Actions

Work Header

you could be my ever after

Chapter Text

Jaehyun would forever remember the summer he was fourteen for three main reasons.

The first of which, because it was just so damn hot. He would wake up practically drowning in a puddle of sweat each morning (“Ew,” Ten had said delicately with a wrinkle of his nose), dark fringe matted to his forehead.

He would wake up early to go for a jog in an attempt to beat the heat (and also because he was sick of his family friend, Johnny, referring to him as a string bean. If he had to be a bean, he would be a strong and tasty red bean, the ones that they put in danpatjuk) and then go to soak in their pool when the worst of the heat hit.

If he was lucky, he could successfully lure his lazy neighbour and self-proclaimed best friend of ten years, Kim Dongyoung, out of his air-conditioned bedroom with the promise of popsicles and good company. (Doyoung would always snort at the last part. Jaehyun was only mildly offended.)

Secondly, because it was the summer before he and his friends entered the horror that was high school.

(“Ah, how are we going to go from the kings of the world to the lowliest peasants in the brutal food chain of high school?” Taeyong had bemoaned during the summer.

“Don't be so dramatic,” Yuta had replied, “You were the court jester at best.” )

Their small group of friends would sneak back onto their middle school campus to play a game of basketball on the familiar court, or run races on the oval where they had become acquainted all those years before. Then, after collapsing into a sweaty pile of limbs and regret, they'd race back to Jaehyun’s house to soak in the pool.

("Last one back is a rotten egg!” Yuta would taunt with glee.

“Aish, hyung you know I have short legs,” was Ten’s whined response every time he was last back to the house.

Despite Doyoung’s insistence that “sleeping [was his] favourite sport,” he would still always be one of the first through the door and throwing himself into Jaehyun’s pool.)

Equipped with the knowledge that surely many things would change once high school started, the five of them promised that their friendship would not. (Ten years later they have kept their promise and to be quite honest, Jaehyun didn't quite know if he was glad or regretful for not getting rid of them earlier.)

Finally, the main reason why Jaehyun wouldn't ever forget this summer was that it was when he made (quite possibly) the stupidest decision in his life—one that came back to haunt him precisely ten years later.

It was the last day of summer break and the boys were buzzing with nerves, sitting restlessly on the athletics track of their middle school.

“Isn’t this so exciting ” Yuta sprawled himself on the synthetic grass track, arms reaching far out and causing Taeyong to shift away so as to avoid being hit by Yuta’s grabby hands, “High school! Parties, drinking, dating—”

“—sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll!”

“Tonnes of homework—” Doyoung intoned monotonously.

Ten launched a candy wrapping at Doyoung, who ducked it with a short laugh, “Don’t be such a buzzkill, Mr President.”

“Technically I’m not the school president anymore, so you can drop it.”

“Eomma says not to get too excited,” Jaehyun interjected with a slight frown, “since even though we're going into high school, I'm not allowed to date until I'm in university.”

“Jaehyun-ah, my precious little dongsaeng,” Yuta cooed to everyone's disgust, “tell her that you'll never get married then. Didn't your parents meet in high school? How do they expect you to find a love as epic as theirs then? Remind them of how good their love is and she'll break in no time.” He winked conspiratorially and Jaehyun sighed heavily through his nose.

Taeyong hummed thoughtfully, “This actually reminds me a bit of an English film I was watching with my sister yesterday—”

“Was it a chick flick?”

“Of course it was, Doyoung-ah. Surely even you know her well enough by now. But as I was saying, the film was about two best friends who made a promise that if they weren't both married by the age of thirty or something they'd marry each other.”

“Ooh,” Ten had piped up, “are you offering to marry Jaehyun in the future then, Taeyongie?”

Jaehyun had heaved another heavy sigh, feeling the tips of his ears burn pink as Taeyong became quickly flustered. “No, no, no! Of course not! With all due respect Jaehyun-ah but, ew. Besides, the contract was between best friends. If anything, he'd have to make the pact with Doyoungie.”

Doyoung glanced up at the mention of his name, “Sure, I don't see why not. I'll probably be married by then anyway, so you don't have anything to worry about, Woojae.” He grinned toothily, “Don't be too disappointed about not being able to marry me either, hm?”

Jaehyun bristled, “I'm not worried about getting married. I'll probably get married before your lazy ass anyway. And I do love you hyung, but I sure as hell would never want to marry you.”

Ouch .”

“Okay, okay, okay!” Yuta interrupted with a bright grin on his face that could best be described as shit eating. “How about we make this marriage pact doubly epic and throw in a bet as well?”

“Hang on a second, I don't recall agreeing to this,” Jaehyun protested fruitlessly.

“Oh Woojae, don't be such a party pooper,” Doyoung wave a hand flippantly, “Besides since you're so sure that you'll get married so easily—”

“Yeah, Jaehyun might look like a loser, but he’s rich, surely he'd be able to at least trick someone into marrying him.”

“Shut up asshole, we're trying to finalise a marriage pact here.”

Doyoung continued as if Yuta and Ten hadn't spoken, eyes locked with determination on Jaehyun, “—then it wouldn't matter if we made this pact right? Either way,” he grinned slyly, “I’m going to win this bet.”

Jaehyun silently cursed Doyoung for always bringing out the worst in him, and his other stupid friends for always coming up with such dumb ideas. He exhaled deeply and resigned himself to his fate, “Okay then hyung, I'll make this pact with you, but don't be too upset when you lose the bet.”

Doyoung sorted, “As if I would —”

Ten clasped gleefully, “Oh this is so exciting, let's write out the contract now. Taeyongie, I know you have a pen and paper in your bag.”

Taeyong dug put a crumpled sheet of paper and Yuta began asking the all-important questions, “Where are you gonna get married? Close to home? Somewhere romantic?”

“Ooh,” Taeyong chimed in, “what about Paris, the city of love? Seems perfect for a boy born on the day of love, right?”

Doyoung looked affronted, “Hey, does my opinion not matter? I’m the more important one in this relationship anyway.”

An idea came to Jaehyun’s mind, “We’ll elope in Connecticut or something. I want to show you all my home from back when I—”

He was quickly interrupted by Doyoung again, “Ditched me for four years?”

“I didn’t ditch you, oh my God.”

Ten interrupted again, cutting their repetitive argument short, “First of all, you already bicker like an old married couple.” Jaehyun lunged forwards to attack the shorter boy, who dodged Jaehyun’s grasp gleefully, “And secondly , when do we want to set the time frame for? By the time Doyoungie is thirty? Forty? Fifty?”

Taeyong groaned, “Please I might be dead by that time. Surely these two confident idiots don't need thirty-five years to convince someone to marry them?”

“Of course not,” Jaehyun replied, “I only need ten years, max.”

“Yes,” Doyoung chimed in, “ten years is more than enough time to find significant others and woo them.”

Taeyong glanced up from where he was starting out the contract, “By the time you're twenty-five then, Doyoung?”

Jaehyun and Doyoung locked eyes before replying without hesitation, “Yes.”

━━━

DOYOUNG AND JAEHYUN’S MARRIAGE PACT

  1. In relation to The Contract:
    1. If the two parties, Kim Dongyoung and Jung Yoonoh, are both unattached by the time Kim Dongyoung is at the ripe old age of 25, the parties have agreed to marry each other.
    2. In relation to their relationship statuses at the time (or for the whole year wherein) Kim Dongyoung is 25:
      1. If both parties are attached the contract will be dropped.
      2. If one party is attached but the other isn’t, proceedings will follow as though both are attached and the contract will be dropped.
    3. The same conditions will apply a year later when Jung Yoonoh reaches the elderly age of 25.
  2. In relation to The Bet:
    1. The first of the two parties to be married before the time this contract comes into fruition wins the title of The Superior. (Doesn’t that sound??? A bit??? Communist-y?) He will also be able to gloat infinitely.  
    2. The loser will owe The Superior an unlimited number of IOUs and will also need to perform one (1) embarrassing act as requested by The SuperiorHe will also have to wear a Dunce hat for the remainder of his existence. 

 

[ ✓ ] I agree to the above conditions.
Signed: _____________________ (Kim Dongyoung) 

[ ✓ ] I agree to the above conditions.
Signed: _____________________ (Jung Yoonoh)

 

The signing of this contract was witnessed by and will be attested to by:
Signed: _____________________ (Lee Taeyong)
Signed: _____________________ (Ten Chittaphon Leechaiyapornkul)
Signed: _____________________ (Nakamoto Yuta)

 

TWENTY FIVE ISN’T THAT OLD OKAY

Shut up, you get 10 years to find yourself a significant other it’s a LONG TIME

Chapter Text

The morning of Jaehyun’s twenty-fourth birthday started like any other day: uneventfully. He woke up early, far before his alarm sounded. With this knowledge, he snuggled contentedly back into his pillow, with the intention of resting a bit longer. When the sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains—that Doyoung had picked, so really this was his fault—became too unbearable, Jaehyun reluctantly rolled out of bed and padded his way into the kitchen of his shared apartment, phone in hand.

Apart from an obnoxiously bright gift bag on the bench, everything else looked as it had yesterday. Jaehyun knew that his (annoying) flatmate had errands he needed to run in the morning, so the apartment was empty for the time being. Feeling well-rested and content, Jaehyun made his way over to the gift bag, unable to keep the smile off his face despite the garish fluorescent wrapping paper.

As he lifted the heavy box from the bag, a fat envelope was revealed at the bottom of the bag. Jaehyun gently placed the box onto the bench beside him and opened the envelope, feeling warmth and fondness at the familiar sight of his best friend’s handwriting.

━━━

Woojae~

I’m sorry I had to be out this morning, because I really, really, really wanted to be the first to say it this year! But knowing you, you probably woke up too early again so you didn’t even look at your phone or have to snooze an alarm. So. With a bit of luck, I might still be the first person to wish you?

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jung Jaehyun. Oh, and Happy Birthday as well, I guess, loser.

Granted, I’ve probably been a part of your twenty-four years for a larger portion than you’ve probably wanted, but think of it as payback for when you LEFT ME FOR A WHOLE FOUR YEARS TO FEND FOR MYSELF. AND I WAS LIKE. SIX. I’m still waiting to hear back from my doctor to see if I have been properly diagnosed with childhood trauma so that I can sue you and buy my own apartment. Now, I can practically see you snorting at this.

Jokes aside, I’m glad to have you in my life, even if you sometimes leave your gross socks on the couch after you come back from the gym and I have to be the one to clean them up. Even if sometimes you keep me up way past my bedtime to ask me stupid questions. Even if you spend far too much time walking around our apartment half naked. Even if that one time you wouldn’t let me sleep because you needed to tell me that “the aliens are out there, Doyoungie~”. What would I do without you? Die probably. All our other friends are far too stupid to match my intelligence. (Don’t tell Yuta.)

I also didn’t know what to get you, because I’ve exhausted all my creative gift ideas over the past twenty years of knowing you, okay? There’s only so much variety I can offer you before we move onto gag gifts and sentimentality. Also, anything you want, you definitely could have just bought yourself, rich boy. So this year is a bit of a combination of everything, I guess. I hope that you’ll actually be able to use the stuff I’ve put into my own “Jung Jaehyun Gift Pack”~ Also, there’s a mini photo album at the bottom with one photo for the stupidest thing that we’ve done in the years we’ve known each other. I had a hard time with that one because there was just so much stupidity to sort through! Just the one photo wasn’t going to be enough!

(Also note that there are four pages of NOTHING, because that’s when you LEFT ME—Kim Dongyoung, aged 6—for your SUBURBAN AMERICA LIFE. I hope you look at those four pages of nothing and see them as a reminder of what an asshole you are.)

Now that that’s out of the way. I love you. Remember to eat breakfast (or else your mum will kill me for being an irresponsible guardian) and I’ll be back so that we can get lunch together or something before we go set up for the BIRTHDAY BASH OF THE DECADE~ I’ll probably end it here before we go into the Sentimental Shit™, because we BOTH know that you are going to probably cry and end up watching Netflix for the rest of the day with a tub of ice cream (and not eat your breakfast or shower, y’know?), which would be okay any other day, but not when we have big plans to conquer the world!

See you later~
Doyoungie.

━━━

Jaehyun snorted at Doyoung’s words—especially the parts where he could practically hear Doyoung’s voice escalating with the all-caps—and felt his heart warm as he reached into the cupboard for a box of cereal to (as per Doyoung’s demands) eat his breakfast.

He finally unlocked his phone and saw that the group chat (named “L0SERS and King Dongyoung” by none other than Doyoung himself) had been flooded with activity in the early hours of the morning, filled with birthday wishes and a spam of hearts and roses (courtesy of mostly Ten and Yuta) for the Day of Love . He’d received messages from his parents, Chaeyeon and Johnny as well, so with that same warm feeling in his chest, he replied to the messages from the favourite people in his life.

Twenty-four would be a good year, he could feel it already.

After sending Doyoung an equally lengthy response to his (dare Jaehyun say sweet) birthday message, he began to peel away the wrapping on Doyoung’s “Jung Jaehyun Gift Pack”. As the wrapping fell off, Jaehyun couldn’t help but let out an incredulous laugh at what lay in front of him. What would have been just any other box, but the exterior was pasted with Jaehyun’s own face, mostly from ugly Snapchats they’d exchanged.  

Shaking his head in amusement, he peeked inside the box and noticed that every item nestled in the layers of tissue paper had a tiny note attached to it with Doyoung’s intentions scribbled on them.

Skincare products. To keep glowing, Caspar! An eye mask and neck pillow. For when you leave me to go to America again. We both know it’ll happen. A lip scrub. Can’t catch a wife with flaky-ass lips, hmm Woojae? Headphones. Noise cancelling, so that you can’t hear me screaming at you to pack away your damn dishes. And then at the bottom as promised, a palm-sized photo album. To remind you of how most of your best memories have happened with me (the Greatest Person Ever) by your side~

Jaehyun flipped through it quickly, feeling the grin creep up on his face as he skimmed past memory after memory. He paused as one photo in particular stuck out to him: five skinny teenage boys with awkward limbs, crowded on the athletics track of the local middle school.

The shortest boy was brandishing a piece of crumpled paper with a toothy grin.

Jaehyun immediately located himself in the image, a look of pure exasperation on fourteen-year-old Jaehyun’s face, drawing a chuckle from twenty-four-year-old Jaehyun. Beside him, Doyoung looked smug and Taeyong and Yuta were giggling to each other behind the triumphantly grinning Ten.

If all went well, tonight would be the night that this whole contract came to an end, because he, Jung Jaehyun, was going seal the deal and win the bet tonight.

━━━

“Honey, I’m home,” Doyoung crowed as he swung the front door of their apartment open.

Jaehyun peered out from his room, “No wonder all those girls keep leaving you. That was downright terrifying and maybe even a bit disgusting. No one wants to come home to that.”

Doyoung plopped down onto the couch with a dramatic sigh, “Woojae, I’m sensitive about this topic okay. I just haven’t found the right person to settle down with. That girl I met last weekend won’t stop texting me. I even turned on my read receipts just so that she could take a hint! So far, she hasn’t!”

“Better drop your hoebag bachelor lifestyle quickly, hyung. You’re this close,” Jaehyun pinched his fingers together very closely, squinting at Doyoung from between the minuscule gap, “to becoming old .”

Doyoung squawked offendedly, “Yah, didn’t your parents ever teach you to respect your elders?”

Jaehyun snorted derisively, “I respect you plenty, hyung. Speaking of which, I wanted your opinion on something, and then we can go out to lunch.” Jaehyun entered the living room at squeezed next to Doyoung on the couch, placing a hand on the elder’s knee.

“Doyoung-ah,” Jaehyun cleared his throat awkwardly as Doyoung locked curious eyes onto him, “we’ve known each other for a really long time now, and I just wanted to ask you—” Jaehyun fumbled to flip open the dark velvety box from his pocket, pulling it out to reveal a glinting diamond.

Doyoung gasped, “Is that—”

Jaehyun fell backwards onto the couch, dropping the ridiculously expensive ring into Doyoung’s lap, “Do you think she’ll like it?” Jaehyun felt doubt sneaking up on him because Doyoung had never really liked Chaeyeon. Probably because she didn’t particularly like him. But Jaehyun couldn’t remember the last time he saw the two of them in the same room together, let alone having a civil conversation together. Jaehyun didn’t quite know what he’d do if his man of honour and bride didn’t get along. Or worse, what if Doyoung didn’t even support his decision?

Then Johnny would probably be his man of honour, and to be quite honest, Jaehyun didn’t want him to have the honour of being his man of honour after so many years of calling him a string bean.

Doyoung held the ring up to the light and sent Jaehyun a sweet smile, “Woojae, I really want to lie to you because it looks like I’m about to lose a ten-year-long bet and be crowned a Dunce for life, but it’s you. Of course, she’ll love it. She’d love it if you slipped a ring-pop onto her left hand.”

Jaehyun smiled warmly, accepting the box back from Doyoung, “Thanks hyung. I’ve been thinking about asking for a while already and,” he dropped his gaze to the glittering gemstone, “we’ve been together for three years now. And what better day to ask than—”

“Your own birthday? My, I didn’t take you as quite that narcissistic Woojae.”

Jaehyun scowled at Doyoung, “I was going to say Valentine’s Day. Besides, I—” Jaehyun exhaled shakily, reaching for the feeling of certainty he’d felt when he had seen the diamond ring in the store’s display front, “I think I’m sure about this one, hyung.”

If Doyoung saw the flicker of uncertainty or hesitation in Jaehyun’s face, he didn’t say anything. “I’m sure she’ll love it Woojae. You two are made for each other. ” Doyoung snorted, “Hell, you even have matching names!”

He stood up from the couch and stretched like a cat, “Now, let’s get lunch. I’m starving.”

━━━

Doyoung re-entered the room with a pleased smile on his face, “Good news. Turns out the house on the left has been empty for the past month or so whilst the past tenants move their stuff out. And I’ve convinced my parents to pay a long visit to Donghyun and Hyesung tonight.” He slipped his phone into his pocket and grinned brightly, “Which means, that we won’t be getting any noise complaints tonight!”

“Ahhh, this is so exciting! Our little baby is all grown up now!” Johnny pinched Jaehyun’s cheeks aggressively and Jaehyun did little to defend himself. A group of Jaehyun’s friends—including their latest addition Moon Taeil, Doyoung’s mentor from university—were currently crowded in Jaehyun’s family home to set up for “the birthday bash of the decade”.

“I’m literally twenty-four as of today, not seven hyung.”

Johnny feigned wiping away a tear, “You even made me pick up all the booze for tonight because you know that your baby cheeks won’t get you anywhere.”

Yuta peered from around the couch, “Wait, Jaehyun’s allowed to drink? Is that legal?”

“I’m twenty-four—”

Taeyong sidled up to them, “Guys, stop picking on the birthday boy.” Jaehyun let out a sigh of relief, thank God for Taeyong. “He’s just a kid, leave him alone!”

Jaehyun’s friends cackled uproariously as he sighed in defeat. “Let’s just finish setting up so that we can get ready for tonight.”

Taeil grinned from his position on the group, where he was unravelling a long string of lights. “Yeah, it’s going to be a huge night. So many people opting to ditch their Valentine’s plans to spend the night at Jung Jaehyun’s mansion?”

“Oh la la, Valentine boy!”

“It’s a good thing my parents are away at the moment then.”

“Business trip?”

“Yeah, back in Connecticut.”

Oh, you mean the place where you—”

“Hyung will you ever let it go? I was five.”

Doyoung grinned slyly, “That aside, tonight is an important night for Woojae for other reasons as well. Despite being the youngest, he’s going to be the first one to get tied down.”

“Not everyone has the same commitment issues as you, Doyoungie.”

“I don’t have commitment issues, I just haven’t found the right person—”

“Woah, woah, woah,” Ten interrupted, “what do you mean Jaehyun is going to be the first one to get tied down?”

“It means what it means,” Doyoung replied smoothly, “he’s proposing to Chaeyeon tonight.”

Jaehyun silently cursed Doyoung’s complete lack of tact, and pandemonium broke out.

“What the fuck, Jung Yoonoh, I swear to God—”

“I’m going to be best man, right? I mean, obviously.”

“Woah, what the shit, when did this happen? I thought y’all weren’t that serious.”

“They’ve been together for three years, that’s a whole eighth of Jaehyunie’s life because he’s a baby. Oh God, no! He’s a baby, he can’t get married!”

“What does that make Doyoungie then? He’s been in Jaehyun’s life for like,” Taeyong squinted, doing the mental maths, “five-sixths, which greatly outweighs that measly one-eighth!”

“Guys,” Jaehyun raised his voice slightly, “it’s not that big of a deal. We’ve just talked a bit about maybe settling down and I’m pretty sure that I’m serious about this.”

“That doesn’t sound reassuring.”

“Don’t convince him to back out now, you asshole.”

Jaehyun shook his head in exasperation, “You’re all assholes and no, Yuta, Doyoungie is best man. Partly because he’s the only one who didn’t start questioning my life decisions when I told him.”

Johnny placed a reassuring hand on Jaehyun’s shoulder, “Jaehyun-ah, no matter what you do, we’ll always support you. Don’t doubt that.”

“You guys don’t think I’m too young to think about marriage, do you?”

Doyoung’s lips quirked, “We’ll always see you as the baby of the group,” Jaehyun swatted at his smug expression, “but we can’t make decisions for you Woojae. Like Johnny said, the most we can do is promise that we’ll support you. Which we will. A hundred per cent.”

“Thanks, guys.” Jaehyun dimpled in response, feeling grateful for the misfit group of friends he’d been stuck with for so long.

“Don’t get sappy with us now,” Johnny stood up, “now let’s finish this mess. I need time to become my John–D alter-ego, greatest DJ ever.”

Ten sighed softly, gazing out of the window, “All my friends are losers.”  

━━━

The party had proceeded in regular party fashion. Jaehyun wandered around the house that he had grown up in, almost unrecognisable under the greens, blues and reds of the flashing lights. The bass of the frenetic EDM track currently playing thudded loudly, causing the walls to shake slightly beneath Jaehyun’s fingers.

People he had encountered in passing from the past twenty-four years (whether it be from work, from university, from high school or even from middle school ) were seemingly squished in every crevice of the house, gyrating to the pulsing music, wobbling around in drunken stupor or (Jaehyun wrinkled his nose) throwing up in his mother’s priceless China vases.

“Hey!” Chaeyeon wound her arms around Jaehyun’s waist and he melted into her warmth. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in all night birthday boy. Happy birthday, Yoonoh.” She grinned prettily, and Jaehyun kissed the corner of her lips briefly in greeting.

Jaehyun drank in her delicate features, slim legs and long hair that caressed her bare shoulders. “You look beautiful Chaeyeonnie,” he wound their fingers together and lead her into the kitchen, “Can I get you anything to drink?”

Chaeyeon’s nose crinkled slightly as she laughed melodically, “Not for now, Yoonoh–ah. You told me last night that there was something you needed to ask me. Something that you wanted me to remember.”

Jaehyun dropped a fond kiss to the crown of Chaeyeon’s hair, “That’s my girl. But I won’t stop you from having fun if you want to.”

“It’s okay, Yoonoh! I’ve gotta be sober for all the embarrassing secrets that your friends leak out later anyway!” She giggled as Jaehyun groaned. “Anyways, I’ll see you around birthday boy. Enjoy your own party, alright? I was hoping to catch up with some of our high school friends anyway.” She glanced around with wondrous eyes, “How did even you get so many people out here? I haven’t seen some of these guys since we graduated!”

Jaehyun grinned, “I think you underestimate the combined influence of Taeyong, Yuta, Ten and Doyoungie.” He removed his hand from the small of her back, “I’ll catch up with you later. Remember that important thing I need to ask you, okay?”

Chaeyeon nodded and tip-toed to press another sweet kiss on Jaehyun’s lips, disappearing into the hallway with a glowing smile.

Chaeyeon was perfect, and definitely the epitome of younger Jaehyun’s dream girl. They had so much in common and her parents adored him. She got on well with Jaehyun’s parents and Jaehyun could definitely visualise a future with her.

So why did that feeling of hesitation that he had worked so hard to repress keep threatening to claw its way back up?

━━━

At around ten o’clock, the party was still thriving, but Jaehyun’s guests were—for the most part—drunk enough to lose awareness of their surroundings. So no-one noticed when the birthday boy disappeared with his friends into the basement.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Yuta began dramatically, “as tradition calls for it, it is time for the long-awaited game of...” the circle of (mostly) drunks patted the ground in a drumroll, “truth or dare!” He hooted loudly.

“Yuta,” a more than slightly drunk Doyoung slurred, “we’re not in middle school anymore, why are we doing this?”

“Don’t be a stick in the mud, bunny. We can’t break tradition!”

Chaeyeon snuggled up into Jaehyun’s side and he smiled at her affectionately, “With how gone they are, this could take up to half an hour to begin.”

It started out tame for the most part, with most of the stupid dares out of the way early in the game.

Yuta drunkenly (and more than willingly) streaked through the neighbourhood butt-naked. (“Hey, if you’ve got the goods, flaunt them, right?”) Taeil jumped into the pool fully clothed. Taeyong drank a shot glass filled with the nastiest stuff that Johnny could find in the fridge. (“Soy sauce. Wasabi. Ketchup. And uh, I think it was mayo. Maybe mustard. Or maybe even mould, I don’t know. Just drink it.”) Ten unbuttoned Johnny’s shirt with just his teeth. (Jaehyun already knew that Ten would regret it in the morning.)

An hour of stupid decisions and drunken squabble later, the game had returned to exposing each other’s most embarrassing secrets.

“Doyoung–ah, my mortal enemy in fighting for Jaehyunnie’s affection, truth or dare?”

Doyoung lay supine on the floor, clearly in no state to undergo a dare, “Truth.”

“Tell us about which feature of Jaehyun’s is your favourite,” Ten piped up.

“Lips,” Doyoung replied without a moment of hesitation.

Ooh, ” Ten crowed in delight.

“It’s not like that,” Doyoung amended defensively, “They’re just objectively nice lips, okay?”

Jaehyun felt his ears burn, “Thanks, I guess.”

Taeil cackled, “And what exactly do you like so much about his lips?”

“That wasn’t the question, wait your turn, Taeil.”

Boring. Spin the bottle, bunny.” Doyoung locked eyes with Jaehyun and sent the bottle spinning, watching it swivel in a perfect circle once, twice, three times until it came to a gentle rest by Jaehyun’s foot.

“Jaehyunie, our Valentine boy,” Ten sang, “how many people in the circle have you slept with?”

Jaehyun felt the blood rush to his face and took a surreptitious glance around the circle, “Two.”

Disappointment dripped from Ten’s voice, “Only?”

Jaehyun shuddered, “One of them was a drunken mistake, in like, my first year of university, okay?”

Yuta leaned forwards conspiratorially, “Ooh, spill the beans Valentine boy.”

Jaehyun grinned, “That wasn’t part of the question.”

The circle groaned. “Killjoy.”

“Hey, it’s Jaehyun’s party. Let him live,” Taeyong defended, hiccupping in between his drunken words.

Two killjoys,” Ten groaned.

Chaeyeon leaned upwards to whisper to Jaehyun, “It wasn’t Dongyoung, right? The second person?”

Jaehyun’s forehead crinkled, “Gross, why would you think that? It’s Doyoung. I would never.”

Chaeyeon seemed to relax into his side, “Oh. Okay, I just thought out of everyone, he seemed the most likely.”

“Nah, it wasn’t Doyoung, and like I said. I was like blackout drunk and I don’t even remember any of it. It’s not a big deal.”

Jaehyun spun the bottle again, watching as spun around only to land back on him. Johnny laughed from his position sprawled on the floor, “Jaehyunnie, looks like the truth or dare gods want you to have another turn. Truth,” Johnny picked up the bottle to point the neck dramatically at Jaehyun, “or dare?”

“Please don’t pick dare, I don’t have the energy to get up and watch you do something stupid.” Ten bemoaned from the floor, face planted into a cushion.

“Jaehyunnie, tell us about your first love.” The circle giggled in unison and Jaehyun rolled his eyes. Last year they had weaselled out that he had first had his heart broken in his second year of high school. As it turned out, even in their drunken stupor, his friends still hadn’t let it go.

“It’s not that special. I don’t know if you could even call it love. I just really liked him. You guys know that it was in our second year of high school and he was an exchange student that I met through student council activities.”

Doyoung’s head popped up, eyes glinting, “Wait, that Chinese exchange student? You just said you thought he was cute, you didn’t tell me you got together!”

Yuta sighed wistfully, “Hm, yeah he was cute. Of course, he also fell in love with the great Jung Jaehyun.”

Jaehyun sighed, “Well, he left like the week after anything happened so yeah. It’s not that special. Besides, it doesn’t matter now. All that matters is my current love.”

Ten made a loud retching sound as Chaeyeon blushed, “Yoonoh—”

Jaehyun stood up with a dimpled grin, extending his hand to her, “You know that thing I was going to ask you? How about we take a walk, and leave the drunks here?”

She grinned, tucking her own hand in Jaehyun’s awaiting palm, “Sounds like a plan.”

━━━

Jaehyun and Chaeyeon walked side by side, both bundled up warmly to fend off the biting cold of the night. Jaehyun had lent a coat to her as well, and she was almost drowning in the size of it. Jaehyun bit his lip to keep himself from grinning.

Cute.

He could do this. He could marry Chaeyeon.

He exhaled and the warmth of his breath mingled with the icy atmosphere, leaving small clouds of heat in their wake. “Chaeyeonnie, it’s been a while, right?”

They walked into the local park, still brightly lit up by streetlights paving the way through the most scenic route of Jaehyun’s childhood landscape. “Maybe we’ve only been dating for three years, but I feel like I’ve known you for longer. I don’t think I’ll ever meet another girl like you, Chaeyeonnie.”

Her eyes crinkled upwards as she grinned brightly, “You know, I used to think you were so cool Yoonoh. Back when we were in high school and you were my senior. I’m so glad that we were able to get to know each other better later.”

“Even in high school you were the prettiest girl I knew, Chaeyeon–ah,” Jaehyun took a deep breath and continued, “and my only regret is that I didn’t get to know you earlier because you truly are one of my best friends now. Maybe we could have had a few more years together, but maybe we’ll also be able to make up for lost time.” Jaehyun gently grasped Chaeyeon’s wrist, spinning her around until she faced him.

Her breath hitched and her eyes widened impossibly wide, “Yoonoh, what are you saying?”

Jaehyun knelt down on one knee, popping open the velveteen ring box, “Chaeyeonnie, I want to make up for all the years we didn’t have together by spending the rest of my life with you if you’ll have me.”

Chaeyeon gasped quietly, mittened hands raised to her mouth. “Jung Chaeyeon, will you marry me?”

Chaeyeon’s gaze jumped from the ring to land on Jaehyun as if to read his expression.

Jaehyun wondered how he looked in that instance. Even before he and Chaeyeon had begun dating, they had indeed been close friends for a while and she had an uncanny knack of being able to read him even in the most conflicting of situations.

The streetlights caught on the facets of the glittering diamond, reflecting the thousands of rays of shining light brilliantly. At that moment Jaehyun felt almost blinded, frozen as he waited in patience for Chaeyeon’s response.

After she overcame her shock, she slowly removed her hands from her face, dropping a single hand on Jaehyun’s left shoulder. He tensed in anticipation, feeling completely and wholly exposed.

She exhaled, breath white in the frosty air and Jaehyun felt his own breath catch, heart sinking to the bottom of his stomach even before she delivered the verdict. “Yoonoh–ah, I love you so much .” A single tear slid down her face, “But I’m sorry. I can’t marry someone who’s more committed to their best friend to the point that anyone else would think that Dongyoung is the one you’re in love with. I didn’t want to bring it up, but every time we’ve fought, it’s been your commitment to me over your commitment to Dongyoung and I just—”

Jaehyun’s mouth dried, “What does Doyoung have to do with this?”

Chaeyeon took another shaky breath, “Yoonoh. You’ve made me really happy in this relationship but I can’t see us going any further when both of us know that we’ll be settling for less than the best. If I’m going to be your wife, I don’t want you to settle for your second choice. And I don’t want to settle for someone who I know can’t even give me his whole heart.”

“Chaeyeonnie, what–” Jaehyun hurriedly rose from his kneeling position as Chaeyeon wiped away her tears and turned away, “What do you mean? What do you mean about Doyoung? I’ve never even thought of him like that! We don’t have to talk about him ever again, seriously —”

Chaeyeon spun around and looked at him with a sad look in her eyes, voice patient as she replied, “Yoonoh–ah, I’m not mad, really. I just don’t see it working out between us if you can’t even work out whatever weird sexual tension you have going on with your best friend.” She pressed a single kiss to Jaehyun’s left cheek, “So the most I can say is thank you. My first love, I’ll always love you.”

She smiled sadly, “But I guess this is goodbye, Yoonoh–ah.” With that, she turned away properly, feet sounding quietly against the gravel, returning to the direction they came from.

Heart still in his throat, ring glinting in the streetlights and mind filled with confusion, Jaehyun could do nothing except watch Chaeyeon slip through his fingers.

After the numbness wore off, he wandered aimlessly back to the party, which had since quietened down. The music had mellowed out, a soft synth-pop track reverberating from the speakers as couples utterly in love (or not) moved in tandem alongside each other in the final minutes of the day of love.

Ten reappeared from the kitchen, looping his arms around Jaehyun’s neck, “Dance with me Jaehyunnie! Don’t look so glum, it’s your birthday.”

Jaehyun sent Ten a regretful smile, feeling his eyes water as the events of the past hour finally caught up with him, “Sorry Ten, I’m just not feeling it.” He gently removed Ten’s grabby hands from around his neck and nodded to Taeyong who was watching warily from the stairs.

When he was sure that Ten wasn’t going to topple over sideways, Jaehyun forced himself back up the stairs, with a dull feeling in his chest. He wound his way into the silent section of the house that he had fenced off for the night, passing walls and walls of photos.

Baby photos, family photos, his parents’ wedding photos. He finally paused at a photo taken almost twenty years prior. Right before he left with his father to Connecticut.

Five-year-old Jaehyun with his round cheeks and messy hair dressed in overalls and grinning brightly with his chubby arm wrapped around his brightly grinning neighbour, showing off rows of tiny teeth. His vision became blurred and he quickly blinked away his tears, pushing his way into his childhood bedroom. Jaehyun heaved a deep sigh as he took in the familiar sight of basketball trophies, swimming ribbons and high school graduation photos.

He rapidly toed off his shoes and threw the thick coat he’d put on before he went out with Chaeyeon into a corner of the room. He loosened the wine-coloured button up he had carefully selected earlier, feeling choked the entire time. With tears stinging in the back of his eyes, he threw himself into the bed that was now much too small for him.

It was only once he was buried in the familiar linens that Jaehyun finally allowed himself to break down.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Jaehyun woke up much later than he anticipated, due to the heavy blinds of his childhood bedroom blocking out any hint of morning sunlight. When he woke up with his mouth feeling full of cotton and tear tracks staining his cheeks, the only thing he regretted was not drinking last night.

Then maybe at least he wouldn’t be feeling so shit.

Johnny burst into his room, without so much as caring to knock. “Come on string bean, we’ve got a massacre to clean up. Oh,” he remarked as he finally caught a glimpse of Jaehyun’s subdued expression, “you look like shit.”

“Thanks,” Jaehyun replied drily, voice coming out raspy. He was more than aware of how he probably looked. Eyes and nose red, cheeks pink, hair awry and dressed in the same clothes as from last night. A certified mess. “I’ll be down in a sec.”

“Oh, no, no, no, you’re not going anywhere in this state Jae.” Johnny heaved a heavy sigh and pushed his way into Jaehyun’s room, “We’ll arrange someone to clean it up before your parents get up. You,” Johnny rifled through Jaehyun’s wardrobe, struggling through stacks of high school Jaehyun clothes to find something semi-presentable, “are going to come back to my apartment and we’re going to fix you up. The guys have hangover brunch prepared, so we’ve gotta get it together before then.”

He stuffed the small pile of clothing he deemed decent enough into a backpack and stalked across the room in three long strides to pull Jaehyun out of bed.

“Come on, up we get.”

Jaehyun groaned blearily, “Do I have to go?”

Johnny sighed and sat beside Jaehyun in the tiny bed, “Look, if you really don’t want to go, we don’t have to. It’s fully up to you, man. I’m not going to force you or anything. But you know those parasites, even if you don’t face them now, you’re still going to have to do it eventually.”

Jaehyun grumbled as he stuffed his feet into worn slides beneath the bed, following Johnny out of the room, “I guess I’ll go then. But why do we have to go to your apartment?”

Johnny paused by the doorway, “Well, from what I gathered from the group chat, Doyoung is severely hungover and still asleep, but somehow made his way back to your shared apartment. Oh, and Ten is still passed out in your bathtub in a puddle of God knows what.”

Jaehyun grimaced, “Your apartment it is, then.”

━━━

Jaehyun emerged from the shower feeling only marginally better. His hair was still damp, but the steam had done wonders for easing the tension in his body. Johnny handed him a mug of still warm coffee and Jaehyun accepted it gratefully, “Thanks, hyung.”

Johnny slid on the other side of the bench opposite Jaehyun, “So I take it didn’t go great.”

Jaehyun laughed bitterly, “Nah. That’s an understatement.”

“You wanna talk about it?”

Jaehyun heaved a sigh, “In hindsight it sort of makes sense. I don’t think either of us actually wanted to get married.”

“Yeah,” Johnny sipped at his own drink, “I didn’t want to say it then, but even you seemed far too hesitant. What was holding you back, Jae?”

“I don’t know, to be quite honest.”

Johnny laughed, but not unkindly, “Did you actually love her?” He ignored Jaehyun’s halfhearted protest, “Did you actually want to marry her, even a little bit?”

This had Jaehyun chewing his lip in contemplation, “Or did you just want to please your parents? Did you just want to win the bet against Doyoung?”

“I did love her, I know I did.” Jaehyun sighs, “I just don’t think we were in love. Does that make sense?”

“Believe me, I get it.” Johnny snorted, “And I bet that you’re taking it pretty hard, you big softie. Three years is no small amount of time to be together.”

Jaehyun sighed deeply and Johnny continued, “It’s okay to be sad, you know? And you’ll probably feel better once you let it all out.”

“I think,” Jaehyun began, “that even though I didn’t have any real intentions to marry her, I’m still feeling the loss because,” he exhaled again between a deep sip, “Chaeyeonnie was and still is a really important person in my life. But thank you, hyung. Sometimes I need people to point out the obvious in front of me.”

“You can say that again.” Jaehyun didn’t have the heart to question Johnny’s cryptic words.

━━━

Johnny and Jaehyun arrived at the café last. Doyoung was leaned against the brick wall casually, bundled up in a scarf and a pair of sunglasses covering what Jaehyun knew were dark circles the size of the moon. He scrolled leisurely through his phone, only looking up when Johnny called his name.

“Hey— oh, shit.” He started upon seeing Jaehyun’s expression. “Jaehyunnie—”

Johnny clapped Jaehyun on the shoulder and nodded, “I’ll head inside first.”

Doyoung approached Jaehyun warily, cracking a half-hearted grin, “Jaehyun–ah, I guess the bet’s still on then, huh?”

Doyoung had never been the best at comforting or expressing empathy, but despite his perfunctory teasing, the reassuring palm at the small of Jaehyun’s back spoke measures and Jaehyun felt himself break down again. “Hyung.”

Jaehyun buried his face into Doyoung’s shoulder, feeling his tears soak through Doyoung’s shirt, feeling—not for the first time—completely and utterly vulnerable. Jaehyun made an ugly choking sound as he pressed his lips tightly together in an attempt to suppress his sobs, “Hyung, hyung. I’m sorry.” Jaehyun hiccupped loudly and Doyoung rubbed soothing circles into his back, “I’m sorry for being like this.”

“Shh, just let it all out.” Doyoung smiled thinly, “It’ll hurt like hell for a while, but you’ll find crying it out does more than anything else will.” His hand burned into Jaehyun’s skin.

“I’m sorry for being weak, hyung.”

“Love isn’t a weakness and Jaehyunnie, I know you better than anyone else, so I have full faith when I say that you’ll be okay. Besides, we balance each other out, you have all the emotions that I lack,” Doyoung cracked a small grin at the end of the sentence, continuing to rub small circles into Jaehyun’s back.

Jaehyun lifted his head with a quiet laugh, sniffing ungracefully and rubbing away at his tears.  He felt a grateful smile stretch across his face, “Thanks hyung. Let’s go eat, then.”

Doyoung smiled back at him just as brightly, gums showing as he beamed. His hand returned to Jaehyun’s back and true to his word, Jaehyun did indeed feel a bit lighter after crying out his soul. He hurriedly wiped away his drying tears again and entered the café with Doyoung.

It was time to face the wolves.

“Jaehyunnie, Jaehyunnie!” Ten engulfed him in a tight hug the moment he stepped into the café, “You know we love you right?”

Jaehyun couldn’t help but smile, “I’ll be okay, Ten, you don’t have to keep pretending not to be a demon.” Jaehyun stepped back to appraise the shorter boy, “Also, how are you not completely hungover, you were beyond wasted last night.”  

Ten huffed, leading Doyoung and Jaehyun over to their table, “Good, we have important non-sensitive matters to discuss later anyways. Also, I’m just better at hiding it than Doyoung over there.”

Doyoung swatted a hand in Ten’s direction lazily in response, “Fuck off.”

Jaehyun laughed, “How did you even get out of bed this morning?”

Doyoung grumbled, “Taeyong dragged me out. Threatened to burn my bed sheets and get you to hide cucumber in my food for the next few months.” He grinned widely, “Of course I told him that you loved me more than him, so of course, Woojae would never betray me like that.”

Jaehyun let out a long-suffering sigh, “I need caffeine.”

A Cheshire cat grin spread over Ten’s face, “Sit down and order guys, we have important business to get to in a bit, but let’s all just get comfortable first.”

Doyoung groaned, dropping his head onto Jaehyun’s shoulder, “Far out, it’s way too early in the day for Ten’s cryptic bullshit.”

Doyoung had a penchant for enthusiastic drinking despite knowing that he would regret it deeply the following morning, but it had never stopped him. So Jaehyun allowed Doyoung to use him as a pillow, knowing that he would give almost anything to return back to his warm bed. Doyoung really hadn’t changed at all over the past twenty years.

Jaehyun combed his fingers gently through Doyoung’s dark hair spilling softly over his shoulder, watching as the older boy melted into his touch, “Hyung, it’s almost twelve.”

“Too early.”

“Lovebirds, are you ready to order?”

Jaehyun felt his cheeks warm, was this what Chaeyeon had meant? Doyoung’s response was less elegant, flipping Yuta off and grumbling as he maneuvered himself into a seated position.

Their food arrived relatively quickly and Jaehyun wrapped his hands gratefully around the coffee, lifting it to his lips and relishing in the warm, creamy sweetness.

Doyoung was in the process of inhaling his noodles when Ten dropped his cutlery dramatically and turned to Yuta, sticking his hand out to receive a folded piece of paper. Taeyong sighed deeply and Jaehyun glanced up in confusion, “What?”

Taeyong let out another long-suffering sigh, pressing his fingers delicately to the bridge of his nose, painting the picture of thinly veiled vexation, “For the record, I did tell these two idiots that now was not a good time.”

By now, Jaehyun’s interest had been piqued and Doyoung had stopped eating as well, “Well, are you going to tell us or not?”

Both Johnny and Taeil looked interested as well, Johnny raised his hands in surrender as Jaehyun turned accusatory eyes on him, “I have no idea what they’re talking about, I swear.”

Ten cleared his throat theatrically and began to unfold the paper, which looked like it had suffered through multiple lifetimes. It was only when a hint of Taeyong’s handwriting peeked out that Jaehyun understood what was happening and his stomach bottomed out.

Yuta looked solemn, “Look, we understand that now is a difficult time for our baby Jung Jaehyun, but we want the best for you, so we strongly disagree with Taeyong’s opinion and believe that this might actually be a good distraction or method to get over Chaeyeon!”

Understanding seemed to wash over Doyoung, “Wait a second, I don’t remember agreeing to this!”

Ten laughed, “Oh, but you did. See, right here,” he showed Doyoung the crumpled signature line, “Isn’t that your signature? In fact, you haven’t even changed it since you were fifteen.”

“Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Understanding now seemed to wash over both Johnny and Taeil simultaneously, the latter letting out a small “Ah,” of understanding.

“Hey, pass that here, I’ve never actually seen the infamous pact before.”

Fuck, how could we forget that this existed?” Doyoung slumped back into a puddle on Jaehyun’s shoulder, “I’m sorry, Woojae.”

Jaehyun could feel his entire face burning again, “It’s not your fault hyung, we were both stupid when we were younger and both thought we’d be married by now as well, apparently.”

Johnny accepted the paper that Ten handed him, “Woah, this looks pretty legit.”

Taeyong preened, “Thank you.”

“Section one, in relation to the contract: part A. If the two parties, Kim Dongyoung and Jung Yoonoh, are both unattached by the time Kim Dongyoung is at the age of twenty-five—”

Doyoung choked loudly, “Stop, oh my God.”

Johnny continued as if Doyoung hadn’t spoken, “—the parties have agreed to marry each other.”

Ten’s eyes gleamed, “And you know how it is. Doyoungie is twenty-five and Jaehyunnie is newly single. Which means—”

“Which means, that Jaehyunnie regardless of what happened last night, you’ll still be the first of us to get married.”

“Um, no he won’t?” Doyoung had the gall to look affronted, “We’re getting married at the same time so no-one is losing that bet.”

Curse Doyoung and his competitive nature.

Taeyong’s eyebrows rose into his hairline, “Oh, so you are getting married?”

“They have to, they spat on it and everything!”

“Wait,” Doyoung quickly backtracked, “but I’m like…” he paused awkwardly as Ten watched on with expectant eyes, “not into guys, at all?” He threw a glance back at Jaehyun quickly, “No offence, Woojae.”

Jaehyun felt faint, “None taken, hyung.”

Yuta’s jaw dropped, “Wait, you’re not?”

“Well, I’ve only dated girls before.”

Jaehyun snorted, “You can use the term dated very loosely, it’s not like you let any of them stick around.”

Ten waved a hand in dismissal, “Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, then.”

Taeil nodded sagely, “Yes, sexuality is a spectrum, anyway.”

Yuta beamed, “So, start planning your wedding lovebirds, a deal is a deal!”

“Mm, you can’t really back out when Ten has the original contract right here.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is anyways, you guys act married ninety-per-cent of the time regardless. What difference will a legally binding document make?”

“Yeah, have you ever seen Doyoung call Jaehyun honey? I wanted to wash my ears out with soap after that.”

“I call him that ironically, it has nothing to do with anything,” but Doyoung’s protests fell on deaf ears.

Taeyong levelled Doyoung with a flat stare, “You told me it was because no-one is sweeter than Woojae .”

Jaehyun was mortified, was this what Chaeyeon had meant? He wasn’t in love with his best friend in any way shape or form. Never had been and never would be.

━━━

It was well into the early afternoon when Doyoung and Jaehyun finally returned to their shared apartment. The journey back was quiet and Jaehyun found himself wishing even for Doyoung’s more obnoxious comments, if it were to ease the tension.

Doyoung quickly keyed in the security code and slipped into the apartment, Jaehyun following close behind. “Hyung, please don’t let this change things between us.”

“They expect us to get married now Woojae, and the worst part is that we did this to ourselves.”

“Stop thinking about it, they don’t mean it. They can’t.”

Doyoung let out a tortured groan and stomped as loudly as his socked feet would allow him to his bedroom. “I’m going to do some marking, report season is coming and I don’t even want to think about it right now.”

Jaehyun was preparing to go out and take a walk or something to clear his head when the buzz of the doorbell halted him in his actions. “Hyung are you expecting anyone?”

“No? I told you report season is coming soon.”

Jaehyun scrunched his nose, weird. He wasn’t expecting anyone either. He carefully opened the door and then upon seeing the taller boy he stepped back, “Ah, hyung. I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

Donghyun grinned widely. Despite not really physically resembling his younger brother, he and Doyoung exuded the exact same aura—that of complete and utter confidence. “Hello rich boy, is Doyoungie around? He’s not responding to my texts, which isn’t very nice of him.”

Jaehyun stepped aside, allowing the older boy to step inside the apartment, “I’ll call him for you, but please. Take a seat.”

Donghyun made himself at home on Doyoung’s carefully selected IKEA couches whilst Jaehyun padded softly to Doyoung’s bedroom. “Hyung?”

He pushed the door open cautiously to see Doyoung bent over his desk, yanking furiously on his dark hair. “Not now, Jaehyunnie, I’m marking.”

“Yes, but Donghyun–hyung is here.”

Doyoung’s eyes widened, “Oh shit, he did say he was going to text.” He quickly smoothed down his hair and thanked Jaehyun briefly before hurrying out to meet his older brother. He joined Donghyun on the opposite couch, pulling Jaehyun down beside him.

“Ah, my favourite dongsaengie, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about dinner tonight,” Donghyun crowed delightedly as he ruffled Doyoung’s hair, much to the latter’s chagrin.

Doyoung turned a blank stare to Jaehyun, “Dinner?”

Donghyun heaved a long sigh as Jaehyun shrugged in response, “Yes, with mum and dad tonight. Believe me, I wasn’t exactly keen on it either, since I already know how it’s going to go.” He turned a lopsided grin back to his younger brother, “They’ll keep harassing you about how painfully single you are.”

Doyoung made a soft sound of protest as Donghyun continued, “Seriously Doyoungie, and I married Hyesung two years ago. Our parents are going to expect you to marry soon as well, right? But you just keep disappointing them by telling them that you’re not even considering dating! Instead you’re busy living a lifestyle that even a prostitute would be ashamed of. Think about settling down before you drive eomma crazy!”

Hyung, your marriage was fake!”

Donghyun looked deeply offended by Doyoung’s interruption, “So perhaps it started out as as ploy for my television show, but then, we fell in love and got married for real, which is more than anything you can say.” He tutted disparagingly, “You could definitely learn a thing or two about romance from me, Doyoungie.”

“Well maybe I didn’t want to get married so damn early, I wanted a life, you know?” Doyoung looked unbothered, but the hand on Jaehyun’s knee squeezing painfully hard said otherwise.

“Twenty four isn’t that early! And we both knew what we wanted. I’m successful, she’s successful, why shouldn’t we get married if we both know what we want?” Donghyun cut Doyoung another sly grin, “Besides, you’re twenty five this year, which already puts you one year behind me. You’re off your game, brother.”

Doyoung looked like he wanted to pull his hair out again and he lifted his eyes just in time to catch Jaehyun’s gaze, “Actually, hyung—” a smug grin tugged at the side of his lips, “I’ll have you know that I got engaged this morning.”

Jaehyun’s heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach. His mind raced trying to catch up, but all he knew was that something bad was going to happen. No good ever came from Doyoung being aggressively competitive or excessively smug. This just so happened to be a combination of both.

“Jaehyunnie and I are getting married in Connecticut in about half a year.” Jaehyun’s shocked protest was cut off by a particularly painful squeeze on his knee.

“Yes,” Jaehyun choked out finally, “We would appreciate it very much if you could give us your blessing, hyung.”

Donghyun’s eyebrows rose into his hairline, “Well, I would say I am surprised, but I’m really not.”

“What does that even mean, hyung?”

Donghyun let out a short laugh, “If anyone was able to get my problematic little brother to settle down, it would be you, rich pretty boy.”

Doyoung heaved a sigh, “I thought we dropped that nickname years ago.”

Donghyun laughed again, standing up, “Well, I certainly won’t protest against your engagement. Bring the pretty boy along tonight Doyoungie. I’m sure mother will be overjoyed.” With that, he sent Jaehyun one last wolfish grin and breezed out of the apartment.

The lock clicked quietly behind him, echoing almost forebodingly in the silent apartment. Jaehyun cleared his throat, shifting awkwardly away from Doyoung, “Hyung—”

Doyoung hastily cut Jaehyun off, “I know, I know, I’m so sorry Jaehyunnie, but it’s something they’ve been harassing me for months about and I really just haven’t had the time to find the right person.” He pulled his lower lip between his teeth, turning a pleading gaze to Jaehyun, “And you can say ‘no’, but really, if you could just play along, for the time being, I’d be so thankful.”

Against all of Jaehyun’s better judgement, Yuta’s words kept returning to mind, prompting him to make yet another potentially regretful decision, “Hey, maybe this’ll be just the distraction I need to get over Chaeyeonnie anyway.”

Doyoung’s expression conveyed thinly veiled disbelief, a hesitant smile curling at his lips, “Jaehyun–ah, the moment you want to end this, we can. And anytime you’re not okay with anything I say, or any irrational decisions I make, just tell me. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Woojae. I never want to do that, ever.”

━━━

Doyoung’s parents, Donghyun and his wife were already seated around a rectangular, mahogany dinner table when Jaehyun and Doyoung showed up. A clay pot simmered on a gas stove in the centre of the table, small bowls of side dishes neatly dotted around it.

Jaehyun and Doyoung stepped into the dining room, greeting Doyoung’s parents, Donghyun and Hyesung politely.

Doyoung’s mother greeted them warmly in return, gums showing a bright smile that she had definitely passed on to Doyoung, “Jaehyun–ah, it’s lovely to see you again, Donghyun did mention that you might come tonight. As for you, Dongyoung–ah, you don’t come by often enough.” Her brows furrowed as she chastised him, “Do you not love your parents enough to even come by and say ‘hello’?”

Doyoung shrunk under his mother’s words, “Eomma, I love you both plenty, I’ve just been busier than usual lately!”

“Too busy to even pay your elders a little visit?”

Eomma—” Doyoung drew out the word with a whine as he and Jaehyun seated themselves in the empty seats. Jaehyun couldn’t help but smile fondly. For all of Doyoung’s cold façades, there was still a side of him that reminded Jaehyun so much of the petulant child he used to be.

“That’s right, Doyoungie has news for us,” Donghyun smiled widely, but Jaehyun could see the competitive gleam in his eyes. Though it could be said that the Kim brothers were day and night in personality, they had one trait in common: they were both stupidly competitive. Both would pounce at the opportunity to one-up the other or to rain on the others’ parade.

And even be the one to break the news of a wedding as well, it seemed to Jaehyun.

Doyoung twitched, “That’s right hyung,” he turned away from Donghyun to face his parents, “Eomma and appa, I want to tell you that I recently got engaged.”

Three shocked gasps rang out in the otherwise peaceful dining room. “Dongyoungie,” Hyesung started, “Donghyun and I thought you’d never settle down. This is wonderful news!”

Doyoung’s parents looked equalled as surprised, “Then why didn’t you bring her tonight, Doyoung–ah?”

Donghyun let out a quiet laugh, “Oh, this’ll be good. Tell them, Doyoungie.”

Doyoung shot a withering glare to his older brother and Jaehyun shifted uncomfortably in his seat, opting to redirect his attention to the small, ceramic bowl of kimchi. The smell was pungent and if Jaehyun focussed hard enough on it—

“Well actually, I did. Bring him, I mean.” Jaehyun was jolted out of his thoughts as Doyoung laced their fingers together, bringing their joint hands onto the table.

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re engaged to Yoonoh?”

Jaehyun’s voice was steady as he finally spoke, “I really love Doyoung–ah,” Doyoung’s grip on Jaehyun’s hand tightened, “and I have for a long time now. It would mean a lot to us if you could offer us your support.”

Doyoung’s parents exchanged a wary glance and Doyoung nibbled on his bottom lip nervously. Jaehyun knew that even though Doyoung’s mother criticised him for not caring about them enough, Doyoung cared immensely about their opinions.

“Dongyoung, you know we’ve always been more traditional,” Jaehyun’s breath caught in his throat, expecting the worst as Doyoung’s father spoke in a low, gravelly voice, “but all we ever wanted was for you to be happy.”

Doyoung squeezed Jaehyun’s fingers in a crushing grip again, “And if you’re happy with Jaehyun, who would we be to keep you from that?”

Doyoung’s mother nodded supportively, “Absolutely. So when’s the wedding?”

Jaehyun squeezed Doyoung’s fingers equally as hard in retaliation, letting him know that this was his problem to deal with. “Uh,” Doyoung gave the same vague date he offered to Donghyun in the afternoon, “we were thinking in maybe half a year or so?”

Hyesung gasped and Donghyun choked on his food, “Six months is not enough time to plan a wedding and execute it.”

If Doyoung had any response to that, he didn’t let it show on his face, instead replying in a sickly sweet voice, “I’ve always been able to achieve the impossible with Woojae by my side.”

━━━

“Wait, shit,” Doyoung muttered later as they clambered onto the train to return to their apartment, “what do we tell our friends?”

Jaehyun laughed with only a hint of spite, “Just that we’re in love. In fact, I've been told that no-one will have any trouble believing it.” 

Chapter Text

For as long as Jaehyun could remember, Friday nights were for Doyoung. In middle school, this would have meant movie or game nights. In high school and university, this slowly turned to going out more and attending parties and other social events. Doyoung thrived in the social environment and Jaehyun had always liked being around other people.

Despite recent changes in their relationship, tonight was no different. Jaehyun quickly made an arbitrary movie selection, flicking absently through his Netflix home page. As an old sci-fi movie began, he returned to his seat with Doyoung dumping his feet unceremoniously into Jaehyun’s lap.

Colourful lights flashed across their television screen, but despite Jaehyun’s eyes being glued to the film, he wasn’t comprehending anything.

His thoughts ran as he analysed the situation he’d somehow managed to get himself into.

At most, he’d probably have to endure Doyoung’s scheming for a month or two, and then they would part ways amicably in the eyes of Doyoung’s parents. Then they would go back to being friends (not that they were anything else really) and Doyoung would continue with his string of flings.

There was no real reason why he couldn’t do this. After all, there were few instances in which he would deny the opportunity to help out Doyoung.  

Doyoung seemed to pick up on Jaehyun’s ambivalence, “What’s on your mind?”

Jaehyun shook himself out of his daze. “You,” was his honest response. “I mean, about how we’re going to do the third stupidest thing in my entire life. The first being becoming friends with you, closely followed by the stupid marriage pact.”

A bright smile blossomed across Doyoung’s face, his eyes crinkling as he crowed in amusement, “You’re my favourite person, you know that right, Woojae?”

A wry expression twisted across Jaehyun’s face, “Yeah, yeah. But, knowing your commitment issues, our engagement won't last past the first month either way.”

Doyoung made an affronted sound, “I’ll marry the shit out of you Jung Yoonoh and then you’ll eat your words!”

Jaehyun couldn't help his affectionate smile. Trust Doyoung to turn this into a competition, an opportunity to prove himself.

“Sure, sure.”

Doyoung’s smile melted into a look of content and his voice softened, “So, why the change of heart Jaehyunnie? I was so sure you would say no.”

I can’t say no to you.

Jaehyun shrugged, “There was no reason not to. It’s like… killing three birds with one stone. We get your parents off your back about your commitment issues,” Doyoung made a sound of protest, “appease our friends about that stupid contract and as Yuta said, it’s a chance to forget about Chaeyeonnie.”

Doyoung shifted and burrowed deeper into his blanket. His voice was small when he asked, “What did you like about her so much, Woojae-ah? To the point where you wanted to marry her?”

“She cared about me so much. She always made me smile,” Jaehyun broke into a soft smile, “She constantly pushed me to be a better version of myself, and I could talk to her about almost anything. She was one of the people who knew me best in the entire world.”

A petulant expression painted its way onto Doyoung’s face, “I know you better, though.”

Jaehyun laughed, “Yeah and that’s only because I’ve had the misfortune of being around you for far longer.” He turned bright eyes to Doyoung, “But one day hyung, you’ll feel the same thing for someone else and then you’ll wish that you hadn’t married me at the age of twenty-five.”

Doyoung raised his chin stubbornly, “So why aren’t you married to Chaeyeon-ssi then?”

“I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Doyoung’s smile faltered, but he rebounded immediately in an attempt to mend the atmosphere, “Well, for the time being, I only want to marry you, so suck it up and stop trying to get out of our engagement.”

“You’re a menace. A total menace,” but Jaehyun’s smile still recovered at Doyoung’s efforts.

“Wanna see my wedding Pinterest board?” Doyoung’s smile turned predatory as he pulled out his phone, movie long forgotten.

He clicked on an obnoxiously red application and opened a new page, filled with images upon images of elaborate wedding venues, grand cakes and wedding invitations.

Jaehyun felt a headache coming on, “How long do we have to get this together again?”

“Six months.”

“With some luck, you’ll decide you’re sick of being engaged to me within a week and then we won’t have to endure this any longer than necessary.”

“Hey!”

━━━

Their friends found out about their engagement the following week when Doyoung invited them out for “celebratory drinks” without telling them what exactly that they were celebrating.

Doyoung raised his glass and cleared his throat obnoxiously, drawing the attention of all their friends. “A toast,” he declared, prompting everyone else to raise their champagne flutes, “to married life!”

Jaehyun choked, “We’re not married yet, asshole.”

A deathly silence fell across the table, “Sorry, did you say yet?” Ten repeated Jaehyun’s words with disbelief.

Doyoung looked smug, “Jaehyunnie and I keep promises, no matter how long ago they were made.”

Johnny raised an eyebrow lazily, “Well, this is an interesting turn of events.”

“We didn’t think you’d actually go and get married—”

“This isn’t funny, Doyoungie.”

An irked expression appeared on Doyoung’s otherwise complacent expression, “Woojae and I are getting married in six months in Connecticut.”

“Jesus, they didn’t even forget that detail from ten years ago either.”

“How did this happen?” Taeyong looked bemused, eyebrows disappearing into his hairline.

“Jaehyun recognised my shining character traits, my breathtaking beauty and post-evil girlfriend, he also realised how he’s always been in love with me.”

Jaehyun let out a long and deep sigh as the table burst into uproarious laughter, “Hyung.”

Doyoung rolled his eyes, “Fine, I realised that there was no one else I’d rather spend my life with, since I’d already given him so many years of my existence. Why not the rest of our years as well?”

Taeil cooed, “That’s sweet Doyoungie, I didn’t think you had it in you.”

Yuta glanced suspiciously between the two, “Wait, but who proposed?”

Jaehyun and Doyoung both froze, “Wait shit, Jaehyunnie you haven’t even proposed properly yet.”

Jaehyun made an affronted noise, “Why do I have to propose?”

“Shut up Woojae and get down on your knees—”

“Oh my, in public?”

Taeyong was quick to clamp a hand over his mouth, “Shut up, Yuta.”

“You’re the one who said our Jaehyunnie was good with his tongue—”

“Oh my God—”

Jaehyun’s ears burned bright red, “Please, I’m trying to propose to the second most annoying person I know—and yes the first most annoying is suddenly you, Yuta—so can we never talk about that ever again?”

Yuta raised his hands in defence and Taeyong dropped his head in embarrassment, digging a bony elbow into Yuta’s ribs, causing him to yelp in misery.

Ten raised an unimpressed eyebrow, “Get on with this proposal already.”

Jaehyun reluctantly fell on one knee, grasping Doyoung’s hand gently within his own. He patted his coat with his other hand, knowing exactly what he was searching for. He quickly pulled out a familiar velvety box, popping it open to reveal the brilliantly shining ring that was once meant for Chaeyeon. “Kim Dongyoung, light of my life, will you marry me?”

Their friends gasped, “Jesus Doyoungie, if you don’t say yes, I’ll take him for myself.”

“Shut up, Yuta.”

Doyoung pulled Jaehyun up from his kneeling position and into a tight hug, causing the table to break out in loud cooing, “I already said yes, didn’t I? Though that proposal did sort of suck, Woojae.”

“Beggars can’t be choosy, you’re the one desperate enough to marry me.”

“We’re not married yet Jaehyunnie, it’s not the right time to be bickering like an old married couple!”

“I really hate you,” Jaehyun sighed, but there was no heat in his words as he wrapped Doyoung tighter in his embrace. “And I’ll get you your own ring as soon as I get the chance.”

Jaehyun felt Doyoung’s slow smile bloom across his face, “Chaeyeon-ssi was an idiot for not saying yes.” Warmth seeped through every point where they touched and Jaehyun felt his own smile paint its way across his face.

“You’re an even bigger idiot for saying yes.” Jaehyun felt his grin stretch wider as Doyoung shook with silent laughter in his arms.

“This isn’t a competition, Jaehyun-ah.” Mirth seeped into Doyoung’s whispered words.

Jaehyun shook his head with disbelief, “Everything’s a competition with you.”

━━━

“Oh my, Jaehyun-ah.” Jaehyun’s mother sounded vaguely distressed and Jaehyun could already envision her pressing her phone to her ear, an ear clutching her chest and a disapproving expression on her face. “This is very sudden.”

Jaehyun heaved a sigh, “I’m afraid it’s actually not that sudden mother—”

His mother’s voice went shrill and Jaehyun winced as her voice pierced through the phone, “Not that sudden? Jaehyun, your father and I have been in Connecticut for only two months and in that time span, you’ve gotten engaged? Tell me how that isn’t sudden!” She let out a weary sigh, “Besides, weren’t you dating that girl from high school when your father and I were back in Seoul?”

Ah shit, Jaehyun forgot that it was somewhat unrealistic to get married a day after getting dumped—not that his parents really needed to know the truth. He would just have to alter the truth. Just a tiny bit.

Ma, Chaeyeon and I had stopped dating around a year ago! And then after that Doyoung and I… it happened really quickly honestly, but I’ve known him my whole life ma and it just felt right. I didn’t feel like I was rushing anything. All I know is that I want to spend the rest of my life with him.”

“A year? Christ Jaehyun-ah, you’ve really kept your father and I out of the loop for this long?” Another sigh. “This is why you need to call us more often! What, have you forgotten your old parents already? Surely, I raised you better than that… Though, if I’m being entirely honest, I’m not all that surprised.”

Jaehyun made a strangled sound, “What do you mean not all that surprised?” It was one thing for his friends who had been harassing him about a pact to not be surprised, but for his mother. Well, that was a different thing altogether.

His mother giggled through the phone, “To be quite frank Jaehyun, you were always a bit obsessed with Kim Doyoung when you were younger.”

Jaehyun slid a hand down his face and suppressed an offended sound, “What does that even mean?”

His mother simply laughed again, not answering his question. “Anyways, clearly there is a severe lack of communication between us as of late, so I think it would be lovely if you could visit us in Connecticut sometime soon. Your father is a bit entangled in business affairs at the moment, so I’m not too sure when we’d be able to return to Seoul. We really would love to see you though Jaehyun. And Doyoung too.”

“Ma, I can’t just up and leave to Connecticut now . Doyoung and I have jobs you know. Besides we’re already planning for the wedding to be in the States, there’s no need for us to go back now.”

“I know, I know, but as you said, the wedding will be in Connecticut! I think it could do you both well to come over and get a feel of the environment before you make any wedding plans, you know? Look at some local caterers and venues, the likes. Hm, how about it Jaehyun?”

Jaehyun let out a defeated sigh, “Okay mother, but only if Doyoung is okay with this. He does have commitments aside from our engagement, I hope you’re aware.”    

Jaehyun’s mother made a pleased sound, knowing she had won, “Lovely, I look forward to seeing you both soon. Oh, your father is going to be positively delighted! You know Jaehyun, you were getting a bit close to your expiry date, you know? It’s a good thing you’re getting married now, or else, no-one would want you!”

Jaehyun laughed drily, rolling his eyes, “Yes, I love you too ma. I’ll call you back once we make plans.”

“I hope to hear from you soon Jaehyun-ah. We’ll throw a small engagement party or something, I’m sure all your aunts and uncles missed you terribly, too.” A low beep as the call ended and a head peeked in around Jaehyun’s door.

“I heard English! On the phone with your mother again, boss?” A gangly-limbed boy appeared in Jaehyun’s office.

“Lucas! Do you do anything in this office other than seek gossip? What do I hire you for, honestly?” Jaehyun began to tidy up his work and haphazardly bundle his belongings together. “Can you sign me out for the afternoon? I’ll be back not next Monday, but the Monday after. I’m taking a trip to visit the president.” Jaehyun slipped back into his suit jacket and sent a quick text to Doyoung before making a beeline to the entrance of the shiny corporate office that had been the pride and joy of his father.

“Sure hyung,” Lucas chewed on the end of his pen haphazardly after jotting down a few notes, “This trip to Connecticut seems very sudden, though.”

Jaehyun smiled helplessly. He had gotten to know the younger boy during his time at university, and now, newly-graduated, Lucas Wong had become his assistant. Though, Jaehyun suspected he did more gossiping with the interns during his photocopy runs than actual photocopying. “Yes, well, the engagement party was a bit sudden.”

Lucas perked up immediately, “Ooh, I love love! So, who’s getting married?”

Jaehyun bashfully lowered his gaze, “Me.”

Lucas squawked loudly, drawing the attention of several workers from the cubicles around them, “Boss is getting married? I didn’t even know you were dating! No offence hyung,” he started, with every intention of insulting Jaehyun, “but you’re sort of boring and all you do is work.”

Jaehyun let out a low groan, “Seriously, how have I not fired you yet?”

Lucas sidled up to him with a wide grin spreading over his face, “Because, I bring joy and spice into this otherwise dull and boring office!”

“Yeah, sure.” Jaehyun retrieved his keys from his pocket and continued past reception, “Make sure the office doesn’t burn down whilst I’m gone, or you will definitely find yourself jobless when I return.”

Hyung! You can’t go yet, tell me about your fiancé!” Coffee sloshed around dangerously in his cup as he hurried to chase after Jaehyun. "Just tell me what their name is so that I can stalk them on social media!” Lucas trailed Jaehyun on his unfairly long legs, “Hyung!”

“Have a nice afternoon Lucas-ssi!”

Jaehyun slid into the sleek interior of a black sedan parked in the underground carpark. His baby . He knew that with his parents being who they were, a lot of things had been handed to him, including his current position at his father’s firm. But this car, he had bought it with his own hard-earned money, earned from a summer job over three consecutive university breaks, working as a waiter at a local café. His baby was one of the few things that he could safely say wasn’t handed to him by his parents. That and Doyoung.

Jaehyun groaned again, his asshole of a best friend was becoming a more frequent visitor of his thoughts as of late. Jaehyun blamed the stupid marriage pact.

Get it together, Jung.

He reversed carefully out of the carpark and made his way onto a familiar path, that he hadn’t visited in a while. The high-rise buildings of a concrete jungle slowly melted into a familiar landscape of smaller shops and restaurants, suburban parks and older apartment blocks. Finally, he pulled up in front of a block of buildings that really hadn’t changed much in the past ten years at all.

The same high school that acted as a backdrop to so many memories that Jaehyun held fondly in mind’s eye. He stepped out of the car and walked the familiar path to the reception.

Late on their very first day of high school, Jaehyun and Doyoung had to endure the humiliating experience of signing in late at this very exception and being handed the bright pink tardy slips that they had to hand to their form teachers upon their first meetings. Believe it or not, a greeting paired with a half-assed excuse for tardiness really did not make for a great first impression.

Yet somehow, the two of them had made it out of high school relatively unscathed. Marriage pacts notwithstanding.

Jaehyun smiled fondly and greeted the elderly lady working at the reception desk. “Hello, I’m here to see Kim Dongyoung.”

“Jung Jaehyun-ssi? Ah, yes. Kim Dongyoung-ssi did mention that he was expecting you, but he’s still in class at the moment. If you go to room 34A, you’ll be able to catch him right after class ends.”

Not needing any further instructions in the familiar environment, Jaehyun thanked her and headed in the direction of room 34A.

Jaehyun trailed past doors and doors of memories: the gym where he spent half his afternoons with the basketball team, the shadowy alcoves favoured for secret rendezvous, the student council office, and finally the choir rooms.

He stopped at a brightly coloured door and peered through the small window in the door. A cacophony of sounds escaped from beneath the door, followed by a melodic giggle. Doyoung shook his head helplessly as the chaotic symphony of ukuleles. But the young teenagers looked happy as they wreaked audible havoc and Doyoung grinned just as brightly in return.

Jaehyun couldn’t help the smile creeping onto his own face.

“Okay, okay!” Doyoung cut off the sound, a single woeful ping ringing through the air, causing the students to giggle. “The bell will sound at any minute, but I hope you’ve all had a fun introductory lesson to our new unit. Next lesson, our ukulele practice will get more serious, okay?”

There was a chorus of “okay”s in response and true to Doyoung’s word, a bell sounded, causing the students to spring up, seats scraping loudly across the floor. Doyoung turned away to pack away his teaching materials and catching Jaehyun’s eye, he smiled warmly.

Jaehyun sent a dimpled smile in return and stepped to the side as students began to stream out of the classroom. He realised how painfully out of place he must look in his suit and hair styled neatly for work as the students began to whisper as they passed him.

“Who is that?”

“A new teacher do you think?”

“No way, he looks like a businessman or something.”

“Oh yeah that’s right, now that you mention it, I recognise him! He’s the VP of Jung Corporations.”

Jaehyun tuned them out as the last of the students filtered past, slipping into the music room himself. “Hey, fiancé.”

Doyoung grinned gummily, “Hey, yourself. So what brings you here Jaehyunnie? You weren’t very revealing in your text earlier.”

Jaehyun tucked his hands into his pants pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels, “My lovely mother has made a rather outrageous proposition that she expects the both of us to fulfil.”

Doyoung raised an eyebrow, “Oh. Walk with me Jaehyunnie, I need to get my stuff from the office and you can tell me about this proposition on the way.”

Jaehyun nodded and the two of them fell easily into step with each other, heading towards the music office. “So the thing is, she wants us to visit them. In Connecticut.”

“Oh?”

“They’re hosting an engagement party in celebration of us, but I told her we’d only go if you said yes.” Jaehyun stopped to look Doyoung in the eye, “So please, say no. I am not prepared to deal with the hundreds and thousands of aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins harassing me about my personal life.”

Doyoung blinked with wide eyes, “Oh, okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah, okay, we’ll go.”

Jaehyun sighed, “Wow, I really hate you. You really do do everything just to make me suffer.”

A devilish look painted its way onto Doyoung’s face, “Annoying you is not just a personality trait, but a lifestyle choice.” His voice softened, “But I really would like to see the place where you went to abandon me.”

“Oh God, not this again—”

“And quite honestly, I’m a bit terrified of your mother.”

Jaehyun nodded, “Fair. She is indeed a bit scary.”

Doyoung let out a breathless laugh and then pushed open the office door, where two other teachers were seated on a single desk, fighting over a frosted donut. The one with floppy blond hair grinned widely as Doyoung appeared in the doorway, “Hello Doyoung and guest!”

Using this distraction to his advantage, the teacher with darker hair successfully won the battle over the donut, biting into it triumphantly. “Kun!” The blond looked distressed.

Doyoung rolled his eyes at their antics, “How do you two not have classes to teach?”

Kun smiled around a bit of sugary donut, “All the second years are on a field trip today.” He licked a finger delicately, “Who’s your guest?”

Doyoung turned back to Jaehyun, “Jaehyun-ah, these are my colleagues, fellow music teachers Qian Kun and Kim Jungwoo.” They both waved, “And this,” Doyoung gestured back to Jaehyun, “is the bane of my existence and fiancé, Jung Jaehyun.”

Jungwoo’s pale eyebrows rose into his hairline, “Fiancé? I hope you’re prepared to compete with all the teenage girls fawning over Kim Doyoung in his classes.”

Kun’s eyebrows rose for a different reason, “Jung Jaehyun, eh?” He grinned wolfishly, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Doyoung flustered, “No you haven’t.”

“Oh yes, I have. It’s always like, Mm I’m craving ramen? You know who makes the best ramen? The love of my life, Jung Jaehyun.”

“I have never said anything of the sort!” Doyoung screeched.

Kun turned his attention to Jaehyun, “He’s lying. I’ve heard everything about you from the depth of your dimples, to the ungodly hour that you wake up, to your unfortunate belief in aliens.”

Jaehyun felt affronted, “Hey, aliens could definitely be out there and to simply dismiss their existence is foolish.”

Jungwoo smiled brightly, “Ah, it’s nice to know that you’re exactly like Doyoung said. And just as handsome too!”

Having grabbed all his belongings, Doyoung hurriedly grabbed Jaehyun by the arm and dragged him out of the office, “Okay, I think that’s enough today. So nice to see you too, I’ll see you in two weeks, bye!”

“Two weeks? What?”

“See you!” Doyoung slammed the door aggressively behind him and turning to Jaehyun, “I just want you to know that not a single word said in that room was the truth.”

Jaehyun smiled in amusement, “Of course.” Unthinkingly, Jaehyun grabbed Doyoung’s hand in his own, dragging him out of the school, “Come on seonsaeng-nim, we’ve got a flight to catch.”

Doyoung made a distressed noise and allowed himself to be guided into Jaehyun’s car.

━━━

After hurriedly packing their bags, Doyoung and Jaehyun hurried to the airport and checked in. “Well,” Jaehyun checked his watch, “we’ve still got about two hours until the flight, so do you want to grab something to eat and then go through security?”

Doyoung nodded and began to lead the way, “Being your fiancé is exhausting Jung Jaehyun, I hope you’re aware that I’ll be using you as a neck pillow on the plane.” Doyoung let out a gentle yawn before stretching and continuing on in his search for food.

“Yeah, the past few days have been crazy…” Jaehyun’s tone was wistful, but he was quickly pulled out of his peace by a nearby screech.

“Lovebirds! Wait for us!” At the sound of the familiar voice, Jaehyun felt his heart sink to the bottom of his stomach and turned with hundreds of other heads towards the direction of the commotion.

Doyoung turned beside him and squinted, “Is that—?”

“Ten, Yuta, Taeyong, Johnny and Taeil?” Jaehyun heaved a heavy sigh as the other travellers around them exchanged whispers and giggles before resuming their own activities, “Yep.” Jaehyun and Doyoung stayed in their places as the other five quickly caught up to them.

“You guys really didn’t have to come to see us off, really. But, how did you get past the baggage check anyways if you’re not travelling?”

“Well,” Taeyong scratched his head sheepishly, “About that.”

Doyoung shook his head, “No way.”

A smug smile stretched its way over Johnny’s features, “Actually, our lovely Valentine boy’s mother contacted me directly, asking the five of us to accompany you on your little adventure.”

“What the fuck,” Jaehyun let out a low curse as the older male continued.

“She says it’s so that you could get a second opinion on wedding arrangements, but also so that your closest, most loved friends are at your engagement party! I’m honestly offended that you didn’t invite us yourselves.”

“Come on, it’s time for an adventure lovebirds! I’ve always wanted to visit America!” Ten skipped joyously towards the food court and the other troublemakers followed closely behind.

Jaehyun stayed rooted in place as Doyoung tugged his hand cautiously, “Jaehyunnie, are you—?”

“What the fuck,” Jaehyun repeated in defeat. And that was how he found himself on a plane halfway across the world with his fake fiancé and five troublesome friends en route to his own engagement party.  

Chapter Text

Time seemed to pass slower in the air as Jaehyun looked for ways to waste away the eleven hours they had in the sky between Seoul and San Francisco. He and Doyoung spent the first two and a half hours watching a film on the plane entertainment screen, Doyoung’s head rested casually on Jaehyun’s shoulder. They decided to watch The Proposal because Doyoung insisted that in order to successfully convince everyone that they were indeed married, they could take some pointers from a movie couple also involved in a fake engagement. Jaehyun had snorted in amusement, “But in this relationship, you’re Sandra Bullock, right?”

Around halfway into the film, Doyoung’s eyelids began to flutter as he fought the urge to fall asleep.

“Tired?” Doyoung hummed thoughtfully in response. 

“You can sleep if you want,” Jaehyun murmured softly to Doyoung, “I’ll wake you when they’re serving dinner, if you’d like?”

Doyoung let out a soft yawn, “Wanna finish the movie. We’re studying how to be fake–engaged.” 

Jaehyun smiled fondly as Doyoung struggled to keep his eyes open, eventually giving in to the pull of sleep, breaths evening out. Jaehyun continued to watch the movie by himself, running his hands through Doyoung’s dark hair in soothing motions.

As the film drew to a close, the air stewardesses began to roll out trolleys of food and drink. “Doyoungie,” Jaehyun gently shook Doyoung awake. Doyoung started awake and blinked blearily, taking in his surroundings. “Hyung, they’re starting to serve dinner.”  

━━━

After a “pretty good for plane food” meal, Doyoung fell asleep again almost immediately. He curled up into himself and shifted in his seat so that he faced Jaehyun, planting his head into the juncture between Jaehyun’s neck and shoulder. 

What would have been a casual action and totally fine, normal even under any other circumstances now took on new meanings. Jaehyun knew that Taeyong and Yuta were exchanging knowing glances and that Johnny was probably taking a photo or two to send off to Jaehyun’s mother. Jaehyun knew that to anyone else—to the public—that he and Doyoung probably looked the image of a perfectly domestic couple. His ears reddened at the thought. 

But, Jaehyun thought to himself, does it really matter what other people think? As long as you know the truth. Besides, you’ve discussed this more than often enough with Doyoung. 

You both benefit from the situation. 

You’re just helping each other out.

Fine, silky hair ticked Jaehyun’s collarbones and Doyoung’s warm breaths heated Jaehyun’s neck (and his ears too, but something about that wasn’t quite scientifically correct) as he slept peacefully. Whilst Doyoung’s cheeks had been rounded and soft in his childhood, he had grown up to become sharp and angular, befitting of his equally sharp and cutting wit. Yet, as he dozed on Jaehyun’s shoulder, there was something undeniably unguarded and gentle in his expression. His typically expressive and tightly drawn eyebrows had relaxed, granting him a younger and softer expression.

Jaehyun’s heart stuttered for a brief beat in his chest. 

Trying not to overthink the situation, Jaehyun decided that sleeping for a few hours would probably be a good idea and found himself carefully laying the airline–supplied blankets over both himself and Doyoung, dropping his head on top of Doyoung’s in search of some rest. In the midst of a very eventful week, Jaehyun had forgotten what sleep felt like and now seemed as good a time as any to catch up on some. Afterall, they had a very long flight ahead of them.  

Jaehyun felt his own eyelids slide shut and was lulled by the static whir of the plane engine into a dreamless sleep, rested against his fake fiancé, thousands of feet up in the sky. 

━━━

When Jaehyun awoke again, the cabin was quieter and darker than when he fell asleep. An odd reading light or two lit up the aisles of the plane but aside from that, a cursory glance around the cabin told him that many other passengers had also fallen asleep in the meantime. Checking his phone, he found that it was already two in the morning in Seoul time. He opened the clock application on his phone and checked the time zone conversions. 10 in the morning in California. That meant there was still an hour and a half left before they were scheduled to touch down in San Francisco for their first layover. 

Noting that Doyoung was still fast asleep, Jaehyun carefully slid a pillow under Doyoung’s head and slipped out into the aisle in search of a bathroom. Doyoung continued to sleep without a care in the world.

As he navigated his way down the aisle he bumped into Taeyong, who cradled a cup of instant ramen. Jaehyun smiled easily in greeting, “Hyung! Enjoying your flight?”

Taeyong gave a small smile in response, “A bit tired, but hungry.” A sly smile, “However, I see that you and Doyoungie have had no trouble sleeping. You two look…” He searched for an appropriate word before settling with, “cozy.” 

Jaehyun’s gaze dropped to the ground, “The plane blankets were cozy,” he mumbled. 

Taeyong let out a quiet laugh, “I’m happy for your Jaehyun–ah. After that one night in our first year of university, I was worried that things wouldn’t go back to normal. For us. For you two.”

Jaehyun sighed, “Hyung, it’s not a big deal. We were both drunk, we both made mistakes. And it didn’t mean anything to either of us.” 

Taeyong looked somewhat regretful, drawing his bottom lip between his teeth, “It became obvious almost immediately after that we were just both craving something else we couldn’t have.” 

Jaehyun felt like he’d been thrown headfirst off a cliff, heart dropping to the bottom of his stomach in horror and guilt, “Oh God, I’m so sorry. Taeyong, did you—”

Taeyong’s eyes lit up in amusement and he let out a tinkling laugh at this, “God, no. In the kindest way possible Jaehyun, but I would never. Let’s just say that we definitely had a lot more in common at the time than you think, with the whole pining after someone halfway across the country thing. I mean, I’m mostly over it now and he definitely doesn’t know, but I’m glad that this worked out for one of us at least.” 

Jaehyun felt bewildered, the conversation slipping away from him much faster than he could have imagined, “What do you mean?”

Taeyong cut Jaehyun a knowing glance, “Wasn’t Doyoung on work placement in the countryside for a whole month at this time? I understand that you would have been lonely, and,” Taeyong held his hands up defensively, “I definitely get it, I promise.”  

Jaehyun’s eyebrows crawled into his hairline, “What does Doyoung have to do with any of this?”

Taeyong laughed again, “You don’t have to keep denying it, it’s fine Jaehyun–ah. I mean, honestly, we all sort of saw this coming—regardless of whatever stupid marriage pact you made when you were younger.”

“But I—”

“Seriously, Jaehyun–ah, we’ll get our fill out of teasing you two later, so it’s fine to admit that you’ve loved him for that long. In fact, it’s kind of sweet.” Taeyong smiled beatifically again and walked back to his seat by Johnny’s side, still cradling his steaming cup of ramen, leaving Jaehyun feeling completely and utterly bewildered.

What on Earth just happened? Did Taeyong really think that Jaehyun had been in love with Doyoung since university? And was Jaehyun so unobservant to apparently miss that Taeyong was “pining” (in Taeyong’s words, not his) after someone else in their first year of university? 

Jaehyun hurriedly went to the bathroom and, trying not to overthink, returned to his seat. Doyoung had apparently woken up whilst he was gone, but still looked exhausted. “Where’d you go Jaehyunnie?”

“Bathroom.”

Doyoung’s expression was petulant, “That was a long time to be in the bathroom.” 

“I ran into Taeyong and we had a little chat.”

“Mm,” Doyoung yawned, “what’d he say?”

“That it’s obvious to him that I’ve been in love with you since university apparently,” Doyoung snorted at Jaehyun’s dry tone, “Also, did you know he was, quote–unquote pining over someone during our first year of university?”

Doyoung looked unsurprised, “Yeah, it was Yuta and I’m fairly certain that Yuta knows as well. He just pretends that he doesn’t.” Doyoung extended his arms out to Jaehyun, beckoning him back to his seat.

Jaehyun laughed softly and folded himself into the seat next to Doyoung, offering him his shoulder to sleep on again, “Really? I suppose it’s not that surprising, but Taeyongie was so certain that Yuta wasn’t aware. Probably means that he’s not as aware as he thinks then, so I really shouldn’t worry about his suggestion that I’ve been in love with you for the past few years.”

Doyoung arched a single brow, “I should hope so. Until a few days ago, you were very much in a committed relationship. Moreover Jaehyun, I think you would know if you were in love with me for the past few years. In fact, I think I would know as well, so don’t worry about it.” He yawned again, “Let’s go back to sleep. We’ve still got a bit of time until we land.” 

“Seriously, all you do is eat and sleep,” but Jaehyun’s words were soft and his tone was fond.

Doyoung hummed with amusement, “I didn’t choose this lifestyle, it chose me. And don’t worry, Jaehyunnie, I’ll reserve some of my waking hours for you too.” 

━━━

Sixteen hours and one layover later, they arrived in Denver for their second layover. Jaehyun felt exhausted and Doyoung sagged into his side as they walked around the airport in the hour before they needed to board the plane again for the final leg of their journey.

The two walked side by side, shoulders brushing, with a familiar neck pillow still hanging from Jaehyun’s neck. Jaehyun couldn’t help the smile that twitched at his lips as he recalled Doyoung’s birthday note. In a twist of fate, he hadn’t actually left Doyoung to fly to America—as inevitable as it had seemed to Doyoung. Rather, here they were together

Although it had been just over two weeks since Jaehyun’s life had been tipped on its head, it felt like it had been so much longer, with all that had changed. 

“What time is it?” Jaehyun asked absently—somehow, they had managed to lose the other members of their entourage.

“Four forty in the afternoon, local time,” Doyoung replied after a long yawn, “Which is around when we left Seoul yesterday, in Seoul time. So technically , we’re back in yesterday.” 

“Woah, time travel. Cool, right? And it explains why I’m so tired—it’s like I’ve lived through today twice.” 

Doyoung snorted, “You’re such a loser.” 

“You’re the one marrying me!”

Doyoung hushed him, “It’s a beneficial marriage for both of us.” 

Jaehyun rolled his eyes and the two of them wandered leisurely back to the boarding area, “We’ll be in Connecticut before we know it.” 

“How long is this flight?”

“Just under four hours, from my memory.”

Doyoung smiled impishly, “Oh goodie, only four hours until I get to see in person the place where you, Jung Jaehyun, abandoned me, Kim Doyoung, aged six —” 

“Shut up, soon enough, Connecticut will have new memories associated with it anyway.”

Doyoung’s lips curved in amusement, “Yeah?”

“Yeah! We’ll have time for adventures in between all the wedding preparation and engagement part for sure. Besides,” Jaehyun felt almost shy under Doyoung’s piercing gaze, “It’s also where we’re going to get married, and surely, that’s more important than where I spent four years of my life when I was like five, no?”

Doyoung shook his head fondly, “You’re such a sap.” 

“Hey! A sap and a loser? I’ve really got nothing going for me, don’t I?”

“Well, you have your wallet and your face —”

“Oh, disgusting,” Johnny interrupted, with an expression that matched his outburst, “You’re not even married yet, so please stop bickering like you are . And, if you ask me—”

“We’re not.” Jaehyun and Doyoung both interjected in unison, exchanging amused glances.

Johnny steamrolled on as if he had not heard them, “—you’re both saps. Disgusting saps. That’s why you deserve each other.”

Doyoung made an affronted sound, “I’m too tired for this. Bully Jaehyun instead!”

“With pleasure.”

“I hate you. Why am I marrying you?”

“Because you love me,” Doyoung aggressively fluttered his eyelashes and Jaehyun could faintly hear Yuta making retching sounds. 

“Gross! What did I say about you both being saps? Some of us would like to keep our food down, if that’s okay with you.”

━━━

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat are in the full upright position and that your tray tables are folded. Please ensure that your seat belt is securely fastened and that all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartments. Thank you.” 

Doyoung buzzed with excitement beside Jaehyun, “Connecticut, Connecticut, Connecticut—”

Jaehyun felt his heart swell as he took in the sight of his closest friend for twenty years fidgeting in his seat with childish glee, “You’re cute, hyung.”

Doyoung looked shocked for a brief moment, but the expression disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, “I know,” he replied with defensive flippancy. 

“Flight attendants, prepare for landing please.”

“Connecticut, Connecticut, Connecticut—” 

Without thinking too hard about it, Jaehyun threaded his fingers casually between Doyoung’s, feeling the other pause in his chanting with his eyes widened and mouth agape for a short moment. “Was this just to get me to shut up? Jaehyunnie, I would have been quiet if you just asked.” 

Jaehyun felt an easy smile pull at his lips, “You wouldn’t have and you know it. Besides, I wanted to.” He found that his words were completely true.  

Doyoung was silent and Jaehyun slid a glance over to his right so see Doyoung pressing his lips tightly together and the faintest flush of colour settling high in his cheeks. Jaehyun’s smile widened and he wondered briefly what else he could do to fluster Doyoung into a state of silence. 

Pressure built in Jaehyun’s ears and the engines roared as they barrelled towards the ground, but all he could feel was Doyoung’s fingers squeezing his own and turning white as the plane finally hit the tarmac. 

“–landing—” 

Doyoung’s teeth gnawed at his lower lip and with the way his eyes widened and determinedly avoiding Jaehyun’s stare, Jaehyun was immediately reminded of why Yuta and Ten were so fond of the nickname bunny that Doyoung so loathed. 

Cute.

“—welcome to Bradley International Airport. The local time is eleven twenty PM and the temperature is—”

“—really fucking cold, what the fuck.” Doyoung was shaken out of his stupor as he shivered furiously. 

Jaehyun laughed, “Welcome to Connecticut.”

Doyoung cut Jaehyun an unimpressed glare, but didn’t let go of his hand, “Let’s get off this plane quickly, I really need my sleep.” 

“Doyoung, you just woke up!”

“So?”

With only minimal bickering, the two of them shuffled off the plane and wound their way through the airport. Jaehyun felt exhaustion creeping up on him as they stepped onto an escalator that would take them down to the luggage carousel. Doyoung rested his chin on Jaehyun’s shoulder as the escalator descended downwards, and Jaehyun found himself comforted by the steady weight. 

It was hard to think about how twenty-four hours ago his mother had decided that they would fly halfway across the world—and halfway across the world they were now—so Jaehyun decided not to ponder too much on it. 

“‘m cold,” Jaehyun heard Doyoung mumble into his ear, “and tired.” 

In response, Jaehyun simply clasped Doyoung’s hands in each of his own and inserted them into the pockets of his warm coat, feeling the older boy melt against his back in exhaustion. “We’ll be able to sleep soon. As soon as we get back.” 

Doyoung’s cheeks lifted against Jaehyun’s neck as he smiled. With his hands still tucked in Jaehyun’s pockets, the two of them haphazardly made their way to the luggage carousel, where they found the others already waiting for them. Taeil and Johnny exchanged a secretive smile as Ten whistled loudly, drawing the attention of more people than Jaehyun would have liked. 

Yuta shook his head, “I don’t know how I didn’t see this coming earlier, honestly. Look at you two.” 

“That’s because you’re unobservant,” Doyoung replied with a heavy glance in Taeyong’s direction, which was returned with twin glares from the two in question. 

“Speak for yourself,” Taeyong huffed, to which, Doyoung lazily flipped him off in response before returning his hand to Jaehyun’s pocket. 

“Anyway,” Jaehyun interrupted uncomfortably, “Let’s get our stuff and get out of here. I really could do with some sleep on an actual bed and not thousands of feet up in the sky.” It was true. Between the long flight, the time zone difference and the boy clinging onto his back like a koala, Jaehyun felt exhaustion slowly creeping up on him as well.

After hauling their luggages out of the airport, Jaehyun felt a small smile return to his face despite the sheer exhaustion that threatened to steal his consciousness at any given moment. Gentle rainfall greeted them as soon as they stepped out and Jaehyun found himself lifting his face to it despite it being, as Doyoung had so eloquently put, “really fucking cold”. 

Ten immediately let out a squawk and buried his way under Johnny’s coat, who battered him away in response. Yuta let out a similar wail of despair and held his hands up to shield his hair as they made their way to the taxi bay. Doyoung let out a quiet giggle as their friends sprinted for cover, him and Jaehyun trailing at a leisurely pace behind them.

“I’m too tired to run, Jaehyun–ah,” Doyoung’s breath warmed Jaehyun’s neck and right cheek in the cool; his warmth pressed against Jaehyun’s back felt heavy and reassuring against the frigid weather, “I hope you don’t mind getting wet.” 

Jaehyun’s heart plummeted before taking off again at an unhealthy speed, “Are you normally this provocative, or is this a new development?”

Doyoung laughed again, “It’s not my fault that your mind takes you to places that you don’t like. Besides, the answer is indeed yes, you’ve just never picked up on it.” His voice lowered almost precariously, and the rain fell harder, “I hardly see how that’s my problem.” 

Jaehyun made the tragic mistake of turning his head to the slide to cut Doyoung a scathing response, only for his nose to brush against Doyoung’s cheek and for him to be suddenly far too close to lips that looked impossibly soft, incongruous to the sharp words that they often gave rise to. Raindrops clung crystalline to his dark eyelashes that framed angular and probing eyes, filled with heavy promise. 

Jaehyun felt his breath catch in his throat. 

It was in moments like this when Jaehyun was reminded of why exactly Doyoung had failed to settle down—much to the chagrin of his parents and brother. He was stupidly charming, and tantalising in an easy, sharp and dangerous manner. People were naturally drawn to him like moths to a flame and Jaehyun now found himself struggling to be identified as an exception, slipping perilously from what was safe and familiar. Jaehyun felt drawn tight like a string, threatening to snap at any moment. 

Their shared gaze was broken by a headlight passing briefly over them and Yuta’s voice calling loudly out to them, “Hurry up, or we’ll leave without you!”

Jaehyun shook himself out of his trance and dragged a complacent looking Doyoung over to the taxi bay, where the group split between two cabs. The driver turned reproachful eyes upon them at the state of their soaked clothes.

“Disgusting,” Ten murmured darkly under his breath from the backseat of the car, “absolutely atrocious. Visceral. Stomach-turning. Gross. Sexual tension that could be cut with a butter knife. I am never playing rock-paper-scissors with Taeyong ever again when something like this rides on my loss." He switched to English and pitched his voice a little louder for the taxi driver to hear, "I hope your place is close, because I really don't feel like retching tonight, if it's all the same to you."

The taxi driver looked horrified, "Please don't."

Jaehyun chose wisely to ignore Ten and gave the taxi driver his parents’ address. 

With a queasy expression on his face the entire trip, the taxi driver drove at borderline illegal speeds, reaching the house faster than Jaehyun and ever experienced before, looking noticeably relieved when the three exited the cab. 

Jaehyun handed over the cash to pay for the trip and wished the driver a good night, Doyoung still clinging to his side. 

"You too," the taxi driver replied faintly, before speeding off into the night. 

There was a beat of silence before Doyoung exhaled loudly, “I can’t believe I was right about your surburban American estate, what the fuck. I was joking, but really, I should have known better.” 

Indeed, the white-trimmed house towered imposingly over them, lights still glowing from inside the house despite the fact that it was just past midnight. The lawn they stood in front of stretched freely across the front of the building, bookended by neatly-trimmed fencing and tall pencil pines that lined the long, winding driveway.

A car door slammed behind them and Jaehyun turned to find that the rest of their group had finally arrived. “How on Earth did you guys get here so quickly?”

Ten looked proud of himself, “I told the cab driver that I was going to throw up.”

Doyoung glared, “Thanks for that, by the way. I felt like my neck was going to snap off in there at the speed he was driving.” 

Ten shrugged flippantly, “Don’t worry, with the way that you were attached to Jaehyun, the only thing that would have broken in there would have been your fingers. Or Jaehyun’s poor arms.”

Jaehyun felt heat rise to his cheeks as Taeyong raised his eyebrows suggestively at him. “Anyway, now that we’re all here, let’s just go inside and get settled in. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m beat.” 

Jaehyun unlocked the door and they filed in, luggage wheels and shoes clattering against the wooden flooring, “Ma? We’re here!”

A petite woman descended down the stairs, beaming brightly, dimples sinking into each cheek and passing breezily past Jaehyun, “Johnny, I haven’t seen you in ages! Oh, you’re so thin!” She tsk-ed loudly, and moved closer to pinch his cheeks, “God, what does your mother say about this? You clearly aren’t feeding yourself well enough,” she tsk-ed again, “Definitely in need of a good feeding. And you feel freezing! Don’t worry, we’ve got the heating on. You’ll be warm in no-time.” 

Doyoung let out a snicker beside Jaehyun as he made an affronted sound, “Ma, it’s nice to see you too.”

Jaehyun’s mother frowned disapprovingly, “Yes, yes Jaehyun–ah, eomma has lots of time for you too, just let me say hello to my favourite son first.” 

Jaehyun spluttered in disbelief and Johnny preened with a shit-eating grin on his face, “That’s right Jaehyun–ah, be patient.” As Jaehyun’s mother turned again to Johnny to fuss over him, Jaehyun discreetly flipped him off, much to Doyoung’s amusement. 

“And Kim Dongyoung, I’m so happy to see you again! I believe that we’ll be inviting you into the family soon enough and then,” she dropped her voice conspiratorially, “you’ll get to be my second-favourite son, but don’t tell Jaehyun-ah.”

Doyoung smiled sagely, “Of course not.” 

Jaehyun’s mother finally turned her gaze to him, “Well, why are you just standing there son? Introduce me to your friends, don’t be so rude!”

“Ma! You know them all already!” Jaehyun felt himself slipping into a state of despair, his mother’s familiar dimples mocking him as she pursed her lips in expectation.

“Oh, I’m just teasing, but really, I have short-term memory, Jaehyun-ah! Come on, introduce me to you friends and then you can get settled in and into bed. I’ll bet you’re all exhausted.” 

Jaehyun let out a long suffering sigh, which lacked any malice when coupled with the fondness of being reunited with his own family. He skimmed over brief introductions, positive that his mother remembered everything about them in great detail as her sharp eyes darted over each of his friends. Jaehyun was certain that she just enjoyed his suffering. 

As he concluded his introductions, she dimpled again, “Ah, it’s very nice to meet you all! Jaehyun’s father apologises for not being here to welcome you all, but he’s also had a long day and is already asleep—which I’ll bet that you all wish you were doing too!”

She sighed wistfully, “I’m not sure that I’m young enough to be handling long flights anymore to be quite honest. Well, grab your stuff and I’ll show you to your rooms.” 

She led them up the stairs and Doyoung trailed almost hesitantly behind. Jaehyun retreated to accompany him, “Hey, you okay?”

Doyoung let out a faint laugh, “Six-year-old Kim Doyoung would be furious, but wow, I can’t believe we’re really here.” 

Jaehyun laughed at Doyoung’s disbelief, “It’s only catching up to you now?” He swung an arm casually over Doyoung’s shoulders, “Come on, let’s go up. We’ve got a long couple of days ahead of us.”

Doyoung yawned again softly, “Yeah. It doesn’t feel like I’ve slept at all for the past twenty-four hours.” Jaehyun snorted loudly, much to Doyoung’s offense. The two of them followed the others up the stairs only to be stopped by the sound of Jaehyun’s mother’s voice.

“Doyoung–ah, come back! I’ve actually set you up in Jaehyun’s room!”

Jaehyun slid his mother an incredulous gaze, “You’re kidding, right?” 

She waved his concerns away, “Please Jaehyun–ah, I’m your mother, not stupid. You’re engaged and I’m sure that you’ve done far more than share a bed before.” Jaehyun felt his ears burn, “Besides,” she looked sheepish for a brief moment, “some of your cousins will be coming over for the engagement party over the next few days and we need the extra rooms.” 

Not for the first time in twenty four hours, Jaehyun felt defeat settle within his bones as he accepted his fate. He laughed nervously, as Doyoung let out another loud yawn and entered their shared room, “Well, I’m exhausted. Stop overthinking and just come to bed.” 

Jaehyun tried not to scream for help as his mother raised her eyebrows in amusement and stepped out the door, “Try to keep things PG as far as the rest of us can hear, alright?”

Doyoung beamed as he dumped his luggage next to the dresser, “Of course we will!” 

Jaehyun’s mother cut Jaehyun a stern glance before she left the room, taking Jaehyun’s last shreds of sanity with her and leaving him alone with the most dangerous person he knew.