Jeno always figured the big revelation of feelings happens when you’re alone, in the darkness of your own room… or something. He blames all the shitty romcoms Donghyuck has forced him to watch during the years.
Jeno’s far from alone, even farther from home right now, but there’s a stupid bottle pointing towards him and Jaemin is smiling again and, well. Jeno figures it’s as good a time as any.
He faces Jaemin’s smile head on this time. As he watches Jaemin getting up from the seat across him, he figures he has approximately ten seconds to come to terms with some harsh, Jaemin-shaped truths.
To no one’s surprise, it all starts with Donghyuck.
“No,” Jeno says flatly, as soon as Donghyuck shows up at his door on a chilly February afternoon. His expression is full of… something. Jeno is not entirely sure what the something is but he already knows he doesn’t like it.
Donghyuck frowns at him “I haven’t even said anything yet.”
“Irrelevant,” Jeno counters. Maybe if he’s disinterested enough Donghyuck will abandon whatever dumb idea he’s come up with this time.
Like that has ever worked before.
“So,” Donghyuck continues cheerily, looping an arm around Jeno’s. Jeno sighs. “We’re adults now, right? I figured out how I wanna celebrate it.”
“For the last time,” Jeno says, trying and failing not to roll his eyes. “A life-size ice sculpture of Michael Jackson is not something any of us can make happen. Especially in the middle of summer.”
Donghyuk huffs. “Shut up, that was an eternity ago.” Jeno’s mumble of last week goes unnoticed. “Anyway,” Donghyuck says, his voice back to the initial cheer. “How I wanna celebrate is…” he trails off, miming a drumroll. “Wong Yukhei.”
Jeno blinks at him. “Mark’s friend? Dude.”
“No listen,” Donghyuck insists, “I am totally over Mark and we wouldn't have made sense anyway. It’s been a year already, let me live.”
“Never,” Jeno replies on instinct. Then adds, “Maybe if you stopped guilt tripping Mark for turning you down.”
“I did no such thing!” Donghyuck exclaims but then his voice goes quieter, softer. “Really.”
Jeno pats his hair - it’s so easy to forget about the softness hidden under all that sass sometimes. “I know. He is weirdly whipped for you, though. Anyway,” Jeno continues before the conversation dives into topics he doesn't really feel like right now. “The plan?”
“The plan!” Donghyuck grins. “I wheedled Mark into letting us have a party at his house.” He completely ignores Jeno’s eyeroll. “His parents are the only ones who’d allow a bunch of kids invading their house and I don’t exactly feel like being in public.”
The alarms in Jeno's head sound more like church bells - loud, ominous and, more importantly, final. He glances at Donghyuck, dread settling in his gut. “Is there a particular reason for that?”
“Why yes,” Donghyuck grins, eyes alight with something Jeno is one hundred percent sure he doesn't like. “Yes, there is.”
For all the dramatic introduction, Donghyuck's plan is fairly tame. It just involves a lot of… Dumb games. Human contact.
“Kisses!” Donghyuck exclaims, like it's the best thing in the entire world. Maybe it is. Jeno is far from an expert on the matter.
“Your grand idea is a game of spin the bottle.” Jeno deadpans.
Donghyuck waves him off. “It always works in the movies! What can possibly go wrong?”
“What-” Jeno starts, incredulous. “Where do I even begin?”
“Nowhere,” is the reply, still as determined. “Listen, I’ve thought it through! Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be Yukhei, although he is adorable. I just don’t want to enter adulthood with no kissing experience. Plus we’re now officially legal and classes will start soon so it would make sense to want to try alcohol, right? And it would make sense to want to do it in a friendly environment first. It’s a two birds-one stone situation, really.”
Jeno raises an eyebrow. “Basically, you want to get drunk and make out with all your friends for your birthday.”
“Shut up,” Donghyuck huffs, “Anyway, Mark invited Mina and Yerim so the whole thing won't look totally rigged. You,” he points at Jeno, like he’s giving him some sort of a life or death mission. “You have to initiate the game.”
“No.” Jeno says right away. “Why would you even want me to do it? I’m the least possible person to initiate something as dumb as spin the bottle.”
“Exactly!” Frankly, Jeno is a tad bit scared of the fire in Donghyuck’s eyes. “If Mark suggests it it’ll look like he’s trying to hit on Mina and Yerim and if I suggest it it’ll be obvious it was all planned. Come on, Jeno” he pleads, eyes big and watery and - “Please, please, please throw yourself under the bus for me this one time. It’s my birthday!”
“You’re not really making the offer inviting,” Jeno mutters, even if he knows he’s already resigned himself to his fate. By the smile that spills on Donghyuck’s face, he knows it too. At least it’s not the ice sculpture again.
“You’re my favorite person in the whole world,” Donghyuck sighs, latching onto Jeno’s arm and this one time, Jeno lets him. “Oh also,” Donghyuck adds a beat later. “Jaemin and Renjun will be there as well, of course.”
Here's the thing: it used to be just Donghyuck and Jeno. Donghyuck and Jeno, best friends in middle school, Donghyuck and Jeno attached to the hip, suffering together through the mythical land of high school. Jeno falls on the introverted side where Donghyuck is anything but. (Thats a lie. Donghyuck has his moments too, but where you have to know Jeno to experience the outgoing bits of his personality, you have to be really damn lucky to get to see Donghyuck's soft spots.)
In the end, it's been just them for the majority of their life. Then university became a thing in their near future and Donghyuck has since befriended a tiny ball of rage named Renjun - which would be fine, if Renjun didn't come with the addition of a certain Na Jaemin.
It’s not that Jaemin is mean or anything - on the contrary, from the get go he’d taken some sort of an interest towards Jeno.
Donghyuck claims it’s just like their own friendship - Jaemin likes people, enjoys being out and about. People like him are drawn to people like Jeno, Donghyuck says. And yet, Jaemin’s company feels nothing like Donghyuck’s, would’ve probably felt different even with the years upon years Jeno’s had to get used to Donghyuck’s quirks.
Jaemin is soft where Donghyuck isn’t, makes Jeno feel this tiny tingle somewhere in his gut, a restlessness that doesn’t quite allow him to get comfortable.
(Jaemin doesn't seem to share the feeling. He glues himself to Jeno at every opportunity, always makes sure Jeno is included in the conversation, always listens. He'd make a great friend, Jeno thinks, if it weren't for the stupid tingly feeling. It's there, always, various levels of intensity but never, never allowing him to be fully comfortable around Na Jaemin.)
“I don’t understand,” Renjun mutters, over his cup of coffee, glaring at no one in particular. “Why does it have to be alcohol?”
They’re in the campus café - they don’t exactly go uni yet, but it’s nice to immerse yourself in the atmosphere before professors start throwing assignments at you and you just kinda - have to.
At least that’s what Donghyuck says.
“Aww,” he coos. “Are you worried you’re gonna get drunk and do something embarrassing, Renjunnie?”
Jeno aims a kick under the table, and by Donghyuck’s pained gasp, it’s successful. Renjun seems slightly more cheerful afterwards.
“I don’t understand either,” Jeno says, eyeing Donghyuck - his entire being screams betrayal. “But it would be a nice experience, I guess. For future reference?”
“Well,” Jaemin says grandly, reaching over the table to pat Donghyuck’s hair. “I think it’s a brilliant idea.”
Donghyuck beams at him, then turns to give Jeno A Look. “This is why he’s my favorite. And you,” he spreads his arms out, jabbing a finger in Jeno’s and Renjun’s arms respectively. “You will always be ten steps behind.”
Jaemin claps, delight written all over his features and there it is again. That feeling. It’s a little more aggressive now, though, harsher. He looks away from Jaemin to state at his tea instead and wills the feeling to go away.
The supposed party goes a lot smoother than Jeno would’ve thought, honestly. Mina and Yerim show up late but together and both Mark and Yukhei seem delighted.
There’s music and as expected, alcohol, and very soon Jaemin challenges Mark to a dance battle. It’s a bit ridiculous, mainly because both of them dance like they’re trying to impress someone - which makes everyone in the room, Mina and Yerim included, regret their life choices. (Jeno may or may not be slightly impressed by Jaemin. Just a little, though.)
Yukhei spends a lot of time talking to Yerim and Mina and Renjun seems weirdly invested in the dance battle. Jeno, in turn, keeps glancing at Donghyuck. He’s frowning a lot and Jeno feels slightly bad for him.
The feeling is slightly less bad, however, when Donghyuck texts him a second later.
GET ON W/ THE PLAN!!!
Jeno takes a look around, desperately trying to find something, anything that would save him.
And then the resolution to all his problems lands next to him, quite literally, in the shape of an out-of-breath Na Jaemin.
Jeno bites at his lip, teeth digging into the skin just like the guilt etched in his gut. But Donghyuck’s glaring at him now, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
When it comes down to it, the fact is that Jaemin has a soft spot for Jeno. Jaemin sort of has a soft spot for everyone - sometimes he'd act like an exasperated parent to all of them, even though he's technically the youngest, Jisung and Chenle excluded.
But it's there - Jaemin will do just about anything if Jeno makes the right expression. It has been pointed out by people before, too. Sometimes it's Donghyuck complaining that Jaemin always shares with Jeno first whenever he brings them something home-cooked, sometimes it's Renjun rolling his eyes whenever Jaemin hipchecks him away just so he can take the seat next to Jeno. Jeno doesn't quite get it but it's a fact he's well aware of and sometimes takes advantage of. Can you really blame him, though? Jaemin really is a great cook.
Now, for all the weird Jaemin-shaped feelings floating inside him, Jeno's well aware Jaemin is actually a pretty nice person. He's sweet and kind and sociable and Jeno doesn't like exploiting Jaemin's weird weakness for him (most of the time). The jittery feeling is present again, too, like it always is but.
Donghyuck is still glaring at him.
Jaemin grins at him, still panting and Jeno... gives up. He takes a deep breath, prepares his best I'm-completely-innocent face and leans against Jaemin's shoulder.
Jaemin blinks down at him, then his grin turns somewhat softer.
"You know I have nothing to feed you with this time, right?" He says.
Jeno feels irrationally offended. And then it turns to guilt because - okay. Maybe Jaemin is not entirely wrong. But he ignores the pang of guilt in his gut once again.
"I don't like you just because you feed me," Jeno grumbles, then clamps his mouth shut. That definitely came out wrong.
But Jaemin laughs, then nudges Jeno's knee with his own. "Could've fooled me."
Jeno wants to argue, he really does. Except, he does have an agenda right now. It might not be food, but there's still something he wants from Jaemin. He shrugs off the sudden discomfort eating away at his insides. "Lies," he mutters in the end. He makes sure to choose his next words carefully - it'll be a thin line between casual and suspicious. "So," he starts carefully. "Have you ever played spin the bottle?"
Jeno blinks down at him again, eyebrows raised this time. "You feel like making out with people?"
Not really, Jeno thinks. Out loud, he says, "Maybe? Isn't that how parties are supposed to go? Have all the movies lied to me?"
"What kind of movies are you watching?" Jaemin laughs again, but Jeno can see the twinkle in his eyes. He leans against Jaemin again and just... stays there. Jaemin likes physical contact and Jeno may or may not be guilty of using that to his advantage at times.
That and, well. Jaemin is strangely comfortable for someone so bony.
The plan proves a success, when a few minutes later Jaemin announces, "Anyone wanna play spin the bottle?"
Mark is the first to snort in reply. "What are you, ten?"
"Uh," Mina starts, leaning over Yerim's lap for another cup. "I think I'd be pretty concerned if ten-year-olds played a game that involves making out."
"Are you scared, Lee Mark?" Jaemin tuts, grinning. Donghyuck raises an eyebrow as well.
Mark glares at no one in particular. "I hate all of you."
"Come on, man," Yukhei laughs. "Even I think it'll be fun."
"Fine," Mark grumbles, grabbing the first empty bottle. Turns out it's not entirely empty, because when he drops it on the floor with more force than strictly necessary, a tiny puddle forms at the neck. Mark glares at it, too. "Fine."
Jaemin does a little cheer and Jeno forces back a smile. He does squeeze Jaemin's arm when no one's looking, though. Jaemin's smile is nothing short of blinding.
The first kiss ends up between Mark and Yukhei and that's, frankly, weird to watch. Jeno keeps an eye on Donghyuck, just in case the whole it-doesn't-have-to-be-Yukhei wasn't the entire truth but he seems just... oddly fascinated. It's not a long kiss, just a press of lips (mainly because Mark jumps away so fast Jeno is not entirely sure the kiss actually happened). Yukhei looks a little confused and Mark won't meet anyone's eyes.
"You're all cowards," Donghyuck says grandly, then pulls the bottle towards himself. Maybe it's the (admittedly not much) alcohol in their systems, maybe it's just Donghyuck being Donghyuck, but the bottle spins so fast it blurs for a moment and then, bit by bit, slows down. Pointing at Renjun's feet.
Renjun scrunches up his nose, says something that would've probably been along the lines of You don't have to.
He only gets to the you don't part before Donghyuck just throws a leg over his, essentially settling into his lap, and plants his mouth on Renjun's. He leans back a second later, staring at a slightly bewildered Renjun.
"You know," Donghyuck starts, placing his hands on Renjun's shoulders. "That's actually kinda nice."
Renjun raises an eyebrow, then his arms wrap around Donghyuck’s waist and... tug him closer?
Everyone is quiet for a few long, long moments.
Donghyuck giggles, and then they're kissing again.
Mina clears her throat.
"Okay guys," Mark starts, in that I-really-wish-I-wasn't-here-right-now voice. "I think you fulfilled the kiss requirements, whatever they were. Like, the first time."
One of Donghyuck's hands slips away from Renjun's neck to flip Mark off.
"I think," Jaemin starts, scooting a bit further, "We can continue without them for the time being."
Mark looks like he’s in pain. "I'm not sure I want to play anymore."
"Tough luck," Jaemin grins at him. "I still haven't had a turn."
Yerim rolls her eyes, nudging Mina's side. "Why do I feel like we walked in on a weird courting ritual."
Mina sighs, then obediently moves along with the rest, away from Donghyuck and Renjun who still haven't let go of each other. "Because we did. But there's free food?"
Yerim rolls her eyes again, then shoves her hand in the bag of chips on Mina's lap.
With all the shuffling, somehow Jaemin ends up across Jeno in the new, haphazard circle. Jeno kind of misses his presence.
Mark heaves a sigh, pushing the bottle towards Jaemin.
Jeno isn’t entirely sure when he closed his eyes but that’s a fact now and the darkness feels reassuring, somehow. This way, he doesn’t need to see the stupid bottle slow to a halt, pointing at Mina, or Yukhei, hell maybe even Mark-
There’s a cheer, a whistle and when Jeno’s eyes flutter open again.
Jaemin is grinning and the constant restlessness feels more like a riot inside Jeno’s ribcage. He blinks at Jaemin, his heart beating its way into his throat.
With Jaemin smiling like that, it’s not hard at all to understand why half the student body is ready to fall at his feet.
Jeno never really considered himself part of that half but, well. Maybe he should have.
He fights the urge to close his eyes again as he watches Jaemin sit up on his knees, then up, up, until he’s walking around Yukhei and Mark and in three, two, one steps he’ll be in Jeno’s bubble.
Three, two, one. Jaemin bends down, still smiling. Jeno feels bony fingers tipping his chin up and finally, finally stops flighting.
Jaemin plops down next to him again when he's done stealing Jeno's breath away.
Yerim threatens to leave and take Mina with her if she becomes witness to one more kiss which doesn't involve her. Her words.
"And anyway," Yerim continues because Yukhei looks like he's ready to say something dumb, "I really don't feel like kissing any of you after seeing... that." She glances between Mark and Yukhei, then at Jaemin, then back to where Donghyuck has moved from Renjun's mouth to his neck. "All that."
"I second that," Mina says with a sigh. She pokes Yerim's thigh, grinning. "I'd totally kiss you, though."
"Same," Yerim laughs. "But they don't deserve to see it."
"Mean," Yukhei whines.
Yerim shrugs. "That's life for you, kid"
Yukhei stares at her. "I am literally older than you."
Yerim just shrugs once more, then dives for Mina's chips again.
Needless to say, the game does not continue.
The whole situation is eerily similar to how everything started. Yukhei is talking to Mina and Yerim again, except this time Donghyuck takes part in the conversation from time to time. From Renjun's lap, which he still hasn't vacated. Renjun seems content with it, hands loosely wrapped around Donghyuck's waist.
Mark is staring off into space more than anything and Jaemin has his head on Jeno's shoulder.
Okay, maybe it's not exactly the same.
"So," Jaemin starts, voice slightly above a whisper. "Was the game how you imagined it?"
Jeno glances at Donghyuck absently tracing circles over Renjun's hands. Mark's barely concealed existential crisis. Jaemin's cheek burning a hole in his shoulder. "Not really, no."
Jaemin looks up at him. "Oh?"
"It was all Donghyuck's idea," Jeno says, because there's really no point at hiding it anymore. He contemplates the Yukhei bit for a second but with the recent developments, mentioning that would just bring unnecessary complications. "He wanted to celebrate being an adult by making out with someone."
"Oh," Jaemin breathes again. There's something in his voice, something Jeno can't exactly place, but before he can try to, Jaemin is smiling once again. It's a smaller, softer thing and it doesn't quite reach his eyes but Jeno finds himself blinded all the same. "It's a good thing he got Renjun, then."
Jaemin moves up and away and Jeno follows before he really has time to think it through. He draws back, praying Jaemin didn't notice. "It sounds like there's a story there," Jeno says instead.
"Maybe," Jaemin shrugs. "Even if there was one, though, it wouldn't be mine to tell. I think," he adds, sitting up. "I think I'm gonna go get some air."
In a moment of dumb bravery, Jeno asks, "Can I come with?"
Jaemin just stares at him for a few long moments, that something from earlier lurking in his eyes instead. And then he's smiling again. He offers Jeno a hand. "Sure, why not."
It's a rather warm night, considering it's February but spring isn't quite there yet. Jeno can't help but shiver once they're outside and Jaemin laughs, wrapping a hand around his shoulders.
"I run hot," he explains at Jeno's questioning look.
You sure do, Jeno’s traitorous brain supplies in a voice that sounds a lot like Donghyuck’s.
It looks an awful lot like cuddling like this, especially when they sit at the steps to Mark's house. But Jaemin is warm and also Jaemin so Jeno can't find it in himself to complain.
"Hey Jeno," Jaemin starts, and here it is again, the something. "We're pretty drunk right now, right?" Jeno opens his mouth to argue because - they're not. At all. But Jaemin beats him to it. "If I say something weird we'll forget by tomorrow, right? It'll be like it never happened."
The something tugs at Jeno's gut. He snuggles deeper into Jaemin because they'll forget, right? It'll be like it never happened. "Yeah," he says out loud.
"I feel a bit silly," Jaemin starts, laughing a little. "When you told me you wanted to play that game, I thought it was your way of saying you wanted to kiss me."
Jeno makes to get up, startled, but Jaemin just squeezes him tighter, hand keeping him in place.
"It wasn't," Jeno mumbles against his hoodie. It's him that feels silly now. The something - "It wasn't, at first? But I'm glad it happened."
Jaemin finally lets him go, choosing to stare at him instead. There's something bright, lovely in his eyes and his smile does reach them this time. "You are?"
It's like staring into the sun, even though it's well past midnight. Jeno buries his face in Jaemin's hoodie once again. "Yeah."
The hands around Jeno tighten and then he's ripped away from the warmth once again. He has the protest ready at the tip of his tongue, except Jaemin swallows it before he has time to voice it.
"You know," Jaemin says when they break apart some time later, "I don't think I want you to forget tomorrow."
Jeno laughs, fights the urge to hide in Jaemin's hoodie again (it's a lost battle).
Jaemin is warm, and smells nice, and the restlessness in Jeno’s gut is there, stronger than ever, but it fills up his heart and maybe Jeno has been a bit silly this whole time. He loops his arms around Jaemin’s waist, tugs him closer. "We're not that drunk anyway."