaebeom to tell him what he did step by step and where the hell he went wrong. 

Right now, he was just rendered speechless. Im Jaebeom, the one who writes papers about film techniques and spends more time fiddling with a camera than a calculator managed to make sense of a financial report which had stumped Jinyoung - who had been doing this for the past two years.

"How?" Jinyoung managed to gasp out as he ran the numbers through the calculator once more and slumped against the back of his chair when they flashed - the same amount as what was reflected in the document. 

"You copied one of the numbers wrong from the raw data that Mark provided," Jaebeom replies with a sheepish grin as the elder shrugs his shoulder when Jinyoung stares at him slack-jawed. He doesn’t know what came over him, but raucous laughter spills from his lips and he doubles over from laughing so hard Jaebeom from looking at him like he lost his mind, started to chuckle with him and they both end up laughing so hard that there are tears in their eyes. 

When Jinyoung finally pulls himself together, he finds himself leaning on Jaebeom with the elder still trying to stifle his chuckles. He can’t help but glance up at Jaebeom and there it goes again, that odd fluttery feeling in his stomach. He wishes that he can always be the cause of Jaebeom’s goofy grins but that isn’t possible, not with the firm rules he’d insisted on. Jinyoung had thought that those rules would be the things that helped him draw the line between something permanent and something temporary. They were meant to serve as the boundary line to reinforce what they meant to each other. 

Jinyoung had brought up the discussion of setting up rules between them when they had their first taste of each other in one of the spare bedrooms of a fellow student who lived off-campus. He’d expect Jaebeom to be more resistant in agreeing to them since the establishment of rules did go against the appeal of a hook-up that were meant to have no strings attached.

He’d put them in place to avoid catching feelings for the jock, but who knew that those rules would have been the ones that drew Jinyoung even closer to Jaebeom like a moth to a burning flame. He’d be a fool to think that Jaebeom would ever see him as anything more than someone who he sleeps with. 

Jinyoung is adamant that their agreement is strictly for mutual pleasure, nothing more or nothing less - even though on some days he has to try a little harder than normal to remind himself of that fact.

“You’re staring again Jinyoungie,” Jaebeom said teasingly before bopping Jinyoung on the nose. Jinyoung tries to bite his finger in retaliation before he realises what he’s doing, and his expression immediately falls. If Jaebeom notices it, he doesn’t mention it. The elder simply stands up and ruffles his hair, and Jinyoung doesn’t know what to make of that action. Was Jaebeom leaving? 

Since the start of their arrangement, never have they simply hung out. They always ended up doing more. This sudden change in their routine made Jinyoung uneasy and despite his exhaustion, he still felt like he had to offer. He watched Jaebeom intently as the other picked up his duffle bag while he bit his lip wondering if what he was doing was right. He felt obligated to offer something in exchange for Jaebeom’s company. If whatever they had was strictly transactional and based on mutual benefit, it would only be right if he offered. Right?

“Hyung…. Do you want to come over?” 

Jinyoung can’t label what expression came across Jaebeom’s features, but it was as fleeting as the memory of a stranger passing by in a crowded street. The elder simply gives Jinyoung an odd look that Jinyoung wasn’t able to decipher and before Jinyoung can question it - Jaebeom hikes up his duffle bag and shuffles his feet.

“I think I’m going to head back to my room, there’s practice tomorrow. You should head back too Jinyoungie, you have a long day tomorrow too.”

Jinyoung can’t help but smile to himself at Jaebeom’s concern, but he immediately narrows his eyes when he finally catches onto Jaebeom’s earlier part of his statement. Without allowing his brain to catch up with his actions, he simply blurts out.

“Practice? You don’t have practice tomorrow. We did not agree on this.” Jinyoung’s heart rate picks up, his thoughts racing when he tries to think back of the things he might have said when he was distracted by Jaebeom. As far as his knowledge and situational awareness went, he’s certain that he might’ve embarrassed himself by claiming Jaebeom like a possessive significant other but he did not agree to allow the basketball team to hold practice tomorrow. 

Jaebeom pretends not to hear Jinyoung and leaves the meeting room whistling. Jinyoung is left standing there wide-eyed as he glances at Jaebeom'sretreating back while the elder hums a catchy tune that’s been heavily overplayed on the radio. He glances down at the mess that his desk is and laments on having to organise it the next day before grabbing his backpack and dashing out of the room and down the hallway to catch up with Jaebeom. 

They both end up squabbling, with both of them acting like schoolyard children - pushing and shoving. The conversation starts with Jinyoung accusing Jaebeom from rudely walking away from him before ending their conversation and completely overlooking his authority as the student union president. Jaebeom retorts with Jinyoung being unfit and slow - which is uncalled for in Jinyoung’s opinion, and he makes sure that Jaebeom knows that.

Jinyoung ends up laughing a full-bellied chuckle, with his eye-whiskers on full display with his heart feeling a lot lighter than it did in the past two weeks. He didn’t know how tightly strung he was and how much he needed someone willing to give him the time of day without wanting something from him.

On most days, Jinyoung could ignore it - he could pretend that he wasn’t just a figurehead people needed to get a signature from. He could ignore the whispers behind his back about how he thought the world of himself just because he was voted into the council. Some days, days like today Jinyoung wonders if he even wants to do what he’s doing. It’s easy to question why he does this but the answer to it always seems to evade him. He likes to tell himself that someone has to do it, but the niggling question would be why him?

He looks at Jaebeom who has his hands stuffed into his hoodie, walking a few steps ahead of him. He’d used to think that they were opposites, with the elder being thoughtless, reckless and too much of an adrenaline junkie to understand what it’s like to be a leader with responsibilities. If Jinyoung were being honest with himself, he’d allowed his prejudice to cloud his judgment and he’s not proud of it. With time spent in Jaebeom’s company, his perspective of jocks has shifted and he can only grudgingly accept that not everyone is like Shownu.

Not all jocks saw people as conquests to add to their list of ‘people I’ve slept with or strung along like a plaything.’

People like Shownu were the people that caused Jinyoung to find the need to protect himself with something as childish and inconsequential like written rules. They’d served their purpose in the beginning, but there was something about Jaebeom that made Jinyoung crave and want more. It was gradually dawning on him - that what he wanted was no longer within their agreement and that maybe if he had any self-preservation - he would stop this before it spiralled out of control. 

However, Jinyoung’s heart and mind weren’t in sync and the heart is a greedy little thing. Daily he makes the decision of having Jaebeom in what little way he can have even if it means falling in deeper with the idea of being someone important to Jaebeom. 

They stopped at the entry to the on-campus dorms, with Jaebeom rifling through his duffle for his access pass. Jinyoung doesn’t notice that all he’d been doing is staring into space until he’s startled out of his thoughts by Jaebeom bumping shoulders with him.

“Hey, Jinyoungie. What about a compromise?”

It takes a moment for Jinyoung to catch what the elder was referring to with their argument about who said what and when being forgotten while on the way to the dorms. He looks at Jaebeom warily, eyeing the elder’s relaxed stance as fiddles with his access card.

“What are you proposing hyung?”

“Let the basketball team hold practice, and we’ll help out with the set-up after training.”

Jinyoung eyed Jaebeom with a narrowed gaze, with the elder looking so hopeful and earnest that Jinyoung really couldn’t bring himself to say no. He mulled over the suggestion and did a mental headcount of the number of members that were available tomorrow, they were already drowning in work and they did need all the help they could get. 

“Fine, but if any of you guys try anything funny. I’m kicking all of you out of the auditorium and making sure that next semester all of you get the rooms with shitty heating and bad plumbing.”

Jinyoung doesn’t wait for Jaebeom to respond before walking off once the automated door flashes green and beeps. The doors swoosh open and he makes a left to head to his dormitory wing. He doesn’t notice the fond, gentle look that was written as clear as day on Jaebeom’s features. The elder smiles at Jinyoung’s retreating back and shakes his head in fondness before cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting across the hallway.

“See you tomorrow Jinyoung-ah!”

Jinyoung doesn’t even turn around, but Jaebeom’s phone lets out a ‘ping’ and on his screen flashes Jinyoung’s contact with a simple message of ‘rest well hyung.’ Jaebeom smiles to himself and wonders what it’ll feel like to be able to walk Jinyoung right to his door without having to worry about others catching them and finally being able to kiss him goodbye at his doorstep.

Jaebeom wants everything out of a rom-com film with Jinyoug and on a day like this - he gets the quiet reaffirmation that maybe Jinyoung wants the same things that he does.

“I don’t see why we have to watch them wrap up their training. Can’t we just go when they finish? They did promise to end on time.” Jinyoung whines petulantly as he gets forcibly dragged out of the comfort of the air-conditioned student union room and down the hallway. He gets where Mark is coming from when he suggests Jinyoung and him show up early and ‘intimidate’ the basketballers into ending early and it wouldn’t hurt to give them instructions before the arranged time to set-up. Jinyoung understands and appreciates the logic and thought that went behind that decision but he doesn’t have to like it. 

He doesn’t think he has the will power to be able to maintain his staunch and cold persona in front of a sweaty Jaebeom who’s in his element. He knows what that looks like up close, and despite how acquainted he is to having Jaebeom’s full attention in private. Jinyoung doesn’t trust himself to appear as unaffected as he wants to seem. 

He can only Imagine the waves if people found out that he was interested in Jaebeom, rumours would spread like wild-fire and it would be a repeat of what happened with Shownu but now Jinyoung had a lot more to lose than what he did back then. Jinyoung spent the large majority of his first year in college, trying to prove that he wasn’t interested in guys. He went on copious numbers of dates with girls who he couldn’t see as more than friends, and when the rumours of that night finally died down. He just stopped. 

It was another sober reminder of why he and Jaebeom could never work out, the elder probably needed someone secure enough in their sexuality to stand with him when he did decide to come out. As far as Jinyoung knew, no one else knew Jaebeom had an interest in men other than Jinyoung himself. Jinyoung was certain that if he didn't add the rule of confidentiality, Jaebeom would have. Or maybe this was all in his head and that Jaebeom didn’t care what others thought of him and that sexuality meant nothing to him. Jinyoung can only wish that he was as brave as Jaebeom was if it was indeed the latter.

Mark pushes open the auditorium side doors and plonks himself on one of the front bleachers. Jinyoung can do nothing else but to follow suit, and their entrance did not go unnoticed by the players - specifically Jackson Wang. Jinyoung can only wince when the other gets nailed in the head by a ball thrown by none other than Im Jaebeom. Jinyoung notes that since Mark sat down, Jackson’s gaze hadn’t strayed and it explained how he was caught off guard and was now pouting at Jaebeom while rubbing the side of his head. 

“He’s an idiot,” Mark says quietly and Jinyoung raises a brow at the statement and ventures a comment that would give him the answer to the question that has been nagging at him since the day before. 

“He’s an idiot, but he’s your idiot isn’t he?”

Jinyoung watches Mark's reaction from his peripheral and he stiffens. Just as Jinyoung parts his lips to stammer out an apology, the tension seeps out of Mark's stature. It was as if he had said the exact words that Mark needed to hear because the elder gives Jinyoung his trademark toothy smile and bumps his shoulder. 

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess he is my idiot."

It wasn’t a direct confession, but it was that subtle declaration of commitment that almost sent Jinyoung reeling away in shock. He’d never thought that Mark would go against the heteronormative social structure that their university enforced. The institute they studied at was a conservative college and Jinyoung couldn’t fathom living with whispers about not being aligned with the majority. Not again. Maybe that said something more about him than it said anything about Mark. 

Jinyoung can only watch with a fluttering feeling in his gut when Jackson playfully shoves Jaebeom backwards before bounding over towards Mark like an adorable puppy. Mark lets out a peal of laughter while bracing himself to bear the weight of a fully grown muscular human on his lap because Jackson does exactly that - he throws himself onto Mark’s lap without any regards for the people around them. 

Jinyoung can’t place his finger on what that feeling in his stomach is, it’s a fluttery feeling - uncertain and flighty. It’s a strangely familiar feeling but yet oddly foreign at the same time. All he knows is that watching Mark and Jackson made him feel something that he wasn’t used to. He expects the others to be astonished by the sight before them, but a cursory glance around the auditorium revealed that no one was paying Jackson and Mark any attention. 

Finding relief that no one had found any issues with the intimacy that Mark and Jackson displayed Jinyoung found himself wondering if he and Jaebeom would act that way. He wonders if they would be like Mark and Jackson who aren’t afraid of being disgustingly sweet in public. Before his thoughts could get even further out of hand, he stops himself. He doesn’t even know where those thoughts were coming from because he was the one that insisted on confidentiality. He’d established the rules, he’d been the one who insisted on it. He’d wanted, no needed the rules.

If he truly thought that an official relationship with a label was what he wanted, why couldn’t he just have asked Jaebeom out like a normal human being? 

With that thought in mind, his gaze flickers towards Jaebeom, curious to know how the elder would react to such public displays of affection. Jinyoung expects a grimace, or a pinched expression because those were Jaebeom’s reactions to anything moderately romantic. Jinyoung remembers the time where Jinyoung had been too high on endorphins to drag himself out of Jaebeom’s dorm after they had sex and somehow they ended up cuddling while watching The Notebook in Jaebeom’s bed. They had clicked on the first movie they saw - or more of Jinyoung clicked on the first movie and Jaebeom had just sleepily hummed into his shoulder and allowed him to do whatever he wanted.

He had chanced a glance at Jaebeom during the scene in the rain, and he had noticed the pinched expression on Jaebeom’s face but he wasn’t brave enough to ask why. After all, they usually were more talk than action during their interactions. It was then that Jinyoung realised two things, one was that whatever he knew of Jaebeom were just assumptions based on his actions and two, he really wanted to get to know Jaebeom. The second revelation was what scared him the most.

What Jinyoung didn’t expect was the starling intensity of Jaebeom’s gaze that was honed in on him. Momentarily, Jinyoung’s breath is stolen as he’s made electrifying eye contact with Jaebeom. The effect of Jaebeom’s gaze is akin to the sizzling aftermath of a lightning storm with the air charged with shockwaves. Jinyoung feels pinned down by Jaebeom’s intense stare and he struggles to tamp down the urge to squirm like an insect under the lens of a microscope. In attempts to shake Jaebeom’s gaze off him, Jinyoung fidgets by pushing up his glasses and clearing his throat in hopes to startle Jaebeom to realise that he was staring.

To Jinyoung’s surprise, Jaebeom’s composure doesn’t change and Jinyoung can’t help but raise a brow. In fact, it might’ve been the trick of the light but Jinyoung could’ve sworn that the intensity of Jaebeom’s gaze increased. Jinyoung wonders what on earth is going on in the other’s head but he refuses to let Jaebeom’s silence affect him as he shifted his attention to Mark and Jackson who were in their own little bubble, with Mark idly playing with Jackson’s hair.

Jinyoung resists the urge to roll his eyes as he rolls up the floorplan for the auditorium and uses it to gently whack Mark on the head. Mark jerks backwards and Jackson would have been thrown off Mark’s lap if not for the other’s arm being wrapped around his waist. 

“Are you lovebirds done yet? If you haven’t realised yet, we’re running on a tight schedule and we have a job to do.” Jinyoung said flatly as Jackson clambers off his treasurer’s lap, with the latter blushing scarlet red and refusing to make eye contact with him. Jackson offers a hand to Mark, yanking the elder to his feet before giving Jinyoung a sheepish grin - any traces of aggression or malice from yesterday’s interaction were wiped clean from his expression. Jinyoung doesn’t know if Jackson holds grudges but he’s pleasantly surprised by the affable expression that Jackson was sporting. 

“Yes, sir. Awaiting your command sir.” Jackson exclaimed teasingly with a mock salute and the edges of Jinyoung’s lips rise up involuntarily to form a fond smile. Jackson must’ve seen that and his smile only widens and he takes that as an invitation to sling his arm around Jinyoung’s shoulders before making an attempt to poke at Jinyoung’s glasses.

“What are you doing Wang? You’re going to smudge them.” Jinyoung says as he rips himself out of Jackson’s hold in order to escape his sweaty hold. Jackson holds both of his hands up in mock surrender, as he backpedals away from Jinyoung and into Mark. With the elder letting out a grunt before stabilising him. 

“Just checking if they were fake. I never knew you wore glasses Jinyoungie.” 

Jinyoung frowns before realising the weight of his glasses on his face. He didn’t even remember putting them on today, but he remembers that he’d run of his disposable contacts and didn’t have the time to get them. Suddenly the reason why Jaebeom had been staring at him became crystal clear and Jinyoung had to hold himself back from scoffing. He knows that he looks different in glasses, but not to an extent where it would warrant such an extreme reaction. Who the hell stared at people with such intensity just because they looked different? 

The next thought that enters his mind is if Jaebeom liked his glasses. If he thought he looked good in them or did the other feel that he didn’t suit them. It takes a moment for logic to catch up to him and when it does, his train of thoughts are immediately halted and he wonders when did he start caring what Jaebeom thought of him. 

There’s a flare of unreasonable frustration that festers on the forefront of Jinyoung’s mind. He’s unreasonably angry and frustrated that Jaebeom had gotten into his head and he couldn’t help but take it out on the elder. He sauntered over to Jaebeom who was still standing in the same spot, tracking Jinyoung’s movement like a hawk hunting its prey. You’d think that Jinyoung knows how to be civil and be a decent human being but no he lets his pettiness get in the way of things. He slaps the spare copy of the floorplan into Jaebeom’s chest and sneers when the elder looks at him for an explanation for the legends and the almost illegible handwriting.

“Figure it out yourself. You have the brain cells for it, don’t you? Unless all the isotonic drinks you’ve consumed killed them.”

Jinyoung doesn’t stick around to see Jaebeom’s reaction to that jab, but if he did - he would have seen that fond smile on the other’s face while he shakes his head. Jinyoung stalks off and starts barking orders at members of the basketball team and his own union members. His own members were very much used to this side of Jinyoung and didn’t take his authoritative commands to heart. The same could not be said for the basketball team, who were left stunned at the sudden shift in Jinyoung’s mood. It catches Jackson off guard too and the other bristles wondering if he had been the one who pushed Jinyoung too far but Mark simply whispers in his ear. “Don’t worry about it, Jinyoungie acts like he has a stick up his ass when he’s stressed.” 

There’s a brief moment of confusion before everyone starts splitting up to do their respective tasks and Jinyoung immerses himself in making sure all the logistics check out. The setup for this last location was meant to be the biggest headache in the whole event, however with the additional helping hand from the basketball team, the process was a lot smoother than expected. Jinyoung had to grudgingly admit that he appreciated their help and with that help - things were a lot more manageable and maybe he wasn’t going to die from stress before he graduated. 

He wishes that someone had told him that running for student union president didn’t just mean having to deal with the administrative tasks and improving student welfare but also an event planner on top of being a full-time university student. Gradually, as time passes the auditorium starts to resemble less like a standard place for sports but a rather decently put together space for networking and community interaction. He has to thank Momo from Business Management for coming up with the idea of a Coffee bar. The lure of free high-quality caffeine, in theory, should be enough to lure students. That on its own should be enough to ensure that the event is guaranteed to not flop. Jinyoung can only hope that they would come for the coffee but stay for the talks on how to be better prepared for the adult world because Jinyoung is sure as hell that everyone needs it.

Just as the final finishing touches on the decorations are being made, and when Jinyoung thinks he’s one step closer to being done with this nightmare - the unthinkable happens. There’s a flurry of movement at the corner of the auditorium and Jinyoung supposes that the large majority of the crowd had been trying to resolve whatever happened on their own - hoping that they could fix it without having to look for him for advice. The only reason why Jinyoung does choose to intervene is that Sehun nervously shuffles up to him and scrunches up his nose while wringing his hands.

A warning bell rings in Jinyoung’s head when he sees that Luhan is nowhere near Sehun. Everyone knows that Luhan and Sehun are attached at the hip, and one is never anywhere without the other. Jinyoung doesn’t even need to blink twice before Sehun glances at his stony expression and practically deflates, with his hands falling to the side - his broad shoulders drooping. It always amazed Jinyoung how someone as tall as Sehun could look so small, as the other hunkers in on himself - keeping his gaze locked onto his sneakers while worrying his bottom lip.

“Sehun-ah, what’s wrong?” Jinyoung says gently trying to get the other to look at him, and not wear out the soles of his sneakers by shuffling his feet at an increasing pace. The other snaps his head up and offers Jinyoung a sheepish smile before rubbing the back of his head and stammering out a “Luhan got stuck at the top of the ladder again.” Jinyoung narrows his eyes, and his expression must look pretty stormy because Sehun gulps and takes a couple of steps back with his hands raised in surrender.

Jinyoung doesn’t even need further elaboration, he simply sighs and places down his clipboard and turns around to head towards the crowd. Everyone on campus knows that Luhan is deadly afraid of heights, but Luhan never does remember that until he manages to get up high - which makes coming down absolutely impossible. This was going to be a repeat of the Christmas event, where Jinyoung had spent a large majority of the evening coaxing Luhan to carefully climb down the ladder. He had half a mind to leave the other there until the next morning for everyone to see him asleep, a testament to his achievement of putting up the north star but being unable of climbing back down.

To this day, Jinyoung wonders what on earth possessed Luhan to approach him after his last lecture of the day for permission to put up the decorations for the giant Christmas tree. He really shouldn’t have said yes. Imagine his surprise when he was called out of bed by a panicky Sehun at two in the morning about Luhan being scared shitless at the top of the ladder when the other had texted him at nine that he was done with decorating. 

“I swear I didn’t dare him to do it this time Jinyoung-ah.”

Jinyoung turns around and glares at Sehun, finally putting the pieces together and realising that the only reason that Luhan was up there in the first place was that Sehun had dared him to climb up and put the finishing touches on their ‘Christmas project’. 

“You - You know what. I’ll deal with you later. Let me go save your boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend? What? That’s not what - Thank you Jinyoung-ah! You did it the first time, and everyone knows the second time will always be easier!” Sehun calls after Jinyoung as he stalks off, heading towards the crowd. Jinyoung scoffs at the other’s crappy attempt at reassuring that it wouldn’t be as emotionally draining as it was the first time to coax Luhan down. When he had to do it the first time, Jinyoung had developed a deeper appreciation for firemen called to rescue a cat from a tree - it really wasn’t an easy job. 

The crowd parts like the red sea for him when they see him approach and Luhan immediately brightens when he spots Jinyoung. He attempts a wave before his entire expression scrunches up and his grip flies back to the edge of the ladder - with a white-knuckled grip on the edge. Jinyoung narrows his gaze, gaze zeroing in on how Luhan is as white as a sheet with a tight smile on his lips. He had to do something quickly before Luhan works himself into a panic and potentially falls off the ladder. 

The last time they were in this situation, Jinyoung ended up seated at the base of the ladder - spending hours listening to Luhan’s rambling and adding his little anecdotes just to make the other feel comfortable enough in his own skin to climb down on his own. He doesn’t know how much time he’d spent then, but he knows that he would willingly do it again - if it meant getting his friend away from harm’s way.

Jinyoung’s calming presence in light of the situation diffuses the building tension - with people leaving him to coax the skittish Luhan down before he loses his balance and cracks his skull open. Jinyoung doesn’t even allow his attention to leave Luhan, simply settling onto the ground with his legs crossed and waiting patiently. He doesn’t know how long it takes for Luhan to cautiously climb down the first rung of the ladder, but he notices that he does and he fills that momentarily silence with some nonsense that evokes a soft chuckle. Luhan is quieter this time, and Jinyoung takes it upon himself to fill that silence with his own anecdotes before long the other finally has two feet on the ground.  

Wordlessly Jinyoung stands up, wincing at the pins and needles in his legs from sitting for far too long but he opens his arms and Luhan comes barreling into them. Luhan has told him that he doesn’t really fear heights - it’s not that simple. There’s something to that fear that gives it the power to incapacitate. Maybe other people don’t understand why Luhan still chooses to climb up to high places if he’s afraid of falling but to some extent Jinyoung does, it’s not the falling that he’s afraid of - it’s the possibility of falling with no one to catch him. 

It was then that Jinyoung realises that they’d stayed far later than he’d expected, the auditorium was no longer bathed in the blinding fluorescent lights. The lights had been dimmed and almost everyone else had left with the exception of Sehun who was trying very hard to not be obvious that he was waiting for Luhan - shifting his gaze from his phone to Luhan when he thinks no one is looking at him. Jinyoung raises a brow at Sehun over Luhan’s shoulder and the other blushes and averts his gaze and fiddles with the straps of two backpacks on his shoulder. 

Luhan pulls away and gives Jinyoung a warm smile, though there is a tightness in that smile - and a visible tension in his shoulders; from starving off a panic attack - he looks better. He spots Sehun trying to look busy with absolutely nothing and that smile only widens further. Jinyoung watches as Luhan offers him a last quiet ‘Thanks’ with that pair of gentle eyes before launching himself at Sehun, who valiantly still tries to catch him but they inevitably fall into a heap on the floor. At the end of the day, Jinyoung is relieved that his friend will be in good hands and that there will be someone to pick him up even when the going gets tough. Yet, there’s a small little part of him that wonders why can’t he allow himself to have the same thing.

Jinyoung sighs softly and turns his attention back to the ladder and he stifles a chuckle when he realises that despite being scared shitless, Luhan still corrected the slanted banner he set out to correct even though Jinyoung hadn’t thought that it was anything serious. He didn’t think that Luhan would take it upon himself to actually climb up and correct it on his own. Just as he was about to close the ladder and lift it back to the storeroom, a hand lands on his shoulder and squeezes it. 

“Let me. Here take this. You look dead on your feet, I think you could use this.” Jinyoung isn’t even given time to outwardly react to Jaebeom’s gruff tone before a cup of coffee is shoved into his hands. He dully notes that it’s from his favourite coffee shop that isn’t anywhere close to campus, he doesn’t remember mentioning it to Jaebeom but the other must’ve figured it out from the copious number of cups left at his dorm during exam season. 

He takes a cautious sip of the drink, eyeing Jaebeom’s broad back warily and his taste buds are assaulted with just the perfect amount of sweetness even though Mark says that his drink will be the cause of him developing diabetes. Jinyoung likes sweet things, and it surprises him that Jaebeom remembers what he orders. He’s pretty sure that he had offhandedly narrated his order once when Jaebeom had asked him in sheer disgust of what was in it. Jinyoung hadn’t thought much of it then and simply chastised the other for drinking his drink without even asking for permission.

 It surprised him that Jaebeom remembered it despite only having heard his complex order of a white chocolate mocha with soy milk, two pumps of raspberry and additional whip cream. The edges of his lips curve up in a content smile and that warm fluttery feeling returns, Jinyoung has to admit that it’s nice to feel that it’s okay for him to accept these small acts of thoughtfulness. There’s something about Jaebeom that melts the walls he’d put up. It’s as if the elder sees through his defensiveness and maybe Jinyoung is tired of pretending that he’s all okay on his own. He doesn’t like articulating why he’s so afraid of holding Jaebeom closer to his heart and admitting that he isn’t just a friend with benefits because the reason sounds utterly stupid. He’s a coward, a self-sabotaging coward who’s too afraid of taking the plunge again. 

Jinyoung doesn’t think Jaebeom will ever understand; no one will. He’s too far into his head for anyone to understand him.

They move around each other in silence both in each other’s space, ducking and weaving like a well practised dance. Jinyoung ducks under Jaebeom’s arm as the elder shifts the ladder and helps to keep whatever they’d left out and Jinyoung is once again struck by how well they know each other and are aware of each other’s presence. They work seamlessly, like two well-oiled cogs in a machine.

Before long, they’re both left standing in silence - with Jinyoung savouring the last dregs of the coffee that has long gone cold. The silence between them is heavy, crackling with unspoken words from Jinyoung snapping at Jaebeom and the elder showing up with his favourite cup of coffee. It feels like something a couple would be dealing with after an argument, and that ignites a sleeping flame in Jinyoung’s heart because he knows that he was unreasonable. He doesn’t deserve Jaebeom taking the effort to drive out of campus just to get him his favourite coffee to appease him, and the least he could do was to thank him.

“Thank y-”

“Hope the coffee was still warm, I picked it up on the way back from driving Jackson home and Mark told me to tell you that he’s spending the night at Jackson’s place.” 

Jinyoung’s grip on the cup tightens and his smile falters slightly, and he’s annoyed at himself for getting tongue-tied over something as simple as a ‘thank you’ when Jaebeom deserves so much more.

At the same time, he’s relieved that Jaebeom didn’t go the extra mile for him but once again the small voice in his head chastises him for even thinking that he was worth it. Well then if he felt that he wasn’t deserving of it, he’ll make it into an exchange. After all, he’d only started talking to Im Jaebeom because of the other wanting what his body could offer - so to make it even and put the stupid small voice in his head to rest; he’ll make it a trade. He’ll make a trade that Jaebeom won’t be able to refuse. 

“Hey hyung. Since Mark-hyung is sleeping over at Jackson’s. Do you want to come up to mine?”

Jinyoung watches as an odd look flashes across Jaebeom’s features, the elder purses his lips, seemingly thinking something over but he finally gives Jinyoung a nod. Jinyoung gives Jaebeom that breathtaking smile that reveals his eye-whiskers and whatever resistance Jaebeom had melted away.

They spend the walk back to the dormitory engaging in small talk, ranging from the number of cups of coffee a day before it could be labelled as an addiction and the future they had ahead. Jinyoung doesn’t know when they had progressed from hurried removal of articles of clothing and hungry oxygen stealing kisses to being able to walk in comfortable silence. It was a gradual shift that left Jinyoung aching for more but he knows he can’t have that and so he settles for what he can have. 

They head up to Jinyoung’s dorm that he shares with Mark and Jinyoung finds himself anticipating what they’ll end up doing, he’s all so ready to drop to his knees for Jaebeom and to prove that he’s worth the elder’s time and attention - he was willing to do anything to silence the nagging small voice in his head. Jinyoung expects the elder to get with the program once Jinyoung removes his jacket and hangs it up on the coat hanger. He expects to be pushed up against the door - god knows they’ve done it multiple times with Jaebeom fucking him against a wall. The other doesn’t do anything, he simply stares at the mess that the dorm is in and looks at Jinyoung with this horrified expression. 

Jinyoung can’t help but cross his arms defensively and he lets out a rather indignant ‘What?” He can’t help but feel insecurity well up in him, he looks at Jaebeom who’s so put together and the stark juxtaposition against the mess of his living space just brings home the point that Jinyoung really is a mess as compared to Jaebeom. He doesn’t know what those thoughts do to his features, but apparently, they do enough as Jaebeom’s expression gentles. They’re left standing there, in awkward silence before Jaebeom takes the initiative in clearing his throat.

“Jinyoung-ah, do you mind if I take a shower? I know you hate it when I’m all sweaty and gross.”

The elder shuffles his feet and just looks so out of place that it almost hurts Jinyoung with how awkward this entire interaction is. Jinyoung just nods and waves a hand at Jaebeom dismissively. He settles into the tiny couch and flicks on the television and mindlessly flips the channel till it settles on a rerun of Stranger Things and Jinyoung doesn’t think he’d watched this episode yet. He listens as the heater in their bathroom gurgles to life and the shower starts running. Jinyoung smiles to himself when he hears Jaebeom hum to himself in the shower, suddenly made aware of how thin their walls are.

It dawns on Jinyoung that this is the first time he’d impulsively invited Jaebeom to his dorm without making prior plans to clean up and present the best version of himself. His dorm is in more of a mess that it has been for the past few months and neither he or Mark had the time to clean up, even though Mark’s side of the room looks less like a tornado tore through it. It’s still far from the elder’s typical spotless desk and colour coded clothes in their respective drawers. 

The past few rendezvous with Jaebeom in his dorm were fueled by the alcohol-induced haze and neither of them had the presence of mind to care about how messy it was. Their goal was just to get off and enjoy themselves - nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter to either of them that Jinyoung was horrible at taking care of himself or accepting affection if it didn’t lead to sex. It was just sex in that moment of time and Jinyoung relished in the simplicity of it. 

He doesn’t realise that he’s so deep into his thoughts until Jaebeom walks back into his peripheral, with a towel that Jinyoung doesn’t recognise slung around his neck. The elder’s hair is dripping and his hair is tousled in a way that makes Jinyoung just want to run his fingers through it to flatten it. Jinyoung swallows at how Jaebeom has somehow decided to forgo a shirt - good it’ll make things easier later. He thinks as he trails his gaze towards the loose sweat pants that hung snugly on Jaebeom’s lower hips. 

Jinyoung doesn’t care if Jaebeom catches him staring; he’s too busy imagining himself lick the droplets of water from the shower off Jaebeom’s abs and yanking those sweats off his muscular thighs. God Jinyoung can only hope Jaebeom decided to forgo underwear as well. He expects to be called out for staring with one of those cliched lines of ‘My eyes are up here’, but that doesn’t happen. In fact, Jinyoung is treated to an eyeful of Jaebeom’s ass as the elder picks up a stack of old pizza boxes with cans of red bull balanced precariously on the top of it. 

Jinyoung can only watch slack-jawed as Jaebeom sets the tower of trash on the small coffee table in front of him as he procures a trash bag from god knows where and starts to clean up Jinyoung’s side of the room - apparently deeming Mark’s room passable by his standards. Jinyoung doesn’t know what he’s looking at, is Jaebeom cleaning up his dorm? For what reason? Is he that much of a mess that Jaebeom doesn’t think he’ll do it on his own? The more he thinks about it, the more his brain stats to resemble a spinning top; finding more questions than answers and Jinyoung just wishes he can just stop thinking. 

“Jinyoung can you order some take-out, I’m starving and I don’t think you’ve eaten yet.” Jinyoung doesn’t know how this spiralled so far out of his control, and he’s just reduced to following Jaebeom’s instructions while all that’s repeating in his mind is what the actual hell are they doing, how did this become ‘let’s take care of Jinyoung because he clearly can’t do it himself.’ 

He finds himself picking up his phone and dialling the number Jaebeom recited him and he’s greeted with a friendly, warm voice that immediately puts Jinyoung at ease and he’s reminded of his own mother - who he hasn’t contacted in ages. He can’t stomach the concern he hears in his mother’s voice about him having too much on his plate, about him being all alone in a city when he’s nothing but a small boy from a rural province. So Jinyoung guessed he simply stopped calling.

He wonders what his mother would think about Jaebeom. Jaebeom the man, who somehow managed to wriggle into Jinyoung’s life and make it his goal that Jinyoung doesn’t die before graduation. He’s not used to it to being cared for and being vulnerable enough to accept help and he lashes out at Jaebeom more often than not because of those voices in his head. He doesn't want to owe Jaebeom anything. 

He wonders how much more the elder can take before he leaves Jinyoung. Maybe that would be a better alternative than Jinyoung falling even deeper into how attached he is to Jaebeom when he knows that he can’t give Jaebeom what he wants. At this point, Jinyoung doesn’t even know what Jaebeom wants from him and whether Jinyoung was even willing to give it to him.

He ends up ordering whatever the kind ahjumma on the phone recommends and he’s pretty sure that he’s ordered way too much for the two of them, and he can only hope that Jaebeom really was starving. 

The elder putters around the dorm before finally tying up the garbage bag and slumping into the couch beside Jinyoung. Jinyoung lets out a grunt when Jaebeom ends up elbowing him but he accommodates to Jaebeom’s larger frame and ends up pressed thigh to thigh against Jaebeom. The elder doesn’t seem to be concerned of his half-nakedness and Jinyoung doesn’t even what to think about how far his thoughts were when he watched Jaebeom clean up after him. He had to stop himself before he started dreaming about the impossibility of having Jaebeom in his bed every morning, making breakfast and doing household chores together. There’s something humiliating about that but he just can’t articulate why and so he just stews. 

Jaebeom seems dissatisfied with watching Stranger Things and it’s apparent that Jinyoung wasn’t paying much attention anyway. The elder takes the lack of a reaction when he asks Jinyoung if he was still watching it as permission to lean over him to grab the remote and Jinyoung is immediately hit with a waft of the scent of him and Jaebeom mixed together. The scent of his body wash mixing with Jaebeom’s natural scent does things to Jinyoung and he has to withhold the urge to greedily inhale that scent. 

It’s an odd mix of fruity body wash with the scent that is uniquely Jaebeom’s and Jinyoung doesn’t know why the thought of Jaebeom smelling like him appeals so much to him. Keep telling yourself that Park Jinyoung. Jinyoung knows, he knows that every fibre of his being wants whatever they were doing now to be normal. 

He wants Jaebeom to be part of his routine, but he can’t. He’s not giving someone, especially a jock leverage over him again. He isn’t going to be labelled as ‘the boy who led a straight golden boy astray’ again. People have told him that it wasn’t his fault that he fell for Shownu, it wasn’t his fault that Shownu couldn’t decide if Jinyoung was worth being ‘gay’ for. Jinyoung knows that he wouldn’t be able to handle dealing with the whispers alone, he’s not going to be the one who ‘corrupted’ and turned another straight athletic boy gay. 

Jinyoung guessed that it wasn’t enough to have suffered being shoved into lockers for being ‘gay’ even though he never did anything to indicate that was interested in guys back in high school. He remembers telling a close friend when they first got their hands on alcohol as teenagers that he found a guy hot. That’s it. Somehow, that was enough to warrant name-calling and the spray painting of ‘freak’ on his locker. Jinyoung hated every single memory of high school then after.

University was supposed to be a fresh start and he’d thought he’d found that in Shownu.

He was wrong.

Jinyoung remembers the rules that Shownu had set, no kissing in public, no hand-holding in a fifty-mile radius of campus, don’t call unless he calls first. As the year passed, the rules became a long list that Jinyoung had trouble remembering. Still, he put up with it. He’d thought that they had to hide, that he had to because he didn’t want to be a burden to Shownu. He did it because they were boyfriends, it was a commitment. He did it because he wanted them to work, he did it because he loved Shownu. 

He remembers Shownu whispering it to him when they laid in a pile of tangled limbs, sweat on their skin glittering from the moonlight. Jinyoung remembers the build-up to that moment, gentle kisses and whispered ‘I love you’s’, but what he heard was nothing like the expected promise of forever. Shownu had whispered what he had to say with urgency, traces of whatever earlier affections evaporating like smoke.

“What would they say Jinyoung-ah if they found out I liked boys? I’ll be ridiculed. Blacklisted from all sporting academies and competitions just because they found out about us. No one knows what to do with a gay athlete. You understand right?”

 At that point in time, Jinyoung thought he understood - but really he didn’t. He really was just a teenager who moved into the city on a full scholarship after battling the horrors of coming out in high school. Jinyoung was hopeful and so god damn naive that he did everything Shownu asked for. Never again. With Jaebeom, he set the rules. He had control even though that semblance of control has been slipping steadily since the lines began to blur.

He’s startled out of his thoughts by the repeated knocks on the dorm door. He casts a look at Jaebeom’s side profile and he can’t help but smile at the sight of the elder being far too absorbed in The Great Gatsby, with Leonardo Dicaprio acting in it. It’s a silly old movie but Jinyoung appreciates the walking talent that Leonardo Dicaprio is. Jinyoung slaps at Jaebeom’s thighs to get the other to move his leg so he could get to the door and Jaebeom obliges with a grunt as he tries to peer past Jinyoung’s ass to continue watching the film.

Jinyoung grabs his wallet from his jacket pocket and he tries to remember if he has enough cash left to cover the cost of this monstrous take-out order. He just hopes that the delivery person isn’t someone he knows for two important reasons, the shirtless man on his couch that clearly isn’t Mark and the fact that he was overzealous in ordering food due to the nice lady on the phone.

He unlatches the door and is met face to face with someone who looks roughly around his age but doesn’t look local. He gives Jinyoung this bright smile and thrusts the big plastic bag filled with food containers into Jinyoung’s arms. Jinyoung is left trying to balance everything in his arms and he doesn’t realise that he’d shifted his body at an angle that exposed Jaebeom until the delivery man exclaimed loudly with an “Oh there you are Jaebeom - hyung!” Jinyoung’s blood runs cold as his mind whirs to think of any occasions where he had seen this scrawny, lithe kid anywhere on campus. Jaebeom doesn’t offer an outward verbal reaction but must’ve gestured something as the kid turns his attention back to Jinyoung.

“I should probably get going. It’s nice to finally meet hyung’s friends. He never allows me to tag along when he goes out with them.” He says with a pout but he shrugs his shoulders and gives Jinyoung a ‘what-do’ expression. Jinyoung can tell that whoever this kid is, he holds Jaebeom in high regards. Jinyoung looks at him still slightly stunned but he shifts all the food containers to one arm as he tries to flip open his wallet to pay him.

He’s stopped abruptly by a warm arm who grips his wrist and lifts the weight of the door off him. That grants Jinyoung the ability to stabilise the tower of food containers as he gives Jaebeom a questioning look. The elder is too busy peering at the food containers to notice and he looks up to narrow his gaze at the boy at the door.

“Bam Bam, this is too much. There’s no way we can finish all of this.” Jaebeom says rather worriedly as he nibbles at the bottom of his lip - an action which Jinyoung shouldn’t even be finding sexy but he does anyway. There are levels of inappropriateness and Jinyoung is pretty sure he’s on the edge of the highest floor and if the wind blows he’ll be knocked over and turned into a social pariah. He expects the younger to bristle at that statement and maybe even offer a thinly veiled insult about if Jaebeom thought that way, they shouldn’t have ordered this much.

What he doesn’t expect is the boy who goes by Bam to regard Jaebeom with this odd look before sticking out his tongue childishly and sticking his hands into his jacket pockets. The next sentence is the one that really knocks Jinyoung out of the park with the sheer incredulity of this situation. 

“Well, it’s your fault for not checking in with mom. You should’ve known better, especially during this month. It’s hard for her too you know.” Mom? This is Jaebeom’s brother? They look nothing alike. Jinyoung misses the accusatory gaze that Bam Bam gives Jaebeom, while the other’s grip on the bags tighten marginally - with his angry jaw making its appearance.

Jinyoung finds himself swallowing and he might be panicking slightly at having met Jaebeom’s brother in such a state, where Jaebeom is clearly comfortable enough to be lounging around shirtless. He knows what Bam is thinking, and he doesn’t like the assessing look that he’s giving him. If Jaebeom realises that Jinyoung is behaving abnormally, he mercifully doesn’t point it out - he simply reaches out and ruffles his brother’s hair. The other reacts with a squawk and bats at Jaebeom’s hand before turning his attention to Jinyoung.

“When mom saw your number, I could see her gearing up to give you a lecture so imagine her surprise when your boyfriend picked up.” He says with an approving hum as he makes a show of trailing his gaze up and down Jinyoung’s body. Jinyoung was stunned and he knows he should correct him but his tongue feels heavy and his mouth feels like it’s stuffed with cotton. Once again that’s that odd fluttery feeling in his gut, that causes his stomach to churn. There’s that tightness in his chest and his mind is screaming at him to correct Jaebeom’s brother, to get rid of that label - but his physical being is just frozen, despite his heart pounding and his ears being tinted pink. 

He hopes that Jaebeom will say something to squash that smoky flame in his heart that they could work despite Jinyoung’s inherent fear of commitment and being stuck with him. Jinyoung doesn’t want to be the only one who falls so deep, swimming in the depths of the ocean while Jaebeom floats at the surface - oblivious to how deeply Jinyoung feels for him. If only he worked up the courage to ask the other if he wanted more. 

Even if he did, Jinyoung wonders if Jaebeom will make him change for him. He wonders if he needs to be someone else but himself in order to make Jaebeom happy. Looking at Jaebeom ruffle the hair of his brother with that stupid goofy smile of his reinforces the reality that Jinyoung doesn’t know anything about Im Jaebeom. He doesn’t know Jaebeom, so how can he trust Jaebeom if he doesn’t know him?

Jinyoung moves on auto-pilot when Jaebeom finally persuades his brother to leave them in peace, he sets the towering containers of food on his and Mark’s tiny coffee table that Mark got at a discount at a thrift store. The table creaks ominously but Jinyoung doesn’t react to it and simply sits back down on the couch, his mind buzzing with thoughts and he doesn’t know how to shut it down.

If Jaebeom notices how Jinyoung is out of sorts, he doesn’t choose to comment on it. He simply settles himself beside Jinyoung after rifling through all the take out containers and procuring what must be his favourite out of them all. He hands Jinyoung the container of the same thing and Jinyoung offers him a weak smile before going back to trying to wrap his mind around what was going on. Jaebeom’s presence was hard to ignore, the other stretched out as far as his arms could go - in such a comfortable position with his arm behind Jinyoung. 

Jinyoung doesn’t understand what it is about Jaebeom that causes him to have tunnel vision, with all his senses akin to being light on fire with how aware he is about Jaebeom’s presence. The other’s thigh was pressed against his and if Jinyoung moved a little closer - there would be no space left between them and they’d be cuddling. It’s then that Jinyoung realises that he wants it. He wants to cuddle with the shirtless jock that was the embodiment of what Jinyoung had told himself to avoid after the whole fiasco with Shownu. 

At the end of the day, Jaebeom is not Shownu and despite representing jocks, he is still his own person - and it’s through little things like his brother showing up announced that Jinyoung knows a little more about Im Jaebeom. What Jaebeom is, is not who he is, and maybe if Jinyoung was brave enough to take the fall - he could have this whenever he wanted. Jaebeom having a running commentary about every film they watch while being in each other’s spaces with no other expectation than to enjoy each other’s company.

That thought causes Jinyoung to choke on his last bite of food and he ends up gasping for breath as Jaebeom’s arm flies to his back, rubbing soothing circles after thumping his back hard enough for Jinyoung to wince while forcing food out of his windpipe. Jinyoung expects Jaebeom to move his hand but the other leaves his palm on the back of Jinyoung’s neck, squeezing it as he peers at Jinyoung’s tinted pink face in worry.

 Jinyoung dismisses the other’s concern with a shake of his head and in that harrowing situation, Jinyoung had somehow shifted himself even closer to Jaebeom. Jinyoung doesn’t know what prompted him to do what he did, but he rested his head on Jaebeom’s shoulder. He doesn’t know what he expects to happen but Jaebeom doesn’t stiffen or move away from Jinyoung, he simply presses a kiss to Jinyoung’s forehead - like this was normal for them. Jaebeom makes him feel wanted and treasured and it’s a foreign feeling to Jinyoung. He was used to being dealt with the same standard hand of cards in life and Jaebeom is an anomaly - a wildcard. 

That’s when Jinyoung decides it’s a smart move to vocalise one of the many thoughts that were swarming his mind like bees around a beehive. 

“I didn’t know you had a brother.” If it was anyone else who said it, it would’ve sounded like an innocent question but somehow the inner turmoil Jinyoung was facing had translated into that question being propelled by an accusatory tone. That causes Jaebeom to stiffen and Jinyoung freezes, his heartrate skyrocketing as he holds his breath awaiting Jaebeom’s reply.

“He’s my adopted brother. My mother adopted him from Thailand. It wasn’t easy -” The other replies rather stiffly before cutting himself off and withdrawing his arm from behind Jinyoung. Jinyoung immediately misses the warmth of Jaebeom’s arm and he dimly notices that Jaebeom only mentions his mother and nothing about his father. Suddenly the entire mood of the room shifts and Jinyoung looks at Jaebeom who has this unreadable, guarded expression. 

Jaebeom’s stony expression makes Jinyoung feel ill, but he hopes that the question is enough to make Jaebeom understand that he’s willing to try to understand and know him.

The sudden shift in the mood between them causes Jinyoung whiplash and an apology is on the tip of his tongue before he tamps it down and swallows it harshly. He doesn’t see why he should apologise for asking a question out of curiosity because he finally came to terms with the reality that he wants to know more about Im Jaebeom. He doesn’t understand why Jaebeom closed off. Jinyoung would’ve thought that the other would be jumping at the chance to tell Jinyoung more about himself. Jaebeom should be proud of him for wanting to know him.

That odd, distant look on Jaebeom’s face makes Jinyoung feel uneasy but his pride refuses to let him apologise for asking the question that he’d asked in that manner. If Jinyoung was a decent person, he would have let that matter drop and shift the conversation somewhere else, but the drastic change in Jaebeom’s demeanour left Jinyoung rattled and the next question hammers the nail on the coffin.

“What wasn’t easy and how about your Dad?”

That question causes Jaebeom to snap his gaze towards Jinyoung, and Jinyoung has to stifle a gasp at seeing how anguished Jaebeom looks. The other has raw, unadulterated pain in his gaze and the intensity was akin to a blazing inferno. Jaebeom’s gaze is so intense that Jinyoung can’t bring himself to look away until Jaebeom himself does. The other is holding himself so tightly together that Jinyoung is afraid to touch, to comfort because he’s afraid that Jaebeom will just crumble.

There’s heavy silence between the two of them for what seems like an eternity before Jaebeom replies Jinyoung with a question rather tiredly. 

“Why do you care?”

Jinyoung swallows and he feels like he’s capable of suffocating from the tension. He can’t bring himself to tell Jaebeom what he’s feeling. He can’t crack open his heart into two to show Jaebeom’s on the inside, not now. Not when he barely figured out what he was feeling. Not now when he’d just started to accept that he wants more than a good fuck. He wants the whole package deal with Jaebeom. He knows this, but he can’t tell Jaebeom - he doesn’t have the words. 

Jinyoung panics and he says the words that he knows that he can never take back.

“I was curious, I never said I cared. What are you getting mad at me for?” 

Jinyoung knows that it isn’t what Jaebeom wants to hear. He hopes that Jaebeom can hear the lie in that sentence, he hopes that Jaebeom can see how hard this is for him as well. Jinyoung closes his eyes and he hates how the day is ending because he’d never planned on this happening. They were just supposed to fuck to alleviate stress. That’s it. Jinyoung wasn’t meant to have a sudden moment of clarity about his emotions. Silence falls between the two of them once more and Jinyoung hears Jaebeom scoff.

“I guess I expected too much from you Jinyoung-ssi. What the hell do you want from me Jinyoung? Did you want me to thank you for being curious about me? Am I supposed to be honoured that you finally decided that I was worth your time?” Jinyoung watches with his breath held as Jaebeom stands up and snatches his shirt, the elder doesn’t spare him a glance and Jinyoung finds his chest tighten and he clamps down on the impulse to grab Jaebeom’s arm to beg him to stay. No. He wasn’t going to do that anymore. Shownu was the last reason he ended up on his knees with tears streaming down his face. He wasn’t going to let himself feel that way ever again, not even for Im Jaebeom.

“ I don’t know why you keep lying to yourself that you don’t want me.” Jaebeom pulls on his shirt and starts heading to his duffle bag. Jinyoung knows that he’s leaving and he knows that he shouldn’t be letting Jaebeom leave, but the words wouldn’t leave his lips. There’s a pause before Jaebeom turns back to Jinyoung, his gaze narrowed.

Jinyoung can't help but hold his breath, his heart pounding against the prison that his ribcage is. He knows that whatever Jaebeom says next would hurt and he's starting to realise that maybe he deserves it. 

“Why do you keep playing these stupid games, this stupid fucking game of push and shove? We aren’t teenagers anymore Jinyoung. Would it kill you, to be honest with yourself for once? Am I a joke to you? Do you think it’s fun to play with my feelings? You’re fucking pathetic Park Jinyoung.”

Jinyoung feels his hackles rise and he glares at Jaebeom through glassy eyes, his eyes are burning with unshed tears at having heard Jaebeom’s tirade. The other’s words cut deeper than knives and Jinyoung feels like he’s drowning in the sea with open wounds, the salt stinging every laceration left by Jaebeom’s accusations. He wants to scream at Jaebeom that he’s wrong, that he doesn’t mean to play with Jaebeom’s feelings but all that comes out from his lips are the poisonous words of.

“I never asked you to fall in love with me. You weren’t supposed to catch feelings.”

Jaebeom gives Jinyoung a disbelieving scoff, snarling at the other with a look of utter disdain and Jinyoung feels his heart smash into smithereens. He doesn’t look at Jaebeom, he turns away from the elder and he feels the hot tears - ones that Jaebeom will never see, fall fast and thick onto his clenched fists. He can feel the wetness on his skin and each and every drop that escapes from his tightly shut eyes. He can’t bring himself to look at Jaebeom, to allow the elder the chance to see how overwhelmed he is. He can’t afford to let someone see him at his lowest and then leave him, drowning in his own sea of emotions. Not again. 

“You’re a fucking coward Jinyoung.”

Jinyoung almost didn’t hear Jaebeom from the resounding thuds of his heart slamming itself against his ribcage. He releases the breath he didn’t know he was holding when his dorm door slams shut and like an opened floodgate, his tears come down in a torrent of water. His breathing was ragged, his lungs gasping for air. Jinyoung doesn’t ever remember crying this hard, not even when he caught Shownu making out with a girl at the club that everyone in the university frequented - on his birthday. He doesn’t know how long he spends sobbing his heart out till he’d run out of tears but when the tears do stop flowing - he doesn’t feel the cathartic release of purging his emotions; in fact, he feels nothing at all. 

Jinyoung feels wrung out, empty and so goddamn tired. He doesn’t remember cleaning up but his mind is on auto-pilot, and when he finally finds his hands empty he notices how late it is. He feels like a ghost looking in on someone who just single-handedly ruined the one good thing that they had going for them. God. What was he thinking? Or was he even thinking at all?

He had told himself time and time again that the rules he had insisted upon were to stop him from falling head over heels with Jaebeom. He’d sworn that he was done with what he thought love was, the fluttering of butterfly wings and the uncontrollable smiles. With Jaebeom, it was never about that. It was the companionship, the quiet guidance and the little things that mattered. The other’s stupid insistence on making sure Jinyoung never skipped meals even though he was drowning in work and Jinyoung’s own frustration at Jaebeom who never seemed to remember that running across campus with a thin sweat-soaked jersey wasn’t a good idea until Jinyoung came along.

Along the way of tumbling in the sheets, Jinyoung had fallen for Jaebeom and that little spark of curiosity in the elder had ignited into a burning inferno, becoming bigger and scarier. As that fire grew, Jinyoung slowly became more unsure of himself because the last time he loved with such burning passion, it ended up in flames leaving behind the acrid scent of smoke and ashes. The fire of inextinguishable want was no longer satisfied by simply lying beneath Jaebeom while the other fucked with no abandon, both leaving bites on places hidden under clothes but still walking around with marks left by the other. It wasn’t enough for Jinyoung, not anymore.

He wanted the whole package deal. Morning kisses and sleepy cuddles at night, the whispered ‘I love you’s’ and learning everything and anything about each other without fearing that they were overstepping an invisible boundary line. If only Jinyoung’s foolish and feeble heart wasn’t so insistent on catching feelings, Jinyoung could have Jaebeom whenever he wanted without feeling that pang of envy at not being able to keep him and call him his. If only he didn’t catch feelings, they could have mutually benefitted, both enjoying a good fuck and parting as bros at the end of it all.

Jinyoung doesn’t know how long he spends just sitting, feeling as if Jaebeom had knocked him over like pins in a bowling alley - with piercing accuracy and strength. It feels as if Jaebeom had reached down his throat and ripped the air out of his lungs with the intent to suffocate and kill.

Somehow, like every other good thing in life - Jinyoung manages to fuck it up once again. He’d let the ever so patient, kind Im Jaebeom slip through his fingers just because he wasn’t brave enough to face his own demons. Jaebeom’s right, he is a bloody coward.

Mark finds him seated on the couch, in pure darkness and when the elder’s arms wrapped around Jinyoung - the waterworks start and Jinyoung started sobbing harder than he ever had in his life. At that moment, he finally attains the sense of catharsis that he had been chasing after since the incident with Shownu, and it’s only then that Jinyoung dully admits to himself that he had been used but not every other jock will be Shownu.

He really indeed is a fool.

It’s inevitable that it eventually falls apart, Jaebeom figures but it didn’t mean that he couldn’t feel hurt about it. He knew that the nature of their arrangement was never built to last.

Still, he thought that he’d been careful to not overstep invisible boundary lines that Jinyoung drew. He knew his place and maybe it was his fault for catching feelings first, but he’d been so sure that Jinyoung felt the same way. He never really understood why Jinyoung never wanted to be associated with him, the younger was always so tight-lipped about it. 

Yet, Jaebeom never questioned it because in the beginning - it benefited them both. They could get laid without the spreading of nasty rumours because one night stands never really kept details of sleeping with someone so high up the totem pole of popularity to themselves. It was all rainbows and butterflies until Jaebeom started noticing little things about Jinyoung that endeared the younger to him. When Jinyoung smiles, he has an adorable eye crinkle. When he laughs he has this endearing habit of covering his mouth and Jaebeom always finds it so amusing when he rough-housed with the maknaes he claims to hate. Given time, Jaebeom could easily give you a list of hundred things that Jinyoung did that caused his heart to beat in double time.

Be it his undying loyalty to his friends, or his determination in doing everything to the best of his ability. There was something about Park Jinyoung that caused Jaebeom to fall head over heels for, and he had told himself that if he couldn’t have Jinyoung as his boyfriend - he’ll have him in any extent or amount of time that he could have him for. He promised himself that he wouldn’t push. In fact, he thought that he was doing a rather decent job of easing Jinyoung into the idea of them. 

However, he somehow managed to fuck it all up with the stress and tiredness eating away at his composure so-much-so that he snapped at Jinyoung for taking an interest. When the other had never once asked to know more about him. There was so much of himself that he kept from Jinyoung, only wanting to present the best parts of himself in hopes to convince the other that he was worth taking a chance for. He thought that he would be able to not think about his father’s impending death anniversary with Jinyoung - it’d been years but Jaebeom still lives with the guilt of not being a good enough son to his father. He’d been too stubborn and so hot-blooded and angry that he let it come between his father and him so much so that he hadn’t had the courage to say goodbye for the last time.

He’d been so accustomed to being able to leave all his troubles at the door when he finds himself in Jinyoung’s company - because Jinyoung never seemed to care. So when he did, it gave Jaebeom whiplash. Jaebeom’s mind was whirring with thoughts that ran rounds around his head and he was desperate to stop the voices from screaming in his head, he knows it’s a bad idea but he was never one for good ideas even when he was rational.

Jaebeom finds himself at a bar off-campus that wasn’t frequented by many, it dawns on him that he was planning on asking Jinyoung out for a drink after the event for a celebratory drink. Given that this was a spot that was only known to him and Jackson, with most of his friends preferring the strobing lights of a club which was much closer to campus. He guessed that those plans were going down the drain. He glances around the vicinity of the bar, and somehow his thoughts drift back to Jinyoung when he sees an old jukebox in the corner that he doesn’t know if it’s still functioning. The younger always had an odd affinity for antique things, and Jaebeom was sure that if he was here, Jaebeom would be dragged over to the machine while Jinyoung selected old cheesy songs from the 80s.

It’s funny how Jaebeom feels as if his heart had been broken into two, even though they were never really together, to begin with. He was a fool to believe that he could love Jinyoung without Jinyoung loving him back. Maybe Jinyoung was right in calling him a knucklehead, who thought everything could be accomplished through brute strength and willpower alone. Jaebeom feels the frustration that was simmering in him become a full-bodied flame of half-regrets that he tries to foolishly extinguish with alcohol. He knows that he won’t find the answer at the bottom of a bottle and that it’ll have deadly repercussions on his athletic physique but all Jaebeom wanted was to stop thinking about Park Jinyoung and his stupid eye smile.

Jaebeom downs shot after shot, till he lost count of the number he’d had. He feels the dull thumping in his head and he grins when he realises that the voices in his head had finally stopped shouting. He doesn’t know why he felt so proud of himself at that moment, but it’s enough of a motivation for Jaebeom to whip out his phone to attempt to call Jinyoung to gloat that he finally got his mind off him. The irony of that action and thought process didn’t manage to permeate the alcohol-induced barrier in his mind and it’s for the better that Jaebeom’s finger slipped and he ended up calling Jackson. 

Jaebeom doesn’t know when Jackson gets here or remembers what he has to say. He’s too busy trying to not puke on the pristine wood of the bar, and when Jackson yanks him to his feet - he’s too busy trying to put one foot in front of another to register what the other has to say. Strangely, Jackson doesn’t sound angry but that might be because Jaebeom feels like his head is underwater, and Jackson is speaking through a bubble. Jaebeom would’ve expected Jackson to be mad at him because he was the one who warned Jaebeom to not get in over his head.

Jackson had told Jaebeom that Jinyoung wasn’t worth the heartache of unrequited love, that Jinyoung was too much of a mess to be good for him. Jaebeom wouldn’t have put it past Jackson to have uttered the dreaded words of ‘I told you so’ but maybe he’s too drunk to hear it because all Jackson does say is.

“You’re both idiots.”

Jaebeom agrees that they’re probably the biggest idiots on the planet, he doesn’t know if he voices his opinion out to Jackson. All Jaebeom knows is that he’s willing to be the biggest idiot to have lived as long as he could be Jinyoung’s biggest idiot.

Jinyoung wakes up cocooned in his sheets, having been thoroughly tucked in by Mark after giving the other a heart attack with his sudden outburst. He feels hollowed out but strangely lighter than he had been in the past few years in University. There’s something reassuring to know that he wasn’t making up the shittiness of the whole deal with Shownu.

Jinyoung had never had the courage to tell anyone about what really happened, always feeling too embarrassed or guilty to be able to tell someone how that incident really shaped and moulded him into the person he is today. He’d locked the memories of the relationship with Shownu and his emotional vulnerability into the dark recesses of his mind, and he’d thought that he could live his life without ever having to think about it ever again. 

Well, he was right, he was able to continuously run from his past until Im Jaebeom happened. Meeting Jaebeom had taught Jinyoung a lot of things about himself and Jaebeom had subconsciously healed the wounds that Shownu had left on him. There’s so much that Jinyoung wants to say to Jaebeom, starting from how he shouldn’t have slapped a label on him as merely a jock who thought with their brawns and lacked the brains. Thinking back about how Jinyoung treated Jaebeom, he’s surprised that Jaebeom still put up with him for this long.

Jinyoung wonders how many people he has warded off with his selfish desire of keeping everyone at a distance. The words that he had kept to himself for the past few years spilt out from his lips like floodwater being released by a floodgate to Mark, and the elder had patiently listened without once judging Jinyoung for actions he thought were foolish, and judging Jinyoung’s naivete for falling for Shownu. Shownu had made him feel wanted, it was as if the other had picked Jinyoung amongst the many others who were clamouring for his attention. Jinyoung told Mark everything and anything about Jaebeom and how happy the other made him feel, yet he acted the way he did because he was afraid of Jaebeom turning out to be the monster that Shownu was.

Jinyoung finally manages to extricate himself from his burrito blanket and he stumbles his way to the bathroom, to get ready for the day. He bypasses Mark who gives him an odd look while the other brushes his teeth. Jinyoung leans against the entrance to the bathroom, rubbing his eyes before wincing at how sore they feel. Mark spits out the toothpaste and gurgles his mouth before squeezing past Jinyoung, and Jinyoung mutters out a ‘Good Morning’ and expects Mark to give a nod - knowing that Mark was usually silent till he got his morning cup of coffee. 

The familiarity of their morning routine was for Jinyoung to leverage on to pretend that whatever happened yesterday was nothing but a really bad dream. Alas, illusions are very easily dispelled. On his way out of the bathroom, Mark stops Jinyoung by his elbow and says this with his gruff morning voice.

“I mean what I said last night Jinyoungie, talk to him.” 

Just like that, Jinyoung is reminded of the disaster that yesterday was and his mood plummets to the depths of hell. He blew out a breath, giving Mark a weak smile before stepping in front of his bathroom mirror and splashing water onto his puffy face. He just had to survive the event today, and if a future of ‘them’ was in the cards. He’ll be able to see Jaebeom today before the other leaves for his away games. 

Jinyoung’s mind races with doubts of Jaebeom not even wanting to see him anymore, cutting ties for good because he can’t afford to deal with Jinyoung as a distraction when it’s his final sports season in University. Jaebeom had said multiple times that professional sports weren’t in his future plans, but maybe his plans could’ve changed? It’s not like Jinyoung ever bothered to ask.

He looks at himself in the mirror and closes his eyes before taking in a deep breath and he mutters to himself, “One step at a time Jinyoung. You got this.” Maybe if he repeated the mantra enough times, he’ll be convinced that things will turn out fine. Jinyoung was so used to having things under control because that’s how he’d been living his life since his relationship with Shownu ended. He needed and wanted to be in control and it’d worked well for him till a wildcard by the name of Im Jaebeom was dealt to him. 

The day pasts by in a blur and Jinyoung finds himself falling into the role and mindset of being an event planner, even though he can’t help but keep an eye out for a tall, broad-shouldered man throughout the day. When the last few trickles of people finally amble their way out of the hall and everyone starts packing up, Jinyoung waves a tired goodbye to his fellow student union members - getting claps on the back for a job well done. Usually, he would be relieved to have survived the event and been eager to go back to his dorm and crash but his eyes roamed the last few stragglers in the hall - hoping to find a certain someone.

He can’t help but sigh, the hopes that he had of being able to talk to Jaebeom fluttering away like the fleeting thing that hope was. Keeping busy today meant that his mind was distracted from thinking about the broad-shouldered basketballer who he had so much to say to, but so little courage to do so. Jinyoung didn’t know where they stood, with Jaebeom leaving his dorm in a flurry and he didn’t want to presume that he had a right to look for the elder if the other wanted nothing more to do with him.

Jinyoung had enough of being thoughtless and he smiles ruefully when it dawns on him that the one day that he was willing to admit that he wanted to see Jaebeom was the day that elder made himself scarce. Jinyoung wouldn’t even be surprised if Jaebeom had decided to skip the whole event in entirety just to avoid the risk of seeing him. 

Despite being caught up in his thoughts, Jinyoung still thought that he was being subtle in revealing how hopeful he was in seeing Jaebeom. Clearly he wasn’t being subtle enough because Mark slides up to him and smacks him on the shoulder with a rolled-up pamphlet from one of the talks and Jinyoung startles in response. Jinyoun offers his roommate a half-hearted glare before exhaling and picking up the boxes that were filled to the brim with decorations that were meant to go back to the storeroom. 

“So, have you talked things out with Jaebeom yet?” Mark asks gently before plucking a box that was blocking Jinyoung’s line of sight out of his hold. Jinyoung gives the elder an appreciative smile but chooses to walk in silence as he thinks of what to say to that question. If it was any other person other than Mark, Jinyoung would brush that question off with a scoff and maybe even tell them to mind their own business. However, this was Mark. The best friend that he’d had since middle school, the one who’d fended off Jinyoung’s bullies and sat with him during lunch even when he’d become a social pariah, with boys being too afraid of ‘contracting the gay’. Jinyoung had hated Mark once upon a time because Mark had never been pushed into lockers, having his clothes stolen from when he was showering in the locker room or being treated like he was carrying the plague. 

However, despite those misgivings - Mark was still there for Jinyoung even when Jinyoung all but abandoned him for Shownu. Mark never pushed to know the details, he never got angry at Jinyoung or pulled the ‘I told you so’ card. At the end of the day, he was the one who picked up Jinyoung’s broken pieces and helped him piece himself back together. Mark was patient, dependable and Jinyoung could finally see how much of an ass he was in thinking that he would be better off being independent and closed-off. The reality was, it was self-destructive and he’d ended up hurting the people he loved by his distancing. 

He thinks back to his parents, to Jaebeom and he realises how much of an idiot he is. He was too busy keeping a poker face to notice that all the other players in the game of cards had folded and been simply waiting for him to end this foolish game of his. Jinyoung pushes open the door to the storeroom with his hip and sets the box down, gesturing at Mark to do the same and Mark does as instructed. 

“I didn’t see him today, he probably wants nothing to do with me and I don’t blame him. If I were him, I wouldn’t want anything to do with me either.” Jinyoung says with a self-deprecating laugh and Mark can’t help but wince at Jinyoung’s tone. He wants to reassure Jinyoung that Jaebeom doesn’t hate him and that he was overthinking things but Mark himself doesn’t know what Jaebeom thinks. In his own opinion, he really thinks that both of them are idiots who both caught feelings in their friends with benefits agreement but have their heads too far up their asses to even consider that the other might possibly feel the same.

Just as Mark was about to speak, his phone blares with the obnoxious ringtone of the Pokemon theme song that Jackson had set as his personalised ringtone. A fond, involuntary smile caused the edges of his lips to rise and he glances up at Jinyoung who looks at him and gives him that tired smile before telling him to take it. Mark bites his lip glancing at Jinyoung worriedly before glancing back at his phone which had stopped ringing and in replacement of that, his phone vibrates incessantly with messages from the one and only Jackson Wang.

“Jinyoung-ah -” Mark begins, locking his phone and tucking it back into his pocket before taking two steps to envelop the younger of the two in a hug. Jinyoung relaxes into the hug and it takes every last bit of his self-restraint to not tear up in the elder’s comforting embrace, Jinyoung knows that Mark is bad with words but the elder makes up for it with his presence and amazingly warm hugs. 

They separate from the hug that Jinyoung admits he really needed while blinking away the tears that threaten to spill from his eyes. He offers Mark a watery smile while using his sleeve to wipe away the wetness on his cheeks. 

“Thanks, hyung, I really needed that. You should probably go, it’s the last night with Jackson, isn’t it? He’s leaving tomorrow for the first league of games for the season? I’m sure he’s eager to spend time with you, god knows how needy he is for your attention.” Jinyoung says with a light chuckle while cocking his head to the side, gesturing at the phone that was still vibrating in Mark’s pocket.

Mark makes Jinyoung promise to go home and rest well instead of throwing himself back into work and trying to drown out his thoughts before leaving the storeroom and heading towards Jackson’s dorm. On the way there, his thumbs fly across his screen with startling speed and accuracy, it’s a wonder that he didn’t bump into anyone or anything. 

There is a distant clap of thunder in the distance and Mark can feel the chill in the air and call him crazy - but he can smell rain in the air. There’s that cloying smell of soil and a darkening of the sky that indicated the threat of a heavy storm. The smarter decision would be to go back to their dorm, take a hot shower and call Jackson over before it started pouring and reduce the risk of being caught running across the courtyard in the rain.

However, Mark had a plan in mind to solve Jinyoung’s predicament and spend time with Jackson. He was pretty darn confident that it’ll work as well, after all, it requires little effort on his part, all he needed to do is to talk some sense into Jaebeom and if everything went according to as planned, Mark would be able to get down and dirty with Jackson without living with the guilt of traumatising Jaebeom for the rest of his life. Hopefully, Jaebeom would be able to find his own happiness with Mark’s intervention.

He’ll be a horrible friend if he simply just went to spend time with his boyfriend without trying to solve the problem that was plaguing Jinyoung. Mark was not letting Jinyoung spend the semester break feeling miserable - not if he could help it. Now all he needed was Jackson’s help in making sure that his best friend was awake, sober and willing to sit through the best friend talk that Mark was planning on dishing out to him. 

Jaebeom has no awareness of what time it is. Given that he didn’t awake to blinding light, frying his retinas - he would be safe to assume he slept through most of the day. There’s a semblance of panic at the awareness that he’d slept through the day because he could’ve sworn that there was something important that he had to do today. He swallows, his tongue heavy and his mouth feels like it’d been stuffed full of cotton from a mishap at the dentist. There’s a dull ache in his head that ebbs and flows like a cold tide and Jaebeom wants to just bury himself back under the duvet - and he has half the mind to do so until someone pulls the covers off him and he finds himself sprawled half-naked blinking blearily at Mark Tuan.

“Get your ass off the floor Im Jaebeom. We need to talk.”

Jaebeom still disoriented, hazy from the after-effects of the copious amount of alcohol he’d consumed simply nods his head and stumbles his way to the bathroom. He stands at the sink and inhales and exhales sharply, splashing cold water on his face in a futile attempt to get rid of the pressure in his skull that feels like a balloon being gradually inflated. 

It takes a few long moments for his brain to get back online, with the tendrils of anxiety and fear being traced to its roots when he realises what day it is. He takes a glance at his phone and his heart sinks when he notices the time, but Jaebeom can only hope that Jinyoung was still at the auditorium.

He needed to apologise, he can’t just walk away from Jinyoung without apologising for the way he acted. He wasn’t going to leave for the last sports season of his life with Jinyoung lingering on the back of his mind, not when he still foolishly hopes that he’d meant something to Jinyoung - something more than a good fuck. It takes a few moments for the rest of his body to catch up with his somewhat more sober brain and he stumbles out of the bathroom and pulls on clothes without really thinking. He ends up in one of his jerseys and jeans, and he must look crazed based off the look that Mark Tuan was giving him.

Jaebeom is in the middle of pulling on his socks when he realises that Mark Tuan - as in Mark Tuan Yi En. Jackson’s boyfriend and Jinyoung’s best friend was in his dorm, looking for him. His heart sinks and he stops midway of wearing his shoes and Mark gives him an amused grin.

“I was expecting to have to argue with you and threaten you into pulling your head out of your ass to put aside your pride and give take the chance of having an ‘us’ with Jinyoung. I can’t say that watching you panic isn’t entertaining, but I’m warning you Jaebeom - hurt Jinyoung and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” Mark’s tone takes a darker tone and Jaebeom can’t help but nod at Mark’s utter serious expression. 

However, that changes quickly when Jackson hugs Mark from behind and presses a kiss to the bottom of the other’s ear. Mark’s stony expression breaks out into a bright smile and Jaebeom watches as the two of them get lost in their own little bubble and there’s a tinge of jealousy that bubbles in his stomach. In the midst of their bantering, Jackson gives him and wink and mouths for him to leave while he has the chance. Well, Jaebeom wouldn’t want to stay to watch what happens when they move from playful affection to full-blown foreplay. 

He slips on his other shoe, not caring that his shoelaces are left untied and that he looks like a mess. All that matters is getting to Jinyoung before the other manages to fully convince himself that Jaebeom isn’t worth his time or energy anymore.

“Don’t bother going to the auditorium, Jinyoungie went back to the dorm to hide under his blankets and watch rom coms. If you’re planning on staying the night, make sure he eats and even if you aren’t - find somewhere else to go for the night Jaebeom.” Mark says rather cheerily and Jaebeom scrunches his face up at the thought of Jackson and Mark going at it - he doesn’t even know why he’s thinking about it. 

“Hope it goes well for you Beom-ah,” Jackson calls out behind him and Jaebeom can hear the rustle of clothes and that’s when he knows that he ought to get moving before he sees something he can never unsee in his life.

Jaebeom ignores the odd looks he gets when he rushes out of his dorm wing, knowing that the sight of him in a sleeveless jersey with jeans was enough for people to take a double-take, rub their eyes and make sure that they weren’t seeing things. The first few drops of rain fell onto Jaebeom’s skin and he makes no attempt to find another route to Jinyoung’s dorm building, he could deal with a little rain - what he couldn’t deal with was the possibility of losing Jinyoung as a friend. The sparse droplets of water steadily increase in intensity and it crescendos into a torrent of rain and Jaebeom starts running.

His sneakers are muddy from splashing into puddles and skidding across the lawn and there’s a sense of frenzy as his heart rattles against the prison that his ribcage is. With every step he takes, it’s a step closer to the next chapter in his life and he can only hope that the outcome of the meeting would result in Jinyoung still being a character in the next chapter of his life. The pitter and patter of the rain in addition to his feet hitting the concrete with loud thuds is enough to drown out the roaring of his heartbeat in his ears.

Jaebeom is soaked to the bone and every gust of wind rattles his bones but he’s pretty sure that he’s shaking from the anxiety of tripping over his words and not saying the right things to make Jinyoung understand how much he feels for him. Jaebeom just wants to get his feelings off his chest, he wants to wax poetry about what Jinyoung means to him but that overwhelming well of emotions makes it hard to formulate sentences that aren’t simply gibberish. 

With his heart on his sleeve, Jaebeom knocks on Jinyoung’s dorm door and he waits. The silence in the hallway with the ambient noises of rain hitting the ground does nothing to calm his racing heart. He admonishes himself for not coming here prepared with what so say, and somehow or it’s a stark comparison with Jinyoung who always seems to know what to say. He closes his eyes and attempts to calm his racing heart and his deep breath catches in his throat when Jinyoung’s dorm room creaks open.

It’s as if the world around them stops and that the rain stops and starts falling in reverse. Jinyoung stares at Jaebeom wide-eyed and Jaebeom’s breath catches in his throat as he catalogues the tear-tracks on Jinyoung’s cheeks and puffy red eyes. He doesn’t know if he’s the cause of it but his heart squeezes in discomfort as Jinyoung wipes at his eyes with the back of his sweater paws. 

Without thinking too much about it, Jaebeom reaches out and grabs Jinyoung’s forearm and gently tugs the other’s sleeve away from his eyes. It’s then that Jinyoung freezes and looks at Jaebeom. Jaebeom just offers the other a soft smile and he remembers what he said to Jinyoung the last time the younger cried while watching a rom-com.

“Don’t rub your eyes, it’ll hurt and you’ll be pouty that you’ll have to wear your glasses,” Jaebeom says gently and just like that Jinyoung frowns and Jaebeom panics thinking that he’d said something wrong. The younger simply pulls him into the dorm and the door clicks shut behind him, Jaebeom is about to ask Jinyoung what’s wrong but the younger simply pokes his chest and orders him to stay put and not drip water into the dorm like a wet dog.

Jaebeom is left standing in Jinyoung’s dorm which looks cleaner than all the other times he’d been here. It doesn’t take long for Jinyoung to return to the living room with a fluffy towel in his arms and a set of clothes in his arms. Jaebeom notes that there’s a stiffness in the way that Jinyoung holds himself and the younger is fidgeting and unable to look Jaebeom in the eye and it breaks Jaebeom’s heart.

“Nyoung-ah -” Jaebeom begins, reaching a hand out to touch Jinyoung in order to comfort and to get the younger to look at him. Jaebeom doesn’t know what he’s expecting, but he braces himself for the stinging pain of rejection that would come when Jinyoung flinches away from his touch. It doesn’t happen, and Jaebeom cups the younger’s cheek and uses his thumb to wipe the tear that trickles down Jinyoung’s cheek. The younger sniffles and leans into Jaebeom’s touches and Jaebeom’s chilled hands are immediately warmed. There’s a sense of intimacy that comes with this action - and this time round neither of them are questioning the motive or intentions behind it. 

It takes a moment for Jinyoung to gather himself and when he does he directs a half-hearted glare at Jaebeom which the elder takes in stride and offers a sheepish smile. Jaebeom knows why Jinyoung is glaring at him, and given that the edges of Jinyoung’s lips are raised slightly - Jinyoung knows it too. The first time they had a proper argument that should’ve been the first clue that they meant more to each other than simply fuck buddies was when Jaebeom had ran in the rain, in the same exact jersey but with proper shorts. 

“I can’t believe you were stupid enough to run over here in a fucking thunderstorm. Do you have a death-wish Jaebeom? What if you catch a cold before your final sporting season, do you really want to be benched because you couldn’t simply just wait till it stopped raining?” Jinyoung rants before shoving the bundle of clothes into Jaebeom’s arms and trying to manhandle Jaebeom into the bathroom.

Jaebeom can’t help but chuckle and it somehow sets Jinyoung off as well, they both look at each other and simply involuntarily burst out into laughter. It takes them a few more moments to get themselves together and Jinyoung goes back to trying to manhandle Jaebeom into the shower. Someway or another, Jaebeom ends up pressed against the wall of Jinyoung’s shower a few inches away from Jinyoung’s face. They’re close enough for Jaebeom to count the number of Jinyoung’s long lashes and before Jinyoung can even think of moving away, Jaebeom pulls him in, tight and close. 

Jaebeom begins by tracing a finger down Jinyoung’s nose and settles on cupping both hands around Jinyoung’s face. Jinyoung doesn’t close his eyes and he meets Jaebeom’s own intense gaze with one of his own, and for once Jaebeom thinks that they’re finally on the same page.

Jinyoung leans his forehead against Jaebeom and mutters softly, with the tone of admitting to something so secretive that it wouldn’t be possible to be said any louder. There was something ethereal and magical about the next few words that Jinyoung uttered - it was a softly whispered admission and a promise in itself.

“I’m sorry that I don’t say what’s on my mind as much as you want me to. It’s not you. I know this sounds like an excuse but I need you to give me the chance and the time to show you how deeply I feel for you since my words will never be enough. If there’s one thing in my life that I know that I want, it’s you.” 

It’s then that Jaebeom is at a loss for words, he stares at Jinyoung with this awe-struck expression and the lack of words translate to him kissing Jinyoung with a searing passion that rivals all the other kisses he’s given to anyone in the past. It’s then that Jinyoung lets out a low moan and shifts to press himself closer to Jaebeom when his elbow hits the shower dial and sends a cascading torrent of icy cold water onto the both of them.

Jaebeom lets out a shriek and startles away from Jinyoung to escape the torrent of cold water, while the younger let out a peal of full-bellied laughter, despite being drenched from head to toe dressed in what Jaebeom remembers is Jinyoung’s favourite sweater. The absurdity of their current situation finally dawns on Jaebeom and he joins Jinyoung in laughing - and they’re both standing there with clothes sticking to their skin and water dripping from their hair but they’re there, together and happy.

“You’re one of the few things that I’m sure of Park Jinyoung. I love you.”

Jinyoung gives Jaebeom his signature eye whisker smile and gives Jaebeom a peck on his lips before spinning away from Jaebeom’s grasp and escaping the elder’s attempt in taking their makeout session to something more. 

Jaebeom lets him because he now knows that their relationship doesn’t have a looming, invisible expiry date - they have all the time they need. Jaebeom knows that they still have things they need to talk about, that they both have their own fair share of secrets that were cards held close to their chests. Yet, Jaebeom is sure that they'll be able to be there for each other and that at the end of the day, even if the world around them falls apart - Jaebeom will know that nothing can be worse than thinking that they don't deserve each other. 

Maybe he's foolish and too blinded by the centrifugal force that Jinyoung who he thinks is like the eye of a tornado - pulling everyone and everything into his orbit. But Jaebeom is willing to admit that there's nowhere else he'd rather be, even when Jinyoung gets bad days and decides to shut him out - Jaebeom will still be there for him. In return, he knows that Jinyoung will never let his impulses dictate his life. Jinyoung is his centre of gravity and there's a sense of relief in finally being able to say it out loud. 

When they both stumble out of the shower and crawl under Jinyoung's sheets, with Jaebeom making grabby hands for Jinyoung's laptop - Jinyoung wonders how on earth he managed to get so lucky. They end up pressed against each other, with Jaebeom's arm slung comfortably around Jinyoung's shoulders as the elder is distracted with picking something to watch - Jinyoung just lets himself stare at Jaebeom.

He doesn't realise that he's moving his hand until his fingers trace Jaebeoms lip - drawing the other's attention away from the screen. Jaebeom pouts slightly, and Jinyoung has such an urge to bite it, to kiss it, to be able to do so without thinking twice. He just wants to wrap them together in the sheets and listen to their gentle breathing, while taking comfort in the pitter-patter of rain and each other.

Jinyoung can't help but smile stupidly when he realises that he can. They can. He can wrap them up in a blanket and just spend hours together because they owed each other nothing but love and commitment which Jinyoung was all so ready to give if it meant keeping Jaebeom by his side.

Jaebeom's lip feels slightly chapped under his feather-light touches but Jinyoung simply cannot bring himself to give a damn. There's that euphoric feeling of belonging, and since their whole relationship was as cliched as it could get - why not throw in another figurative metaphor to hammer the nail into the coffin.

Being with Jaebeom felt like coming home, and call him naive but with Jaebeom - Jinyoung was a smidge more ready for the uncertain future because he wasn't alone.

They had each other.