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the spring i've been waiting for

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On the first day of June, Jaemin buys a wooden flower box, a 25 kilo bag of potting soil, and a tomato plant. He sets it all up on the balcony of their dorm and Jeno watches from their living room window as he sits out in the sunlight, pouring over websites on how best to make the plant flourish. His hair has faded from a deep indigo to a blue-tinged grey, the strands coarse and a little fried from constantly being dyed so often, but it shines brightly in the early summer sun.

Quietly, Jeno opens Naver on his phone and searches how to grow a tomato plant.

The others would go out onto the balcony and sit with Jaemin, dig their fingers into the soil and tell him it needs water or fertilizer or that he should’ve set the box up in the opposite direction. Jaemin would scoff at them and play around, but he wouldn’t go back. He’d let that tomato plant sit outside in the hot summer sun and wither away until it became a husk of its former self. Jeno knows better by now.

Naver tells him that they should trim the plant when it gets to be about a metre tall, that they should pinch the stems to promote growth. It needs regular watering, too, so Jeno searches up where they can buy a watering can close by. There’s a hardware store not too far from their dorm.

Outside, Jaemin runs his fingers through the dirt, pets ever-so-gently at one of the leaves on the plant. He heaves himself to his feet, and Jeno casually switches apps on his phone so that he’s scrolling through Twitter when Jaemin comes back inside.

“Your box looks good,” he says without looking up. Jaemin flops on the couch next to him, shoulders pressed together. Jeno flips his palm over, leaves it resting on his thigh, and after a moment, Jaemin laces their fingers together. He’s quiet, contemplative, but he squeezes Jeno’s hand to let him know he’s been heard and that the sentiment is appreciated. Jeno squeezes back, twice. Their own little language.

Outside, the tomato plant sways gently in the faintest of breezes.

 

 

The older they got, the more Jaemin seemed to draw in on himself. Jeno remembers when Jaemin used to be vibrant at all times of the day. Now, he acts more like a true sun: rising and falling with a rhythmic regularity. It used to concern Jeno, but he knows better now. They’ve all grown up and grown into themselves since they first entered into the company; they’re as ever-changing as the seasons.

“Do you need anything?” Jeno asks as they lie panting on the floor of a practice room. They haven’t been working on anything in particular; NCT 2020’s comeback is still months away and the songs haven’t even finished being recorded yet, let alone choreographed. Still, Jeno can see the tension in Jaemin’s shoulders, the worry of working on a title track for a unit that isn’t Dream. That isn’t home.

“Just your love, honey,” Jaemin says sweetly, aiming for cheesy and over-shooting by a mile. Two years ago, Jaemin’s jokes would have flustered Jeno, but now he simply rolls his eyes. He flops over onto his stomach and army-crawls his way across the foot of distance between them so that he can rest his chin on Jaemin’s sternum. Jaemin tilts his head, neck held at an awkward angle as he smiles fondly at Jeno, hand coming up to pet through his sweaty hair.

Two years ago, Jeno would’ve considered this platonic, a small comfort they could provide each other in the mayhem and turmoil of idol life. Now, things are decidedly less friendly. Jeno has enjoyed the slow unfurling of their love, like a flower blooming under an indoor light. Born from strain and fear but decidedly beautiful and lovely.

“I was thinking … do you want to go to the flower market with me after?” Jeno asks, turning his head to alleviate the pressure on his jaw. He can feel the almost imperceptible tensing in Jaemin’s body, but he presses on, structures his words carefully and fits them into a pretty frame. “Your garden box is so big for just your tomato plant. Maybe it would like some flowers to keep it company?”

He asks it like a question, but Jeno had done his research. He knows what will blossom in the flower box without taking away precious resources for Jaemin’s tomatoes.

Jaemin hums and Jeno tries not to hold his breath. He waits. He’s good at waiting for Jaemin.

Finally, Jaemin trails a finger down the edge of Jeno’s jaw, a touch so light that it makes him shiver. “I read that marigolds do well with tomatoes,” he says. “And they’ll match the tomatoes once they start ripening.”

“Okay,” Jeno agrees, like he doesn’t know this already. “What do they look like?”

Jaemin paints him a picture as they gather up their things, tells him about vibrant splashes of red and orange and soft petals that ruffle together into a perfectly symmetrical half-dome on the top of a long, spindly stem. Jeno listens attentively, squeezes twice against Jaemin’s hand as he leads him out of the practice rooms and down the hall to the showers.

“I can’t wait to see them, Jaem,” he says, and watches Jaemin’s smile bloom like the flowers he had so ardently described.

 

 

They go to Soribada on Jaemin’s birthday.

Three hours before the event, Jeno sits himself down in a makeup chair at their company office and lets a stylist push his red-dyed hair off his forehead and powder his face until it’s a pretty, blank canvas. He watches as colour gets added to his eyelids, his cheeks, his lips, until he looks like a vision, a top-of-the-line model in idol production. Then he gets shooed out of the room towards wardrobe to be buttoned into a tuxedo.

Jaemin’s already there when Jeno arrives, his hair blonde, blonde, blonde and his suit a perfect fit. He flashes Jeno a pleasant smile in the mirror, giggles when the stylist chases Jeno’s wandering hands away as they smooth across Jaemin’s shoulders.

“Sorry, noona,” Jeno says as he heads over to another stylist who’s beckoning him over with a garment bag in hand.

They’re all wearing the same thing for the most part, just different cuts on different jackets. Jeno is stupidly pleased that he and Jaemin match. It shouldn’t matter, but it makes Jeno smile all the same as they pile into the van that will take them to the Gymnastics Arena.

“What’s got you grinning so wide?” Jaemin asks as they sink into the very back seats of the van. Renjun takes one look at them and opts for the passenger seat next to their manager in the front of the car.

Jeno turns and looks at Jaemin, takes in his made-up face and styled hair and the wide, wide grin that stretches across his face. Today he is as bright as the sun, vibrant and effervescent and the picture perfect image of the idol that the fans know and love. Today, he is NCT Dream’s Jaemin.

Jeno shrugs, leans in so he can tip their foreheads together. He can hear Chenle fake retching in the seats in front of them. “I’m just happy,” he says quietly.

This close, he can see the faintest of traces of freckles across Jaemin’s cheeks, peeking out from under the makeup. He can feel the ghost of a kiss from Jaemin’s eyelashes as he blinks. The car pulls out of the parking garage, and Jeno sits back so they won’t bump their heads during the drive.

“It’s my birthday,” Jaemin announces, like it’s some revelation that none of them were aware of before. Like Jeno didn’t wake him up with kisses and slow, lazy sex and a potted orchid plant Jaemin can leave in their bedroom window. “Shouldn’t I be the happy one?”

Jeno shrugs again. He scoops up Jaemin’s hand in his, rubs his thumb across the silver rings decorating Jaemin’s fingers. “Are you?”

Jaemin squeezes once, so Jeno squeezes twice back. The grin on Jaemin’s face stretches even wider. “The happiest,” he confirms.

Jeno’s heart swells in his chest. He brings Jaemin’s hand up to his lips, presses a kiss to the back of it that makes Jaemin giggle and roll his eyes. “I’m happy when you’re happy,” Jeno admits.

“Happiest together,” Jaemin sing-songs. The double meaning doesn’t escape Jeno. He smiles, tips his head back against the headrest, and lets Jaemin chatter away at Jisung who looks like he’d rather be ignoring him. If possible, Jeno’s smile grows wider.

 

 

Jaemin picks his first tomatoes at the end of August.

They’re not huge, but they’re a good size to cut up for a sandwich, or to toss into another dish. Jeno watches from the couch as Jaemin gently twists them off the vines, eyes wide and adorant as he looks at the literal fruits of his labour.

There’s a bowl on the coffee table that Jeno left there when Jaemin had announced he was going to check on the plants, and sure enough, Jaemin sticks his head in through the sliding doors and says, “Jeno-yah, are you using that bowl?”

Jeno looks up from the book he’s not really reading and points at the bowl. “That one?” he asks.

“Do you see any other bowls around?”

Jeno’s eyes crinkle into little half moons as he scoops up the bowl and lets Jaemin gently place his armful of tomatoes in it. Then, he steps back out to gather the rest.

Jeno stands in the doorway, the air conditioner blasting at his back and the late summer sun scorching his front. There’s already a damp spot on the back of Jaemin’s t-shirt, right in the dip of his spine. Jeno wants to press his hands there, feel the bones and muscles shift under his fingers.

Jaemin deposits three more tomatoes in the bowl. There’s still a couple left on the plant, not quite ready to release themselves from the vine. It’s okay. Jeno figures tomorrow or the day after; he’d tested them all when he’d come back from his bike ride that morning, before Jaemin had even woken up.

“I’m excited to eat these,” Jeno says as they step back into the cool sanctuary that is their living room. “Home grown tomatoes. Yum.”

Jaemin blinks at him, raises an eyebrow in surprise. “You don’t care for tomatoes,” he points out, which is true. They’re not Jeno’s first choice, but—

“But you grew them, so I’m sure I’ll like them.”

The bark of laughter that Jaemin lets out is as silly as it is familiar. It makes Jeno grin.

“You’re so silly, Jeno-yah,” Jaemin says, but he leans in, presses their lips together in a slow, sweet kiss. Jeno feels like he might melt on the spot, and he tightens his grip on the bowl of tomatoes so that he doesn’t drop it. When Jaemin pulls back, there’s a fondness to his eyes that makes Jeno’s heart swoop. “Thank you for supporting me.”

It shouldn’t mean much. They’ve been supporting each other—and the rest of Dream—since they first met. Jeno knows, with absolute certainty, that his and Jaemin’s souls are intertwined: to let Jaemin crumble and fall would be as painful as ripping out his own heart. Jeno will support Jaemin until he’s pushed away, until he’s asked to stop.

“Always,” Jeno murmurs, tilting his head and pressing a kiss to Jaemin’s cheek. Then, he tucks the bowl into Jaemin’s hands and asks, “Will you cook me something with these?”

Jaemin laughs. “Shameless,” he mutters, but he’s already bustling off to the kitchen. The clanging of pots and pans eventually rouses the others, so Jeno sits at their kitchen table with Jisung while Renjun and Jaemin squabble in the kitchen over what they should make. Jisung is too busy playing a game to pay him any attention, so Jeno pulls out his own phone and quietly looks up what to do with a tomato plant at the end of the season.

 

 

With September comes cooler weather and more days spent at the company building.

They’re gearing up for their NCT 2020 release, and while Jeno just has a couple track videos to appear in, Jaemin is preparing for a full music video and two weeks of promotions with NCT U for the album’s title track. He’s often gone before Jeno wakes up in the morning and comes home long after Jeno’s already crawled into bed.

The orchid in the window is starting to see its blooms shrivel. Outside on the balcony, the tomato plant sits barren and empty. Jeno appraises both carefully and makes a decision.

He plucks the shriveled blooms from the orchid plant and tosses them in the trash. Then, he double checks the instructions on what to do with an out-of-season tomato plant and texts Jaemin, Is your tomato plant going to do anything else? He’s not expecting a reply right away, which is fine. It gives him enough time to go dig out the rubber gloves from under the kitchen sink and find a spare garbage bag.

Jaemin texts him back sometime around lunch, undoubtedly during a break in their gruelling practice. Probably not. I've been meaning to tend to it but I haven't had time :(

Perfect.

Tell me what to do and let me help you out?

The pause after his last message is so long Jeno's almost afraid Jaemin's gone back to practice without giving him permission, but after five excruciating minutes, Jaemin sends him a link to a website Jeno had been scrolling through weeks ago.

You don't have to, though, Jaemin adds.

Jeno smiles, soft and private and replies, I don't mind. At least I can't kill it since it's already dead.

He can practically hear Jaemin's startled laughter, can picture the way he would shrink in on himself under the attention of the other members. Jeno pulls open their chat again and sends a silly heart sticker.

It's not difficult to uproot the tomato plant.

Jeno props his laptop on the single lawn chair they have and pulls the plant out and puts it in the garbage bag. Even though they look decent, he pulls the marigolds as well; the odds of Jaemin remembering they need to be tended to as well are low. Jeno turns the dirt in the box, makes sure that the structure is sound and not rotting anywhere, and then sits back on his heels. They'll have to stop at the hardware store again for a tarp to tuck around the box, but they have until the snow falls to do that. Jeno can save that for another day.

Renjun stops him in the doorway as Jeno is toeing on his shoes to take the garbage out. "No more tomatoes?" he asks, sounding put-out.

“Nah,” Jeno says, shaking the bag lightly. “Its time has passed.”

Renjun looks thoughtful, head tilting to the side like a curious puppy. “Is Jaeminnie going to buy another plant?” he asks.

Jeno doesn’t know if Jaemin has aspirations for more plants, but he’s been quietly searching up different options for him since the tomato plant gave up its last harvest. “Don’t know yet,” he says with a shrug. “I don’t know if he considered this more of a seasonal activity or not.”

Renjun laughs. “Well, if it’s seasonal, I hope he picks it up again next spring,” he says. “The tomatoes were really good.”

Despite his aversion to the fruit, Jeno has to agree. Jaemin had been able to cook up some delicious food with the tomatoes, tasty enough that Jeno had gone back for seconds and thirds.

“Well, remind him in the spring, then,” Jeno says, opening the door. “Remind him how much you liked them.”

“And watch his ego inflate?” Renjun scoffs, but there’s no malice behind it. For all his prickliness, Renjun is never intentionally mean. “Yeah, we’ll see.”

He lets Jeno go, so Jeno hurries down to the parking garage where the apartment complex has its communal dumpster. Once he’s tossed the dead plants inside, he pulls out his phone and texts Jaemin.

Want to meet for food when you’re done practice? I have to stop by the studio to talk to Mark-hyung about a bit in our NCT U song.

It’s not a lie, but Jeno thinks he’ll probably have enough time to go out and buy that tarp from the hardware store. If he lays it under his bike in their room, he knows Jaemin will see it. Then he’ll still be able to make it over to SM and take Jaemin out for dinner.

Are you paying? Jaemin replies with a cheeky emoji.

Jeno rolls his eyes and hurries back upstairs. He’s left his wallet and face mask on his bedside table, and he figures he should probably take his backpack with his practice clothes because Jaemin will probably want to go back to the studio after dinner anyway.

If you insist, he texts back, like it’s a hardship. Like it hadn’t been his intention all along.

I insist, Jaemin replies. A smile stretches across Jeno’s face. See you soon! xox

 

 

Jeno buys Jaemin a cupcake the day of his first Make A Wish performance, and a bonsai tree after their first win. Jaemin delights in both.

“The shopkeeper told me it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance,” Jeno says as Jaemin coos over the little leaves of the tree, the bulbous shape of its trunk. “Like, if you want to shape it and make it all fancy looking then it requires some work, but you can also just. Let it hang out.”

The shopkeeper hadn’t actually told Jeno any of these things; he’d looked them all up himself and then gone out to find the perfect tree to join Jaemin’s orchid on their windowsill.

“Thanks, Jeno-yah,” Jaemin says, but the smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

Jeno falters for a moment. In all the months that he’s been quietly tending to Jaemin, this is the first time that he feels like he may have misstepped, like he’s crossed a line.

“Is it—is it not okay?” he asks timidly.

Jaemin puts the pot on the sill next to the orchid. He traces his fingers along the stalks of the flowerless plant; Jeno knows that they should be trimmed before winter really sets in. “I really like it,” he says, turning to where Jeno is sitting on the bed. Though he’s not smiling, Jeno can hear the sincerity in Jaemin’s voice, and this soothes the welling panic building in his chest. His heart eases its rampant pace against the inside of his ribcage.

“Something else, then?” he prompts cautiously.

With a heavy sigh, Jaemin crosses the room and flops onto the bed next to Jeno, his feet dangling off the edge. Jeno tips backwards, too, so that they’re both staring up at the smooth expanse of ceiling above them. Jaemin had wanted to put fairy lights up, but they haven’t had time. They’d look nice, twinkling above them like a starry night sky.

“I guess I’m just a little burnt out,” Jaemin admits. He reaches between them and scoops up Jeno’s hand in his, squeezes it tightly just once. Jeno squeezes back, much more gently, twice. “And I miss you guys.”

Jeno thinks about Renjun and Chenle, promoting together in From Home with their social butterfly, Donghyuck. Thinks about Jaemin without any Dreamies in his unit to gently coax out his more energetic side. “We’re always right here, Jaem,” he says, rolling onto his side so he can face Jaemin properly. “No matter how far you go, no matter where your wings will take you, we’ll always be right here waiting for you.”

Jaemin tilts his head to the side so he can meet Jeno’s eye. “Do you promise?” he whispers.

Jeno swallows nervously. Promises are important to them—to all of them. The intentions that they set behind them, the fierceness with which they have tied themselves to each other means that Jeno doesn’t make promises within this group lightly. He and Jaemin have promised each other many things from trivial pursuits such as a lunch date at a burger place Mark had recommended, to locking pinkies on their first day at the company and vowing to debut together.

“I can’t speak for the others,” Jeno says carefully. He leans in and presses a kiss to Jaemin’s forehead, to the high point of his cheek, the corner of his lips. “But I promise I’ll be with you always, Na Jaemin. I’ve got your back.”

Jaemin shuffles closer so they can kiss properly. He tastes like the kimchi jjigae they ate for dinner. “I love you,” he whispers into the breath of space between them.

Jeno doesn’t say it a lot, not in so many words. Jaemin loves to drape himself across Jeno’s back, loves to pinch his cheeks and tell him how much he adores Jeno. It doesn’t matter if there’s a camera in their face or just the members: Jaemin announces his love loudly and fiercely.

Jeno has always loved more quietly. He tries to show Jaemin how much he loves him: buys him a new tube of toothpaste when Jaemin’s running low; puts on a playlist of Jaemin’s favourite songs when they’re getting ready for bed; takes care of the plants when Jaemin is busy. It’s hard to say, and sometimes it feels scary, but it feels scarier to think that maybe Jaemin doesn’t know how much Jeno loves him, so this time, he says it plainly.

“I love you, too.”

 

 

By the time December and the snow rolls around, Jeno feels like he’s been going non-stop. October had been a flurry of Vlives and Twitter posts and plant watering. He had watched Jaemin curl in tighter on himself as people had wondered what had happened to their bright, vibrant NCT Jaemin. So, Jeno had redoubled his efforts: he bought Jaemin a succulent; he set up their dorm room to be a cozy movie theatre for two; he set their alarm extra early one morning just so Jaemin could have the satisfaction of hitting snooze a few times before they actually had to get up.

The tarp is tucked safely around the planter box outside. The stalks on the orchid have been trimmed back and it’s growing a new leaf. The bonsai tree is starting to shape up.

And now it’s December and Jeno feels like he needs to take a long winter’s nap.

They’ve wrapped up Resonance Pt. 2 promotions and they only have the year-end shows left. 30 days of hectic rehearsals and re-learning forgotten dance routines from the beginning of the year and restructuring things in case Jisung can’t dance. Jeno feels the weight of the fans’ expectations sitting heavily on his shoulders.

He comes back to the dorm one night, a week before their first awards show, to find the place devoid of people. It is unnervingly quiet as Jeno toes off his shoes. “Hello?” he calls out.

“Jeno,” Jaemin calls back through the dark. After a moment, the light in the hallway flicks on. “Come see!”

Jeno stumbles down the hall into the room at the very end. The door is ajar, but there’s no light on. “Jaem?” he calls.

“Come in, come in,” Jaemin says, head poking out the gap in the door. He’s got a salacious grin on his face, sneaky and mischievous. Jeno blinks; it feels like it’s been a long time since he’s seen Jaemin so excitable within the walls of their home. Obediently, he follows Jaemin into the room.

The first thing he notices are the fairy lights. They’re strung up across the ceiling, held in place with the little clips Jeno had bought months and months ago and then eventually dumped into the desk drawer when he realized he didn’t have time to set the lights up.

The second thing he notices is the small card table crammed between the end of the bed and the desk. Two of their kitchen chairs are placed on either side, framing a candlelit dinner of … fried chicken. Jeno can’t help but laugh.

“What’s all this?” he asks, dropping his backpack on the bed and clambering over after it so he can sit on the far side of the table.

“A date,” Jaemin replies. “And a thank-you.”

Jeno looks up from where he’s been trying to scoot his chair in closer to the table. Jaemin’s looking at him with an incredibly fond look, candlelight reflecting in his eyes. He’s bare-faced, no makeup, but his summer freckles have long since faded. His hair is freshly dyed, a soft, natural-looking black that Jaemin hasn’t adopted in years. It looks good on him. Jeno’s heart swells affectionately.

“For what?” he asks, motioning for Jaemin to sit down in the other chair. Once they’re both seated, he opens the box of chicken sitting between them and deftly places a drumstick on Jaemin’s plate with his chopsticks.

“You’re always doing little things for me,” Jaemin says, leaning forward against the table. “I know you think you’re being sneaky and you are; I often don’t notice until later what you’ve done, but I see it all eventually, Jeno.”

Jeno feels the tips of his ears turn red, can feel heat flooding his cheeks that has nothing to do with the candle that flickers in front of him. “Jaem—” he starts, but Jaemin waves away his attempts with a casual flick of his wrist.

“The watering can and the tarp for my tomatoes. The orchid and the bonsai and the succulent after the season was over. All the meals. The small gestures. I’m sure there’s many more, that I’ve missed.”

Jeno trails his chopsticks across his plate, flicking at crumbs of batter that have fallen off his piece of chicken. “Are you upset?” he asks.

“Upset?” Jaemin echos. He laughs, and it soothes some of the nerves building in Jeno’s blood. “No, of course not. Only you would be concerned about that, my love.”

“Oh,” Jeno says, for lack of anything better to say.

“You’ve been worried lately,” Jaemin continues, voice soft and fond. “Much too worried to be splitting your thoughts between us. I wanted to do this for you not just because you deserve it, but because I want you to know that I can shoulder your burdens, too.”

Jeno’s gaze flickers down to the piece of chicken on his plate. He feels—embarrassed, like a child with his hand caught in the candy jar. It’s not that he doesn’t think Jaemin can handle everything, but he also doesn’t want him to think Jeno’s spent this whole time trying to control him or something.

“Jeno-yah,” Jaemin says softly. “Look at me.”

Jeno can’t resist. He looks up, takes in the soft crinkle of Jaemin’s eyes, the wide stretch of his grin. Jaemin’s hand reaches out across the table and captures his. He squeezes once and, automatically, Jeno squeezes back twice.

“In October, you promised me you’d always be waiting for me,” Jaemin says, “but I realized, very belatedly, that I never made such a promise to you. I don’t even know if you noticed at all, because that’s not like you. You’re always thinking of everyone else, Jeno-yah. You’re always making sure everyone else is okay, always giving us safety nets.”

Jeno knows this, but he’s never seen it as a burden. The sand he lays out to cushion the members when they stumble and fall isn’t a weight he can’t carry. It seems to only be when his own problems surface that Jeno feels like he’s drowning.

“I don’t mind,” he says quietly.

Jaemin squeezes his hand again. “I know that,” he says, “but I wanted to offer you that same promise that you gave me. I promise I’ll always be here for you too, Jen. Not because I feel indebted or like I’m not doing as much for you as you do for me, but because I love you.”

“Oh,” Jeno says again, like he’s surprised. Maybe he is; maybe after all this time he still gets a little caught off guard when he realizes the magnitude of Jaemin’s love. It folds over him like a blanket, warms him from the inside out. It’s a steady presence, regardless of where Jaemin is: promoting in NCT U, or right beside Jeno at the end of the night.

Jaemin laughs. He disentangles their fingers and finally picks up his piece of chicken. They must be a little cold by now. “December will pass in no time at all,” Jaemin comments around a mouthful of food. It should be gross, but Jeno just finds it comforting, familiar. “And then it’ll be a new year.”

A new year won’t necessarily bring them peace and certainty. Jeno always feels a little like he’s walking on uneven ground within the hallowed halls of their company building, but it won’t matter. He has Jaemin’s promise tucked into his heart, the steady presence of the other members at his back.

“It’ll be spring before you know it,” he points out, picking up his drumstick. As suspected, it’s quite cold.

“I can hardly wait,” Jaemin says. He polishes off his chicken and reaches for a second piece. “I can’t wait to see the cherry blossoms and go bike riding again. Oh, and Jeno?”

“Uh?” Jeno says around his own mouthful of food. Jaemin’s looking at him so adoringly that Jeno can’t help but smile back, eyes shaping them into the crescents he knows Jaemin loves so much. As expected, Jaemin coos delightedly.

“Don’t distract me,” Jaemin admonishes finally, reaching over to pinch Jeno’s cheek despite the food Jeno’s still chewing. “I need to ask you something important.”

Jeno doesn’t know what to expect. With Jaemin, importance could range from simple to life-altering. Jeno braces for anything.

“What is it?” he asks, swallowing his mouthful.

Jaemin’s answering smile has a hint of amusement buried in it, like he can sense how nervous Jeno is. He folds his hands and props his elbows on the table, cradling his chin in the little net that his fingers make.

He is silly, now. Silly and bright and cheerful, and Jeno loves him. When Jaemin is quiet and thoughtful and a little more withdrawn, Jeno will love him then, too. Through changing seasons and perennial blooms, Jeno will love Jaemin through it all.

“Will you help me grow more tomatoes in the spring?”

Jeno breathes out in a rush. His heart feels like it’s grown too big in his chest for all the love it’s trying to hold. He hooks his ankle around Jaemin’s under the table, smiles at the way Jaemin giggles about it.

“Of course I will,” he says. “I know a lot about growing a tomato plant, you know.”

Jaemin rolls his eyes, but it’s fond. Loving. “I know,” he says. To Jeno, it sounds a lot like, I love you.