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i could be your best yet (ditch your favourite regret)

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Dude,” Mark stops in the doorway of his bedroom and squints into the murky darkness, “are you actually alive?”

Johnny makes an indiscernible grunting noise but doesn’t move.

“Dude,” Mark says more forcefully, tiptoeing into the room only to gingerly prod at Johnny’s prostrate body with a finger like he's a rotting corpse, “I haven’t seen your face this entire weekend. And we live together. What have you been doing for food?”

Johnny grunts and exerts as minimal effort as possible to flap his hand at the nightstand next to his bed, scattered with a fine dusting of chip crumbs and empty instant noodle cups. 

“...right.” Mark narrows his eyes and leans over into Johnny’s field of sight, holding his nose pointedly as he hooks a pinky into the chunky headphones Johnny’s had on his head like a permanent fixture the entire weekend, air-lifting them off. “Does this have anything to do with that Emart - “

That gets the biggest reaction out of Johnny yet: rolling over onto his stomach and groaning, loud and pathetic, into his sheets. 

“Okay…” Mark says, eyeing him dubiously, “that’s a yes?”

“I spent fifteen hours making that,” Johnny says, voice muffled by the fact that his face is still firmly smushed into the bed, “and then I’ve just. Been here. Existing. Thinking about him.”

“This?” Mark blinks in confusion before tuning into the tinny blast of music from the headphones, the same song tripping into yet another repeat. He bobs his head along to it, all concern suddenly lost for his roommate-slash-quasi-older-brother’s wellbeing, “Oh hey, this is pretty sick! You did this in fifteen hours? Is it going up on your Soundcloud? Do you need a rapper for it dude, because I’m totally down - ”

“It’s for pining purposes,” Johnny interrupts him, angling his face towards Mark just the slightest bit with bleary eyes, “gimme back.”

“No way dude,” Mark scrunches his nose up and decisively powers off the Bluetooth headphones so that the music stops entirely, “you’re just going to lie here otherwise and we have exams in like, three weeks.”

“I can’t study if I’m thinking about him,” Johnny says, like this is a perfectly logical train of thought, "he was so pretty."

"Sure sure," Mark snorts and loops the headphones around his neck, "I can't believe you didn't grab pics dude."

"I'm not a stalker thanks," Johnny says bitingly into his mattress, "you shouldn't have taken so long to grab the chips! He was right at the front of the checkout line!"

"Hey, I forgot about my group project meeting today, okay? I need to supply snacks for the guys, that's like the only job I've been assigned. Apparently I'm too unreliable looking to be trusted with anything else."

"Hey, who said that?" Johnny shifts his head to the side to eye Mark, protective tendencies kicking in, "That's total bullshit, you always work really hard in group projects."

"Ugh," Mark crosses his arms, lower lip jutting out in annoyance, "just one of my groupmates, the annoying one who just started bossing us around once we were grouped together. Like he's probably just talking shit but - "

"Is he coming over today for the meeting?" Johnny tries to crack his knuckles threateningly. Emphasis on tries. 

"Yeah," Mark huffs out a breath, "it's gonna be him plus Renjun, Jeno and Jaemin."

"Well you already know Jeno at least," Johnny hums, raking his greasy hair back, "hopefully it won't be too bad then."

"No," Mark scowls, "it makes it worse, everyone else knew Donghyuck before and now they're all ganging up on me. Jeno even changed my contact name to 'snack boy'! Jeno!"

"Wow," Johnny's mouth twists in surprise. Jeno's one of the nicest friends Mark has - if even he's in on the teasing this Donghyuck guy must really be something, "never thought I'd see the day."

"Yeah well neither did I," Mark whines, shoulders slumping, "odds on us actually getting stuff done is looking crazy low."

"Would it help if I stayed out there and kept an eye on things?" Johnny asks, actually making the effort to sit upright like a respectable human being and not the human sack of flesh he's resembled for the last few days, "Big brother duties and all."

"Um," Mark ponders, tapping his foot nervously, "maybe? Actually? Like, not be all helicopter parent or anything but maybe it'd help control the craziness, y'know. But also," he cracks a wry smile and pinches his nose, "you really can't leave this room without taking a shower first. Donghyuck would rip into you so fast bro."

"Well he sounds like a judgy emo kid so I don't think that's as much of a threat as you're making it sound."

Mark grimaces and waves his hand in front of his still-pinched nose, "Your funeral dude," he says in an obnoxious nasal voice and Johnny grins.

"Not if you die first," he cackles and yanks Mark into a headlock, smothering his head into his armpit where (presumably) he smells the worst, ignoring Mark's miserable yelps and whines.

Big brother duties, gotta love them.

 

//

 

He doesn't end up taking a shower.

Mark insists on heading in first and then just hogs all the hot water as petty revenge for the headlock that by the time the buzzer goes off, he's still standing in the kitchen in his boxers with a hand stuck halfway down a chip packet.

"Can you put on real clothes and grab the door?" Mark calls out from his bedroom, voice muffled.

The buzzer keeps going off, five second intervals between them, as Johnny's licking cheese dust off his fingers. He's not exactly the pinnacle of cleanliness right now but he's going through the emotional turmoil of Intense Pining right now, he's excused alright?

"No," he yells over his shoulder to Mark and then directs his voice towards the front door, "if that's you Jeno, just come in! You know the door code!"

The buzzer keeps going nonetheless and after enduring three more repeats, Johnny plucks up the energy to head to the door.

"Did your mother not teach you patience?" Johnny says tersely as he yanks the door open, intent on coming on strong with the intimidating-big-brother vibes. 

What he gets instead is a headful of oddly familiar curly hair, big doe eyes staring disdainfully at him (with maybe a tinge of disgust, to sweeten the deal) and a melodic voice biting out sharply, "Did yours not teach you promptness?" 

The angel from Emart - Donghyuck, Johnny reminds himself dazedly, now that he has a name for him - swaggers past him.

"Snack boy!" He hollers out into their apartment, making himself comfortable on their couch with a little curl of his lips, "You here?"

"Here," Mark trudges out, reluctantly answering to the nickname, "weren't you coming with Renjun and Jaemin? Also Jeno?"

"Jeno's gonna be running late and Jaemin's still fake-lost with Renjun. Bring on the snacks, snack boy!"

"Fake-lost? Also you know that's not my name - "

"Yeah, that shitty move Jaemin pulls when he pretends like they're lost so they can spend more time together." Donghyuck's lip curls and oh god, he's still as pretty as he was the other day. His eyes creep over to Mark who's doing a pretty good job of keeping his irritation under wraps, the tension at the corner of his mouth and flicker of his pupils the only indication. Oh boy.

"Renjun knows though so I swear they're basically just flirting really weirdly at this point. Do you know how many times I had to circle around your block with them snack boy? Do you? Glad I ditched them early," he sniffs and shit, even that's cute, "means they're probably making out in your carpark somewhere right now though."

"Ew," Mark scrunches up his nose, "gross!"

Donghyuck tuts, faux-sympathetic, and if Johnny were present with his big bro lenses on right now, he definitely would not be taking this lying down. Except well. He's a little sick. Love sick, to be exact but by the way Mark is looking at him expectantly, waiting for him to bust out some defensive posturing spiel in his favour, it's probably not going to cut it as a medical excuse. 

"Should've figured snack boy was a virgin," he drags a finger down his cheek, a mock tear and an accompanying exaggerated pouty face. Johnny wants to squish him. Gently and adoringly and definitely not in the way Mark probably wants him to, "don't worry, they'll probably get here when Jeno does. Now did you get everything on the list I sent you?"

"Yeah yeah," Mark rolls his eyes, seemingly giving up on rebutting any of Donghyuck's snarky comments, "I'll go - "

"They're in the kitchen!" Johnny blurts out and then immediately regrets it when Donghyuck looks at him - actually looks at him! - and purses his lips, no doubt taking in Johnny's greasy hair and three-day-old outfit in with displeasure. He wants to evaporate on the spot, "Work on your project out here," he laughs nervously and edges into the kitchen, "I'll um, I'll get them into bowls for you?"

He darts away, face burning with the fire of a thousand suns and the sound of Donghyuck's pure angelic voice asking, "Who's the hobo?" ringing in his ears as he goes. 

First set up the snacks, he thinks fervently as he shakes the bags mindlessly into bigger bowls, then a shower. Definitely a shower.

 

//

 

" - looking good! Okay so then Jeno, if you can edit this section and Jaemin, you can take charge of this one to make sure it's all consistent - oh hey hyung - oh my God put a shirt on please."

"Hi," Johnny waves back, trying to project all the confidence he doesn't quite have, standing in front of at least two unknown boys making no secret of ogling his bare chest. Donghyuck's not looking though which… He bites his lip, trying to suppress the disappointment. Gotta try harder, he's not letting all his projected romantic fantasies from the last few days go to waste, "how's the project going?"

"Definitely not a hobo," one of them (maybe Renjun?) mutters, almost too softly to hear. The other unknown boy's (who must be Jaemin?) expression takes a sour turn immediately, pulling at the collar of his own shirt to peek inside and pouting at what he sees.

"Good," Mark says, grimacing and shielding his eyes in jest before he's going back to the powerpoint opened on his laptop, immersed back in the work, "we should be done by the next meeting if everyone does their part right."

Wow, for someone complaining about being relegated to 'snack boy' it seems like there's nothing to worry about there after all.

Johnny's confidence improves a little at that and he slackens the grip on his towel, letting the slightest hint of his v-line show, "Great," he says, cheer in his voice not entirely fake, "guess your days as snack boy will be coming to an end then."

"Yeah, he'll be snack bitch for the next meeting."

As planned, Donghyuck rises to his bait and the other actually lifts his head, accidentally locking eyes with Johnny. The deer in the headlights look is - not to overuse the word but God, Johnny doesn't have any other word to describe exactly how cute he looks - adorable.

It only lasts for a disappointing split second though and in the next he's looking straight back at his laptop screen, leaning forward to rattle one of the near empty plastic bowls, "Do you have more of the kkokkalcorn, snack bitch?"

Mark doesn't answer, too absorbed in his work, and Johnny seizes upon the chance.

"We should," he says smoothly, "in the kitchen. You're welcome to check."

"Uh," Donghyuck says, looking at the patch of wall right next to Johnny's face, "okay. Thanks."

Donghyuck gets to his feet and treads over Jeno, sprawled out between the couch and the ground in equal halves, and kicks at Jaemin playfully as he pads into their kitchen. Biting down the urge to be weird and ask Donghyuck's thoughts on two kids, a white picket fence and a dog, he slips in after with the most neutral expression he can plaster on.

"Should be in here," Johnny says, looking around their kitchen in thought and crossing over to one of the cabinets, reaching up to open and lift out a new box of kkokkalcorn. Any display of his back muscles is a complete and utter coincidence,"do you want anything else? Mark bought a heap of stuff at Emart on Friday."

"Oh cool," Donghyuck says from behind him, sounding the slightest bit breathless, "I was there too on Friday."

"What a coincidence," Johnny laughs as he turns around with the box in his hands, and then tilts his head consideringly, "actually no, you do look kind of familiar," he hands the box over and gives Donghyuck his most disarming smile that hopefully doesn't reek of 'please-fall-in-love-with-me' desperation, "I think you were in the checkout line in front of us - I wouldn't forget a face like yours."

Too forward! His brain yells at him immediately when the hesitant smile slips off Donghyuck's face and a more suspicious one replaces it, You really fucked it up this time! Enjoy being alone forever!

"Are you - " Donghyuck starts, narrowing his eyes before he bites his lip, a billion thoughts seemingly swimming through his beautiful brain, "are you - "

"Donghyuck! Where are you, did you double-check the references in your section because - "

"Oh my God," Donghyuck whips around, cute scowl cutting across his face. He looks back at Johnny, traces of moodiness overlayed over the apologetic twist of his lips and the way his eyes dip to Johnny's chest, "no offence Johnny-ssi, but Mark is super annoying."

"Yeah he is," Johnny rolls his eyes fondly and rakes back his wet hair, "you kinda get used to it. Be nicer to him, would you? I think he'd appreciate that." 

Wouldn't do to have Mark hate the future love of his life after all.

"Oh," Donghyuck blinks his large caramel eyes at him in a way that makes Johnny's brain liquify and practically gush out of his ears. His tone is oddly flat though, "right, that's what you - " He shakes his head and chuckles lightly, maybe even a little disappointment found there if Johnny were looking, "sure, I'll keep that in mind Johnny-ssi."

He motions a little with the box and gives him a weak smile, "Thanks for this Johnny-ssi. I'll um, I'm sure he's great but I'm not really interested so… I'll let him down gently."

"Let him down…?"

Johnny stares, bewildered as Donghyuck practically disappears out of the kitchen. Does he think…? Did he really…? 

"Fuck," Johnny curses with feeling, burying his head in his hands. He's going to need to write another song to cope with this.