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it's not about reciprocation

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On the bus back from Yale Invitationals, Jaemin slumps down in his seat. The sky outside is dark, the bus uncomfortably cold. It’s the type of New England weather that slowly wreaks havoc on one’s extremities. 

“Why’d you move?” Jeno mumbles, head still resting on Jaemin’s shoulder. “Damn, I was close to going to sleep.”

There are three first place medals around Jeno’s neck, the thick blue ribbon looped over his drowsy body. If Jaemin looks down, he’ll see his own medals: first, second, and third place giving him the ever patriotic red, white, and blue. He lost to three teams tonight. 

Jaemin’s always been partial to the color blue. 

“Go back to sleep,” Jaemin says with a sigh, fixing his posture so that Jeno can sleep comfortably. He runs a hand over Jeno’s hair gently. 

Jeno shakes his head, but he’s curled up against Jaemin. “You woke me up,” he says. “What is it?”

“I don’t think I’ll make state—” Jaemin doesn’t even get to finish his sentence before Jeno begins to shush him. 

“You’ll make it, what are you saying,” Jeno says, voice no longer colored by sleep. He’s stopped attempting to nap on Jaemin’s shoulder. Instead he crosses his arms and glares at Jaemin like a petulant cat. “We did well in WIDI, and… your other events were also good.”

Jaemin rolls his eyes. He could hear Jeno’s hesitance before praising his other placings. “The other team beat me in Disease,” he points out. He doesn’t want to even think about Chem Lab. 

“Yeah, well,” Jeno says, “you’re still better than them.”

“I’m replaceable,” Jaemin corrects. 

Jeno opens his mouth, ready to disagree, before he seems to decide against it. He shakes his head instead. “I’m going to try and sleep again,” he says. This time, when he closes his eyes, he leans against the window instead of Jaemin for support. 

At the end of it, it always boils down to Jeno’s love of reptiles. Somehow, fresh-faced naive sophomore Jeno Lee had walked into the first meeting of Science Olympiad, saw the event description for Herpetology, and decided, yeah, that’s the event he wants to do for the rest of his high school career. And, well, no one else liked Herpetology—it’s the study of fucking amphibians, and amphibians fucking—so Jeno was sorely needed. 

That’s what it seems like from a distance, at least. In reality, Jeno joins SciOly because Jaemin’s doing it, and they’re best friends. 

Jaemin had made the egregious error of choosing events that then-captain Jungwoo Kim had a complete claim over. It was no surprise at the end of the invitationals season when Jeno was made a member of the state team and Jaemin a measly alternate. 

Maybe it would’ve made Jaemin resentful if it was anyone else besides Jeno. There’s no way to feel negative about his best friend when he spends his free time identifying various snakes and frogs. 

This year, thankfully, Jaemin’s events don’t align with any one of the team captains. Lucas tends to gravitate towards the more annoying biology events—like, ew, Anatomy and Physiology—while Yerim does a lot of earth science events—which Jaemin also thinks are gross, except for the fact that Jeno does a couple of them. He still has problems with the captains, though, namely one captain. Mark Lee. 

Here’s the thing about Jeno and Jaemin: they’ve been friends since 5th grade, best friends since junior high, and during freshman year they met Mark Lee and Donghyuck and Renjun and that quite possibly all went to shit. 

Not to say that Jaemin isn’t best friends with Jeno, but he’s certain that there are things that Jeno just… doesn’t share with him. Sometimes, when Jaemin walks into the cafeteria, he’ll see Donghyuck and Jeno whispering furtively, but when he sits down they’ll immediately pretend they were talking about some inane bullshit. As passionate about Herpetology Jeno might be, Jaemin finds it hard to believe that he would inspire Donghyuck into talking about hognose snakes. Donghyuck’s part of the speech and debate club, the little punk. 

And then the texting incident—or, as Jaemin calls it in his head, sexting incident—occurs. 

It’s a normal day, the two of them hanging out at their usual spot in the library after school. Jaemin’s just finished up on his BC Calc homework, and he leans over to ask Jeno for the textbook answers. 

In doing so, he inadvertently sees exactly two things on Jeno’s outrageously large iPhone XR screen before Jeno slams his phone, face down, onto the table:

1. Jeno’s contact for Mark, which is a sarcastic “Markles” followed by three hearts. Jaemin’s contact on Jeno’s phone only has one heart. He would know, he checked last week. 

2. A diagram of frog sex positions. This bears a bit of explaining. After the diagram appeared on the MIT Invitational Herpetology test, the picture became famous among all of the SciOly kids. Hence Jaemin’s ability to recognize it within a split second. 

Hence Jaemin’s reaction within a split second. He’s always been good at controlling his emotions, so he schools his expression into something teasing and raises an eyebrow at Jeno. 

“With the way you hid your phone, I would’ve thought you were doing something…” Jaemin trails off, smirking slightly. The implication is clear. 

Jeno shakes his head furiously. “Mark just, um, sent me this, and asked me whether I knew all of the answers?” His lying is so obvious that it’s almost amusing. 

Jaemin furrows his eyebrows. “There’s obviously some ulterior motive.” He looks over at Jeno, who for some reason seems downright petrified. “Do you… Does Mark…” He trails off, shaking his head. “What kinda whack ass way to flirt is that?”

Jeno splutters slightly. “It isn’t flirting,” he says. “Mark’s been helping me with the image sheets, so he sent me—”

“Wait a second,” Jaemin says. “Mark’s been helping you with the image sheets?”

Jeno blinks at him. “Yeah?”

Make it make sense. Make it make sense. Mark, science team captain, resident senior, busier than the rest of the captains combined even after getting into his dream school, making image sheets of itty bitty snakes and lizards for Jeno to practice off of? Jaemin’s mind buzzes with the possibilities. 

He must be silent for too long, though, because eventually, Jeno heaves a sigh. 

“I know you don’t get along with Mark, or whatever,” Jeno says. The whatever is supposed to indicate that whatever problems Jaemin has with Mark Lee are one-sided, which they most definitely are. “But I’m friends with him, so… try to get along?”

Jaemin nods. “I’m not trying to be overly,” he searches for the word, “antagonistic, but.” He pauses. “Are you sure you don’t have a crush on him?”

Jaemin wouldn’t be surprised if Jeno had a crush on Mark, is the thing. He himself did for a split second, back during freshman year. Donghyuck’s been in love with him for the past five years. Even Renjun succumbed for a second when he saw Mark’s homecoming pictures on Facebook.

Jeno gives him an unreadable look, before looking back down at his homework. “I thought we agreed to like, not talk about this stuff?” he says finally. 

“So you do like him,” Jaemin insists.

Jeno gives him a half-assed shrug, then bends down to his backpack. He pulls out his headphones, the fancy noise-canceling ones Jaemin had gifted him on Christmas, and doesn’t say a word for the next two hours. 

At the beginning of their junior year, while everyone’s getting prepared for Team Selection Testing, Renjun sends a message to the SciOly Messenger chat that changes Jaemin’s life. 

injun: Haha Jaem & Jeno are always on the same wavelength ;o maybe they should do WIDI
(10 Laugh Reacts) (1 Heart-eyes React) (2 Angry Reacts)

Jaemin doesn’t think much of it, initially. The two of them were the ones to angry react the message, and Write It Do It has a bad rep. According to the Science Olympiad website, the event practices “integral scientific skills”—communication, and “the accurate dissemination of information”. The “writer” has to describe a structure, and the “doer” has to follow the instructions to build the structure. There’s no connection to science at all. It’s jank as hell.

“I’d be down for being WIDI partners,” Jeno says to him before BC Calc. “What do you think? I'd be the writer, of course, since I can't read your handwriting.” 

Jaemin’s so surprised by the statement that he forgets to pick up the notes sheet in the front of the classroom. He ends up having to make do with his shitty handwriting in his messy notebook, knowing that Jeno will send a picture of his notes if Jaemin asks. 

He stares at the back of Jeno’s head throughout the forty-seven minute period, wondering what could possibly be going through his head. Write It Do It? Seriously?

“Are you for real?” Jaemin whispers into the back of Jeno’s neck as they exit the classroom. 

Jeno shivers, turning to look at Jaemin. “Don’t do that,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. His eyelashes flutter slightly. 

“Sorry.” Jeno usually isn’t fazed by Jaemin’s need to touch people. “But seriously, you want to test for WIDI together?”

Jeno shrugs. “I mean, why not?” he says. “We’d be good partners.”

Jaemin pictures it, for a moment. The two of them together, at an awards ceremony, standing on the stage being presented with first-place medals in perhaps the most ludicrous Science Olympiad event to ever exist. 

He’s seen Jeno win before, but it’s always been from a distance, watching from the audience. This time, they can be on the same stage. 

In some ways, doing WIDI is really a two-way relationship—they’ve become WIDI partners because they’re close, but in a way, the WIDI partnership is what makes them grow closer. It’s the sort of relief Jaemin hasn’t felt since freshman year. Sophomore year had been the year where Jaemin hadn’t shared any classes with Jeno, and a trainwreck for a couple reasons besides that.

Now, they manage to slip back into a routine that’s surprisingly comfortable. It reminds Jaemin of middle school, the hours they spend after school studying and preparing at the library. It isn’t just WIDI that they spend time on, either—they’re in the same Calc class, and the homework tends to overlap for their other courses despite having different teachers.

It’s good that they can spend time together. Not just because Jaemin enjoys it—of course he enjoys it, it’s Jeno, the two of them manage to coexist in harmony for the most part—but because Jeno sometimes will ask Jaemin for a bit of his snack, or rest on his shoulder for a moment, or play games for too long until Jaemin scolds him on his horrid posture. 

They’ve put so much time and effort into WIDI, by the time invitationals season comes around, that Jaemin would almost be surprised if they didn’t medal at least once. 

The day after the texting/sexting incident, Jaemin’s careful to gauge the mood before sitting down at the lunch table. As per usual, Jeno and Donghyuck stop whispering as soon as Jaemin shows up—he thinks he even heard Donghyuck say his name. Jeno’s got his laptop out, scrolling through an image sheet of different frog species. It’s irritating.

“Hey guys,” Mark says, coming over to the table with Yerim by his side. He gestures to the seats on the other side of Jaemin. “Is anyone sitting here?”

Jaemin looks at him and shrugs. “I don’t know.”

Yerim gives him an odd look at that. Jaemin ignores it, looking down at his homework. He’s doing his tarea para la clase de español, which is due next period. 

“No one’s sitting there,” Jeno says, spine straightening as soon as he sees Mark. He smiles brightly, clearing up his Herpetology practice tests to make room for Mark and Yerim’s belongings. 

Jaemin had graciously let Jeno’s materials impede his own space. Not that he’s comparing the two of them or anything. 

“What class do y’all have free?” Donghyuck says. He rests his chin on the palm of his hand as he stares at Mark unabashedly.

“AP Lit.” Mark grimaces. “Worst class I’ve taken by far. I thought I’d stop being stressed after I got into my earlies.”

“What kinda flex,” Jaemin murmurs under his breath. For a month after Mark got into Duke, Jaemin’s parents were on his case about how Mark Lee was such a stellar example, such a good Korean-American son, he even goes to church, maybe you should start attending on Sundays too. 

Yerim narrows her eyes at Mark. “That’s because you don’t participate during class discussion, so your grade gets fucked.”

Mark heaves a sigh. “It’s all those fuckin’ debate kids,” he says. “Do you know how intimidating it is to look at Chaeyoung in the eye and tell her, no, I disagree with your analysis?” 

Donghyuck deflates as soon as he hears Mark’s words. Mark’s vitriol—half joking, half serious—for the debate team is one of the many obstacles between him and Donghyuck. It’s as if they’re a modern day Romeo and Juliet, separated by two ideologically different academic clubs. Jaemin kind of thinks it’s romantic, except he also thinks Mark isn’t worth having a crush on.

Jaemin’s eyes narrow. “Maybe you should’ve done debate instead of SciOly, then,” he says loftily. “If it would give you more confidence.”

Yerim gives Jaemin another odd look. She seems to be in favor of communicating through furrowed brows rather than actual words today. 

Jeno hits his shoulder. “Chill, man,” he says quietly. Jeno never calls him “man” unless he’s around Mark. Somehow Mark’s mere presence seems to inspire the usage of bro-isms. 

At that point, Jaemin wonders why the hell he’s still paying attention to a conversation involving Mark Lee. He leaves from the table as fast as he can.

Jaemin’s wrestling his coat out of his locker when he sees Heejin and Hyunjin together. Instinctively, he looks away, pretending he never saw them. There’s something about seeing his ex-girlfriend with her new girlfriend that’s—just kind of awkward. 

This is why Jeno and Jaemin agreed to not talk about… this. Feelings, relationships, whatever. 

He’s reminded of the tweet Renjun sent him at the end of sophomore year, after he broke up with Heejin: “According to an Oxford University Study, if you go into a romantic relationship, it costs you two friends.”

Fucking Oxford University had been right with that one. Jeno and Donghyuck distanced themselves after Jaemin told them about his girlfriend. Maybe it wasn’t intentional—the two of them had a lot of classes together, none of them shared with Jaemin—but Jaemin likes to think that their friendship is stronger than which period of AP Physics each one of them has. He still doesn’t know why that had happened. Thankfully, things remedied themselves mere weeks after his relationship with Heejin ended. 

“Hey Jaemin,” Heejin says, stopping by his locker. “I feel like I haven’t seen you all year!”

Serendipitously, Jaemin had a ton of classes with Jeno this year and none with Heejin. The complete reverse of last year’s schedule. 

“Yeah, same,” he says with a laugh. Hyunjin, beside Heejin, remains almost impassive. She’s scary good at physics, but refuses to try out for the SciOly team. She refused to be partners with Jaemin for the semester project, too, staring him down imperiously when he asked. 

Hyunjin is one of the Top Five People that scare the shit out of Jaemin Na, and the rest of the people on the list are horror movie villains. 

“We’re in the same physics class,” Hyunjin says quietly. Heejin smiles at that, excited. 

“Really?” she says. “Were you guys partners for the—”

“No,” Jaemin says, shaking his head. “We weren’t.”

Hyunjin barely suppresses a grimace at that. “I think we should go,” she says, placing a hand on Heejin’s shoulder. “My dad’s picking me up soon.”

Jaemin goes back to taking his coat out of the locker, but he watches them disappear into the distance. Heejin Jeon is probably the biggest mistake he made during sophomore year. Not because they had a bad relationship or anything—quite the opposite, and Heejin’s cute—but because of why they broke up. 

During Spanish class, Jeno hands over Jaemin’s Spanish homework. Half of the answers are filled in with Jeno’s black gel pen. He’s tried his best to imitate Jaemin’s terrible handwriting, but everything Jeno has written is ten times neater than Jaemin will ever be able to produce. 

There’s a sticky note affixed to the top of the page. Y r u so mean to Mark?, it reads. You’ll make state team for sure!! ^_^

It’s been a week since Yale Invitationals. Tomorrow, there’s the final SciOly invitationals meeting. The day after, the state team will be announced. 

Jaemin sighs, then looks over at Jeno, halfway across the classroom. Jeno doesn’t turn to meet his gaze. His Spanish teacher always plays music before the beginning of class, and the lyrics right now seem pretty damn relevant: No conoces mi corazón…

As a result of dating Heejin, Jaemin somehow gets closer to Renjun. Maybe the cause and effects aren’t directly related, but there’s some correlation somewhere. Anyway, after a particularly nice date, Jaemin sends a live photo of Heejin biting on the string of her hoodie to Renjun. Mostly because he knows Renjun pretends to be annoyed by it despite actually being a soft romantic at heart. 

jaem: look at this omg!!
jaem: [attachment]
jaem: isn’t she so cute :o wahhh
renjunjunjun is typing… 

Renjun never ends up sending him the grudging we get it, you LIKE her, don’t bother me about it that he expects. 

[2 hours later]
renjunjunjun: huh doesn’t that remind you of jeno 
renjunjunjun: they both bite stuff like they’re teething babies, wtf

Initially, Jaemin brushes it off. But that’s the thing about an idea—once it’s planted in his head, it’s like a virus. It infects his thoughts, his actions, until Jaemin’s wondering how Jeno would react if he brought Jeno to the town fair and gave him a giant plushie instead of Heejin. 

So, he and Heejin break up. 

The first stage of SciOly is Team Selection Testing, which selects people to make up two fifteen-person teams to compete at invitationals meets. The TSTs don’t do much besides rooting out the people who don’t put any effort into SciOly, so Jaemin’s not surprised when he’s placed on all of his desired events—Write It Do It, Disease Detectives, and Chemistry Lab—without much studying. 

Invitationals season is when things really start to get intense. Jaemin switches up his Spotify playlist from Peaceful Piano to Rap Caviar while he’s working on chemistry problems; his lunch period during school becomes increasingly occupied by homework that’s due the next period; he stops wearing his Fitbit because looking at how little he’s been exercising is disappointing. 

“Jaemin,” Jeno says, tapping his shoulder. Jaemin barely hears it over the Childish Gambino he’s blasting—you’ve got silverware but really are you eating though?, he mouths silently—and pauses his music. 

“Yeah, what is it?” Jaemin asks. 

“I’m hungry,” Jeno says mournfully. He’s twirling one of his hoodie strings on his hand. It gets closer and closer to his mouth. 

It wouldn’t be the first time Jeno put an aglet between his teeth. 

“Fine, I have food,” Jaemin says quickly, getting a brown bag out of his backpack. Jeno copes with stress in different ways. Mostly, he gets hungry, so Jaemin’s taken to packing his lunch with the food he knows Jeno likes—fried rice with soy sauce and some vegetables, too, because Jaemin worries about Jeno’s unhealthy snacking habits sometimes—and silently handing it over after school. 

Jeno’s eyes brighten when he opens the bag. “Thanks,” he says. Thankfully, the two of them are no longer in the library. Once the library closes, they usually migrate over to the cafeteria. After school, the expanse of tables and seats is transformed into a dim and silent oasis. 

Jaemin watches him as he eats for a couple of moments before he looks back at the Chem Lab practice test he’s taking. The test isn’t hard, mostly mindless balancing equations and stoichiometry so far. 

“How’s Dynamic Planet going?” Jaemin asks, eyeing the screen of Jeno’s laptop. It’s zoomed in, screen set to 150%, to a document with size 7 font. There’s a couple of diagrams about, like, earth science shit or something. 

Jaemin wouldn’t know. He hasn’t really thought about what’s underneath his feet since junior high. 

Jeno shrugs as he chews on the rice. “It’s fine,” he says once he swallows. “Herpetology’s more interesting, though. Horned lizards squirt blood out of their eyes, did you know?”

“Ew, stop,” Jaemin says, which is his default reaction to anything reptile-related. A lot of his Messenger chat with Jeno looks like this:

jeNo ^-^: [attachment]
jeNo ^-^: isn’t this snake so cute :3
jaemIn ;) ♡: sorry im not rlly into tiny danger noodles. pls stop 

“I don’t understand how you like earth science,” Jaemin continues, leaning forward to look at Jeno’s laptop. Jeno has approximately thirty tabs open on the same browser. When Jaemin hovers over one, the title reads Top Ten Cutest Cat Pics!

“I mean, GeoMap is literally just math and map-reading skills,” Jeno says. “And I like DP, so.” He realizes what he said too late, eyes widening. “You know what I mean.”

Jaemin snickers. “Yeah, totally.”

“Stop,” Jeno whines, dragging out the vowel. He shakes his head. “Why are you always like this?”

“Like what?” Jaemin asks, leaning forward. 

“Like,” Jeno gestures vaguely. “This. You’re so—”

“Say it,” Jaemin presses. He’s curious now, curious to hear what Jeno really thinks. 

“Flirty,” Jeno bites out. Jaemin stops smiling. 

Jeno covers his face with his palms. “No, that’s not what I meant. But—”

“It’s fine,” Jaemin says. “I’ll stop, um, yeah.” He’s barely aware of the words he’s saying as he shoves his earbuds back in. He’s too obvious, and the pain of it burns like a bad scrape. 

But, yes, about the whole friendship-going-to-shit part: Jaemin’s never had a best friend before Jeno Lee walked into his life. Elementary school, for the most part, had been an odd exercise in being friends with everyone. Seventh grade was its own kind of a trainwreck, and he and Jeno hadn’t gotten close until eighth grade. Jaemin may be kind of, well, in love with his best friend, but ultimately there are things he values more than his petty pride. 

Which is why, after the end of the SciOly meeting, he finds himself asking Mark if they can talk outside for a second. 

“What is it, Jaemin?” Mark asks. He looks dead tired, with eyebags that are almost as dark as Jaemin’s preferred coffee order.

“Uh, I just wanted to say,” he hesitates. “I’m sorry for like, um, sometimes being. Well, you know.”

“Petty as fuck?” Mark suggests. He rubs at his eyes. “Look, I know you’re still trying to figure out that whole Jeno thing, but please just tell him you like him.”

Jaemin’s mouth twists. “Who told you?” he demands. “And what does that have to do with anything?”

Mark rolls his eyes. “No one had to tell me shit,” he says. “It’s just,” he gestures vaguely, “there. And it’ll probably make you, like, ten times easier to be around.”

“Whatever,” Jaemin says, brushing it off. He’ll think about that can of snakes later. “But I’m sorry, okay?”

“Alright,” Mark says. “I accept your apology.”

“Also,” Jaemin says. “Will this affect team selection?”

Mark narrows his eyes at Jaemin. “You really know how to piss someone off, huh,” he says. He turns to leave. “I’m not even bothering to answer that question.”

Mark Lee waved at you!
Mark Lee: btw, to answer ur question
Mark Lee: all decisions made by the officers are as objective as possible. :]

Somehow, all of the effort spent on Write It Do It does pay off. It ends up being Jaemin’s strongest event, and they sweep MIT, Cornell, then Yale Invitationals. The stack of 1st place medals, carefully hung on the lamp near Jaemin’s bed, continues to grow. 

Jaemin’s other events are more of a hit or miss. One of his partners doesn’t have a Facebook and never responds to her school email, so they never end up taking a practice test for Disease Detectives. His other partner, Jisung Park, is a precocious baby freshman—he’s surprisingly good at chemistry for a kid who’s taking Honors Biology right now—but is nowhere near Jaemin’s level. 

“I don’t know what to put for my partner evals,” Jeno says. He’s staring at the screen of his laptop as if hoping the Google Form will tell him what to write. 

“You better be giving me fives on everything,” Jaemin says. “I was the best partner, right?”

“I already submitted your eval,” Jeno says absentmindedly. “I’m talking about my other partners.”

He scrolls down to the bottom of the partner evaluation form.

How much effort did your partner put into this event? Rate on a scale from 1 to 5.

“It’s for Yerim,” Jeno continues. “Like, I kinda carried her ass with the herpetology IDs, so she carried me on Dynamic Planet? So I don’t know what to give her.”

Jaemin shrugs, leaning forward so that his chin rests on Jeno’s shoulder. “Just give her a four, it doesn’t even matter,” he says. “She’s a captain, she’s on the team automatically anyway.”

Jeno nods slowly. He reaches down to pat Jaemin’s hand. “Yeah, that makes sense.” Jeno’s hands are warm and soft, palms a little smaller than Jaemin’s own. 

The state team will be emailed out to everyone at 8:00 pm exactly. Jaemin figures the captains didn’t want to send it out right after school because they want to avoid answering questions. He isn’t surprised. 

At 7:50 pm, Jeno calls him. “Keep me on speaker,” Jeno says, voice slightly muffled. “So we can hear it when we make it onto the state team.”

“You really like me, huh,” Jaemin says. He means it in the friendship sort of sense, but after what Mark said—now that he thinks about it—

“What’re you talking about?” Jeno asks. He sounds genuinely confused. This is the thing Jaemin hates about phone calls. If they were in person, it would only take one look for him to figure out whether Jeno was lying or not.

He stares down at his phone. As if it would give him any answers. His Samsung phone has the blue cat case on it that Jeno bought him as a joke. The stack of first place medals, all of them won with Jeno, glint in the corner of his room. 

Jaemin must be silent for too long, because Jeno sounds markedly more nervous the next time he speaks. 

“Did—did someone tell you?” Jeno asks. His voice trembles. 

“What?” Jaemin says, confused. He runs a hand through his hair. It’s 7:56 pm. “Look, I’m trying to tell you something.”

“I like you,” Jaemin says. 

“I think I’ve had a crush on you since freshman year,” Jeno says, at the same time. 

“Wait, what?” Jaemin asks. It’s 8:00 pm. The page reloads. 

Dear State Team,

Your event assignments are attached in the spreadsheet below. 

This is it. You made it. You are our elite. You are the team that is going to make history. 

All of us need to work every ounce as hard as we did for invitationals. No, scratch that, we need to work even harder. Way harder. 

Best of luck,
Yerim, Mark, Lucas, and Yuqi

“Holy shit, we made it!” Jaemin says. Jeno’s practically yelling on the other end of the phone with how excited he is. 

After a couple of minutes, they calm down. Jaemin remembers what they had been talking about before the email was sent. 

“Jeno,” he says. 


“I like you. A lot. Even though we’re best friends. Even when you send me pictures of frogs and talk about how cute they are,” Jaemin says. He pauses, considering. “Especially when you talk about how cute they are. So, uh, yeah.”

Jeno breathes heavily. The sound of it crackles out of Jaemin’s phone. 

“This is for real?” he asks. “You aren’t just… you know, teasing me?”

Jaemin shuts his eyes. Is that what Jeno meant, when he accused Jaemin of flirting all those weeks ago?

“No,” Jaemin says, softly. “I’m being legit.”

Jeno sounds like he’s laughing, or crying, or some bittersweet combination of the two. “I’ve liked you since freshman year,” he says again. “Legit.”

Jaemin sighs. “I’m such a dumbass,” he says. 

“Yeah, I can’t believe you thought I liked Mark,” Jeno replies. 

“That doesn’t matter now,” Jaemin says, deflecting. He starts to grin. “What matters is that you totally like me.”

jeNo <3: [attachment]
jeNo <3: this frog looks like u owo
jaemIn <3: … bruh wth
jeNo <3: did u just bruh me
jeNo <3: wth >:c
jaemIn <3: sorry bb i dont like ppl who compare me to amphibians :///
jeNo <3: huh
jeNo <3: but dendrobates tinctorius are cute & deadly
jeNo <3: just like u ^_^
jaemIn <3: i fkin hate herpetology
jeNo <3: ♡♡♡