Actions

Work Header

All That Rises Must Converge

Chapter Text

It all starts with an off-handed comment from Jackson, like most terrible things in Jaebum’s life.

 

(He should’ve stopped being friends with Jackson since one of his 'kind comments' got them both detention for two weeks, but that’s another story.)

 

They’re hanging out in Mark’s apartment, obnoxiously large for a uni student thanks to Mark’s rich parents, and somewhere between Bambam losing in Mario Kart and Youngjae falling asleep on Yugyeom, Jackson drawls,”Jaebum-hyung, when are you bringing a girl over?”

 

“What.” Jaebum deadpans, eyes fixed on the television screen where he’s focusing on annihilating Yugyeom in Mario Kart. Yugyeom seems distracted by his boyfriend sleeping on him, mouth wide open and drooling, and Jaebum gains speed, cruising past giant doughnut rings and dripping candy canes.

 

Jaebum whoops as he passes the finish line in first place, and Yugyeom groans, rolling on the floor with Youngjae’s head still on his chest.

 

“Good job, hyung.” Jinyoung grins at him, and Jaebum hands him the controller, “If you lose to Mark you’re on dishwashing duty for the next two weeks.”

 

“You’re on,” Jinyoung laughs as he takes Jaebum’s place on the floor, and Jaebum doesn’t bother to tone down the wide grin on his face. He likes seeing Jinyoung fired up like this, eyes on the screen, pressing buttons determinedly, and Jaebum’s heart burns with fierce pride for his best friend.

 

Jaebum’s so focused on the match unfolding in front of him he doesn’t even hear what Jackson says.

 

“Sorry, what?” Jaebum leans closer to Jackson, he can barely hear himself over Bambam’s hollering. Honestly- he’s not even playing, yet he’s making so much noise. It’s a miracle how Youngjae is still asleep, snoring loudly on Yugyeom’s chest.

 

“I said,” Jackson takes a sip of his beer, “When are you bringing home a girlfriend?”

 

“You sound like my mum,” Jaebum replies dryly, turning his attention back to Jinyoung, who’s making racing car noises while Bambam eggs him on. Jinyoung’s in the lead, with 2 laps left, and Mark’s swearing a mile a minute, smashing buttons frantically.

 

“Aren’t you lonely? You look lonely sometimes.” Jackson burps, and Jaebum just gives him a weird look, ”Of course I’m not.”

 

Bambam screeches on the sidelines as Jinyoung wins the round by a hair, and Mark collapses, wailing like a banshee. Jinyoung sits down on the couch with Jaebum, smiling gently like he always does, “No kitchen duty.”

 

“Right,” Jaebum snorts. He was a fool to make a bet with Jinyoung in the first place. “I’ll do the dishes.”

 

Jinyoung hums, and the scene would be overwhelmingly domestic if they weren’t just roommates.

 

Jackson, of course, misses nothing.

 

“Do you like men, then?” He asks, and Jaebum feels himself tense up physically,”No.”

 

Jaebum feels Jinyoung stiffen, and he hurries to rephrase, “I mean, I’m not homophobic or anything, I respect gay people-”

 

“Thanks, hyung!” Yugyeom sniggers, and Jaebum throws an empty coke bottle at him.

 

“I just don’t like men that way,” Jaebum says, and Jackson nods, but he's looking at Jinyoung.

 

Jinyoung’s cold again, Jaebum can tell from the slight tremble of his lips and the telltale sign of his hands, clasping each other tightly. It’s easy, reading Jinyoung, and the other way round. They’re yin and yang, different yet so similar.

 

Jaebum reaches out for Jinyoung, and Jinyoung gets it, like he always does. Jackson makes a noise in the back of his throat, but Jaebum just prods his butt with his toes to tell him to move out of the way .

 

Jinyoung wraps his arms around Jaebum’s torso and puts his chin on Jaebum’s shoulder, and Jaebum accepts the affection without batting an eyelid. It’s normal for them to be physically close like this, they’ve been best friends since they could remember and they even joke about being the group’s parents: Jaebum’s the dad and Jinyoung’s the mum.

 

“Kinda gay,” Yugyeom notes, as Youngjae buries his head in his lap.

 

“Shut up,” Both Jinyoung and Jaebum say at the same time, and Bambam gives them a look.

 

“We get it, you’re soulmates.” Bambam peers at them above the lenses of his hipster glasses, and Jaebum fights the urge to throw something at him.

 

“You’re going to chase away all my future girlfriends,” Jaebum says, but none of the others laugh except for Jackson, who offers a snort.

 

Bambam shrugs, and Mark shoots Jinyoung another look Jaebum can’t exactly decipher. A flash of something akin to hurt appears on Jinyoung’s face, he thinks, but the look is gone before he can further dwell on the thought.

 

“Let’s go home, yeah?” Jaebum nudges Jinyoung, who nods. He’s not smiling, but Jabum knows his friend is just deep in thought. Or something.

 

-----

 

Jaebum lives with Jinyoung, in an apartment off campus but close enough to both the university they go to and the bookstore Jinyoung works part-time at. It’s kind of small, nothing compared to Mark’s lavish loft, but it’s home anyway.

 

Or so Jaebum thinks, as he picks up Jinyoung’s dirty socks on the coffee table for the third time in a week.

 

“Jinyoung,” Jaebum calls, setting down his duster as Jinyoung emerges from his bedroom drowsily, pajama shirt riding up as he yawns,”What is it, hyung?”

 

Jinyoung’s hair is a mess, strands sticking out in every direction, but he still looks good, lips pink and plush as he pouts,”I’m still tired, let me go back to bed.”

 

Jinyoung’s morning breath smells like a dead rat, and Jaebum tears his eyes away, cringing at the thought of Jinyoung being even remotely close to being pretty, because that’s his best friend, what the hell.

 

“Your socks,” Jaebum gestures at the offending sight, Jinyoung’s sailor moon socks lying on the floor in a disgruntled heap. Jinyoung blinks slowly, like he’s struggling to comprehend,”Oh?”

 

Jaebum can’t hold in a sigh,”Pick them up, Jinyoung-ah, and don’t talk to me until you’ve brushed your teeth, please.” Jinyoung blinks sluggishly still, and Jaebum would be fooled if he hadn’t known his friend for more than a decade.

 

“Stop it, I’m not picking them up for you.” Jaebum states plainly, and Jinyoung snaps out of it instantly, grumbling as he picks up the socks,”You’re no fun, hyung!”

 

“Yeah, well, you’re too lazy.”

 

“Remember when we were little, and you would actually do things I asked you to!” Jinyoung pouts again, but Jaebum remains steady in his resolve.

 

“That was at least twelve years ago, and I’m not your maid,” Jaebum explains patiently, like he’s talking to a four-year-old. But Jinyoung sticks his tongue out at him, finally shuffling towards their bathroom, so Jaebum counts that as a win anyway.

 

It takes at least an hour for Jinyoung to get ready- enough for Jaebum to dust every cleanable surface in the living room, make coffee for the two of them and read a chapter or two of The Crimson Labyrinth- but they eventually settle on the sofa, having coffee in companionable silence.

 

Jaebum gets a few pages further in his book, Jinyoung munches on a bagel, Nora -Jaebum’s cat, basically their housecat at this point- paddles out and settles down on Jinyoung’s feet, the little traitor. It takes another five minutes for them to speak, both absorbed in their own little worlds yet enjoying each other’s company.

 

“Hyung, have you seen my brown sweater?” Jinyoung asks, bending down to hoist Nora up to the sofa. Jaebum sets down his coffee,”I thought you just put it in the wash?”

 

“Ahhh, right,” Jinyoung winces, pulling Nora closer into his embrace despite her indignant meows. Jaebum can’t help but smile a little at Nora, squirming in Jinyoung’s arms,”What do you need it for? I’m sure Yugyeom will still laugh at you no matter what you wear.”

 

“As if he doesn’t laugh at you too,” Jinyoung nudges Jaebum’s foot with his own, and they both giggle at the mention of their beloved friend. “I’ll be a little late for dinner tonight, could you tell the guys?”

 

“Sure,” Jaebum answers right away, “We’ll have even more fun without you.”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Jinyoung shoves Jaebum lightly in the side as Nora pads on his chest lightly. His tone is exasperated and teasing, but Jaebum senses that Jinyoung’s worried about something.

 

“What is it?” Jaebum asks, softly now. Jinyoung shrugs, coaxing Nora to his arms again,”I’ve got a date tonight.”

 

“Oh.” Jaebum needs a moment to consider the idea.

 

While Jaebum has had his fair share of girlfriends and flings and even on-and-off hookups, Jinyoung had never expressed interest in anyone or even dating in general. In fact, forever alone Jinyoung has been a running joke in their friend group for quite a while now.

 

“I’m happy for you,” Jaebum pats Jinyoung on the shoulder encouragingly. “Enjoy yourself, don’t even bother coming to the dinner if you-”

 

“No,” Jinyoung releases Nora, who scurries away from Jinyoung’s evil clutches quickly. “I want to come, and it’s not that serious anyway. We’re just having tea, and just getting to know each other.”

 

The words getting to know each other put a sour taste in Jaebum’s mouth, but he quenches the unpleasant feeling, offering Jinyoung a reassuring smile instead,”Have fun, Jinyoungie.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Jinyoung pretends to throw up at Jaebum’s affectionate tone, but grins back. “I’ll call you when I arrive.”

 

Jinyoung’s eyes are still uneasy, the corners of his lips tight like he’s hiding something, but Jaebum tells himself Jinyoung’s just worried about the date.

 

Everything will be fine.

 

-----

 

Jinyoung shows up at the restaurant only fifteen minutes late, right in the middle of a very loud debate over whether aliens were real between Yugyeom and Jackson.

 

“How would you explain all the UFO sightings, then?” Yugyeom squeaks with such force that the kimchi stew simmers a little more vigorously. “Hoaxes, all of them.” Jackson fires back without hesitation, and Mark rolls his eyes, not even bothering to look up from his phone,”Aren’t you guys being too loud?”

 

“Jinyoung says he can hear us all the way from the bus stop,” Youngjae worries, tapping at his phone.

 

“Yeah, shut up.” Jaebum comments, immersed in a conversation with Haejin, his ex slash hookup slash occasional cuddle buddy. They haven’t been doing much together lately, but Jaebum’s much more optimistic that they’ll get together soon, with a flirty text from Haejin.

 

The two pay no attention to Jaebum, and Jackson announces to the whole restaurant that aliens couldn’t possibly be real. Yugyeom leans across the table to snatch Jackson’s phone out of his hands, with Youngjae pulling at his boyfriend to no avail. Bambam, forever the troublemaker, eggs them on by joining Jackson’s side. Mark gives up, putting on his headphones and turning away from the scene.

 

Jaebum’s phone pings, and he exits his chat with Haejin to read a text from Jinyoung: was going to ask where you guys were but Jackson is too loud, omw

 

“Jinyoung says you’re too loud and he’s on his way,” Jaebum says lazily in the midst of their chaos, swiping back to his conversation with Haejin. She seems interested in meeting up, so Jaebum quickly lists out a few days he’s free, clicking the send button just as Jinyoung walks over.

 

“Hey,” Jinyoung greets as he slides into his designated seat next to Jaebum. He looks dashing in a simple sweater and a long pecan coat, and the kids pause their epic alien debate briefly to greet him.

 

“Jinyoungie, come support my case on how aliens are fake,” Jackson whines, shuffling closer to Jinyoung. “No, aliens are real!” Yugyeom retaliates, but softens once Jinyoung ruffles his hair.

 

“You’re too loud,” Jinyoung complains without any bite in his tone, and Bambam is quick to respond,”Jaebum hyung didn’t tell us off anyway, you’re no fun, hyung!”

 

“You’re a negligent parent,” Jinyoung tells Jaebum seriously, and Jaebum can’t help but laugh at how his friend takes his role as the mum friend so seriously. “Sorry,” Jaebum grins unapologetically, bringing over Jinyoung’s favourite beef bulgogi. “How was your date?”

 

“Well-” Jinyoung doesn’t even have time to complete his answer when their friends freak out. “You were on a date?” Youngjae nearly shouts before catching himself. Mark claps,”Our Jinyoungie’s all grown up, going on dates.”

 

“Who was it? Where did you go? Did you pay for the date?” Bambam fires off a series of questions rapidly, holding his hand in front of his face like he’s a news reporter.

 

“Hold on, hold on,” Jinyoung laughs, and Jaebum doesn’t miss the way his ears flush pink, the way they do when Jinyoung’s in a good mood. The date must’ve gone well.

 

“Tell us all about it, hyung!” Yugyeom pleads, puppy eyes on full blast as he nuzzles closer to Jinyoung like a large, clingy dog.

 

“Okay,” Jinyoung takes a few bites of bulgogi and rice, and they all eye him impatiently as he chews. “We went to this little cafe in Hongdae and it was really nice.”

 

“Details, Jinyoung!” Jackson presses on, prying for more information as Jinyoung takes a sip of his sikhye. Jinyoung’s ears are completely red now, and it takes Jaebum a few attempts to look away and focus back on his steaming serving of ramen.

 

“Well, it was just really nice. He was really nice, actually.” Jinyoung says, and Bambam snorts,”Who’s he? The waiter?”

 

“No,” Jinyoung looks down, suddenly awkward for some reason. “My date.”

 

There’s an uncomfortable pause at the table as they all try to take in the fact that Jinyoung’s date was a man. Jaebum never would’ve guessed that Jinyoung was into men even though he had nothing against homosexuality, since Jinyoung hadn’t said anything about it before.

 

Jackson is the first one to break the silence. “That’s great to hear, man!” He reaches out for a high-five, which Jinyoung halfheartedly returns. “Do we know the lucky guy?”

 

Jinyoung blinks,”Aren’t you guys bothered that I’m seeing a man?”

 

“Why would we be?” Mark laughs. “Not when at least 2/7 of us is gay, right, Jaebum?” Jaebum, not expecting to be spoken to, nearly chokes on ham,”Yeah.”

 

“Bring your boyfriend over soon, so we can kick Jaebum-hyung out of our squad and form a power couple alliance,” Yugyeom suggests, arm wrapped around Youngjae’s shoulders.  Jaebum flinches a little when his name is mentioned, and Youngjae is quick to divert the attention away, bless his soul. Youngjae grins widely at Jinyoung and squeezes his hand across the table,”Hyung, tell us more, he sounds lovely!”

 

“Well, Dongyoung’s from my translation theory class, he’s a literature student too, but we haven’t crossed paths much.” Jinyoung rambles about his date, cheeks flushed like some lovesick teenager, and the sight is so jarring that it makes Jaebum a little nauseous.

 

Jaebum looks down, focusing on his half-gone portion of stew, and tries not to throw up,

 

“Bring your boyfriend to meet us, Jinyoung,” Mark teases, and Jaebum chews a little faster.

 

Jinyoung probably wouldn’t appreciate you throwing up on him after a hot date, Jaebum begs himself, please hold it in. His inexplicable queasiness only gets worse as he eats, so he stops eating, uncharacteristically refusing a ladle of more stew from Youngjae.

 

“We’re not dating,” Jinyoung protests, blushing prettily as Jackson rolls his eyes,”Whatever you say, you lovesick idiot.”

 

“We’re just getting to know each other,” Jinyoung defends himself, but if the bright smile on his face is anything to go by, he must’ve really liked that Dogyeom guy. Jaebum pushes his bowl away- even the thought of eating makes him feel queasy.

 

“Do you have any pictures of him?” Bambam asks eagerly, and Jinyoung nods bashfully, long eyelashes fluttering as he clicks something and hands Bambam his phone. Bambam gasps once he catches a glimpse of whatever’s on Jinyoung’s phone,” He’s so cute, I can’t believe you?”

 

“Let me see!” Jackson leans over, grabbing at Jinyoung’s phone, desperate to get a proper look at Jinyoung’s cute date. The topic at hand doesn’t have anything to do with Jaebum, yet he finds himself cranning close to the phone, wanting to see the Dandruff guy as well.

 

“He’s handsome.” Youngjae concludes after taking a look, and Yugyeom whines, “What about me?”

 

“You’re the most handsome, of course,” Youngjae placates his boyfriend quickly with a kiss to his jaw. “But Dongyong’s still good-looking.”

 

Mark angles the phone slightly towards Jaebum’s direction, and he finally catches a good look of Dongyoung- he’s dashing enough, with handsome, clean features that make him look almost pretty. But what really catches Jaebum’s eyes is Jinyoung in the selfie. Jinyoung’s eyes are half-closed, looking blissful with a wide smile.

 

“He’s cute, isn’t he?” Jackson asks, dangling the phone in front of Jaebum’s eyes. “Sure,” Jaebum replies, eyes once again straying to Jinyoung’s face in the picture instead of the other guy.

 

“We’re just seeing if this works out,” Jinyoung explains as he snatches his phone from its dangerous position in Jackson’s hands. “I think he still has someone else on his mind at the moment.”

 

“Wow, what a player,” Yugyeom grumbles through a mouthful of chocolate pudding, “I say dump him, there’s other fish in the ocean.”

 

“Do all fish look like that fine specimen though?” Bambam questions, gesturing at Jinyoung’s phone. “Not to be gay but I’d smash that.”

 

Jaebum’s stomach lurches,”Don’t be gross.”

 

“Just get to know him, he might end up falling for you,” Mark says, forever the voice of reason. Jinyoung nods, and his phone lights up just as he’s about to get back to his meal. “Is it him?” Bambam crows as Jinyoung peers at his phone, smiling shyly.

 

“What did he say?” Jackson booms as Jinyoung types out a reply, blushing furiously.

 

“Spill the details, Jinyoung,” Mark joins in the teasing, and Jinyoung’s face turns so red it could drip blood at any moment,”He wanted to see if I was up for another date.”

 

To their collective embarrassment, Jackson actually whistles out loud,”He’s so into you, you guys might as well be married at the end of the year!”

 

“That’s not true,” Jinyoung protests weakly, but he’s still grinning with some sort of infatuated spark in his eyes. Jaebum laughs along, ruffling Jinyoung’s hair affectionately,”I’m best man to the wedding, right?”

 

Jinyoung’s face goes blank for a second, but that must be an illusion of Jaebum’s dulled mind, because he’s flustered again, telling Jaebum that they’re all banned from his future wedding.

 

They joke around and tease Jinyoung for some more, until there’s no food left on the table and Bambam dramatically announces that if he eats another piece of meat, he’ll die on the spot. Jaebum pays for them since Mark hosted their (sort of) house party last time, but he’s still feeling energetic when they pile onto the sidewalk, relishing in the cool night breeze.

 

Youngjae and Yugyeom leave first to get ice cream, with an unwilling Bambam in tow. “What do you guys need me for?” He mumbles as Youngjae intertwines his fingers with Yugyeom’s. “To watch you two make out and be cute?”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Youngjae laughs, reaching for Bambam’s hand good-naturedly. “You’ll complain if we don’t bring you along anyway.” Yugyeom waves at the rest of them as they walk away, Bambam whining as Youngjae giggles.

 

“Finally,” Mark sighs once the younger boys (Men, whatever. They’ll always be scrawny freshmen kids to Jaebum) are out of earshot. “Can’t believe those idiots are functioning adults.”

 

“Not sure about the functioning part, too.” Jaebum comments, raising his eyebrows as Jackson stumbles out of the restaurant’s bathroom missing one shoe.

 

“Where’s your shoe?” Jinyoung asks right away, and Jackson looks down, seemingly discovering for the first that he was, in fact, shoeless. “Where’s my shoe?” Jackson echoes, looking around blankly until he makes a mad dash for the bathroom.

 

The three of them sigh in unison as Jackson nearly trips on air, one step away from the bathroom entrance. “I thought he only drank 2 bottles of beer?” Mark frowns, looking at Jackson as he makes it into the bathroom with some difficulty. “I’ll walk him home before I go back, I guess.”

 

A loud crash comes from the bathroom, followed by a string of cursing in at least three different languages, and Jinyoung perks up, alarmed, “I’ll go check on him.”

 

Jinyoung heads to the bathroom, and Jaebum nudges Mark lightly,”Better add Jackson to the list of idiots.” ”Can’t believe I forgot,” Mark laughs, showing a mouthful of canine teeth, “The biggest idiot of all.”

 

“Jinyoung’s going to get him, don’t worry.” Jaebum replies, and Mark gives him a look that Jaebum doesn’t quite understand,” What?”

 

“Nothing, nothing,” Mark ducks his head, looking shifty, and Jaebum gives him a questioning look,”What about it?” “It’s just weird how Jinyoung’s seeing that Dongyong guy now-” Mark murmurs, looking like he’s talking to himself instead.

 

“Is he a stalker? A fuckboy?” Jaebum bristles at the mention of Jinyoung’s date -Doyoung? Donkyon?- for some unknown reason, and Mark shrugs, looking away,”It’s just, I always thought, well-”

 

“Just spit it out,” Jaebum tells Mark, but then Jackson and Jinyoung emerge from the men’s room- Jackson half-leaning on a very disgruntled Jinyoung and holding a suspiciously soggy shoe.

 

“Found it!” Jackson trills, cutting off whatever Mark was about to say. Jinyoung heaves Jackson off him with some difficulty. “His shoe was in the loo,” He explains, weariness evident in his voice.

 

“Right,” Mark offers a shoulder to a staggering Jackson, who leans on the elder instantly, “I think it’s time we went home.” Jackson’s bleary eyes snap wide open at the mention of home,”What? No, we were just getting to the good part, where Jinyoungie-”

 

Jaebum leans in closer, not really understanding Jackson’s slurred speech, but Jinyoung clamps a hand over Jackson’s mouth neatly, “Go home, Jackson, it’s late.”

 

“Yeah,” Mark shifts Jackson to a more comfortable position and nods. “Get home safe, you guys.”

 

“Text us when you’re home,” Jaebum calls as Mark and Jackson (Or rather, Mark dragging Jackson along) walk away, only turning around when Mark signs okay with his spare hand.

 

Jaebum and Jinyoung head back then, walking along the Han river to get back home. “What was Jackson about to say?” Jaebum asks Jinyoung as they wait for the traffic light to change. “You looked pretty panicked when you were stopping him.”

 

“I dunno,“ Jinyoung smiles, familiar eye folds crinkling but in a mysterious way, like he knows something Jaebum doesn’t know,”Maybe we’re planning your birthday party.”

 

“My birthday was two months ago,” Jaebum replies, giving Jinyoung an odd look as they cross the road. Jinyoung shrugs, ”Never hurts to be prepared, right?”

 

Jaebum gives Jinyoung an incredulous look before punching him lightly on the arm,”You’re not funny, tell me what’s going on?” Jinyoung only laughs at him, the brat, and he opens his mouth, probably about to say something just as cheeky when his phone pings.

 

“Hold on,” Jinyoung scrambles for his phone, blushing pink even under the dim streetlight once he sees the text. “Is it him?” Jaebum asks, frowning a little when Jinyoung nods.

 

It just irks Jaebum, how Jinyoung’s so taken with Donyeon when they’ve only gone on one date. Or maybe it’s the fact that Jinyoung hasn’t told him about his date before that rubs him the wrong way.

 

Either way, Jaebum decides, as Jinyoung texts back with a giddy smile, he doesn’t like Dimyang.

 

“Sorry,” Jinyoung tucks his phone back into his bag, glancing at Jaebum,”What were we talking about again?”

 

“Nothing,” Jaebum doesn’t want to further investigate anymore. “How was your date?” He asks instead, by way of conversation rather than out of personal interest. It’s not like Jaebum doesn’t care about his best friend’s love life, but he just feels a strange dislike towards this Dawon guy.

 

“We just talked, but it was interesting,” Jinyoung smiles as they walk along the river. “Dongyong’s a sweet guy, I had a pretty great time.” Who’s Dongyong, Jaebum nearly asks, but catches himself once he realises that Dongyong is Donyeon/Dawon.

“Oh,” He says instead, not knowing how exactly to respond. But Jinyoung looks at him expectantly, as if he’s waiting for an answer, and Jaebum’s never been one to let Jinyoung down.

 

“He sounds decent,” Jaebum settles for an answer eventually. “You really should bring him over for dinner, seriously- it’ll be a good chance for the rest of us to get to know him more.” “Should I really?” Jinyoung’s eyes light up, and Jaebum tries his best to ignore the bitter taste in his mouth,”Yeah, he’s your first love, after all.”

 

“Don’t put it like that.” Jinyoung says sharply, without warning. “I mean, we’re really just getting to know each other.” Jaebum doesn’t understand why Jinyoung reacts rather strongly to his choice of words- they’ve been teasing and jabbing at each other playfully since they could speak, but he gets the feeling that there’s something that he’s not supposed to question.

 

“Okay,” Jaebum says. They’re almost back home. “Sorry.”

 

“Don’t be,” Jinyoung takes a deep breath and smiles like nothing’s just happened. “It’s fine, I’m just a little tired.”

 

“Okay,” Jaebum says.

 

“Okay,” Jinyoung replies.

 

They walk for a while, down the lane to where their apartment is tucked neatly between a supermarket (very convenient) and a bakery (convenient except when it’s five in the morning and their cookies smell heavenly). None of them speak, but it’s not unfamiliar or uncomfortable, like it would be with any stranger.

 

That’s why they’ve been best friends for years, the way they make each other happy simply by being there, words not spoken but passed between the two of them with a simple glance. A friend, a brother, a teacher, home- that’s what Jinyoung is to Jaebum.

 

Jinyoung finally speaks as they draw closer to their apartment,”Hyung, would you mind if I brought Dongyoung over next week?” Jaebum nearly trips, shocked that Jinyoung’s already going so far in their relationship.

 

Jaebum shouldn’t be one to judge, honestly: he’s brought a number of girlfriends over, sometimes on dates, sometimes doing some… other things (occasionally and unfortunately exiling Jinyoung to Mark’s apartment, but Jinyoung doesn’t mind- or, Jaebum thinks he doesn’t), but it’s just weirdly shocking to Jaebum that Jinyoung, token single man, would be doing something so uncharacteristic and daring just after one date.

 

“Calm down,” Jinyoung sputters at Jaebum’s reaction. “We’re not going to do anything, we’re just going to talk about some coursework- he went to Japan for two weeks recently, so I wanted to help him catch up.”

 

“Why don’t you guys do it at the library?” Jaebum straightens himself with some difficulty. “Or like, Starbucks?”

 

“Dongyoung doesn’t really like coffee,” Jinyoung says, and Jaebum rolls his eyes. Doughnut was clearly not the one for Jinyoung, Mr, I-can’t-live-a-day-without-coffee, Jaebum thinks to himself.

 

“Plus, it’s almost exam season for the science majors, so the library is packed 24/7.” Jinyoung continues. “We could go to his place instead, if you don’t want him to come over.”

 

Jaebum takes a moment to consider Jinyoung’s proposal. Although he didn’t want Jinyoung to have a date at their shared apartment, for whatever selfish reason, he wasn’t keen on Jinyoung going to the guy’s apartment too. Donghyuck already didn’t like coffee, he probably had other psychopath tendencies that Jinyoung was too blindsided to notice.

 

“Fine,” Jaebum grumps. “He can come over, I’ll just be in my room.”

 

“Thanks, hyung,” Jinyoung grins at him victoriously. “I’ll be sure to introduce you both.”

 

They reach the apartment, and Jaebum hikes up the stairs in record speed, not wanting to further discuss the matter.

 

-----

 

Next week, as it turns out, comes by a lot faster if you try everything to not think about it, Jaebum thinks as he gets ready for bed right after Jinyoung drops a bomb on him.

 

“Hyung?” Jinyoung asks outside the bathroom as Jaebum shaves his jaw carefully. “Just wanted to remind you that Dongyoung’s coming over tomorrow morning!”

 

Jaebum nearly drops his razor, nicking himself on the chin. What kind of weirdo was Dongyoung? Studying in the morning?

 

“Hyung?” Jinyoung knocks. “Are you okay? Did you hear me?”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Jaebum touches the cut tenderly, wincing a little. Tomorrow was going to be tough.

 

Jaebum spends too much time trying to fall asleep, thinking of Jinyoung and study dates and weird boys. At 3 am, he digs out his phone and decides to do a little… background research.

 

Dongyong , he types into his facebook search bar. Nothing comes up, but he finds someone called Kim Doyoung, with two mutual friends: Park Jinyoung and Kim Yugyeom.

 

(Jaebum makes a note to grill Yugyeom about this. Or kill Yugyeom. Or both.)

 

Kim Doyoung’s profile is nothing special, just pictures of him and friends traveling and having fun. His profile picture is of him reading a book next to a pool, simple but stylish.

 

Fuck, Jaebum squints. He seems exactly like what Jinyoung would go for.

 

He tosses his phone to the side and muffles his head in the pillow.

 

And that’s why when Jaebum wakes up, it’s already 11 o’clock, leaving him no time to wash up and eat breakfast before Doyoung comes over. He stays in bed for a moment, contemplating whether he should just stay in bed until the afternoon and avoid Kim Dongin. But then his stomach grumbles, and Jaebum decides, as a strong, independent man, he shouldn’t let Jinyoung’s date get in the way of him living out his life to the fullest.

 

(Or rather, surviving on minimum daily necessities, but that’s not the point.)

 

He gets up slowly- as if dragging out his body movement could cause Danyong to leave asap, but when he finally gets into the bathroom, he hears laughter from the living room- Jinyoung’s, and that of another guy.

 

Jaebum washes up as quickly as he can, not wanting to be trapped in the small space, but once he opens the bathroom door, he comes face to face with his worst nightmare.

 

Dark hair, big eyes, like a cute bunny. Dressed in slacks and a shirt, exactly what Jinyoung always nags him to wear instead of his usual band tee and ripped jeans.

 

To Jaebum’s horror, Kim Doyeon smiles, tidy teeth flashing neatly as he introduces himself,”Hi, I’m Dongyoung, Jinyoung’s friend. You must be the roommate?”

 

“Uhh,” Jaebum stares at Dongyeon’s extended hand. “Jaebum, I’d shake your hand but I just took a huge-”

 

“I see you’ve already met,” Jinyoung appears out of nowhere, the smile on his face angelic to everyone but Jaebum, who’s been around enough to know that he’s definitely up to no good.”Dongyoung, this is Jaebum. Jaebum, Dongyoung.”

 

Dayoung nods at Jaebum, peering curiously, and Jaebum offers a quick ‘hi’ before exiting the bathroom. Jinyoung’s date makes to walk into the bathroom, but Jaebum stops him- it’s well-intentioned, of course.

 

“It still, kind of, smells bad in there, so maybe-” Dayeon catches on quickly, bless him, and he walks back to the living room without another word.

 

Jinyoung just laughs at him.

 

Jaebum does try to welcome Doyoon, he puts on his headphones and tries to have breakfast at the dining table, but there he gets a full view of the study date. They both look happy, with Jinyoung flashing Donhyuck smiles here and there, and Daniel leaning into Jinyoung to see what’s on his laptop screen.

 

Jaebum doesn’t know why he feels so unsettled by this harmless, bunny-looking guy, but the coffee tastes like bile in his mouth, even more so as Dawon reaches out to clasp Jinyoung’s hand in his own.

 

Jaebum gets up and leaves.

Chapter Text

To Jaebum’s distaste, Jinyoung’s date sticks around. Dongyoung (as Jinyoung’s painstakingly reminded him for thousands of times) comes over regularly, so often that Jaebum can’t seem to ignore his presence anymore. Even Nora gets used to this new guest, meowing eagerly as Dongyoung offers her a small can of tuna.

 

Jaebum’s never been a fan of direct confrontation, so he hides in his room when Dongyoung comes over, such that they don’t have to interact.

 

But he can’t avoid hearing light laughter and soft chatter, squirming into Jaebum’s ears no matter how loud he turns up the volume of his headphones. He ends up with a raging headache two hours into Jinyoung and Dongyoung’s fourth study date, and he isn’t sure if it’s due to them or the fact that he’s been listening to the same FOB song for two whole hours.

 

Jaebum’s headache only gets worse when Nora slips outside his room, knocking down a stack of books as she slips through the narrowly-opened door. “Are you serious,” Jaebum mutters, crouching down to pick the books up.

 

There’s cat food, water, Nora’s favourite blue squeaky mouse, and most importantly, Jaebum, in the room, so why is Nora escaping? Jaebum laments internally as he walks outside to retrieve Nora.

 

Nora’s perched in Dongyoung’s lap when Jaebum walks into the living room, purring contentedly as he scratches her behind the ears tentatively. She doesn’t leave even when Jaebum calls for her, and he laughs nervously as Dongyoung tries to lift Nora from his thighs, not wanting to talk to Dongyoung as The Roommate.

 

Jinyoung emerges from the kitchen then, smiling affectionately,”Dongyoungie, do you need some help there- Oh, Jaebum.” Jinyoung’s smile seems awkward now, like Jaebum’s intruding in his own apartment. Dongyoung doesn’t seem to mind Jaebum’s presence, reaching out for

Jinyoung’s outstretched hand and leaning over to whisper something in his ear.

 

Jaebum feels like he’s going to vomit.

 

“Nora-yah,” He calls again, feeling desperate. Nora runs to his feet, paws padding lightly on the carpet, and he scoops her up, muttering a quick ‘good girl’ in her soft fur. He stays buried in Nora’s fur a second, not entirely sure where to look.

 

Cautiously, Jaebum glances up again, only to find Jinyoung and Dongyoung focused on something on Jinyoung’s laptop.

 

(Jinyoung hates using his laptop, Jaebum knows, it makes his eyes hurt- but Jinyoung’s been using his laptop recently, and Jaebum’s baffled.

 

But not curious, Jaebum doesn’t need to know why.)

 

Jaebum hugs Nora a little closer, despite her insistent squirming, and he’s about to hole up in his room again when Jinyoung calls out to him,”Hyung?”

 

“Yeah?” Jaebum gives up struggling with Nora and her flailing paws, and she scampers back to Jaebum’s room once he sets her down, a sentiment Jaebum greatly relates to. Jinyoung’s looking at Jaebum with a small smile, almost wishful, so Jaebum asks him again, “Do you need anything?”

 

“Oh-” Jinyoung laughs a little, eyes folding into their signature whiskers. “Just wondering whether you’ll come out for dinner- Dongyoungie and I’ll order tteokbokki, we could order more for you too. We’ll just be studying, so we won’t disturb you with whatever you’re doing.”

 

“Yeah, it’s totally cool.” Dongyoung nods, offering Jaebum a shy grin, but he feels incessantly uncomfortable by Dongyoung’s mere existence. Since when had Jinyoung’s definition of ‘we’ became him and Dongyoung?

 

Dongyoungie this, Dongyoungie that- Jaebum shifts in his pajama bottoms, uneasy. He doesn’t know why he hates Dongyoung so much when the guy looks like a fucking bunny, but discomfort just creeps up all over his skin when he’s around.

 

“I think I’ll pass, yeah?” Jaebum shrugs, forcing a small grin. He hopes he doesn’t look as awkward as he feels, “I’ll eat outside.” Jaebum ducks back into his room without another look at the two, and he holes up in his room, trying to distract himself with a book -something about a love story between an alien and a human, a gag gift from Bambam. It doesn’t work, and fifty pages later Jaebum flips the book shut, flopping onto his bed instead.

 

Staring at his blank ceiling, Jaebum sighs, feeling drained even though he’s hardly done anything. What a great way to waste away the weekend, Jaebum chuckles to himself.

 

His parents would certainly be proud, seeing that Jaebum was being angry at himself instead of living a promiscuous lifestyle, picking up girls left and right or getting drunk in the bar-

 

Jaebum’s half-closed eyes snap open: what other places could he possibly go to make himself feel worse- the bar! Jaebum seldom went to the bar/ club/ whatever it's called after the second year in college, but he was fairly sure that he could get his mind off… things if he went there.

 

Jinyoung hated it when Jaebum went to the bar, which was part of the reason why he had stopped going- but then, Jinyoung knew Jaebum didn't like visitors, so why was Dongyoung always over?

 

Making up his mind, Jaebum dressed quickly, picking out jeans and a leather jacket to go with his worn-out band tee. He looks like a wannabe emo, but Jaebum can’t bring himself to care, frowning as he grabs his phone and wallet quickly.

 

Jaebum walks outside with light steps, hoping to leave without further conversation with Jinyoung and/or Dongyoung. Unfortunately, Jinyoung catches Jaebum as he pulls on his sneakers next to the door.

 

“Where are you going?” Jinyoung asks, slightest hint of worry in his voice. Jaebum nearly softens then, nearly tells Jinyoung where he’s going, but then he reminds himself that this is Park Jinyoung he’s with, and he’s not in the mood to be nagged, either.

 

“Somewhere,” Jaebum says, trying hard not to snap at Jinyoung. “I won’t be back late,” He adds at the sight of Jinyoung’s downcast eyes- It’s not his fault that Jaebum feels like shit- Or is it?

 

Jinyoung doesn’t look reassured, but he nods anyway,”Be safe.” “I will,” Jaebum replies- this feels weird, like Jinyoung’s sending him off to war or something.

 

“By the way,” Jinyoung looks behind him quickly. Dongyoung isn’t in the living room anymore, Jaebum notices, and the bathroom door is shut.

 

“If Dongyoung’s presence is making you uncomfortable, we can just go somewhere else. Dongyoung and I can-”  “It’s fine,” Jaebum interrupts, already feeling exhausted. “I’ll just go.”

 

“Wait, Jaebum-”

 

Jaebum shuts the door in Jinyoung’s face, barely missing a glimpse of his best friend looking exasperated, pink lips mid-pout. He feels guilty- Jinyoung just means well, but he’s tired of fighting his annoyance at the couple. The lingering regret washes away completely once Jaebum leaves the apartment building, breathing in the crisp Autumn air.

 

Ahh, Jaebum smiles faintly. Freedom.

 

He checks his phone as he waits for the light to turn green- Haejin still hasn’t replied to his text, but that’s okay- Jaebum’ll just wander around, maybe get a few drinks, just to get his mind off things.

 

His mind made up, Jaebum heads downtown to Bar Aurora, a short walk from their apartment building. Jaebum used to frequent the bar with a few producer friends, but he hadn’t gone after Jinyoung had voiced his displeasure about him coming home in the early hours of the morning, smelling like he’d just bathed in beer.

 

They had argued for two weeks, flat-out ignoring each other until Jaebum gave in, promising not to go to the bar. (He still went, but rarely such that Jinyoung wouldn’t notice a thing.)

 

Jaebum strides to the bar pretty quickly, expecting a crowd at the bar but hearing none of the usual cheers and whoops even as he turns into the street corner. Strange, Jaebum frowns. Was it a national day of mourning or something?

 

Jaebum walks closer, only to find the usually-lit bar closed. There’s a note stuck on the gates: Closed for two weeks.

 

Damn. Jaebum puts his hand on the gates, not trusting himself to stand straight. Everything seemed to be working against him, from the sudden intrusion of Jinyoung’s Doyoung to the closed bar.

 

Breathe in, breathe out, Jaebum tells himself. Don’t punch a wall, you can do this.

 

So getting drunk isn't an option , Jaebum concludes silently. Maybe the gods have conspired with Jinyoung on some anti-drinking regime to render Jaebum miserable, damned to watch couples get together forever.

 

Jaebum trudges towards the traffic crossing reluctantly- he could just tell Jinyoung his ‘friends’,  whoever the fuck they were,canceled on him, to seem like he wasn't that much of a single loser- but that wouldn’t work out very well seeing that they practically had the same ten friends.

 

Jaebum’s shoulders slump at the prospect of heading home for a rerun of the Jindo Show. God, if ur there somewhere , he prays silently as the little red man glares at him, please help .

 

As if the gods have heard his prayer, a familiar store sign catches Jaebum's eye.

 

A 7-Eleven- hallelujah.

 

The traffic light turns green, and Jaebum crosses the road without hesitation- food was a splendid idea, and cheap food? Perfect.

 

Jaebum loved going to convenience stores for instant ramen and snacks when he was in high school, (with Jinyoung, a tiny voice in his head reminds him.) and even now, convenience store ramen remained one of his favourite comfort food.

 

The convenience store is mostly empty, with no customers waiting at the cashier. Jaebum picks out his favourite brand, along with a packet of instant cheese and pays quickly, stomach rumbling at the mere thought of food.

 

Jaebum fills the container with water skillfully, bringing his tray to one of the small tables in the store. There’s a young man seated at the table- he looks about Jaebum’s age, with dyed pink hair and brown roots-, but he’s sitting slumped, with three cans of beer lined up in a melancholic line.

 

Jaebum finds the other man relatable, but spares no time as he rips open the plastic sheet covering the ramen container. He pokes the ramen tentatively- it’s on the hard side, would taste better with a bit more cooking, but Jaebum’s too hungry to care. He tosses in toppings, broth powder and cheese quickly, relishing in the delicious aroma that rises.

 

Jaebum stirs the ramen impatiently, about to take his first bite when the pink-haired man sits up abruptly, sniffing the air like an alert dog. “What’s that smell?” He rasps, and Jaebum recoils slightly- fending off his precious ramen from hungry, drunk men wasn’t exactly what he wanted at the moment.

 

Jaebum takes a big bite hurriedly- hey, even if he loses his ramen to some strange guy, at least he had a bite, right? - the ramen tastes amazing, as always, and Jaebum closes his eyes to savour the spiciness and cheesiness of the noodles that mix so, so well, that he nearly forgets the presence of the other man.

 

“Don’t worry,” Pink Man laughs, and Jaebum tears his eyes from his lovely noodles. “I ate already, I’m not going to ask for some.” He laughs, and Jaebum stops mid-chew to nod quickly in response. The other guy isn’t bad-looking, with handsome features and a bright grin.

 

Is he someone Jinyoung would go for? Jaebum wonders discreetly.

 

Jaebum takes another bite, belatedly noticing Pink Guy’s eyes on him, as if he’s expecting a proper response. It takes him a few attempts to swallow, “Good to know.”

 

“I’m Taeyong,” The other man announces, and Jaebum nods vaguely, slurping up a large string of noodles,”I’m Jaebum.”

 

Taeyong takes a drink from an open beer can as Jaebum takes another bite, and he can’t help but be intrigued- Was this man a fellow bargoer, forcibly rejected from the closed bar? Was it a sign that they met at the convenient store, that they should join forces in fighting the capitalist agenda, to create a new world with open bars and ramen and beer?

 

Jaebum childishly excludes Dongyoung from this (possible) new world.

 

“So, bad day, huh?” Jaebum raises his eyebrows at Taeyong’s beer line. The guy had to be going through something traumatic to drink in the evening- ditched by a girlfriend, maybe? Maybe this (hypothetical) ex-girlfriend of Taeyong's could be expelled along with Dongyoung, so Jaebum wasn't picking on him, not really.

 

Taeyong shrugs, nonchalantly so,”My roommate- friend- crush has a boyfriend, apparently.”

 

"Oh", Jaebum isn't exactly sure how to reply. His situation is kind of similar with Taeyong’s, he supposes- both in awkward positions with their roommates, but it isn't like he's crushing on jinyoung.

 

And he's thinking about Jinyoung again, wondering what him and Dongyoung are up to. Maybe they're watching a movie? All that ‘studying’ would get boring, eventually, and Jaebum can just picture Jinyoung reaching across their dining table for Dongyoung’s hand, bringing him over to the sofa with a gentle smile. But would Dongyoung know Jinyoung's love for rom-coms and his absolute distaste for horror, or his annoying habit of recreating every scene he liked from the movie.?

 

Stop thinking about Jinyoung, Jaebum slaps himself around the head mentally. It's like everything Jaebum does leads back to Jinyoung somehow, wisps and trails of thought converging into a singular point.

 

Frustrated, jaebum gobbles up another bite of ramen, nearly choking on the greasy noodles.

 

After a light splutter, Jaebum (thinks he) hides his slip-up under the guise of a polite cough. Taeyong's giving him a weird look, and Jaebum belatedly remembers that he'd left Taeyong's reply unanswered.

 

"That sucks," Jaebum swallows, hoping he won't spit tiny pieces of ramen on Taeyong's face. "I'm sure you'll find other girls, though-" Jaebum gestures vaguely at Taeyong's face,"You're a good-looking guy."

 

"Thanks, I guess?" Taeyong laughs, dryly but not menacingly,"I'll pass on the girls, though- my roommate’s a guy."

 

"Oh," Jaebum finds himself at a loss for an answer again. Hey, my roommate’s gay too! would seem like he was oversharing, and Wow, I've been running into so many gay people nowadays! would probably make Taeyong feel uncomfortable.

 

"That sucks, man," Jaebum settles for a neutral-ish reply, skirting around the topic of Taeyong's sexuality. "Were you heading to the bar originally?"

 

Taeyong nods, fidgeting with the ring of a beer can,"The drinking really gave it away, huh?"

 

"No judgement, though-" Jaebum hastily amends, setting down his chopsticks for a second to observe Taeyong’s stance, hunched over what seems like another can of cheap beer. "I planned to go there too."

 

"Oh?" Taeyong perks up from his half-slumped position. "Too bad for us, then."

 

"Yeah," Jaebum gets back to eating, twirling the last strands of noodles around his chopsticks. “I’ve been having troubles with my, ah, roommate, so I just wanted to get out, really.”

 

Taeyong nods sympathetically, running a veiny hand through his hair. There’s nothing remarkably ‘gay’ about him- he just seems like any other guy, but again, there wasn’t anything different about Jinyoung either.

 

Jaebum slurps up the last of the ramen, racking his brain for a way to ask Taeyong about his story in an inoffensive way- maybe, if he learns how to interact with gay people, the sight of Jinyoung and Dongyoung being all chummy won’t irritate Jaebum so much.

 

“Same here,” Taeyong picks at his fingernails as Jaebum deposits the empty container into a trash can. “He’s out with this guy all the time, and the house just seems empty without him.”

 

It’s the exact opposite case for Jaebum, but he offers a smile and a tentative pat on Taeyong’s shoulder,”You’ve been friends for a long time?”

 

“Is six years long?” Taeyong actually laughs a little at that, and Jaebum gives a non-commital shrug. Six years is relatively short compared to how long Jaebum and Jinyoung have known each other, but it’s more than a quarter of Jaebum’s whole life.

 

“At first I hated him, he was too proper, picky and no fun at all,” Taeyong recounts, and Jaebum listens, momentarily entranced. “But then we were roommates, and it just happened, naturally.”

 

“What happened?” Jaebum leans forward, hands placed on his thighs weirdly without the chopsticks to fiddle with. “Here,” Taeyong slides over an unopened beer. Jaebum tries to refuse, but Taeyong only nudges the can closer to Jaebum,”I swear it’s not drugged or anything- a small price for listening to my bullshit?”

 

“Alright, alright- if you insist,” Jaebum takes the can, pops it open as Taeyong continues, a faraway look in his eyes,”Falling in love, that just happened.”

 

“I didn’t even know I was gay when it first started- it was just like-” Taeyong frowns, glaring at his beer. “Just like- the easiest thing.”

 

“Breathing?” Jaebum suggests. It seems unreal to him, how someone can just start loving another with a soft inhale. But again, Jaebum’s fiery and rough around the edges- relationships have never came easy, even with his closest friends.

 

Only with Jinyoung did being close feel natural- something akin to coming up for air after a deep dive. But that wasn’t the same, everything about Jinyoung was different because that was Jinyoung.

 

“Yeah,” Taeyong smiles, almost wistfully, “One day, I woke up, saw him burning eggs on the stove- our stove- and I just knew, as cheesy as that sounds.”

 

“Can’t say I’ve ever felt that, but that’s-” Jaebum takes a sip. “Something I’d want at some point, probably.” Taeyong nods vigorously- all that beer must’ve gotten to him already, poor guy-”It’s all I want, you know- for him to look at me the way I look at him.”

 

“Does he not, ah, return your feelings?” Jaebum winces at his own insensitivity once the words stumble out, but Taeyong doesn’t seem to take offence, fidgeting with his beer again,”I don’t know.”

 

“It’s confusing, one second we’re about to kiss, but the other day he just,” Taeyong hiccups, tracing the round edge of the can,“-ignores me to go out with this other guy from one of his classes.”

 

“Oh,” Jaebum takes a sip of beer again, the taste bland in his dry mouth. “But Jaebum-ssi,” Taeyong perks up with a shocking clarity, hands clenched around his current can of beer.

 

“I believe in happy endings,” Taeyong holds out his can, squinting at Jaebum like he’s trying to read him. “Everything’s going to be fine, you and your roommate, me and my Dotokki.”

 

“Yeah,” Jaebum clinks his beer lightly against Taeyong’s. Maybe Taeyong’s right, everything will be fine and they’ll resolve their arguments, just like how they’ve done it for thousands of times.  “I’ll drink to that.”

 

Taeyong slumps again then, and Jaebum worries for a second that he's drunk. But then he sits up straight with some difficulty, like he's a puppet being pulled on a string.

 

"I'm going now," Taeyong grins, gathering up empty beer cans with some effort.

 

A can clatters onto the ground, and Jaebum hurries to pick it up.

 

“Oops,” Taeyong giggles as Jaebum tosses the can into the trash. He stands up, slightly wobbly, but he stops Jaebum from helping with a hand.

 

“It’s okay, Jaebum,” Taeyong laughs as Jaebum sits back down. “I’ll call a cab, it’s not like he’ll come pick me up anyway.”

 

Jaebum feels for Taeyong, Jinyoung would probably let Jaebum rot than come to his aid, fully enraptured by Dongyoung’s rabbit teeth.

 

“See you around, Jaebum,” Taeyong grins, and Jaebum waves as he slides open the door. He should say something, thank Taeyong for talking to him, but then Taeyong’s gone, blurring into the hustling street.

 

Jaebum stays at the empty table for a while, contemplating the rest of his beer. His encounter with Taeyong feels unreal, like he’d dreamed up the whole interaction. (Jaebum wouldn’t be surprised, seeing that he’s been constantly irritated and unmotivated.)

 

Fuck , Jaebum sighs. He really should get a job.  

 

Jaebum pulls out his phone- maybe he could go to Mark’s, or get dinner with Youngjae. Mark was his friend before Mark was Jinyoung’s, and Youngjae had always trailed after Jaebum since their high school days.

 

There’s a bunch of texts from their group chat, and Jaebum skims through them briefly, frowning as he realises that everyone, minus him and Jinyoung, were seeing a movie. Great , Jaebum rolls his eyes, even his other friends were ignoring him.

 

He suddenly regrets not calling out to Taeyong.

 

Almost miraculously, his phone lights up. A text from Haejin saying that she’s free to meet up.

 

Jaebum stands up, tossing his half-finished beer into the trash. Maybe Haejin would help him take his mind off things.

 

Jaebum spends his night with Haejin, talking and sleeping and drinking and doing less innocent things in between. Haejin’s sympathetic with his situation, offering to kiss his worries away, but then Jaebum’s too tired to do anything else but sleep, his head filled with confusing roommates and their annoying dates.

 

He wakes up the other morning, shoulders aching- Haejin’s nowhere to be found, off to her waitress job, but he knows his way in her apartment, grabbing his guest toothbrush and slipping into a t-shirt he must’ve left there the last time he came over- It’s been ages since they’ve messed around like this, sometimes they crash at Jaebum’s and sometimes he just doesn’t feel like doing anything at all.

 

Haejin’s a good friend, a shoulder to lean on and even a good fuck when Jaebum needs it. He owes her too much, and Haejin’s nothing but kind and forgiving even when Jaebum forgets her from time to time.

 

They’ve gotten together, once or twice, but it doesn’t feel right, and privately, Jaebum thinks he’s not good enough for her, so they’ve agreed to keep it as what it is between them.

 

Maybe he’ll buy her something extra nice for her birthday, Jaebum thinks. He yawns, reaching for his phone to check when Haejin’s birthday is- she’s a gemini, if he’s not mistaken, so June?

 

Jaebum has 7 missed calls and 59 unread messages, all from Jinyoung. He belatedly realises that he told Jinyoung he’d be back at night.

 

Oops.

 

He swipes away the notifications, clicking on Haejin’s instagram profile instead. Her birthday post, where she’s buried in a mount of balloons, black bob contrasted against the pink themed decor.

 

Jaebum raises his eyebrows at the date, October 22. It’s probably an early sign that he’s getting old, not being able to remember birthdays. October 22 , Jaebum repeats to himself, exactly one month after Jinyoung’s, that should be easy to remember.

 

Jinyoung, Jinyoung, Jinyoung , Jaebum slaps his head lightly. Why was everything about him again? Dongyoung should remember Jinyoung’s birthday, not him.

 

He clicks on Jinyoung’s texts next, they’re all variants of where are you? text me back. and Jaebum feels like he’s going to be sick.

 

He doesn’t lie to Jinyoung, not since their second year in kindergarten when he told Jinyoung that Santa was real. It’s just not them to keep things from each other, but Jaebum feels little remorse when he tells Jinyoung he’s at a friend’s dorm. Arguing with Jinyoung wasn’t on his agenda, and Jinyoung had kept Dongyoung a secret, Jaebum resonates.

 

So Jaebum lies- to Jinyoung and maybe to himself, too. But it’s just for their own good, Jaebum tells himself when he returns to their apartment, late that night when he knows Jinyoung will be asleep.

 

It’s better if they keep a distance between them, so Jinyoung can skip off into the sunset with Dongyoung and Jaebum can do.. whatever he does, alone.

 

That’s what Jaebum tells himself as he moves most of his school stuff away from home, finally utilizing his campus locker. It’s annoying to walk to the other side of the campus for like, 3 books, but the worst part is dodging Jinyoung every day, waking up earlier than Jinyoung usually does to avoid stilted conversations.

 

Their friends notice, of course. “Are you avoiding Jinyoung-hyung?” Youngjae asks when Jaebum pretends to buy something from the drinking machine until Jinyoung finishes his lunch at their table.

 

“You noticed?” Jaebum asks, but it’s not really a surprise, with how obvious he’s being. Youngjae winces, bless his gentle soul,“That’s a been harsh, isn’t it?”

 

“It’s not like how he’ll notice,” Jaebum laughs, slightly bitter. “With how far he’s up Dongyoung’s ass-” He feels guilty once Youngjae shifts in his seat, almost like he’s forcing Youngjae to pick sides.

 

“Jinyoung-hyung hasn’t been going out with Dongyoung recently,” Youngjae shrugs,”Are you in love with Dongyoung instead?”

 

It’s just a joke, but Jaebum feels his skin prickle for some reason. Youngjae’s just being ridiculous, the only redeeming trait Dongyoung has is the fact that Nora likes him.

 

“Of course not, you brat,” Jaebum reaches over to tickle Youngjae, but the odd feeling lingers even when Youngjae ducks and squeals as they jostle around like kids.

 

And maybe it would hurt more, if Jaebum had seen Jinyoung watching them from a distance, frowning.

Chapter Text

Jaebum inevitably runs into Jinyoung, they’re like two satellites circling the same orbit, destined to crash and burn with the force of a thousand stars.

 

(Also, they live in the same 500 sq. feet apartment, but that’s not the point.)

 

Jaebum’s taking yet another 5am shower, hoping to slip outside unnoticed. Camping out in the campus library is getting boring, so maybe he’ll crash at Mark’s for the night.

 

They’ve fought millions of times before, over stupid things (Jaebum eating Jinyoung’s strawberries without asking in third grade), petty things (Jinyoung’s sisters calling Jaebum their handsome little brother), even serious things (The time Jinyoung nearly took a Japanese scholarship without telling Jaebum), but none of their previous fights have left Jaebum so drained and helpless.

 

Jaebum can’t shake the feeling that things will change- it’s unlikely that they’ll stop being friends entirely, they’ve been through too much to be enemies all of the sudden, and their social circles are nearly the same- but they could easily drift apart, going from best friends (platonic soulmates, as he had said once under the heavy influence of alcohol) to awkward strangers.

 

It’s probably Jaebum’s fault for this mess, but it’s not like he’s trying to hate Dongyoung. It’s just… weird and inconceivable to him that Jinyoung would date a guy. They’ll have to talk about it sooner or later, and Jaebum doesn’t look forward to that.

 

He finishes his shower quickly, slipping into a fresh sweatshirt and jeans.  Fingers pruned and hair wet, he picks up his dirty clothes and tosses them neatly into the hamper- no matter what, he’s not a slob like Jinyoung. He’ll need to get some more clothes if he’s going to stay at Mark’s for the night, but that’s risky- Jinyoung could be waking up any moment now.

 

Jaebum slips out of the bathroom with light steps- the door to Jinyoung’s room is still closed, but he tiptoes all the way to his room anyway, just to be safe. Nora purrs drowsily as he cracks open the door to his own room, curled up on his bed, and Jaebum feels a surge of guilt at the sight of his cat. He hasn’t spent as much time looking after her lately since he rarely stays at home now, close to relying on his Smart Cat Feeder to keep her healthy and nourished.

 

“I’m sorry, princess,” Jaebum murmurs regretfully as he fills the cat feeder with nutritious yet bland packaged cat food, “Maybe I’ll get you some salmon tomorrow, huh? You’d like that, won’t you?”

 

Nora meows softly in response, rolling over in her sleep.

 

“Right, you can’t speak,” Jaebum sighs, stuffing a few more t-shirts in his bag. “Would be great if you could help me sort out everything, though,” He remarks to no one in particular as Nora snoozes.

 

Jaebum flips through his school notebook quickly- it’s his day off, but he could do with some studying for an upcoming test. A movie would be nice too, if Mark was free.

 

“Are you leaving?” someone that’s definitely not Jaebum says, and he jumps, staring at Nora who still has her eyes closed. “Was that y-you?”

 

“No, dummy,” Jaebum turns around to find Jinyoung standing near the door, arms crossed. He doesn’t look particularly angry, face blank, but he knows his best friend well enough to know that Jinyoung’s pissed.

 

“Oh,” Jaebum gulps,”Hey, Jin.”

 

“I was just leaving,” Jaebum adds hastily when Jinyoung doesn’t speak. He grabs his stuff and tries to leave, sidling pass Jinyoung without stopping to pet Nora. Sad, but if Jaebum stays longer, he’ll just end up saying something he’ll regret.

 

Jaebum barely makes it into the hallway when Jinyoung speaks again,”Are you avoiding me?” His voice, calm but hiding a faint quiver, cuts through the suffocating space like a knife, freezing Jaebum in his tracks.

 

“Of- of course not!” Jaebum’s laugh sounds fake, even to his own ears. “I’ve just been busy, chill out.” “Do you think I’m stupid, Jaebum?” Jinyoung asks, thinly concealed mockery in his otherwise peaceful tone, and he sees the sneer on Jinyoung’s face without needing to turn around.

 

“Haha, I could never, I just need to get my grades u-” Jaebum nearly stops breathing as Jinyoung marches around to stand directly in front of him, eyes nearly glazed over with anger. Yikes, Jaebum faintly registers his heartbeat rate drop. He’s really gone and fucked everything up now.

 

“I’m so sick of you throwing a tantrum about Dongyoung,” Jinyoung spits, staring straight at Jaebum, who doesn’t dare to look away. “I thought you would support me as my best friend, but turns out you’re just an asshole.”

 

“I’m not picking on Dongyoung, if that’s what you’re insinuating,” Jaebum can’t help but get riled up by Jinyoung’s tone, speaking as if Jaebum was someone far below him, like his presence actually disgusted Jinyoung or something.

 

“Yeah?” Jinyoung cocks an eyebrow at Jaebum, almost like he’s daring Jaebum to get mad (he doesn’t need to), “Well, you don’t see me treating your little girlfriends like that, for starters.”

 

“What the fuck does that have to do with this?” Jaebum’s anger flares,”Besides, they’re not-”

 

“Your whores, then?” Jinyoung unfolds his arms, blinking wide and innocent as Jaebum recoils at Jinyoung’s sudden crudeness. “Since that’s what you seem to regard them as- last week it’s Cho, this week you bring along Heewon, and Soowon the next-”

 

“This isn’t about that-” Jaebum splutters incredulously, watching Jinyoung, who seems like a different man, in horror.

 

“Oh yes, it is,” Jinyoung grins then, vengeful for some reason, sending chills down Jaebum’s spine. “If you were that uncomfortable with Dongyoung you could just tell me, instead of brooding like a fucking toddler !”

 

“Hey-” Jaebum feels like he should at least attempt to defend himself, fists clenching and unclenching, tense at his sides. “I’m emotionally-”

 

“And don’t go saying you’re emotionally repressed,” Jinyoung frowns, brows furrowed, and Jaebum hates how he knows him so well. “You’re just not being brave enough to tell me how you really feel.”

 

His words leave stinging slaps on Jaebum’s face, and the pain feels so real that Jaebum wants to touch his face to see if there’s blood left from Jinyoung’s blows. Jinyoung moves closer, so close that Jaebum can almost feel his breath on his nose.

 

“That doesn’t make you special, Jaebum,” Jinyoung hisses, delivering the fatal blow,”It makes you a coward .”

 

Jaebum nearly stumbles backward, shocked by the sheer malice of Jinyoung’s words. He barely manages to regain his composure, fixing Jinyoung with a glare of his own,”So you’re- you’re just going to let this boy tear us apart?”

 

“You’re delusional,” Jinyoung snorts in disbelief. “You’re the one letting something dumb tear us apart. I’ve been nice to all of your girlfriends, so why can’t you just be civil for once?”

 

“I-” Jaebum looks for a response, a justification, but realises that he has none. “It’s just different.”

 

“Is it because I’m gay?” Jinyoung snickers, and Jaebum can’t do anything else than shake his head dumbly. He wasn’t homophobic, he had gay friends other than Jinyoung, he was fine with Yugyeom and Youngjae’s relationship, so he wasn’t homophobic, right?

 

But Jaebum couldn’t explain the bubbling discomfort he felt whenever Dongyoung and Jinyoung were together, couldn’t even fight the urge to look away. So he keeps his mouth shut, even when Jinyoung scoffs.

 

“Whatever,” Jinyoung turns around, his back angry, cold, unforgiving. “Maybe you should fuck off once and for all, since you don’t want to see my face so badly.”

 

“Never thought the boy who saved me from bullies when I was five was such an ass,” Jinyoung leaves as a parting remark, slipping inside his room.

 

Jaebum’s fury simmers to a boil. “Fine, maybe I will!” He retorts, slamming the front door as he leaves- for good? He isn’t certain yet, but he sure as hell isn’t going back anytime soon.

 

He runs all the way down the stairs, heartbeat thumping wildly in his eardrums. It’s not until he reaches ground that he realises he has nowhere to go.

 

Jaebum pulls out his phone, sighs- Mark’s not available, apparently. Something about video game night with Youngjae that he would invite Jaebum to, if he wasn’t absolute shit in Overwatch. He can’t help but grin bitterly to himself- Overwatch isn’t the only thing he’s capable of fucking up, apparently.

 

Jaebum texts Jackson next- Jackson’s up before noon, surprisingly, and tells Jaebum to go to his place without asking any questions. He finally feels like he can breathe again, walking quickly to Jackson’s apartment, just a ten-minute walk away from the apartment.

 

His shared apartment with Jinyoung doesn’t even feel like home now, Jaebum grimaces. It’s just a place to sleep and shower.

 

Jaebum’s frustration must’ve radiated through his phone to Jackson’s end, since he finds his friend waiting for him outside his apartment building. “Took you long enough,” Jackson grumbles, but he takes off his WANG snapback to give Jaebum a tight hug anyway.

 

“Tough morning?” He asks, and Jaebum shrugs,”Yeah, kind of.” Worst day ever , he thinks.

 

“It’s okay,” Jackson pats him on the back, and Jaebum feels a surge of gratefulness towards his friend. “Tell me about it.”

 

----

 

Two romcoms later, Jaebum finds himself sprawled on Jackson’s couch, hands gripping a warm mug of tea. “I just don’t get it,” He sniffs as Jackson nods, eyes fixed on the Nicholas Sparks movie playing. “Everything’s changed after Dongyoung came, but I still don’t know why I hate him so much.”

 

“Wait- let me pause this thing, it’s almost as boring as watching paint dry,” Jackson gets up from his position on the carpet and joins Jaebum on the couch, switching to a shopping channel, where some lady promotes a hairdryer with shocking vigour. “Do you hate Jinyoung, then?”

 

Jaebum hesitates,”No.” “Come on,” Jackson laughs a little, nudging Jaebum’s foot with a plush squirtle slipper. “I won’t snitch, so be honest with me.”

 

“Uh,” Jaebum stares blankly at the television screen, where the same lady demonstrates how to operate a washing machine. “I don’t think so?” Jackson doesn’t look convinced with his answer, gesturing for him to elaborate.

 

“I don’t know,” Jaebum sighs. He feels like a teenager venting about boy problems during a sleepover, even though it’s noon and they’re both grown men. “Seeing them together just makes me angry and confused for no reason.”

 

“Are you at least mad at Jinyoung, then?” Jackson asks, nodding sagely.

 

“Y-yeah,” The answer catches Jaebum himself off guard, and he hastens to explain. “I’m probably more mad that he yelled at me over Dongyoung though.”

 

“Huh,” Jackson arches an eyebrow, sipping from his mug, “I didn’t exactly get the whole argument you guys just had- what did he say to you again?”

 

“He said,” Jaebum takes a second to think about what Jinyoung said hurt most. “He said I was homophobic- can you believe this?” Jackson visibly chokes on his tea, coughing as Jaebum pats him on the back.

 

“And are you?” He asks, dabbing at his mouth. “Of course I’m not!” Jaebum retorts hotly. He might be impulsive, but he isn’t a judgemental asshole. “But…”

 

“I don’t know,” Jaebum slumps, cuddling Jackson’s favourite plushie, Mr. Muffins to his chest. “I guess that’s the most logical explanation for everything?”

 

“Would you act the same if Jinyoung was dating a girl?” Jackson questions, and he feels a little like he’s under interrogation. “Probably,” Jaebum shrugs, tugging on Mr. Muffins’ tiny bear ears. Great. Now he just sounded like a whiny jerk.

 

“I’m terrible, aren’t I?” Jaebum says to no one in particular. The lady on television pretends to fit herself into a dishwasher, and he feels compelled to do the same.

 

“Oh, Jaebum,” Jackson graces him with a watery smile, and it suddenly occurs to Jaebum how bad the situation is for Jackson- his best friends are arguing, and he’s just stuck in the middle, babysitting Jaebum’s pathetic ass.

 

“I don’t think you’re a bad person, but you should apologise to Jinyoungie, if you want things to get better,” Jackson says, and Jaebum buries his face into Mr. Muffins. “What if he doesn’t want to talk again?”

 

“He will, trust me,” Jackson’s squirtle slippers bump against Jaebum’s feet softly. “But it’s up to you to make things right now.”

 

“I’ll need some time,” Jaebum starts, and Jackson heaves a relieved sigh,”But I’ll get around to it.”

 

“Thank you, Jackson-ah,” Jaebum swears he’ll fix things, just for Jackson’s sake, if not for his friendship with Jinyoung. “No biggie, man,” Jackson grins, and he feels slightly happier, despite everything.

 

“Now, if only you’d stop smothering Mr. Muffins-”

 

“Shut up, Jacks.”

 

-----

 

Jaebum leaves Jackson’s place after dinner, despite the other’s invitation to stay the night. He tells Jackson maybe the next day, or the day after. He needs some time to be alone, and he’s bothered Jackson long enough.

 

Jaebum wants to figure out the possible homophobic thing as soon as possible, and he knows exactly who can help.

 

Haejin’s willing to help, dependable as usual- she’s too good to Jaebum, even as ‘just friends’. He finds some familiarity in her rose-scented sheets and raspberry shampoo, and she lets him talk about the situation, from start to finish, even though it’s late and she has an early shift the next day.

 

“Are you planning on moving back?” Haejin asks, propping herself up with her elbows. “Yeah,” Jaebum grimaces. “Th lease’s still on for like, seven months, so I’ll have to go back or find someone to be his roommate anyway.”

 

“That’s considerate of you,” Haejin smiles, but it only makes Jaebum feel worse, like he’s conning everyone else into thinking that he’s a better person than he actually is. “I’m an awful person,” He tells her honestly, but her smile doesn’t falter.

 

“I don’t think you’re mean, or homophobic-” Haejin squeezes Jaebum’s hand lightly. “You sound slightly jealous, but that’s it.” Jealous? The idea confuses Jaebum. “Of what?” he asks, but she just shakes her head.

 

“It’s up to you now,” Haejin smiles, but her eyes look sad for some reason. The way she kisses Jaebum is genuine though, and he kisses her back, arms around her waist, like they’ve done countless times before.

 

Something’s off, though- they’ve always clicked well, not to the extent where they have chemistry, but kissing Haejin felt enjoyable. This time, Jaebum found his mind wandering, hands full but thoughts drifting, distracted.

 

He frowns, pulling her closer in an attempt to get more into the act, but it’s Haejin who stops him. “You’re tired,” Haejin tells him, hand gentle on his forearm. “Sleep.”

 

I’m sorry , Jaebum wants to say. I don’t know why I’m so distracted. But he’s exhausted, barely managing a sleepy nod before drifting off.

 

He dreams of Jinyoung, and wakes up to an empty bed.

 

----

 

It takes two more days for Jaebum to start missing Jinyoung.

 

It’s probably not a surprise to anyone other than Jaebum how much his life revolves around Jinyoung, but he’s still shocked when he finally registers what not being best friends with Jinyoung would mean (means?). He has breakfast with Jinyoung most mornings, meets Jinyoung for lunch, and goes home to -you already know it- Jinyoung.

 

Even his morning psych class feels extra boring without Jinyoung texting him. Jaebum tries to focus on the class itself, but he’s left most of his notes at ho-the apartment as well.

 

He barely straggles through class, stomach filled with dread as he hands in his finished test, not knowing half of the questions on it. Lunch is even worse, Youngjae shows up late and Jackson cancels at the last minute. Jaebum gains a newfound respect for Jinyoung, who always waits for the others to arrive.

 

“Have you talked to him yet?” Youngjae asks when they finally settle down. “Which he?” Jaebum feigns ignorance, but Youngjae only rolls his eyes.

 

“Jinyoung-hyung, obviously.”

 

“Well, you could be talking about Yugyeom, we haven’t talked much lately,” Jaebum retorts without any bite. “Or maybe Mr. Kang, my elementary school class teacher-”

 

“Oh, shut up.” Youngjae leans forward. “Are you still giving him space, or is this- the end?” Youngjae doesn’t say it, but Jaebum knows that he’s asking about his friendship with Jinyoung. He’s nervous too, shoulders tense and smile a little too strained. It reminds Jaebum again how their split is causing their friends grief too, threatening to tear their tight circle (Lucky Seven, as Bambam once said) apart, making him feel increasingly guilty

 

“It’s not,” Jaebum promises, both to Youngjae and to himself. “I’ll text him.”

 

“Are you actually texting him, or just thinking of texting him until you chicken out?” Youngjae visibly relaxes, leaning back, but his stare is uncharacteristically stern as he questions Jaebum.

 

“Fine, fine,” Jaebum digs around in his bag for his phone, raising his free hand in mock surrender. “I’ll text him now.”

 

“What are you going to say?” Youngjae wonders, shifting closer to look at Jaebum’s phone screen. Jaebum pauses,”I don’t know.”

 

Jaebum’s been thinking about how to reach out to Jinyoung again, without seeming too pathetic or demanding. He wants to mend things, and he’s willing to take multiple steps back to regain Jinyoung’s trust. Granted, he still hasn’t come to a conclusion about the whole Dongyoung thing, but he wants to sort things out with Jinyoung maturely.

 

No more running away, Jaebum tells himself. Don’t be the coward Jinyoung thinks you are.

 

Hey, can we talk? , he types into the text bar, turning the phone slightly to show Youngjae,”How does this sound?” Youngjae gives him two thumbs up,”Go get him, hyung. I’ve missed you guys.”

 

I miss us too , Jaebum thinks, smiling down at his phone screen. It’s the first time he’s smiled at something about Jinyoung in the past week.

 

(Jinyoung texts back promptly, Come to the apartment later, we can talk then . The idea of facing Jinyoung after their brief but vicious fight makes Jaebum nervous, but Jinyoung’s speedy reply makes him slightly hopeful that everything will be alright.)

 

-----

 

That said, it still takes a great deal of courage for Jaebum to see Jinyoung again. Jaebum stops outside the apartment building, pacing hesitantly until Jackson blows his phone up with texts. GET INSIDE , Jackson yells at him via text. I KNOW YOU’RE STANDING OUTSIDE THE BUILDING BRO JUST GO .

 

Yeah, but what if he’s changed his- Jaebum gnaws on his lips, typing out a reply, but Jackson’s text comes first, HE’LL BE GLAD TO SEE YOU, JUST GO .

 

Jaebum grins to himself, backspacing. The elevator doors seem taller than usual, sneering down at him with closed doors. Okay, here goes nothing . He takes a painful step towards the elevator, then one more, walking to the elevator. Ding! The elevator doors clatter open right when Jaebum steps in front of it, and he takes it as a good sign, forcing himself to go in before he changes his mind.

 

The elevator ride to their apartment has never seemed so long. Jaebum fidgets, gives himself a quick pep talk, even considers jumping in the elevator for it to malfunction- maybe getting rescued by firemen would be less shameful than talking to Jinyoung.

 

He hesitates outside their apartment, too. Just looking at the door makes Jaebum sad and homesick, and he considers thousands of possible outcomes. Maybe Jinyoung will take one look at his face and slam the door shut, maybe Jinyoung’s just going to straight up punch him, maybe Jinyoung’s not even home, what the fuck.  

 

Jackson texts again, ohmygod are u not in yet?????????? Jaebum raises his eyebrows, How did you know? Are you stalking me? Jackson replies at the speed of light, GO INSIDE .

 

Jaebum presses the doorbell- it feels weird since he’s never done this before, it’s always Jinyoung who doesn’t bring his keys. If the doorbell doesn’t work, I’ll just leave, Jaebum tells himself, but the door cracks open, revealing a disheveled Jinyoung.

 

It must be the fact that they haven’t seen each other for days, but Jinyoung looks exceptionally beautiful when he opens the door. He knows that Jinyoung’s handsome, but on this day just seeing Jinyoung’s face makes Jaebum’s heart do weird things. His dark hair flops casually into his eyes, making him look younger than he actually is. He’s wearing his stupid Star Wars t-shirt again, and Jaebum misses him so, so much.

 

“Hi,” It’s a miracle that Jaebum speaks without his voice cracking. “Can I come in?”

 

“Yeah, uh,” Jinyoung seems at a loss for words as well, scanning Jaebum’s face with a certain fervour in his gaze. “My sister dropped off her sona, she’ll be picking him up soon, but he’s in the living room-”

 

“Oh,” Jaebum isn’t sure whether he should be relieved or disappointed that they aren’t alone. “Hyunjin, right? I don’t mind.”

 

“Yeah,” Jinyoung exhales, lips twitching a little before his face goes blank again. “Come on in.”

 

-----

 

Jaebum treads into the apartment with cautious steps, feeling more like a visitor than the person who lives there. He’s glad (and perhaps a little surprised that it hasn’t turned into Jinyoung’s Pigsty ™ ) to find their living room mostly the same, save for the child who’s sitting on the couch, in the middle of doing a puzzle.

 

Hyunjin’s eight(?) years old, a skinny boy who’s tall for his age- according to Jinyoung, Jaebum hasn’t got a clue. Jaebum hasn’t seen him much, but he knows that Jinyoung dotes on his nephew to the point of spoiling him.

 

“Hyunjin-ah,” Jinyoung says softly as Hyunjin looks up. “This is my roommate, we’ll be talking in the living room now, but we’ll finish our puzzle later, okay?”

 

“Hi,” Jaebum waves awkwardly. He’s never been good with kids,”I’m Jaebum... hyung?”

 

“Okay,” Hyunjin nods, giving Jaebum a disinterested glance before going back to his puzzle. Jaebum shivers involuntarily: were eight-year-olds so calm?

 

“You wanted to talk?” Jinyoung asks once they’re seated at the dining table, where Jinyoung can keep an eye on Hyunjin. “Yeah,” Jaebum answers honestly. Straight to the point, he reminds himself. No more dodging.

 

“I’m so sorry for the way I acted towards Dongyoung,” Jaebum starts. “It was really rude for me, and it wasn’t fair to the both of you. I’d like to tell him this myself too, if I had the chance to.” So far so good , Jaebum thinks as Jinyoung nods, crossing and uncrossing his arms.

 

Jaebum takes a deep breath, now, for the hard part . “I need to apologise to you, Jinyoung.” Jaebum says, speaking as sincerely as he can without crying. “You’re my best friend, and I was a shit person to you over nothing.” Jinyoung opens his mouth, closes it again, but he gives Jaebum a tiny smile, encouraging him to keep going.

 

“I- I want to be friends again,” Jaebum stumbles, losing his bravado rapidly, “I hope that we can start over,  and I promise I won’t be petty and stupid or blow up at you, ever again.”

 

Jinyoung doesn’t speak right away, and Jaebum looks at him closely. Crap, did I fuck up? he thinks, but then Jinyoung’s eyes are glossy, and he smiles, the familiar twitch of his lips sending a pang of warmth throughout Jaebum’s whole body.

 

“I’ve missed you too, you big idiot,” Jinyoung grins, reaching over to grab Jaebum’s hand, and it’s the best feeling he’s ever experienced. “And I’m sorry for yelling at you too,” Jinyoung adds, voice thick but smiling at Jaebum with pure joy in his eyes. “I should’ve talked to you earlier, it’s all my fault-”

 

“No!” Jaebum says with such force that he shocks himself too,”It’s my fault, all of it.”

 

“Well, I should bear more responsibility-” Jinyoung snips back, and Jaebum grins. Fuck, he’s missed this, he's missed Jinyoung so much. “Apology accepted?” He asks, holding out a fist for Jinyoung to bump, like they did all the time in middle school.

 

“We’re so stupid,” Jinyoung laughs. He bumps Jaebum’s fist lightly. “Accepted.”

 

And just like that, everything goes back to normal again. The moment’s only broken when something clatters to the ground, and Jaebum jumps a little.

 

“Oops,” Hyunjin mutters. “Dropped my dang puzzle piece.” “Hyunjin, what did I say about swearing again?” Jinyoung hurries over to attend to his nephew, and Jaebum stifles a laugh, heading to his room, feeling lighter than ever.

 

Nora’s glad to see Jaebum, pouncing on his leg once he opens the door. “I’ve missed you too, princess,” He mutters quietly, scratching her behind the ears. There’s food in the cat feeder, meaning that Jinyoung had looked after Nora while he was gone. Typical Jinyoung for being so caring, he thinks, heart swelling with affection for his friend.

 

He takes a quick shower, dumping his smelly clothes in the wash, and when he emerges from the steaming bathroom, he finds Hyunjin and Jinyoung engrossed in a game of hide-and-seek.

 

“Hmmm….Where's Hyunjinnie?” Jinyoung pretends to search for his nephew, peering under cupboards and peeking above the bookshelf as Hyunjin giggles under the dining table. “Could he be here?” Jinyoung wonders to himself as he pulls open an empty drawer. “Is he inside the fridge?” He pulls open the fridge, pretending to be oblivious to Hyunjin’s loud giggles.

 

“Is he… under the table!” Jinyoung wraps his arms around a squirming Hyunjin with alarming speed, and the boy squeals as they roll around on the floor, laughing together.

 

Jaebum can’t help but grin from where he’s watching silently from the doorway. Jinyoung’s naturally good with children, he’ll make a good dad someday… maybe with Dongyoung. Jinyoung’s date’s name still brings a bitter taste to Jaebum’s tongue, and he bites down on his lips, hard. Why couldn’t his dumb brain leave Dongyoung alone?  

 

Jaebum’s mind wanders as Jinyoung and Hyunjin wrestle good-naturedly, tickling each other. Hyunjin manages to seize Jinyoung’s sides, and he laughs, unrestrained and beautiful as he turns around to smother Hyunjin in a big Uncle Jinyoung cuddle. Jaebum thinks starting a family with Jinyoung would mean something like this, filled with boisterous laughter and tickle fights and warm smiles. He likes it.

 

What?  Jaebum jolts, frowning. Why was he thinking about starting a family with his best friend? That was weird, and definitely not what best friends did. But he can’t stop himself from looking at Jinyoung, not when he’s laughing, eyes crinkled and cheeks flushed pink, looking prettier than every girl Jaebum’s ever felt attracted to.

 

It sounds like you’re slightly jealous, Haejin’s voice echoes in Jaebum’s mind, and he starts to get an idea about what Haejin meant. It’s something he’s never thought about, and the idea terrifies him to no end.

 

Jaebum ducks back into his room quickly, panicking and heart racing a mile a minute. This wasn’t anything he could tell his friends, it was too raw, too private, too strange to even think about.

 

Jaebum doesn’t want even the mere idea of him falling in love with Jinyoung to further manifest or take root, but he’s curious- he wants to get to the bottom of things.

 

So he pulls out his laptop, goes on his old blog and types out all the conflicting, confusing emotions he’s been feeling over the past week.

 

mcr-forever-106 : I have nothing against gay people, I love and support my guy friends who are in a relationship; but I hate it for some reason when I see my roommate with his boyfriend, even when I just think about the idea of them being together- am I homophobic?

 

Make post?

 

Jaebum hovers over the yes button. Now or never, Im Jaebum. Time to find out if you’ll ruin your friendship with Jinyoung again.

 

[Yes] [No]

 

Jaebum clicks, wishing for the best.

 

Chapter Text

The answer comes to Jaebum in the form of 3 asks, all pointing towards the same idea.

 

21blckparade: are you bi or gay? bc you sound like you’re in love, LOL

 

panicattheryro: u seem jealous, are you sure your feelings towards your friend are platonic???????

 

beebofurry3: ur in love, fool, now go rawr him real quick-

 

Jaebum closes the tab, mind whirling so fast he feels dizzy: so this was the answer to his suffering? All this angst, just because he’s apparently in love with Jinyoung?

 

No, no, no, no. Jaebum’s heart leaps into his throat, pulsing madly as he smacks his laptop shut. The idea is absurd, he isn’t even gay or bi or anything other than straight, he likes girls, girls like Haejin with pink lips and soft hair.

 

For some reason, the first image that comes to Jaebum’s mind is Jinyoung’s plush lips, soft-looking and pink without lipstick girls need. “Fuck off,” Jaebum slaps his own face, trying desperately to get Jinyoung’s unfairly pretty face out of his mind.

 

The image stays, and some weird part of his brain wonders how Jinyoung’s lips would taste, how they would feel under Jaebum’s own. “Fuck,” Jaebum says again, more forcibly now. “Fuck off.”

 

Jinyoung would probably taste nice, somehow sweeter than any girl Jaebum’s ever kissed, but warm and eager in Jaebum’s arms-

 

What the fuck.

 

Jaebum claps his cheeks, hard. He likes girls, so why he would think of Jinyoung in those ways ?

 

Like he’s a girl, a sly little voice in Jaebum’s head chides, but he shakes his head resolutely at that. Jinyoung isn’t a girl- his hands are bigger than Jaebum’s, his chin stubbled almost every morning, his laugh a deep hyuckhyuckhyuck that makes Jaebum’s lips curl upwards without even trying to.

 

Jinyoung’s the exact opposite of what Jaebum thinks he likes, but fuck- the image of Jinyoung’s lips, pursed and pink and glossy is stuck in his head.

 

Jinyoung’s no girl, but Jaebum likes him anyway.

 

Jaebum doesn’t know how long he’s been staring at his bedroom wall, mind buzzing, but when someone knocks softly on his door, he glances up to see that it’s already dark outside.

 

Groaning, Jaebum reaches up to close the curtains, a desperate attempt at pretending that he hasn’t just wasted away the whole afternoon thinking about Jinyoung, who he apparently has non-platonic feelings for.

 

His legs feel as numb as his mind, thighs aching as he tries to stretch. He still hasn’t had dinner, but he feels ready to sleep already. Was this a sign of growing old? Jaebum wonders idly as he manages to stand up, back creaking.

 

I’ll just make cup noodles to eat in my room, Jaebum decides.  Just the prospect of eating with Jinyoung made Jaebum nervous already, and he really didn’t want to fuck up their newly-mended relationship due to his newfound feelings.

 

There are two soft knocks on Jaebum’s door again, making him jump a little- he’d nearly forgotten that someone was outside. “Hyung?” Jinyoung asks, “Do you want to order in Chinese for dinner?”

 

Ah, fuck, Jaebum nearly curses out loud. His stomach rumbles a little at the thought of Chinese takeout, but eating with Jinyoung… no, not right now. After a beat of hesitation, he calls back,”It’s fine, I’m not too hungry, I’ll just have cup noodles from the cupboard or something.”

 

“We’re out of cup noodles, Jackson ate our last three when he was over,” Jinyoung says, and Jaebum leans against his closet, suddenly inspired to throttle Jackson. Three cup noodles, really? Wasn’t he on a diet?

 

“Plus, we haven’t eaten together in so long,” Damn, Jaebum can already hear Jinyoung’s pout. “I miss having dinner together.” And Jaebum does too, he misses flopping around lazily with Jinyoung, watching the newest episodes of Buzzfeed Unresolved, misses laughing over containers of dumplings and stir-fried noodles.

 

“Will you at least open the door?” Jinyoung asks, pleading tone in his voice, and Jaebum finally gives in, reaching over to pull the door open. His legs hurt a little as he stands, but all that is forgotten when he sees Jinyoung.

 

Jinyoung’s handsome, he’s always known that, but Jinyoung looks beautiful when Jaebum greets him at his door. “Hey,” Jinyoung grins, and Jaebum feels his cheeks heat up. Were Jinyoung’s eyes always this bright? Jinyoung smiles with his eyes crinkling, and Jaebum gulps,”Yeah, hi, I was sleeping.”

 

Even the way Jinyoung frowns (with his nose scrunched up) is cute, and Jaebum wants to scream. “It’s like, six in the evening.” Jaebum hastens to make up an excuse,”A nap, I took a nap.”

 

Jinyoung tilts his head at Jaebum, “Since when do you take naps, hyung?” The way Jinyoung cocks his eyebrows at Jaebum is hot, and wow, since when did he start seeing his best friend in such a light?

 

It doesn’t feel wrong though , Jaebum thinks as his gaze flickers to Jinyoung’s lips.

 

(If given the opportunity, he would really, really like to kiss Jinyoung.)

 

“It’s a new habit of mine!” Jaebum yelps as Jinyoung pokes his forehead, squinting at him,”Are you still in there, hyung?” Jinyoung’s face is too close to Jaebum’s, and he’s pretty sure that Jinyoung can hear his heartbeat speeding up.

 

“Fine,” Jaebum concedes, trying not to grin dopily at how Jinyoung lights up, eyes sparkling as he smiles at him. “But only we’re ordering from the Chinese place.”

 

“Anything for you, hyung!” Jinyoung chirps as he dashes down the hallway like an excited puppy, not even bothering to turn around to check if Jaebum is following.

 

And of course Jaebum follows, just a few steps behind, feeling warm and tingly for some reason, wondering what he’s gotten himself into.

 

-----

 

“Sauce?” Jinyoung asks, handing Jaebum the tiny dish.”Sure,” Jaebum dips a dumpling into the sauce, shoving it into his mouth in one bite. They’re sitting in front of their tv, legs crossed with boxes of Chinese takeout on the floor next to them. It’s been a while since they’ve done this, but it feels familiar all the same.

 

Nora noses at one of the boxes, meowing as Jaebum takes the box away. “Sorry, baby,” Jaebum scratches Nora in apology. “Chow mein isn’t the healthiest option for cats.”

 

Jaebum nudges Nora towards her tuna nibbles, and she trots away with an indignant purr. As Nora returns to her meal, he digs into the chow mein, savouring every bite. “This is so good,” He says between bites to Jinyoung, who’s in the middle of picking a movie.

 

“I know, hyung,” Jinyoung laughs, “You didn’t have to lie to Nora though, it’s all yours.” He holds up a bunch of dvds, ”Narnia or Harry Potter?”

 

There’s a spare bit of sauce near Jinyoung’s lips, and it takes a considerable portion of Jaebum’s self-control not to swipe it away. Some seconds later, Jaebum snaps back into reality, too preoccupied with the very important task of staring at Jinyoung’s lips,”Uh, Harry Potter, obviously.”

 

“Fuck sleep, huh?” Jinyoung grins, sliding in the dvd like he’s expected Jaebum to make this choice all along. His gaze is intense as he clicks a bunch of buttons to get the tv to work, and Jaebum stares unabashedly at him.

 

“What are you looking at?” Jinyoung asks in the middle of selecting captions, and Jaebum nearly chokes on his precious shrimp dumpling. “Do I have something on my face?”

 

“Uh, yeah,” Jaebum points at his own face to show Jinyoung where the sauce is, but Jinyoung only tilts his cheek towards Jaebum, a wordless command.

 

“Here,” Jaebum’s mouth goes dry as he leans closer to Jinyoung, swiping off the sauce with his thumb. Jinyoung’s cheek is warm to the touch, and Jaebum tries very hard not to tremble at the feeling.

 

“Thanks,” Jinyoung says, eyes still fixed on the tv, but his cheeks seem pinker than usual- or was it just the light?

 

Whatever , Jaebum decides as the movie starts. It’s not important, just like the way Jinyoung’s cheeks are puffed like a hamster when he takes huge spoonfuls of fried rice. None of Jaebum’s business at all, he tells himself.

 

------

 

Jinyoung falls asleep in the middle of the Goblet of Fire. The champions have completed the second task, and Jinyoung closes his eyes, disinterested.

 

“Wake me up when they go into the maze,” He mumbles before tucking himself into Jaebum’s side, snoring softly within seconds. “Weak ass,” Jaebum jabs back halfheartedly. It’s barely past two, but Jinyoung’s always been the one who clocks out first.

 

Jinyoung’s head is a gentle weight on Jaebum’s shoulder, the younger slotted neatly into Jaebum’s space, like he belongs there. Jinyoung’s closeness is distracting, and Jaebum finds himself unable to concentrate on Harry reliving the past in Dumbledore’s Pensieve.

 

Jinyoung’s warm and Jaebum finds the idea of wrapping an arm around Jinyoung’s shoulders very tempting. It’s not like they haven’t done it before, and he’s sure Jinyoung wouldn’t mind. But the idea still makes Jaebum nervous, arm hovering awkwardly before settling on Jinyoung’s shoulder.

 

It’s for Jinyoung’s safety, Jaebum tells himself, in case he knocks over the takeout boxes. He glances at the floor, strewn with takeout containers and dvds. He ought to pick up the containers and clean up a bit, in case Nora woke up early and decided she wanted a taste of some chow mein.

 

Jaebum tries to get up, carefully maneuvering Jinyoung’s head onto the couch, pulling his hand away from Jinyoung’s back cautiously. Jinyoung’s a sound sleeper, mostly, but Jaebum doesn’t want to risk waking him.

 

He gets up then, on his tippy toes in case the floor decides to creak, but he barely manages to get up before someone- something?- grabs him, a hand grabbing his ankle.

 

Jaebum nearly screams- the creepy music coming from the tv isn’t helping too- but to his relief, it’s just Jinyoung. Jinyoung’s eyes are still closed, but his hand is wrapped firmly around Jaebum’s ankle. “Don’t go, hyung,” Jinyoung whispers drowsily, dreamy under the faint light, and he’s so beautiful, Jaebum feels like crying fat gay tears.

 

“Don’t go,” Jinyoung mumbles again, and Jaebum’s resolve, not that it was strong to begin with, crumbles. “Okay, okay,” Jaebum whispers, sitting down again. Nora would be fine eating a tiny portion of chow mein, he decides.

 

Jinyoung shuffles closer, nestling his head onto Jaebum’s shoulder, and his heart jumps into his throat. Is this how I die? Jaebum wonders as Jinyoung shifts even closer, basically lying on Jaebum’s chest.

 

Hopefully Jinyoung won’t feel Jaebum’s heart beating erratically, but he can’t bring himself to care, wrapping an arm around Jinyoung again. Jinyoung’s fallen asleep again, pink mouth slightly open, head lolling on Jaebum’s shoulder.

 

Jinyoung smells good, Jaebum thinks he smells faintly of fresh berries. And if he was a bit braver, he’d probably press a kiss to Jinyoung’s soft hair -but Jaebum is a coward, so he does nothing.

 

“Goodnight, Jinyoungie,” Jaebum whispers as he turns off the tv, drifting off next to Jinyoung, their bodies packed closely together, the way it feels right.

 

-----

 

Jaebum falls asleep warm, but wakes up cold and alone. Jinyoung’s nowhere to be found, and as Jaebum rubs blearily at his eyes, he notices that the mess on the floor has been cleaned up already.

 

Jaebum frowns. Jinyoung was never the type to clean voluntarily, especially not when Jaebum was there.

 

Nora trots out from the corridor, coming straight for Jaebum’s lap, purring happily as he pets her. “Hey Nora,” Jaebum greets, “Did you sleep well?”

 

Nora meows in response, preening under Jaebum’s touch, and he feels his dry lips crack from smiling. “Have you eaten yet, princess?” He asks Nora, who ignores him in order to play with one of the tassels on the cushions.

 

Jaebum gets up himself, bones cracking as he stands up. There’s a rather unpleasant crick in his neck, and Jaebum massages it softly as he walks to the kitchen. Maybe he could fit in a quick nap after his afternoon class, he’s still exhausted although it’s already eleven in the morning.

 

Jaebum’s mug is filled with water, he notices along with the note attached next to it. Jaebum picks up his mug first, drinking from it. The water’s still warm, meaning that Jinyoung hadn’t left for long.

 

Jaebum feels like a thirsty camel as he drains the mug with one drink, yet he still feels dehydrated as he moves on to the note.

 

In Jinyoung’s neat handwriting, the note reads: Hey hyung, I fed Nora already, see you later -Jinyoung. There’s a doodle of Jaebum sleeping with his mouth open, and he grins, even though Jinyoung’s a shit artist and he looks like a sack of potatoes in the drawing.

 

But then he frowns, because Jinyoung’s considerate and cute and witty and perfect- and they’ll never be more than friends. Jaebum’s ongoing gay crisis would just make things awkward again, since Jinyoung has Dongyoung and possibly more suitors lined up after him. Jaebum knows he hasn’t got a chance, he’s just the Best Friend, not good enough for someone like Jinyoung.

 

Jaebum sighs, filling up his mug with more water before slipping the note into his pocket. Feelings were confusing enough, and throwing Jinyoung into the mix just made everything even more complicated.

 

He packs his stuff for class after washing up quickly. Some routine would help him sort out his maybe-feelings for his best friend, hopefully, but Jaebum’s luck runs short once he picks up his phone and finds it barely clinging to life on 3%.

 

The screen lights up as Jaebum connects his phone to a charger, showing a bunch of text notifications. Jaebum reads the texts from his lock screen, not bothering to actually open them. There’s two from his mum, asking him when he’ll be free for a trip back home.

 

The idea of going home to avoid Jinyoung sounds great, but Jinyoung’s family who lived conveniently two houses away from the Ims would no doubt remind him of his best friend every time he left the house. Not that great of an idea, really.

 

There’s also a bunch of texts from Bambam, asking him out for dinner (That night? Jaebum marvels at the short notice.), a proposal which he finds much more attractive. Bambam never pays for meals, but he doesn’t mind paying either, and it’s been a pretty long time since they’ve eaten together anyway.

 

Jaebum abandons his half-packed bag in favour for his phone, sending a reply to Bambam, who replies almost instantly, sending him the location of a bbq restaurant. Jaebum rolls his eyes- of course Bambam would choose somewhere expensive, but he feels lighter somehow, despite his messy feelings.

 

Maybe things were going to work out.

 

-----

 

Jaebum heads to the restaurant once class ends, head spinning after an interesting but perplexing lecture of advanced epistemology. The restaurant isn’t far, thankfully, only a few stations away from campus, and he arrives earlier than he thought he would.

 

Jaebum doesn’t even try to call Bambam- the younger likes being fashionably late anyway- and he heads inside the restaurant alone, texting Bambam that he’s there once he’s seated.

 

Bambam walks in fifteen minutes after their designated meeting time, waving at Jaebum from outside the store, unbothered. Jaebum squints at his expensive-looking sweater worriedly once he sits down opposite him,”Aren’t you worried about getting sauce on your sweater?”

 

“Oh, you’re right,” Bambam glances at his sweater, like he’s just realised the possibility of getting sauce all over his nice cream sweater. “I have other pajama shirts, it’s fine.”

 

Jaebum stares for a moment- the sweater looked like something Jaebum would wear to a wedding or something, but Bambam wears it as a pajama shirt? “Anyway, hi hyung!” Bambam, oblivious to Jaebum’s befuddlement, chirps happily.

 

“Yeah, hi,” Jaebum can’t help but grin back- Bambam’s like a younger brother to their friend group, and no matter how annoying he is, Jaebum still dotes on him. (He can already hear Jinyoung calling him an old man gone soft - but his best friend babied Bambam to a similar extent.)

 

“What are we ordering?” Bambam asks next, eyeing the menu with interest as Jaebum’s wallet weeps. It takes a while for Bambam to decide -Jaebum lets him pick, since he’s not picky with food anyway- and by the time their meat comes, ready to be barbecued, Jaebum’s starving.

 

Meat sizzles on the grill in no time, with Jaebum pilling as much meat on the grill as he can. Bambam watches with an amused smile as Jaebum attacks the side dishes, tongs still in hand.

 

“Why aren’t you eating?” Jaebum asks between bites, and Bambam picks up his soup,”Just thinking.” “Wow, you think?” Jaebum can’t resist poking fun of his friend, smiling as Bambam kicks him under the table.

 

“Of course I do,” Bambam flips over the meat on the grill. “And I think you should talk to Jinyoung.” Jaebum nearly chokes on some bean sprouts,”What about him?”

 

“We all know you’re in love with him, so when are you confessing?” Bambam asks, picking up some kimchi. “I- I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jaebum feigns ignorance, getting a piece of beef from the grill. Perhaps he could blame his blush on the hot meat, or the rising heat.

 

“Yeah, right.” Bambam pops a piece of pork in his mouth, laughing at Jaebum’s frozen expression. He waves his chopsticks around airily,”You don’t have to pretend, we all know already.”

 

“But-but I just realised? When did you guys-” Jaebum splutters. “Was I really obvious about- things?” Bambam’s smile splits into a wide grin, and he starts cackling loudly, much to Jaebum’s dismay.

 

“You really thought we wouldn’t notice?” Bambam says, between chortles of laughter. “This is so funny, I gotta tell Yugyeom.” Jaebum stuffs beef in his mouth to hide his disbelief,”Wait, wait- you guys knew all along, and no one bothered to inform me?”

 

“Not really,” Bambam sniggers, typing furiously on his phone. “In hindsight, we should’ve told Jinyoung first, he would’ve done something.” “You guys are so helpful,” Jaebum mutters resentfully, chomping on more freshly grilled beef. “Wait, what about Jinyoung?”

 

Bambam gives him a look, not even gracing him with a response, opting for more kimchi instead. “Would he beat me up if he knew?” Jaebum asks, puzzled by Bambam’s reply. What would Jinyoung have done, if he had known about Jaebum’s crush earlier?

 

Bambam squints at Jaebum again, and he feels like he’s not catching on to some hidden meaning. “Would he like, move out or something-” Jaebum tries to laugh, an attempt at hiding his nervousness, but his palms feel sweaty, tongs nearly slipping out of his grasp.

 

“Please tell me you’re joking,” Bambam says, oddly serious as he puts down his phone and leans forward to stare at Jaebum. “I’m not,” Jaebum busies himself with the task of placing meat on the grill in order to avoid Bambam’s gaze, “I don’t know what you’re talking about now, Bam.”

 

“Jinyoung likes you back, you big dumb idiot,” Bambam says casually, like he’s ordering more beef instead of dropping a bombshell on Jaebum. Subsequently, Jaebum drops the beef.

 

“He- he what?” Jaebum doesn’t even care about the meat lying forlornly on the table. His voice comes out in a ragged murmur, staring at Bambam with quivering eyes. Bambam nods wisely, like some all-knowing witch,”Yes, hyung, Jinyoung’s had a crush on you for like, fifteen years now.”

 

“Fifteen- fifteen years?” Jaebum whispers. He’s realised his feelings for Jinyoung for less than five days, but Jinyoung’s liked him for fifteen years? Bambam nods again,”You’re not very sharp, hyung. Good thing Jinyoung still likes you.”

 

“Why- How-” Jaebum’s brain short-circuits, possibilities and memories racing around in a mad flurry. Bambam rolls his eyes,”He’s been pining after you for ages. Remember when you went to prom with some other girl and he got mad at you for two weeks?”

 

Jaebum nods, feeling faint.

 

“And didn’t that make you think, hey, maybe something’s going on ?” Bambam questions, and Jaebum shakes his head, pupils dilating.

 

“So you thought, oh, just some bro argument with my best buddy Jinyoung ?” Bambam throws his hands in the air, not waiting for a response. “I- I didn’t know,” Jaebum defends himself feebly, voice cracking.

 

He must’ve looked pathetic enough for Bambam’s sympathy, as the younger just sighs. “Have some beef, hyung,” Bambam puts a piece of brown beef in Jaebum’s bowl, but somehow his ravenous appetite is gone.

 

“I’m such a terrible person,” Jaebum says mournfully, staring at the meat fizzling on the grill. “Yeah,” Bambam chews thoughtfully,”But there’s still time to fix it.”

 

”It’s not like he’s still interested anyway,” Jaebum’s laugh feels hollow, “He has Dongyoung now, and it’s all because I’m a dense buffoon-” “Hold on- I agree with the part where you called yourself a buffoon, you’re definitely a dumbass,” Bambam points his chopsticks at Jaebum thoughtfully. “But who said anything about Doyoung?”

 

“Dongyoung,” Jaebum corrects, the irony of him being the one who knows Dongyoung’s name now making him chuckle. “He’s Jinyoung’s boyfriend.”

 

Bambam squints,”Okay, you’re just fucking with me now, aren’t you?” “No?” Jaebum suddenly feels very, very afraid under Bambam’s stare. “They’re still dating, aren’t they?”

 

Covering his face, Bambam makes a strangled noise, “They never dated, but now I see why Jinyoung tried to look for options other than your foolish-” Jaebum only catches the first part of the sentence, and woah- suddenly the sun is shining? Birds are chirping like they're in a Disney movie? “Jinyoung’s single?” He asks, trying (and failing) to keep the excitement out of his voice.

 

“Sadly, yes,” Bambam peers at Jaebum through the gaps between his fingers. “So you better ask him out before he gets tired of waiting for you to grow a pair.”

 

“Yeah,” Jaebum breathes, his lungs filling with butterflies at the prospect of holding Jinyoung’s hand, kissing his pink lips until they’re both giddy and gasping for air. Butterflies that swarm up to his throat, making him nervous all of a sudden. “What if he doesn’t like me anymore?”

 

“Then perish,” Bambam declares simply, popping the last slice of pork in his mouth. Jaebum blinks,”Really?”

 

“Of course not,” Bambam gives him a pitying glance, and Jaebum picks up his chopsticks, reaching for some kimchi. They’ve nearly cleared out the whole table, and Jaebum feels stuffed.

 

“He likes you, trust me,” Bambam continues, sipping from his grape soda. “But you gotta tell him how you feel.” “All of it?” Jaebum asks, hesitant. He’s still new to this whole feelings thing, and although he wants Jinyoung, he doesn’t want to rush into things.

 

“All of it,” Bambam confirms, picking up his chopsticks again. “Just be honest, Jinyoung’s stuck around for years now, he’s probably still interested.” “But why?” Jaebum couldn’t imagine why Jinyoung would ever choose him over someone like Doyoung, and why he would even choose him at all.

 

“Beats me,” Bambam shrugs, snatching up the last piece of beef that Jaebum’s been eyeing. “But you’ve still got a chance- a pretty big chance- so I say go for it.”

 

“I- I can’t just go back home and pretend that nothing’s happened after this!” Jaebum panics. He’s not exactly ready to tell Jinyoung how he feels, not when he’s still confused about, well, everything.

 

“It’s fine, I’ve got this planned out, you can sleep on my couch,” Bambam offers, and Jaebum winces at the prospect of camping out on Bambam’s ‘exotic’ couch, with needles stuck here and there in the vibrant Thai pattern.  

 

“I could just crash at Mark’s-” Jaebum tries to come up with an alternate solution, but Bambam shakes his head,”Jinyoung’s probably venting to Mark as we speak, loser.” Jaebum’s shoulders slump- He has already bothered Jackson too much, and Yugyeom and Youngjae were probably too involved with each other to care.

 

“Fine,” Jaebum gives in, and Bambam flashes him a smirk,”You’re welcome, roomie. I’ll give you a friendship discount on rent.” “I’m paying for dinner, though?” Jaebum can’t resist biting back as he pays for their meal.

 

“Sleep on the floor, then,” Bambam only laughs, the little devil, but Jaebum feels lighter anyway as they walk to Bambam’s apartment, forgetting his Jinyoung Problem for now.

 

Bambam’s roommate, one of his dancer friends called Ten, gives Jaebum an inquisitive look when he ducks into the apartment behind Bambam, but he couldn’t care less, ducking into the bathroom for a shower and maybe a quick cry.

 

Man, he was fucked .

 

-----

 

The stay at Bambam’s is bearable- Bambam has a surprisingly large pantry, and Jaebum gets used to the lumpy sofa after two nights or so. He moves most of his textbooks to his new abode, with the weak excuse that he needs Bambam’s textile major input on a project.

 

(Jinyoung doesn’t question it, which makes him feel worse about lying.)

 

Jaebum doesn’t bring Nora, trusting her in Jinyoung’s care, since he read somewhere that moving environments could be bad for them. He plays with Bambam’s cats, three tiny white cats who are skinnier than Nora but cute anyway.

 

Bambam’s helpful too, reminding Jaebum to eat regularly and listening to his rants about Jinyoung. “Yeah, but I think you should just ask him out directly.” He says, sipping on sparkling lemonade, after Jaebum tells him for the hundredth time why he absolutely cannot do that.

 

Even Ten seems sympathetic, sliding Jaebum an apple as he leaves for his dance class. They don’t really talk, but he greets Jaebum in the morning sometimes.

 

(“I think he likes me,” Jaebum tells Bambam later as they have breakfast. “No way,” The younger snorts,”Ten hates fruit.” “Oh.”)

 

But it still feels odd, to come home to an apartment without Jinyoung. He’s got a better grasp of his feelings now, but he’s still unsure. Unsure of what? Jaebum asks himself one night, watching the Seoul lights flicker from Bambam’s balcony.

 

Jaebum knows Jinyoung like the back of his hand, they fit well together, have gone through plenty with each other, and he’s known that Jinyoung is and will be an integral part in his future for about twenty years.

 

Jaebum’s scared. He’s terrified of making things awkward again, scared shitless by the idea that one day they’ll break up and be awkward exes for the rest of their lives.

 

He’s greedy for more with Jinyoung, yet he hesitates.

 

“You know, if I were Jinyoung, I would’ve given up on you approximately fifteen years ago,” Bambam comments when he comes home to Jaebum sprawled on the couch, thinking about Jinyoung’s eyes.

 

“True,” Jaebum sighs, moving on to Jinyoung’s cute nose- how was every part of him so perfect? “I don’t deserve him.” “Damn right you don’t,” Bambam grumbles, settling on the floor. “Can I have my couch back? It’s been four days.”

 

“Don’t try to kick me out,” Jaebum turns to lie on his side, cuddling one of Bambam’s silk pillows. “I’ve grown attached to your couch.” Bambam regards him with a mixture of pity and amusement,”As much as I’m enjoying this, hyung, we need our couch back.”

 

“Who’s we? You and your cats?” Jaebum tries to sit up, grabbing the edge of the couch. He gives up at the last second, deciding that he’s too tired and flopping back on the couch, feeling exhausted even though he’s only gone to class and took a nap.

 

“Ten and I, hyung,” Bambam sighs, looking far too done with Jaebum. Jaebum sits up properly then, giving Bambam someplace to sit. “Ten likes me, I think,” Jaebum replies half-heartedly, feeling increasingly guilty as he sees the concern in his friend’s eyes.

 

He really was useless, nothing but a burden to his friends and a coward for running away from someone he loved.

 

“Ten thinks you’re okay,” Bambam grumbles as Jaebum tells him so. “But he would love you even more if you stopped moping on our couch and confessed to Jinyoung, y’know?”

 

“I know,” Jaebum stares at his feet. He misses home, and maybe it’s time for him to finally face Jinyoung, no matter what the consequences were. “I’ll move out now, it’s time for me to go home.”

 

“Wait-” Bambam seems alarmed as Jaebum gets up, packing his few belongings back into his backpack. “I didn’t mean right now, I meant maybe after a day or two-”

 

“It’s fine, I get it,” Jaebum retrieves his clothes, hanging near the window to dry. “Jinyoung would have my ass if I returned any later anyway.”

 

“Hyung,” Bambam pleads, “I wasn’t trying to make you uncomfortable or anything, we just thought it’ll be better for you to really talk things out with Jinyoung-” Bambam stands up, and he’s just an inch or two shorter than Jaebum, nothing like the scrawny boy he met in elementary school.

 

Bambam’s grown up now, and Jaebum feels a strong surge of pride for him. He’s missed this, the close bond between the seven of them, and he’s going to tell Jinyoung how he feels, so that they’ll be whole again.

 

“Bam,” Jaebum zips up his bag, grabbing his jacket. “I’m going to tell him. No more lies, no running away.” Bambam seems shocked for a moment, lips forming a tiny circle, but then he smiles,”I’m happy for you, hyung.”

 

Jaebum holds out his arms, and Bambam hugs him tightly, squeezing him before letting go. “Tell me- tell us how it goes, okay?” Bambam’s eyes are shiny, but he’s grinning. Jaebum nods,”Of course. I’ll tell you guys even if I get rejected, I’m done hiding things.”

 

“You won’t,” Bambam promises as they walk towards the door. “Jinyoung’s probably waiting for you now, he’s never given up on you, not really.” “I don’t know about that,” Jaebum pulls on his shoes. “But I’ll try my best.”

 

“No, really,” Bambam shakes his head, insisting Jaebum listen to him even though they’re at the door. “When you left last time, and crashed at Jackson’s? It was Jinyoung who told Jackson to be ready for you, in case you’d end up stranded on the streets, too prideful to ask for help?”

 

“Oh,” Jaebum’s eyes widen as he connects the dots- why Jackson answered his call right away, why Jackson took him in without question. He really didn’t deserve someone like Jinyoung. “Did Jinyoung ask you to do this too?”

 

“What? No,” Bambam laughs, slotting his key into the door. “I would’ve volunteered Jackson instead, or someone else in the group chat.” “What group chat?” Jaebum asks as he pulls open the gate, and Bambam pales,”No group chat! See you soon, hyung, text me!”

 

Bambam pulls the door shut quickly, and Jaebum glances at the closed door thoughtfully,”Does this mean you guys have a group chat to talk about me and Jinyoung?” Muffed shouting comes out faintly from the apartment,”I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

 

Jaebum waits.

 

“Go away!”

 

He laughs, footsteps easy as he embarks on his trip back home. He spends the bus ride planning a speech for his confession to no avail:

 

Hey, I know I’ve been hiding from you for a while, but I really love you. No, Jaebum isn’t ready to outrightly expose himself right away.

 

Are you still with Dongyoung? I hope not, because I want to be your boyfriend. Too direct, and bringing up Dongyoung was just odd.

 

Sorry I didn’t notice your crush on me for fifteen years but I like you now? Nope, this one just sounded patronizing.

 

Jaebum mulls over hundreds of ways to tell Jinyoung how he feels, but none of them seem right. And of course, nothing prepares him for the moment he arrives at his apartment, keys heavy in his clammy hands.

 

Jaebum gets an odd sense of Deja vu once he slips the key into the keyhole. Not being a coward from now on , he tells himself sternly as he turns the key. I’m going to be honest and direct, honest and direct, honest and direct -

 

The door opens from the other side, and Jaebum finds himself facing Jinyoung, looking as surprised as Jaebum feels.

 

Jinyoung looks like he’s going out, dressed nicely in his favourite grey sweater and laced up boots. And fuck, he’s gorgeous, hair slightly fluffed up and plush lips glistening under the dim hall lights. How could Jaebum ever deny himself of the pleasure of loving Park Jinyoung?

 

“Hi,” Jaebum gulps as he meets Jinyoung’s eyes, fancy words and elaborate proposals forgotten.

 

It’s now or never.

Chapter Text

Jinyoung opens the door for Jaebum, beckoning him inside, and Jaebum trudges in, feeling scarily nervous. He probably hasn’t been this nervous since his university interview, and it feels like he has stones lodged down his throat, making it physically painful for him to open his mouth.

 

“I was just heading out to find you, hyung,” Jinyoung doesn't seem fazed by Jaebum’s appearance, taking off his boots as Jaebum puts his bag to the floor, moving awkwardly and slowly like a cornered beast.

 

It’s a miracle that he manages to fake a laugh that sounds half sincere,”Oh, really, that’s a huge coincidence-” Jinyoung glances up at Jaebum, eyes confused, and Jaebum remembers his resolve with some difficulty.

 

“I wanted to talk to you about-” Dongyoung? Our friendship? Us? “-things.” Jaebum swallows as Jinyoung stands up, wearing a blank expression that even Jaebum can’t quite decipher. “Sure, “ He moves to the couch, signifying Jaebum to do the same,”I wanted to talk too.”

 

Jaebum hastens to follow, kicking off his shoes at the door and dusting down his jeans. He sits on the couch next to Jinyoung, legs pressed tightly together like a reprimanded schoolboy in the principal’s office.

 

Jinyoung seems more relaxed, pushing stray strands of hair out of his face casually but still managing to look like a model in a magazine shoot. Jaebum can’t help but stare a little, much to his embarrassment as Jinyoung gives him a tiny smile.

 

Jaebum opens his mouth, but the words that he’s prepared remained jammed down his throat once again. Jinyoung speaks first because Jaebum is a coward and can’t get anything done,”Are you planning to stay now, hyung? Nora misses you.”

 

“Stay,” Jaebum repeats dumbly, the word warm on his tongue. “Yeah,” As if on cue, Nora walks into the room, paws padding softly on the floor and meowing once she spots Jaebum. He reaches down to hoist her up on the couch, smiling fondly at the Siamese as Nora wraps her paws around his arm.

 

“I miss you too, if that still matters to you,” Jinyoung quips from the side, and Jaebum turns to catch him watching them fondly, the teasing tilt of his lips making Jaebum’s stomach do weird things.

 

“Of course that matters,” It comes out a little stronger than Jaebum intends for it to be, but he doesn’t miss the pleased look that flashes across Jinyoung’s face momentarily. “Of course you matter.” So much , Jaebum wants to say, but he doesn’t want to dive right into his confession just like that.

 

“I just needed some time to think about things,” Jaebum says, watching Jinyoung’s face closely. Jinyoung’s avoiding his gaze now, fixing his eyes on Nora as he nods. Jaebum feels a pang of guilt as he sees Jinyoung’s eyes downcast, lips trembling,”Are you done thinking about them now?”

 

“I thought we were best friends, you could just talk to me instead of just running-” Fuck, was Jinyoung crying? “-running away and leaving me alone, worrying about you.” Jinyoung wipes at his face with his hands, and Jaebum feels his insides crumble. He hands Jinyoung a piece of tissue, but he moves too late, and Jinyoung reaches for a piece himself.

 

“I couldn’t talk to you about this, Jinyoung-” Jaebum’s explanation feels fake on his tongue, and it hurts, even more when Jinyoung presses away his tears and gives him a watery smile,”Yeah, I get it, you don’t want to talk about it to me.”

 

“No, Jinyoung-” Jaebum’s voice cracks along with his heart, as Jinyoung blinks away tears. Jinyoung doesn’t cry much, despite his gentle and sensitive personality. He’s the calm one in their friend group, the one who keeps things together when the rest of them are too broken to do so.  

 

Jinyoung’s the glue who holds them together, and all Jaebum seems to do is hurt his friends. “Jinyoung-” He tries again, but Jinyoung shies away from his touch, holding Nora close instead.

 

“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me, hyung,” Jinyoung smiles, but his eyes are sad as he lifts his gaze up. “Just come back to me one day, please. I’ll wait for you, no matter how long it takes-”

 

“I love you,” Jaebum blurts. This must be the feeling someone gets before they skydive off a plane, the feeling of plunging down several thousand feet and some more. Jaebum feels light-headed once he utters out the sudden confession, but he’s never been so sure of something.

 

Jinyoung flinches, almost as if he’s been hit. He laughs then, bitterly, as Jaebum stares. “It’s fine, you don’t have to lie to make me feel better, I’ll get over it soon, I-”

 

“No, I mean it,” Jaebum begs, praying desperately for Jinyoung to stay and listen. Nora squirms out of Jinyoung’s embrace, and Jinyoung looks like he’s close to running away too. “I needed time to think about it, but I’m in love with you, Jinyoung.”

 

Jinyoung looks torn, hands gripped tightly together like he’s about to break. Jaebum’s heart drops when he finally speaks,”If you’re just saying this because you know how I felt- how I feel-, then that’s just really low-”

 

“No,” Jaebum reaches out for Jinyoung. He doesn’t pull away, but his hand lies limp in Jaebum’s, which somehow hurts just the same. “You don’t have to reciprocate my feelings, it’s just how I feel after thinking about, well, everything, and I just wanted you to know, even though you have Dongyoung now, and-”

 

“Who said anything about Dongyoung?” Jinyoung’s expression is still blank, but he tilts his head at Jaebum. Jaebum flounders,”Ar-aren’t you two still seeing each other?”

 

“We never were.” Jinyoung’s hand feels warmer somehow, and Jaebum feels like he can breathe again. “Oh,” Jaebum feels kinda dumb, but Jinyoung’s eyes look less sad, so he counts that as a win anyway. He feels lighter too, even though Jinyoung hasn’t actually said anything about his own feelings.

 

It doesn’t matter though, not when Jinyoung shoots Jaebum a wry smile and tells him to pay for pizza night or be kicked out forever. They’ll work something out eventually, and Jaebum’s more than fine with that.

 

-----

 

Things go back to how they were before Dongyoung, basically- much to Jaebum’s relief and slight disappointment.

 

Jaebum’s happy that they’re back to being best friends, but confused nonetheless. Why hadn’t Jinyoung rejected him, knowing that he was in love with him? Jaebum didn’t even dare to wish for Jinyoung to return his feelings, but he still wanted an answer of some sort.

 

But Jaebum can’t help but long for more, to hold Jinyoung’s hand when they curl on the couch together, to kiss Jinyoung good morning and good night. It’s frustrating, when Jinyoung is so close yet so untouchable.

 

Jaebum’s friends are no help too. Youngjae only laughs when Jaebum calls him, venting about his worries,” Jinyoung hyung loves you too, dummy, what are you so stressed?”

 

“I’m not stressed,” Jaebum mumbles, scratching Nora’s neck absentmindedly with his free hand. “It’s just- I really love him, and I’m scared that he still thinks I’m lying.”

 

“Well-” There’s a pause on Youngjae’s end. “I mean, maybe he’s scared too? Are you sure about this?” Jaebum doesn’t hesitate to answer,”I’ve never been so sure of somethi- someone.”

 

“That’s good,” Jaebum can hear the grin in Youngjae’s voice. “Don’t worry, hyung. I’m sure things will work out.” “Yeah,” Jaebum exhales. “I hope so too.”

 

“Wait,”There’s a bunch of muffled sounds on Youngjae’s end again, “Yugyeom needs something. Bye, and see you on Friday!” Youngjae chirps, and Jaebum nearly falls off his bed, startling Nora.

 

“What about Friday?” Jaebum asks, confused, as Nora meows resentfully. “We’re coming over to your apartment, remember?” Youngjae giggles, as Jaebum scratches Nora’s neck in apology.

 

“Since when?” Jaebum utters faintly as more rustles come from Youngjae’s end. “Check the group chat, hyung.” Yugyeom says from the other end, and Jaebum can’t help but snort,”Love you too, Gyeom.”

 

“Stop bothering my boyfriend and get your own, dummy” Yugyeom snickers before he ends the call, and Jaebum scrambles to check his texts.

 

Gremlins (342)

 

Oh, Jaebum thinks as he scrolls through past messages, duly noting that a pizza party had been set up at his own house without him knowing. Nora meows from the side, as if she’s already complaining about the ruckus that will definitely occur.

 

“What are you thinking about, Nora-” Jaebum says, but Nora wriggles into her cat bed, ignoring him.  He sighs, and goes to sleep instead.

 

-----

 

Friday rolls around sooner than expected, and although the gathering came as a surprise to Jaebum, he does miss hanging out with all his friends. He misses being with the six of them, where they could just sit around doing nothing and still end up having the best time together.

 

The thought of meeting up with his friends actually has Jaebum running for the bus, and the bus makes it ‘round the bend of his apartment building just ten minutes late. He doesn’t feel guilty about that for once, filled with excitement instead as he hurries back home.

 

Jaebum hears his friends before he sees them. Loud laughter comes from the direction of his apartment once the lift doors slide open, and Jaebum’s heart takes flight, once he knocks on the door.

 

Jinyoung answers the door, cheeks pink like he’s just been teased,”Hey.” “Hi,” Jaebum says, eyes zooming in on every immaculate detail of Jinyoung’s face. Jinyoung lets him stare for a brief moment, and Jaebum thinks he could get used to this view forever-

 

“Hyung!” Bambam shouts from the couch, their moment broken. “Stop staring at Jinyoung and come in, we’re all waiting for you.” “Shut up,” Jinyoung mutters as he opens the door, flashing Bambam a half-hearted glare. His cheeks are dusted a darker shade of rose, unless its Jaebum’s imagination.

 

“Welcome home,” Jinyoung tells Jaebum as he walks in. Yugyeom and Youngjae flank Bambam on both sides on the couch, and he hears Jackson and Mark talking loudly from the kitchen. The younger three do a dumb audience wave as Jaebum takes off his shoes, and he can’t help but laugh at that.

 

He really was home.

 

Yugyeom doesn’t let him bask in the warm feeling for long, screeching as Nora crawls into his lap. Jaebum hurries to put his stuff away and wash his hands, and he comes out to Mark bringing out pizza into the living room with Jackson following closely behind.

 

“What are we doing later?” He asks Youngjae as they crowd around the pizza, some show playing on the television. “Dunno,” Youngjae shrugs as Jackson whispers something in Jinyoung’s ear and laughs, loud as ever. Jaebum’s heart twists for a brief moment as Jinyoung lets Jackson rest his chin on his shoulder, and he has to look away.

 

Jaebum busies himself with the task of handing out pizzas, ignoring the sour feeling stirring in his stomach with some difficulty. He doesn’t hide his feelings well, apparently, based on the funny look Yugyeom gives him.

 

“Hyung, you look constipated,” Yugyeom blinks at him, wide-eyed, and Jaebum almost dies from embarrassment as Jinyoung turns to look as him. He schools his facial expression into something more neutral, trying not to look at where Jackson and Jinyoung’s hands lay intertwined. “No, I don’t.”

 

“Okay, whatever you say,” Yugyeom shrugs, turning his attention to something else. “Mark hyung, what are we playing today?” Grinning, Mark waves the remote control at him,”I was thinking of Overcooked or something, or we could do Mario Kart again?”

 

“Overcooked sounds fun,” Bambam pipes, eyes not leaving his phone. “Stop looking at your phone,” Jinyoung reaches over to bat at Bambam’s phone, and he squawks immediately, cuddling his phone to his chest.

 

It’s chaos, until the setup menu pops up on the television, taking everyone’s attention. Yugyeom reaches for a controller right away, as Mark and Youngjae grab the other two. Bambam and Jackson quarrel over the last one briefly, until Jackson concedes, sinking further into the couch and working his way through his third? fourth? slice of pizza.

 

They start playing one of the easier levels, with Jaebum watching them yell at each other animatedly. Mark’s the one to yell the most, in hysterics when Bambam sets the kitchen on fire for the third time. Youngjae’s yelling too, when Yugyeom refuses to pass him the tomatoes,”Gyeommie, come on!”

 

“The controller’s not working!” Yugyeom whines, tapping on his controller frantically. The game pauses, and the other players turn around to glare at him accusingly. “Hyung, could you grab some batteries,” Youngjae pleads, and Jaebum frowns, not wanting to get up from his comfortable sprawl,”Try turning it on and off again?”

 

“We’ll lose our three-star award!” Mark emotes, looking like he’s close to bursting into tears, and Jaebum sighs, not missing how Jinyoung laughs, eyes crinkling cutely. “Fine,” He stands up to look for batteries in his room, but the gamers go back to squabbling, without a ‘thank you’.

 

Jaebum finds extra batteries in no time, but he stands thinking for a second. He remembers changing batteries on their gaming controllers just mere weeks ago, and neither Jinyoung nor him played games often.

 

Yugyeom’s not a good actor, and something about the way he was acting felt odd to Jaebum for some reason. But he just can’t put his finger on what felt wrong, so he decides to just forget it.

 

Jaebum takes his time checking his phone, but when he’s finally about to get back out, Jinyoung walks in. “Hyung,” Jinyoung calls, ducking into Jaebum’s room with his hands stuffed in the front pocket of his hoodie. “Do you know where the paper towels are? The kids are complaining about pizza hands.”

 

“The kids?” Jaebum can’t help but smile as he sets down his phone. Jinyoung’s lips quirk upwards in a wry smile, and Jaebum’s heart does this weird flipping thing again. “Our kids, you have to take responsibility too,” Jinyoung winks, and Jaebum’s throat suddenly feels dry.

 

Was Jinyoung flirting with him? Jaebum fumbles for a reply,”Well-”

 

The door slams shut all of a sudden, and they both turn to look at it. There’s a bunch of sounds behind the door, and a louder clack that sounds an awful lot like the sound of the door being locked. “What-” Jinyoung walks over to the door and rattles the knob, but nothing happens.

 

“It’s locked!” Bambam yells, sounding so smug that Jaebum feels an incoming headache. “We’re not opening the door until you resolve your unresolved sexual - why are you pushing me, Yugyeom, you know I’m right - tension and talk things out!” Jaebum’s pretty sure he’s blushing now, and he stubbornly refuses to look at Jinyoung.

 

“In my own house, Bam-ah?” He goads, and there’s a brief pause on the other side, his ‘friends’ communicating in hushed whispers. “Yeah,” Yugyeom chirps after a short discussion. “So talk it out!”

 

There are some muffled footsteps, and the gaming noises and yelling resume shortly after, so Jaebum assumes that they’ve gone back to playing Overcooked.

 

“Our friends hate us, huh?” Jinyoung doesn’t look at Jaebum, but he’s blushing pink, and Jaebum’s urge to kiss him is huger than ever. “Yeah,” He breathes, suddenly aware of how little distance there is between them.

 

They’re sitting close, but not too close on Jaebum’s bed, just that if he just reached out a little, he could probably touch Jinyoung’s thigh. Jinyoung seems just as, if not more, embarrassed about the situation, and his voice comes out a quiet waver,”Do you wanna, you know, talk? Again?”

 

“Sure,” Jaebum’s voice comes out an unconfident squeak, and he hastens to speak again,”I mean, of course.” It’s a relief that Jinyoung seems as hesitant as he feels, but it’s awkward too, when they both stay silent.

 

“I’m in love with you,” It takes all of Jaebum’s courage to confess again, the simple words feeling heavy as lead on his tongue. “I don’t know how you feel about me, Jinyoung, but that’s how I feel about you.” Jinyoung looks conflicted, knotting his fingers together, so Jaebum continues.

 

“You can reject me,” Jaebum says honestly, and Jinyoung’s eyes snap upwards to meet Jaebum’s eyes, startled. “We can go back to being best friends, I just want you to be happy, no matter what we are.”

 

Just give me a sign , Jaebum pleads with his eyes. Give me an answer.

 

“But why?” Jinyoung’s voice sounds like it’s on the verge of cracking, and Jaebum thinks, oh no . “Why are you saying this now, after all those years of me being in love with you?”

 

Jaebum’s heart drops. Of course, Jinyoung didn’t love him anymore. Anyone would be sick of waiting, and he didn’t blame Jinyoung, not one bit. “Well I-” Jaebum feels like he’s just swallowed a rock, his words lodged in his throat.

 

“Remember when you brought Dongyoung over?” Jinyoung nods. “I was super annoyed for some reason, and at first I actually felt bad because I thought I was homophobic.”

 

It’s difficult, but Jaebum forces himself to keep speaking, to fill up the suffocating silence. “Turns out I was just jealous as hell, because I loved you so much, and you were just- getting taken away by this bunny-looking guy - sorry”   Jinyoung snorts, the mere curve of his lips distracting Jaebum and making him forget his next lines momentarily.

 

“Sorry, go on.” Jinyoung sits up straight and motions for Jaebum to keep talking, so he does. “And it hurt so much. I was stupid, and I ended up hurting our friends, and you too.” Jaebum licks his lips, suddenly nervous again. “But I love you, Jinyoung, I really do. Even if you don’t, well, have feelings for me anymore, I just wanted to tell you-”

 

Everything he’s ever felt about Jinyoung boils down to one conclusion, and Jaebum feels like his lungs are going to give out when Jinyoung’s eyes go round, the way they do when he’s shocked or downright horrified.

 

“Who said I’m not in love with you anymore?” Jinyoung’s voice comes out a hoarse whisper, and Jaebum’s jaw drops to the ground,”I- I thought you didn’t like me being in love with you, so-”

 

“Hyung,” Jinyoung’s voice is ever firm, ever gentle. “You might be an idiot, but I’ve loved you for about twelve years now.”

 

“Oh,” Jaebum can’t think all of a sudden, mind whirling with multiple tiny Jaebums running around while screaming. Jinyoung loved him too. “Oh.”

 

“Oh, indeed,” Jinyoung nods wisely, but his lips are quivering, and Jaebum feels a smile tug at the corners of his lips. But there are more important matters to attend to, more specifically-

 

“Wait, so I’m in love with you, and you love me, too?” Jaebum starts, hesitantly so, and Jinyoung nods. He’s beautiful as always, and Jaebum really, really wants to kiss him. “Then why aren’t we, you know-”

 

Jaebum makes some vague gestures with his hands, but Jinyoung gets it anyway because he’s Jinyoung, Jaebum’s Jinyoung. “Kissing?” Jinyoung smirks, moving closer to Jaebum, who suddenly regrets the decision, feeling his cheeks heat up. “Sure.”

 

This is it. Jaebum doesn’t dare to move a muscle, feeling like disintegrating as Jinyoung moves closer and closer, his fingertips fluttering to rest on the back of Jaebum’s neck, his breath warm on Jaebum’s face as they-

 

“Hey!” Someone bangs on the door all of a sudden, and they spring apart like they’ve been burnt, even though the door remains closed. “Are you guys done talking yet?” It’s Bambam again, and Jaebum has never felt such a strong urge to throttle someone.

 

But Jinyoung gives Jaebum an apologetic smile, and everything feels a bit better as Bambam continues to whine,”My controller actually ran out of battery, and I'm going to burn onion soup-”

 

“Fuck Bambam’s onion soup,” Jaebum mutters under his breath, and Jinyoung laughs, lighter than the flutter of butterflies in Jaebum’s stomach. A click tells him that the door’s now unlocked, and for once, Jaebum actually misses the confinement of his bedroom.

 

Jinyoung doesn’t seem bothered, passing Jaebum the batteries with an exaggerated sigh. He can’t resist tracing the outline of Jinyoung’s lips with his eyes, wondering how they would taste under his own.

 

Jaebum sighs and Jinyoung chuckles, giving Jaebum’s hand an affectionate squeeze,”It’s fine, we have all the time in the world.”

 

Jinyoung’s right, they do- and they’ll get it right, no matter how long it takes.

 

-----

 

They decide to take things slow, but things don’t exactly go in that direction, because Jinyoung’s just too irresistible and Jaebum would be a fool to stay away when he’s just right there.

 

(Jackson screams when he runs into them kissing in Mark’s kitchen, but their friends congratulate them on their budding relationship regardless.)

 

Their new relationship takes some time to get used to, but with Jinyoung by his side, Jaebum feels nothing but excitement for what the future might hold. Jaebum won’t sweep the past under the rug though- he makes an effort to let Jinyoung know how much he treasures him, as both his best friend and boyfriend.

 

They meet up with Dongyoung- who’s bringing his own date to dinner, to Jinyoung’s delight. (“The guy is called Taeyang? Taeyong or something, I think.”) Things are finally falling into place, and it feels right, too.

 

Jaebum and Jinyoung get to the restaurant too early, and they end up at a fruit stall nearby, buying some of the peaches in season. Jinyoung grabs one to ‘sample’, and Jaebum doesn’t even have the heart to nag him for ruining his appetite, not when Jinyoung’s cheeks are pink as the peaches

 

Jinyoung bites into the peach, and Jaebum can’t help but stare as pink juice drips off his chin slowly, almost tantalizingly.

 

“What are you looking at?” Jinyoung’s cheeks puff up a little as he chews, making him look impossibly cute], and Jaebum can’t help but lean over to wipe the trail of peach juice off his chin.

 

“Nothing.” Jaebum lets his hand linger on Jinyoung’s chin for a moment until Jinyoung leans into his touch, and he snatches his hand away as Jinyoung pouts.

 

“What are you doing-” Jinyoung whines, lips pink and puffy and begging to be kissed, so Jaebum leans in to do just that. Jinyoung’s lips are slightly sticky but so, so sweet, and Jaebum can’t help but melt into the kiss, smiling a little as Jinyoung kisses back eagerly.

 

“Delicious.” Jaebum smirks as they finally part, and Jinyoung hands him his half-eaten peach with an exaggerated sigh,”And there I was thinking that you wanted to kiss me .”

 

“I was talking about you.” Jaebum presses the peach back into Jinyoung’s palm and surges forward again to kiss Jinyoung again, loving how Jinyoung gasps a little but laughs into the kiss, wrapping his arms around Jaebum’s neck like it’s second nature.

 

And it is, Jaebum wants it to be, how he’s in love with Jinyoung who loves him right back.

 

“I love you.” Jinyoung buries his face into Jaebum’s shoulder when they break apart at long last, as if he hasn’t told Jaebum a thousand times over, as if Jaebum doesn’t hear the same three words echoed in his heart -loud and clear.

 

So Jaebum holds Jinyoung closer, arms winding around his waist, the way he wants them to stay tomorrow, next week, next year, forever.

 

“I love you too.”

 

mcr-forever-106: Um, quick update? Turns out I’m not homophobic but in love with my roommate instead. Plot twist: it turns out I don’t have any problem with him kissing guys if it’s me he’s kissing hahaha.