In general, college is hard. Classes are challenging, professors are unforgiving, and social lives (if you've got one) are a bitch to keep up with. What makes everything ridiculously worse is having to wake up early for a morning class. If there's one thing more coveted than anything else in the world of college students, it is sleep.
Fortunately for Lee Jeno, who has no social life and goes to sleep early anyway, waking up early is not something that really bothers him.
On Mondays and Wednesdays he wakes up at 6:15, takes a shower, and picks out an outfit from his limited wardrobe options (he never buys new clothes because he's too lazy). On his way out the door he'll throw the nearest thing at Renjun, his roommate who is likely snoring and blissfully enjoying the blessing of having an afternoon class. Jeno does it just because he likes annoying the other boy; it's always brought him a kind of joy he usually doesn't get from bothering others. In turn Renjun mumbles something probably really offensive in mandarin before rolling over and snoring again.
By 6:30, Jeno is in the cafeteria and piling the healthy breakfast that he eats every Monday and Wednesday morning onto his plate. He greets one of the ladies behind the buffet bar with an eyesmile and a good morning and she calls him a freak of nature.
Jeno eats breakfast with the company of his phone. He scrolls through twitter, tumblr, then instagram, all the while happily aware of the cafeteria's lack of people. It's so peaceful during the mornings.
At 6:49, Jeno slides his plate onto the rack above the trash can and lets his empty tray join the others in a large stack. He waves goodbye to the ladies who wave back unenthusiastically.
At 6:53, Jeno arrives at the lecture hall where his 7 am class is given. He sits in the same seat he always sits in and rereads the notes from last class to brush up before his professor starts talking.
And usually sometime between 6:58 and 7:03, his absolutely insane seat mate shows up. His name is Jaemin, and that's about all Jeno knows about him. They sit beside each other but don't do much besides that. Their introductions during the first class of the semester were brief, as Jaemin was busy looking frazzled and trying to choke himself with energy chews.
One thing Jeno does know about Jaemin is that, unlike himself, he is not a morning person. Mornings to Jaemin are like… mornings to vampires. Maybe Jaemin is a vampire. Jeno probably wouldn't know if he was.
Either way, mornings and Jaemin are not friends. Every class, without fail, Jaemin rushes in, shoves his stuff into the adjacent seat not occupied by Jeno (he's usually forgotten something important, like a pen or paper), and proceeds to finish downing whatever source of quick energy he's brought to keep himself resembling awake and alert for the next hour.
And despite the little actual information Jeno knows about the younger boy, he may or may not have a little baby crush on him. Because when Jaemin smiles at him, all restless and fleeting, Jeno's heart grows in his chest. And when Jaemin asks him for a pen or paper, Jeno always gives it to him (Renjun would murder Jeno if he knew—Jeno never shares anything in the class he has with the older boy).
Either way, that crush may or may not be why when Jeno just sits there and watches Jaemin inhale obscene amounts of sugar or caffeine (or both), fully aware that he cannot stop the younger boy, he feels so useless and terrified. He's pretty sure that someday Jaemin is just going to drop dead and that'll be the end.
This morning—a Wednesday, usually Jaemin's better day—Jeno smiles at the professor, who is at the front of the room, and slips into his seat before taking out his notes. This lecture is probably one of the more pointless ones, given that this is a math class and he is a dance major, but he takes it seriously anyway. And he likes Professor Jung, he's cool.
At 6:57, a minute before than the usual earliest time, Jaemin falls into his seat next to Jeno. Almost everyone has already arrived and settled in for the next hour. And Jeno is pleasantly surprised—Jaemin has made it with an extra minute to spare.
But something seems off. Jaemin's face is solemn and closed off. There's nothing jittery in his movements, no crazed flitting of his eyes. He looks tired, like the deepest part of him hasn't slept in decades, despite the half-empty trenta starbucks coffee that Jeno knows has espresso shots gripped tightly in his hand. Suddenly, a feeling of dread rushes through Jeno's blood.
Jaemin sets the coffee down on the desk and puts his stuff into the seat next to him. There is no energy in his motions, and Jeno's brows furrow. Jaemin is always artificially bubbly; there's always a frantic look in his eyes.
Jeno watches as Jaemin rustles around in his bag and pulls out a green monster energy drink. He screws off the lid and pours the entire thing into his half-drunk coffee. With a resolute emptiness in his eye, he holds it up and stares dramatically into the murky substance.
"I'm going to die," he says, and Jeno watches in absolute horror as Jaemin tips his head back and chugs the whole thing in one go.
"Oh my god!" Jeno exclaims. "What the hell?!"
Jaemin slams the empty cup back down on his desk and hits his chest with a fist until a small burp escapes from his mouth.
"Jesus Christ," Jeno says.
"I could use some Jesus Christ right now," Jaemin admits, now shuffling through his bag to get his notes. He turns to Jeno and casually asks, "Do you have a pen?"
Jeno fumbles for his extra pen and hands it to Jaemin with wide eyes. "I can't believe you just did that," he stutters out.
Jaemin gives him a desolate smile. "If I die, tell Donghyuck I hate him."
Before Jeno can reply, Professor Jung shouts something to call everyone's attention to the beginning of class. Jeno spends the next 60 minutes glancing at Jaemin and waiting for the poor boy's body to combust. Jaemin may do absolutely crazy things, like drink quadruple shot espresso coffee and consume literally an entire bundle of pixie sticks in the span of five minutes, but this is the most insane thing Jeno has ever watched him do.
At the end of class, Jaemin gives Jeno a bright smile and says excitedly, "I didn't die!"
"Are you sure you're not dead inside?" Jeno asks worriedly.
Jaemin's expression turns grim. "Good point."
Jeno doesn't say anything, and the younger boy looks at him curiously as he packs up. "Here's your pen. Thanks for letting me use it. I'll see you next class!"
And Jeno just sits there for a moment and tries to remember how exactly Jaemin ended up sitting next to him in the first place.
Next class, Jaemin rushes in while eating a massive chocolate and caramel covered apple. When he sees the look Jeno's giving him, he sighs and waves the apple around a little. "Donghyuck's donation to the Keep Jaemin Awake During His Hell Of A 7 AM Class fund. He's a fuckin idiot. Don't worry, I already drank three cups of coffee."
It's 6:59 so he promptly sits his ass down in his seat and scrambles to get his things out. Jeno tries to make sense of why the fuck Jaemin is so crazy. Jaemin sweetly asks for paper because he forgot to bring some.
When class ends, Jaemin turns to Jeno and gives him an exhausted smile. "I may have been awake, but I don't understand anything that I just wrote down. Would you mind re-teaching it to me?"
Jeno stops packing up his bag. Jaemin has never before pitched the idea of hanging out outside of class. Jeno's spent weeks of unexplainably crushing on the other boy and now that said crush is finally making a move(?), he's not entirely sure how to respond without sounding too eager and yet also not disinterested.
"Um, yeah? I would love to." Jeno mentally facepalms himself. Why does he always have to say something weird? Why the hell would he love to do that?
But Jaemin just smiles widely. "Really? Oh thank god, you're a life saver. When's a good time for you?"
They work out meeting the next day, and Jeno tries to play it cool through the whole conversation. And he tries to keep his composure until he and Jaemin diverge paths and then he lets a thrilled smile to take over his face.
A week later, after two more similar study sessions, Jaemin shuts his notebook at the end of the designated hour and smiles a smile that still makes Jeno's heart beat double time. Jeno's always been told he has a beautiful smile, one that reaches his eyes, but he thinks it pales in comparison to Jaemin's. The younger boy's smile makes Jeno smile too.
"Would you want to go on a date with me?" he bluntly asks.
Jeno raises his brows, shocked by the sudden question. "What?"
"A date. I really like you and I think you're incredibly attractive and you make me smile like crazy. And I really want to take you on a date. Would you let me take you on one?"
Jeno's heart does a full gymnastics routine in his chest. "Yes, I'd love it if you would."
Jaemin's smile is blinding. "Oh thank goodness! How about tomorrow? I've been dying to take you on a date for so long."
"That sounds wonderful," Jeno says with a small, bashful smile, totally caught off guard by the younger boy's shamelessness (although he doesn't really see why he should be—he's learned that Jaemin is more outspoken than he'd realized).
"Great." Jaemin leans over and presses a kiss to Jeno's cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
Jeno just nods and tries (fails) to hide his blush.
This morning, Jeno hurries into class at 6:58 am. His hair is a mess and he's still wearing his pajama shirt and he hasn't even eaten breakfast yet. Last night he'd stayed up until five cramming for a test in his afternoon class because ever since he started dating Jaemin, he'd gained a social life and more friends than just Renjun (although Renjun would probably refute their being friends in the first place).
Jeno had spent the whole weekend out with Jaemin, going to parties arm-in-arm and sharing smoothies in that slightly cringey two-straws-one-glass kind of way. Jaemin outside of any academic setting is so much more than Jeno could've ever imagined—Jaemin is smiles and cheesy pickup lines (even though they are dating) and snuggly Saturday mornings.
Jeno swears he's never been happier before in his whole life.
But right now he is not feeling the joy. He is actually exhausted and fed up because today he has a test and for once in his nineteen years on this planet, he is not going to be prepared. In all honesty, last night during his cramming session he'd forgotten he even had a 7 am class the next morning.
Jeno falls into his normal seat and tries to catch his breath. He glances over to Jaemin, who is sitting beside him and watching him with large eyes while contemplatively chewing on an oreo.
"Hi," Jeno pants out.
"Good morning," Jaemin replies calmly, taking a sip of his coffee. He knows better than to ask if Jeno's okay, because the older boy is clearly not anywhere near the realm of okay.
And Jeno looks over Jaemin with a frown. Jaemin is frustratingly put together, with combed hair and unwrinkled clothes. Jeno can't see the bags under Jaemin's eyes anymore, and some part of him likes to think it's due to his positive influence. The younger boy just sits there and slowly puts another double-stuffed oreo into his mouth.
"Shit," Jeno says after rustling through his bag. He turns to Jaemin. "Do you have a pen?"
Wordlessly, his boyfriend hands him the extra pen he's started bringing to class and slides the package of oreos towards him. Jeno just gives him an exhausted smile and a kiss on the cheek before shoving two oreos into his mouth at once.
And when Jeno falls asleep halfway through class, Jaemin just smiles at him and gently moves his paper out from under his head so he won't drool on his half-finished notes. (Jaemin will end up giving him the rest of the notes later.)