Renjun hated him.
He was positive he hated Na Jaemin.
He knew little about the world, and was unsure about his future, but his rivalry with Na Jaemin had been one of the few constant points in his life.
Na Jaemin was an arrogant, intelligent, good-looking playboy. Disgustingly perfect.
Na Jaemin was probably the reason he was against human society as a whole in the first place.
He was best friends with Jaemin in third grade, actually. Fourth grade, too.
He’s never told that to Jeno.
Jeno’s somehow the strongest and most fragile person Renjun knows.
He knows Jeno’s perfectly capable, but something about the brokenness he shows makes Renjun want to wrap him in a blanket and bake him cookies.
And Renjun can’t cook for shit.
Renjun shifted uncomfortably, and Jeno called up softly.
Well, I just woke him. Way to go, loser.
Renjun turned slightly. Maybe Jeno would go back to sleep.
“Renjunnie, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Renjun wanted more than nothing to laugh maniacally and roll off the top bunk, but knew the long term repercussions would not be worth it.
So he hummed, realizing with a jolt that he hit the G-note. Oh, fuck you, perfect pitch.
“What are you doing? It’s late,” Jeno said, voice crackling with tiredness.
“I could say the same thing to you.” Renjun replied, running a hand through his hair.
Was he going to be selfish and tell Jeno everything, or just dump enough feelings to make him worry? What was his brain, anyways? He’s bi, which means that there are 7 billion possible people to fall in love with, and his brain chooses the least attainable person in the entire goddammed world? Brains. Useless. He’s always tried to act more naive with Jeno, tried to be there for him, because that’s how it’s always been. Jeno hates change. He’s careful what to say lest it trigger him again. It’s always been stepping around certain topics, and Renjun’s still doing it. Jeno’s his best friend, but he can’t hold the burden for two people.
He’s a misanthrope. (yay, self-awareness!)
“You know, I- I think I’ve caught feelings.”
He heard Jeno sit upright so quickly he’s afraid the iron deficiency will kick in again.
Renjun climbed out of bed and plopped down next to Jeno with a huff, blowing his hair out of his eyes in exasperation.
“I hate it.”
Jeno snorted, and Renjun recalled years upon years of Jeno gushing about Jaemin and crying over Jaemin and not wanting to go to school because of Jaemin and Jaemin did this and Jaemin did that and being over the moon because Jaemin held his hand, and Jaemin looked at him.
Jaemin... shattered Jeno and pieced him back together, only to go and shatter him again.
Physically. Emotionally. Mentally.
Renjun pouted- pouted?! What the fuck, Renjun? What’s next, you’re gonna whine? -and started to speak. “It’s so weird. I’m- well, I was, I guess. I was 100% sure I hated his smug ass. Okay? Like, I’ve hated his smug ass since third grade. Third grade! That’s…” he paused, counting on his fingers. “Nine years! Nearly ten! I’ve spent a decade despising him!”
Jeno laughed slightly. “Mhm…” He didn’t seem surprised, though, which probably meant that Renjun was way more see-through than he liked to believe.
“But now…” Renjun shook his head slightly, eyes unfocused. “He just- I dunno. There are moments when I feel… It’s like he… Gah, I don’t know!” He slumped over onto Jeno’s shoulder.
“Well, that pretty much sums it up,” Jeno quipped, grinning.
Renjun flipped him off, before realizing that Jeno couldn’t see him and half-heartedly whacked him instead. “I know, it’s a lot to ask. I’m sorry. I need advice. If he’s a shitty human being, I can’t fall in love with him. I won’t.”
“That’s not how it works, doofus.” Jeno laughed, ruffling Renjun’s hair. “Anyways, if it has been a decade, you’ve known him much longer than I have.”
“No. Yes. I mean, yes, but you know him so much better.”
“One of our friends?”
Renjun winced. “I wouldn’t say friend, exactly.”
“Really, Renjunida, I’m dying to know. You mustn’t keep me in suspense like this-”
“Fine.” he blurted out. “But you have to promise to not be mad.”
“Wha- why would I be mad?”
Renjun took a deep breath, and tried to speak. Nothing came out. He pushed his voice, and a pathetic excuse of a whisper, holding more emotions than he could ever convey. Distaste. Disgust. Admiration. Jealousy. Love.
“I’m afraid I might like Na Jaemin.”
He felt Jeno stiffen by him, his sharp inhale.
Jeno went silent.
Renjun froze, lifted his hand. He was too afraid to touch Jeno.
His eyes were closed. Moonlight shone through the window, illuminating his blonde hair and the dark roots. Jeno. Renjun watched in silence as a tear slipped down his cheek, landing in his lap.
What had he done?
Jeno opened his eyes, and for a second, Renjun could’ve sworn they glowed amber.
He blinked once. “Na Jaemin is ordinary. He’s extraordinary, in that sense. And yet, there’s something different about him. He’s like the protagonist in cheesy high school rom-coms, the type who is valedictorian, captain of some sports-ball team, and will most probably get laid every night.”
Renjun knew Jeno was torturing himself, delving deep into his memories, to create an essay about Jaemin.
“It’s annoying. He’s annoyingly perfect. The thing about him is he makes friends super easily. You just have to be in some of his classes and suddenly you’re overwhelmed by him. It’s like the whole world is his stage, and he has one hell of a stage presence.”
He reflected to the day they first met. Their third grade classroom teacher had shepherded them into the line, and they were right next to each other. Jaemin had been tall, even back then, and had a good four inches on Fetus Renjun™. Renjun remembered having his nose in a book- Percy Jackson, or something of that sort.
“I’m Jaemin! Na Jaemin! Are you new?”
Renjun had indeed been new, and even back then, wary of people. “I’m Huang Renjun. I moved from China this summer.”
“Well, I’ve lived here my entire life. We don’t often get new people. Is that Percy Jackson? I love Percy Jackson!”
“Who’s your favorite character?”
“I can’t choose between Annabeth and Grover. Percy’s cool, but I don’t like him that much.”
Renjun had been shocked. “I like Annabeth the most.”
“Everyone says that the girls are stupid, and I think they’re stupid. My mom is super important to me.”
Renjun was slowly warming up to this weird fanatic with a Justin Bieber bowl cut situation.
“Y-yeah, I guess.”
“Anyways, want to be friends? I have some people I play football with, you can join us during lunch!”
And thus began their friendship.
Jaemin was a model student. The teachers loved him. Perfect scores in everything, and as Renjun struggled to catch up in English, Jaemin volunteered to tutor him.
What third grader volunteered to teach another third grader in their free time? Na Jaemin. Because of course he did.
Their school's football team was the best in all the area, because Na Jaemin took his responsibility very seriously as the team captain. The coaches joked that they didn’t even need to do their job.
That year, Jaemin won the school’s spelling bee and continued on to nationals.
Renjun had his first sleepover at Jaemin’s tenth birthday party.
They had the same fourth grade class, and Jaemin continued excelling. Renjun also had good grades, usually coming in second or third in each class.
Jaemin also started a club, that year, and called it the “Kool-Aid Club”. Another group of kids, jealous, started the “Capri-Sun Club” and a war between the two began. It was all in good fun, and then somebody slipped a death note into Renjun’s desk.
Roses are red
You’re a good friend
I’ll remember you
When you are dead
Like, hello? It didn’t even rhyme!
Jaemin took responsibility for it all and stopped the clubs, and no one got in trouble.
During their special field day, Jaemin single handedly carried the class through relay races and set a record for hula-hooping.
Fourth grade ended. Renjun went back to China during the summer between fourth and fifth, missing Jaemin’s birthday party.
“He’ll make you feel special, whether he realizes it or not. He acts in a way that makes you feel like you’re the only one he’s treating like this.”
Renjun nodded. Remembered going home with Jaemin and eating matcha panda snacks and doing homework and playing Minecraft.
Tiny things became big deals because Na Jaemin made it seem important.
“The reality is, you’re probably not. But how are you supposed to know?”
Renjun smiled softly at that.
Na Jaemin and the way he made everything feel extraordinary, how them walking to their next class could end up with both of them in tears because of a single comment.
“Jaemin’s also wicked smart.” He subconsciously lowered his voice. “I remember he had a shirt or something that said that, but I really only remembered after saying that- anYWAYS.”
“It may be annoying how academically perfect he is, but I know that I was personally torn between being in constant awe of him and wanting to wipe the smug ass grin off his face 24/7.”
Renjun didn’t have Jaemin in any classes in fifth or sixth grade, and when seventh grade rolled around, something had changed.
Jaemin was (still) taller than him, and his voice was-
That was the year he and Jeno became friends, actually, when he guessed who Jeno liked (after about twelve years) and spent the entire year trying to help him with Jaemin.
It all went downhill when Haechan got his hands on a (very badly written and not well thought out) fanfiction of Nomin, as Renjun liked to call it.
Jeno hadn’t been able to look Jaemin in the eye for a week.
Jeno let out a hollow laugh, which snapped Renjun from his daze.
“Next, he’s attractive. Everything about him is attractive. Think about it. Jaemin has perfect fucking eyes, the perfect smile, a cute laugh, tall. Find one physical flaw.”
Na Jaemin. Hair. Eyes. Skin. Individual snapshots of him, one by one, flashed before Renjun’s eyes. The way he smiled- Renjun knew the feeling of floating on clouds. When they were partnered together in a project and his hair fell in front of Jaemin. The featherlight brushing and the jolts left behind. He had thought it was static electricity.
They had gotten an A on that project, too.
Renjun stayed silent, and Jeno continued.
“He has a great sense of humor. I remember how much we used to laugh about absolutely nothing, nearly crying with laughter after fighting over a fucking book-oh, screaming whenever...”
Renjun noted his pause, and knew that Jeno was trying to collect himself. He tentatively reached out his hand and patted Jeno’s knee.
Jeno let out another sigh. “The lengths I go to help you, Renjun.”
He’s not sure what to say. He’s never sure what to say. Renjun mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” knowing Jeno would never hear them.
“Sorry, I got sidetracked. Uh, what was I saying? Right. He has a great sense of humor, is understanding, and will help you even if you don’t ask him.”
More, and more.
Memories piling on top of memories, one by one by one.
Singing Welcome to The Black Parade in two different octaves, Jaemin nonchalantly brushing it off as he continued doing his homework.
“Why don’t you join chorus?” Renjun had asked.
“I’m no good at singing.”
Things he forgot about until now, really. It’s like listening to Jeno has opened a floodgate of memories that Renjun had dammed over.
Yelling at each other across the room.
Fighting over desk space.
Putting a ruler on top of his head one class, trying to figure out how much taller Jaemin really was.
Blocking out Jeno’s betrayed expression.
Playing basketball and quoting iconic vines.
At track, watching Jaemin run the 1600m, randomly cutting across the field to insult him. That year, Jaemin got first place, every single time.
“I can’t find a single thing wrong with Na Jaemin.”
Renjun buried his head in his hands, trying to control whatever the hell he was going through.
“Other than the fact that he breaks everyone’s heart.”
Renjun felt tears building up. He wanted to cry into Jeno’s shirt, have someone to hold onto.
He can’t do that to Jeno. Jeno’s his best friend. Jeno’s still hung up on Jaemin.
Renjun… maybe he’s been hiding behind the excuse of Jaemin. It dawns on him.
He likes Jeno. He helped Jeno with Jaemin, thinking that the pinging jealousy was because of seeing someone with Jaemin. Maybe some of it was, but...
No. Wait. He liked Jaemin. He likes Jaemin.
He thinks he loves Jeno.
Jeno’s the one who was there with him when he won a violin competition.
Jeno's the idiot with a cat allergy and three of them.
Jeno’s the one he’s stayed up with until 3 a.m., playing horror video games and yeeting Monika across the room.
Jeno’s the one he trusts with his life.
Jeno's the one he can imagine himself with.
Jeno- Renjun says Jeno depends on him. He depends on Jeno.
He can’t do that to their friendship. He’s broken. Jeno deserves someone better.
He deserves a perfect boy like Na Jaemin.
Renjun will never be anything like Na Jaemin.
And so he starts crying, starts shaking, and leans against Jeno.
Maybe he’ll think it’s because of Jaemin.
“I don’t know what to do,” he choked out, hiccuping slightly.
“Shh, shh…” Jeno replied, wrapping his arms around Renjun and stroking his hair. “It’ll be okay.”
It’ll be okay.
He felt Jeno’s arms loosening around him, and once Renjun was positive Jeno fell asleep, he slipped out of his grasp.
He brushed back a lock of Jeno’s hair, heard him murmur sleepily, “Jaemin?”
Renjun’s heart broke, that night.
Renjun hates himself.
He’s positive he hates himself.