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march 3, 2018

 

it was almost the first day of school. time went by too fast.

 

jeongin looked out the window of the moving car. his hyungs and himself had been on vacation, as most would call it. they spent their break as wild as they could, staying up until three a.m. to play tabletop games while chan, woojin, and minho drank beer. it wasn't too crazy, but it was what chan allowed, so it was fine by his own standards. jeongin wouldn't be the one to skydive or anything like that, hell, he didn't even like to do aegyo that often. changbin shuffled beside him, bumping jeongin's ribs with his elbow. jeongin moved his sleeping hyung's elbow away from him. it was impossibly tiny in the middle row.

 

turns out it was extremely hard to fit nine men in a van than they thought ahead of time. but they had already rented the van for a month and there were no take-backsies.

 

woojin was driving, his wandering eyes constantly looking back on his dongsaengs to check on their condition in the cramped, slightly-overheated van. jeongin would see a hint of a smile on his face each time he looked back. chan was sitting in shotgun, eyes focused on the road. jeongin sighed. they'd been driving for two hours already and it felt like the driver and the shotgun had forgotten that bathrooms exist and jeongin had a big cup of fruit punch before they left the farm they were on. but there was no way jeongin would be losing this bet he made with felix. the said 00’ liner with his thick accent challenged jeongin and the maknae would not lose like this.

 

whoever asked the driver to stop at a gas station to pee first loses. and at this point, it was becoming almost unbearable how his stomach kept punching him and reminding him that fluids and waste need to exit after digestion . and all the gas stations they passed were like church bells, a blessing. but no one needed to go, and jeongin wasn't going to give up that easily to the hardly fluent foreigner in the very back seat with the rest of the 00’ liners. minho was sat right next to the sleeping changbin, molding himself and accepting his cuddling dongsaeng.

 

after a good thirty minutes, jeongin almost couldn't take it. minho's stomach erupted, and woojin instinctively pulled in at a gas station an half a hour or so from seoul. jeongin and felix dashed to the bathroom, the bet a tie. seungmin was fast asleep in the backseat with hyunjin playing on his phone beside him. changbin woke up to grab a few snacks for everyone, minho going with him to pick out specifics for each member. five minutes later, they were on the road again. jeongin's head was finally at peace, his head lolled to the side. the cold glass was pressed against his face and all he wanted was to sleep. he wonders briefly how the school year would play out. the nine of them were tight, tighter than most of the couples he'd seen at jyp high. he had seen relationships fall. he had seen the tears, the suicide. he saw how parents push their kids and take them away from those they love. it scared him when he thought of the possibility of that happening to them. if someone wedged themselves in between them. if they turned on each other.

 

it kept him up, how many nightmares he got. i'm a junior now , he says most of the time in front of the mirror. i know i'll be the last the graduate. but i can keep us together.

 

no matter what, they were brothers. even if they can't understand each other, or they have different views on the world, they'll always be brothers.

 

we'll be brothers , jeongin says, one final time. his eyes drift closed in a slumber he couldn't deny any longer.

 

 

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Chapter Text

march 8, 2018

 

“hello, i'm yang jeongin and i'll be your classmate.” jeongin's face scrunched up at how his voice went up a pitch or two higher. why was this so hard? it wasn't so hard last year or the year before that. middle school was a breeze , to be honest. so why was he having trouble? was the fact that his hyungs would be graduating at the end of the year finally getting to him? no.. that couldn't be it. it had to be something else! pre-school jitters? saying it like that makes it sound like he's six and his mom told him he was going to be left alone for a few hours with complete strangers. because that's what school was when you think about it.

 

he shook his head at his reflection.

 

“you're thinking way too hard there, jeonginie.” jisung took his lollipop handle in his hand, supporting his weight on his hand that was perched behind him. his eyes were lazily open, piercing into jeongin's through the mirror. jeongin almost wanted to stomp in defiance, because no his worries and thoughts were valid but he refused profusely to act like a child right then.

 

“yeah, take it easy, mate.” felix teased, tugging on his jean jacket. “second year was a breeze. and almost all the first year are coming back this year, so you'll practically know everyone already. you're fine.”

 

“but what if i'm not fine?”

 

“you will be, mate ,” jisung laughed, eyes lighting up. felix smacked his arm, joining in on the laughter.

 

hyunjin took jeongin's uniform jacket, carefully putting it on a hanger. “even if these two bozos are like this, they're right. absolutely nothing to worry about. it may be a bit harder, but second year is like a blessing.”

 

“how so?”

 

“you get to figure out your university and scholarships while not having to worry too much about graduating before you figure everything out.” seungmin supplied, folding jeongin's uniform pants and placing them on his dresser.

 

“where's changbin-hyung? i want snacks.” felix draped himself across jisung's lap, the older rolling his eyes.

 

he talked around his lollipop, not bothering to lift his hand up. “you should be happy we got this place. changbin-hyung isn't a bank.”

 

“i know but i'm hungry.”

 

“i'll make you something.” seungmin went to their bedroom door, exiting to make felix something to eat.

 

“you’ll be fine, jeongin. hyung’s honor.” hyungjin lifted his right fist to his chest, hitting it twice.

 

jeongin sighed, staring at his reflection. he didn’t feel scared. in all honesty. his real fears were irrational, stupid even. what if his hyungs get themselves a girlfriend, or boyfriend? and some years down the line, a family?

 

where would jeongin stand with that? he won’t get attention from any of his brothers. he won’t be important .

 

damn, it scared him shitless . felix swings an arm around his shoulders, smiling at their reflections. his freckles always made him look cheery and happy, even when he wasn’t. it really was his charm point, despite being completely weird and lovable.

 

“hyung’s got you, jeonginie. if we didn’t, who would annoy you to the ends of the earth, if not us?” felix laughed. his laugh was contagious, and naturally jeongin chuckled a bit.

 

maybe , he thought. maybe i don’t have to worry .

 

 

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Chapter Text

march 10, 2018

 

i totally have to worry.

 

it was like a fucking scene from a k-drama, how fast those girls went for hyunjin. none of them even hesitated. hyunjin barely made it out alive .

 

the five of them entered the school, saying goodbye to the four oldest.  

 

they had gotten their schedules a day before, felix and seungmin being in the same class and  hyunjin and jisung were more so by themselves. jeongin, being in a different grade, had to man it alone in his own class. though, he did get to have gym with jisung.

 

they were ready for the first day, uniforms pressed to perfection, supplies in backpacks that were in the living rooms waiting for the boys to swing them on their backs. everyone took them to school, jeongin was giddy. but once the doors to the cafeteria were closed, a group of girls ran up to their little group.

 

and hyunjin was quite handsome, jeongin'll admit. but having a whole crowd of girls run after him was a bit much — even for hyunjin. the perfect way to start off the day — perfectly insecure. they had managed to get away, miraculously.

 

it was the first period. jeongin watched at the others walked to the other side of the school, to the third year classrooms. a thought finally dawned on him. he was alone now. he looked both ways, clutching onto his schedule. he stared at the piece of paper, full-on dread kicking in. he was alone. he heaved a sigh, blinking at the schedule. no use in waiting. he walked on, going to the split first and second year hallways.

 

first class of the day, math. generally, a perfect way to start the day . The classroom was particularly empty, seeing as it wasn’t exactly time for class to start yet. people still had a good amount of time before they had to retreat into their classrooms for class. jeongin didn’t like chancing it, and seeing as his really only close friends had already left him to the third year halls, he was alone anyway.

 

better to be alone and not noticeable.

 

jeongin sat in an empty seat. there were two desks together, eight desks to a row. He sat in the middle, gripping his bag handle a little tighter than before. only a few students came in, laughing along the way.

 

man, where were the boys when you need them?

 

he worried his fingers, glancing around the classroom. he pulls out his textbooks, unsure if he would need them at the immediate moment. would it be a easy day, because it's the first day of school? or would the teacher drop on them a quiz, hard, to know their basic level? oh god, was he going to be dropped a class because he hates pop quizzes?

 

someone sat in the chair beside him, evidently facing away from jeongin. that's okay, jeongin thought. maybe we'll be on okay terms later on…

 

the bell rang and class started, the rest of the class piling into the crapped room.

 

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Chapter Text

the first class, ended rather quickly. jeongin hadn't had enough time to put up his coat, because the start if the day already began so hectic, but the teacher hadn't minded, giving them all a free day.

 

"jeongin," miss han smiled, at the boy whose head perked up. she had merely picked a random name from the attendance sheet, and jeongin's happened to be first.

 

jeongin waited for the teacher to continue, tensing in his seat. after a minute or two, it became obvious that she wanted him to come to her, so he stood and shuffled over to her desk.

 

"y-yes, miss han?"

 

her smile brightened, waving off his cautious manners. "no need to feel nervous. i only want one-on-one with you all, to get to know you better."

 

jeongin tensed, stressed at the thought of having to talk to his new teacher (completely new, as in new to the school new) one-on-one. he wasn't nearly convinced.

 

"good bonds equals a good year."

 

he nodded, eyeing the teacher's desk. it was almost clear, a stray few papers here and there.

 

“you can go now, jeongin. the meeting is for tomorrow. but i ask of you to be prepared, i have a few questions for each student.”

 

jeongin nodded, moving back to his seat to gather his things. he briefly wondered what miss han would like to ask him, before grabbing his lunch bag and leaving for the third year halls, so he could join his hyungs in lunch.

 

his hyungs were already sat around a group of desks, laughing and joking. he entered the room, hand gripping onto his lunch bag a little tighter. before, they resided in the same hall, they all were just a classroom or two away from sitting together in a classroom together.

 

now, it just seemed like he was so far away from them all.

 

a terrible, sinking came to jeongin’s heart suddenly, remembering that after next year, after they graduate, he’ll be by himself. that they’ll go to college, they’ll only ever really need each other — i mean, they are all the same age, why keep up with someone who’s younger and isn’t in your immediate attention — the hyungs will only really pay attention to the 00’ liners, since they’ll be starting out in college and they’ll probably need all the help they could get.

 

maybe, just maybe, they’ll ask “where’s jeongin? i haven’t seen him in a long time.” or maybe even “who’s jeongin?”

 

fucking hell, jeongin would be incredibly happy if he could just not scare himself just once.

he gathers himself, breathing deeply through his nose, forcing his grip to loosen on his lunchbox. nevermind , he decides. i can’t do this.

 

jisung turns his head towards the door and he sees jeongin standing there. he tells the others, the four of them turning towards jeongin.

 

“what are you doing, jeongin?” felix asks, waving him over with a full mouth. his other hand was preoccupied, holding chopsticks, feeding a waiting, open-mouthed hyunjin. hyunjin whined at felix, who was turned and distracted. felix turned to hyunjin, pushing the chopsticks in hyunjin’s mouth. hyunjin quickly closed his mouth, stopping the chopsticks from reaching too far and choking him. he ate the food given to him, forcing the chopsticks out of his mouth. “come over here and sit!”

 

jeongin nodded, smiling and walking over.

 

it was okay. he belonged with his hyungs. it was fine. he was fine, they were fine .

 

잠시만 (one moment)...

 

maybe it was fine. changbin had came home at six, like usual. his last class had ended thirty minutes before, some type of math jeongin thinks.

 

it felt like everything was in place again.

 

woojin and chris had some type of english songs playing, probably shawn mendes or ed sheeran, but he couldn't be too sure. chris sang them perfectly, knowing english as his first and only language for his first few years before his family moved to korea. woojin had tried to follow along, though quite often retreating to humming the beat of the song instead and letting chris take lead vocals.

 

minho was setting up the living room, spreading a blanket on both couches in the living room. he laid one of the larger ones on the floor between on couch and the tv stand, placing two large bowls on the blankets, preparing for the popcorn. they were all dressed in pajamas, changbin going to his room (shared with felix and minho) to put this own pajamas on, grabbing gyu as well, plopping down onto the loveseat next to seungmin, who was quietly reading. seungmin looked up, smiling at changbin, saying a soft “hi, changbin-hyung” before going back to reading his book.

 

felix took the big circular coffee table for these occasions from chris’ room, having to sweep all of his action figures off and pick up the large piece of wood. he placed in in the center of the large blanket on the floor for the food.

 

chan came in the living room, balancing two pans, woojin following close behind with bowls and plates, and an extra pan.

 

everyone cheered when they entered, jeongin screaming in a particularly high pitch that made felix jump up to slap his hand over his mouth. even though hyunjin was the one screaming the loudest, jeongin was the one to be shut up.

 

chris placed the two pans down, taking off his orange claw oven mitt a moment later to take some dishes from woojin and set them down.

 

everyone sprung into action from there (except minho who plumped on a couch, yelling at jeongin to place a plate for him), grabbing a plate (jeongin grabbed two for himself and minho) and placing it in front of them. woojin place his pan down, taking the oven mitts from chris to rearrange the pans on the center of the table, giving more room for plates and cups.

 

moments later, everyone sung in, taking spoonfuls of tteokbokki onto their plates and taking a whole bowl full of rice. minho eventually slid down next to jeongin, thanking the younger who prepared his food for him.

 

"now that we're together," chris said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. suddenly the chatter quieted down. christopher bang was now talking. "i wanted to give our high-schoolers something pretty cool."

 

jeongin eyes widened as chris stood. jeongin sat on his knees, watching the man leave the living room to his own. what could chris had gotten them?  new nerf guns? advanced nerf guns? no, the hyungs would never do that. they know just how dangerous jeongin us with a nerf gun afterall. especially during battles. but a new scope would be cool. his was broken from when seungmin accidently stepped on it with his huge boots after coming in when it was snowing. that day they had to rush to school and the gun had been left there.

 

seungmin had held onto him to a week in apology, and jeongin promised he’d never leave his nerf gun on the gun like that again. well, his favorites at least.

 

chris came back with his room, holding four jerseys. jeongin sunk suddenly, watching chris pass out the jerseys to the 00' liners. when he gave one to jisung, he had no more left in his arms. jeongin blinked, a sour feeling sinking into his stomach. he watched the 00' liners admire the black, white and red jerseys, their names on the back of them and on the front it said in aggressive handwriting stray kids .

 

they had called themselves stray kids, promising to each other that they'd always find their way back home, back to the eight of them. they weren't together until there was nine.

 

hyunjin was the first to put his jersey on and it looked as if it belonged to him. it didn't feel like he was only another body to fill the fabric, like it would be if jeongin were to wear it. the three jagged red stripes on both sleeves, the black that filled out most of the design except for the white bubbles so stray kids and his name on the back could be pronouncer in black writing. on top of his name, in white was the number five.

 

the others soon followed. six. seven. eight .

 

seungmin seemed to realize that jeongin didn't have one, but by then jeongin was already smiling, pointing to their jerseys in shock. "ah, hyung! you have those too, right?"

 

"you gave them those? i thought you'd give them, like, new shoes or something." changbin said, eyeing the jersey that was next of him, which happened to be felix.

 

"there's one for each of us."

 

jeongin smile faltered, only for a moment, but he felt like he needed to swallow the huge pin needle climbing up his throat.

 

"but what about jeongin?" jisung asked, also realizing that the younger didn't have one. the others looked at him and he wanted to shrink away. he suddenly felt bare and like he was nothing but a small rabbit to their huge wolf personas.

 

but he smiled.

 

"jeongin will get one when he's a third-year," chris waved it off. "like the rest of us."

 

"i didn't get mine when i was a senior, hyung. i was a second year." changbin countered.

 

"well that's because your mom got them custom made so we had to get you one."

 

"you wouldn't have gave one to me if my mom hadn't made it?"

 

everyone else laughed at the banter but jeongin could only think.

 

of course you'd get everything last. you're the youngest, the least important. the last to graduate, the last to meet them, the last to be though of.

 

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Chapter Text

jeongin was drowsy the next day, small, dark bags under his eyes. he was hanging onto seungmin, who was in the living room, waiting for woojin to get ready so he could drive them to school. 

 

jeongin had maybe (or maybe not, no one will ever know) cried himself to sleep the night before. he had stuck himself in the bathroom for most of the night because he would’ve made way too much noise in the room with seungmin and jisung. and depending on the day, seungmin would sleepily crawl into either jisung’s or his own bed for the night in his drowsy state. 

 

seungmin regularly had nightmares so that wasn’t too surprising. 

 

but he couldn’t have his hyung cuddle with him out of nowhere when he couldn’t even  make him feel safe. maybe his cries would only trigger a nightmare, hell if he knows. but he’d rather not risk it. 

 

but when he had finally became tired enough to crawl into his bed, seungmin quickly followed him under the sheets, holding jeongin close to his chest. it was as if he knew jeongin wasn’t okay. that he had spent the last two or so hours locked in the bathroom crying until he head hurt and his nose was painfully stuffed with snot, bad enough that the previously full roll of tissue had been reduced to only half. his eyes were blood red, and his hands shaky, along with the rest of his body.  

 

but he was fine

 

but that didn’t let up seungmin, who also woke up before jeongin to make him breakfast. and now he was acting as a human pillow for the younger, his body molding for the younger boy easily. jeongin didn’t mind it -- a bit of extra sleep was much appreciated. 

 

minutes later, woojin entered the room, announcing their leave to the house and the youngers, who stood and gathered their things.  

 

잠시만 (one moment)...

 

jeongin almost fell asleep two times during the lecture, but luckily just as he was going to fall asleep, his arm numbed and slid back on the desk, taking his head with it. he jolted up, attention splattered all over the place before he repeated the process again. 

 

after class ms. han stood, calling out jeongin to follow her out. 

 

jeongin stood, following her into the hall, into another classroom. he sat in front of her, arms tense on either side of him as he looked at the papers on her desk. 

 

“you don’t have to be so tense,” she says, picking up the stray papers into a neat pile. she pulled her hands together on the desk in front of her, two desks pulled up to each other, backs to each other so each of them could have a seat. “it’s just a few questions.”

 

jeongin nodded, shoulders loosening and his breathing evening out. 

 

she shuffled with her papers, taking one out of the stack strategically, and laying it out on the desk. she sighed then, taking her pen and ticking it on the desk. she turned the paper towards jeongin, giving him the pen. 

 

“is it okay if i ask you personal questions?” jeongin takes the pen, stuttering in his movements. he eyes the paper briefly, thinking hard. 

 

he nods.

 

“then please sign your name.” jeongin does so. it’s probably a precaution saying that he agreed to be asked questions. “you don’t have to answer any you’re uncomfortable with, okay?”

 

jeongin nods, giving the pen back. she takes the paperback, putting the paper on the top of the stack. she takes out a notebook, flipping it to a seemingly random page. she writes yang jeongin on the top, straightening her posture to begin. 

 

“okay, if i may ask, what’s your living situation?”

 

“uh, i’m living with my friends. i guess you could say, roommates?”

 

“friends? where are your parents?”

 

parents .

 

“my mom, uh, is in busan. my dad lives in the u.s right now on a business trip.”

 

“ah, do any of your friends go to this school?”

 

“they’re all third years, and the other four are in college right now.”

 

she hummed, writing something down in her notebook. “would you like to go to college.”

 

jeongin blinks, expecting this question. he shuffles in his seat, glancing at ms. han a few times. “uh, maybe? i never actually thought about it, really.”

 

he was ready for the whole spiel from her. college was necessary for success , you should be looking up colleges and blah, blah, blah . he could say he was incredibly lucky to have chris in the house with him and his western-like ideas. the elder had been the first to stand up for him in an emotional call with his parents, saying that jeongin could choose his own path when he was ready, whether or not that path included college. 

 

woojin had even said something about his lack of plans, but that’s to be expected. it’s hard to be in korea with a lack of a plan. 

 

“well then,” she says, scribbling something down in her notebook. “we can figure something out together, okay?” 

 

jeongin smiled a bit, subconsciously. he nodded, color returning to his face at the promise. 

 

잠시만 (one moment)...

 

“what happened at school today, jeonginnie? you didn’t come to our classroom to eat lunch and you were late to the car.” hyunjin asked, picking up a spoonful of rice and carefully placing a glop of kimchi on top of it, waving it in front of jeongin’s mouth. jeongin opened his mouth to appease the elder, who shoved the spoon in his mouth, cooing at him as if he was a child.

 

“i was-- i was-” jeongin stuttered, mouth clamping down on the food currently in his mouth. 

 

“eat first,” jisung resolved for him, drinking some of his sprite after seeing the boy struggling, suddenly feeling suffocated on his behalf.

 

jeongin swallowed his food slowly, glancing around the table. they were in the living room on the floor, eating some leftovers from both dinner the night before and lunch. minho was the only one here from the hyung line, taking it upon himself to heat up their lunch (more so his, seeing as he hadn’t eaten anything at all during the whole day). 

 

the oldest was sat across from jeongin, his piercing eyes trailing up to jeongin’s innocent ones. his eyes were questioning, bouncing from jeongin’s left to his right eye as if that would give him the answer. 

 

jeongin cleared his throat, looking away from minho to feed himself some more rice. “one of my teachers wanted to kinda interview me to find out more about me. nothing too much, and afterschool i was helping clean up the class so that’s why i was late.”

 

felix whined, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. “aw, i wanted to hear about jeongin getting a girlfriend.” he laughed, eyebrows furrowed in thought a moment later, shrugging. “or boyfriend, to each his own.” 

 

jeongin choked on his rice, chopsticks slipping out of his mouth in surprise. “hyung!” 

 

“what? let’s be honest here, all of us are incredibly good-looking, some of us more than others.” he gestured to himself, a wide smile tugging on his lips. “So who wouldn’t want a piece of yang jeongin? guy or girl… or whatever else.”

 

“wow, this is the first time i’ve heard you call me good-looking, felix.” jisung moaned, leaning his weight on his friend, who only shrugged him off. 

 

“you’re missing the part where i’m better-looking though.”

 

seungmin rolled his eyes, directing his attention back to jeongin. “was it ms. han?”

 

“yeah, was she your teacher too?”

 

“technically, yes. she transferred to jyp high in the middle of the school year. our old math teacher quit so she filled in.” seungmin explained, pushing the kimchi around with his chopsticks before plopping most of it on jeongin’s rice. 

 

“i heard she had a daughter or something in your class. i personally think she’s trying to see who can be friends with her.” felix supplied, slurping the soup in front of him. 

 

hyunjin snapped his fingers, nodding his head. “that’s right. the first day she got there she was all like ‘i have this niece or something and i’m new here.’” 

 

“that’s only half right,” jisung said, bobbing his head to dumb hyunjin’s discovery down, rolling his eyes. 

 

hyunjin reached across the table, plucking jisung on the forehead. “yah, don’t forget i’m still older than you.”

 

“by like seven months, we’re still born in the same year,” jisung sneered playfully, balling up his fists in mock anger. “you’re not special with your overgrown lip.”

 

hyunjin stood, shouting, “yah!”

 

minho’s voice cut like a saw in a block of ciderwood, staggering and unexpected. his voice was almost like malice, his eyes staring down hyunjin. “sit down. My shift is in an hour and i don’t want to have a headache.”

 

hyunjin sat down immediately, bowing to minho in apology. “i’m sorry, hyung.”

 

minho sighed, placing his empty bowl on the hardwood floor, standing and stretching. “i’m going to go take a shower, kids. behave, okay?” jeongin nodded, even when he wasn’t the one at fault, but always wary of an angry minho. he almost missed the playful smirk on his lips before he left the room. 

 

it was quiet afterward, but soon they fit back into their antics, hyunjin, and jisung playfully bickering. 

 

jeongin stared at the bowl of soup in his lap, eyes fading with time as his thoughts took over. 

 

friends? with who?

 

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Chapter Text

march 14, 2018

 

“ha, thank you so much jeongin, and you all as well!” ms. han smiled, clapping her hands at the boys. the ‘00 liners had came in afterschool to wait for jeongin, and decided to help out in cleaning up the classroom.

 

jeongin’s class had an activity and the class had gotten pretty wild and most had clubs and things to attend to. jeongin, naturally, offered to help and the others had joined in. jisung made up a game for them to play for basically everything; one for sweeping the scraps of paper and such on the floor, by having each of them race and record time to see who could sweep up trash in a line the fastest without leaving anything behind. Or even the one where they would see who could make the most baskets with bigger scraps of paper.

 

hyunjin won, but jeongin and jisung both argue that it was unfairly. seungmin had both tickled and nearly pushed the two of them out of the way whenever they shot.

 

foul play in all honesty.

 

in a matter of time, the classroom was restored and they were gifted candies that ms. han had in her goodie bag.

 

hyunjin called woojin to tell him that they were ready for him to come pick them up, and in the meantime they sat and waited, eating the candies ms. han had given them.

 

“sweetheart, why don’t you join them?”

jeongin turned his head at ms. han’s voice. he glanced back at the others only to see they weren’t paying attention, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. too preoccupied to realize that jeongin wasn’t contributing anymore.

 

han was talking to a girl in the corner of the classroom, one jeongin hadn’t even known was there. ms. han was standing over her, hand on her shoulder. the girl sat staring at the book in her hands, slowly shrugging ms. han’s hand off her shoulder.

 

“aunt hwa-young, can we go home now?” jeongin could vaguely hear the girl say.

 

“i need to make sure the boys get home first, then we can, okay?”

 

The girl lifted her head to glance at the boys, jeongin’s eyes fluttering from her left to right eye, suddenly shifting in his seat. her head hung again. immediately, jeongin could see her body stiffen, her hands gripping her notebook tighter. he could see himself in her.

 

and he wanted to save her. maybe then, he could save himself.

 

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Chapter Text

march 16, 2018

 

jeongin made a fucking effort and that's really all that matters. 

 

now, maybe he approached her the wrong way , but he tried. 

 

the girl, who jeongin now know name is (y/n), is ms. han's niece and resides in the back of the classroom. she was short compared to him, and he only knew because he may or may not have kind of creepily measured her height to his when it was lunch time. of course he didn't.

 

she stuck with her aunt like glue, it seemed. when it was lunch she would just pull up a chair to ms. han's desk and eat there. whenever ms. han left out the classroom she'd often than not follow. 

 

jeongin noticed a lot during the while. like how she would always tug her skirt that barely reached her knees down. she had a battered-looking hairpin she kept in her hair almost at all times. her school sweater vest was light purple, like her notebook. she would listen to music when there were breaks, she didn't raise her hand, she did--

 

let's get one thing clear, jeongin was no stalker. 

 

he was just attentive. 

 

"what are you thinking about?" woojin asked, dropping a piece of beef on jeongin's rice. jeongin looked up, swallowing the food that was near baby food with how much jeongin had chewed it. 

 

"nothing, i just--" 

 

"there's a girl in his class." felix whispered, though it wasn't quiet at all, to the others, wiggling his eyebrows at him. 

 

jeongin wishes he sneaked a nerf gun in.

 

"a girl? isn't our jeonginnie too young to date?" chris asked, lifting a spoon full of broth to his lips. 

 

"for the record, i'm seventeen." jeongin nearly sneered at him. chris placed his spoon down at the tone, giving his full attention to jeongin. "and there is no girl, and nothing's wrong." 

 

"we didn't ask if anything was wrong, we asked what you were thinking about." chris used his leader voice and suddenly, jeongin could only feel mad .

 

"oh, so you don't care if anything's wrong, then?" 

 

"that's not what we're saying, jeongin." chris used it again , sitting up straighter in his seat. jeongin followed suit. 

 

"then what are you saying, chris ." the hyung was meant to come out, it really was. but his mouth deemed itself too tired to continue on. 

 

chris clicked his tongue. "i'm saying that i'm not here to be your parent. but don't speak informally to me, jeongin. you know that if something's bothering you, you could tell us."

 

"you won't listen." jeongin cried. "none of you ever fucking listen--"

 

"that's enough, jeongin." chris seethed, slamming his spoon down, startling felix who was sat right next to him. "either sit down and eat or go to your room. obviously you can't talk to anyone right now."

 

jeongin stood, banging his knee on the table but he didn't care. he was mad. he was sad. he felt left out, too much of an outsider. and he didn't know why. 

 

"fine." he seethed, stepping over limbs to almost run to the hallway. 

 

and he didn't know why he wanted to cry either. 

 

that night, jisung and seungmin sleep in felix's, woojin's, and changbin's room. and jeongin has never felt so alone.

 

Chapter Text

march 17, 2018

 

maybe it showed that jeongin wasn't okay the next morning. maybe the others could see the bags under his eyes from crying himself to sleep. maybe they could see the sadness swirling in his eyes, as he sat at the table in the kitchen, picking at his food. 

 

his chopsticks hadn't even reached his lips, not even once. he didn't have the energy to try to eat.

 

jisung took a spoonful of rice and held it up to jeongin's lips. chris watched. 

 

"you have to eat something, jeongin. you didn't finish dinner last night." 

 

jeongin sighed, opening his mouth to accept the food. he didn't feel hungry. he didn't want to eat.

 

soon, everyone else was finished with breakfast, a few leftover pieces left over for jeongin to eat. but he wasn't hungry enough to reach for it, so he pulled out his chair so he could leave it off the kitchen and return to his room. 

 

"sit back down," a familiar voice scolded, gentle hands pushing him back down into his chair. jeongin could only huff and puff. "you ate nothing. you have to sit here and eat everything that's left." 

 

woojin sat in front of him, taking his phone out and leaning back into his chair.

 

"i'm not hungry, woojin-hyung." 

 

"all i've got is time," he continued, eyes sliding shut as he yawned. jeongin stared, following after. "if you don't make an effort to eat everything, i'll sit right here until you do."

 

jeongin picked up his chopsticks, picking around at the egg and other side dishes, sighing.

 

"wanna talk about what happened yesterday?" woojin asked, head propped up by his arm, as he watched jeongin eat bit by bit. "that outburst was unlike you. after yesterday, we didn't say anything this morning but we're all worried."

 

jeongin shrugged, picking up a piece of pepper to eat. he wishes vaguely that it was spicy so he could pretend that it was too much for him and he could leave. 

 

but he liked spicy things.

 

"it's not good to bottle up emotions, jeongin-ah." woojin explains, taking jeongins chopsticks and spoon, feeding the younger himself. 

 

"i don't know. i was probably just stressed from school and took it out on you guys. it's my fault for getting so worked up."

 

jeongin didn't know why he felt so mad the day before, but he did . all of the emotions just surged through him at that moment, and he felt so ignored and rejected. 

 

"it's not your fault, jeongin-ah. you're only human." he reassures, placing the chopsticks down. "just remember that all of us are here for you, okay? we all love you, you're our little brother. you can always turn to us."

 

jeongin turned to woojin with wet eyes. his nose burned as the tears filled his eyes and he leaned forward to hug woojin. 

 

"if no one else will be there, your hyungs will be, okay?" 

 

jeongin sniffled, nodding his head as he burrowed into woojin's shoulder further. "okay, hyung. i know." 

 

잠시만 (one moment…)

 

"can i play mario kart with you guys?"

 

they all turned heads to peer st the youngest and he suddenly felt misplaced. the other in categories. 

 

of course,  they wouldn't want him to play with them. after his outburst yesterday, they probably wouldn't want to babysit a little brat like himself.

 

but suddenly, felix's lips quirked in a wide smile and he nearly lunged at the boy. "of course you can, jeonginnie!" he cheers, pulling him by his wrist to sit next to him. he willingly gives up his controller to jeongin, patting the youngest's shoulder. 

 

"does this mean we can sleep with jeongin again?" jisung asks, peering up at chris. jeongin follow his gaze, pausing the game once again to follow the conversation. 

 

"chris-hyung thought that you should stay by yourself to cool off some steam. so jisung-ah and i slept somewhere else to let you get your mind in a better place and sleep." seungmin explains, filling in the blanks for him. 

 

"why were you mad in the first place?" changbin asks, popping a piece of popcorn into his mouth. 

 

jeongin shrinks, at a loss. he has no idea why he was mad. he felt so much in that one moment that it's incredible to even him. it's also terribly embarrassing looking back. he spoke so harshly without reason, all chris was trying to do was be helpful and diffuse the situation and all jeongin could be was a spoiled brat

 

he plays with the controller a bit before saying the inevitable, "i don't know why."

 

woojin follow ups after with a, "jeonginnie's finally going through puberty!" 

 

the group “ooh”’ed and “ah”’ed at that, but jeongin could only take the hits that the rest of the maknae line gave him. 

 

“yeah, yeah,” he complained, pushing away felix who was climbing on top of him, mushing his lips together to ‘kiss’ him. 

 

jeongin looked behind him and caught chris’ eyes. his bore into his and vaguely, somewhere in jeongin’s mind, he knew he wasn’t let off the hook just yet.

 

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