Actions

Work Header

눈을 뗄 수가 없어

Work Text:

Jeno doesn’t mean to stare, but there’s something about the boy with the vibrant red hair that captures his attention. Like, say, the vibrant red locks that fall into his dark brown eyes as he travels around the quad passing out flyers to anyone kind enough to give him the time of day, which, Jeno must admit, hasn’t been many people so far. Nevertheless, the boy seems determined enough, for he continues on with his recruitment, and does so with pride.

It’s endearing.

“Are you even listening to me,” he can hear Donghyuck whine from where he stands next to Jeno. Both students are standing beneath the tall oak tree that hides the Life Sciences building’s bus stop as they wait for one very late transit vehicle.

Jeno peels his eyes away from redhead to give Donghyuck a pointed look.

“No,” he admits with no remorse, earning a glare from his best friend.

Donghyuck doesn’t even bother to mask the scandalized expression that graces his features.

Jeno thinks Donghyuck would have been better off majoring in Theatre Arts. What’s a face like that doing analyzing algae content in the Marine Biology department when it could be reciting Shakespearean soliloquies, he finds himself wondering as Donghyuck says, “If my date tonight goes wrong, I’m blaming none other than you.”

Jeno blinks, the redhead suddenly forgotten and replaced with pure confusion swimming in his brain at the declaration.

Date?” he chokes, eyes wider than what must be socially acceptable. Donghyuck rolls his eyes, but nods anyway. “Who the fuck is taking your broke ass on a date?”

“Well, maybe if you’d been paying attention to me, you’d know,” Donghyuck huffs, clicking his tongue in disdain.

“Dude, come on…” Jeno whines, throwing his arm over his best friend’s shoulders. “I was just a little distracted, but I wanna hear all about it. Who’s the lucky datefriend?”

Donghyuck rubs his chin with his thumb and forefinger, considering the demand for added (unnecessary) dramatic effect, before shooting Jeno a proud grin. “Mark Lee.”

“Oh word?” Jeno muses, jovial laughter bubbling in his chest as he holds out his free hand. Donghyuck nods, reciprocating the gesture, and the two execute an obnoxiously complicated handshake. “My man.

“Right?” Donghyuck giggles once they’ve finished. He takes a seat on the provided metal bench with a content sigh. “I’m still in shock.”

“How’d that even happen,” Jeno wonders aloud, adjusting the left strap of his book bag as he looks down at his auburn haired friend.

It’s a fair question considering the fact that Donghyuck had been crushing on Mark since the first day of O-Week, when the elder had acted as his Soph. Last year.

“He fell for my charms,” Donghyuck sing-songs, wiggling his eyebrows. Jeno raises a brow, skeptical. “Fine. He dropped a stack of Sociology books on my foot the other day in the library and felt bad. He’s making me dinner tonight. For forgiveness... Or so he says.”

Jeno rolls his eyes at the way Donghyuck jokingly uses a suggestive tone.

“And before you ask,” Donghyuck continues, looking up at the blue sky. It’s midday and there isn’t a cloud in sight, despite the close to sub-zero weather. “He called it a date first. A redemption date, but a date all the same.”

Jeno lets out a breathy laugh, allowing his hand to fall on Donghyuck’s padded shoulder, courtesy to his ridiculously puffy grey jacket, “I believe you,” he relays, giving Donghyuck’s shoulder a squeeze. “Proud of you too.”

Donghyuck looks away from the sky’s scenery at once. The best friends lock eyes and share a moment that Jeno thinks can only be achieved through a friendship such as theirs. Even if Donghyuck has the tendency to be the Devil reincarnate, much to his very Catholic mother’s dismay, he still loves him.

“Uh…” a voice interjects, sucking all the bro-love out of the two. Jeno clears his throat, his head snapping to the speaker. It’s the redhead. “Hey.”

Jeno’s mouth dries. He pries his hand away from Donghyuck's shoulder.

“What’s good?” Donghyuck asks, smiling politely. Jeno is grateful, because the redhead is close enough for him to know that his unconventional do doesn’t even come close to being the most intriguing aspect of his being (read: his face).

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but uh...” the stranger continues, pale hands clasping his small stack of flyers. “A bunch of Student Associations have come together to hold a peaceful protest for the protection of minorities on our campus,” he explains, carefully plucking two flyers from the stack at once. Jeno thinks he does a somewhat decent enough job of not seeming starstruck as he accepts them. “Too much has been going on at this school and it’s time we do something about it.”

Jeno lets the boy’s words sink in and it’s not a hard task, either. The incidents he’s referring to have to do with the increasing number of attacks on the minority groups that make up the school’s faculty and students by a professor in the Arts and Humanities department: a professor that has yet to be punished for said actions.

“I won’t hold it against you if don’t go,” the boy adds, fiddling with the papers in his hands. “But if you do choose to come, just hit me up on Facebook so I can add you to the group.”

“Sounds chill,” Donghyuck shrugs, swiping one of the flyers away from Jeno’s frozen hands. He glances down at it. “We’ll think about it.”

“Cool,” the stranger smiles, tight lipped. “The name’s Renjun, by the way. Just type Huang into the search bar and look for the bright red hair.”

Jeno nods slowly.

“Hope to hear from you soon,” Renjun says, already heading up the hill that leads to the Arts and Humanities building for more recruits.

Once he’s gone, Jeno finally allows himself to relax, shoulders sagging as he sighs.

“Dude,” Donghyuck cackles, shoving his flyer into his pocket, wrinkling it in the process. “You so want him.”

“Shut up,” Jeno grunts, looking away from Renjun’s retreating figure to glare at his friend. He can hear the sounds of an approaching bus in the distance. “I do not.”

“You’re right,” Donghyuck mutters, standing up. “I forgot you were straight.”

Jeno’s frown deepens, unable to miss the very visible air quotes that Donghyuck insists on using to describe his sexuality, but he’s betrayed by the subtle hint of pink that paints his cheeks. “Why do you say it like that?”

“I know you,” is all Donghyuck says once the bus finally stops in front of them.

Its doors open and Donghyuck wastes no time stepping into its heated interior, leaving Jeno behind to wonder what the hell that’s supposed to even mean.

He almost misses said bus and it’s all Donghyuck’s fault

 

 


 

 

If he were to be completely honest with the world, Jeno would say that he has absolutely no interest in attending Renjun’s protest, no matter how intriguing and well put his pitch had initially been. Jeno has spent enough time lazily watching news channels on his spare time to see just how dangerous protests had the potential of being. If anything, he’d rather show his support from the sidelines, a safe distance away from the ticking time bomb that was a peaceful protest gone sour.

But Jeno is a people pleaser, and people pleasers often lie.

Jeno finds himself sitting on a late night bus the next day right across from Renjun himself.

The other boy makes no effort to hide the recognition that crosses his face upon seeing Jeno the moment he steps onto the dimly lit vehicle.

“You again,” Renjun says, nodding curtly as he takes a seat in front of Jeno.

Jeno clears his throat as he tugs his earbuds out, silencing Brian McKnight’s sultry vocals.

“Oh, hey,” he smiles, feigning nonchalance. He hopes more than anything that the heat he feels rushing to his face isn’t noticeable under the bus’ barely functional lighting. To sound even more convincing he tacks on a quick, “Renjun, right?”

The redhead raises his brows for a moment, as though he’s surprised that Jeno even bothered remembering his name, though it doesn’t last too long. He nods again. “Yeah… I didn’t get your name, though.”

“That’s because I didn’t offer it,” Jeno jokes lamely. Renjun’s expression twists into something shocked, urging Jeno to mentally hit the breaks and backtrack. “Only kidding,” he chuckles, scratching the back of his exposed neck. The opened window behind him sends incessant waves of cold onto his bare skin. “I’m Jeno.”

Renjun tilts his head, pensive, before letting out a short laugh. Jeno can feel the tension in the atmosphere diminish and finds himself smiling with ease.

“You’re funny,” Renjun decides, shaking his head. In the bus’ soft yellow lighting, his hair glows with soft hues of orange.

“That’s a first,” Jeno mutters, looking down at his own sneakers, too used to hearing that he’s the exact opposite of funny. Now he’s sure that his face is just as red as Renjun’s hair.

“So,” Renjun continues, seemingly unbothered by Jeno’s flustered state. “Did you think about it?”

“Huh?” Jeno blinks stupidly.

“The protest.”

That…” he breathes, not meaning to sound so put off. “Uh, yes? I’ll be there.”

“Really?” Renjun asks, beaming. Jeno groans internally. “That’s great!”

“It is, isn’t it?” Jeno chuckles, his eye smile on full display.

Renjun looks away, smiling to himself. The two look out their respective windows in silence. The sky is an inky black, save for the distant glow of the city’s centre, proving once more that it really does not sleep. The suburban neighbourhood where Jeno’s off-campus home is situated, however, does sleep.

“We should exchange numbers,” Renjun says suddenly, snapping Jeno out of his reverie. The latter almost slips out of his seat, looking up at Renjun in what could easily be mistaken for horror. “So we can meet up, I mean,” Renjun reiterates, obviously trying to put Jeno at ease. “Show you how it goes, I guess.”

Jeno nods, his head vigorously going up and down.

“I’d like that,” he says quietly, yanking out the cord of his earphones to place the unlocked device in Renjun’s outstretched hand. “You could be, like, my mentor or whatever. Since you’ve probably done this before... Right?”

Renjun looks up from Jeno’s phone for a moment, a hint of a smile tugging at his lips. Jeno swallows thickly, the sound thankfully masked by the bus’ deep rumble.

“I have,” he reveals before looking back down at the screen. For a moment, Jeno is impressed. Renjun doesn’t appear to be the most muscular of people, but if he can manage to fend for himself during a protest, then anything is possible. Renjun finishes and hands him back his phone. “I texted myself, by the way.”

Jeno curiously looks down at his phone and snorts.

 

Oct 19 2017, 21:32

From: Jeno

To: dude wit the red hair

henlo

hawaiian pizza is the devil’s work

 

“These lies,” he exclaims, shaking his head as he pockets his phone.

“You keep thinking that,” Renjun smirks, reaching upwards for the bell pull. The high tone of the bus’ bell rings in Jeno’s ears.

“I will,” Jeno reassures, looking up at Renjun as the boy stands, shouldering his bag.

The bus comes to a stop.

“I’ll be on my way,” Renjun declares, beginning to head towards the bus’ back door.

“Talk to you later,” Jeno says, his intonation going up at the sentence’s end, making it sound a little too much like a question.

“Definitely,” Renjun says, giving him one final look before stepping off.

Jeno grins but remains calm because he’s well aware of the fact that everything he does on the bus’ interior is visible to outsiders at night. He can’t afford to embarrass himself any more than he already may have.

 

 


 

 

It’s when Jeno is ready to go to sleep later that night that his phone vibrates with an incoming text.

 

Oct 19 2017, 21:32

From: Jeno

To: dude wit the red hair

henlo

hawaiian pizza is the devil’s work

 

Oct 19 2017, 23:45

From: dude wit the red hair

To: Jeno

WOKE 。゚(TヮT)゚。

Oct 19 2017, 23:46

From: Jeno

To: dude wit the red hair

Don’t get too excited!!

I was hacked by some crazy ginge on the bus

Pineapple belongs on pizza.

 

Oct 19 2017, 23:47

From: dude wit the red hair

To: Jeno

blocked (;⌣̀_⌣́)

 

Maybe -- just maybe -- Jeno goes to sleep with a too-big smile on his face.

 

 


 

 

When Jeno isn’t in class, he’s either working part time at his uncle’s mini-mart downtown, or lazing around Donghyuck’s family home next door. So truthfully, it doesn’t leave him with much time to actively go out and make a fool of himself around Renjun.

They do, however, text often enough for Jeno to familiarize himself with the way Renjun seems to always have a incredibly detailed emoticon to accurately depict his wide range of emotions. Their conversations almost always start out under the pretense of “being fully prepped” for the protest. Though the guise doesn’t always last too long, he finds, as their acquaintanceship develops into something like friendship.

It’s weird, Jeno thinks, almost like they’re tiptoeing around something that he can’t quite put his finger on.

His Chemistry TA Yuta assures him that he’s overthinking things.

Donghyuck, on the other hand, claims it’s homosexuality.

But then again, Jeno can’t think of an instance during which anything Donghyuck has ever said had proven to be of use and makes sure to tell him so.

Hey,” Donghyuck whines, looking up from his French textbook-- Donghyuck insists on taking the elective despite the fact that even after fourteen years of French Immersion education, he can barely hold a steady conversation in the language -- to pout in Jeno’s direction. “Hurtful.”

“I’m an honest man.”

“Sure, Mr ‘Oh-Renjun-I’d-Like-Nothing-More-Than-To-Attend-Your-Protest’...” Donghyuck snorts, dropping his mechanical pencil onto the table’s surface with a dramatic flick of the wrist. “Yeah, don’t for one second think I’ve forgotten about the biggest lie of two-thousand and seventeen!”

“Don’t be so loud…” Jeno warns, cautiously looking over his shoulder. The space is void of any obnoxiously (read: sickeningly cute) dyed red hair. “He goes to this library a lot.”

“Huh,” Donghyuck trails off, tilting his head. “Antsy are we?”

“Who wouldn’t be, with your big mouth running about?” Jeno snaps, picking up the nearest object (a neon pink eraser) to fling it at Donghyuck’s forehead. “Also, we’ve been over this. I’m not… You know?”

“Gay?” Donghyuck asks, a sly smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Jeno shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “You can say the word gay, you know? You’re not a homophobe for saying it.”

“I know that,” Jeno mumbles, crossing his arms. He’s not stupid -- at least not entirely -- just a tad confused. “Let me live.”

Donghyuck chuckles, picking up his pencil once more. He shoves it into his black pencil case.

“Normally, I’d disagree,” he relays, snapping his textbook shut. Jeno watches him pack up his things, ready to abandon him in his time of need. “But I have more important things to do than sit here and listen to you whine about your ‘no-homo’ crush on Renjun.”

Jeno frowns. “Such as?”

Donghyuck smirks. “Mark Lee.”

“Greaseball.”

“I’m kidding,” Donghyuck nearly cackles, too close to breaking the silence in the library. “We’re just going to see his cousin’s dance recital down at the Wolf. Peace out, hetero.”

When Donghyuck makes to leave, Jeno stops him, holding out his hand like a traffic cop.

“Hold up,” he orders, eyes narrowed. “You two are spending an awful lot of time together.”

Donghyuck rolls his eyes. “Your point?”

“Are you dating,” Jeno asks, genuinely curious. “Or no?”

Donghyuck grins. “Take a guess.”

“So… yes?” Donghyuck nods, his expression an endearing mixture of shyness and pride. “For real?”

“For real, for real,” he confirms coolly, shrugging, but Jeno knows that he's definitely gushing on the inside.

“Her Majesty's Ship Markhyuck has officially set sail!” Jeno sing-songs, shooting Donghyuck with finger guns.

The smile on his best friend’s face dies.

“And that's my cue to leave,” he says, finally standing. “Have fun mulling over your crush!”

Donghyuck walks away from the table, zipping up his grey coat with a hop in his step.

“Not a crush!” Jeno quips, earning a few pointed glares from his fellow students close enough to hear. “Definitely not a crush.”

 

 


 

 

The thought becomes a mantra of Jeno’s, one that he holds close to his heart until the very day of the protest.

As instructed by Renjun, Jeno stands beneath the awning of a Starbucks on campus, bundled up in what could be four layers of clothing (It’s almost winter, Renjun had said. You can’t protest right when you’re dying of hypothermia.), waiting to be escorted to the gathering by the redhead.

“Definitely not a crush,” Jeno mutters as he sips on his too-bitter hot chocolate, swaying back and forth on his heels.

“Still not a crush,” he says to himself when he catches Renjun approaching him in the distance with at least four picket signs in his arms.

Nope,” he pops, trying to ignore the feeling that bubbles in his chest upon noticing the very beautiful girl that stands at his side, carrying another three posters.

Jeno immediately recognizes her as the BSA’s vice-president, Norah Baptiste. He’s seen a lot of her while scrolling through his instagram feed from time to time out of boredom. She appears on Renjun’s page here and there, too.

Not that Jeno has been creeping him or anything.

That day, Jeno is given the opportunity to watch in real time as her waist length braided hair swings side to side, in sync with both her and Renjun.

Admittedly, Jeno doesn’t think he’s worthy to be in either of their presences.

“Hey Jeno,” Renjun beams, picking up the pace to near him. “You’re here bright and early.”

“Didn’t want to disappoint…” Jeno admits with a small shrug. He takes a sip of his hot chocolate. “Donghyuck sends his apologies, by the way.”

“Oh, that’s nice of him.” Renjun laughs, the sound slightly muffled by the black mask that covers his mouth. He turns to Norah. “Also, this is Norah. My sister.”

Jeno blinks.

Sister.

He looks between the two, brows knit in confusion. Renjun just smiles and begins to lead the way to where the protest is to be held. Jeno knows he's meant to follow, but he's cemented to his place beneath the awning.

Sister!

Renjun looks over his shoulder. “You coming?”

“Uh yeah,” Jeno splutters, eyes wide as he looks between the unlikely pair. He gestures to his unfinished cup of hot chocolate. “Lemme just throw this out first.”

Renjun nods before continuing to walk. Norah, on the other hand, slows down to give Jeno a once over.

“Same dad,” she says with a knowing smile as she turns to catch up with her brother, leaving Jeno behind with his hand hovering above the forest green trashcan on the sidewalk.

He doesn’t know why, but relief washes over him at once.

 

 


 

 

The protest goes by without a hitch, much to Jeno’s surprise. The event remains peaceful until its end later that day, once the sun has gone down and people begin to file back to their homes.

Jeno’s body buzzes with satisfaction as he waits for Renjun to finish up his official protest business near the front of the thinning crowd. When the redhead does approach him, it’s with a solemn expression.

Jeno doesn’t know Renjun too well outside of the text messages they’ve shared, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that he’s upset.

“You’re still here…” Renjun notes sadly, his brows knit in confusion.

“I thought I’d help you clean up,” Jeno shrugs, trying his best to be helpful. “Unless you want me to go?”

“No, no,” Renjun says, shaking his head. “It’s fine.”

“Somehow, I’m not entirely convinced.”

“It’s not you, I swear,” Renjun laughs quietly, looking down at his clenched hands. “It’s just… I thought today would have been a success, you know?”

“What do you mean,” Jeno wonders, his head cocked. “Look at how many people turned up.”

“But it wasn’t enough for the administration to listen,” Renjun says, a little louder than he’d been before. Jeno is taken aback. “My sister and a few other leaders were supposed to meet with the Dean at some point during the protest and they were all turned away for being belligerent.”

“What? That’s bullshit.”

“You could say that again…” Renjun sighs, sinking to his feet. Jeno does the same, crossing his legs as he sits. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy to be heard, but… This is something else altogether.”

“So… What now?”

“We don’t know yet," Renjun pouts, his lower lip jutting out. It's sort of cute. “Go home for now?”

“How about we go out,” Jeno blurts, his mouth working faster than his brain. Renjun blinks up at him like he’s grown a second head. “For food, I mean. To get your mind off things? My treat.”

Renjun sighs again, running both hands through his unruly hair before answering.

“Sure,” he decides, swapping his dejected expression for a soft smile. “Why not?”

“Great,” Jeno exclaims, standing. He holds out a hand for Renjun to take. “What are you in the mood for?”

“Honestly?” Renjun wonders uneasily, taking Jeno’s hand into his own. The latter can’t help but notice just how much smaller it is than his. “Alcohol… and chicken wings.”

Jeno hoists him up with little to no effort (Renjun is lighter than he’d anticipated) and chuckles lightly.

“I know a place.”

 

 


 

 

They find themselves tucked into a corner of a chicken joint a few minutes away from campus. They're sitting face to face of one another, food half eaten and almost forgotten, along with their nearly finished glasses of imported beer.

“Thank you for this,” Renjun says quietly after some silence. He's playing with an unused napkin on the table but his eyes are on Jeno's.

“It's no big deal,” Jeno shrugs, attempting to seem unbothered when in reality, his heart is beating a mile a minute. “You needed a pick me up. So this is me picking you up.”

It's what friends are for, he wants to add, but he isn't quite sure if that's even true anymore.

“You're so cute,” Renjun says with a small laugh.

“Please,” Jeno denies, clearing his throat. His head is swimming and he’s not sure if it’s due to the alcohol in his system.

“Humble, too,” Renjun adds, straightening from his slouched position. “I think… We should do this more often. You know? Hang out and stuff.”

Jeno can feel his breath hitch. The thought of bringing their strictly digital friendship to the outside world almost scares him.

But then he remembers the days he'd spent wanting more of Renjun. It's a desire that his phone could never satisfy.

“I'd like that,” he says, finding it to be the only rational response he can come with on such short notice.

But Renjun doesn't seem to mind is awkwardness at all. In fact, Renjun doesn't seem to mind any of the little things that would normally have him deemed socially inept.

So in that very moment, as they sit in the quiet of the chicken restaurant, Jeno decides that Renjun might just be his new favourite person.

 

 


 

 

“It’s been like a million years since you stopped going to church and Jisung’s mom still won’t stop asking me when you’ll start showing up again,” Jeno groans, undoing the too-tight knot of his tie as he plops into the passenger seat of Donghyuck’s car. Really it’s his mom’s car, but Donghyuck insists on referring to it as his own. “Make it stop.”

There’s a running belief amongst the mothers at the parish that Donghyuck and Jisung’s sister Yeri are meant to be. It was cute for about a year until Yeri came out to Jeno and Donghyuck one Sunday after church back in elementary school.

And eventually, Donghyuck stopped going to church altogether, deciding he was agnostic and would rather spend his Sundays in bed.

“Tell her I’m cuffed now,” Donghyuck snorts, putting the car into drive. “And still very gay.”

“You had like one date with Mark,” Jeno jokes, shifting in his seat. Donghyuck shrugs in response. “And aren’t you pan?”

“As if she knows the difference,” Donghyuck laughs again as the vehicle exits the Church’s parking lot and rolls onto the main street.

Jeno nods. “Touché.”

“What’s the plan for today, anyway?” Donghyuck asks, fingers tapping the steering wheel to whatever song is currently playing on the radio. “Are we still studying before my shift?”

“Yeah, about that...” Jeno starts trailing off. He can feel his face heat up.

Donghyuck groans, smoothly bringing the car to a stop as the reach a red light. He turns to Jeno. “Don’t tell me you’re flopping, you fucker.”

“No!” Jeno exclaims, bringing his hands up defensively. “I... invited Renjun.”

“Oh?” Donghyuck quieries, his mouth a perfect circle. Jeno looks away, flushing. “Oh.”

Jeno frowns. “Is that a problem?”

“Not at all,” Donghyuck assures, as the light turns green. The car sets off again. “It’s nice to see young love blossom.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jeno questions, laughing nervously. “Shut up.”

“Chill,” Donghyuck teases, drawing the vowel out longer than it should be.

“You chill,” Jeno huffs, crossing his arms. “We’re just friends.”

Donghyuck gives him a look and an unconvinced, “Right.”

Jeno has to fight the urge to smack the upside of Donghyuck’s head for the sake of his own safety.

 

 


 

 

“I’m hot,” Jeno complains, tugging at the collar of his button up. He’s still in his church attire, despite service having ended nearly four hours before.

Renjun looks up from his assignment to glance over at Jeno.

“You sure are,” he says, the smile in his voice as evident as the sweat marks that moisten the back of Jeno’s shirt. The latter’s eyes widen. “You’re sweating,” Renjun explains, using his pencil to point at Jeno’s sweaty forehead.

Jeno nods. “Oh.”

“What?” Renjun smirks, leaning closer to Jeno across the circular table at which they sit. “Did you think I was hitting on you, Jeno?”

Jeno’s mouth is dry when he says, “No.”

It sounds convincing in his own ears, but it's obvious that Renjun doesn’t share the sentiment.

“You sure about that?” Renjun asks, his smile at full force.

“Yes.”

“He’s lying,” Donghyuck says, appearing from God knows where. He sets the coffee refill that Jeno ordered nearly an hour ago onto the table. “Look at him, he’s blushing like a damn bride on her wedding day.”

“I am not,” Jeno protests, glaring at his best friend. “You guys are annoying. I’m going to leave-”

“With what car?” Donghyuck interjects, reminding Jeno that he is his ride home.

Jeno clicks his tongue. “I have a bus pass, asshole.”

“Which I know for sure you left at home,” Donghyuck snorts, crossing his arms against his chest. Jeno hopes he gets more wrinkles on the front of his apron. “Sit down, you drama queen.”

“Get back to work, dickhead,” Jeno spits, tossing a balled up napkin his way.

“Alright, alright,” Donghyuck laughs, batting the napkin away. “I’ve got money to make. See ya.”

He finally walks away from the table, leaving the other two alone.

Jeno glances at Renjun’s who’d been watching the whole exchange in silence.

“Sorry about him,” Jeno says with an apologetic smile.

“Don’t worry about it,” Renjun laughs, shaking his head. “He’s cute.”

Jeno blinks.

“You think he’s cute?” he asks, not quite sure if he’s disgusted or, well, jealous. “That’s….”

“Gay?” Renjun questions, brow quirked. Jeno shrugs. “Well, I am gay, so like.”

“Y-you are?”

“I thought the stickers on my laptop were a dead giveaway…” Renjun chuckles, oblivious to the crisis Jeno thinks he’s having. “Guess not,” the redhead decides. “Did you think I was straight, or something?”

“I mean…” Jeno starts, looking away. “I did sort of think Norah was your girlfriend, at first.”

“Ah, good old heteronormativity…” Renjun sighs, shaking his head. Jeno has no idea what the hell it means, but because he’s that person, he laughs along with Renjun. “You wouldn’t be the first,” he adds, running a hand through his hair. “And it’s funny. I thought he was your boyfriend at first.”

Jeno frowns. “Hyuck is gross.”

“You said sexy wrong,” Renjun smirks.

“Stop,” Jeno whines, lightly throwing an eraser in Renjun’s direction. He misses. “That’s nasty.”

“I’m kidding,” Renjun whispers, sitting up straight. “Plus, if it makes you feel any better, you’re cuter.”

It does.

Weird .

 

 


 

 

“Hang out with me tonight,” Donghyuck begs a week and a half later, walking up to the cashier’s counter behind which Jeno stands. His arms are filled with a variety of snacks that Jeno couldn’t count on one hand.

“Why,” Jeno snorts, as he watches Donghyuck set them onto the counter.

“Because,” Donghyuck exaggerates, stepping away for a moment to add a bag of sour skittles to his pile of items. “We barely hang out anymore.”

Jeno has to pause his scanning to thoroughly take in Donghyuck’s groundless complaint.

“We literally have two classes together,” he says, scanning what could be the fifth of Donghyuck’s collection of sweets. “And you came over for dinner last night.”

“Class doesn’t count,” Donghyuck pouts, leaning over the counter to jab his index finger in the centre of Jeno’s chest. “And your mom had to invite me to dinner to get you to stop studying and, you know, breathe for a bit.”

“I’m busy,” Jeno shrugs, punching in the code for his employee’s discount that he really doesn’t think Donghyuck deserves at all.

And he isn’t exactly lying, per se. He just doesn’t want Donghyuck to bring up anything that doesn’t need to be brought up (read: Renjun).

“Not too busy to hang out with Renjun, though,” Donghyuck smirks, and whoop , there it is.

Jeno sighs as he reaches for a plastic bag from the dispenser beneath the counter.

“Is that what this is all about,” he groans, rolling his eyes. “We’re study buddies. Chill.”

“You’re not even in the same major!” Donghyuck exclaims, too loud in the store’s atmosphere. But Jeno has long ago lost the will to get his best friend to make use of his inside voice.

“Neither are we,” Jeno retorts, clicking his tongue. He hands Donghyuck the debit machine before proceeding with his bagging duties. “Plus, you don’t hear me complain about all the time you spend with Mark, now do you?”

“Uh, Mark and I are dating.”

“And me and Renjun are…” Jeno pauses, clearing his throat. Donghyuck raises a brow. “Friends.”

Right,” Donghyuck drawls, wiggling his eyebrows.

“What? Are you jealous of him?”

“Please, I got over my Jeno Lee phase in the first grade,” Donghyuck cackles, tapping his debit card against the machine’s screen. It beeps in response. “Vowed to never fall for a straight guy ever again.”

Jeno sticks his tongue out in a childish gesture in the attempt to ignore the thumping of his heart at the word straight.

“Now, I’ve found me someone who’s just as gay as I am. Or pansexual, if you will.”

“Then why don’t you hang out with him tonight?”

“Family thing in ‘Sauga,” Donghyuck sighs, tucking his wallet into his pocket. “His sister-in-law gave birth last night.”

“Oh sick,” Jeno nods, handing the now filled bag to Donghyuck.

“Right? He’s been sending me the cutest pics with the baby.”

“You’re totally gushing, right now.”

“Who wouldn’t,” Donghyuck snorts. “Have you seen my boyfriend? Anyways, don’t deflect.”

“I wasn’t,” Jeno lies, taking a seat on the stool behind the counter.

“Sure,” Donghyuck says, totally unconvinced. “Are we on for tonight, or what?”

Jeno looks away, scratching the back of his neck. He's supposed to be going over to Renjun’s place after his shift so that they can study in each other’s company.

Nothing that Donghyuck needs to know.

“Ah,” Donghyuck laughs, nodding. Jeno’s eyes can't help but widen for a second. “I see.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Jeno mutters with a small pout.

“You don’t have to,” Donghyuck says evenly, adjusting the shopping bag. “You’re transparent as hell.”

Hey.”

“It’s not exactly a bad thing,” Donghyuck shrugs with a shit eating grin his face. “It makes you easier to read.”

“You can leave now,” Jeno quips, eyes narrowed. “No loitering allowed.”

“Feisty,” Donghyuck teases as he backs away from the counter at once. “Anyways, you kids have fun on your little not-date, I guess. I'll be watching RuPaul reruns. Alone.”

“Love you, bro.” Jeno tries, laughing all too awkwardly.

Donghyuck stops, shaking his head.

“You too, bro.” he says, rolling his eyes as he exits the store.

And Jeno is left alone with his thoughts of a certain someone’s bright red hair.

 

 


 

 

Jeno is normally a pretty focused individual when it comes to studying. It’s the sort of habit he had to develop in high school in order to maintain the above average grades required to even be considered for admission at their local university.

But that evening, it’s almost as though every one of the little study habits he’d picked up over the years slipped from his mind, leaving him unable to focus for more than couple of minutes.

Rather than reading over his growing stack of Biology I notes, as they should be, his eyes find themselves drawn to the pieces of Renjun’s life that decorate the pale yellow walls of his small, organized bedroom: from the thick volumes of books he's never read himself that line the bookshelf mounted onto the wall, to the little trinkets that sit atop the desk at which the red head sits.

They're cute, Jeno thinks, and it's so Renjun in the sense that they've managed to flood his senses, right down to the rich scent of a cologne Jeno probably can't afford that clings to Renjun’s clothes. Not in a creepy way, or anything. Jeno had caught a whiff of it upon entering the apartment around an hour before.

It's sweet.

Like Renjun.

Jeno quickly shakes his head, shifting uncomfortably from his place on Renjun’s twin sized bed, as if to rid his mind of the thoughts that he can't seem to escape before trying to go back to studying.

However, as they travel back to the notes that sit in his lap, Jeno’s eyes linger on the heavily decorated cork board that sits above Renjun’s headboard. It’s almost completely covered in images of Renjun throughout his life.

The boy’s hair colour differs in most of the images, ranging from his natural black, a warm burgundy, and the bright red it currently is (Jeno isn’t all that surprised that Renjun manages to look good in every one of the hues). What they all share in common is Renjun’s endearing smile, as well as an unknown face.

The strange almost always has their arms thrown around Renjun’s lanky shoulders, a big smile etched on their -- admittedly -- good looking face. The two of them seem chummy with one another, and it’s sort of reminiscent of the way Jeno is with Donghyuck.

He’s not jealous, per se, but he is curious.

Jeno sighs, glancing at the images once more.

Maybe he is jealous?

“You’re fidgeting,” Renjun says, breaking his hour long silence. Jeno’s eyes widen for a split second before he catches himself and looks to Renjun. His study partner has yet to look up from his own work -- Ethics of War, a subject Jeno gets a headache just thinking of -- and continues to jot down a few words from his laptop onto a post-it note before sticking it onto the lampshade that sits on his desk. He then turns to Jeno. They lock eyes. “You never do that.”

Renjun is right. Jeno is normally as still as the wind on a dry summer day in Southwestern Ontario when he studies. He knows his behaviour is out of character, but he also doesn’t know how to go about explaining that the reason for his restlessness may have something to do Renjun himself.

“I’m just a little hot,” Jeno says in response, which isn’t entirely a lie. He can feel his palms become more and more slick with sweat as the seconds tick away on the watch he wears on his left wrist.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Renjun wonders, his voice laced with concern. He shifts his body so that he’s fully facing Jeno. The latter, unable to handle the eye contact, quickly looks away. “I could’ve turned it down.”

“I didn’t want to bother you,” Jeno shrugs, tugging at the collar of his crewneck.

“Please,” Renjun huffs, standing up. Jeno takes advantage of this moment to let his eyes wander over to Renjun’s stretching figure. “I think we’re in need of a break anyway,” he continues, turning to Jeno. “You want anything to eat? There's rice that my mom made last night. Might be some goat meat left if Norah didn’t bring it all to her boyfriend’s.”

“Uh sure,” Jeno says, trying to fight the nervousness lodged in his throat as he speaks.

“Be right back,” Renjun smiles, giving him a quick nod before stepping around his chair to exit his bedroom. “You can start a movie on Netlfix, if you want.” He adds, looking over his shoulder. “The, uh, password's M-O-O-M-I-N.”

“Moomin?”

“Don’t judge me,” Renjun mutters, before finally shuffling out of his room as fast as his socked feet will allow on the hardwood floors.

Once Renjun is gone, Jeno lets out a shaky breath.

“What the fuck was that, Jeno?” he says to himself as he wipes the palms of his hands on his sweats. Thankfully, they’re dark enough to mask the dampness of the fabric. “Could you be any weirder…?”

Jeno looks up at the ceiling, craning his neck until he hears the popping of his joints, before rolling back his shoulders. He can’t tell if the stiffness of his body is a direct result of trying to sit in one position for an hour or from the discomfort he feels due to… he doesn’t exactly know either.

For one reason or another, his eyes find themselves glued to that damned cork board again. Though unlike last time, Jeno is alone in the room. He gives himself the liberty to crawl closer to it, so that he can properly see the scribbles words that cover whatever space the photos didn’t. His gaze is drawn to one message in particular, tacked onto the board in bright pink stationery.

Happy 19th Junie! Love, your beloved soulmate, Jae ♡

Jeno’s mouth dries almost instantly.

“Shit,” he mutters to absolutely no one in particular, leaning closer to the board in order to check if that is, in fact, exactly what he’d just read.

The words refuse to change and Jeno is left to wonder what the hell the heavy pounding of his heart in his ears must mean.

Why am I jealous? he thinks to himself, frowning.

Homosexuality, his inner Donghyuck says in reply.

Fuck you, Donghyuck.”

“What did I miss?”

“You’re back,” Jeno grimaces, falling onto his butt. He bounces up and down on the bed due to the force of his movements. Renjun holds back a laugh as he walks over to his desk to grab his laptop. “So quick.”

“Yeah, I’m warming up the food in the oven, so it should be ready in a bit.” Renjun explains as he skips to his bed with his laptop held close to his chest. He takes a seat right next to Jeno. “Who were you talking to?”

Jeno blinks stupidly for a few seconds before speaking. “Oh, no one…” He admits, trying not to seem so affected by the smell of Renjun’s cologne. “I just remembered some bullshit Donghyuck said.”

“Right.” Renjun smirks, clearing away his browser tab in search of the Netlfix app. “What do you want to watch?”

“It’s up to you,” Jeno shrugs, feigning nonchalance.

Renjun nods, looking back down at his laptop’s screen.

Jeno clears his throat, turning away from Renjun, which then proves to be a mistake. He finds himself face to face with the cursed cork board, Jae’s smiling eyes look back at him, almost taunting. Jeno lets out a deflated sound.

“Hmm?” Renjun hums, to Jeno’s right. The latter stills. “Ah, that. That’s Jaemin.”

Jeno can’t miss the fondness in Renjun’s voice as he speaks.

It shouldn't feel so strange, but it does.

“You’ll probably get to meet him at the next protest,” Renjun adds with a small smile, from which Jeno can feel himself shy away. “If you come.”

“You’re gonna introduce me to your boyfriend?” Jeno blurts, his filter no longer a part of the world he lives in.

For a moment, he wants nothing more than to crawl into a hole underground until the forces of nature come to claim him.

Then Renjun laughs.

Boyfriend? ” he laughs, throwing his head back.

Jeno, convinced that the neighbouring apartment’s tenants might have heard the outburst, frowns.

“Absolutely not,” Renjun continues, trying to calm his ragged breaths. “You're hilarious, you know that?”

“But…” Jeno splutters, the tips of his ears heating up. He feels ridiculous. “It says he’s your soulmate.”

“Not in this economy,” Renjun jokes, wiping at a stray tear as it makes its way down his cheek. “He’s basically my brother.”

With that, Renjun’s laughter subsides, his breathing heavy as he sighs.

“Oh…” Jeno says quietly, looking down at his hands. His gaze flickers to Renjun. “Good.”

“Jeno?” Renjun calls after a somewhat tense moment of silence. He moves his laptop aside in order to sit facing Jeno. “Are you… jealous?”

“What the fuck?” Jeno squints, glancing over at Renjun. The older boy blinks back at him with a serious expression. “No! I don’t even know Jaemin!”

Renjun rolls his eyes. “Because that’s definitely what I meant.”

Jeno pauses, licking his lips. “Then… what did you mean?”

It's a stupid question, even to his own damn self, but Renjun entertains the pretense nonetheless.

I meant,” he reiterates, his voice low, barely above a whisper. It's enough to send a wave of shivers down Jeno’s spine, a shocking contrast to the intense heat he was feeling earlier. “Are you jealous of him?”

Jeno’s eyes instinctively flick down to Renjun’s lips as he speaks.

They're nice lips.

“No,” he says, looking back into Renjun’s deep brown eyes. He knows his voice is shaky but there's not much he can do to fight it in the heat of the moment.

There's a hint of a smirk in the way Renjun says, “You don't sound too sure.”

Jeno smiles and it's painful.

“I'm not sure about a lot of things anymore,” he says quietly, the words carrying a weight he doesn't think the world will ever understand.

Hell, not even he himself understands it.

No surprise there, his inner Donghyuck (read: demon) says.

And by then, Jeno is well aware of the way he’s leaning towards Renjun. He figures it would be infinitely more nerve racking if the elder weren't reciprocating the way he does.

It's almost like there's an invisible force drawing the two of them closer and Jeno doesn't fight it, because as foreign and as terrifying as it feels, it doesn't exactly feel wrong.

Some might even say that it feels right.

“Is it something I could help you with?” Renjun asks once they're close enough for Jeno to feel his minty breath as it hits his face.

“Maybe,” Jeno gulps, his fingers twitching in his lap.

Renjun lets out a breathy laugh, his own confidence wavering for the slightest of moments, before biting his lip. “Can I-”

He's cut off by the sharp ringing of an alarm in the distance.

The sound brings Jeno back to reality and before he knows it, he's discreetly attempting to shuffle away from Renjun, who's already mostly off the bed. He doesn't seem nearly as fazed by the moment as Jeno feels.

The oven,” Renjun mutters, sounding more like a curse than anything. His cheeks are flushed a pale pinks when he turns to Jeno, who's still sitting on the bed, fingers holding onto the fabric of Renjun’s sheets for dear life. “You coming?”

“Uh, yeah…” Jeno breathes, trying to plaster on a smile. It feels forced. “Definitely.”

Renjun slips out of the room and into the hallway without another word.

Jeno runs his hands over his face before willing himself to follow Renjun.

As hard as he tries, he can't ignore the close-to debilitating tingling of his body as he enters Renjun’s kitchen, joining the latter while he generously fixes both their plates.

They avoid the topic of their almost… whatever the hell it was, even as they eat. Both students sit across from each other, picking at their plates in complete silence.

It’s awkward.

For Jeno, at least.

He can’t tell what Renjun is thinking. Though it may have something to do with the fact that Jeno absolutely refuses to look the redhead in the eye. So he misses the concerned glances Renjun sends his way, and he misses the way Renjun’s mouth opens and closes in hesitation.

The tension in the air doesn’t go away, even when Norah comes in through the front door with her boyfriend Jaehyun, who Jeno doesn’t actually know all that well, trailing close behind her.

Jeno can feel his body curl in on itself at the questioning look Renjun’s sister hits him with.

“Hey boys,” she says, eyeing the two curiously. She toes off her shoes before making her way into the kitchen. “We just came to get more rice for this guy.”

“Haitian food is lit,” Jaehyun shrugs, following her into the small space.

Norah rolls her eyes. “What’s going on here?”

“Nothing,” Jeno says quietly, his voice slightly raspy from disuse. He clears his throat, finally allowing his eyes to meet with Renjun’s.

The other boy quirks a brow, asking a silent question that Jeno knows the answer to, but truly wishes he didn't.

Really? he can almost hear Renjun say.

It kind of, sort of hurts.

“We're fine,” Renjun finally says, putting on a smile that doesn't reach his eyes.

It's a lie and they both know it. Norah probably knows it too, but she doesn't say anything, instead choosing to go about her business.

Jeno loses his appetite.

 

 


 

 

Nothing's fine, but if there's one thing Jeno has learned from it is that, despite wearing his heart on his sleeve, he's an expert at the art of denying whatever it is that his heart chooses to display to the masses like his life depends on it.

“Remember when I said you were transparent as hell,” Donghyuck reminds him one Saturday afternoon (a week after The Incident), stretching his limbs as they walk out of their Anthropology midterm hall. Jeno looks up from his rather intense game of Jelly Splash (there's nothing quite like taking one's anger out on animated jelly creatures). “I'm starting to think that even that was an understatement.”

Jeno grunts in response, going back to his game.

“And since you insist on not talking about it, even if it's so glaringly obvious that it's bothering you,” Donghyuck continues with a loud sigh. “I'm just going to take a stab in the dark and assume it's about Renjun.”

Jeno nearly drops his phone into the fresh bank of snow they're crossing over to reach the bus stop.

“Am I right,” Donghyuck offers, looking over at him. “Or am I right?”

“Wrong,” is all Jeno lets out, pocketing his phone. “Nothing happened.”

“Then what the fuck?” Donghyuck groans, throwing his hands up towards the overcast skies. Jeno fights the urge to slap his hand over his best friend’s mouth to shut him up. “Unless….”

“Unless what?” Jeno quips, almost angrily rummaging through his pockets for his bus pass once they've reached the glass bus shelter.

“Unless that's exactly what you're upset about,” Donghyuck explains, a brow quirked.

Jeno frowns. “Uh, no?”

“Transparent,” Donghyuck muses, nudging Jeno’s forearm.

“Leave me alone,” he pouts, pulling his arm away.

Now if he could just find that damn bus pass.

“You know I can't do that,” Donghyuck coos, walking around Jeno to unzip his backpack. He fishes through it's contents for a moment before pulling out the cursed bus pass and hands it to Jeno. “I'm just trying to help.”

Jeno looks down at the stupid purple vinyl of his bus pass and chokes back an ugly sob.

“I know,” he sighs shakily, his breath steaming before his own two eyes. “I'm sorry.”

“Hey,” Donghyuck says softly, running a soothing hand over the expanse of Jeno’s shoulder. “It's fine.”

“No,” Jeno whines, sliding down onto one of the frozen metal benches in the shelter. “It really isn't.

“I'm all ears,” Donghyuck smiles, taking a seat next to him.

“Hyuck, I've never felt so confused in my life. Not even choosing my fucking major was this hard, and like with Renjun… I don't know man.”

Donghyuck nods, but doesn't say a word, allowing Jeno to find the right words to say.

“What I do know is that I fucked up,” Jeno continues, letting his head fall back against the frosted glass. “And I don't… I don't want to, like, lose h- our friendship.”

“I think...” Donghyuck says carefully, rubbing his hands together for warmth. Jeno’s own hands are numb but he's given up on trying to get his blood pumping. “You should tell him what's on your mind. You know? Talk it out. I mean, you guys are close aren't you? It should be easy.”

“I haven't talked to him in a week,” Jeno rushes out, with a pained laugh that sounds more like a choking sound than anything. “I've been flaking on him like my life depends on it.”

“Shit…” Donghyuck hisses, scratching the back of his neck. “Then how about tonight? Is he gonna be at Broughdale?”

“Fuck,” Jeno breathes, remembering that, yes, Renjun will indeed be at the post midterm celebration held on the students’ cul de sac. The odds of them crossing paths may be slim, but the fact that they exist alone is enough to leave him anxious. “He will….”

“Perfect!” Donghyuck exclaims, patting Jeno on the back. Jeno shoots him a look of pure dread, at which Donghyuck pulls his hand away with a laugh. “Dude, I’m sure he misses you just as much as you miss him.”

“And what if he doesn't?”

“I don't know…” Donghyuck shrugs, just as the bus finally makes its way around the corner. “But, then again, what are the odds of him showing up at Mark’s?”

“You're right, I guess…” Jeno mumbles, flipping open his pass. “It's not like they're in the same circle of friends? That gives me a little more time to really think about what I should say.”

“Exactly,” Donghyuck grins, readying his own pass. “You don't have anything to worry about.”

 

 


 

 

Donghyuck was fucking wrong.

“What the fuck do you mean, Renjun’s coming?”

Jeno can hear his own voice echo in the street as he tunes out the sounds of his drunk schoolmates in the neighbouring houses shouting back at him.

“I mean,” Donghyuck sighs from where he stands against the doorframe, looking sheepish (as he fucking should be). “He's going to be here tonight? Apparently Norah’s bringing him.”

Jeno lets out a groan into the autumn night air. For a brief moment, he considers turning around and getting the hell out of there, but decides against it.

“I'm learning this now, because?”

“Bro, don't get mad at me! I literally just found out!”

“Yeah,” Mark, who's lingering behind Donghyuck, tries with an awkward laugh. Jeno gives him an incredulous look. “I'm the one who couldn't put two and two together.”

Two and two, as in the fact that Mark was living in a fucking house with Jaehyun Jung, as in Norah’s -- Renjun’s sister -- boyfriend. It was just like Mark to not realize that the Norah Baptiste that Jaehyun invited is the same Norah that Jeno had mentioned in his presence on multiple occasions.

“Yeah, no shit,” Jeno groans, his grip on the bottle of rum in his right hand tightening. He lets himself into the house. “Fuck… I would've thought of something on the way here.”

Donghyuck clicks his tongue, but moves aside to ease the process.

Mark scratches the top of his bleached head. “I'm sorry?”

Jeno doesn't answer. Instead, he unscrews the lid of his two-six and takes a swig, throwing his head back as the liquid slides down his esophagus.

It burns.

He lets out a ragged cough as he rights himself and continues to make his way into the flat.

“Slow down, maybe?” Donghyuck suggests, eyeing him carefully. “The party hasn't even started yet.”

“Just taking the edge off,” Jeno lies, when in reality, he's hoping to get alcohol poisoning within the next few minutes. “I need to be as cool as a fucking cucumber for this shit.”

“Take a bong hit then,” a voice calls from the living room. “Makes you more mellow than alcohol would.”

It's Jaehyun.

Jeno lets out an uneasy laugh.

“I've never smoked before,” he admits, slipping into the living room. “And if I did, it's not like I have anything.”

Jaehyun cocks his head, eyeing Jeno so intently, that the younger is almost convinced that he's reading his mind or something of that genre.

“You're Jeno, right?” Jaehyun asks, eyes narrowed.

Jeno nods. “Right.”

“I'll show you the ropes,” Jaehyun offers, getting off the couch. “And you can have some of mine, you're basically like family.”

He winks after saying, catching Jeno off guard.

Has Renjun not said anything about what happened?

“Donghyuck’s talked about you,” Jaehyun says as an explanation and it's obvious that the elder has absolutely no recollection of having met Jeno back at the Baptiste-Huang household.

“I did no such thing,” Donghyuck scoffs, pulling the beanie off Jeno’s head. He chucks it in Jaehyun’s direction before turning to Mark. “Now help me pick out my outfit. I need to stunt.”

Mark shrugs, allowing himself to be pulled into the hallway by his boyfriend. Jeno tries not to smile at the implication that Donghyuck totally has his own drawer in Mark’s bedroom.

He almost forgets that he's supposed to be mad at the two.

Almost.

“So, what's the verdict, kid.”

Jeno looks back at Jaehyun, the contents of his bottle to swishing loudly in the quiet of the room as he moves.

He shrugs.

“I'm down.”

 

 


 

 

Four bong hits, five shots of rum, and a bottle and a half of beer later, Jeno finds himself stumbling through a throng of warm bodies pressed up against each other in the foyer, his mind slightly fuzzy as he searches for a familiar face.

Neither Mark or Donghyuck are anywhere in sight, probably making out in some dark corner, and Jaehyun had disappeared a few minutes ago in favour of helping their other roommate -- some exchange student from Hong Kong named Sicheng -- kick out a group of obnoxious frat boys after having broken a couple plates in their kitchen.

He eventually gives up his search, choosing instead to raid the pantry, wherever it may be.

Something like five minutes pass, and Jeno is mounted on his friends’ dining room table, his quest for food forgotten. He's dancing to some dancehall song he doesn't know, alongside a very shirtless upperclassman who he knows even less.

“What's your name,” Jeno asks, nearly falling off the surrounded wooden table as he stumbles forward.

(He swears he hears someone call “Timber!” at the top of their lungs)

“Ten,” the guy says, holding Jeno up to stop him from cracking his skull open.

I didn't ask for the time, Jeno thinks, but he doesn't hold it against him. It's obvious that the man is too far gone to comprehend. So Jeno doesn't bother asking again.

They continue to dance together until Jeno can't feel his legs anymore.

He hops off the table, pushing past the masses of unknown faces to make his way back to Jaehyun’s bedroom, where he plans on taking a fat ass nap.

What he doesn't expect, however is to come across one equally as shitfaced Renjun, looking at himself in Jaehyun’s full body mirror with a look of absolute concentration in his eyes.

Jeno curses under his breath. Or so he thought. In actuality, the sound is loud enough to snap Renjun out of his drug induced reverie.

The boy turns to him, and Jeno half expects him to storm out of the room or even kick him out. But he does neither.

“You're alive,” Renjun says instead, surprising Jeno as he runs a hand over his hair. Over the span of a week, it's faded to a light orange.

“Yeah,” Jeno manages to say. No matter how hard he tries, he can't take his eyes off of Renjun. He’s beginning to doubt that it has anything to do with the alcohol tainting his blood. “Hi,” he adds, with a wave. It's ridiculous and he knows it but his brain isn't exactly working at its full capacity.

“Hey,” Renjun says, his eyes wide and curious.

For a second, Jeno considers playing it cool like the cucumber he wanted so badly to be before the party started. But now he's drunk and not a damn thing makes sense except for one single thought amongst the many that swim around his muddled brain.

He missed Renjun and even says as much, his voice breaking slightly in the process.

“I thought,” Renjun starts, his eyes red from the weed he's most likely been smoking as well as the tears that begin to well in his eyes. “I was so sure that I scared you away.”

At that, Jeno crosses the expanse of carpeted flooring that separates the two to engulf Renjun’s small frame in his arms.

“Never,” he says into Renjun’s sweet scented hair with conviction. “You didn't do anything wrong. I’m the one that fucked everything up by avoiding you like the plague.”

“But, I-”

“I'm serious, Renjun. It’s okay. You don't have to feel bad. I'm here now. We're gonna be okay.”

Jeno can feel his heart sink when Renjun pushes him away.

“No, Jeno.” he says sternly, shaking his head. “It's- it's not okay. We can't just brush it off like it's nothing. I won't be able to move on if we do.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, since there's literally no point in hiding it anymore…” Renjun sighs, walking over to Jaehyun’s bed. He takes a seat, sinking into the plush mattress. “I like you,” he reveals, and because Jeno is just that dense, he adds on a pained, “In a non-platonic sort of way.”

Jeno needs a seat.

“And before you say anything,” Renjun continues, clasping his hands together. “I know it'll take some time but I'm willing to get over it for our friendship… for you ,” he says before pausing, biting his lip. “I know we haven't know each other that long, but… you mean that much to me.”

With the way he speaks, it's obvious to Jeno that Renjun expects to be rejected, as if Jeno liking him back is some sort of unattainable dream.

“Fuck…” Jeno mutters, rooted to his place in front of Jaehyun’s bed. “Renjun… I… fuck.

“You don't have to say anything,” Renjun says, shaking his head as he stands, prepared to leave. “Not now, at least. We can talk more when we're both sober.”

“No wait,” Jeno calls, finally moving in order to wrap his clammy hand around Renjun’s wrist, stopping him. “Don't go. Please.”

I just got you back, he wants to say, but doesn't. Instead, Jeno pulls him closer as gently as he can in his moment of desperation.

“This isn't a good idea,” Renjun argues, looking down at Jeno’s hand. He looks back up, his bloodshot eyes locking with Jeno’s. “Fuck, I shouldn't have said anything-”

“But you did and you can't just drop a bomb like that and leave,” Jeno pleads, cupping Renjun’s face with his hands. “It's not fair. Stay.”

“And do what, Jeno?” Renjun wonders, his tone careful.

Jeno hesitates, his mouth opening and falling shut as he struggles to form the right words.

In another universe he would kiss Renjun. They're close enough in this one to do it. He would fix everything in an instant, without even having to use words. Renjun would know how he feels. Everything would be okay.

But this is the real world and things aren't that simple.

“I said what I had to say,” Renjun says sadly, his eyes filling with tears again. He runs his fingers over Jeno’s hands before grasping them within his own. “I’m gonna go now.”

“Why?” Jeno chokes out. He's well aware of the fact that he's crying as well.

“I can't handle this right now,” Renjun lets out and he's holding onto Jeno so tight, like he's afraid to let go despite the words that leave his mouth. “You wouldn't get it.”

His words hit Jeno square in the chest, knocking him off-kilter. He feels sick.

“Do you think this is easy for me?”

“I never said that,” Renjun says quickly, shaking his head. “I just… we don't want the same things from each other.”

“You don't know that,” Jeno mumbles, failing miserably at blinking away the tears that have long since started to fall from his eyes.

Renjun stills. “What?”

“You don't…” Jeno falters, his own hands stilling. “You don't know what I want.”

“Then tell me,” Renjun pleads, his lower lip quivering. “Please.”

But Jeno’s mind draws a blank, as if it's relentlessly mocking him for his stupidity and confusion.

“I don't know,” he cries, feeling sick to his stomach. He looks up at the ceiling. He's drunk, the world is spinning out of control, and nothing is making any fucking sense. “Fuck, I don't know what I want!”

“And that's fine,” Renjun says, smiling through his tears as he begins to peel Jeno’s hands away from his face. “But until you do, I think it'd be best if you took some time to figure things out.”

Renjun pulls away, sniffling loudly.

“You're leaving me?” Jeno sobs, wiping at his tears with the sleeve of his top.

“Not for long, I just…” Renjun trails off, looking away. He clears his throat before thrning back to face Jeno. “If we’re really going to be okay again, this has to happen”

Renjun gives him one last smile, or at least tries to, for it comes off looking a whole lot more like a grimace.

“I'm sorry,” Jeno says, coughing.

Renjun closes his eyes. “Me too.”

And just like that, he’s out the door and Jeno is alone again, only now the effects of his drug use are full fledged, doing their job to amplify the crippling sensation of heartbreak.

Fuck, ” Jeno swears, falling to his knees with a thud.

It hurts and he’s sure he’s received a splinter or two through the fabric of his jeans but he can’t find it in himself to complain. It’s probably the universe’s way of letting him know that it’s not on his side.

He’s alone and from his spot on the floor in the middle of Jaehyun’s bedroom, loud bass thumping in the background, it couldn’t be any more obvious.

 

 


 

 

Jeno’s phone buzzes in his pocket, rousing him from his drunken sleep and subsequently bringing him back to the sad reality of his life. He shivers as he pulls it out of the confines of his too-tight jeans.

It’s Donghyuck.

Nov 12 2017, 02:45

From: satan

To: broski

Don’t make this like halloweekend pt 2

Where the fuck are you??

 

Jeno looks up and around his surroundings. He’s still sitting on the stone steps that lead up to the cathedral he’s spent the most part of his life attending. The building looms over him in the darkness of the cold night.

He looks back down at his phone.

Nov 12 2017, 02:46

From: broski

To: satan

church.

Nov 12 2017, 02:46

From: satan

To: broski

Don’t fuck with me…

Nov 12 2017, 02:46

From: broski

To: satan

broski sent an image

Nov 12 2017, 02:47

From: satan

To: broski

On my way

 

Jeno sets his phone down as soon as he finishes reading the message and sighs, his body sagging as he slumps back against the bricks that adorn the place of worship’s outer walls.

He watches his breath go up in miniature clouds before him as it leaves his mouth. It's so much colder than it'd been when he initially arrived at the church nearly a half hour ago, but there's not much he can do about it since he'd left his jacket behind at the party.

Jeno doesn't remember too much of the journey there save for maybe two out of the fifteen minutes that it took for his uber driver to decipher his slurred directions.

He does however remember the feeling of relief that washed over him as he stepped onto the hallowed ground and rushed over to the buildings massive double doors.

Jeno tilts his head upwards, fixing his gaze on the ancient looking brass knobs that decorate said doors.

They aren't meant to open for another six hours, but he figures he can wait outside for the time being. That is, if he doesn't die of hypothermia before then.

Jeno closes his eyes, wrapping his arms around his legs in order to keep himself to the best of his ability.

Maybe dying of hypothermia wouldn't be so bad , he thinks to himself. At least I wouldn't be cold anymore… right?

He doesn't have an answer, because before his brain can even counter argue, he's dozing off again.

“Jeno!”

He cracks an eye open and sees Donghyuck rushing over to him. Jeno can register the blue fabric of his jacket in Donghyuck's hands and silently thanks God for giving his dumbass a friend like him.

“Hi,” Jeno says, a lazy smile forming on his lips. Donghyuck shakes his head. “I love you, man.”

“Sure, yeah. Same,” Donghyuck huffs, thrusting the coat into Jeno’s outstretched hands. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Shh,” Jeno chides, looking over his shoulder. “Jesus can, like, hear you or whatever.”

“Then how about we have this conversation over in Mark’s heated car,” Donghyuck sighs, gesturing over to the idle dark blue Camry. “Because I've got a lot colourful things to say to you right now, Jeno. You can't just run off like that.”

He looks to Jeno expectantly, who shakes his head slowly.

“I'm not ready,” he protests, shrugging on the coat.

“Dude, come on,” Donghyuck huffs, rolling his eyes. He holds out a hand. “You're drunk and it's freezing . We'll take you home.”

“No, please-”

“Jeno Lee, I swear to G-” he cuts himself off, looking up at the sky. “Don't make me do this-”

“Renjun said he likes me,” Jeno blurts, seeing no point in running from the truth any longer.

Donghyuck blinks almost stupidly, his mouth agape. “Wait what?”

“He said he likes me,” Jeno sighs, rubbing at his eyes. There's something about the cold weather that has him tearing up constantly. Or the feeling of sadness that clings to his soul like a leach. He can't tell. “Like… like likes me.” But I didn't say anything back. I couldn't. So he left.”

Donghyuck nods, his brows knit in concern. “Is that why you came here?”

“I don't know,” Jeno shrugs, running both hands through his dark hair. “I guess I wanted answers. Or, like, familiarity? And Church is familiar. These feelings --whatever they are-- aren't.”

“Dude,” Donghyuck starts, lowering himself onto the cold hard floor. Jeno is sort of expecting to be scolded, being that it's what he deserves for being an idiot. “You should've told me. I would've taken you here in the morning. It's dangerous out here at night.”

“Wait, so you don't think it's stupid?” Jeno asks, sniffling as he glances over at Donghyuck. “That I came here?”

“Of course not,” Donghyuck snorts, nudging Jeno’s upper arm. “Being confused is a part of the process. And if being at church is what brings you solace, then who am I to judge?”

“Solace,” Jeno muses, seeing for himself how the word feels on his tongue. It sort of reminds him of Renjun's advanced vocabulary. “Big word.”

“What is stupid, is the fact that you left without telling anyone. Again,” Donghyuck adds, referring to that time not too long ago during Halloween when Jeno had fled the scene of a party to take a nap by the river behind the house where it was held. (It was too hot inside, Jeno had said in defense.) “And without your coat. Like, dude, it's almost winter and we're in Canada. Come on.”

Jeno sniffles. “I'm sorry.”

“I know you are,” Donghyuck assures, throwing his arm over Jeno’s broad shoulders. “I'm just glad you're safe, and not, like, dead.”

“I feel a little dead inside right now, Hyuck,” Jeno relays sadly, leaning his head against Donghyuck’s shoulder. “I really hurt him. And… I don't know if I can forgive myself for that.”

Donghyuck is doesn't say anything for a while, silently mulling over Jeno’s words.

“Has he?” he asks, once he's finally assessed the situation.

Jeno frowns. “Has he what?”

“Forgiven you?”

Jeno tilts his head, thinking hard.

“I don't know…” he admits with a loud sigh. “I guess, maybe? He said he's not mad, but… I don't know.”

Donghyuck hums, his fingers tapping against Jeno’s shoulder as he thinks.

“Shall I give my two cents?” he eventually asks, crossing one leg over the other.

Jeno nods. “Pretty please.”

“I think,” Donghyuck starts, pulling his arm back to properly lock eyes with Jeno. “The best thing you can do for the two of you is figure out what you want.”

“That's what he said,” Jeno says, pouting slightly.

“What can I say?” Donghyuck laughs with a shrug. “Great minds think alike.”

Jeno snorts, but even in his drunken state, it's not hard to tell that Donghyuck is right.

“You're right,” he says, voicing his thoughts. “You both are.”

“Thank you,” Donghyuck smiles before attempting to stand. He grunts the whole way up, dramatizing every one of his movements. “Now let's go. I'm freezing and Mark said he'd get us McDonalds.”

Wait,” Jeno lets out, rushing to his feet as quickly as his body will permit. He jogs lightly to catch up with Donghyuck, who's already halfway down the church’s steps.

“Huh?”

“Uh… so like,” Jeno mutters, bringing a hand up to the back of his neck. He can feel his skin heat up and it's out of his control. “How do you know? If you're like. Not… straight?”

Donghyuck pauses, craning his neck to get a better look at Jeno. The latter can't miss the stray tear that makes its way down his best friend's face.

“Hyuck…” Jeno starts, backtracking to where the younger male stands. “Are you crying?”

Donghyuck laughs breathily, wiping at the tear as he looks away, his apples of his cheeks flushed red from the cold. When he faces Jeno once more it’s with a look of pure elation on his face.

“I thought you'd never ask.”

 

 


 

 

Before his conversation with Mark and Donghyuck in the quiet dining area of McDonald’s in the middle of the night, Jeno hadn’t ever really given much thought to the concept of fluid sexuality.

But the more his actually thinks about it, it’s easier for him to accept the reality that his feelings for Renjun might not necessarily be platonic.

It takes him a whole week and a half of watching coming out videos on youtube to even find the courage to voice his feelings out loud.

“Hey Hyuck,” he says one day, breaking the silence in their study room at the 24 hour library. They’d been lucky enough to nab an available room in the hubbub of finals season. The other boy hums in acknowledgement rubbing at his tired eyes. “I think I’m ready?”

“That’s nice. I sure as hell am not. Like, why did I even take comparative lit, I’m in marine bio for fuck sakes.”

“No not that….” Jeno rushes out, shaking his head. “I meant. About like, my sexuality I guess.”

Donghyuck pauses his movements. “Oh word?”

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Jeno continues, nodding in affirmation. “I tried to do a lot of reading too, which is probably why I’m so behind in Anthro… and it didn’t help that much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, labels are helpful but they’re also confusing as hell….”

“Baby steps,” Donghyuck says with an encouraging smile.

“Right,” Jeno lets out, clasping his hands nervously. “ I think I… No, I know that I really like Renjun in the sort of way that I wouldn’t mind holding his hand, and kissing, and stuff.”

“That’s so gay,” Donghyuck gushes, wriggling in his seat like one of those cringey idols his twin sister used to obsess over when they were younger. Jeno doesn't protest, for the first time in... he doesn't actually know. "I'm proud of you."

“Now all I have to do is tell Renjun…” Jeno mutters, his smile faltering a bit. As excited as he may be, Jeno still hasn't gotten the image of a crying Renjun out of his head.

Donghyuck grimaces for a moment, his head cocked to the right as he thinks before settling for yet another, “Baby steps.”

Jeno couldn’t agree more.

 

 


 

 

Jeno isn’t even a minute into his shift at the mini mart when Jaemin -- Renjun’s Jaemin -- walks in, and begins browsing through the newly stocked aisles that separate the entrance from the cash register.

Jeno naively tries to make himself sparse, ducking his head in the most subtle manner he can muster, because there’s no way he's ready to face the slight possibility of Renjun having told the guy about him and his fuck ups-- fuck ups he's only recently come to terms with.

Just when Jeno considers going to the back and beg Taeyong to go back to the counter take over for the next fifteen minutes before leaving, Jaemin slaps an Archie Comics digest and a tall can of green tea Arizona onto the surface of the counter with a polite smile.

“Will that be all for today?” Jeno mutters, wincing as his fingers come upon a splintered piece of wood protruding from the edge of the counter.

Jaemin shakes his head.

“No, that’s it,” he says casually, pulling out his wallet.

Jeno’s movements are tense as he nods, going to scan the two items.

“That’ll be four dollars and fifty-eight cents,” Jeno relays quietly, unable to look Jaemin in the eyes out of fear. He clears his throat. “Debit, credit, or cash?”

“Debit,” Jaemin confirms, brandishing the plastic card.

“Alright,” Jeno grunts, inputting the appropriate setting. “Go ahead.”

As soon as the words are out of his mouth, he catches Taeyong stepping out of the employee break room, shrugging on his oversized winter coat.

“Jeno,” the elder calls, doing up his zipper.

“Fuck…” Jeno curses under his breath at the way Jaemin pauses his paying to look between the two co-workers. “I mean, yeah?”

“I’m leaving now,” Taeyong explains, trudging closer to the counter, completely ignoring Jaemin as he slides the store’s keys over the counter for Jeno to take. “Have fun closing up.”

“I’ll try…” Jeno laughs nervously, trying not to visibly squirm beneath weight of Jaemin’s eyes on him as he speaks to his senior.

Taeyong snorts, clearly noticing a change in his normally laid back behaviour, and backs away with a quick wave before stepping out of the convenience store.

“Jeno…” Jaemin says once he's pulled his card out of the transaction machine. Jeno can feel his mouth dry. “Jeno Lee?”

Shit.

“Yes,” he nods, busying himself with bagging Jaemin’s items.

“Renjun’s Jeno?”

“I…” Jeno falters, eyes wide as his hands still above the can of Arizona. “I guess. Sure.”

“Hm,” Jaemin hums, biting his lip to mask a laugh. He doesn’t do a very good job at it, Jeno thinks. His schadenfreude is as obvious as the redness is Jeno’s face. “I'm Jaemin.”

“I thought you looked familiar,” Jeno lies, uneasily stuffing the comic into the plastic bag.

“This is so jokes,” Jaemin chuckles, leaning against the tall counter. Jeno can’t help but gape at just how casual he’s being. “Don't look so scared. I promise, I don't bite. Unless you give me a reason to.”

Jeno gulps, pushing the filled bag closer to Jaemin. The latter shows no intention of taking it and leaving, much to one incredibly uncomfortable Jeno’s dismay.

“If you have something to say,” Jeno says carefully, scratching the back of his neck. “Please say it. You’re stressing me out, here.”

Jaemin narrows his eyes for a split second.

“From what I know,” he starts, reaching into the bag to pull out the can of iced tea. He pulls the tab with a loud pop and takes a sip. “I’m not the only one that needs to be saying anything.”

Jeno blinks, taken aback. “Touché”

“So?” Jaemin offers, his tone almost as expectant as the look on his face.

“So what?”

Jaemin rolls his eyes, making a point to set down the can of iced tea before speaking.

“What are you going to do about this whole situation?” he asks, almost as though it’s the most obvious question in the entire universe. Jeno looks away, pensive. “I don’t mean to pry but you can’t just keep him waiting around. If you’re going to let him go, I suggest you do it before anyone gets hurt more than they might already be.”

“I’m not gonna let him go,” Jeno announces after a brief silence, a little too loud for his own taste. Jaemin quirks a brow curiously, unconvinced. “I like him, okay?”

“Wouldn't have guessed it,” Jaemin snorts, looking up at the ceiling. He then leans closer to Jeno and lowers his voice to a whisper as if they aren't the only two in the store to begin with. “He didn't divulge too much information on this whole situation --probably because he does want me to hate you, or whatever -- but I know he's hurt by it all.”

“I know.”

“He might be reasonable but he's still human.”

“I know,” Jeno says again. Only this time, he’s looking down at the outdated linoleum flooring on which he stands. Anything to avoid the judgment in Jaemin’s glare. He doesn’t need to be feeling any more pathetic than he already does. “I just don't know what I'd say. I'm still considering my options.”

The look on Jaemin’s face would have any passersby wondering if Jeno had grown a second head, or something of that nature.

“Options?”

“To woo him,” Jeno shrugs. He really doesn’t want to have this conversation. Not with Jaemin, at least. “Make him unhate me, I guess.”

“Dude, he's already been wooed,” Jaemin groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. He closes his eyes and for those few seconds, Jeno is glad that Jaemin can’t see just how red the tips of his ears are getting. “And this isn't some poorly written fan fiction, not everything has to be some grand romantic gesture.”

“W-what are you saying?” Jeno splutters.

“I'm saying, you should just talk it out with him,” Jaemin explains, making a half-assed effort to hide his frustration towards Jeno. “One on one. Say what's on your mind. No frills, no nothing. Just you and Renjun.”

“Me and Renjun…” Jeno repeats, nodding slowly.

It’s not like Jaemin is completely wrong. It's just that the idea of keeping things so simple and metaphorically laying himself bare for Renjun to see -- flaws and all -- is an idea that he isn't quite sure would end well.

Then again, that could just be his anxiety talking.

“Tell you what,” Jaemin says suddenly, tapping his fingers against the counter, the plastic panel that covers it rattling in sync with his movements. “There's gonna be a little get together tonight at some guy’s-”

Hold up,” Jeno cuts in, halting Jaemin’s words. “Tonight?”

Jaemin nods. “Yes.”

“That's... so soon,” Jeno says (whines).

“Well, if you weren't so out of the loop,” Jaemin starts, picking at his nails. His words have no bite to them, yet still manage to make Jeno feel so much smaller than he actually is. “You'd know that their protest last night was successful. That creep teacher is being fired.”

“Really?” Jeno asks, unable to hide the proud smile that creeps upon his face. He'd known about the protest the night before, but hadn't found the courage to ask Renjun about the outcome considering the circumstances. It's amongst the too-long list of things he regrets not doing. “That's great.”

“It is,” Jaemin agrees, shoving his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants. “Anyways, they're celebrating tonight.”

“And Renjun will be there,” Jeno concludes, grimacing.

“In the flesh,” Jaemin adds, grinning.

“Shit,” Jeno hisses, biting his lip. He nods. “Okay.”

“You should text him for the address,” Jaemin suggests, quirking a brow. “Tell him you wanna congratulate him in person or some shit. He'd appreciate that.”

“I-I’ll do that,” Jeno promises, his tone bashful.

Thruthfully, he feels a little stupid for having Jaemin spoon feed him all this information. Then again, it's not like he'd been coming up with any great ideas in his own.

“So, it's set,” Jaemin exclaims with the same grin Jeno remembers being so jealous of that day in Renjun’s room. “If I don't see your ass there, tonight,” Jaemin adds, his smile suddenly gone and Jeno just about freezes. “You'll be catching these hands.”

Jeno lets out an awkward laugh that Jaemin doesn't reciprocate.

“I'll be there,” Jeno reassures, his voice breaking. “I swear.”

“I'm just saying,” Jaemin shrugs, finally pulling the plastic bag off the counter. He begins to back away from the structure, eyes still locked onto Jeno’s unblinking ones. “Don't fuck with my best friend.”

Before turning away to leave Jeno’s place of employment, Jaemin gives him an honest to God wink , and walks out the door.

 

 


 

 

To say that Jeno is anxious would be a bold understatement. He's standing beneath the awning of the now closed convenience store, ignoring the way Donghyuck impatiently honks at him from his place behind the wheel of his mom’s car.

It's all useless background noise to Jeno, for all his focus is directed to the text message that stares back at him from the screen of his phone. He's quivering as he reads it over for the millionth time.

Nov 25 2017, 22:55

From: jeno

To: renjunie

hey

I saw jaemin td

he told me abt the protest

I'm proud of you.

Nov 25 2017, 23:05

From: renjunie

To: jeno

omg he mentioned that

and thank you (⌒‿⌒)

Nov 25 2017, 23:05

From: jeno

To: renjunie

can I see you?

Nov 25 2017, 23:09

From: renjunie

To: jeno

sure

XXX Belfield Street

 

Jeno sighs, slowly making his way to the tiny red Pontiac. Mark, who's sat in the passenger next to Donghyuck, nods to him in greeting.

“Boys,” Jeno says as he slips into the backseat. “It's D-Day.”

Donghyuck snorts. “What is it this time?”

“I need you to take me here,” Jeno explains, tapping the highlighted address before tossing his phone into Mark’s lap.

“Seems sketchy,” Mark decides, squinting at the device as he reads the address over.

He isn't exactly wrong. The location is by one of the city’s rougher neighbourhoods.

“Agreed,” Donghyuck lets out, but starts the car nonetheless. “What's going on down there?”

“My declaration of love for Renjun,” Jeno says, half-jokingly. Mark laughs and Donghyuck raises a brow at him through the rear view mirror as he puts the car in reverse. “He’s the one that sent the address, so don't worry.”

“I don't know,” Mark says reluctantly. “He could be setting you up for leaving him hanging for so long.”

Mark.” Donghyuck warns, pulling one hand off the steering wheel to flick his boyfriend on the thigh.

Jeno can't miss the way Donghyuck's hand rests on Mark’s thigh afterwards.

“What?” Mark chuckles, linking their fingers like it's second nature. “Jaehyun has a big mouth.”

“So he does know about me!” Jeno nearly screeches.

“Norah ratted you out after the party happened,” Mark admits, his smile bashful.

Jeno shrugs. “Understandable.”

“Speaking of sisters,” Donghyuck begins, his bitter as he maneuvers the vehicle out of the plaza’s parking lot. “Kyunghee’s movie finishes at one and there's no way in Hell I’m gonna be late picking her up. So you better be done professing your love by then or else she’ll never let me hear the end of it.”

“I got you,” Jeno says, making his umpteenth promise of the night.

“Alright then!” Donghyuck exclaims, setting off in the direction of the party as told by the map. “Buckle up, loverboy.”

 

 


 

 

Jeno is greeted at the door by some guy he recognizes as Student Body President. Dongyoung Kim, or something along those lines.

He gives Jeno a quick once over before speaking.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Uh… Jeno? I swear I'm not crashing, I'm just here to see Renjun.”

Dongyoung narrows his eyes, his gaze as unrelenting as the heat emanating from the house’s interior, before turning to look over his shoulder.

As if on cue, Renjun makes his way down the wooden staircase with Jaemin in tow.

“Hwang,” Dongyoung all but barks, earning the redhead's (which is a lie, considering he was nearly blonde at that point) attention. “There's some kid at the door for you!”

“Jeno,” Renjun says evenly, stopping at the base of the stairs.

“He actually came,” Jaemin snorts, lightly pushing Renjun forward.

“I told you he would,” Renjun reveals quietly, finally looking Jeno in the eyes as he makes his way towards the front door. The latter gives him a small smile. “Hey, Jeno.”

Dongyoung looks between the three before returning to the festivities with a huff.

“I'm gonna go steal some of Chenle's weed,” Jaemin says with a chuckle, backing away from the scene. “Have fun you two.”

Renjun rolls his eyes before turning to Jeno.

“Wanna talk outside? It's sort of stuffy in here.”

Jeno agrees, walking back out onto the house’s front porch. From where he stands, he can see Donghyuck’s car parked by the curb that separates the front lawn from the pothole filled street and hopes to God that he and Mark aren't snooping on whatever's about to go down.

Knowing Donghyuck, though, the wish is pretty much futile.

Renjun clears his throat, stepping closer to the ledge that forms the porch’s three levelled stoop, and takes a deep breath.

Beneath the soft fairy lights that adorn the front of the home, Renjun’s hair glows a soft yellow that reminds Jeno of the sun itself.

“Long time no see, huh?” Renjun says eventually, breaking the silence between the two.

It hadn't been uncomfortable, not even close. It was familiar and left Jeno feeling warm on the inside, despite the Canadian weather that surrounds them.

“Yeah, you could say that again,” Jeno agrees, his voice barely above a weak whisper. He's starting to feel choked up even while nothing significant has even happened yet. “It's weird. A good weird, though.”

“I guess. A lot can happen in a few weeks.”

“Tell me about it. I wish I could've told you sooner, but I really am proud of you, Renjun. And, uh, you look good. And happy. I'm… I'm glad.”

It's the biggest understatement of the year. Renjun is absolutely radiant, lighting up the night in a way that the streetlights in the distance could only hope to.

Renjun looks up at him and Jeno isn't sure whether he's crossed a line of sorts. But Renjun laughs softly, biting his lip.

“I am happy,” he says, leaning against the porch’s railing, looking up at the night sky. “I fought for something I believe and it payed off,” he continues, his excitement clear in his face. His eyes are twinkling when he turns back to Jeno. “Now… what brings you here, Jeno?”

“I guess you could say I've been doing some fighting of my own,” Jeno starts carefully, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “Learning how to let go of a little something I've come to know as heteronormativity.”

“Big word,” Renjun notes.

“I learned it from the best,” Jeno replies in earnest, to which Renjun rolls his eyes. Despite that, he continues to listen to whatever verbal diarrhea Jeno is spouting his way. “What I'm trying to say, Renjun, is that I like you,” Jeno continues, taking a step closer to Renjun, who straightens his posture at the confession, brows knit in what could be disbelief. Jeno isn’t sure. What he does know is that he’s absolutely terrified yet relieved all at once to have finally got it off his chest, the weight of the whole freaking world dissipating as he goes on. “It took me too long to realize it, and even longer to accept it. It's embarrassing, but I'm ready. I'm ready to get to know this part of me and love it unconditionally, you know? Unapologetically.”

Renjun nods, his eyes wide.

“And if you’d have me,” Jeno says, close enough to take Renjun’s small hands into his own. He does just that. “I’d like to do that with you. Let’s be unapologetic together.”

Renjun looks down at their linked hands and lets out a shaky laugh. “You really are something else, Jeno,” he jokes, shaking his head.”

“So what do you say?” Jeno asks. “Would you like to be my, like, boyfriend?”

“I would love to be your, like, boyfriend,” Renjun declares, giggling suddenly. Jeno feels as though an entire cage of butterflies has been let loose in his stomach. “Now come here please.”

Jeno wastes no time complying, pulling Renjun closer at once, and takes him in.

“I missed you so much,” Jeno admits, his voice muffled by Renjun’s sweet scented hair.

Fuck,” Renjun curses, his hold on Jeno warmer than anything he’s ever felt. He pulls away slightly, enough to look Jeno in the eyes and say, “Me too.”

They stand like that for a while, drinking each other in.

“Can I kiss you now?” Jeno asks shyly after a while, his eyes flitting down to Renjun’s pink lips.

Renjun nods eagerly, his cheeks dusted red. “I thought you'd never fucking ask.”

Jeno leans in, finally joining their lips together in a soft kiss.

It’s long awaited, a little clumsy at first, but it’s perfect nonetheless.

Get it, Jeno,” Jeno hears suddenly, followed by three consecutive honks.

He groans, pulling away from Renjun’s soft lips, and glares at the car. It’s Mark, waving stupidly at the couple.

Jeno flips him off.

“Sorry about that,” he says quietly, turning back to Renjun. He leans forward, pressing their foreheads together.

“It’s okay,” Renjun smiles, running his thumbs over the soft expanse of Jeno’s cheeks. “We’re okay.”

He says it with conviction, his words packed so heavily with trust in him -- in them -- that it makes Jeno's heart flutter.

He doesn't fight it.

 

 


 

 

Meanwhile, in the car...

 

“Aren't they so cute?” Mark asks gently nudging Donghyuck in the side as they wait in the car. They have a clear view of the potential couple’s exchange. “Sort of like us, but way clumsier.”

“The innocence of it all,” Donghyuck sighs dreamily, turning to Mark. “I think I'm getting a cavity.”

“Corny…” Mark snorts, shaking his head before looking out the windshield again. Jeno and Renjun have moved onto holding each other like something out of a sickeningly sweet romantic comedy. “Okay, same.”

“So precious…” Donghyuck coos, leaning closer. He squints. “Oh would you look at that, they're sucking face now.”

Beside him, he can see Mark unclip his seat belt as he starts to wind the outdated knob on his side of the car in order to lower the passenger window.

“Get it, Jeno!” Mark whoops out the now open window, before Donghyuck can stop him, and honks three times for good measure. Jeno flips him off in response, while Donghyuck narrows his eyes at him. Mark lowers himself into his seat again and clears his throat. “Aha… wanna make out?”

“Eh,” Donghyuck shrugs, undoing his seatbelt. “Why not?”