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In the month leading up to midterms, there was an increasingly manic buzz in the air, a ticking countdown to the dynamite possibility of academic failure. It’s never so potent as the week before, when the entire cafeteria feels like it’s vibrating with some kind of nervous energy, everyone overloud and overcompensating for the stress of exams.

And it’s senior year this year, which means SATs and college applications on top of everything else. Jaemin had attended the same mandatory time management course last year that everyone else in his year did, had seen how the stress had felled even the strongest of his senior friends, but he hadn’t thought it would be so bad.

Jaemin understands now the follies of his youth.

He has three midterms and two papers due next week, and then an SAT retake two weeks after that, so basically a matter of choosing between his immediate future and his slightly less immediate future. His senior year so far has been so far from the senior year of the movies and TV shows he watched growing up that he’s contemplating invoicing both his guidance counselor and MTV for this bait-and-switch. At the very least, for the way stress has co-opted the bodies of his best friends and turned them into pod people.

Jeno has been dealing with the blunt force trauma of senior year by getting into—ugh—running. Renjun has gotten into color-coding and then spreadsheeting his already hyper-comprehensive notes, and Donghyuck has funnelled all of his nervous energy into his obsession with Mark Lee, who was a senior last year and a college freshman this year. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something—mostly, it presents an opportunity for Donghyuck’s imagination to go buckwild thinking about what Mark could possibly be spending his days doing. Jaemin suspects it isn’t anything different from what he had been up to in high school, which was: excelling at his classes, excelling at his many extracurriculars, and excelling at making Donghyuck into even more of a crazy person than he already was.

And Jaemin? Jaemin has developed a slight eye twitch and spent the last few weeks pondering an existential conundrum. There’s a lull in their lunchtime conversation, which means that it’s the perfect time for him to speak his concerns into existence.

“Have you guys noticed how weird Renjun’s being? I think he’s hiding something from us.”

Disappointingly, this does not get the reaction he expected.

In ascending order of expectation fulfillment:

4) DISQUALIFIED: Renjun, who was out sick that day.

3) DID YOU EVEN TRY, BRO?: Jeno, who puts the straw of his soy milk box (what were they, eight?) in his mouth and sucks noisily, rudely.

2) YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE NOT TRIED: Jisung, who snorts, his eyes never leaving the DS in Chenle’s hands.

2a) TIED: Chenle, who doesn’t seem to even hear what Jaemin had said, given that he’s both muttering under his breath and trying to elbow Jisung away from breathing down his neck.

Jisung and Chenle were juniors, clearly unsympathetic to what Jaemin was going through, and Jaemin has seriously considered kicking them out of their lunch group multiple times for their blatant disregard for his plight. The only thing stopping him from downright strangling Jisung at times is the knowledge that he will have one rude awakening next year. Jaemin knows how to play the long game.

1) WHY DOES THIS FEEL LIKE I’VE LOST?: Donghyuck, who, although he’s distractedly texting someone—probably Yerim—at least graces him with a verbal response: “Uh, Injunnie’s been weird. What, have you never noticed?”

BONUS: JENO LEE FUCKING SUCKS: Jeno, who laughs at that.

Jaemin crumples up the saran wrap his kimbap had been wrapped in to throw at Jeno. It bounces ineffectually off his shoulder and flies into Chenle’s line of sight, making him shriek, which in turn gives Jisung an opening to snatch the DS away from him.

“I mean,” he says, raising his voice so it carries over Chenle’s whining. “Weirder than usual. Kind of like he has a secret boyfriend?”

Donghyuck finally looks up from his text whatever with Yerim—they had a very strange relationship that Renjun had once likened to that of a drug dealer and an addict, except that the product Yerim was pushing was old pictures of and information about Mark, who Yerim knew from church and now college. Donghyuck and Yerim’s Venmo friendship history was littered with charges and payments of $0.69, $4.20, and $6.66 (for full page scans of Yerim and Mark’s church youth group yearbooks dating back to 2008), accompanied by notes that varied from

for the thing, u kno

to

m*** l**

It was okay, though, because Mark didn’t understand Venmo. The year was 2018, and he still paid people back in envelopes full of cash, with exact change.

He says, incredulously, “You think Renjun has a secret boyfriend? He barely likes us. He’s probably just stressed about college apps.” And then Donghyuck’s expression softens. “Ohhhh. Oh. Hey, sorry, I totally forgot… Are you okay? I thought you were over him.”

“Oh my God.” Jaemin throws his hands up. Reminder to self: never tell Donghyuck anything. “Shut up, I hate you. That was, like, five hundred years ago.”

Full disclosure: yes, Jaemin used to have a crush on Renjun. But also, yes, Jaemin is over it, really and truly—you couldn’t blame him for mistaking three months of sharing a Bunsen burner for love. He had been fourteen, for Christ’s sake. “Okay, how about this. I’ll bet you anything Renjun has a secret boyfriend.”

Donghyuck narrows his eyes. “Anything?”

Wagering against Donghyuck was always dangerous. He was dogged (see: years-long crush on Mark Lee) and played dirty pool (he had two younger siblings, each cuter and more evil than the last), but Jaemin was stubborn and exceedingly lucky, so in the balance of the universe, they were more or less evenly matched.

“Secret boyfriend or crush,” he quickly amends. “But, yes, anything.”

Jaemin could see Donghyuck thinking it over. Even Jisung and Chenle have given up their turf war over the DS to watch him contemplate. “Okay, fine,” he finally says, reaching a hand out over the sticky lunchroom table. “Deal. I’ll let you know my terms tomorrow.”

“Okay, fine.”

“Fine!”

“Great.”

“Nice.”

“Ye—”

“And that’s the bell,” Jeno cuts in, breaking off their staring match. “Come on, we’ve got calc next.”

 


 

Renjun is back the next day. Jaemin spends a good fifteen minutes of lunch letting the dulcet tones of Renjun’s voice as he complains about a scratchy throat and how he’d spent the entire weekend confined to his bed fill his ears, as if he and everyone at the table hadn’t already heard a condensed version of this rant via Snapchat.

“...And now I’m behind in physics, and you know what a hardass Mr. Kim is.”

“Dude, you know you can always copy my homework,” says Donghyuck, with all the magnanimity of a notoriously subpar science student.

Renjun snorts, pushing his lunch away and right into Jeno’s waiting clutches. “Yeah, no, I think I’m good.”

“Yeah, might as well leave it blank. You’d probably get a better grade that way,” Jeno chimes in, mouth full of Renjun’s mom’s fried rice.

“Ooh,” Jaemin says appreciatively, holding his hand up. “Sick burn.”

Donghyuck scowls at them, grabbing both their wrists before they could complete the high five. “Don’t encourage them, Injun, they’ve been bullying me nonstop since you've been gone.”

Renjun rolls his eyes, but there’s a smile playing at his lips. “My poor baby Hyuck,” he coos, locking an arm around Donghyuck’s neck and tugging him in. “Let me—,” he tightens his grip, “—protect you.”

Donghyuck yelps, scrabbling at the arm around his neck. “Mercy! Uncle! I fold!”

Renjun squeezes him even tighter for a second, before letting him go with a wet smack to his forehead.

Donghyuck snatches up an abandoned napkin to scrub at the spot on his forehead until it’s red. “You’re the biggest bully,” he says, accusingly.

Renjun’s smile grows. “Love you too, babe.”

Before Donghyuck could snipe back, Jaemin raps the table between them to draw their attention. “Hey, kids. No fighting while we’re eating.” Renjun snickers, starting to interject, but Jaemin talks over him: “You guys wanna see the new Spiderman after school?”

Jeno shrugs. “Sure, why not. No prep school today.”

“Down,” Donghyuck says. “Before midterms fuck us over next week.”

They all sigh, then turn to Renjun, who’s packing up his now-spotless lunch box and, curiously, hasn’t said anything. He meets all of their eyes in turn, looking sheepish as he says, “Ah, actually… Sorry, guys. I would, but I have other plans.”

 


 

Jaemin and Renjun had met in chemistry class.

Renjun was new, in the sense that Jaemin didn’t recognize him, though that didn’t mean much. Five middle schools from around the city fed into his high school, and Jaemin was still a little shellshocked in those first few days. The one saving grace of his freshman year was his shared lunch period with Donghyuck and Jeno, because he’d somehow ended up having exactly zero classes with either of them, which meant that Jaemin would have to make new friends, which meant flexing a muscle he hadn’t flexed since he met Donghyuck and Jeno in middle school homeroom.

But before he could get too worked up, he heard from above him:

“Jaemin, right? I’m Renjun.”

Jaemin looked up, and was suddenly reminded of the fact that their chemistry teacher had done them all the favor of assigning lab partners before the year even started, emailing the list out two weeks before the first day of school. Jaemin had gotten the email while he was lounging by Donghyuck’s pool, seen the subject line and sender, yelped, and immediately deleted it.

If he’d read it, he supposed he would’ve seen his name linked to Renjun Huang’s. He wasn’t quite as social media-obsessed as Donghyuck was, but he probably still would’ve scoped Renjun out on Facebook or Instagram and one look at Renjun’s tagged photos would’ve told him what his eyes were telling him at that moment: despite the unkempt hair and lanky limbs, Renjun Huang was a grade-A cutie.

“Hi Renjun,” Jaemin said, shooting out of his chair and offering a hand for Renjun to shake. What the hell? What are you, your dad? Renjun took his hand with a bemused smile, one that looked kind of like he couldn’t believe someone would be such a fucking loser. And then, because Jaemin was already cramming his foot down his throat anyway, he said, “Haha, sorry. I, uh, actually deleted the email Mr. Do sent out. So, thanks for finding me.”

Renjun laughed out loud at that, surprisingly boisterous given his prepubescent shoulder breadth (not, to be fair, that Jaemin could talk), and kicked his heavy backpack under the desk next to Jaemin’s. “All good. You can type up our first lab report.”

True puppy love really hit a week later, when they got to class and Mr. Do sprung a pop quiz on the periodic table of elements on them. Renjun let Jaemin shamelessly cheat off of him, accepting a half-crushed and goopy bag of strawberry Pocky as payment. Jaemin owed the respectable B+ he eked out in chem and the countless games of MASH he played with Donghyuck during lunch that semester entirely to Renjun.

And just as easily, he had his heart broken when, on the last day of class, he gathered up all the courage contained in his fourteen-year-old body and slid a carefully folded piece of notebook paper across the table, making sure to tuck it securely under Renjun’s elbow. In the ensuing chaos that accompanied every last day of class, as Mr. Do threw on some movie and then disappeared from the room, Renjun opened the note, read the question printed there in Jaemin’s best handwriting, and then looked up at him, biting his lip.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he had sounded it, too. “I’m not allowed to date.”

“Oh,” Jaemin had replied, mortified. “Uh, that’s okay. I mean, that makes sense.”

“Sorry,” Renjun had repeated, touching Jaemin’s wrist. Jaemin had been gratified to see, at least, the blush that suffused Renjun’s cheeks, lighting up the two pimples that were coming in at the crest of his cheekbone. “It’s not you, it’s my mom.”

“No, oh my God,” Jaemin said quickly, a blush rising in his cheeks to match Renjun’s. “Don’t worry about it. It’s so fine. I’m already over it. You.”

“Yeah?” Renjun was finally meeting his eyes again, and Jaemin was relieved. Crushes weren’t worth it if they destroyed his favorite new friendship. “On to the next one already?”

“Yeah, sorry. I can’t be stopped. That—” Here, he nodded at the note, which Renjun had folded into a perfect triangle, “—was just a smokescreen. To distract you from my one true love. Um. Mr. Do.”

“Mr. Do, huh?” Renjun asked, mouth twisting into a smile.

“Yes,” Jaemin said firmly. “I love older men. Older men with buzzed heads.”

This was a lie. Jaemin liked Renjun, who was just a few months older than him, and who had a full head of soft hair that even on the days Renjun clearly hadn’t washed it for a while still smelled good to him.

Renjun’s eyes were alive with mirth. “Noted.” A moment, as they looked at each other, and then, hesitantly— “We’re still friends, right?”

Jaemin took the hand Renjun stuck out, pulled him in for a bro hug chest bump. “Duh.”

In retrospect, Jaemin was grateful for Mrs. Huang’s strict dating policy, because it turned out that Renjun tearing his quivering heart out of his outstretched hands and mercilessly stomping all over it with his filial piety-stamped Converse was the impetus Jaemin needed to move on, and not let something as inconvenient as feelings get in the way of the beautiful platonic love story he and Renjun (and, fine, Donghyuck and Jeno) subsequently embarked on.

Anyway, Jaemin may have been long over his ill-advised freshman chemistry lab crush on Renjun, but he hadn’t spent three months being hyper-attuned to Renjun’s actions and three subsequent years being one of his best friends for nothing. Mostly it came in handy when he was trying to get Renjun to go out with the rest of them to the movies after school and Renjun would say he was busy but then he’d look down and to the left and Jaemin would know he was just going to go home and catch bugs on Animal Crossing for two hours.

All this was to say: Donghyuck’s going down.

 


 

“Other plans? What other plans? What, like with his other friends?”

Donghyuck scoffs so hard his bangs levitate a whole centimeter off his forehead. He’s elbow-deep into a bucket of popcorn and oily-mouthed, and the lights haven’t even dimmed yet. He’s been fuming about Renjun’s slight all afternoon, especially because Renjun had managed to dodge all of Donghyuck’s best attempts to find out.

“I just have stuff to do, okay?” Renjun had said as Donghyuck followed him to his locker after lunch, sounding exasperated.

“Yeah, but with who?” Donghyuck asked in a whine, leaning the locker next to Renjun’s, which happened to be Chenle’s, shut. Chenle yelped, tugging at his arm, but Donghyuck could very convincingly cosplay an immovable mountain when he wanted. “And what stuff?”

“You don’t know them,” Renjun said evasively, and then refused to say anything more. Donghyuck confronted with a secret was even more determined than a dog with a new person’s leg, and the only reason Renjun managed to escape Donghyuck’s clutches was because Yerim had chosen that moment to text Donghyuck his weekly Mark Lee photo digest.

Jaemin grabs Donghyuck’s arm to stop him from finishing a large bucket of popcorn all by himself before the movie’s even started. “You believe me now?” he asks. “That he has a secret boyfriend?”

Donghyuck shakes off his grip, narrowing his eyes to consider Jaemin. “Hmm. You didn’t plan this, did you? Like some weird scheme where you collude with Injunnie to humiliate me?”

Fuck, why has Jaemin never thought of that? “Please. I would never do that to you,” he lies, shoving a handful of popcorn into his mouth.

“Like Renjun would ever do anything to make Nana’s life easier,” Jeno says from Donghyuck’s other side, leaning over to trade his box of malt balls for popcorn.

“Hey,” Jaemin interjects, injured.

“Good point,” Donghyuck says at the same time. “Anyway, I don’t know. It might not be a secret boyfriend. Maybe he joined a really embarrassing club. Like, I don’t know, yoga.”

Jeno hums, then asks, “Hey, wasn’t Mark Lee in yoga club?”

Jaemin can see the glint in Donghyuck’s eyes even as the lights dim. “I forgot,” he says, as if he could have actually forgotten that he had a photo of Mark Lee in spandex shorts printed out and tucked into a notebook somewhere. “Fucking hot,” he adds, with relish.

A guy who has his arm around his girlfriend in front of them turns around to glare at Donghyuck, looking scandalized. “Shh,” he says pointedly. The screen lights up with a preview for the new Fast and Furious, in which Dom has to descend into the literal underworld to reunite his familia. The opening night ticket that Jaemin had bought in a 3AM study haze two weeks ago was the only thing still keeping him going until December.

“Sorry,” Donghyuck says, not sounding that sorry at all. And then he clicks his tongue—tuh.“This preview sucks anyway, there’s a better one on YouTube.”

This last comment is meant to be directed at Jeno and Jaemin, but, alas, Donghyuck Lee has never heard of an indoor voice in his life, and now both the guy and his girlfriend have whipped their heads around in attempt to shush Donghyuck again, this time with matching scowls on their faces. Jaemin supposes it’s difficult to find someone with exactly the same piss-poor temper as you, and privately wishes them a long and unhappy life together.

“Yeah, Donghyuck,” Jaemin whispers, shoulders shaking with the effort of keeping his laughter silent. “Shh.”

 


 

“Sooooo, how was your date last night?” Jaemin asks the next day, falling into step with Renjun in the hallway. He’s on his way from his AP Literature class on the fifth floor to study hall in the library on the fourth floor, and he always takes the middle staircase so he can meet Renjun at the landing and walk with him as he goes from his Korean class on the third floor to his art elective on the fourth.

Jaemin’s entire schedule was littered with moments like these, where he’d figured out when he and his friends passed each other in the hallway like ships in the night, all so he can spend just a little more time with the people he already spends 80% of his waking hours with. After all, it was the little things that counted in a relationship, or at least that’s what he told Jeno the time Jeno came out of his comp sci class to find Jaemin lounging by the doorway.

“Stop stalking me,” Jeno had scolded. “It’s creepy, and last week Mr. Byun asked if we were dating.” He full-body shivered, which, okay, rude. Jaemin had better taste than that anyway, but Jeno would be so lucky to be courted by Jaemin.

Anyway, you heard it here first: Jeno Lee? Not a romantic.

Renjun Huang might not be either. He gives Jaemin an exasperated side-eye, which is slightly lost in the upstream of the hallway when he has to step around a three-wide group of first-year girls. “Who said it was a date,” he says, when he re-emerges.

“Aha!” Jaemin says. “But you don’t deny it. So it was a date? Who was it with? Jinyoung Bae? Daehwi Lee?”

The crowd parts ahead of them, and Renjun’s studio is in sight. Jaemin silently curses himself for not walking slower, and then maneuvers himself so Renjun has to go through him if he wants to get into his classroom.

“You know I’m not allowed to date,” Renjun says. “Also, ew, Daehwi is like seventeen.” Before Jaemin could point out the inherent hypocrisy of this statement, given, hello, Renjun had celebrated his eighteenth birthday just a few months ago, Renjun bites his lip, and—there it was, there was the tell—flicks his eyes down and to the side. Before Jaemin could get ahold of him and shake him down for the truth, because Jaemin’s persistence was one to rival Donghyuck’s, and without the Achilles heel of Mark Lee—who Jaemin thought cute enough, but, well, anyway he won’t diss Donghyuck, he’ll just say Mark’s not really his type—Renjun ducks under Jaemin’s arm and into his classroom.

Once he’s on the other side, he turns to mouth, Safe, bitch.

Jaemin flips him off, but behind his binder, so Ms. Seo won’t see. “So he’s a secret boyfriend. Got it. I’ll get the truth out of you.”

Renjun, laughing, shuts the door in Jaemin’s face.

 


 

nana.j:

[screenshot]
[screenshot]
[screenshot]
[screenshot]
[screenshot]
[screenshot]
whcih one

renjun:

??
what

nana.j:

secret bf !!
these r all th egusy ur followng who I dk

renjun:

-.-
blocked

Block nana.j?
They won’t be able to find your profile, posts or story on Instagram. Instagram won’t let them know you blocked them.

nanana.j:

HE Y
HEY!!!
U CAN’t DO THAT
ANSWWR M YQ

Block nanana.j?
They won’t be able to find your profile, posts or story on Instagram. Instagram won’t let them know you blocked them.

jen00:

yoooooooo
can u unblock nana lol
hes blowin up my dms
im js tryin play 2k u feel

renjun:

no
he’s being annoying

jen00:

LOL word
k ill block 2

 


 

“Hell week,” Donghyuck intones, banging his lunch down on the table.

It’s finally here, midterms week. Against Jaemin’s best attempts to stop the passage of time, Monday has arrived, bringing with it a fresh hell. Jaemin has a calc (and that’s BC, bitch) test tomorrow and a five-page essay for lit due at midnight tonight, which he has exactly three point five pages of, and that’s even with the period font size trick. He’s not freaking out, but he’s not not freaking out either.

“Wait,” Jisung says, frowning. “I thought hell week was the week before midterms.”

“Jisung,” Donghyuck says, with implacable calm.

“Ye-es?” Jisung asks, unwrapping his sandwich.

“Is it a week?”

“Uh, yeah?” Jisung says, and takes a bite, getting mayo on his upper lip.

“And do you feel like you’re in hell?”

“Uh… I guess?”

“So, it’s hell week,” Donghyuck says, in a tone that brook no argument.

“You’re so annoying, hyung,” Jisung tells him, sounding almost impressed, and then turns his entire body to talk to Chenle instead.

“Hell week,” Jaemin repeats glumly, letting his head fall from its perch in his hand to thunk against the cafeteria table, sticky with eons of student angst and tears. “And SATs in two weeks, and college apps in two months, and then college, and then the workplace, where we will labor every day from nine to five until we’re dead, because even though we can live until we’re like a hundred now, our parents’ generation squandered away all of our financial security.”

A slow clap, courtesy of Jeno, Donghyuck, and Renjun, greets the end of his speech.

“Are you done?” Jeno asks.

“I mean, yeah, what else is there beyond death, Jeno—”

“I meant your lunch, dumbass.”

“Oh. Ugh, yeah, fine, you can have it.”

Renjun looks at Jaemin pushing his lunch box across the table to Jeno with a frown on his face. “Hey, you okay?” Renjun asks. “You barely touched your lunch.”

Maybe Jaemin’s just overly vulnerable right now, but the note of concern in Renjun’s voice is enough to almost bring him to tears. “Injun,” Jaemin says, voice wobbling. He turns to Renjun, arms outstretched.

Renjun laughs at the look on his face, but he lets Jaemin tuck his head into the crook of his shoulder, an arm reaching around to grip his shoulders. “You okay?” Renjun asks, patting Jaemin’s back.

Jaemin lets out a sob, half-sincere and half-dramatized, in response.

“Oh my God,” Donghyuck says, leaning away from the table and turning his head, as if too disgusted to look at the scene in front of him. “You really went and did it, Injun.”

Jaemin doesn’t pay him any mind, because he knows the secret to Donghyuck’s exceptionally bad mood, which is that last night at 2am, delirious and butterfingered from lack of sleep, Donghyuck had scrolled all the way down Mark’s Instagram feed and accidentally liked an old photo from 2013. Donghyuck had unliked it right away, but by some cruel twist of fate, Mark was still awake, because apparently going to college did not spare one from midterms. He hit Donghyuck with the follow back, and then two-hit KO-ed him by DMing him to say, yo dude! Still up?? Me too haha, gl with midterms bro!

Donghyuck, in his haste to screenshot the message and send it to Jaemin, who was also up as he tried to midwife his paper across the three-page threshold, sent Mark a heart back by accident. Mark had seen the heart at 2:24am, gray dotted for three seconds, and then never replied.

Jaemin feels for Donghyuck, he really does. But until the moment he hits ‘submit’ on Common App, it’s every man and his source of panic for himself.

“I’m just stressed,” Jaemin whines into the vicinity of Renjun’s neck, which smelled like laundry detergent, deodorant, and sweat. “I have a page and a half of my history paper left to write still, and then I have to study for calc tomorrow, and Mr. Zhang hasn’t said if he’ll write me a rec yet and I’m worried he’s going to say no and then I’ll have to ask Mr. Do and Mr. Do hates me. And I’m probably going to fail physics on Friday.”

Renjun hums in sympathy. “I’ll send you the study guide Sicheng gave me for calc. And I know you did the period size thing, but did you remember to double space after every sentence?”

Jaemin lifts his face from Renjun’s shoulder. “Genius,” he breathes.

Renjun smiles, ducking his head. “Yeah, I know. You need anything else?”

They’re having a moment, and Jaemin knows it, but he’s never going to stop being himself. He doesn’t have a crush on Renjun anymore, but he has always considered Renjun one of his best friends, and best friends don’t keep secrets from each other, especially not of this magnitude.

“Um,” he says, trying to sound weepy and pathetic again. “Just one thing.”

“What’s up?”

Jaemin barely has the secret part of can you tell me who your secret boyfriend is out before Renjun is snatching his arm back and pushing him into Chenle, who shrieks.

“I don’t have a secret boyfriend,” is all Renjun has to say. Super unconvincingly, Jaemin might add.

“Renjun,” Jaemin says incredulously, gesturing at Renjun’s flushed cheeks. “Something’s obviously up. What’s the deal? Why can’t you just tell us? Friends, right?”

“Yeah,” Jeno says, and when Renjun looks at him, betrayal written over his face, Jeno shrugs. “I wouldn’t keep a secret from you guys.”

Renjun swivels his head to look at Donghyuck. “Hyuck,” he says, pleading.

There’s a look of consternation on Donghyuck’s face. On the one hand: he doesn’t want to lose the bet. On the other hand: Donghyuck was almost as bad as Jaemin on the best friends 4ever! front. Finally, he says, “You know Nana’s not going to leave you alone until you tell him.” And then he adds, sounding extremely grudging, “Also, I want to know, too.”

“Injunnie,” Jaemin says, reaching out a hand to grip at his forearm. He’s trying not to pout, but it’s hard. “You’re my best friend—” Donghyuck ahems, loudly, “—one of my best friends, you know? I just want you to feel like you can share stuff with me.”

“Ugh, don’t say it like that,” Renjun says, despairing. “You’re just nosy. But okay, fine. Meet me by the back entrance by the handball courts after ninth period.”

Jaemin cheers, raising his hands for a threeway high-five with Donghyuck and Jeno. Renjun grabs his arm and pulls it back, almost dislocating it from its socket. And then he leans in, in a mock-threatening motion.

Jaemin flinches and automatically hunches his shoulders, because Renjun’s infamous for his headlocks. So to say he’s surprised is an understatement, when Renjun gets in close, his breath warm where it hits Jaemin’s ear, and he says, “I’m sorry, Nana. You’re right, best friends.”




“Dude,” Jaemin says.

Dude,” Jeno agrees, sounding impressed.

Duuuuuuuuude,” Donghyuck says, in one long exhale of a confirmation.

Renjun’s face is so red it’s the same shade as when he lost a bet to Jeno two years ago about whether Donghyuck had a crush on Mark or Yerim and had to dye his hair firetruck red. “You guys,” he says. “You’re being so embarrassing right now.”

Jaemin pays him no mind. “Good job, Injunnie,” he murmurs, eyes scanning the guy in front of him. All six-something, long limbs, tan skin, and handsome features of him.

The guy laughs, one hand coming up to scratch at his face. His hands are so big Jaemin feels emasculated just looking at them. “Wow, your friends are so cute, Renjun,” he says in a booming voice, a hand coming up to meet the small of Renjun’s back, before sliding its way up to cup at the back of Renjun’s neck, clearly a familiar action. Renjun whines cutely, turning his face into the guy’s broad shoulder. Jaemin can’t stop staring—who is this guy, and what has he done with Renjun? Jaemin can’t believe he thought the color-coding was bad. Senior year really is lawless.

Renjun’s heartthrob boyfriend turns to Jaemin, Jeno, and Donghyuck, smile so big Jaemin could count all his teeth. “I’m so glad I finally get to meet you,” he enthuses. “Renjun talks about you guys all the time. I’m Lucas.”