There’s this particular thing Jaemin always feels whenever he’s talking to Jeno – a sensation as if someone is sweeping their hand on his face or over the top of his head. He knows it’s just Jeno’s quirk, lightly and probably unconsciously trying to reach for his thoughts.
Jaemin doesn’t really mind, but maybe it’s not the best when his mind is filled with the thought of Jeno’s fluttering eyelashes and his moon smile and just perhaps the fact that he’s more than infatuated with Jeno’s whole existence. Those are things that could damage their friendship should Jeno take it wrongly, so he circles his hand around Jeno’s wrist and says, “Stop.”
Jeno blinks and stops talking – he was in the middle of telling Jaemin about Bongsik. “Stop what?” he asks, but when Jaemin just stares at him, eyebrows raised, he gets it. “Oh. Sorry, I didn’t realize.”
“No, it’s fine,” Jaemin says. He lets go of Jeno’s hand a little regretfully (but Jeno doesn’t need to know that). “I thought you were good with your control?”
“I also don’t know why it’s like this,” Jeno says again, and he touches his own forehead, as if by doing so he’ll suddenly be able to know why his mind is always trying to find out what’s on Jaemin’s. “I’m good, really, but I guess when it’s around people I’m close to it’s a little bit stronger? I’m like this around my mom, too.”
Jaemin tries not to feel to disappointed with Jeno comparing him to his mom, but then Jeno suddenly laughs out loud, and Jaemin whips his head around to glare at him. “Did you just—“
“Okay, sorry, that one was kinda on purpose,” Jeno quickly interrupts. “Your thoughts are all over the place, you know? Human minds are more vulnerable when they’re distraught, so I just… it’s just like you were talking to me normally.”
Jaemin gets up and leaves after he flicks his fingers to untie Jeno’s shoelaces, leaving the boy whining, “I hate you when you do this!” as he walks away.
Jaemin understands the theory. Quirks work in their own weird ways, and Jeno’s telepathy running a little wild when he’s near people he’s “close to” isn’t that odd in itself because Jaemin is basically the same anyway. He once flicked Donghyuck on the cheek and sent him flying towards the other end of the field just because he momentarily forgot Jeno was sitting there next to him, one leg hooked over Jaemin’s knee and an English textbook splayed on his thighs. Renjun, too, had unfortunately been on the receiving end of Jaemin’s mindless display of power when he kicked lightly on the older boy’s chair and accidentally broke the whole thing, which caused a pretty nasty cut on Renjun’s ankle (upon further inspection, Jeno was passing by his class at the time).
“Dude, you’re like, inconceivably dangerous,” Donghyuck says, when all four of them are together in the rather small space of Jeno’s room.
Renjun has his sketchpad open on the floor instead of his homework, and he’s doodling small flowers on the corner of the page which soon pop out into real full-scale roses and carnations and lilies. Jaemin steals one cerise carnation and slips it behind Jeno’s ear, who just smiles at him with raised brows and a question in his eyes, but says nothing. Donghyuck makes a disgusted gagging sound.
“How so?” Jaemin asks then, after giving Donghyuck’s most recent declaration some time to lose its initial impact. “I’m the most harmless person you know.”
Even Jeno looks up from his textbook to give Jaemin the most disbelieving stare he could ever muster.
“Uh, that’s,” Renjun says, after almost an hour of staying silent, “Very debatable.”
Jaemin throws one of the lilies near his feet at his face. “Say that again.”
Renjun straightens himself up and opens his mouth to no doubt repeat himself, but Donghyuck smacks a hand over his mouth and says, “Jeno’s right fucking there with him! If he kicks you again you’re gonna die for real.”
Jaemin scoffs, and so does Renjun, who bites on Donghyuck’s fingers a bit later to get his hand off his face. Donghyuck curses, and the incident slides away unsolved. Jeno starts humming the opening song to that one anime he’s been bingewatching since last week, and Jaemin realizes that, much to his own horror, he’s also humming along with him.
Then Donghyuck starts talking about the upcoming sports festival, and Jaemin’s good mood wanes.
“The thing is,” Jaemin says, his voice low and barely audible as he rolls up the sleeves of his gym uniform, Jeno quietly zipping up his next to him, “I don’t want to do this.”
Jeno pauses, then he closes his locker with a loud wham. Jaemin looks up, a bit taken aback by the sudden forcefulness, but Jeno is smiling. “You think you’re the only one who hates doing this?”
“Obviously no,” Jaemin says, and he tries not to think about how hot Jeno would look if he gets, like, real pissed off. That’s a thought for another time, maybe, if Jaemin has enough self control to keep the imagery off his mind for the rest of the day. “That’s why I’m telling you right now, darling, and not Donghyuck or Renjun.” Jeno’s mouth forms a straight line – a natural reaction whenever Jaemin starts getting mouthy – but he doesn’t comment on it. “How much do you wanna bet they’re gonna put you at least two miles away from me at the starting line?”
Jeno’s hand is on Jaemin’s face all of the sudden, brushing a stray strand of hair from over his eyes. “Your hair is getting long, you should cut it,” Jeno remarks. “Also it’s not my fault you pissed off Jaehyun good last week. Now he’s gonna sabotage your whole play.”
“By putting you at least two miles away from me?”
“It’s not gonna be that bad,” Jeno says with a shrug. “Maybe just half a mile. We can never know. Don’t worry about it too much.”
“I’ll find you as soon as I can,” Jaemin promises.
“Why, do you think I’d be helpless without you?” Jeno asks, his brows furrowing together as he speaks. His hand is still hanging near his neck, knuckles lightly brushing against Jaemin’s shoulder. “Funny, because you’re the one who’d be helpless without me.”
Jaemin curses silently, because even if it’s not exactly right, it’s not completely wrong, either. Jaemin might still be able to hurl pebbles or twigs at anyone’s face when Jeno’s too far away, but he feels like his whole being has been trained by time that he always, always has to be in close proximity to Jeno, or else he might die, probably. He doesn’t know. He never tried. He isn’t too keen on finding out, either.
“That was a joke,” Jeno says again, tone softer, when Jaemin still hasn’t replied. “We both know you’re the less useless one between us, even if I’m not around.”
“I know,” Jaemin replies. “Wait, no. You’re not useless, either.”
“Never said I was,” Jeno shoots back, and his hand moves up again to touch Jaemin’s cheek this time, thumb gently caressing his cheekbone, and just like that, suddenly Jaemin’s lungs run out of air. Jeno’s effect, as per usual. “Let’s both do our best, ‘kay?”
“Yeah, sure,” Jaemin says, voice as dry as the inside of his throat, “Anything for you.”
(Those were not empty words; Jaemin really would do anything for Jeno.)
Jaemin ends up finding Jeno faster than he expected; Jaehyun didn’t place him far enough, it seems, or maybe Jeno’s just quick on his feet, too.
“Hey,” Jaemin says, as soon as Jeno grabs him by the arm, a wide grin on his face. He’s sure the exact same grin is mirrored on his own face, too. “You found me first.”
“Yeah, not hard really, since Yuta’s been screaming about your uselessness for the last fifteen minutes or so,” Jeno says. “That’s how I figured out where you were.” His eyes flick up to the commentator box, in which Nakamoto Yuta is now yelling about their reunion.
“Oooh, look at that! Now that Jeno’s with Jaemin again everyone else should just go home! The event has ended!” Yuta says, and Jaemin clicks his tongue in annoyance. He’s been doing his best trying not to let Yuta’s comments get to him (“Jaemin doesn’t seem too intimidating now that his little partner isn’t around, doesn’t he? Anyone’s free to take him down while you have the chance!” “Aww, Jaemin’s been awfully quiet for awhile. Are you okay, kiddo?”), but his patience has been stretched thin for way too long.
“Should I just blast him from here?” Jaemin asks Jeno, fingers carefully and quietly placing themselves on the small of Jeno’s back. It’s really super fucking ridiculous, the way he feels the warmth of his amplified power coursing through his veins just from having his hand on Jeno and feeling his breath on his skin, and Jeno whispers in his ear, “No, you can’t do that.”
“Why not? I’ve been letting him off for too long.”
“Because you’re gonna get penalized,” Jeno deadpans. “And I want to see you fight Donghyuck to death in the finals, just like you promised me. So keep it together.”
Yuta chooses this moment to once again bring the attention back to them, because he then yells, “Oh my god, are you two planning something to hurt me? You are. You totally are. Is this allowed? Jaehyun, get your kids under control!”
There’s a faint voice that sounds vaguely like Jaehyun’s somewhere from the crowd. “They’re not my kids, Nakamoto! Not the brown-haired one, at least, I don’t claim that one.”
“Can they both shut up and leave me alone for like a minute,” Jaemin says through gritted teeth, and Jeno smiles at him, patting his shoulder sympathetically.
“You have me now,” Jeno says, his voice unhelpfully joyful. “We’re gonna be okay. Let’s just try and get to the finish line.”
Jaemin reluctantly nods, and he suddenly realizes how funny things are with them: his quirk is the least manageable whenever Jeno’s around, but it’s also simultaneously the safest occurrence because when Jeno is close enough, he can say just one word and Jaemin would immediately stand down, drop to his knees, and lose it all: his power, his anger, his reason – all for Jeno.
Donghyuck always says Jaemin’s whipped. Well, Donghyuck is damn right, then, because when the team arrangements for the second event come out and Jaemin’s name is not listed right after Jeno’s, he suddenly feels like dying.
“Okay, first of all,” Renjun – Jaemin’s still lucky enough to get him, at least – says, “It’s not that big of a deal.”
Jaemin purses his lips. “Mm, maybe.”
Jaemin said that, but things only get worse because as soon as the words left his mouth, he looks up at the announcement screen again and his eyes widen at the big, thick words of LEE DONGHYUCK written under Jeno’s name.
“ Fucking—“ Jaemin says instinctively, turning around to find Donghyuck and maybe punch him, but Renjun is quick and before Jaemin knows it, he’s already grabbed hold of Jaemin’s arm, pulling him back with surprising strength.
“No,” Renjun says again, firmer this time. “Dude, calm down.”
Jaemin takes a few deep breath, but his mind is still in a disarray. Not being in the same team as Jeno is alright, he guesses, he can take that, but Jeno being in the same team as Donghyuck? That’s just ominously unacceptable. No way. Jaemin doesn’t want to think about it, but he is helplessly thinking about it, and unfortunately for him, Donghyuck decides to show up right then and there with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face.
“Hey, hey, hey. Did you see that?” Donghyuck asks, and Jaemin doesn’t need to see to know Donghyuck’s pointing at Jeno’s name on top of his on the screen. “Did you see that shit, Na Jaemin?”
“Donghyuck.” Jeno suddenly appears, weaving himself out from the crowd he’s been stuck in earlier, and his face is concerned as his gaze shifts from Donghyuck to Jaemin and then to Donghyuck again. “Donghyuck, don’t.”
“I’m not doing anything, though?” Donghyuck says, shrugging. “Not yet, at least. But hey, Jaemin, I’m just here to say I got Jeno! Try and deal with that!”
Jeno and Renjun collectively sigh – Jeno buries his face in his palm and Renjun looks away, desperate to find something else to focus on. Jaemin’s hands move to grab the front of Donghyuck’s gym uniform the same time Donghyuck puts his under Jaemin’s chin, sending familiar small, prickly explosions all over Jaemin’s skin. Jaemin’s scowling and Donghyuck’s wearing his face-splitting grin, smug and absolutely annoying.
Jeno’s hand is suddenly on Jaemin’s wrist. “Guys, you said you’d save this until the finals,” Jeno reminds them. “Also stop this tough cookie shit, you’ve been friends since first grade. Act like it.”
“Exactly because we’ve been friends since first grade we gotta act like we haven’t,” Donghyuck says stubbornly, but then he pulls his hand back and Jaemin reluctantly lets go of his shirt. “Good luck, loser.”
“You ’re gonna be the loser,” Jaemin tells him. “Just try me, Lee Donghyuck. I’m gonna end you.”
“Come fucking get me, Na Jaemin!” Donghyuck yells back, and just to rub salt on his wound, he throws his arm around Jeno’s shoulder and flips him off. Renjun has to physically drag Jaemin away to stop him from attacking Donghyuck then and there, quite possibly starting the final battle round early and illegally.
The second event drags out longer than the teachers must’ve estimated, but it doesn’t feel that way to Jaemin. He’s too busy trying to take the headbands from other students while keeping an eye on Donghyuck’s team, and Renjun dryly comments that even though he’s actually doing a good job at both, he should probably concentrate more on the current task at hand.
“Donghyuck won’t do anything to your Jeno,” Renjun says in a tone he must think is reassuring. “He’s too into that one sulky upperclassman – I forget his name – to care about anyone else.”
“You’re right, of course,” Jaemin says, but he’s still looking over Renjun’s shoulders. Donghyuck’s just snatched one headband from a rabbit-eared girl’s head and is now looping it around Jeno’s neck. They are both beaming, and Jaemin looks away, suddenly very salty. “Still.”
“Whoops,” Renjun suddenly quips as he smacks someone’s hand away. The motion effectively sends Jaemin staggering, and Renjun yelps a little, tightening his arms around Jaemin’s neck. The guy’s small and light, but Jaemin’s starting to get tired of carrying him. Probably because he’s busy worrying about Jeno, too. “See, this is why I said what I said. You’re strong, but you’re nothing if you don’t focus. Start fighting back, Jaemin, I can’t hurt people to save my life.”
“Okay, time to get serious,” Jaemin decides, and he lets go of one of Renjun’s thighs and stretches his left arm out. “Hold on tight, I’m gonna blast these small fries away.”
Renjun hums appreciatively. “Can you do that?”
Jaemin’s eyes flick to check where Jeno is, and he almost drops Renjun altogether when he sees Jeno already staring at him, face passive and gaze unreadable. Donghyuck’s counting the headbands they’ve got around Jeno’s neck, and Jaemin is glad he’s busy doing that because that means Jaemin can move closer to Jeno without alerting Donghyuck too much, and a little closure is all he needs right now.
Jeno’s probably already known this even before the thought of going all out even crossed Jaemin’s mind. Telepaths are weird creatures, really, but hey, Jeno doesn’t try to make some distance when Jaemin slides closer to the side, as if he knows what Jaemin’s about to do (he does) and that’s all that matters.
“Thanks,” Jaemin says to nobody in particular, and Renjun questions that, but then Jaemin spreads his fingers and lets himself lose control, and every words are suddenly forgotten.
Needless to say, all four of them make it to the final rounds. Jaemin gets scolded by Jaehyun for destroying the arena again, but Taeil is defending him somewhat by saying that he didn’t break any rules, essentially. Renjun keeps his head down the whole time Jaehyun chews them out, but he’s smiling bright when he looks at Jaemin, eyes twinkling with mirth. Jaemin mutters what the hell is wrong with you under his breath, and Renjun whispers back, “We got first place!”
Well, yeah. They kind of did, now that he mentioned it.
“Does it matter?” Jaemin asks, when Jaehyun finally lets them off. They’re both walking toward the break room, and when the remaining, uninjured students see that Jaemin’s coming close, they instantly scurry away. Jaemin’s already used to this, so he ignores it.
“Yes,” Renjun replies immediately. Then he pauses. “Oh no, not really, though. I actually didn’t want to advance to this round, so it doesn’t really matter either way.”
“You’re gonna put out, then?”
“Maybe. What can I do honestly?” Renjun shrugs. “Draw a tiger and let it eat Donghyuck’s face? Oh my god, shit, imagine if I get Donghyuck for my first fight. He’s gonna blow me to pieces.”
Jaemin actually laughs at this. “Nah, Donghyuck’s not that evil. He’s probably gonna spare you all the hurt and knock you out in one clean hit. With his fist. Like a real man.”
“That’s nasty. You're nasty. I don’t want to fight you, either.”
Jaemin is spared from the necessity to reply with something courteous when Jeno appears, squashing himself in between Jaemin and Renjun. There’s a Band-Aid on his cheek and Jaemin swallows – he suddenly remembers a piece of small rubbles from the cracked floor hitting Jeno’s face earlier when he went berserk. He begins to say, “Jeno, I’m so sorry—“ but Jeno shushes him with one look.
“I let you do that, so don’t worry,” he says. “More importantly, did you piss Jaehyun enough for him to let you go up against Donghyuck first thing first this round?”
Jaemin does end up going against Donghyuck, and that doesn’t end well for the arena, too, much to Jaehyun’s disgust, but at least Jeno cheered him on and when the fight is over and neither of them are knocked out, Jeno is the first person on the bleacher that Jaemin locks eyes with.
“You did great,” Jeno mouths at him, waving one free hand, and Jaemin tiredly gives him a thumb’s up in response. Jeno’s been sitting too far away for him to be able to defeat Donghyuck completely, but hey, at least none of them die, and Jaemin has less burns on his skin compared to the ungodly amount of cuts he’s caused on Donghyuck.
“You almost broke my nose, bitch ass,” Donghyuck comments when they both get off the arena.
“It’s a fight, get used to it,” Jaemin shoots back.
Jaemin’s shoulder bumps first against Donghyuck’s, and Donghyuck shoves him off, which causes Jaemin to elbow him right after, and so on. They keep quarreling even as the medics patch them up and send them straight back out, and Jeno’s the first person Jaemin sees again at the bleacher.
“Whoa, look at the size of that burn,” Jeno says, and he pointedly looks at the reddish mark on Jaemin’s entire forearm. He holds back the urge to hiss when Jeno carefully takes his hand to examine it further. “Amazing. Donghyuck really didn’t hold back, didn’t he.”
“That’s nothing compared to the shit he put me through!” Donghyuck yells from the back. “Asshole almost broke my nose, dammit.”
“To be fair, you did ask for it,” Renjun remarks. He scoots closer to inspect Jaemin’s arm, too, before sliding away again with a loud ugh. “That’s gonna take at least a week to heal, unless you can find someone with a really good healing quirk.”
“Good thing it’s my left hand, huh,” Jaemin says. Jeno’s still holding his hand carefully, the corners of his lips quirking up as he plays with Jaemin’s fingers. Jaemin doesn’t know why he’s smiling, but that’s enough to lift his mood up a little.
“Yeah, you can still take notes,” Donghyuck says. “See? All of my moves are calculated. I’m not dumb.”
“Nobody ever said you were,” Jeno says lightly. He finally lets go of Jaemin’s hand, and Jaemin tries not to feel too saddened by it. He doesn’t have to suffer for long, though, because Jeno soon pats the empty seat next to him, which Jaemin happily occupies.
The rest of the event is boring, but it’s alright because Jeno falls asleep on Jaemin’s shoulder halfway, his hand staying still on top of Jaemin’s knee.
Jaemin goes on a date with Jeno a day after the sports festival.
Jeno treats him to ice cream for “being gracious” and “not killing Donghyuck even though you were blinded by jealousy.” Jaemin thinks about it for a whole minute, before he splutters, “What jealousy?”
Jeno stares at him as if he’s dumb. “Uh, weren’t you bitter because I was in the same team as Donghyuck yesterday?”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t jealous,” Jaemin says, suddenly distraught, and he instantly checks if his mental barriers are up, because he definitely was fucking jealous and Jeno doesn’t even need telepathy to confirm that, but fuck everything if he thinks Jaemin’s just going to admit it willingly. “I wasn’t like, jealous jealous.”
“You weren’t?” Jeno inquires, eyebrows up and eyes wide and mouth curling down, and Jaemin finds himself face-to-face once again with the familiar feeling of craving death. What the fuck. “Aw, that’s disappointing. Renjun said you totally were.”
Jaemin is so going to fucking kill Huang Renjun.
“And you believe in everything Renjun says?” Jaemin demands. He’s so distressed by the fact that Renjun has not-so-subtly outed him to Jeno that he nearly stumbles and drops his ice cream; Jeno’s hand is on his arm before he knows it, helping him regain balance.
“Uh, why not?” Jeno says. “He’s pretty trustworthy.”
Not to me he’s not, Jaemin thinks tensely, but he keeps it in. Instead, he tries to distract Jeno by switching their ice creams and steering him towards the direction of the dog park they usually visit in the summer.
“But you know,” Jeno says hours later on their way home, his eyes once again unreadable – that’s how Jaemin knows he hasn’t really succeeded in distracting Jeno from their initial topic – and face passive, “I don’t mind.”
“You don’t mind what?” Jaemin asks, even though he already has a feeling what this is about, and is currently dying because he’s not sure how he will respond, if at all.
“I mean,” Jeno says with a shrug, “I perfectly understand. I want you all to myself, too.”
Jaemin trips for real this time.
Jeno leans in to give a small peck on Jaemin’s cheek before they part in front of his house, and when Jaemin – with his brain fried – asks what was the kiss for, Jeno says, “For getting first place, dumbass.” He finishes this with the sweetest smile Jaemin’s ever seen, and it really takes everything in him to not grab Jeno by the face and kiss him breathless against his front door right there and then.
God, that would be so unmannerly of him.
Jaemin should’ve known something’s off when it’s been almost half an hour and Jeno still hasn’t showed up at the street corner where they usually meet in the morning. He should’ve known it the moment he goes to his house and Jeno’s mother opens the door instead of Jeno, and maybe he should’ve known from the moment Jeno kissed him yesterday, really, because apparently when you have an inconveniently powerful quirk, you just can’t be happy for too long.
“Jeno?” Mrs. Lee asks, with an inquisitive expression that is so eerily similar to her son’s. Jaemin’s already having a headache at this point. “I thought he’d already gone out… I’ll check upstairs. Maybe he’s still asleep.”
“No, um,” Jaemin says, because he can smell the scent of boiling stew and he can see the cut-up vegetables on the kitchen counter behind the woman, “You seem busy, so I was thinking if you’d allow me to go up and get him myself?”
“Of course, Jaemin,” she says with a big smile, and she steps aside to let him in. “You can hit him if he doesn’t want to wake up,” she adds, as Jaemin gawkily hurries toward the stairs after leaving his shoes on the entryway. He’s visited Jeno’s house many times, but so very rarely in the morning when his mother’s home.
“I’m sure I don’t have to,” Jaemin politely responds. He forces himself to smile, but there’s this questionably nasty unfamiliar thing creeping up in his gut, quite similar to how he felt when he first had his food poisoning. Weird. He climbs up the stairs and knocks on Jeno’s door, and when there’s no answer, he frowns and opens the door.
The first thing he sees is the unbolted window, striped curtain shucked all the way to the side. That should give it away real quick, honestly, because Jaemin knows for a fact that Jeno gets cold easily and will never sleep with his windows open, even in the worst of summer days. Then his eyes drop to the empty bed – still neatly made. Jeno’s homework is opened and laying on his pillow, and the horridness inside of Jaemin’s stomach just spreads to his entire body now when he looks closer and realizes that Jeno hasn’t even finished writing the date yet.
Jaemin stumbles back, vision suddenly hazy and mind in chaos. The bedroom is very much empty, that’s for sure, and Jeno’s nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t have left the house, because if he had, he would’ve met Jaemin at their usual meeting place. But he’s not here, either, and there’s just no way in hell Jeno would be anywhere in the house other than his room without his mom noticing.
And then there’s the open window, and the bed that looks like it hasn’t been used to sleep on last night. Jaemin’s not being paranoid; it’s real. It’s all real.
Jeno is gone.
Probably not out of his own free will, too.
His fingers shake when he reaches for the phone in his back pocket, and the trembling’s only getting worse when he scrolls down his contacts, searching for Jeno’s number. He doesn’t have much expectation in the first place, but he swears more and more of his reason slips away with each and every one of his calls going unanswered. Jaemin finally gives up on his twenty-something try, and now he’s fumbling around for Donghyuck’s number.
His thumb hovers over Donghyuck’s contact for a good few seconds. The last remaining sanity in his brain abruptly yells at him what could Donghyuck even do in this situation, so Jaemin backpedals and searches for Jaehyun’s number instead.
Jaehyun tells him everything’s going to be alright, but if there’s ever an instance where Jaemin actually trusts his homeroom teacher, then the world is coming to an end.
Everything is definitely not alright. How can everything be alright when Jeno isn’t there to make it be? Jaehyun’s spewing nonsense and Jaemin isn’t here for it. Neither are Renjun and Donghyuck, apparently, judging from the look on their faces, too.
“Just tell me where he is,” Jaemin says through gritted teeth. He’s sitting rigidly on the couch in the headmaster’s office, all clenched fists and strained muscles. Renjun is not as tense as he is, but he’s blankly staring at the ceiling with glassy eyes. What a crybaby, Jaemin thinks, but really, he probably would bawl his eyes out too if he wasn’t filled with so much raw anger and fear and more anger. Donghyuck’s arms are crossed and he’s glaring at Jaehyun, who’s in the middle of talking to someone on his phone.
“Will you shut up for a moment,” Jaehyun says, and both Donghyuck and Jaemin stand up at the same time, ready to fight (Jaemin) and yell at Jaehyun (Donghyuck), but Renjun grabs both of their hands and stops them from moving at all.
“You’re making this worse,” he hisses. “Now isn’t the time to be difficult. Jaehyun’s already had so much on his plate.”
Jaemin would continue to argue, but the look on Renjun’s face shuts him up for good, and he drops himself back to the couch in defeat. Renjun rubs a comforting circle on his knee, and Donghyuck angrily squashes his cheek against Jaemin’s shoulder, still glaring at Jaehyun with his arms crossed. The body warmth his friends provide helps ground him down, but it’s nothing at all when there’s a hole in his chest aching for Jeno’s, as well.
Jaehyun’s seemingly important call finally comes to an end and he turns to look at the angry kids sitting on Taeil’s couch. “I’m gonna be real with you guys here,” he says. “I won’t tell you everything I have for now because I know for sure you—“ Jaehyun pointedly stares at Jaemin, “—will just come running to find Jeno the first chance you get.”
“Damn right I will,” Jaemin quips. “What makes you think I won’t?”
“Exactly,” Jaehyun continues. “So here’s what you have to do. You stay at home, and do not—I’m very serious right now, Jaemin—try to go look for Jeno.”
Jaemin stands up again, accidentally knocking Donghyuck’s head and Renjun’s hand aside in the process. He barely cares at the moment, though. “What the hell do you mean I shouldn’t go look for Jeno?” Jaemin demands. “That’s the first thing I’m doing after you let me out of here!”
“Then I won’t let you out,” Jaehyun simply says. “I’ll lock you up here if I have to. I’ll call your parents and explain everything, even.”
“Shut up, you can’t do that.”
“I can, I’m your teacher,” Jaehyun says. “Sit down.”
This time Donghyuck, too, grabs Jaemin’s hand and pulls him to sit back down along with Renjun. Jaemin is still seething, and Donghyuck’s palm is prickly around his wrist, so he must be pissed, too. A wonder he hasn’t tried to burn the whole couch down, but maybe Donghyuck’s better with his control than Jaemin thought.
“It’s the Villain Alliance, isn’t it,” Renjun suddenly says, and both Jaemin and Donghyuck whip their neck so quick to look at him. “They got Jeno? Is that it? Is that what’s happening right now?”
Jaehyun looks like he’s torn between actually being honest or just ignore Renjun completely, but he finally gives up and says, “Yeah, they got Jeno.”
“But why,” all three of them say simultaneously let out – Jaemin and Donghyuck in a significantly louder and more distraught tone, while Renjun’s just desperate. Jaehyun’s wearing that torn look again on his face, but this time he doesn’t reply.
“Why Jeno?” Jaemin stubbornly persists. “Jaehyun, why Jeno? He’s just a telepath. It’s not like they don’t have those of their own. They had no reason to take him, so why?”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Jaehyun suddenly decides, and he points at the door. “Jaemin, I’m gonna have Yuta place a limiter on you. If you ever go out of range, or if I detect you doing something I told you specifically not to do, I’m going to personally get you.”
“Do what you want, I don’t care,” Jaemin says. “I’m not just gonna sit pretty while the fucking Villain Allience do only god knows what to my Jeno. How are you not panicking right now? He’s your student, too.”
Jaehyun’s expression is unreadable. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Now get out.”
Jaemin doesn’t care even if Yuta puts a goddamn chain around his ankles to prevent him from going anywhere to find Jeno. He tells Yuta this as the older man puts his limiter bracelet around his wrist, and Yuta just shrugs and says, “I don’t have chains, so.”
“I’m gonna rip this limiter off me soon, just saying,” Jaemin says.
“Then that’s gonna be something between you and Jaehyun,” Yuta lightly says. “Now go to class, yeah? Try to get your mind off it for awhile.”
“How could you even suggest that—“
Yuta pushes him out of his workshop before Jaemin could even finish his sentence, and slams the door right in front of his face. Renjun and Donghyuck are waiting for him outside; they’ve been talking to each other in hushed voices while Jaemin was inside. The conversation dies down as soon as they spot Jaemin walking towards them.
“What?” Jaemin asks, because there’s something in Renjun’s face that tells him they’ve been talking about him. “What’s wrong?”
Everything’s already wrong, of course, but maybe there’s something worse.
Renjun glances nervously at Donghyuck before he speaks. “I have a suspicion,” he begins, voice unnervingly calm, “That maybe we were wrong to focus completely on Jeno.”
“What do you mean we were wrong to focus on him, he’s fucking missing,” Jaemin immediately says. “The Alliance got him! Are you serious?”
Donghyuck groans. “This is why I said we shouldn’t tell him, Renjun.”
“What do you mean? Hey!” Jaemin says, voice raising when both Renjun and Donghyuck don’t respond anymore. “Are you guys with Jaehyun now? Gonna hold back information from me? That’s low.”
“I actually see why Jaehyun didn’t want to tell you,” Renjun says quietly. “You’re so close to blowing up right now, Jaemin, and you know that.”
Even if Renjun and Donghyuck hold their ground and still won’t tell Jaemin what it is that bothers them, Jaemin decides he doesn’t need to know, anyway. That’s not his priority right now. All he has to do is find out where Jeno is, and then if his friends won’t come with him, he’s going to save him alone. He doesn’t know how he’s going to do that: Jaehyun’s never going to tell him even if he’s dying, for whatever reason, but that comes later. He’ll think about it.
He can’t sleep at night. He doesn’t want to, anyway. There’s no more goodnight texts exchanged now because Jeno is fucking missing. It’s good if he’s just missing – Jaemin’s worst nightmare is seeing Jeno bleeding and bruised and dying without him. He swears to god he’s going to be a murderer if that ever happens, and he repeats this vow over and over again as he buries his face into his pillow and bites his own lip until he tastes blood. Jeno is so out of his reach, for once. He isn’t around for Jaemin to touch and hold and be safe with, and Jaemin feels like breaking.