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Jonghyun knows as soon as he wakes up that today is going to be a bad one. It's the drag of his muscles, the ache that seems to emanate from his very bones, the feeling that he could have slept for eight more hours and he would feel just as tired. It's that his first thought besides oof is what do I absolutely need to do.

 

Medication. He needs to take his meds at the same time every morning or else he'll feel ten times as worse. And in order to take his medication, he needs to eat. And eating will give him nutrients so he doesn't starve. That's also something that he needs. 

 

He slogs out of bed and to the kitchen. Rifling through the cabinets, he grabs his box of bland cereal. There's no point in picking something he likes or making something fancy today; not when he knows that everything he puts into his mouth is going to taste like nothing and have the consistency of cardboard. 

 

Jonghyun eats his breakfast, swallows his medication, and shuffles to the bathroom. He does his business, then summons the courage to brush his teeth, and then kind of just stands there for a few minutes trying to will himself into the shower. Eventually, after working through a list of pros and cons, he decides that at least if he washes his hair then he can blow dry it and be soft and warm.

 

Once he's done with that, it's right back to the bedroom.

 

Or, almost. He stops at the door to Jinki's room on the way. He usually sleeps alone, but only because he's particular about his sleep ritual. Once he's out then it's impossible to actually wake Jinki up unless he wants to wake up. So Jonghyun slips inside the room and to the bed. As expected, Jinki is flat as a board on his back, his breathing even and his skin a little greasy. Jonghyun gets under the covers with him, snuggling underneath his arm and pushing his face into his chest. 

 

Cozy, warm, comfortable, Jinki's heartbeat under his ear scent – a little sweaty, a little musky, a little soapy – in his nose, Jonghyun allows himself to relax. He allows himself to sigh. He allows himself to break. 

 

He allows himself to cry. Quietly, sniffling into Jinki's chest, he lets his guilt and helplessness and disappointment and shame and everything else flood through him and come out of his eyes and soak into a growing wet spot on Jinki's sweater. 

 

He runs out of tears, lies quietly for a few minutes, and lets the second wave wash over him just like the first. It's then that Jinki wakes up. It's slow; it's always slow when Jinki wakes up. He breathes in deep and heavy first. Inch by inch, he wakes up his body by wiggling his toes, bending his knees, controlling his breathing. Jonghyun knows that his arms will come next so he shifts closer to be sure that he's not in the way.

 

“Oh?” Jinki takes notice of Jonghyun against him. He wiggles his fingers against Jonghyun's stomach and bends his arm until he can hold Jonghyun close. "Good morning,” he says cutely. 

 

“Ngh,” Jonghyun mumbles back.

 

“Mm? Not good?" Jinki asks. Jonghyun shakes his head. Very not good. "Well,” Jinki says. He rolls over and pulls Jonghyun into his arms. "That's okay,” he says. "That happens sometimes. You can stay here with me until it's less not good, or until it's afternoon. Or as long as you want." He brushes a soft kiss to Jonghyun's hair. "I love you,” he murmurs. 

 

Jonghyun loves him back. He shows it by squeezing Jinki and trusting him to be soft and kind for as long as he needs. 

 

It's a while; he cries a little more. Jinki sings him a quiet, sleepy song. When he finishes, he digs in his headboard for a snack and munches on it. He offers Jonghyun what's left and when Jonghyun shakes his head, doesn't push. He just puts it back into the headboard, gives Jonghyun another kiss, and sings him another song. The sun rises so high that even with the curtains closed the room becomes fully illuminated. 

 

Jinki leaves him for just a minute to go to the bathroom and stop by the kitchen and comes back with a handful of tangerines. He sits up in bed and, with Jonghyun's head in his lap, peels them. With one hand, he offers Jonghyun segments while he checks his phone with the other. Jonghyun eats just a few, just to keep him from worrying, but mostly he spends the time with his eyes closed.

 

A knock on the door and Kibum pops his head in. "Hey," he says, and then, “Jonghyun, come shopping with me. For dinner tonight." 

 

"Um." Jonghyun shuffles underneath the covers, thinking. Again, he pulls up a list of pros and cons in his head. The fatigue, unenthusiasm, and fear of being a downer against the chance to spend time with Kibum, to let Jinki do something else with his day, and….

 

"Fresh air," Jinki says, gently encouraging. "And the exercise will be good for you."

 

"We'll go to the pet store on the way there,” Kibum adds.

 

Pet store. Fuck yeah. Jonghyun might be a lot of things, but too depressed to go to the pet store is, thankfully, not one of them. Carefully, with weak arms, he pushes himself onto his knees. "Jinki, thank you," he says quietly. Jinki smiles all eyes and cheeks. Blushing, in love, Jonghyun smooches him.

 

"Let me put on clothes," he tells Kibum, squeezing his arm as he walks past. When he got out of the shower all he did was put back on his boxers and tank top from the night. "I'll meet you outside,” he says, and five minutes later, he does. All he did was put on some sweats and a t-shirt, but that's fine. Kibum is already going to be the most fuckable person in the grocery store and that's something Jonghyun has never been able to beat him at. 

 

Kibum fills the walk down to the shopping center with talk. Arm linked with Jonghyun’s, Kibum tells him about his tacky drama shows, about the latest fashion trends, and about his water skiing friends down at the river. He doesn't push Jonghyun to reply, but he doesn't discourage him from it, either, and when Jonghyun finds the energy to add to the conversation Kibum gives him his whole attention.

 

The pet store isn't as fun as it would be if he was feeling 100%, but it's still a hell of a mood booster. They go straight to the puppies as soon as they walk in. Jonghyun can almost physically feel the serotonin shooting through his neurons as he coos and tosses them toys over the enclosure. Kibum wanders off after a while to look at all of the other animals, but he kisses Jonghyun's cheek before he does so. 

 

By the time he comes back, Jonghyun is sitting in front of the big glass window of the puppy training area applauding every time a little guy does a trick just right. Linking arms with Jonghyun again, Kibum shows him a floppy brown puppy ear headband and then gently puts it on him. "For you," he smiles. "Ready to go?”

 

"For me,” Jonghyun smiles back. Kibum saw it and thought of Jonghyun and got it for him. He's all aflutter. He’s not technically ready to go, but he is at least willing to part with the puppies for now. Waving goodbye to them, he lets Kibum pull him out of the pet store and into the grocery store across the street. 

 

It's there, browsing the vegetables for brussel sprouts that are nice and big without being too huge, that Jonghyun pauses for a moment. The puppies were nice, but he's still tired, lethargic, gloomy. Thinking about himself. Thinking about Jinki. He reaches up and rubs his thumb over the fur of his puppy ear headband. A present.

 

Kibum is methodically checking all of the potatoes on display for bad spots across from Jonghyun. Jonghyun watches him for a moment then lets himself look down, hold his weight on his hands on the vegetable counter, and sigh. "Did Jinki tell you?" he asks quietly.

 

“Hmm?” Kibum hums absently. He looks up as he puts a potato into a plastic baggie. “Tell me what?"

 

"That I'm.” Jonghyun's face heats up. “Emo today."

 

“Oh.” Kibum goes back to the potatoes. “Sort of. Minho was asking where you were in the group chat because you weren't answering his texts and Jinki said that you were in there with him. And I figured, if you weren't checking your phone and you were with Jinki in bed taking a nap at 11 in the morning, then you must not be feeling good." 

 

Hmm. Well. Jonghyun guesses that's not as bad as he was thinking. Actually, it might be kind of nice. Reassuring, maybe? Yeah. Definitely. 

 

Kibum loves him. 

 

Jonghyun loves him back, and he shows it by reaching over the vegetables, grabbing his hand, and kissing the back of it. While Kibum blushes, he pulls his phone out of his pocket and checks it for the first time today.

 

Just like Kibum said, he has a couple of texts from Minho. “Hey look it's us” in the morning along with a picture of an Among Us astronaut next to a little baby astronaut, then "do you want to go kick a soccer ball around at the lake later?" 

 

After that, a few more about who is going to be there and what time Minho wanted to leave. And then in the group chat, "which one of you slept with Jonghyun??? Tell him to reply to me," and then Jinki's reply that Jonghyun is napping with him, and then, "oh okay then well I'll be at the lake if any of you need me." 

 

"No thanks I'm extra tall people phobic today," he texts to Minho. Smirking to himself at the thought of Minho checking his messages and getting all grumpy in the middle of a game, he puts his phone back into his pocket. 

 

They roll through the rest of the grocery store getting everything else that Kibum needs for dinner. On the walk home Jonghyun volunteers to carry the bags but when he gets tired halfway through Kibum takes them without complaint. 

 

Back at home, Jinki and Taemin are on the couch watching TV together. Kibum stops Jonghyun from following him into the kitchen to help put away the groceries by pushing him down in between them instead, ordering him to stay with a pat on the head. Jinki and Taemin keep him from getting up by closing in on him –an arm around his shoulders, a leg thrown over his thighs – and Jonghyun resigns himself to be snuggled and cuddled instead of useful. He won't say it's not a relief.

 

After a few minutes, Kibum comes back and gives Jonghyun another present: a parfait made with chocolate yogurt, granola, and heaps of berries. He tosses a bag of chips at him as well with a one word order to eat. Grateful, in love, Jonghyun blows him a kiss.

 

"Where's mine?” Taemin demands, trying to grab at Kibum before he walks away. 

 

"Make your own, gremlin," Kibum says without a second glance. 

 

Taemin huffs loudly at his back. He scrumps into a pretzel, arms and legs crossed, face all scrunched up. Chuckling a little bit at the drama of it all, Jonghyun offers him a raspberry from the top of his parfait. Between the two of them plus a couple of bites from Jinki, Jonghyun finishes his food without feeling too gross about it. He puts the mess on the coffee table and curls up, holding on to both of them. 

 

With Jinki petting his hair and Taemin nuzzling his shoulder, Jonghyun closes his eyes and dozes off. 

 

He wakes up later on his side with his head in someone's lap. He rubs his face into their leg, stretching out and then turning onto his back and blinking in the light of the room. Slowly, Minho comes into focus above him. One of his arms is over Jonghyun's chest and the other is around his head and he's holding a video game controller, focused on the TV. Jinki and Taemin are gone.

 

“Oh,” Jonghyun mumbles. Instinctively, he scrunches his nose. "Gross.” 

 

"Sorry, you'll have to speak up," Minho says. “You're so little I can barely hear your little baby voice.”

 

Jonghyun knocks the controller out of his hands. He sits up straight while Minho curses and picks it back up. Minho elbows him; Jonghyun elbows him back. They fight back and forth like that for a few seconds before Jonghyun manages to loop his arm around Minho's instead. He's still weak and tired, but he holds on tight enough to get Minho to stop squirming.

 

Actually, it's more probable that Minho just let him win, but Jonghyun is going to go with the first thing. “How was your sportsball?" he asks. 

 

"It was fun," Minho shrugs. He's already focused back on his video game. Jonghyun watches for a while, bored, before he realizes that he's frowning at the TV. It's just a soccer game. Minho just spent all afternoon playing soccer.

 

Jonghyun decides that Minho has had enough soccer for today and gets up. He stands in between Minho and the TV, hands on his hips. 

 

“Dickhead, move, I'm about to score," Minho snaps.

 

Jonghyun smirks at him, shaking his head. "If you're so big, why don't you make me,” he teases.

 

"Oh my fucking god, come on –”

 

"If I'm such a little baby how come you can't make me?”

 

"Jonghyun, I fucking swear–” 

 

"Swear what? That you're a coward and you're all talk and you can't–" 

 

And the next thing Jonghyun knows, they're rolling around on the carpet trying to wrestle each other into submission. Jonghyun barks with laughter, doing his best to break out of Minho's hands and get on top. What flashes of Minho's face that he gets in between all of their body parts is smiling just as wide.

 

Minho wins, of course. He traps Jonghyun by sitting on his thighs and pinning his wrists to the ground on either side of his head. Jonghyun struggles feebly, pouting. Minho was barely even trying. He could tell. They might have been play fighting, but Minho was being so soft, so gentle with him and his tired muscles. So he knows that Jonghyun is having a bad energy day and he didn't even let him win. Rude. 

 

“You're so mean to me," he grumbles. 

 

Minho smiles down at him even softer than his grip. "You're my favorite," he says. 

 

A thousand emotions flood through Jonghyun and he laser focuses on the easiest one to deal with: sternness. "You can't have a favorite,” he scolds. “That's fucked up."

 

“Yeah, you're right," Minho admits, shrugging, completely unbothered. “But you're our honorary favorite." 

 

"What does that even mean?” Jonghyun asks.

 

Minho's smile doesn't turn wicked, or smug, or even come close to the slightest hint of a smirk. Instead, even worse, it becomes softer. Warmer. More genuine. He says, "It means we call you our favorite because it makes you blush.” 

 

He’s fucking right, of fucking course, but that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that he still has Jonghyun's wrists so Jonghyun can't even cover his face. All he can do is go pink underneath Minho and then turn red when Minho leans down and kisses his cheek. “Fuck,” he hisses. Not fair. 

 

He starts struggling again until Minho gets off of him. Rolling over onto his tummy, he hides his face in his arms, grumpy that Minho made him soft. He hears some shuffling and then a pillow slides underneath his head and Minho starts rubbing his back with his big hands. 

 

After a minute or two, Jonghyun is feeling sufficiently pampered and calmed down. He turns so just his cheek is in his arms and blinks sleepily at Minho. “How come else I'm your favorite?" he asks. 

 

Minho smirks. "Good height for an armrest," he says. He doesn't even wince when Jonghyun punches his thigh. "And because you're fun to hang out with. And I really like your laugh. And your butt fits really nice in my hands. And it's really endearing when you act all bratty because I know you just want attention."

 

Minho goes on, filling Jonghyun with so many compliments that he has no choice but to accept that statistically some of them have to be true. On the TV, his soccer players stand around the field while the opposing team scores goal after goal until the game ends. It's such a nice time that Jonghyun is about to fall asleep again. 

 

He doesn't want to do that on the floor, though. He's a creaky old gremlin at thirty-something years of age and he knows that will fuck him up big time. Slowly, carefully, he gets to his knees, then sits on his heels and leans on Minho's shoulder. Minho wraps his arms around him, snuggly and warm, the perfect hug, the perfect expression of love.

 

Jonghyun loves him back, and he shows it by telling him out loud, mumbling the three words into his sweater.

 

And then, after Minho squeezes him tighter and lets him go, Jonghyun clumsily gets to his feet. "I'm going to go lie down before dinner,” he says.

 

“Mmkay,” Minho hums. "I'll come find you when it's time.”

 

Smiling, in love, Jonghyun lets Minho hold his hand until he's too far away.

 

The plan was to curl up in the bed him, Kibum, and Minho share and maybe mess around on his phone, but halfway down the hallway he hears his name from behind Taemin's bedroom door. Curious and nosy, he stops and listens.

 

"When I was telling you before, about the microaggression thing, that's something else I learned from Jonghyun," Taemin is saying. "He's so like. He researches things for fun and he's so good at remembering it all? About a lot of different things, not just justice stuff. And if I ever want to ask him something I know he knows all of the big technical words but he still explains it simply for me so I can understand it. And he doesn't make me feel bad about it. It's so impressive." 

 

It's so fucking flustering, the things he’s saying in there. What the fuck. 

 

"I know, right?" Taemin laughs. "He likes to be all bratty and childish and fun, but. I've really learned a lot of my maturity from him, too. And honestly, he's childish in, like, a mature way? Like, he chooses to be childish. For fun. Because he can and because he deserves it.” 

 

This is too much. Jonghyun can't handle Taemin like this. But he can't just walk away from Taemin like this, either. He screams quietly into his hands for a moment, then knocks gently on the door. From inside, he hears, "oh, hold on – yeah?”

 

Jonghyun pops his head inside. Taemin is on his back in bed, handheld game console in the air above him and headphones connected to his phone next to him. "Hey," he says brightly. "I was just talking about you–” he hesitates for a fraction of a second. Licking his lips, he says, "about how cute your butt is."

 

"Yeah?” Jonghyun asks, amused. Definitely not surprised.

 

"Yeah," Taemin says. Then, "what? Oh. Kai says hi.”

 

“Hi Kai,” Jonghyun chuckles. "I just wanted to –”

 

“Kai he says hi back.”

 

"I wanted to lie down for a little bit,” Jonghyun says. "You can keep talking.”

 

“Oki,” Taemin says. He wiggles over on his bed, making room. Jonghyun heads over and clambers on next to him, lying down on his side. He slides one of his arms underneath Taemin's head and his other over his chest, snuggling in. Just holding Taemin makes him feel better, more put together. He tilts his head forward until he can sniff his hair. Something about the scent, whether it's Taemin's shampoo or Taemin himself, always makes Jonghyun feel at peace.

 

“Comfy?” Taemin asks. Jonghyun nods. Very. He peeks up at Taemin's game; just a two-player platformer with Kai. Boring. He closes his eyes and relaxes into the comfort of Taemin. 

 

The thing about Taemin that's different from the others is that for everyone else, snuggling is a shared activity. And that's not a bad thing; of course Jonghyun loves being petted and spoken soft words to and paid attention to. But it's not something that he always wants and needs, and it's not something that Taemin instinctively gives him. Instead, he keeps playing his game, talking and laughing with Kai, and lets Jonghyun exist in silence. No reminder of why he needs comfort, just comfort.

 

Just absorbing one side of a conversation about nothing important and letting that fill his brain instead of thoughts about himself, his mood, his shame, his guilt, his self-worth. No brain. Just love.

 

"Oh, he fell asleep," Taemin says. It takes Jonghyun a moment to realize that Taemin means him; by the time he does but before he can make a move to deny it, Taemin continues by saying, "god, he's so fucking cute. Man I like him.” So gently Jonghyun barely even feels it, Taemin smooches the tip of his nose. 

 

"Yeah, I do," he says, replying to whatever Kai said. Probably teasing, knowing the two of them. "I think he's cute and sweet and funny and kind and –” 

 

Kai makes exaggerated gagging noises so loud that Jonghyun can hear it through the headphones. Chuckling, Taemin says, "fuck off.” Then, after Kai says something else, Taemin whines, “ because . I'm bad at it, I don't know, I don't know how to do feelings stuff." He's pouting now, his tone unmistakably grumpy. "You know that," he says. “You know how bad I am being emo with you . It's not easier with him just because I put my mouth on his sometimes. It's harder .”

 

Silence for a reply, and then, offended, "what do you mean, what do I mean? Fuck you. I care about him so much, and I look up to him, and he means so much to me, and I'm supposed to just open my mouth and say soft heartfelt words to him? Like it's no big deal? Not fucking likely." 

 

This is the other thing about Taemin. He thinks he’s so smooth about it, but Jonghyun knows how shy he is. However much fun Kai is having teasing Taemin about it, Jonghyun doesn't mind. He doesn't need Taemin to tell him all the time. Jonghyun already knows Taemin is in love with him.

 

Jonghyun loves him back, and he shows it by squeezing Taemin close to his chest and pressing a sloppy, wet smooch to his cheek. 

 

"Oh my fucking god, he's been awake this whole time," Taemin says loudly. 

 

The headphones explode with Kai’s laughter. Jonghyun laughs with him, but quieter, more enamored, only a little bit less smug. "Oh my fucking god," Taemin hisses. "I need to leave. I need to go. Kai, I'm hanging up, I'm. I need to go spontaneously combust, goodbye, I'll talk to you later.”

 

He doesn't even hang up; he just yanks the headphones and throws them and his video game at the foot of the bed. He rolls over to his stomach, then to his side, then back to his back, hiding his crimson face behind his little fists. Trying his very hardest not to keep laughing, Jonghyun picks up his phone. “Bye, Kai,” he smiles into the headphones, hanging up after. 

 

Taemin’s tantrum doesn't do anything to stop Jonghyun from slithering his arms back around him and nuzzling the side of his head. Grinning, in love, he holds Taemin and just enjoys his presence. 

 

It's a nice silence, and then it turns into a comfortable silence once Taemin calms down. He turns on his side to face Jonghyun, licks the tip of his nose, and grins when Jonghyun wipes it on the pillows with a grumble. They spend a while like that, grinning and existing together, until there's a knock on the door.

 

"Dinner's ready,” Minho tells the two of them.

 

"Hell yeah," Taemin says. “Hungy." He gets up and helps Jonghyun to his feet and the three of them walk to the kitchen together where Jinki and Kibum are serving out the roasted chicken and vegetables from the store earlier. 

 

Jonghyun takes his seat, more excited to eat than he thought he would be. Today started off rough and he’s still tired in his bones, but after spending time with everyone today, he feels better in his heart.