How did I get into this mess, Jinyoung thinks, as he’s pulled along by an overly enthusiastic Mark to their college’s open field. Jinyoung sighs as he reads the huge tarpaulin saying “JYP’s Next Couple: Who Will Win?” I am never letting Jackson taunt Mark hyung ever again.
All bad things start out normally, or well it did for Jinyoung’s case. He attended his Friday classes like he always did, spent some time in the library for his internship, and attended the student council’s weekly meeting. Everything was going well until his weekly meet-up with the rest of GOT7. (Personally, Jinyoung thinks it sounds like the name of some weird idol group, but Jackson insisted they needed a group name.)
He’s barely even seated beside Mark in the Chinese restaurant they chose when Bambam shoves a flyer in his face. “Hyuuung, why didn’t you tell us the student council was holding a couples’ competition,” he whines once Jinyoung has settled down.
Jinyoung, used to Bambam’s antics, waves him off with a dismissive “You would have found out anyway.”
Bambam isn’t paying attention to Jinyoung anymore though, instead engaging Jackson in a debate as to whether JackBum (Jackson + Jaebum, because of course they need a ship name) could win over him and Yugyeom in the couple competition. Jaebum and Yugyeom, the respective boyfriends, just look on as their boyfriends bicker. Meanwhile, Mark and Jinyoung were quietly talking about their upcoming requirements.
Youngjae, who was laughing along to Jackson and Bambam’s silliness (Jackson just said that he and Jaebum would win just by handsomeness), suddenly looks to where the other two are seated.
He sees Mark’s arm around Jinyoung’s shoulder, with Jinyoung laughing quietly at something Mark said. He hears Mark saying, “Jinyoungie, I know you want to get a perfect score but you have to take care of yourself too, okay?”, and Jinyoung nudging Mark as if to say, You too hyung.
Youngjae doesn’t know why he’s so fixated on his two hyungs’ interaction when he has seen them talk like this multiple times before. He thinks to himself, Ah, Mark hyung and Jinyoung hyung would most likely win a couple competition even if they aren’t a thing.
Youngjae suddenly feels six gazes on him, and he realizes belatedly that he said that out loud. Oops.
When he looks over to Mark and Jinyoung, Mark is cuddling the younger, cooing things like, “Aww Jinyoungie, I told you we’d make the perfect couple,” while Jinyoung tries to push Mark away. He’s laughing though, with his eyes crinkling in amusement.
The moment is ruined by Jackson saying, “Yah, Choi Youngjae, you really think Jaebum and I would be beaten by a pair of emotionally constipated people? Especially Mark hyung?”
At Jackson’s statement, Mark stops teasing Jinyoung. He glares at Jackson and says, “Is that a challenge, Wang?”
“What if it is? Or are you too afraid because you know you’re going to lose?”
“Ooh, fight fight fight,” Yugyeom says as Bambam makes taunting noises. Jaebum notices that their group is starting to draw attention from the other patrons in the restaurant, so he tries to calm them down. It’s useless though, because Jackson and Mark have already stood up.
“Oh, you’re going to regret saying that when you see Jinyoungie and I getting first place!” Then Mark turns around to face Jinyoung, who had been silent the whole time. “You’ll join with me, right? Jinyoungie, please?”
Youngjae thinks there may be a hint of pink on Jinyoung’s face when he huffs out, “Fine, but you’re treating me to meat tomorrow, hyung.”
Mark sits down once he hears this, and says, “Thank you Jinyoungie, you’re the best! So Jackson, get ready to lose!”
Youngjae doesn’t know how it happened, but he’s not surprised their group ended up being kicked out by the restaurant because Jackson and Bambam were being too rowdy.
So the night ends with 6 out of 7 of their group deciding to join JYP’s first ever Couple Competition. (Youngjae decides that he should find someone soon, all his friends are paired up or pairing up.)
Two weeks after that dinner, Jinyoung and Mark were walking through the campus’ field to register for the event.
Even though Jinyoung is the university’s president, he didn’t really do much for this event. His vice-president (and best friend) Wonpil told him that he’ll take responsibility for it. So basically, Jinyoung had only the vaguest idea about this event. He had to admit though, their campus’ field looked really good, with pink and white tents and a huge stage in the middle.
A lot of students also came, with couples standing out since they had to wear personalized nametags, along with their “ship name.” (That was Jackson’s idea, which for some reason, reached Wonpil, who thought it was a great idea.)
He and Mark decided to make one for each other, and while he would never say it out loud, Mark made a really cute nametag for him. “진영이” was printed on a blue paper, with an Apeach picture. His nametag for Mark seems to have been a hit too, since Mark had smiled widely at him when he gave it to the other. On a pink paper, “마크형” was written, with a picture of Coco (his shared dog with Youngjae).
Both of their nametags also had a huge “막녕, higher!” on top. (It was Mark’s idea, something about how Markjin from GOT7 had a subunit song like that, and since they had the same names as them, it could be their couple song too.)
(Jinyoung would never admit that his heart fluttered at that.)
After registering for the event, they were told to wait by the stage where they would be given further instructions. A few minutes later, one of the event organizers goes up on stage to explain how the competition would go. “Good morning, beloved couples from JYP!”
Loud cheers could be heard, with the exception of Jinyoung. He’s shocked that Mark is softly cheering along. Mark notices Jinyoung’s slight frown, and he says “Come on, it’ll be fun, Jinyoungie!” Before Jinyoung could say anything else, the host starts talking again
“As you all know, today is the first ever couple competition that our school will be holding. Friendly reminded to all participating couples: no nametags means you’re forfeiting from the competition. Anyway, I’ll be explaining the rules now.”
“Each couple has a stamp card, and the goal is to get stamps from winning 6 mini games….”
Jinyoung groans at that. “Mark hyung,” he whines as he clings to the older male. Mark can’t help but find it cute, so he just pinches Jinyoung’s cheeks while coddling him. Jinyoung isn’t really listening anymore, preoccupied with grumbling about stupid Jackson and not having time to play around all day.
“A prize for each mini game won will be given…”
Jinyoung suddenly lets go of Mark’s arm, his demeanor becoming brighter. “Mark hyung, we are totally getting all the prizes.” Mark sees the determined spark in Jinyoung’s eyes and he feels that all-too familiar tug on his heart. The younger one was suddenly giving his utmost attention to the instructions, making him oblivious to Mark staring at him with fondness. He’s internally dying at Jinyoung biting his lips when the younger suddenly yanks on his arm, making him listen to the host again.
“…complete all mini games for a chance to participate in the game for the ultimate prize. What the prize is? An all-expenses paid date at any restaurant of the winning couple’s choice. And by any, we really mean any restaurant, all thanks to our sponsor, former student council president Kim Junmyeon!”
Mark and Jinyoung look at each before simultaneously saying, “We’re totally getting that prize.”
Jackson who, thinks Mark. Couple or not, Jinyoung and I are getting that main prize and everything else.
(There’s an ache in his chest, but he ignores it in favor of smiling at an excited Jinyoung.)
A few more instructions were given, and then the event was declared to have officially started. Mark, who didn’t really pay attention when the host was pointing out the different booths, just let himself be dragged by an enthusiastic Jinyoung to whichever booth. All Mark remembers is that there were seven mini games that they had to win before they could try the game for the ultimate prize.
While Jinyoung was dragging him to whichever booth had the least couples in it, Mark could hear people whispering about the two of them.
“Oh, so Pres Jinyoung and Mark really are together?”
“I bet they’re gonna end up winning all the games. They’re a match made in heaven.”
(Was it just Mark or did he hear screams strangely similar to those from idol fancams? He ignores the flutter in his chest as more people whisper things like “soul mates.”)
“I told you, there is no heterosexual explanation for those two! Those two are practically married??”
(He and Jinyoung? Mark wants to laugh, but his throat felt choked up. Him and Jinyoung, saying their vows on a garden wedding, settling down with a house in shades of pink and blue, having a daughter and a son, cooking dinner to- Nope. Mark has never thought about that, his mind is playing tricks on him.)
“Pay up, losers, told you they’d join!”
Mark almost stopped walking at that last one. Was that Jae? Before Mark could look back to see who said that, he and Jinyoung were already at one of the mini game booths. Jinyoung faces him with a smug smile, “Mark-hyung, looks like we’ll be getting that all-expenses paid prize way faster than we could have imagined.” Mark is confused as to how Jinyoung is so confident about this, until he sees what they have to do.
Elephant Chu~, says the giant signboard in what looks like Sungjin’s handwriting. Mark remembers having done this with Jinyoung before during Truth or Dare with their friends. (It was Yugyeom’s idea, that brat.) The rules say they have to do it in 2 minutes, but he and Jinyoung did it in 1 minute… while drunk.
(Jinyoung never had to know how Mark never wanted to let go of him in that moment, because drunk people think up weird things all the time right?)
(And he most definitely didn’t have to know how for a moment, all of his drunken thoughts revolved around how it would feel like to place his lips on Jinyoung’s neck, leaving behind a streak of red.)
Mark halts his flashback and laughs. If all the other mini games were this easy, then he and Jinyoung would have no trouble getting that main prize. In the meantime, getting matching elephant stuffed toys and chapstick would be nice.
Merely one hour has passed since the couples event officially started, but Mark and Jinyoung already had their hands full with prizes. Jinyoung couldn’t stop the smug smile as he watched most of the couples struggle with one or two mini games.
(His mind betrays him and tells him how he and Mark would be the best couple, but he’s quick to shut it down. It doesn’t help soothe the slight twinge of longing he feels.)
As they walk towards the last booth that would complete their stamp card, Jinyoung takes a look at the various prizes he and Mark had won.
Signed GOT7 albums from the karaoke booth. (He tries to forget how Mark had sounded amazing as he rapped to Higher. And no, Jinyoung didn’t feel anything when Mark looked straight at him as he said the lines “I’m stuck in a trance, You’re the one I got.” Nope, he didn’t blush, and he definitely didn’t mouth along ”Feel so high when it’s just the two of us” to Mark. Nope.)
A huge bag of snacks from the food throw booth. (Catching small pieces food thrown by your partner using your mouth? Within one minute? It wasn’t even a challenge since Mark is one of the most athletic people Jinyoung knows.)
New pairs of sneakers from the Dance Dance Revo booth. (Getting A marks on DDR? Mark is vice-president of the dance club, and Jinyoung used to be one half of JJP, the hottest college idols. In Bambam’s words: eaaasy.)
Black sunglasses and matching walkie-talkies from the Mystery Escape Booth. (Jinyoung has to admit, Wonpil and his committee members have outdone themselves. A mini escape room all for a university event? Amazing, but not as amazing as him and Mark getting out with the fastest time among those who’ve gone to the booth. And well, Mark himself has always been amazing but Jinyoung never said that.)
Along with their elephant plushies and chapstick from the first booth, they had acquired 5 stamps on their stamp card. Just one more mini game to win and they would be one step closer to the final game.
Everything had been a walk in the park so far, but as he and Mark get closer to the last booth, Jinyoung prays to all the gods that they get through this as fast as possible.
(There’s a reason why he deliberately chose this as their last stop. It feels like he’s walking towards inevitable heartbreak.)
Mark was happily walking along with Jinyoung to the last mini game booth, with his arms full of stuff that shows how much they’re owning this event. He really should have known that things wouldn’t be this easy.
Pepero Kiss, the signboard in front of the booth says. Mark has never been this apprehensive over two words written in loopy script, with glitters. He looks over to Jinyoung, only to see that the younger is already staring at him. His face looks calm, but Mark knows him, and he can feel that the other is just as nervous as he is about this.
(He’s pretty sure the reason behind his apprehension is different from Jinyoung’s though.)
A moment of silence passes between them.
They both giggle at this. “You can go first, Jinyoungie,” Mark says.
Jinyoung smiles at his hyung, and Mark doesn’t miss how it’s slightly strained. “Okay, hyung. I know I told you that we would win all of the prizes, but if you’re uncomfortable with this, I won’t force you.” Mark feels his heart clench at Jinyoung’s words, not wanting to think about the fact that the younger is most likely saying this more for his own sake rather than Mark’s.
(If Jinyoung could read Mark’s mind, he’d know that any chance to be closer to Jinyoung had never been uncomfortable. It’s just that- it hurts, that no matter how close they become, it’s still not enough to bridge the distance that Mark’s heart despises so much. He may not want to think about him and Jinyoung, but he feels so much.)
For once, Mark wants to be selfish. So, instead of giving Jinyoung a way to escape this situation, he lets himself be honest for once. (Besides, it’s just a game, Mark Tuan. At least he tries to convince himself it’s just that.)
Mark takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. When he opens them again, he’s met with Jinyoung’s concerned eyes.
Mark smiles. “As long as it’s with you, I’d do anything, Jinyoung-ah.”
Jinyoung-ah. Relief floods through Jinyoung’s system, making him unclench his fists that he hadn’t realized were closed tightly as he waited for Mark to answer. He was ready to give up, be selfless for once, especially since his Mark-hyung has done nothing but shower him with affection ever since they’ve known each other.
(He basks in it all, but as they spend more time together, he knows it’s not enough. It never will be enough, as long as they stay friends.The distance his mind tells him to place between him and Mark is the same distance that his heart has been wanting to bridge. But he’s fine like this, as long as he’s beside Mark.)
(At least that’s what he tells himself.)
Jinyoung stares into Mark’s eyes, warm and comforting. He notices the shift in their atmosphere, but he thinks it’s just him projecting what he longs to see in Mark. He tells himself that they still have a game to win, so he keeps his feelings aside like he always does.
Jinyoung smiles back. “Let’s finish this, hyung,” and to lighten things up, “And just a heads-up, I want the giant green Pepero box, okay?”
Mark laughs and Jinyoung tells himself that it’s gonna be fine. It’s just one more game anyway.
Okay, so it isn’t just a game, Mark thinks as he and Jinyoung are given a whole box of pepero and a ruler. Out of all the people who could be handling this booth, it just had to be Kim Doyoung, that sophomore who Mark is sure has a crush on Jinyoung. (He could literally see the heart eyes the younger sends to Jinyoung. He would know since he also- nope, nothing.)
To make things even more awkward, they had to make not just one, but 5 consecutive pepero sticks of 1cm length. Mark looks at Jinyoung, who is holding a pepero in his hands. He’s looking at Mark with an expression he feels like he’s seen on himself before. Does Jinyoung want this too?
Neither of them don’t know how to proceed, until Doyoung’s voice breaks them out of their weird trance. “Jinyoung hyung, just get it over with! You’ve been staring at each other for minutes now.”
Jinyoung breaks his eye contact with Mark, proceeding to ruffle Doyoung’s hair aggresively. “Yah, what happened to Doyoung who would never talk so rudely to his Jinyoung hyung, huh?”
Doyoung catches Mark’s gaze, which makes him laugh as he pushes Jinyoung away. “Hyung, we’re close enough for me to be like this. Anyway, Mark hyung is waiting for you, so shoo.”
(Before Jinyoung can look back at him, Mark schools his face into a smile. After all, Jinyoung is allowed to have lots of friends, right? He’s allowed to be affectionate to them. And no, Mark isn’t jealous because Jinyoung has never ruffled his hair like he does to Doyoung. He’s not jealous. A few more lies to himself wouldn’t hurt any more than what he feels, anyway.)
Jinyoung shakes his head, looking fond as he watched Doyoung explain the game rules to another couple. He then looks at Mark, who was smiling with the faintest hint of strain. “Ah sorry Mark hyung, let’s just finish the game, shall we?”
(He wonders if Mark is regretting his decision to finish the last game with him. I guess this is a taste of what inevitable rejection feels like, huh.)
The strain in Mark’s smile disappears as he takes the pepero from Jinyoung, placing one end on his mouth before coming closer to Jinyoung. Without warning, he pushes Jinyoung closer to him until Jinyoung has no choice but to take the other end of the stick into his lips.
Even with their faces so close like this, Jinyoung can see the smile in Mark’s eyes. He’s aware of Mark’s hands on his shoulders, bracing himself since he has to tiptoe to reach Jinyoung’s height.
(It makes Jinyoung think of how he’d have to bend down to give Mark a kiss- and he’s wandering off into dangerous territory. But he can’t help it when Mark is this close- the closest they’ve ever been.)
Once both of them are settled, they start nibbling on the pepero, the distance between their lips becoming shorter. While Jinyoung has his eyes closed, Mark wants to savor the moment.
(Even for just a few seconds, he can pretend that this isn’t about a game. He can pretend that this is just him and Jinyoung, about to share a kiss. A kiss that won’t happen.)
He’s so lost in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice how Jinyoung has put one hand around his neck, the other cupping his cheek. Just as Mark was about to pull away, he feels a pair of lips against his.
(His thoughts come to a halt because all he can think of is Jinyoung.)
Jinyoung has never been one to take risks, but at this moment, where he can feel Mark’s eyes staring at him as they inch closer to each other, he makes one of the rashest decisions. Just as he feels Mark starting to pull away, he drags him closer until the space between their lips ceases to exist.
(If heartbreak were to come to him, he might as well lure it closer now. The distance between their hearts will continue to grow anyway, so Jinyoung is going to make the process faster.)
He opens his eyes once he feels Mark’s lips against his, the small piece of pepero having been crushed in between their lips. This time, he readies himself to pull away.
He wasn’t ready to see the longing he’s always seen in his own eyes, reflected on Mark’s eyes.
This time, Mark is the one who cups Jinyoung’s cheeks, giving him a smile that he’s secretly wished to be reserved just for him. (Just like how he has a smile reserved just for Mark.)
As Mark stares into Jinyoung’s eyes, he sees his own longing reflected back at him. Jinyoung looks so beautiful like this, his eyes showing things Mark has never seen before.
(Or maybe it was there all along, but Mark just didn’t want to believe that someone like Jinyoung would feel the same way.)
He and Jinyoung have never been big on word, with Mark himself preferring to listen to others. So he hopes to all the gods that he’s reading Jinyoung right as he pulls him back, their lips meeting again for more than just a fleeting moment.
(Mark can’t help but smile as he feels Jinyoung’s lips curve upward against his, with his eyes staring straight into Mark’s.)
By the time Doyoung gets back to Mark and Jinyoung, the pair is already walking away, 5 pieces of 1cm pepero placed on the table, and a giant green pepero box missing.
He sees the two walking away, hand in hand this time, while balancing all their prizes. He laughs at their cuteness, but the he notices that their stamp card was also left on the table.
“Jinyoung hyung, Mark hyung! What about your stamp card? There’s still that final game for the grand prize!”
Mark turns around to face him, grinning ear to ear as he says, “I already won the best prize today, don’t mind me!” Doyoung is confused until he sees Jinyoung looking at Mark with such fondness, and everything clicks.
Mark and Jinyoung are about to walk away when Doyoung suddenly shouts.
“Wonpil hyung! Jackson hyung! Where are you, Mark hyung and Jinyoung hyung finally sorted their feelings out!!”
What the actual fuck, Mark and Jinyoung say to each other with their gazes as they see Wonpil and Jackson appearing out of nowhere while chanting “Markjin! Markjin!”
Jackson was laughing like a maniac, saying “Ha, Jaebum should have known better than to doubt me, his boyfriend! I told him this would work. Mark is honestly so easy to rile up.”
Meanwhile, Wonpil was bragging to Doyoung. “You know, Doyoung, just put my best friend in a shit ton of sappy scenarios and his feelings open up like a dam. I knew the pepero kiss would be the breaking point.”
Neither Wonpil nor Jackson were aware of Mark and Jinyoung approaching them with a hint of murder in their eyes, until they felt someone harshly gripping their shoulders.
“So, Wonpil, Jackson, would you mind explaining to me and Jinyoung about your oh so awesome plan?”
It only took a few seconds for Wonpil and Jackson to start stuttering excuses before fleeing the scene.
As the two ran away from Mark and Jinyoung, the pair couldn’t help but laugh. Jinyoung looks at Mark, with the older giving him the sweetest smile.
“So, Jinyoungie, do you want to get dinner tomorrow?”
“It’s a date then, hyung.”
Who needs Kim Junmyeon’s money when Mark and Jinyoung finally have each other the way?