Jeno Lee considers himself quite lucky. If someone told him answering a newspaper ad would bring him to Las Vegas, Nevada Jeno would think someone was pulling an elaborate prank on him.
Him and Yeeun took the chance anyway, in one of quite possibly the longest, most tiring road trip of their lives. And yet no matter the sleep deprivation, Jeno wasn’t fully ready to believe it, despite the marquee sign above them was very much real, 卫星 Satellite Hotel very much blinking in hot neon yellow in front of his very eyes.
“Well, we’re here alright.” Yeeun sighs, finally folding the worn out map they’ve haphazardly drawn on to navigate through the Strip. “And it’s not a prank.”
Jeno’s too busy ogling the sight in front of him to listen, really. He thinks his heart might actually burst out of his chest—from excitement or fear, he isn’t quite sure yet, but all Jeno knows is that in front of him is the place he’s about to call his second home.
“Thank you for coming,” Jaehyun Jung, their contact, greets them. His jazz band, The Heartbreakers, have been playing at Satellite’s Moonlight Lounge every night for the past four years, and it's to Jeno and Yeeun’s luck that they saw his ad on the paper about his urgent need for lounge singers.
He leads them to a table near the stage, something they’ll be performing on in the foreseeable future. “We’ve been without singers for a while now and the management has been a bummer about it.” Jaehyun sighs. “I’m lucky you guys are here.”
“We’re lucky to be here.” Jeno grins. “We won’t disappoint, promise.”
Jaehyun mirrors his grin. “Let me introduce you to the band.”
Jeno and Yeeun meet the rest of The Heartbreakers—Donghyuck, Taeil, and Johnny. They’ve apparently been a band even before Satellite had it’s lounge bar running. They’ve been doing small gigs here and there until they found permanence at Moonlight.
“It wasn’t everyday you saw an Asian business up and running in this part of town.” Johnny says. “We thought it was fate.”
Jeno is guilty of just that—for a long time he’d found himself conforming with the majority of the Manhattan regular folk—in more ways than one—and he admits the Chinese characters in the newspaper ad called out to him.
Before all of this, Jeno thought it was all too good to be true, but right now, meeting all these wonderful people with a similar story, he doesn’t regret making that one random call one bit.
“The lounge is closed for the day so you don't start till tomorrow night. You guys can just relax and have a feel of the place. There's a bar in here too if you’re looking for a drink.” Jaehyun smirks and points to his left with his thumb. “Jaemin may look a little wired but he’s a cool head.”
Jeno turns to look at where Jaehyun was pointing at, spotting who he assumes is Jaemin—messy raven hair mop top, maroon suspender over a white dress shirt, wiping down his bar table.
“I see.” Jeno says simply. Beside him, Yeeun murmurs, “I bet you do.”
Jeno purses his lips, bumping Yeeun with his hips discreetly as Jaehyun continues to show them around the lounge.
He leans them to a table right in front of a stage and grins. “For the meantime, enjoy the show.”
Jeno and Yeeun sit back and watch as the stage lights up, when he hears the familiar trumpet of Art Blakey’s Moanin’. Jeno couldn’t help the gigantic smile on his face, fingers snapping to the beat, and when he turns to Yeeun, she’s sporting the same look.
It’s quite dark out before they know it, and they excuse themselves to the front desk to finally check in.
When they were working out their stay at Satellite, Renjun Huang, the current caretaker and the grandson of the owner, had graciously let them stay at the hotel until they could find proper bedspace in Las Vegas.
“Jeno Lee and Yeeun Jang correct?” Mark, the night concierge, says, not looking up from his log booklet. “You have Room 214—it’s a staff only floor. Your room is beside Jaemin’s however, so I’m sorry in advance for the noise but that’s the only vacant one left.”
Jeno blinks. “The bartender? He lives here too?”
Mark snorts, grabbing a set of keys from one of the cubbyholes. “Oh, he lives here all alright. You’ll see.” With a sigh he hits his desk bell twice. “I’ll have Jisung and Chenle help with your stuff.”
With the bellhops’ help they manage to lug their luggage to their room.
It’s a two bedroom suite, both of them a queen size with their respective bedside tables. It has a decent bathroom with a shower and tub, and a television placed in front of both their beds. It’s neat and spacious, and enough for both of them to stay in for the meantime.
Jeno didn't think he would be able to sleep that night to be quite frank, too excited for tomorrow to come. That is until Jeno had lied down on his bed for a second—the exhaustion from the trip finally caught up on him, and Jeno fell fast into a deep sleep.
“Nervous?” Yeeun asks from the bathroom.
“Very.” Jeno sighs, antsy hands pulling down at his seersucker suit. It’s a pale lilac color that matches Yeeun’s lavender tulle swing dress. There isn’t a crease in sight, but Jeno’s nerves have him fidgety nonetheless.
Yeeun squeezes at his shoulder as she walks to her beside, lips smacking at her lip shine. She smiles at Jeno. “It’s showtime, baby.”
It’s their first performance ever at Moonlight, and both of them are high on nerves as the lounge slowly fills up with wine, steak, and chatter.
Jeno has dreams—and in most of them, it involved setting foot on a stage like this, no matter how small it was right now, and doing what he loved best—to entertain, to sing, to dance, to make a show. He doesn't care if he had to wear the flash suits in order to do so either, as long as he’s performing, as long as Yeeun is by his side, as long as they're both doing what they love, it’s enough. It’s a step in the right direction.
And right now, as the switchboard lights up and the spotlight is hot on him and Yeeun, in a city that he knows he’ll fall in love with, the dream starts now.
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off you
You'd be like heaven to touch
I wanna hold you so much
Jeno faces Yeeun, playfully singing the words to her, and his smile only widens when the crowd suddenly cheers as they step into a dance routine to the crooning of Jaehyun’s trumpet, their footsteps tapping to the beat of Donghyuck’s drums.
Yeeun, pushes a finger at Jeno’s chest, raising a brow as she sings the next verse back to him.
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I'm alive
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off you
Jeno feels everyone’s on them, and it only makes him want to perform more.
But somehow, Jeno also feels a little unsettled at the attention, and he finds out that that somehow has his eyes fleeting where the bar is, and low and behold, the bartender is eyeing his intently, arms crossed over his chest.
Their eyes meet and Jaemin’s eyes crinkle, a small smile on his face, and when he winks at him, Jeno almost loses his step.
Pardon the way that I stare
There's nothing else to compare
The sight of you leaves me weak
There are no words left to speak
Jeno jumps slightly when Yeeun taps on his shoulder, and it’s only then does Jeno turn to look at her, blinking at her amused smile and raised brow, and Jeno promptly flushes.
But if you feel like I feel
Please let me know that is real
You're just too good to be true
I can't take my eyes off you
Everyone claps along as they both drop their mics on the stage and start going into full swing, movements in sync with the beat. Jeno twirls Yeeun into his arms two times with practiced ease before they grab their microphones off the grown with matching grins.
I love you baby and if it's quite alright
I need you baby to warm the lonely nights
I love you baby, trust in me when I say
When the song ends, they laugh as everyone suddenly stands in applause, and Jeno intertwines his hand with Yeeun, squeezing it tightly in his hold, before they take a big bow.
“Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to some new Heartbreakers in town,” Jaehyun laughs into the mic. “Let’s give it up for Jeno and Yeeun, everybody!”
They play a few more songs through the night, albeit a little more tame than their extravagant opening number, but both Jeno and Yeeun are more than delighted to smoothly serenade everyone as they eat and chat.
By the end of the night, they head to the bar for a drink. Jaemin is there to welcome them with drinks and a smile.
“Here, on the house for you cool cats.”
“Thanks.” Yeeun chirps, already grabbing for her martini with fast fingers. It makes Jaemin chuckle.
“Jaemin Na, by the way.”
“Yeeun, Jeno,” Yeeun nudges Jeno beside her and Jeno only supplies a shy nod at Jaemin behind his own martini glass. Jeno thought the stage lights were playing tricks on him, but on closer inspection, Jaemin is an even more beautiful man that he’d imagined. The moptop from yesterday is slicked back tonight, and the shirt he has on is noticeably unbuttoned.
Jaemin turns to Jeno then, startling Jeno a little, and leans his arms against the bar with a quirk of his lip. “I best remember these names, huh? We’ll be seeing far too much of each other from here on out.”
“Right!” Comes Jeno’s hurried reply, clearing his throat when his voice betrays him.
Jaemin raises his own glass with a smirk, clinking it lightly against Jeno’s glass. “Cheers, babes.”
Jeno doesn’t know if the alcohol is quick to hit him, but the pit of his stomach is suddenly warm.
The minute Jeno plops onto his bed that night, he doesn't even bother getting out of his suit, just pulls the covers over his head and groans.
Yeeun wasn't having any of his theatrics, immediately following him to the room and pulling the covers off of Jeno’s person. Jeno only whines as the lights hit his eyes, and Yeeun looms over him with her hands on her hips and a knowing smirk. God, he hates that look.
“What?” Jeno sighs, trying to sound irritated in a failed attempt to mask his growing embarrassment.
“Oh nothing, dollface.” Yeeun hums, now sitting on the end of his bed. “I just wanna say good job today.”
Jeno almost pouts. Almost, because that meant Yeeun wins. “You too.”
“Though, I was sure looking at Jaemin through the rest of the song wasn't part of the routine.”
I wasn't—” Jeno flushes at the thought of getting caught by Yeeun, voice turning quiet. “I wasn’t looking at him.”
Jeno was looking at him and Yeeun clearly saw that too, but flustering him is her favorite pastime so she has to make him recall the experience. Of course she does.
Yes, Jeno was looking at Jaemin. For a moment, he thought the song they were singing was kind of mocking him, because he really couldn't tear his eyes away, especially not when he’s smirking his way at him like that.
Yeeun plops down beside him on his bed, bumping shoulders with him, a dramatic hand over her forehead. “Oh, what has the Vegas air already done to you? My baby’s growing up, getting crushes on the bartender of all people!”
Jeno pushes at her arm. “You’re drunk Yeeun, you don't know what you're talking about.”
“And not only that, even Jaehyun was looking at you like he was going to eat you!”
“Okay, you’re definitely gassed.” Jeno doesn't think he’ll get any redder than he already is, and he grabs the pillow under his head to cover Yeeun’s face, it does nothing to silence her laughing though.
It’s too early to get his hopes up, Jeno’s sure the men here aren't far off of traditional as they were in New York. Maybe a little more inhabitant, sure, given the more exciting nightlife, but there is no way they’d find interest in Jeno anyway.
“I can hear you thinking from here, babe.” Yeeun clicks her tongue, pressing her palm against Jeno’s forehead like he was sick.
Jeno swats her hand away, pulling the covers over his head again. “Beam me up, Scotty. I’m begging you.”
Jeno doesn't know why he agreed to this. He blames it on his sleep induced mind, it was seven in the morning for goodness sake, and apparently that meant Yeeun can blindly order him around and agree to this no questions asked.
This being: Jeno standing in front of Jaemin’s door, has been for a good five minutes now, thinking of how to invite him out for breakfast—with Yeeun, of course. Always have to be with Yeeun around, or so Jeno hopes so if by some miracle Jaemin accepts. They’ve talked approximately two sentences to each other, minus the introductions. They just met, and frankly, he hopes Jaemin declines. This is too much interaction in the day for Jeno already.
In the end, Jeno just sighs, thinks screw it, and knocks at the door a couple times.
He really didn't know what to expect that morning but a random lady in nothing but a pink cotton bathrobe answering Jaemin’s door was definitely not one of them.
“Oh, um, hi?” Jeno squeaks, looking everywhere but the purpling marks down her throat. “Is Jaemin here?”
The blonde stranger only rolls her eyes at him, curled lashes fluttering. “Someone’s looking for you, James.” She shouts behind her. She seems a little irritated, and Jeno sure hopes he wasn’t interrupting something just now. Yikes.
There’s some shuffling behind the door the lady was leaning on, and Jeno just smiles impishly at her, despite all her attention being on her nails. And Jeno would have been relieved to finally have Jaemin coming out into the hallway with him, if he weren’t fucking shirtless, nothing but low riding sweatpants on. Jesus christ.
“Hey, Jeno.” Jaemin smiles at him like nothing is wrong, when everything is fucking wrong. Jeno wants to scream.
“H-hey! Yeeun and I were just wondering if you wanted breakfast?” Jeno manages. Suddenly he feels incredibly overdressed with his sweater vest on.
“Yeah?” Jaemin runs a hand through his unruly hair. It did nothing but make the bird’s nest messier, but Jeno didn’t think he’d have to bite back a sigh because of it.
“I’d love to, Jeno, but I have to pass this time.” Jaemin says, smiling in apology.
“Right. I understand.” Jeno laughs awkwardly, keeping eye level with Jaemin. Yup, nothing below chin level. “But next time, maybe?” Jeno still tries.
“Next time,” Jaemin promises with a light laugh. “I’ll be sure to join you guys next time. Thanks, babe.”
Jeno closes the door behind him with a sigh. He shouldn’t be disappointed, he kinda anticipated the rejection but why did Jaemin have to smile at him like that? No one should look that good at ass o'clock in the morning.
“He’s not coming, he has a guest over.”
“Some skirt in a bathrobe.” Jeno mumbles, rubbing at his eye tiredly.
“Oh no,” Yeeun jumps up from her bed to where he is, cooing all the while. “What did my little baby’s poor eyes see, huh?”
“Shut up.” Jeno hisses, glaring when she pinches at both his cheeks.
“Come on, it's our third day in Vegas. I'm not letting you mop around already.”
Luckily, they bump into Jaehyun and his bandmates at the lobby and they go have breakfast together at the nearby diner they frequent. It was quiet and quaint in the morning, and they have a pleasant time chattering over butter and toast.
And Jeno swears he isn't bummed, no matter how much Yeeun teases him at their booth about what happened earlier.
Jeno thought Renjun was a bit strict on the phone before they met, but in person he looks anything but.
“What do you do for fun around here?” Jeno drawls annoyingly.
“Jeno, I’m working.”
Jeno laughs, leaning back into the lobby sofa he’s been sitting for while now. He’s just been loitering in the lobby after breakfast, looking at the people that come and go in the hotel, and bothering Renjun as he manned reception that morning.
With Yeeun out exploring and The Heartbreakers disappearing to who knows where, Jeno was left to his own devices. He saw Renjun at the lobby and he was unfortunately, the victim of his boredom. They got along fairly quickly, and Jeno was having fun being the receiving his deadpan yet hilarious remarks.
Later on when Renjun had to check in a few families, Jeno found himself seated by the bulky television, watching some reruns of The Addams Family, snapping along to the opening theme quietly.
It was an enjoyable late morning, until the second commercial break when Jeno sees Jaemin walk out from the elevators with the girl from earlier.
Jeno’s glad that they don't see him as they pass by the lobby, especially when Jeno does nothing to hide his big grimace when they kiss by the very entrance.
One thing Jeno does notice is the tired sigh Renjun let out at the sight of them and Jeno turns around to catch him rubbing at his temple too.
“Does he do this often?” The question comes out before Jeno could stop himself and it only makes Renjun sigh even louder.
“More often than I'd like to be,” Renjun gripes. “But he’s an old friend and he's done a lot for this hotel, so I don’t really meddle. Am I just being too nice? I’m not sure myself, but at least he has the decency to escort his guests out.”
Jaemin’s heading his way to the front desk before Jeno could comment any further, and Jeno finds himself sitting up a little straighter when Jaemin waves at him.
“Jaemin, entertain Jeno here, would you?” Renjun interjects quickly. Jeno gives him a wide eyed look that Renjun only dismisses with an amused quirk of an eyebrow. “I have to go find Mark.”
“Yes, sir.” Jaemin sits beside Jeno on the couch—a couch spacious enough for a family of five to occupy and yet Jeno has the unfortunate misfortune of being sandwiched between Jaemin and the couch arm, and when Jaemin puts an arm around his shoulder, Jeno wonders if he could possibly be one with the couch.
“Anywhere you wanna go, Jeno? I know Vegas like the back of my hand.”
Jeno shakes his head timidly, smile sheepish. “That’s okay, I was about to go back to my room anyway.”
“Then I’ll walk you, babe.” Jaemin says, squeezing Jeno’s shoulder. “It's no big deal.”
“Thanks.” Jeno laughs, and he hopes to god he doesn’t sound as smitten as he seems. “But, after this episode?”
Jaemin chuckles. “Alright.”
Here's what Jeno learns in the last fifteen minutes of The Addams Family episode he’s watching:
Morticia Addams thinks Gomez is dashing, handsome and charming. Debatable, in Jeno’s opinion. He also learns she makes a horrible cupid.
Cousin Melancholia is one of the only normal looking Addams Family relatives and even she thinks they—Morticia, Gomez and their family—are bent.
Jaemin is very touchy, and very warm. Jeno can very much feel his body heat sitting here so close to him.
Jaemin has pretty long eyelashes that touch his cheeks when he blinks.
He has a lot of teeth, or at least when he finds something funny he doesn't shy away from a full blown smile.
Jaemin smells really good—there’s something endearing about the smell of fabric softener on his otherwise very greaser denim jacket.
Jaemin’s voice sends shivers down his spine, especially when he's laughing against the shell of Jeno’s ear. And Jeno swears he feels the way it rumbles against his chest too.
All of these observations have Jeno scared of Jaemin. That's why Jeno’s glad for the distance when they go up to the second floor, he wasn't sure how much he could handle the proximity any longer without wanting to scream into his pillow soon.
“I’ll see you later,” Jeno says as they reach his door.
Jaemin smiles. “Yeah? I can't wait to hear you sing again. You have a beautiful voice, Yeeun too.”
“Oh.” Jeno’s eyes are wide, cheeks rosy. “Thanks, James.”
Jaemin’s sudden laughter startles Jeno a bit, and a beat later has him finally realizing— Wait, I called him James. Shit.
“Did she call me that earlier?” Jaemin shakes his head, not even hiding the way he’s cringing.
It’s Jeno’s turn to laugh, both a little embarrassed and amused. “No but seriously? You really go by James here?”
Jaemin rolls his eyes. “Predictable, I know. Annoying as it is, it's easier for the white folk. Somehow Jaemin is a tongue twister for them. And yours?”
“Oh,” Jeno blinks. “I haven't really thought about mine?”
And Jeno really hasn't—Jeno didn't think it was necessary. His name isn't all that complicated compared to others, plus they’re fortunate enough to be in Asian populated area, so it isn’t such a big deal for Jeno in particular.
He however, never expected Jaemin to respond to this admission of his so passionately, and by passionate—Jaemin was suddenly leaning in closer, palms cupping Jeno’s quickly warming cheeks.
“Let’s think of a name for you.” Jaemin says, the look in his eyes rather serious. “Let me see you,” Jeno couldn’t breathe—their proximity dangerous. Jeno desperately looks anywhere but Jaemin, hoping to god Jaemin can’t hear how loud his heart is hammering against his chest right now.
“What about Jaime?”
Jeno hums aloud, anything to distract him from how close they are. He’s still unable to look Jaemin in the eye, looking at the wall past Jaemin instead. Have they always been an eggshell white color? Jeno hasn’t noticed.
“I mean, it’s nice, but it's too close to yours?” Jeno finally ends up saying.
“You have a point.” Jaemin nods. “What about... Steven? Eric? Mike? Tom?”
Jeno shakes his head at all of them. Nothing really sounded right to him.
“Really? Nothing? What about Kyle at least?”
This time Jeno looks up at Jaemin, laughing. “Really, Jaemin? That’s your worst one!”
“Why not?” Jaemin actually pouts. Oh my god. “I’ve met so many pretty Kyle’s around here, you know?”
Jeno rolls his eyes, scoffing. “Oh, I’m sure.”
Jaemin just laughs, shaking his head at his reaction. He runs his thumb over Jeno’s right cheek, right where his mole is, stunning Jeno into place. “In fact, I’ve maybe found the prettiest.”
That’s—That’s not good.
That’s not good at all. Not good for Jeno’s heart, especially.
He pulls away slightly, thankful for Jaemin’s loose grip, and laughs, albeit a lot awkward. He hides his shaking hands behind his back.
“I’ll think about it, and I’ll let you know if I pick one. Thank you, Jaemin.”
Jaemin smiles, none the wiser, and pockets his hands into his worn out jeans.
“Alright. I won't keep you, Jeno. See you later.”
When Jeno closes the door and presses his forehead against it, he finally lets out the breath he didn’t know he was holding and covers his red face with his hands.
And he would’ve stayed there, moping at the embarrassment that is his life if it weren’t for the radio suddenly playing at max in their room. It has Jeno jumping out of his skin, heart ringing in his ears, only to find Yeeun on her bed, singing along with that dumb, knowing smile on her face.
Tall and tan and young and handsome
The boy from Ipanema goes walking and
When he passes, each girl he passes goes, ah
Jeno glares, a hand over his heart. “You scared the shit out of me, Jesus.”
“You think Jaemin’s a total hunk don't you?” Yeeun singsongs, wagging her finger around.
“Whatever.” Jeno groans as he walks to his bed, grabbing a pillow to press over his face. This can’t just be his third day here and he’s already pining over probably one of the hottest guys at the Strip. This just can’t be happening to him right now.
Jeno loves to perform.
He loves to sing, to serenade, to put on a show, and Yeeun has always been by his side through all of this—from their little hosting gigs back in university, to now as resident lounge singers at the Moonlight Lounge.
Being open and out there was not something that came natural for Jeno. He was a late bloomer of sorts, and Yeeun played a big part in his journey to opening himself up more. And even now as he set foot in Las Vegas, he’s still learning, still growing, still trying. Admittedly, Jeno has a long way to go and he’ll keep going as long as doing what he loves most.
It’s been a good few weeks since they've started working at Satellite, and Jeno feels happy to be so well received. They have somewhat become a relatively hot commodity—people actually come see them, even to the point they are recognized by regular patrons of the lounge.
Jeno feels immense pride in this. Performing has always been more just a job to Jeno, to him and Yeeun. To Jeno and Yeeun this is their dream, and they’re lucky enough to be living it almost every night.
“You two looked so good up there.” Jaemin whistles.
“Why thank you, James.” Yeeun grins. Though they’ve retired for the night, Yeeun couldn’t stop humming Dean Martins’s Everybody Loves Somebody, a song they’ve sung and slow danced to that night at the lounge. And with The Heartbreakers’ perfect accompaniment, it was a magical and romantic evening for all.
Jeno watches Jaemin snort at the nickname before sliding the shots they’ve ordered. “I never got to ask—how long have you two have been together?”
Jeno almost falls out of his bar stool from shock and he shares a bewildered look with Yeeun, the both of them letting out a loud laugh that has Jaemin looking lost.
“Me? With Jeno?” Yeeun’s cackle is loud enough for a few people looking at them. “Good one!”
“Ditto.” Jeno agrees, downing his shot with a grimace, ears pinking at the attention at them.
Jaemin merely blinks at them, wide eyed. “I'm surprised.”
Yeeun shrugs. “Me and Jeno—I’d almost consider that incest. This squirt will always be more like a little brother to me.”
“That’s too bad, Yeeun.” Jaemin rests his chin on one palm, clicking his tongue. “Jeno’s a catch.”
The look Yeeun immediately shoots Jeno is manic and Jeno glares to the best of his ability and bumps her with his shoulder, hoping to god the lights are dim enough to hide his incredibly flushed face. And it was not from the alcohol.
“You think so, James?”
“A total deb’s delight, if you ask me.”
“Hear that, Jeno,” Yeeun grins. Jeno only keeps his glare intact until she’s pulling at his arm and placing a loud peck on his cheek to appease him. Jeno is still glaring, but now he’s also pouting.
“See, when you do that it's hard to believe you two have nothing going on!” Jaemin laughs.
“Oh, don't worry, Jaemin,” Yeeun waves a dismissive hand. “I'm not Jeno’s type at all.”
“Really?” Jaemin raises a brow at that, a shadow of a smirk on his lips. “Then who's Jeno’s type?”
Jeno didn't mean to look Jaemin straight in the eye at that same moment. They stare at each other for a minute and Jeno isn't sure if that one shot was stronger than usual because he can't quite decipher the look in Jaemin’s eyes.
“You’re staring.” Jaemin says suddenly, lips now in a full smirk. “Am I your type, Jeno?”
Jeno opens his mouth to protest, but words escape him, too flustered by everything. Yeeun leans in forward beside him, running a finger around the ring of her drink.
“If the answer was yes, would you date him, then James? Given the chance?”
“Yeeun,” Jeno glares, embarrassed to be on the spot.
Jaemin’s eyes turn serious for a moment. “I don’t want to make Jeno uncomfortable.”
“You’re not!” Jeno immediately blurts out.
The last thing he wants Jaemin to think of him. God forbid he’d want to fool around with someone as magnetic as Jaemin, because there is nothing Jeno wanted more. Even the thought of it has his heart hammering against his chest.
It's only belatedly that Jeno realizes his mistake when Yeeun squeezes his hand tightly in hers. Jeno flushes.
Fuck. He knows what that meant—a warning. Yeeun knows when the jokes start and when they end—when things may harm Jeno. In a way he’s thankful for her for always sticking up for him, because he’s never one to fight, or be aggressive.
And yet, Jeno’s brain to mouth filter doesn’t seem to exist around Jaemin. Even if he doesn't say it outright, there's an implication that is not subtle at all, and he knows it won't be lost in the likes of Jaemin especially. He can only hope Jaemin is more open minded that most.
Jeno’s anxiety has him wanting to bolt at Jaemin’s sudden silence. It was too deafening, and too many quick thoughts have already passed by Jeno's mind on what it could've meant. But then, Jaemin’s eyes turn soft, and he’s smiling at Jeno in such a knowing way, in a way that Jeno has rarely received and oh, does it make his heart flutter with hope.
For the first time in a while, Jeno feels seen.
“Then if Jeno doesn’t mind, I’d love to.” Jaemin shrugs, chuckling a little. It’s almost music to Jeno’s ears. Almost.
“However, fair warning, I’m shit at relationships. I’m afraid it won’t last very long. Totally on me, of course.”
“James, you had me hoping for a second.” Yeeun sighs, a little too dramatically for Jeno’s liking and he says this by pushing her with his shoulder, but he can't say he doesn’t feel the same. Jeno knows this much about Jaemin, he’s witness to the lobby escorting, hell, he’s heard it—all in its intimate details, but still, Jeno can’t help but be a little bummed about it.
“It’s just not how I operate.” Jaemin’s smile is sullen. “I hope you can understand, Jeno. We’ll have fun, but I can't guarantee it will last long.”
“That’s such a shame, Jaemin. I know someone who thinks Jeno’s a bit of a catch too, and to see you give him this opening is disappointing.” Yeeun hums beside him, and Jeno, he just gulps in instinct.
Jaemin’s smile falls. “Who?”
“Jaehyun,” Yeeun lips curl into a mischievous smile, looking straight at Jaemin. “From the very first day.”
“You're still on that.” Jeno hisses, ready to deny it, but then he watches Jaemin’s eyes darken and he couldn't help but shiver a little. It’s a total 180 from Jaemin’s usual chick and it’s both a chilling yet attractive look on him, but Yeeun doesn’t need to know that, Jeno thinks. Nor does Jaemin.
“I see.” Jaemin’s answer is clipped and it has Yeeun smirking against her wine glass. Jeno wants to disappear.
Jaemin shakes his head, turning to put back the empty glasses onto his bar counter with a sigh. “You should tell me anyway, Jeno. About your type, I mean. I’m willing to help you out. I've met so many different types of people here at my bar, your type is bound to come walking in someday, trust me.”
“Right.” Jeno laughs softly, looking down at his fidgety hands drumming against the wooden counter. “Thanks.”
He purses his lips. How could Jeno possibly tell Jaemin now?
“He was jealous,” Yeeun singsongs, squealing as they got back to their room. Jaemin stayed back to clear out the bar a bit more thoroughly, much to Jeno’s slight dismay.
“He wasn't,” Jeno counters, closing the door behind him with a sigh.
“You saw the look in his eyes, dont lie.” Yeeun toes off her yellow kitten heel pumps and points the tip at Jeno’s direction. “Plus, he’s an ally. You don’t see those everyday.”
“Hang it up, Yeeun.” Jeno loosen his tie, frowning. “He was just being nice, you know how he can be.”
These past few weeks has Jeno bared witness to just how friendly Jaemin can be.
He didn’t want to think much of them, mostly chucking his encounters with Jaemin as him just being a little too touchy and close for his own good. But Jeno can’t lie, he's nice company to have. He likes listening to Jaemin’s stories about Vegas and how the hotel once was in its earlier conceptions under Renjun’s dad, he likes his inviting nature that has Jeno feeling like he’s known him longer.
But no matter how friendly Jaemin is, Mark and Renjun’s warnings ring true, as late at night when Jeno’s awake in the room, he’s greeted by the noises from Jaemin’s, and when Jeno’s headed to breakfast, he sees Jaemin escorting them out with that same easy smile that seemed almost permanent on his face.
It all just leaves a bitter taste in Jeno’s mouth.
“Jaemin said so himself—he doesn't do relationships in the first place. As for me,” Jeno lays back on his bed, smile a little sullen when Yeeun comes and sits by him. “I just haven't had that attention in a while that I'm inclined to misinterpret everything.”
Yeeun’s eyes soften. “Alright, baby. I understand.”
“Thank you.” Jeno says.
“But if you even want me to beat some sense into him, you know, I could do that too.”
“Please,” Jeno laughs, swatting at Yeeun’s arm. “Let’s just go to sleep.”
Jeno couldn't sleep.
All he could think about is that dark look in Jaemin’s eyes, the way his lips curl in that signature smirk of his, and when he did get to finally drift off, even in his dreams Jaemin plagues him—his low voice, his warmth, his burning touches.
It all but leaves Jeno to wake up drenched in his own sweat and an uncomfortable boner pressing against his trousers.
He grimaces, kicking his covers off and hoping to god his impromptu shower doesn't wake Yeeun up.
If someone were to ask Jeno if he’d miss New York at all after the move, Jeno would only answer with a discreet little smile on his face.
Of course, he’s a little sad about leaving—Jeno was born and raised in suburban Manhattan, and he really thought he’d stay and live the rest of adult life there just like his parents did.
Growing up, Jeno was a stickler for rules.
Back then, Jeno was nothing but an obedient boy to his parents and a favorite of his grade school teachers. One would say Jeno was the textbook definition of a goody two shoes, and boy was he shaping up to be what every parent’s dream child was to be.
Jeno didn’t always have the dream he has now.
Or at least, Jeno didn’t get to act upon it until later on.
Jeno thought he’d continue to live like this, that is until he met the perfect storm that was Yeeun Jang.
It was an unusual meeting—it was at the end of sophomore year at New York University, and Jeno wasn't exactly sure how he got dragged into the lounge bar in the first place. Thankfully, it was near campus, so Jeno thought that maybe this was a good thing—for once, he can relax a bit, sip on some drinks to unwind, and maybe enjoy some familiar tunes.
It was tunes he secretly loved as a child, and now, the soothing jazz only brings a wave of comfort despite the loud atmosphere at the lounge.
It was Open Mic Night and a woman suddenly came up to the stage, flashy outfit and accessories on like she was waiting to be up that stage all night. Jeno was intrigued.
She sang Rosemary Clooney’s rendition of You Made Me Feel So Young and Jeno shivered.
The moment that you speak
I wanna go play hide and seek
I wanna go and bounce the moon
Just like a toy balloon
He remembers visiting the neighbors and marveling at the songs they would play on the radio. Jeno didn't have the same luxury—their only radio was in his parents’ room, he also wasn't allowed the television much, and if he did, it was only a few hours.
He remembers sneaking to his parents’ room while they were at work and secretly brought their radio into his room. In lieu of his afternoon nap, Jeno would stay awake listening to music, most especially to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Jeno would often imitate them in the comfort of his own room, laughing at himself.
And Jeno never got to act out on this gradual desire to sing—it was a secret near and dear to his heart that he was afraid of voicing out.
Until that fateful night at the campus lounge did Jeno snap back to reality, only to find Yeeun pulling him up and on the little stage.
You and I are just like a couple of tots
Runnin' across the meadow
Pickin' up lots of forget me nots
Jeno, naturally shy, was frozen on stage, not sure what to do until Yeeun turned to him and pulled him to dance along with her to the fun beat. It shocks Jeno even further, but then the crowd laughed and cheered for them and somehow the energy has Jeno want to try.
You make me young
You make me feel as though spring has sprung
And every time I see you grin
I'm such a happy individual
And his voice was far from perfect, got people laughing and hooting, got Jeno’s entire body flushing, but Yeeun was nodding happily with him, harmonizing with him, and it has Jeno smiling with her.
It was a night he’ll surely never forget.
After that unusual first encounter, Jeno followed Yeeun like a lost puppy, or at least that's how Yeeun would always retell the story.
Yeeun thought Jeno wanted to ask her out, admittedly got annoyed at him everytime he would try to strike a conversation with her. One day, Yeeun flat out said she wasn't interested in him and in men in general and that shocked Jeno to the core.
That got Jeno wishing they had met earlier in his life, it would have motivated something in him to be more open about himself seeing how unforgiving Yeeun was to show who she was to everyone, even strangers like him. Eventually Jeno laughed, confused her greatly, only to admit he wasn’t courting in the first place, just wanted to be her friend.
It was through Yeeun he got to reignite his love for music and found new love in performing.
Jeno went to university to finish this business course his dad wanted him to take and nothing else, and yet that wasn’t the only thing that got Jeno occupied during his four year stay.
Suddenly, he would spend most of his time practicing singing rather than going to his business lectures. Suddenly, he and Yeeun were looking at small places that held free gigs they could come perform at, did favors and parties performances for friends, and played open mic so often that one cafe owner offered them a small commission to play a couple times a month.
Jeno barely passed, but he got to graduate anyway. Yeeun finished her performance studies course too, proudly one of the very first in their batch to do so.
Eventually Jeno came clean and told his parents about him wanting to pursue music, unfortunately they didn’t share his enthusiasm and refused to help him financially.
Believe him, Jeno didn't think he’d actually find himself straying from the path his parents had wanted for him, from the path he was supposed to be conforming to, but here he was, performing here and there with barely any pay.
But Jeno felt alive, and he’s never quite felt alive more than at that moment, and more than anything, he’d want to keep this feeling as long as time would allow him to.
The dreams involving Jaemin never stop. It only got more graphic and more unsettling as time passed, and it has made Jeno skittish everytime he bumps into Jaemin.
And for some reason, he finds himself bumping into Jaemin everywhere.
Not only does they see each other at work every evening, he sees him at the sixth floor amenity pool, the convenience store down the street, even have morning chats at their respective balconies.
Jeno wonders if some higher being was out to make his life a living hell because now at a time Jeno wants nothing but to distance himself from Jaemin for the betterment of his heart, Jaemin is suddenly at every turn.
It's even harder when Jaemin’s a friend that Jeno loves the company of—every time with him is a guaranteed fun time.
Jeno learns over late night drinks at his bar counter that Jaemin loves Paul Anka and Elvis Presley as much as he does, maybe even more so, hinting at Jeno to add more of their songs into their evening performances. Jeno’s laugh was gleeful, promising he will, and in turn Jaemin’s been firm on his promise to show Jeno around Las Vegas.
And even if Jaemin’s only lived here for a good five years ahead of Jeno, he can see how it really is like the back of his hand.
Even in the essentially popular 5th Street that was The Strip Highway, he knows his way around all the hidden gems of the city. Jaemin practically knows everybody. Each shopfront or establishment they’d pass by Jaemin supplied with a smile and a wave. He even knows how to bargain with shop owners and how to charm his way into free things and it’s both amusing and fascinating to watch.
“You’re incredible.” Jeno says as he receives the free cup of vanilla and chocolate ice cream Jaemin had acquired when they stop by Creme n’ Cone to cool down for the day.
“People can just be nice.” Jaemin shrugs.
“There are nice people, and then there are charmers like you.”
“So you find me charming?”
Jeno glares down at his melted vanilla. It was a particular hot day today, but he isn’t sure that’s the reason for the heat in his cheeks. “You're putting words in my mouth.”
“You're so easy to tease, Jeno.” Jaemin laughs, grabbing a napkin to wipe off the cream on Jeno’s chin. “You should be careful.”
Jeno notes the way he’s willingly leaning into Jaemin touch, how he finds himself sighing at Jaemin’s low, rumbling voice and how he finds himself returning Jaemin’s contagious smile.
Yeah, Jeno thinks. He really should be careful. This is getting out of hand.
Jeno finds comfort in routine—it’s long been since engrained in Jeno’s mind, and although at first it was difficult to unlearn the negative connotations it held, he eventually found a healthier way to incorporate it in his lifestyle.
Jeno’s first month in Las Vegas has been disorienting to say the least, but now, months down the line, he’s fairly gotten used to the hustle and bustle of the city and has learned to cherish his daytime free time.
In Jeno’s stay at Satellite, he’s gone to Starry Night Diner, the nearby diner Jaehyun had introduced them on their first week in Vegas, for breakfast every morning to the point of routine. Sometimes it’s with Yeeun, other times with the jazz band, even Jaemin, but mostly it’s just Jeno by himself and he quite likes having his toast on his own nothing but the jukebox playing The Supremes to keep him company.
So he didn't expect to be dragged away that morning on his way to the diner the moment the elevators opened to the ground floor, dragged away urgently by Jaehyun Jung of all people. Right behind him is Yeeun, looking a bit distraught and anxious herself.
“Jaehyun? Yeeun? Is something wrong?” Jeno asks.
He’s dragged to reception where Jaehyun pins him against the counter gently, caging him with his arms against the marble. Jeno turns to Renjun for help, hoping his pleading eyes can work, but the receptionist refuses to look up from the newspaper he was reading, like what was happening right now was a common occurrence in this hotel. Jeno is flabbergasted.
“So a little birdy told me something last night.” Jaehyun smiles, too wide, too suspicious.
Yeeun, finally caught up with them, clasps her hands together in front of her face. “Please don’t be mad at me, babe. Promise me?”
“Okay, you guys are scaring me. What’s going on?” Jeno asks, laughing nervously—nervous from Jaehyun’s tone and from Jaehyun’s proximity. Jeno’s not blind to see how good looking this man is, and he can’t help but be flustered being so close to him like this.
Jaehyun leans in closer, and Jeno fights the urge to shiver when he feels Jaehyun’s breath against his ear. Jeno closes his eyes shut, not entirely sure what was going to happen to him, but out of everything he had in mind, this wasn’t even made it to the cut.
Jeno feels Jaehyun pries Jeno’s palm open and drops a card into his hand. Jeno blinks. What.
“What am I looking at?” Jeno asks.
From the looks of it, it’s a calling card for a service called LUNA.
Your secrets are safe with us, dollface—its tagline says, and for some reason, Jeno feels oddly comforted by it.
“It’s a separate service Satellite started a couple years ago. It’s not something we offer up front for obvious reasons, but we only offer it to people like us, who are looking for a safe space to be ourselves.”
Jeno gulps, hesitantly looking up at Jaehyun. “People like us?”
There is a very clear understanding and implication in his words that has Jeno’s heart racing, and it’s a racing that has the fire in him igniting in hope. It’s further confirmed when Jaehyun places a lingering kiss on Jeno’s blooming cheek. “People like us.” He repeats, and Jeno’s entire body flushes.
“Yeeun, what is going on? I’m not dreaming right?”
Jaehyun smiles as he pulls away, sliding his hands down Jeno’s arms. “You’ve dreamed of me kissing you?”
Yeeun rolls her eyes, punching Jaehyun’s shoulder. “Who hasn’t? Anyway, we’re not here to fulfill one part of your wet dreams, Jeno.”
She moves in closer, intertwining her fingers with one of Jeno’s hands. “You know how I am when I’m drunk, right babe?” She asks with a sheepish smile.
“Oh, no.” Jeno’s shoulder’s drop. “What did you say now?”
He knows Yeeun’s frustrations with him sometimes. If there was someone out there who is constantly looking out for Jeno’s best interest, it's Yeeun. She understands what it’s like, being a bisexual woman herself. She is someone who Jeno has high regard for, especially because she has confidence that he doesn’t have. And she does her best to protect him when he’s eaten up by self doubt, when he’s in danger and wants to hide.
It’s just that sometimes, her mouth is particularly loose with alcohol around, and that’s when Jeno has to unfortunately fend for himself when he’s not there to stop her.
Jaehyun’s smile morphs into a smirk. “So, Jaemin, huh?”
Jeno has never desperately wanted to beat feet until this very moment.
“Yeeun,” He hisses, ears burning. At least Yeeun looks genuinely apologetic—she looks like she’s seconds away from kneeling for forgiveness.
“I know, I’m sorry, babe! Johnny sneaked in drinks into the bar and it kind of slipped out! Don’t worry, it was just the band there, it was after Jaemin closed up!”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?!” Jeno continues to whisper hiss. When he chances a glance at Renjun, he still hasn’t looked up from his paper, but there’s obvious amusement in his features and Jeno knows the news isn’t particularly something to smile about these days.
“What Yeeun is trying to say is that I’m here to help you, babe. Anytime you want to use me to rile up Jaemin, I’d be willing to cause a scene for you.”
Jaehyun shrugs. “You’d be surprised just how liberated it is here in this part of town.”
The bewilderment never leaves Jeno’s face. “What?!”
“You just have to look around, Jeno. Look closer if you have to.” Jaehyun shrugs. “And give us a call when you’re ready,” He grabs the LUNA card dangling from Jeno’s fingertips, slips it in Jeno’s back pocket, patting it for good measure. Jeno is entirely stunned by the gesture, mouth gaping.
“I don’t think I’m understanding.”
“Babe, can I hug you?”
Jeno blinks, a bit confused at the sudden request. “Uh, sure?”
“I’m leaving now!” Yeeun suddenly shouts out, Jeno barely could react before Jaehyun is wrapping his arms around Jeno’s waist and Jeno instinctively rests his hands on his arms as he’s flushed completely against Jaehyun’s taller and bigger frame.
“You know if Jaemin wasn't in the picture, I would have made my move on you already.” Jaehyun says against the shell of his ear. Jeno jolts in his arms.
“Shh, he’s coming this way.”
“Renjun.” comes Jaemin’s clipped voice, and Jeno stiffens in place, almost glad Jaehyun is blocking his view. He doesn’t think he can properly face Jaemin right now.
“Jaemin.” Renjun replies and Jeno could hear the crisp sound of him flipping his newspaper clearly.
“You should tell people not to loiter around the lobby.” Jaemin says.
“Alright.” Renjun hums. “Don't loiter around my lobby, Jaemin.”
“Nice.” Jaehyun laughs, loosening his hold on Jeno to high five the receptionist and Jeno takes this opportunity to break away from Jaehyun.
“Good morning, Jaemin.” Jeno tries to smile, noting the annoyed look on Jaemin’s face.
“Jeno. Hey.” A small smile on his face and it has Jeno letting out the breath he didn't know he was holding.
“Alright, enough chit chat.” Renjun finally puts down his paper and crosses his arms. “No loitering in my lobby. I’m serious this time.”
Jeno eventually gets to go to get brunch at the diner, but alas, it’s with the condition that both Jaehyun and Jaemin are here in the booth with him, stabbing at their pancakes seemingly a little too unnecessarily aggressive, well, Jaemin at least.
“Do you have an english name, Jaehyun?” Jeno asks suddenly, trying to lighten up the mood.
“Jeffrey.” He says simply. It makes Jeno laugh.
“Really? That’s actually kinda cute.”
“It started as a joke, really. But I got used to it.” Jaehyun smiles. “Yours?”
“We’ve been thinking about it.” Jaemin interjects.
Jeno nods, “Yeah. I don't really have one. Jaemin thinks Kyle would suit me though I’m still not sure about that one.”
“Kyle.” Jaehyun snorts.
Jaemin raises a brow at him. “What's so funny about it, Jung?”
“Nothing. Just seems ironic” Jaehyun hums. He turns to Jeno to wipe a crumb off of his cheek with a thumb. Jeno blinks.
“It's cute, though. Anything cute suits Jeno, don’t you think?”
Jeno’s ears pink. “Oh. Thanks?”
“Just finish your damn pancakes, Jeffrey.” Jaemin grumbles with a shake of his head.
Besides the occasional chatter, their brunch was relatively quiet. Jeno didn’t mind it, happy to still have his peaceful morning meals, with added company for a change. Though he does sense a little tension in the way Jaemin and Jaehyun would look at each other sometimes, Jeno also didn’t want to meddle with whatever it was they had going on either.
They’re about done eating when Jaehyun excuses himself to the bathroom. That’s also when Jaemin suddenly speaks up seriously, startling Jeno.
“Stop hanging out with Jaehyun,” Jaemin says. “He's bad news.”
“What are you talking about?” Jeno furrows his brows. “He’s been nothing but nice to me though?”
“Just—Look, I can’t explain it but—just be careful around him, okay?” Jaemin sighs, sounding a little frustrated. He turns to look anywhere else but Jeno and it has Jeno frowning.
“People can just be nice, Jaemin.” Jeno says. “You told me yourself.”
“You know what? Whatever.” Jaemin sighs, holding his hands up. “Forget what I said.”
Before Jeno could argue any further, Jaehyun comes back and they all head back to Satellite. At the lobby, Jeno and Jaehyun part ways with Jaemin who wanted to sleep in for a few hours before work.
Jaehyun bumps hips with Jeno as they watch Jaemin enter the elevators, “So?”
Jeno looks down to his shoes, quiet. “He said what you thought he'd say,” He mumbles.
Jaehyun didn’t really brief Jeno much on this breakfast fiasco. It was fairly simple in itself, they eat, they talk, Jaehyun would flirt with Jeno very openly in Jaemin’s presence, Jeno would react as realistically as his abilities would allow him, and they would observe the way Jaemin would seethe in confusing envy.
Jaehyun has known Jaemin for a long time to know how he behaves with certain things and certain types of people. Jeno didn’t need to look up to know that the smile on Jaehyun’s face is too annoyingly triumphant.
“I told you, babe!” Jaehyun laughs, clapping his hands in triumph. “There is no way he doesn't like you, even just a little bit. He can be such a dog at times, but I’ve never seen him react like this before.”
“Whatever!” Jeno whines loudly, bowing his head a bit when Renjun looks at their direction with a raised brow. “He's probably just, He's—Ugh, you know what I mean!”
“You see Jeno, I don’t.” Jaehyun crosses his arms. “You can't even think of a defense for him right now, can’t you?”
“You’re misinterpreting,” Jeno shakes his head, adamant in his rejection. He’s already had this conversation with Yeeun before and he’ll stand by his words. “He's just looking out for me.”
Jaehyun sighs. “I stand corrected, you’re a lost cause. Well, hopefully you two solve this mess up before this all blows up on your faces.” Jaehyun grimaces, before circling an arm around Jeno’s shoulder. “Unless you're into that,” He drawls into Jeno’s ear. “God, then you two will get along just fine.”
Jeno pushes him away, flushed to the neck. “Bug out!”
Staying awake at an ungodly hour is another thing that’s become a routine, much to Jeno’s misery. But contrary to most nights, it isn’t about handsome bartenders—it was Jaehyun’s words that kept Jeno awake.
Look closer if you have to.
So Jeno does just that—he looks closer.
At first, he wasn’t exactly sure what he should be looking for, wasn’t sure where to start looking, in the first place, but Jeno realized later on that he didn’t have to know—Jeno finds out they happen to be always present, always in plain sight that it has him wondering how he’s never noticed in the first place.
Renjun and Donghyuck have matching rings.
There is a silver band in Renjun’s left ring finger that Jeno’s never noticed until now. Later that evening as they warmed up to perform, Jeno sees the exact same ring hanging from Donghyuck’s silver necklace.
For some reason it excites Jeno, and he finds his way to the reception one morning.
“How long have you been together?” Jeno asks. It seems incredibly random to ask, but Renjun looks up at him, looking up from the paper he was reading when normally he wouldn’t. A small smile decorates his face.
“Four years.” Renjun replies simply, yet it was enough to blow Jeno away.
“Wow, thats—that’s amazing.” Jeno gapes. It has Renjun flushing a little, waving a dismissive hand in front of him, and seeing Renjun flustered for once is truly a treat.
“It’s nothing special—he’s just very ceremonial.”
“I think it's admirable.”
Renjun shrugs. “I know it’s a futile wait, but we’re waiting anyway.” His other hand unconsciously making its way to spin his ring around. “Having this for the meantime is enough to give me hope I’ll get to replace it with the real thing someday, you know?”
Jeno smiles down at his hands, nodding solemnly. It’s something they all want—the security of, well, everything. But at a time where they aren't even allowed to go out and be themselves, it’s really the last thing on their minds. It’s a devastating reality to say the least, but Jeno finds hope in love like Renjun and Donghyuck’s, and he wants nothing but for them to have the privilege of union freely in the future.
By the time Mark takes over in the evening, as if on queue, Donghyuck is there as Renjun packs up his things. When he would see Donghyuck stopping by to chat at the reception, Jeno did not think much of it before. Now, Jeno still doesn’t, he didn’t have to—they weren’t openly affectionate with each other, but the way they would banter, the way they would look at each other and smile at each other, Jeno finally sees it clearer.
It’s an accident, this next discovery.
Jeno and Yeeun were going down to their floor after a soak in the pool when the elevator opened to Jisung and Chenle holding hands. They scramble to pull away from each other, bracing each side of the trolley they had with them. Jeno can see the scared look in their eyes, and really, he can’t really blame then, he’s stunned in place too.
But Jeno thought they had a right to be scared when all but Yeeun pulls them into a big hug, cooing at them both, and nothing has made Jeno laugh louder than their bewildered expressions.
“This is insane.” Yeeun laughs. Jeno and Yeeun are lying side by side on Yeeun’s bed, just watching their ceiling fan whirl idly.
Jeno shares her bewilderment in—well, everything, and it got Jeno thinking about his perception of things.
It took a while for Jeno to gather his thoughts. Nobody can blame him for watching the world unfold in what society deemed standard—it's the default, it’s what has been shoved down his throat for years, and Jeno’s been on a journey to unlearn everything since he saw through the cracks of this fucked up system.
So naturally, Jeno kept his guards up coming to Las Vegas not wanting to get hurt in a new city, miles and miles away from home.
But here, in the quaint little community in the Satellite Hotel, the people here are different—different in a way that they are unapologetically themselves. They've somehow woven being queer into something normal, something a part of their everyday lifestyle, and nobody bats an eye to the point where it never stood out, and even Jeno was blind to it until he got a closer glimpse into the light.
Suddenly, Jeno sees everything—he starts seeing romance that he didn't even know was happening in front of his eyes, from Renjun and Donghyuck, to youngsters like Jisung and Chenle. And even from the stage where Jeno has stepped foot on many a night, Jeno has begun to notice hands being held under the table, whispers that linger on for too long, lipstick stains in places that clearly aren’t supposed to be there.
The pride Jeno was used to seeing was loud, exciting and elaborate. And yet, the quiet way people show their unapologetic affection here is also powerful in its own right.
There are mixed emotions—on one hand, Jeno wishes he was exposed to this kind of environment earlier in his life, it would have really helped him with his self esteem, with his relationships with people and most importantly himself.
But Jeno can’t deny his relief either, the weight lifted from his shoulders is almost a dream.
This isn't New York—here in the Vegas Strip Jeno can be whoever he wants to be, apologetically so. He didn't have to fill in his good boy shoes anymore, he didn't have to pretend to be someone else. He’s Jeno Lee—he’s a performer and entertainer at the Moonlight Lounge, Satellite Hotel, and first of foremost, he’s a gay man who, like everyone else, is just pursuing his dreams.
Jeno considers himself quite lucky, he’s living his dream here with Yeeun just because of a random newspaper ad and a phone call. Jeno is quite lucky to be still here, months down the line, happy and healthy and himself.
Here at Satellite, everyone is free to love, free to be themselves, and Jeno wants to be able to do that too, and Jeno’s lucky that he’s found a safe space for him to do just the same—Jeno is glad he has found home.
It's only when he got to move to Lower Manhattan for university did Jeno get to break out of his old routined lifestyle.
It was culture shock to say the least—New York University was huge, and safe to say much, much bigger than his little suburban neighborhood. Jeno got the opportunity to be exposed to so many different things that he couldn’t quite catch up. There was always something new in every turn—new environments to get used to, new people to meet, new experiences to hold onto.
It was an opportunity to be a more open and driven person and Jeno wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Confusion for the most part, was something that plagued Jeno constantly, from the newness of it all, to the sudden freedom he didn’t know what to do with, there was a quiet storm brewing within him.
No supervision and no parents breathing down his neck in his every action has Jeno’s eyes opening to so many new things, exploring different interests he didn’t think he was ever allowed to.
But Jeno realized fairly quickly that those things are dangerous, even if that entailed his most personal desires.
Jeno wondered if it’s because he knew everyone in his neighborhood that's why he didn't find anyone particularly special back home, but somehow in university, every kind of man that was walking into his classrooms and at the dormitories got Jeno’s eyes following.
It was something Jeno didn’t catch on at first, until his professor caught him staring a little too intently and asked if something was wrong. It was only then did he snap out of it.
Of course, Jeno tried to repress it—it was unusual behavior, and all his life he was brought up strictly traditionally, and that entailed not looking at the same sex the way he was to look at his future wife. And whatever Jeno was doing right now was definitely in the opposite direction of that.
So Jeno carried on with his business course, and just focused on finishing it as undistracted as he can. But when he’s in the confines of his dorm room, he couldn’t shake the thought of it away. Was he gay? Even the thought of it has Jeno repulsed at himself. It just—it just seemed so wrong and yet, he didn’t want to let go of the idea either.
So Jeno tried to look more into homosexuality, but there were but a few resources. Jeno was also too afraid to ask around—he didn’t want people to find out about this and it’s nothing but anguished him, making him extremely conscious of the way he presented himself to everyone.
And Jeno can only suppress so much before he exploded.
Meeting Yeeun made him more exposed to people like them.
Luckily, Yeeun didn’t force him into her lifestyle from the get go. They took it little by little not to overwhelm him and Jeno couldn’t be more thankful for her patience with him.
Jeno found the experience exciting yet incredibly terrifying.
There's this fear that doesn't leave Jeno—the fear of getting caught, the fear of being seen doing something unnatural eats him up. It scared Jeno because although it’s something he likes, something he wants, but the fear and disgust associated with homosexuality has him pulling away. It ate Jeno up.
Being gay was considered illegal activity—it was frowned upon to the point of punishment, to the point of imprisonment, and it has Jeno wondering: Is any of his feelings, is any of his desires worth the risk?
It took a while for Jeno to accept it within himself, spent so many nights crying his eyes out just trying to make sense of everything. And there is just so much denial he can before it’s exhausted him entirely.
One night he finds himself running to Yeeun’s apartment outside campus, and with his heart pounding painfully against his chest.
“Take me to Sugarcane.”
Sugarcane is an underground gay bar outside campus. It’s under an old bookstore, and is a place for young homosexuals to mingle and hookup.
And it should be wrong to be in a room full of people just like him, being with and being intimate with people just like him, but Jeno couldn't lie to himself anymore.
He couldn't deny it anymore, he was attracted to men, he wants to be held, be kissed, be fucked by a man and it’s a reality he has to accept. And it was very messy—Jeno found himself doing things he's not particularly proud of, but it felt fulfilling. Each daring step he took, Jeno was slowly chipping away his rigid upbringing, the gender roles that had caged him to who he was growing up.
And Jeno knows this doesn't just go away overnight. He can only hope someday he gets to embrace his sexually fully in the future. Even if not right now, maybe after university, who the hell knows?
Jeno just hopes that someday he can find love in himself to love other people.
Yeeun is in a bad mood today, or at least, she hasn’t been as peachy as she is most days.
Jeno woke up that day to Yeeun frantically searching for something in their room, a little crazy eyed and snappy when Jeno asked what was going on. She tells him to at least help her and be useful for once, then she storms out rather loudly.
Jeno blinks through all of it, not sure what just happened.
Sitting up on his bed, Jeno scratches at his head. So this is his fault somehow, Jeno gathers as much. But Jeno isn't sure what he did wrong in the first place. But if there is one thing he’s a bit sure of, is that Jeno has to be careful of what he says around Yeeun lest he hacks her off more throughout the day. He didn’t want to poke the bear.
When Jeno comes back to their room after lunch, he finds that Yeeun has laid out clothes for him on his bed. He cracks an amused smile at the flashy ensemble—gold glitter decorate the entire suit jacket, sparkling shoes to match. She was at least forgiving with the pants--just a place black number to contrast the rest of the outfit.
Despite the sheer ridiculousness, Jeno puts everything on for tonight anyway, thinking the glitzy attire might cheer Yeeun up when she sees him in it.
The moment they're up on stage, Jeno takes a breath, opening his mouth to sing. But he’s left gaping, lips hovering over his microphone as The Heartbreakers play an entirely different sound that doesn't remotely sound like Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight.
No, instead, the familiar song they’re playing has Jeno turning to Yeeun with a glare, only for her to sing to him the words that she’s been taunting him with the most shit eating grin on the planet.
Tall and tan and young and handsome
The boy from Ipanema goes walking and
When he passes, each one he passes goes, ah
Jeno ends up bursting into laughter when Yeeun walks around him in slow circles, singing every verse with dramatic passion. For who knows where, she pulls out a birthday hat and straps it around his chin.
“Give it up for the birthday boy, everybody!”
Everyone cheers with Yeeun and Jeno bows his head in embarrassment at the attention.
God, was he so worried about Yeeun that he forgot his own goddamn birthday, today?!
Jaehyun hops down the stage to guide Jeno into the empty table they prepared for him, front and center—empty besides the beautiful bouquet roses, and a greeting card with Jeno’s name on it.
“Tonight is a special night, and for once, I want to be the one serenading our beloved little singer here on his very special day.”
Jeno's eyes are wide in alarm, signaling What are you doing? at Jaehyun. Jeno’s isn’t sure what makes him do this, but he darts his eyes briefly at the bar, just in time for Jaemin to cross his arms over his chest, brows furrowed at what was happening. When their eyes meet, Jeno instantly turns away, a little embarrassed at his actions.
“Jeno.” Jaehyun calls out, and Jeno shakes his head, directing his attention back at Jaehyun, Jaehyun who’s winking at him, crouched down at the edge of the stage, sitting on one of the steps.
Trust me, he mouths, and soon enough, Taeil’s keyboard resonates into the cozy, dim lit lounge, and everyone holds their breath in anticipation as Jaehyun sings for the first time in a while.
I fall in love too easily
I fall in love too fast
I fall in love too terribly hard
For love to ever last
Jeno is stunned in place—he doesn't know what to say, what to do with himself right now. He’s just staring in awe, Jaehyun low baritone is mesmerizing, almost hypnotizing. And the way it bounds back against the speaks sends chills down Jeno’s spine.
Jaehyun eventually steps back down to bring Jeno up the stage again, and with a gentle grip around Jeno’s waist, he continues his serenade.
My heart should be well schooled
'Cause I've been fooled in the past
But still I fall in love so easily
I fall in love too fast
As the song ends, Jaehyun brings Jeno closer and whispers, “Can I kiss you?”
Jeno’s heart races at the sudden request, and for the second time that night, he darts his eyes at Jaemin at the bar. He hates himself for wanting to check if Jaemin was watching them, watching him, especially. And when he's instantly met with Jaemin’s open glare, it makes Jeno’s stomach drop.
But then, Jaehyun’s turning his chin back towards him, smiling gently, patiently and Jeno thinks: Fuck it, and wraps his arms around Jaehyun and kisses him.
Jeno swears he’ll go deaf by the sudden screams, but it does fuel him to be more reckless, be more daring, and as his heart thunders loudly against his chest, Jeno’s eyes scans the room again and finds Jaemin looking at him, an eyebrow raised at him in challenge. Jeno raises one back at him, smiling against Jaehyun’s cheek, and then he’s turning, closing his eyes as he kisses Jaehyun again.
When the cheers eventually die down and the chatter is replaced by the clatter of silverware, the night swings back to normal. Jeno and Yeeun are back to singing the night away for their patrons, with the only exception being Jeno’s little birthday hat stayed atop Jeno’s head the entire time.
“Happy birthday, Jeno.” Jaemin greets as Jeno takes a seat in his usual stool. “Drinks on me, babe.”
“Thank you, Jaemin.” Jeno clears his throat. There's a clear tension between them. Just as him and the band stepped off the stage, Yeeun had slapped him with a grin, and pushed him to the bar, telling him to go without her.
She saw how Jeno was hesitating, the adrenaline from earlier already out of his system, and now he feels a little jittery to face Jaemin, a little anxious. He knows Jaehyun only did that because he enjoys provoking Jaemin, and Jeno fed off that energy, finding the way Jaemin clenches his jaw at the scene irrationally hot.
But now, Jeno’s fidgeting with the martini Jaemin made for him. Oh, does he need liquid courage tonight. He talks a big gulp, letting it burn down his throat with a hiss.
“Whoa.” Jaemin chuckles. “Take it easy, birthday boy. Another one?”
Jeno nods, a little grimace intact on his lips. He watches Jaemin mix up his drink with practiced ease, fascinated with his fast, skilled hands.
“How old are you today, Jeno?”
Jaemin clicks his tongue. “Sometimes I do forget you’re fresh out of university.”
Jeno laughs, the ball of tension within him slowly unfurling. For a moment he forgets how easy it is to talk to Jaemin, and he’s thankful. “Are you saying I look older for my age?”
“I’m not.” Jaemin replies with a grin. “But that coat of yours does, and it’s surely a sight for sore eyes.”
“Oh god, I swear it wasn’t me.” Jeno covers his face with his palm. “Yeeun picked it out for me, okay? She kind of tricked me into it too. I had no idea they were going to embarrass me like that on stage.”
He finally shrugs the offending object off, setting it aside and rolls the sleeves of his dress shirt to his elbows. “There, much better.” Jeno sighs, smiling as he looks up at Jaemin again. Jaemin shakes his head at him, laughing. He turns to his back bar counter to mix another drink.
“I didn’t know you were so close to Jaehyun. Or was that part of the show too?”
The kiss—it wasn't staged. It was a surprise to Jeno too, but he couldn't say he didn’t agree to it either. He wanted a ruse out of Jaemin—a reaction. Just to see if he had a chance, just to check if whatever bullshit Jaehyun was feeding him about Jaemin’s possible feelings weren't bullshit after all. And although he got what he wanted, with Jaemin’s back facing him, Jeno couldn’t quite gauge his expression clearly, and he can’t help but think the worst.
Never did Jeno think he’d be confronted about it so soon, hell, to be confronted about it at all, and to be frank he's not prepared to respond to it either.
Jeno doesn't get the chance to answer, thank god. At that same moment, someone heads to the bar to order a couple drinks for their table and the tense moment disperses just like that.
When the patron leaves, Jaemin turns to him again, his signature smile on his lips.
“If I’d known it was your birthday today, I would've gotten you a present, darling.” He tuts. Jeno finds himself laughing lightly, a little embarrassed, and he waves his hand at him dismissively.
“Oh, you don't have to do that, Jaemin.”
Jaemin shakes his head. “But I want to, Jeno. Tell me anything you want, maybe I might just give it to you.”
You, Jeno almost blurts out, You’re all I’ve ever wanted, and he wasn’t even that drunk yet. Though, perhaps tonight, liquid courage serves its purpose, because as Jeno takes another sip of his drink, he leans closer into the counter despite himself, chin resting on one palm, lips in a little mischievous smile.
“Really?” Jeno asks, voice soft and low. “Anything I want?”
Jaemin meets him halfway, close enough that Jeno can feel his breath on his face, smell the hint of alcohol on his tongue. He tucks a hair behind Jeno’s ear. Jeno shivers, and it's not from the cold. “Anything.”
“Hmm,” Jeno drawls back, taking the opportunity to soak in Jaemin so close like this.
The orange fluorescent has Jaemin’s eyelashes casting a shadow on his cheeks, and he could see the scruff of Jaemin’s chin, the nick he made where he last shaved. Jeno can see how Jaemin’s bottom lip is slightly cracked, tongue darting out to wet them, and still, Jeno dares to lean in even closer.
There’s a hairbreadth distance between their lips when Jeno asks, “I want to try mixing a drink for myself. Will you let me?”
And then he’s laughing, a little bewildered by the odd request and shakes his head. “If that’s what the birthday boy wants then,” Jaemin shrugs. “Who am I to deny his request?”
Jeno’s eyes light up instantly, standing up from his stool. “Are you really letting me in, James?” Jeno almost climbs up the bar table in excitement. If it wasn't for Jaemin holding him down and carefully pushing him back on his stool, there could’ve been even more trouble for Jaemin to shoulder. But Jaemin is laughing anyway, popping open the panel on his left side where Jeno can easily just walk into the bar area.
“Sorry.” Jeno giggles as he stumbles in, bumping into everything, and he feels Jaemin's hold on his arms.
“Careful.” Jaemin tuts. “Anything in particular you want to drink tonight, babe?”
Jeno hums, looking at the tall shelves of liquor in front of him. “Just something easy for me to follow, please?”
Jaemin turns to grab some bottles from the back bar and sets all of them on the counter for Jeno to survey. “Tonight on the birthday boy’s menu we’re having whiskey sour. All you need are three things; whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup.”
In a silver shaker, Jeno watches Jaemin pour an ample amount of each ingredient into tin, and then with a scooper, adds ice to the mix. Jaemin screws the cap onto the shaker shut and hands it over to Jeno with a grin. “Then, shake.”
And Jeno tries his best really, not sure how strong he should do this or how long for that matter. But it certainly didn't take too long for the shaker to grow cold in his hands. “It’s cold!” Jeno promptly voices out.
Jaemin laughs behind him, “It is, isn’t it? You get used to it.”
Jaemin places his hands over Jeno's and guides him the way he knows how. For a moment, Jeno doesn't even register the ice, too aware of Jaemin’s broad frame suddenly caging him from behind, too aware of the heat radiating from him being so close like this. Jeno was sure he wasn’t that drunk that evening, but he sure feels quite dizzy from the proximity.
Jaemin continues the shaking for him until he deems the mixture done, and alas, it’s over too soon as Jaemin pulls away and Jeno is suddenly cold again. Jaemin moves to the counter and strains the cocktail into a glass. When Jaemin moves to garnish the drink with a cherry, Jeno guides his hand into his mouth instead, smiling when Jaemin lets out a snort.
“That was my last one, Jeno.” Jaemin grins amusingly.
“Really? Sorry!” Jeno says around the berry, flushing.
“It's fine. It was going into your mouth anyway, one way or another.” Jeno almost chokes on the damn cherry, and all Jaemin does is snicker.
“Now, taste.” Jaemin says, bringing the glass to Jeno’s lips and Jeno puts his cold hands over Jaemin’s.
“Mhm!” Jeno grins. “I didn’t think it would be that quick to do, too.”
“I told you it was easy.”
“Still, thank you for letting me even make it.”
“Anything for the birthday boy.” Jaemin grabs another glass and pours the remaining mixture for himself. He lifts his glass up for Jeno to toast. “Cheers.”
As the lounge guests slowly trickle out, they enjoy the quiet night, sipping their whiskey sours and their light conversation. Jeno waves at Yeeun when she signals that she is going ahead, glaring when she sends a wink and wiggle of a brow his way.
Jeno never left Jaemin’s side of the bar counter. He didn't mind having to stand the whole time, Jaemin was good company, always has, and how could he possibly move away when Jaemin's arm is resting a little too perfectly around his waist?
With his drink all gone, Jeno finds himself yawning, stretching his arms out onto the counter top like a cat.
“Tired?” Jaemin smiles beside him.
“All the excitement from today is finally crashing down on me, I guess.”
“It is getting pretty late, huh?” Jaemin finally pulls away, Jeno already misses the warmth. “Time for bed then, birthday boy. Come on, I still have to close up.”
Jeno sighs, rubbing at his eye. “I guess it is.” As he makes his way out of the bar, Jaemin stops him with a hand on his wrist, and Jeno is frozen in place as Jaemin presses his lips against his temple.
“Good night, darling. Happy birthday.” He says, Jeno feels his lips curl into a smile. “Now go.”
Jeno walks back to his room with a silly grin on his face, a little drunk and a little floaty from both alcohol and Jaemin respectively.
When he walks he's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle
That when he passes
Each one he passes goes, ah
If Yeeun was here to see him right now, if she was here to hear him humming to Boy From Ipanema unironically, Jeno wouldn’t hear the end of it. But he doesn’t care right now, he’s in too good of a mood.
Jeno can't deny it anymore, he likes Jaemin. He can tell everyone in the damned hotel that he isn’t, but the way his heart is beating so fast even until now, he can't lie to himself anymore.
He presses a hand over his temple where Jaemin kissed him. It was out of the blue and he knows he shouldn’t read into it-—it's his birthday and maybe that warrants Jaemin to be extra flirty with him, but Jeno’s stomach is already filled with butterflies, thoughts already filled with hope, even just a little bit. Tonight made being with Jaemin seem not as far fetched anymore.
Jeno knocks out like a light, sleep greeting him the moment he lies down on his bed. Jeno thinks this might just be the best birthday he’s ever had—chaotic it may have been, but his heart has never felt happier, and perhaps a little clearer.
Jeno has never had such a sound sleep, that is until he’s suddenly woken by noises against their door, like someone was trying to force their way in.
Jeno stands with a sigh, a little disoriented and sluggish as he opens the door to something that has him questioning if he was still dreaming or not—because this has to be a nightmare, it had to fucking be.
On the other side of the door is a patron he recognizes from the lounge—Donna, a beautician from Fremont Street, and normally, Jeno would be happy to see her, but right now Jeno has no will to even smile.
“Oh! Jeno!” She giggles, clearly buzzed. “Wrong door, sorry!” She looks to her left and laughs. “Hurry up, James!” She calls out, and Jeno feels like his entire world was shifted back to reality.
With shaking hands, Jeno closes the door quickly, too afraid to run into Jaemin right now when he’s like this.
God, he’s so stupid.
Of course—of course Jaemin isn't his, he never was in the first place. For a moment, Jeno was deluded to think that maybe this thing wasn't so one sided. What with Yeeun and Jaehyun feeding him hope, Jeno forgot that it isn't so simple.
To Jaemin, everyone is in the palm of his hands, Jeno included. And he’ll never be anything but just one of his little playthings.
The little commotion Jeno’s made has Yeeun waking too.
“What's wrong, Jen?” She asks, hands rubbing at her eyes.
And Jeno, upon hearing the worry in Yeeun’s voice—he breaks. His hot tears finally find themselves streaming down Jeno’s face, and Yeeun instantly shoots up from her bed to reach out for him, bringing him into her arms. Jeno breaks down, letting his tears seep into Yeeun’s sweater, letting himself be held for the night.
And it’s silly how even in this dire moment, all Jeno hears in the sad croon of Mary Wells in his head, over and over, and over again.
Tall and tan and young and handsome
The boy from Ipanema goes walking
And when he passes
I smile but he doesn't see
Jeno holds up his LUNA card above him, letting the moonlight shine on it and he watches the glitter shift idly as he spins the card around.
Yeeun has been urging him to make a call, it would be healthy for him to open up about this, she presses. “It’s better to talk to someone about this either than me, because all the help I’m willing to offer right now is a punch to that jerk’s pretty little face.”
Jeno had pushed Yeeun off her bed, but he’s laughing despite himself. She truly has her way with words sometimes.
Is this whatever he has with Jaemin even worthy of a call?
This is service made for gay people to have security and to talk about their mental health, it’s not a dating advice service. And although it would be nice to talk to someone who didn't have a biased opinion on the matter, maybe someone else much deserving can benefit from this more than him.
God, his head hurts.
Jeno knows that this situation is partly his fault, too. It’s dumb—they're not even in a relationship. In fact, it’s made pretty clear by Jaemin that he has nothing to do with this, or Jeno for that matter. Jeno’s clearly the only one overthinking this, it's probably nothing.
Maybe all he needs is a walk, maybe some fresh air.
Jeno has heard about the hotel rooftop and how the view is amazing up there, be it day or night. Unfortunately, it’s closed off to the public, because of something Johnny apparently did two years ago. They won't exactly tell Jeno what happened that day, but judging by his gross smirk, he’d rather not know.
Mark is kind enough to lend him the keys to the rooftop.
“I trust you.” Mark had shrugged, a lazy smile on his lips. “Unlike most people here.”
The air is chilly this spring night, and the cream cardigan Jeno has on isn’t quite thick enough, but he couldn't care less. The city lights are beautiful, decorating the night sky like a painting, and Jeno is in complete awe.
“I don’t think you’re allowed up here, babe.” Came a sudden voice behind Jeno, and almost jumped out of his skin, turning only to see Jaemin smiling at him.
“You scared me!” Jeno holds a hand against his heart, glaring.
Well, so much for avoiding Jaemin. Someone up there is really playing with Jeno’s sanity, there is just no way Jaemin could possibly just appear in front of him when he doesn’t want to see him the most.
“Sorry.” Jaemin chuckles. He sheds his denim jacket and places it gently around Jeno’s cold shoulders. Jeno flushes at the gesture, murmuring his thanks.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Jaemin asks.
Jeno pulls at Jaemin’s jacket, still a bit warm, still smells a lot like Jaemin. “Just needed to do some thinking.”
For a while, Jeno just stares at Jaemin’s profile—the way his black long sleeved shirt covers clings to the contours of his torso, to the way his adam’s apple bobbles and how white smoke would leave his lips when he exhales. What a beautiful night, Jeno thinks.
“And you?” He asks.
Jaemin takes his time to hum, fingers drumming against the cool concrete. When he turns to Jeno then, there is an odd look in his eyes. “Me too.”
Jeno and Yeeun have been looking for apartments for them to stay at for the foreseeable future. Jeno is thankful for Renjun for letting them stay in these first few months, but it would be good for them to get to explore the city more if they weren't cooped up at Satellite and its surrounding landmarks. Besides, it was about time they left their little hotel suite, it was starting to get incredibly cramped.
The move isn't easy—they've been collecting the flyers they've come across at community bulletin boards and they've scheduled some visits for next couple of weeks. It’s going to be a long process of going to every apartment complex available and checking their options, but it’s a long process they’re willing to take in.
On their way back to the hotel, Jeno stops to look at the marquee up front.
Friends of Dorothy’s Vegas Night
6pm at the Moonlight Lounge
Jeno shares a look with Yeeun before they come up running to front desk like excited puppies to get confirmation from Renjun that yes, the Las Vegas gay protesters have reserved the lounge for the night.
Excitement is an understatement to what Jeno feels. He’s always wanted to attend the protests back in New York, but he’s always been too busy with university work and his side gigs with Yeeun to attend. And if he was being more honest, he was too afraid and too embarrassed to attend. He always declined Yeeun’s offers, even if it were small parades around campus.
Thinking back now, Jeno regrets having done that—his fear dictated most of his life, most of his choices, and in hindsight, maybe he was better off not attending because he clearly wasn’t ready for them.
But tonight, Jeno’s given a chance to face the people he’d once admired from afar, and to serenade and perform them tonight is nothing but a huge honor.
“Yeeun, let’s go!”
“Wait, I forgot one last thing!”
Jeno sighs, leading against the wall by their door. He sees the lights in the bathroom turn off and then Yeeun is running across the room.
“Do you have everything?” Jeno makes a move to open the door, but then Yeeun is suddenly engulfing him into a hug, cooing as she squeezes him. “Now I do.”
Jeno laughs, “What’s this about?” He asks, but he’s wrapping his arms around Yeeun anyway, swaying them softly.
Yeeun slides her hands to cup Jeno’s cheeks, smiling softly. “I’m proud of you. I’m so, so proud of you.”
Jeno furrows his brows. “About what?”
“Just—” Yeeun shakes her head, and when she looks up again at Jeno her eyes are glossy with unshed tears.
“Hey, hey.” Jeno clicks his tongue, but his laugh is wet and he carefully dabs his thumb at the corner of Yeeun’s eye. “Hey, you're going to ruin your makeup, and we haven't even stepped outside our room yet.”
“I can’t help it, okay? Seeing you so happy right now is just—You’ve come such a long way, baby.”
Jeno smiles at Yeeun, pulling her into another tight embrace. “I couldn't have gotten this far without you.”
“Idiot.” Yeeun laughs, lightly hitting Jeno’s chest. “Let’s go put on a show for them, shall we?”
Jeno and Yeeun upped the ante tonight—gone were the slow dances, gone were the love songs.
Tonight, it’s just them and the pop and soul of The Foundation’s Build Me Up Buttercup, and the pride Jeno felt as everyone clapped and sang along with them has him smiling so widely, turning to Yeeun to find her with the same shit-eating grin on her face.
Baby, baby, try to find
A little time and I'll make you mine
I'll be home, I'll be beside the phone
Waiting for you
They break into a jive number, Jeno and Yeeun laughing as they twist their shoes against the wood, spinning and twirling endlessly until they’re dizzy. But it’s all worth it.
Jeno didn’t think he’d been smiling so much to have his cheeks hurting, but when everyone starts cheering louder, starts standing from their seats and starts dancing with them, Jeno has never felt more alive than this moment.
Why do you build me up buttercup, baby
Just to let me down and mess me around
And then worst of all you never call, baby
When you say you will but I love you still
I need you more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up
Buttercup, don't break my heart
When the song ends, Jeno and Yeeun are out of breath, eyebrows dripping in sweat from the routine and the heat of the spotlight. Everyone is quiet for a moment as Donghyuck hits the last beat on his drum and then everyone’s hollering, clapping their hands up in the air.
Jeno and Yeeun intertwine their fingers together and take a big bow.
After the performance, the leader, Taeyong Lee greets them at their table.
Taeyong and Jaehyun hug, pressing their cheeks together in greeting. “It’s been a while, Tae.” Jaehyun says.
“It has.” Taeyong laughs. He turns to Jeno and Yeeun who sit up straighter in their seats. Taeyong smiles. “You guys must be Jeno and Yeeun, I’ve heard all about you from Jae here. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“It’s an honor,” Jeno stands to shake his hand, smiling shyly.
“Oh, come here,” Taeyong snickers, pulling both Jeno and Yeeun into a hug.
Taeyong coaxes them to join the group’s big circle, and they spend the whole night talking about everything—about their future gathers for the months to come, to that one drunken night at Jungwoo Kim’s that was too unbelievable to not retell.
Taeyong also invites Jeno and Yeeun to come to their rallies if they have time, and this time, Jeno will make sure he has time for them.
In the middle of a heated discussion about The Beatles versus The Monkees, Jaemin drops by their table to serve them their drinks. It’s inevitable that they rope him in to stay and chat for a bit, much to Jaemin’s exasperation and everyone else's amusement.
“Come on, Jaemin. It’s been so long since we saw you! Come and stay for a bit.”
“Five minutes,” Jaemin ends up yielding with a groan, shaking his head when they laugh and cheer. He sits himself beside Jeno, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “Hey.” Jaemin smiles.
“Hi,” Jeno greets back timidly, sending a glare at Yeeun who immediately clicks her tongue at the display. Be nice, he signals to her, but he’s only met with a roll of her eyes.
She’s still a little annoyed about the whole birthday fiasco, Jeno is too, but honestly, he finds it too tiring to stay angry when their interactions after are still friendly and fun. Though Jeno is a little more cautious when dealing with Jaemin’s flirting, not wanting to make the same mistake twice.
Doyoung Kim, a rally member who’s basically now adopted Jeno as his child, chimes in, “If Jaemin’s ever bothering you, don't be afraid to tell me, Jeno.”
“Hey!” Jaemin protests. “I’ve been nothing but good to Jeno! Right, baby?”
Jeno sits up when Jaemin suddenly turns to him, blushing as all eyes suddenly turn to him.
Have you? Jeno wants to ask Jaemin directly but doesn't. Instead, he smiles a little too cheery when replying, “I will keep that in mind, Doyoung.”
“Jeno!” Jaemin gapes, making everyone burst into laughter.
When everyone is saying their goodbyes and giving their last hugs for the night, Jeno and Yeeun head back to their room, left with nothing but good memories. Tonight he gained new friendships and with them, new bonds he will cherish for a long time, and new reasons to keep fighting the good fight; keep fighting to be his true self.
It’s a night Jeno will never forget.
Jeno has known Donghyuck enough for him to expect trouble, so when he says to him one morning—too confidently, if Jeno may add—that he’d like to set Jeno up on a blind date, Jeno had every right to be skeptical. Jeno accepts anyway, albeit reluctantly, thinking it won’t be that bad, right?
He’s admitted to himself that maybe it is time to go out and meet new people outside the hotel, and if Jeno ends up liking one of these blind dates then he’s hitting two birds with one stone. Besides, it’s his day off today and he really doesn’t have anything better to do.
Jeno should have known it was going to be worse that he expected.
Jeno thought it would be one date—one quick blind date he can go to today, have fun at and can leave early too.
Nope. Jeno didn’t get that.
Apparently, it was seven dates—Seven! And sure, it’s possible for Jeno to go and meet everyone throughout the week and still get to know each of them and have fun. But of course, Jeno quickly learns that day that it won’t be Donghyuck if things don’t end up being Jeno’s cause of migraines.
Jeno was all dressed nice and neat, waiting patiently at the lobby, only to be dragged into a nearby McDonalds by an impatient looking Donghyuck.
Jeno frowns as they settle into a rather large area with about three small tables pushed together for one long one.
“Isn’t this... A little too public for this kind of date?” Jeno asks.
The McDonalds drive-in mostly has tables outside by the parking and anyone walking past can just watch them eat. Jeno guesses the place Donghyuck picked isn't so bad—it’s the tables at the back of the drive-in where Jeno unfortunately found first hand was a popular make out spot by the locals.
Donghyuck waves a dismissive hand. “Oh, don’t worry. No one is even going to bat an eyelash at our table. Trust me.”
Jeno didn’t quite believe that. He didn’t believe it then, and Jeno especially didn’t believe it now as they round the corner to order, only to spot an inconspicuous line of about seven young men all waving at him, bouquets in their hands.
“Is this a joke?!” Jeno almost screams.
“Listen, I know, I know, this looks bad. So maybe I miscoordinated some dates, but hey! Trust me, okay? We’ll get through them in no time, think of it like a group gathering! Just with a bunch of good looking strangers having a grand ol’ time. What could go wrong?”
“Right.” Jeno’s already rubbing at his temples. Everything—everything could and will go wrong. Oh, he’s sure of it. “At least let me order first.”
With a sigh, Jeno walks to the front counter, hoping to whoever is up there that some fries and a large drink would be enough to get through the day.
“Well, aren’t you a picky one.” Donghyuck sighs.
Jeno blushes, slumping against the cool table. “Shut up.”
He’s clanked. From the get go, Jeno expected this whole speed dating would be tiring, especially with Donghyuck orchestrating it. And god, it was, but not to the extent he’d find himself so mental exhausted. Having to have conversation with seven different men wasn’t exactly on his agenda today, and having to pretend he seemed interested in what they had to say was exhausting.
Jeno’s glad it’s finally over.
“Oh, he’s picky alright.” Yeeun chimes in, slurping at her drink.
She showed up to the joint right when number five, Charlie, was telling Jeno about his extensive stamp collection. Jeno could do nothing but glare at her obvious enjoyment in this whole miserable set up he had to endure.
“Hyuck, I regret to inform you, but he already likes someone. Too bad it's on a dumbass who wants nothing to do with commitment.”
Donghyuck gapes at Jeno, as if the someone in question instantly clicks in his mind. “Oh no, Jeno, sweetie. Not James. Anyone but James.”
Jeno just groans, covering his face with his hands. “I need a drink.”
“And preferably not from him.” Donghyuck stands, wrapping an arm around his waist and squeezes. “Come on, let me buy you something to compensate.”
Club Prismo is a gay bar at the Strip. Amongst onlookers, it’s pretty well hidden behind a mundane suit rental and an old barber’s shop, but because it is harder to find, it’s a safer space for their patrons to gather at freely and party.
Jaemin’s a great bartender and all, and has given him and Yeeun free drinks in suspicious amounts for the past two months, but sometimes, Jeno does want to talk about things he would rather Jaemin not overhear. Especially when he’s the subject in question.
“What’s so good about him anyway?” Jeno slurs, pushing his empty shot glass away. “What does he have that I just can't find with anyone else? Everyone Hyuck introduced to me today was nice, and they were accommodating and understanding and sweet, and anyone would be glad to meet them. And yet,” Jeno frowns.
“They’re not Jaemin, huh?” Donghyuck supplies.
Jeno shakes his head. “All I see is him and his stupid smile,” He runs a hand across his face. “His stupid laugh, stupid handsome face, stupid voice, stupid hands.”
“Oh, darling.” Yeeun squeezes Jeno’s shoulder. “You’re adorable, but this is sad.”
“She’s right.” Donghyuck toots. “Look, I’ve known Jaemin for years. Yeah, he’s a really nice guy, but we’ve also been witness to how messy he is. The last thing I want is to give you false hope, you know?”
Jeno’s smile is sullen. “Little too late for that now.”
Oh, does he know. Jeno knows first hand just how wonderful Jaemin can be as a friend. There is no dull moment with Jaemin, and you can’t help but lean into his warm touches. But because Jeno knows of Jaemin’s flirty nature, he should know by now to not be so comfortable and so close.
It only gets him hurt, and hurt Jeno was. It hurts to see Jaemin in the mornings with someone else by his side, to see his arm around someone else's waist. It hurts to see Jaemin be so sweet to Jeno one second, and then sweet to the next person warming his bed that night.
Jeno has learned the hard way that this is just how Jaemin is and no attention he gives to Jeno should make him think that he’s being treated as special. Because to Jaemin, it’s all the same.
Donghyuck stares at him, brows furrowed, and as if reading his mind, he asks, “But will that stop you?”
Jeno smirks down at his empty glass. And that’s the thing—it won’t. When it comes to Jaemin, Jeno is like a moth to a flame. He finds himself coming back to him, more often than he’d like to admit. And although each time he tries to be cautious, not wanting to get caught in the fire—the heart wants what the heart can't desire.
Jeno can't completely avoid Jaemin—they live in the same hotel, the same fucking floor even, and they work the same hours at the lounge. And even when they’re not obliged to see each other, Jeno seems to always be looking for him in other people, in other things that have nothing to do with Jaemin.
But really, Jeno should really stop this—he should stop chasing Jaemin, stop giving himself false hope, because it will never end the way he wants to, it will never end up like in his dreams. No matter how much more he chooses to sleep, Jeno is always going to have to wake up and face the music, and it’s always going to end with the moth dying in the flames.
And even then, Jeno wonders if he wouldn't mind it.
Yeeun places a new drink in front of Jeno. “Okay, enough of this. Forget about James for a second. Let’s try hooking you up for real this time.”
Jeno pauses to look at his shot, and then at Yeeun.
Then, “Can I kiss you?”
Yeeun almost spits out her drink, Donghyuck does, making a mess of the front of his shirt. “Not with me, dumbass! There are so many cute boys around here to choose from, Jeno!”
Jeno pouts, ears already flushing pink. “Yeah, but I just want to try it once! We have some history, maybe I’ll feel something, you know?”
“Jeno.” Yeeun gives him a stern look. “This isn't a healthy way to cope. You’re not going to magically like me instead.”
“You’re right, but just this once?” Jeno grins. “I know you’ve always wanted to try.”
Yeeun snorts. “Wow, way to bait me with a drunken slip from university.”
But Yeeun’s pulling Jeno in anyway, and Jeno has never smiled so much in a kiss before. It’s sweet, like the margarita Yeeun’s been sipping all night, and something like her tongue flickering lewdly against his shouldn’t be so amusing, but it has Jeno giggling anyway.
“You’re a great kisser, Yeeun.” Jeno laughs as they pull away.
Yeeun crosses her arms. “But I’m no Jaemin, right?”
Jeno sighs, looking down at his drink with a somber smile. “You’re not Jaemin.”
“You’re impossible, Jeno, and I'm considering that as a compliment, by the way. Why would I ever want to come close to being that jackass?”
Donghyuck, who’s just been gaping at the entire exchange, lets out an inhuman noise that has Jeno and Yeeun looking at him like he grew another head.
“Okay, what the hell just happened?”
Jeno thanks the gods for giving him high alcohol tolerance, because Jeno finds himself accepting most of the drinks strangers have bought for him that night. He pointedly ignores Donghyuck and Yeeun’s knowing looks, especially and their little quips of Mr. Popular. There’s no harm in basking in the attention he gets tonight, Jeno thinks. He’s been needing a little ego boost lately.
Too bad no one is bold enough to actually talk to him at their table, unlike the biker chick approaching them right now, charmingly asking Yeeun to dance. It has both Jeno and Donghyuck whistling.
“Looks like someone else is about to hook up tonight!” Donghyuck hollers.
“I’m flattered, babe,” Yeeun tells the pretty stranger, an apologetic smile on her face before turning to Jeno. “But I don't want to ditch my guys here.”
“No, no, she’s going!” Jeno waves his hand up dismissively. “You can leave me here alone to wallow.”
“Hey,” Donghyuck frowns. “I’m still here.”
“Are you sure?” Yeeun asks.
“I’m very sure.” Jeno smiles at her. “You shouldn’t keep her waiting.”
Yeeun stands to press a wet kiss on Jeno’s cheek, laughing when he grimaces. “I love you Jen, see you later at home.”
Yeeun starts walking to the dance floor, hand in hand with her date tonight, only to stop midway to send a wink Jeno’s way. “On second thought, hopefully not.”
“Okay, gross?” Jeno wrinkles his nose. “Please just go!”
It’s pretty late when Jeno got back at the hotel. He isn’t even sure what time it is, but his body is just on the brink of giving up on him so he knows it’s way fucking past his bed time.
Donghyuck was kind enough to drop him off at the Satellite lobby in his blue Beetle, and with a wave goodbye, Jeno hauls himself and his bouquets of flowers in his arms to his floor, careful to not jostle them too much.
He’s at his door when Jeno is stopped by a familiar voice, cursing to himself when he still finds himself shivering at the way he calls out his name.
Of course. Of course his day won’t go unfinished without a run in with Jaemin fucking Na.
“Jaemin,” Jeno turns to him and smiles. “Hey.”
“Haven’t seen you at all today,” Jaemin raises a brow. “I can see now that you were busy.”
Jeno feels his face warm, lucky to have the flowers in his arms to hide his face a little. “Oh, this? It’s nothing. Hyuck set me up on some blind date today.”
“Really? I didn’t know you were the type.” Jaemin hums.
Jeno shakes his head. “I didn’t know I was either.”
“I’m assuming it went well?” Jaemin grins, gesturing to the bouquets. “See? I told you you were a catch.”
“Oh,” Jeno frowns. Is it bad that Jeno expected a different response? He saw the way Jaemin was in front of Jaehyun, the twinge of annoyance and envy evident in his face and his actions, and he’s not sure why he isn’t responding the same. Is Jeno a bad person to be expecting the same thing?
“Yeah, I guess? I’m flattered, but,” Jeno bites back a grimace, tearing his eyes away from Jaemin. “I already have someone I like, so sadly, nothing really worked out today.”
And ah, there it is—the shock Jeno was anticipating.
Jaemin is taken aback, mouth agape at Jeno and Jeno feels his stomach twist. He shouldn’t be so pleased about this really, not when Jaemin is the person in question, but Jaemin also didn’t have to know that.
“Oh.” Is all Jaemin could say.
But that's all Jeno needed to hear to flare up his ego, and God, he’s sick to his stomach. He needs to lie down.
In his musings, Jeno doesn't notice a bouquet slipping out of his hold until it hits the ground. The noise shakes him awake, and as he bends to pick it up Jaemin is also crouching down with him.
“I’ll help you put them inside.” Jaemin offers, but when Jeno takes the flowers from him and their hands end up touching, Jeno flinches back. Jaemin frowns.
“It’s okay, I got it.” Jeno hurries to say, turning around to twist his door open. “Goodnight Jaemin, I don’t want to keep you.”
Jeno shuts the door behind him, letting the flowers drop around him like a curtain, and for what seemed like the nth time that day, he breathes out a tired sigh.
Jeno’s up early today, more than usual. He’s meeting with people at the apartment complex, and he’s hoping to sign the papers to the place by this afternoon.
They found a good place right around Sunshine Manor, a good eighteen minute drive to and from Satellite.
It's a two bedroom unit, semi-furnished—which both him and Yeeun don't mind. They don't really have their stuff yet so it’s good to have something to at least live in at the apartment when they get there. But they're also excited to shop for their own things to fill up their new living space, so they’re glad to have enough room to put their new things into.
When Jeno gets back to the hotel, it’s about three in the afternoon and he’s aching for a nap. Jeno yawns, stretches his arms out in the air, and it's only then when he cranes his neck does he spot Jaemin on his balcony, white smoke leaving his lips, watching him with a lazy, easy smile on his face.
“This is probably the first time I've been inside your place, actually.” Jeno mutters, keeping his hands to himself as Jaemin lets him into his room. He maps everything out quickly, finding the place surprisingly clean.
“Really?” Jaemin is genuinely stunned to know this, Jeno notes with a light laugh.
When they reach the balcony, Jeno joins Jaemin as he leans his arms on the railing.
On most mornings, Jeno usually finds comfort in talking to Jaemin from the comfort of his own balcony, but today is different. Actually being beside Jaemin and being so close to him like this is different. If it’s a good different, Jeno has yet to decide.
It’s because you usually have someone over, sits on the tip of Jeno’s tongue, but he keeps his mouth shut. Breathe, Jeno.
He clears his throat. “Just never found the right time to stop by. You’re usually busy.”
“Right.” Comes Jaemin’s clipped answer. Jeno cringes.
It’s been days since they’ve last spoken properly, nothing but polite greetings since the incident at Jeno’s door. Jeno still feels a little awkward about it, finding himself dancing around Jaemin because it wasn’t really in his nature to be so abrasive like he was that night.
He never thought he’d ever find the silence between suffocating until now.
Suddenly, Jaemin’s radio croons a familiar guitar tune that has Jeno snorting. How apt of you, Frank, Jeno muses, as Sinatra starts off the first verse of Something Stupid.
Jeno sings along to it quietly anyway, simply because although the irony has him a little bit snippy, it’s one of his favorite songs.
I know I stand in line until you think
You have the time to spend an evening with me
And if we go someplace to dance
I know that there's a chance you won't be leaving with me
And afterwards we drop into a quiet little place
And have a drink or two
And then I go and spoil it all
By saying something stupid like ‘I love you’
Jaemin looks at him then, lips stretching into a smile, eyes gleaming.
He nods along as Jeno sings. Then, he opens his mouth, voice low, yet in perfect tune. Jeno gapes.
I can see it in your eyes that you despise
The same old lines you heard the night before
And though it's just a line to you for me it's true
And never seemed so right before
“You can sing.” Jeno says in disbelief.
“A little bit.” Jaemin shrugs. “Not as good as you, obviously.”
I practice everyday to find some clever lines
To say to make the meaning come true
But then I think I'll wait until the evening gets late
And I'm alone with you
Jeno shakes his head snorting, finding this so incredibly amusing. Jaemin pouts at him, clearly seeing the mirth in Jeno’s eyes. Jeno does laugh then, but he’s joining Jaemin anyway, harmonizing along with his baritone.
The time is right, your perfume fills my head
The stars get red, and, oh, the night's so blue
And then I go and spoil it all by saying
Something stupid like ‘I love you’
As the song fades to an end, Jaemin takes a hit of the joint he’s been playing with his hands, and Jeno watches, curious.
It’s so stupid too find someone smoking so incredibly attractive, but it’s Jaemin—the fit white tank and grey sweatpants he’s sporting, riding low against his hip bones aren’t much help either. Jeno swears he isn’t looking.
“You want to take a hit, dollface?”
Jeno startles at Jaemin’s voice, eyes flying up to Jaemin and his amused smirk. Flushed pink, Jeno shakes his head sheepishly. “I don’t really know how to, um, smoke? Sorry.”
“That’s fine.” Jaemin replies. “I can teach you if you want to though.”
Again, Jeno shakes his head. “It seems complicated.”
“Not quite,” Jaemin hums. “All you need to do is take a slow, steady hit, like this,” Jaemin puts the end of the roll on his lips, inhaling deeply, before blowing the smoke out with expert ease. Jeno watches in awe. “And then exhale, slowly. Easy, right?”
“I don’t know about this,” Jeno takes the roll by its tip, albeit a little hesitantly, carefully regarding the roll before putting it between his lips cautiously. He counts to three in his head, then inhales.
It doesn’t end well.
Jeno almost coughs out a lung at the unexpected feeling, leaning over the railing as he feels like he’ll throw up at any second.
“Hey, hey, you’re okay.” Jaemin has the gall to laugh, hands coming up to rub soothing circles on Jeno’s back. “It’s normal to cough when it’s your first time smoking.”
“Oh my god, that was awful!” Jeno wipes at his teary eyes, panting. “You make it seem so easy!”
Jaemin just continues snickering at him, the bastard. Jeno fails to see the amusement of it all, his chest still feels a bit tight, but he’s sure Jaemin’s been buzzed for a while and finds everything quite funny anyway.
“I’m leaving!” Jeno declares, seeing as Jaemin isn’t going to stop laughing anytime soon.
“Wait!” Jaemin shoots forward, still laughing lightly to himself, and easily catches Jeno by the arms. Jeno makes an annoyed noise but doesn't really pull away.
“There’s another way to do this, and it might be easier for you. It might not be ideal, but do you want to try again?”
Jeno blinks at him, still coughing a little. “Easier?”
Jaemin lips stretch into a grin that Jeno deems untrustworthy.
“Yeah, but this may be a bit uncomfortable. I’m going to take a hit and exhale in your mouth.” Jaemin says simply, like he hadn’t just suggest the most absurd thing he’s ever heard, and Jeno almost slips back into another painful coughing fit.
“Excuse me?” Jeno squeaks, doing nothing to conceal his obvious shock. It makes Jaemin’s eyes soften understandingly.
“It’s a bit intimate, I know. So that’s why I’m asking you again, do you still want to try it? Do you trust me?”
He shouldn’t. Jeno really shouldn’t. He's been warned by so many people to be careful—he’s been warned by Jaemin himself to be careful, no matter the joking tone. Just last week he’s been over this with Donghyuck and Yeeun, and every night Jeno tells himself to stop acting this way whenever Jaemin’s involved.
In fact, Jeno shouldn't even be here. Lord knows why he even accepted, why his feet just led him up to Jaemin’s room, to Jaemin’s balcony, inches away from Jaemin’s face.
Jeno should really be tired of being so stupid, this isn’t a good look on him, and it has done nothing but give him grief. But Jeno’s weak, and each passing moment with Jaemin still has him hoping, no matter how hopeless the situation actually is.
So Jeno nods timidly and says, “I trust you.”
Jaemin smiles at him softly. “Look at me, darling.” He cups Jeno’s cheek with a free hand, and Jeno lets him hold him, chewing at his bottom lip when Jaemin’s thumb caresses at the mole under his eyes ever so slightly.
Jaemin takes another slow, big puff from his joint before tossing the roach to the ground and stomping it with the heel of his foot haphazardly.
With Jaemin’s other hand now placed on Jeno’s other cheek, he nods for Jeno to part his lips. Jeno complies, nerves in haywire, and he couldn’t help but close his eyes shut nervously as he feels Jaemin’s lips press atop his. Jeno’s knees threaten to buckle at the feeling, but he stays firm, letting Jaemin exhale the smoke into his mouth unhurriedly, knowing to be more careful this time around.
When Jaemin pulls away, Jeno finds himself in a daze, just blinking slowly, many a time, as he breathes in and out slowly.
“How was that? Better?”
Jeno doesn’t know if that was better, in all aspects, really. Right now, all he’s thinking is that Jaemin kissed him, Jaemin’s lips pressed against his, Jaemin’s mouth aligned with his. Jeno finds himself completely speechless to supply an answer. Was it better? He wasn’t sure. All he knows is that he really needs to sit down for a moment.
Jeno crouches down to the floor, crossing his legs over the other over the cool balcony tiles.
Jaemin joins him, sitting close. The hand finding its way atop Jeno’s knee almost burns.
“It takes a second to hit you, but it feels really good after.”
Jeno nods slowly, blinking, slowly. He wonders how long it takes effect on someone who’s never done this before. Jeno already feels floaty as him and Jaemin are nothing but just quietly staring out into the busy streets. Occasional honking has Jeno jumping, finding himself suddenly sensitive to sounds, and Jaemin would laugh beside him, a hand stroking at the hair at Jeno’s neck.
“Feeling okay, darling? Do you feel different?”
Jeno blinks. “Yeah?”
Or so he thinks.
Maybe Jeno just wants to pretend he’s high already, maybe he just wants to find something to blame over his stupid decisions--file every bad choice he makes as just something under the influence, something his normal self wouldn’t do. Because Jeno definitely feels high at the moment, high enough to ask for something he normally shouldn’t.
“Can you do that thing again,” Jeno slurs.
“Do what again, darling?” Comes Jaemin’s calm voice.
“The thing again,” Jeno repeats, this time giggling when nothing is remotely funny. “The thing you did in my mouth.”
There’s a sudden warmth fanning against Jeno’s face that has him startling, and it’s only belatedly does it register that Jaemin has moved closer into his space again.
“Hi.” Jeno grins sheepishly, but Jaemin isn’t smiling.
“I don’t have my joint anymore, Jeno.” Jaemin says carefully, and there’s a sternness in his voice that has Jeno shivering.
“It doesn’t matter.” Jeno breathes, already closing his eyes in anticipation, but nothing comes and it has Jeno pouting, only to open his eyes to see Jaemin placing a firm hand on his shoulder, eyes serious.
“Are you sure?” Jaemin asks again.
Instead of answering, Jeno giggles again, grabbing Jaemin’s hand to examine it. “Your hand is warm.”
“Jeno, I’m asking you something serious.” Jaemin presses. He takes his hand away, much to Jeno’s disappointment, holding him by the shoulders again sternly. “Look at me.”
Jeno peers up at Jaemin, lashes fluttering slowly. He’s so close that he can feel Jaemin’s warmth, and he finds it so hard not to move closer and bask in it. If it wasn’t for Jaemin’s hold on him, he would’ve already gone for the embrace.
“Are you sure about this?” Jaemin’s voice is a notch softer now, almost above a whisper when he ask, “Do you want me to kiss you?”
Jeno swore he’s never felt his heart pounding more painfully against his chest until now, how loud it rings into his ears like it was shouting at him. He holds his hand over his chest, Jaemin’s words echoing in his mind. “Please.” Jeno mumbles out, shining eyes darting at Jaemin’s bitten lip, gulping. “Please kiss me.”
It doesn’t take long before Jeno feels the pressure of Jaemin’s lips against his, and his arms find refuge pressed against Jaemin's chest, palming at his shirt. He feels Jaemin’s hands slide down to his sides, until they’re squeezing at his hips. Jeno moans at the way Jaemin pushes his tongue into his mouth, eyes closed shut as Jaemin pulls him closer against him.
Jaemin’s so warm that it’s distracting, the next thing Jeno knows is that he’s nested right in Jaemin’s lap, nothing but whimpers leaving his lips as Jaemin takes his time sucking on his tongue.
It feels like an eternity when Jaemin pulls away, but when he does, Jeno immediately wants to go back in and kiss him again, already addicted.
When Jeno opens his eyes next, he’s laying back on the balcony floor, out of breath. Jaemin is laying down next to him, a misty look in his eyes.
“Hey Jaemin?” Jeno slurs.
“Do you like me?” He slurs again, and he laughs at how slow and drunk he sounds. There’s a feeling in his stomach that feels quite odd, Jeno wonders if he’s hungry.
Now it’s Jaemin who sounds slow and drunk and Jeno laughs again. “You kissed me, but then you have girls over!”
“You didn't look very happy when Jaehyun kissed me either.” Jeno muses aloud, yawning.
“I’m sleepy.” Jeno suddenly declares, turning to his side and propping his arm under his head like a pillow. Jaemin sighs tiredly beside him, bringing an arm over his eyes.
“Sleep then, Christ.”
The next time Jeno opens his eyes, he’s in Jaemin's bed, covered to the chin in blankets.
He glances at the wall clock opposite him—it’s about seven o’clock in the evening, and with how quiet the room is, Jaemin’s probably gone and left to man the lounge bar.
Jeno sluggishly stands up from the bed, the world spinning at his every step. When he finally reaches Jaemin’s front door, he watches as Yeeun exits their room at the same time.
There’s a pause as they stare blankly at each other, until Jeno finally manages to open his mouth to speak.
Yeeun responds by pulling him into their room and grabs his change of clothes and presses them against Jeno’s chest.
“As much as I want to know what the fuck happened to you, we’re running late. Hurry up and shower, you stink!”
Yeeun is kind enough to do most of the singing tonight, but the songs she chooses are intentionally chosen to pick at him, giving him some raised brows as she sings Patsy Cline’s Crazy, singing it while circling around Jeno with a calculated look in her eye.
Crazy, I'm crazy for feeling so lonely
I'm crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you'd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you'd leave me for somebody new
Look alive, dumbass, her eyes seem to say, and believe him, Jeno’s trying his best to fight how sluggish his entire being is right now, and the loud bass does plenty to help him focus.
Soon enough, it’s time for his round of songs to sing, and when The Heartbreakers break into a coordinated snapping sequence, Jeno smirks, tapping his foot to the slow beat.
Never know how much I love you
Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me
I get a fever that’s so hard to bear
You give me fever
Jeno’s eyes scan the room, watching everyone bob their head to his voice, but really, he’s just finding an excuse to feast his eyes on Jaemin at the bar, clean white dress shirt, three of his top buttons undone, burgundy suspenders taught against his chest.
Sun lights up the daytime
Moon lights up the night
I light up when you call my name
And you know I’m gonna treat you right
You give me fever
It doesn't surprise Jeno anymore to see Jaemin staring back at him, but the usual cheek in his eyes is nowhere to be found tonight. Instead, there’s something chilling, something electric in the way Jaemin’s brown eyes stare down at him and it has Jeno’s swallowing down the lump on his throat.
Everybody’s got the fever
That is something you all know
Fever isn't such a new thing
Fever started long ago
And yet Jeno doesn’t tear his eyes away from Jaemin, can't tear his eyes away at Jaemin. All he can do is bring his microphone closer to his suddenly parched lips and sing.
You give me fever when you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
Fever in the morning
Fever all through the night
For the second time that day, Jeno finds himself in Jaemin’s room, in Jaemin’s bed.
The only difference is this time, he’s pinned underneath Jaemin’s weight, Jaemin’s mouth making work of his neck.
Jeno hisses at the feel of Jaemin’s teeth biting down on the side of his neck, making Jaemin chuckle. Then Jaemin’s pulling away to kiss him properly, all the while untuck Jeno’s shirt, unbuttoning it with practiced ease.
When Jeno discards of his shirt, he’s pulling Jaemin back by the suspenders, slipping him tongue back into Jaemin’s hot, addicting mouth.
Did Jaemin always taste of cherries? Jeno has no point of references for this. Should he ask? But he didn't want to pull away either. He likes cherries, he also liked Jaemin’s tongue licking the roof of his mouth. It tickles, but in a good way—in an intoxicating way that has Jeno positively drooling, lips slick with Jaemin’s saliva.
When they pull away, there's a string of it that connects them, it makes Jeno giggle, still finding things oddly amusing. When Jeno darts his tongue out, the string breaks, making him pout, and when Jeno moves to sit up, he feels his head spin a little.
“Easy,” Jaemin chuckles, and with a careful hand on Jeno’s chest, he’s pushing him back gently onto the sheets.
Jeno wonders if he’s still high because this is too surreal to not be something out of his dreams. There is no way this is actually happening—there’s no way Jaemin is here right now, hovering over him, kissing him hotly, feeling every last inch of skin he can put his hands on. Maybe if Jeno blinks Jaemin would disappear even, and the thought of that has Jeno whimpering in distress.
But then, Jaemin’s moving to flick his tongue against Jeno’s nipple, and Jeno’s cries are a little too loud and too real to his own ears.
One night of fun turns into two, and then suddenly, Jeno is always at Jaemin’s.
He doesn’t know how it came to be if he was honest, everything happened so fast. After that night of drug enduced fucking, they never spoke about what happened again, not even once, but oh, did they see the change.
Or at least Jeno did.
He didn't think there could be any more intense than Jaemin’s usual stare, but in the days following their little rendezvous, Jeno was proven wrong.
From the stage, Jeno could feel the way Jaemin was watching his every move, and it both excited and frightened him how, when he would look back, Jaemin would never back down, not once looking away even if Jeno wasn’t.
Once their set was over, Jeno would go over to the bar like he usually would after every show, but instead of his usual martini order, Jeno was stunned to have Jaemin slide something else over the counter. Before Jeno could so much as look up, Jaemin’s already turning his back to him, preparing his next drink.
So with nervous fingers, Jeno picks up the key to Room 213 and quietly pockets it into his slacks.
Jeno finds out sooner than later that they didn’t have to talk about what happened at all, not when their mouths are too busy mapping each other’s skin, hands too busy grabbing at clothing they want to take off.
It’s come to a point where Jeno doesn’t even have to knock anymore, instead, the way Jeno’s head knocks against Jaemin’s headboard is now a common occurrence.
He’s gotten to know Jaemin closer than he’s been the past couple of months—intimately closer.
Jeno now knows how sensitive his neck is, how easy it is to coax Jaemin into pushing in harder into him with a pleading look and a whimper of his name. He now knows how Jaemin’s eyes would rolls back at the back of his head when he’s coming down from his high, emptying himself inside Jeno and how Jaemin would make sure to clean the both of them up before he’s laying back on his side of the bed, letting exhaustion consume him.
This is bad. This is so fucking bad—this is definitely not an arrangement Jeno would have thought to ever find himself with someone like Jaemin.
Jeno’s only saving grace throughout all of this is that he’s at least not subjecting himself to this torment everyday.
On the days he isn't at Jaemin’s, Jeno’s out with Yeeun and the band, drinking and dancing his sorrows away, because without him in the picture, Jaemin can do whatever he wants, he can be with whoever he wants. And as much as possible, Jeno doesn't try to think about it too much because he knows it’s going to drive him mad.
He can think of the consequences later, but right now, Jeno could care less.
Finally, he can say that he’s the one Jaemin is kissing the most, the one Jaemin is undressing, and fucking into his bed, the one warming his sheets. Jaemin is his, even if just for a couple hours of the night. And as long as Jaemin would have him, as long as Jaemin’s welcoming him back in his arms each time, Jeno didn’t care.
And god, did Jeno once dreamed of all of this, and right now he’s not ready to wake up just yet.
“Open.” Jaemin taps Jeno’s cheek, Jeno didn’t have to be told twice.
He parts his lips, eyes fluttering shut when Jaemin's presses the wet tip of his cock against the inside of his cheek.
Jeno gets to work, taking his time mapping out Jaemin’s length with his tongue. He’s still a bit languid, eyes smeared with sleep, but his libido seems to be awake at the same time as Jaemin’s is, and when Jeno shifts on the bed, he groans at the friction against his own groin.
Jaemin looks so good in the morning it’s almost criminal. He’s leaning his bare back against the headboard, hair tousled all over the place. His legs are sprawled apart, with Jeno on his stomach, nestled between Jaemin’s strong thighs. It’s a compromising sight to be in so early in the morning, but would Jeno be crazy to think the way Jaemin is softly running his finger through Jeno’s hair oddly chaste?
Jeno’s doesn't get to overthink the thought further, his stomach growling loudly against his quiet licks, completely changing the mood.
Jaemin lets out a snicker, pinching Jeno’s hallowed cheek. “Hungry?” He hums, letting his fingers run down Jeno’s throat. “Want me to get you breakfast?”
Jeno stills, almost slipping Jaemin’s cock out of his mouth. He looks up at Jaemin with a glare, ignoring his burning ears.
Jaemin shakes his head laughing. “I meant breakfast at the diner, you pervert!” He tuts, pushing at Jeno’s forehead with his pointer. He ends up biting his smile back, hissing when Jeno pushes forward, letting the tip of his shaft reach the back of his throat.
“Ew,” Jeno blanches when he swallows the last of Jaemin’s cum, and then he’s laughing, running to the bathroom, bare ass in broad daylight, as Jaemin jumps out of bed to catch up with him with him with grabby hands.
“I’ve lost count how many times you’ve escorted me out.” Jeno covers his face, sighing a tad dramatically. “Ah, another day of the walk of shame.”
Jaemin bumps hips with him, laughing. “Shut up, do you want me to pay for your morning toast or not?”
Jeno finds comfort in routine, and somehow Jaemin has weaseled his way into Jeno’s mornings, his once sometimes turning into every morning. They talk about everything over eggs and toast and in times like these, Jeno’s glad nothing has changed between them.
In times like these, their night time affairs don't exist, it’s just Jeno, Jaemin and morning toast.
Jeno barely enters their shared room before Yeeun’s pulling him by the collar and dragging him down the hallway.
“You’re coming with me.” She taunts, confusing Jeno greatly. When they get to the elevators, Donghyuck is there waiting for them with his arms crossed.
“What did I do?” Jeno whines. Donghyuck pressed the button to the twelfth floor, a place they’ve never ventured before, or at least to Jeno’s knowledge.
“What did you do?” Yeeun lets out an almost offended noise. “Do I have to tell you what you’ve been doing? It’s all over your fucking neck, Jesus.”
“Stop touching them!” Jeno flushes, swatting Yeeun’s hands away. He pulls up the neck of his collar in a futile attempt to at least conceal them.
“Where are you taking me anyway?”
The elevators dings as if cue, and Yeeun and Donghyuck step out first, while Jeno follows behind them, wary in every step he takes.
It turns out, Yeeun and Donghyuck have been wanting to conduct an intervention with him and have decided to drag him to the LUNA office, meet the LUNA girls and see if they could help him with whatever was going on with him and Jaemin.
Jeno didn't want to go through with it. He didn’t find it quite necessary, and he clearly voiced his disapproval at Yeeun and Donghyuck, having already attempted to turn back and leave, but they paid him no mind, still dragging him to their office anyway. This time, hooking their arms around each of Jeno’s, Yeeun on the left and Donghyuck on the right, lest he tries to escape.
They soon find themselves in front of Room 1212. It’s inconspicuous to say the least—one wouldn't really bat an eyelash when you walk past it, which Jeno deems genius. That way they can serve their purpose without the risk of being found out by the wrong people.
It’s a different story the moment they walk in however, and for a good three minutes, they are standing there in awe, completely floored by the almost futuristic motif that the office is decorated in.
The LUNA symbol, a purple glitter moon, hangs just above at the reception area, almost hypnotic as it spins. The place is reminiscent of a university club room, like a playful library where talking isn’t so prohibited.
“Welcome!” A woman in a red mini dress greets them. Yves, it says on her ID, and just below, it says Sooyoung Ha in Hangul.
“Hey Donghyuck, long time no see.” Yeeun and Jeno blink as Donghyuck and Sooyoung go for an embrace, and then Sooyoung is smiling at them sweetly.
“And you guys are?”
Yeeun immediately shoots forward when Donghyuck pulls away. “Yeeun, it’s very lovely to meet you.” Jeno couldn’t stop the roll of his eyes.
“Listen, Yeeun, darling. Again, we’re here to help Jeno, not get you another girl you can get handsy with.”
“Oh?” Sooyoung laughs behind a hand, and Jeno snickers with her. Yeeun glares at them, before turning back to Sooyoung, pouting.
“Yeah, our friend Jeno here is in need of a pep talk and I heard you guys have the right person for the job.”
They’ve settled in a futon at the far back. It’s set on the floor with an ample amount of pillows, reminiscent of sleepovers Yeeun and Jeno would do at Yeeun’s old apartment near campus. Donghyuck, Yeeun and Jeno easily settle at the place, stealing a few baskets laid out in a neat pile just for them to use.
They meet Jinsoul Jung, another friend of Donghyuck and another person who has personally encountered Jaemin before as well.
“So what seems to be the problem here?” Jinsoul asks as she settles beside them.
“Jaemin.” Donghyuck and Yeeun say at the same time.
Jinsoul snorts, “And what has he done this time?”
“I don’t need this.” Jeno insists, shifting in his seat uncomfortable.
“Jeno likes Jaemin and he’s letting Jaemin fuck him over.”
“Yeeun.” Jeno hisses. Yeeun is glaring back at him, crossing her arms.
“Because you won’t say it!”
“Is this true, Jeno?” Jinsoul asks, voice calm in contrast with theirs.
Jeno looks down at his hands. “Sort of.” He mumbles.
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“Well, what do you want me to say, Yeeun?” Jeno sighs tiredly. This is ridiculous. He isn’t some kid that should be supervised. He’s an adult and he’s well fucking aware of his decision and choices, and he’s well aware they aren’t the best, but it’s no one’s business but his own.
“We’re friends, He’s a nice person to be around, I think you all know that. And contrary to popular belief, or at yours, he’s not hurting me. We’re just hanging out a lot more, getting closer, getting you know—intimate.”
“Well, then that’s at least good to know.” Jinsoul hums.
“You’re impossible!” Yeeun lies down with a groan. “At least tell me if Jaemin’s good or something!”
It’s almost comical how both Jeno and Jinsoul blush at the same time, even more so when Donghyuck joins them. It makes Yeeun sit up immediately in shock.
Donghyuck just scratches the back of his neck sheepishly. “You know I can't lie to you Yeeun.”
Yeeun wrinkles her nose. “On second thought, I'd rather not know.”
Yeeun and Donghyuck consider the day a failure—Jeno was adamant in refuting all of their accusations, constantly saying that he’s fine where he is now, and that he promises this won’t turn for the worse like they’re hoping it would be.
Jinsoul was also drilling him with question after question. Jeno, mentally tired, just answered them soullessly, and he could clearly see the irritation in her expression. He almost smirks to himself, who wouldn’t be frustrated with him right now, but it was getting repetitive and bothersome, Jeno just wanted to get this over with.
In the end, Jinsoul lets them go. It was almost time for the lounge to open and she left them her card, telling Jeno that if something does happen, he should call her immediately.
Jeno mumbles his thanks, pocketing the card in his back pocket before they say their goodbyes.
“You look exhausted.”
Jeno slumps further into Jaemin’s bar counter. If he could melt into the wood, he would. “Yeeun and Donghyuck dragged me somewhere earlier, we just got back. I’m really tired.”
“I can see that.” Jaemin chuckles. “Let me make you something to keep you awake.”
And Jeno watches Jaemin and his practiced ease at mixing, how calloused his fingers have become from work and how careful he can handle glass in the vees of his hands. It’s almost comforting how careful Jaemin is when he wants to, how he shows his care in the most subtle ways possible, even in the way he garnishes a drink. Jeno blinks, sinking further into his seat. God, is he tired.
“It’s a little too early for this, but here,” Jaemin slides Jeno’s regular martini over to him. “You’ll be needing it.”
Jeno sighs, lifting the drink up at Jaemin with a tired smirk. “Thanks.”
That night, Jaemin deems Jeno too tired to do anything.
Jeno, a little ways drunk and a lot ways exhausted, protests, but the moment he plops into Jaemin’s soft sheets, he’s out like a light.
When Jeno wakes up, it’s to Jaemin’s chest and his arms wrapped around Jeno, just holding him close.
Somehow, Jeno thinks, it feels a bit wrong—this isn't part of their arrangement, at all. Jaemin wasn’t obliged to stay with Jeno when they weren't fooling around, hell, they didn’t even so much as kiss.
At the same time, it feels… nice. It feels quite nice being held like this, and Jeno can’t deny the smile that creeps on his face when he tries to move away, Jaemin just sleepily pulls him back to him, snuggling even closer. Ultimately, Jeno says nothing. He closes his eyes, laying his head back on Jaemin’s chest, and lets Jaemin’s even breathing lull him back to sleep.
Jeno’s almost considered a regular at Club Prismo with the way the bouncers and bartender practically know him by now, what with his frequent visits.
It’s one of those nights where someone else is warming Jaemin’s bed, and what better way to spend Jeno’s evening than to drown his sorrows in alcohol. He didn’t even have to buy a lot of drinks, each time a new glass slides into his peripheral, it’s from a kind, random stranger that wants to get with Jeno. Jeno never forgets to say his thanks, unfortunately, it comes with an apologetic smile and a shake of his head.
That night when a gin on the rocks slides across Jeno looks up and his smile instantly falls.
“Not you too.”
Jaehyun sits down beside him at his table with a snort. “Yeeun told me you’d be here.”
“Let me guess,” Jeno sighs, picking up Jaehyun’s drink. He’d rather it not go to waste. “You’re here to lecture me too.”
“I know they’ve already said everything, and I know that you’re tired of hearing us preach, but we just want you to be careful.”
Jeno smirks. “You’re saying that as if he’s going to hurt me.”
“Are you not hurt?” Jaehyun asks softly.
Of course, it hurts.
As much he likes the rush, as much as he craves Jaemin’s touches, there’s always a longing that Jeno can’t quite place, a longing for Jaemin he cannot have. And Jeno has no other choice but to keep that to himself, because it’s something Jaemin is not willing to give outside their current relationship—if Jeno can even call it that.
So of course, Jeno’s hurting, but Jeno isn’t ready to tackle that hurdle just yet, not when he doesn’t want to let go what they have right now. To him, it’s something to hold on to, something he can point to to prove that Jaemin is his, if not partially, and he lets his desire to have a proper relationship with Jaemin ruin them, Jeno will have nothing.
“Look, I appreciate you guys helping me, but I can take care of myself. And don’t worry, I’m not chaining him down—he’s seeing other people besides me. In fact, he’s fucking someone right now.”
Jaehyun frowns. “And you're letting that happen?”
Jeno smiles sullenly as he traces the rim of his glass with his finger. “You already told me, I'm a lost cause, right?”
The night continues with them in silence, well, as silent as a gay bar can be. The music has been loud and the bass has been heart pounding the entire time, but the mood at Jeno and Jaehyun’s table isn’t so much as lively.
It was a Wednesday, and every Wednesday Prismo held an open mic, a free for all to participate.
Jaehyun is already pulling at Jeno before he could protest, and he’s flushed to the neck as everyone cheers for them when they head to the small stage.
As Jaehyun hands him a microphone, the speakers start blasting a tune that has Jeno glaring at Jaehyun and his shit eating grin.
I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow
“I fucking hate you!” Jeno screams into the microphone, making everyone laugh, but he starts singing along to Little’s Peggy March’s first verse anyway.
I will follow him
Follow him wherever he may go
There isn't an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away
Jaehyun sways beside him, dancing to the charming beat and to the way everyone in the club is clapping along with them. He brings his microphone to his lips and continues where Jeno left off.
I must follow him
Ever since he touched my hand I knew
That near him I always must be
And nothing can keep him from me
He is my destiny
Jeno and Jaehyun point their microphones to the crowd, and all together the bar boomed in chorus:
I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow
He'll always be my true love, my true love, my true love
From now until forever, forever, forever
“I don’t think Yeeun is going to like it when I tell her she missed open mic with you.” Jaehyun laughs as they head back to their table. Someone else had run up the stage right after them and Jaehyun had grabbed his hand and squeezed through the crowd to escape.
Jeno looks down at their joint hands and frowns.
“Why couldn’t I like you instead?”
Jaehyun turns to him then, eyes softening. “Isn’t that the most confusing thing about being human?” Jaehyun lets go of Jeno’s hand, instead placing it gently against Jeno’s chest, over Jeno’s heart, and Jeno smiles sullenly at its even beating. “You can’t force yourself to like someone.”
Still, “Can you kiss me again?” Jeno insists. He knows it’s a bit futile, having done this with Yeeun, who is practically his soulmate, and it yielded the results Jeno was expecting. Jaehyun is an attractive man, kind, funny and talented—everyone would want to be with him, really, and yet—
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Jaehyun voices out Jeno’s thoughts, but Jeno is a bit stubborn.
“Please? I just wanna test something out.”
Jeno could clearly see Jaehyun’s hesitance, and Jeno couldn’t really blame him. It’s an odd request, really. Jaehyun does end up nodding eventually, albeit reluctantly, and Jeno flutters his eyes shut as Jaehyun moves into his space and kisses him.
And it’s wonderful, Jeno could taste the gin on Jaehyun’s lips and he hums as Jaehyun dances with his tongue, but even as Jeno tries to deepen the kiss, no matter how much passion he tries to put into the kiss, it just doesn’t feel right. Much like his kiss with Yeeun, Jeno kept looking for something, someone, and it isn’t a mystery to anyone who Jeno was missing.
“It's not the same, isn't it?” Jaehyun asks when they pull away.
Jeno shakes his head, smiling softly. “I’m sorry.”
Jaehyun chuckles, running his hands through his hair. “Am I at least a better kisser though?”
Jeno rolls his eyes, laughing despite himself. “Bug off.”
It’s about two in the morning when Jaehyun and Jeno get back at the hotel.
Mark sleepily greets them at the reception, and then Jaehyun accompanies Jeno until the elevators before he heads back home himself. Jaehyun lives a few blocks at his shared apartment with the other Heartbreakers so it isn’t a far walk.
When Jeno is back at his floor, he finds himself hesitating at the front of Jaemin’s door.
It’s stupid. It’s not like Jeno is not alone to enter, hell, Jaemin hasn’t taken his spare key back from him yet, but Jeno still feels like he’s intruding everytime he goes into Jaemin’s room.
And the thing is Jeno has really no reason to visit, they’re not going to fuck, that one’s clear, Jeno just misses him a little, and he just wants to check up on him for a second then he’ll get back to his own room.
With a sigh, Jeno unlocks the door.
It’s pitch dark, nothing but the moonlight from the balcony illuminating Jaemin’s sleeping form. Jeno crouches down, smiling at the peaceful look on Jaemin’s face. He’s only occupying one side of the bed, and Jeno wonders if he can slip in without waking him up.
Carefully, Jeno walks to the other side, slowly sinking into the mattress without the spring making so much noise. Jeno closes his eyes as his head hits the pillow, and for a moment he just watches Jaemin’s back as he breathes in and out evenly. Then, Jeno’s turning, not wanting to disturb Jaemin any further.
Jeno was slowly getting drowsy when he feels the blanket come up to cover his body, freezing as he feels Jaemin turn and rest his forehead against Jeno’s shoulder.
“Where were you?” Comes Jaemin’s, deep, sleep ridden voice.
“Just out.” Is Jeno’s clipped reply.
He still smells like Jaemin, no trace of anything else—anyone else, and Jeno wonders if Jaemin just had the courtesy of showering after. How kind of him, Jeno sighs. Jaemin presses even closer, wrapping his arms around Jeno’s waist and when he kisses Jeno’s shoulder, Jeno hates that he melts against Jaemin’s embrace.
“Good night, Jeno.”
Jeno doesn’t sleep—the dull ache in the pit of his stomach keeps him awake.
Jeno has seen all of Jaemin, intimately so, so he shouldn’t be surprised to see him bare anymore, but as Jaemin climbs up from the pool ladder, body dripping wet, long hair slicked back, swimming shorts clinging to his thighs like second skin, Jeno is nothing but frozen in place. The way the fluorescent light posts paint his tan skin in the night isn’t helping at all, making Jaemin look like he just stepped out of a dream.
Jaemin’s pulling at Jeno’s arm gently, grin cheeky, pulling into the pool. And like most things when it comes to Jaemin, Jeno follows, discarding his robe as he jumps into the water.
It’s just them in the sixth floor pool tonight, and Jaemin takes full advantage of this, pinning Jeno against the cool pool tiles and kissing him all over his wet skin.
Jeno’s hands rest at Jaemin’s chest as Jaemin moves from kissing the sensitive area just above his throat, to licking into Jeno’s mouth the way Jeno loves, but they do nothing to rid Jeno of his thoughts, too distracted to respond to Jaemin’s actions accordingly.
Jeno ends up pulling away, chewing at his bottom lip anxiously.
“Sorry, I’m just—” He shakes his head. “I just have a lot in my mind lately.”
Everyone’s words have been eating Jeno up lately, from his visit to LUNA with Yeeun and Donghyuck, to Jinsoul’s warnings and urges for him to call, to the run in with Jaehyun at Prismo, Jeno’s head is hive of just people telling him what to do, how to feel, including himself.
It's been about a month of this madness, and Jeno can’t believe he’s held on this long to be frank. Jeno isn’t even sure if he’s proud of making it this far—this has slowly entered routine territory, it's slowly becoming part of Jeno’s everyday and he knows he can’t do that.
“We don’t have to do anything if you’re not up for it,” Jaemin hums, smiling at him softly. He cups Jeno’s face almost tenderly, like Jeno would break in his hold at any second, and Jeno wonders if he just might, especially if Jaemin wouldn’t stop staring at him like this, keep holding him so so close like this—it’s torture.
It’s another night of Jaemin just cuddling Jeno to bed. Jeno sometimes thinks something is wrong with him because it’s on these nights where he can hardly find peace of mind, can hardly sleep. Usually he would be too tired to think, too exhausted to move, but with Jaemin just lying beside him, so peaceful and so serene, it has Jeno overthinking everything.
This thing he has with Jaemin, it's not meant to last long, and Jeno knows that—has known from the very start, and yet he’s been having random moments of wanting more and more.
And nothing has confused Jeno more than having Jaemin so close and so comforting like this. It has Jeno so scared—so scared because he’s starting to like this, starting to like the tenderness and the quiet, and Jeno’s scared he’d get used to this too, and fully knowing that he isn’t the only one Jaemin is doing this too is even more terrifying.
The baby green Channel Master sitting pretty atop Jeno and Yeeun’s coffee table is Yeeun’s best friend.
There isn’t a moment the little radio isn’t turned on when Yeeun’s occupying the room, Jeno’s gotten used to it, he loves the sound of Yeeun’s voice anyway, always had, so it didn’t really bother him that she would singsong to everything that played. Besides, they get to practice along with it when they’re in a time crunch.
One thing he won’t get used to however, is when Yeeun is waking him up by obnoxiously singing right into his ear that it startles him upright in his bed in shock.
“ Stop! In the name of love, before you break my heart— ” Yeeun screams at him one morning and Jeno swears he felt his heart almost jump out of his chest.
“Jesus Christ, Yeeun,” Jeno pants, crashing back down onto his bed with a groan. “You scared me.”
Jeno’s incoherent state barely registers Yeeun in her bed folding up her clothes for her trip to New York that morning. She's staying home for a bit to visit her folks back at home, had excitedly told Jeno about it the other day, but as much as Jeno is jealous, he’d rather not meet his disappointed parents anytime soon and had declined her invite to come with.
“Think it over,” Yeeun turns up the volume all the way up with an obnoxious grin. “At least listen to the Supremes if you won’t listen to me.” She gripes. Jeno had opted to press his face with his pillow, begrudgingly accepting his fate of being forcibly awake at this ungodly hour.
Jeno didn't think much of that exchange, just chucked it as another one of the many moments of Yeeun being Yeeun, but then Jeno finds himself lying in Jaemin's bed at six in the morning, awoken by Jaemin’s radio. It’s been running all evening without them noticing, too busy with each other to notice the noise.
It wakes Jeno up, although gentler than how Yeeun does it, and he moves to shut it off but then Diana Ross’s familiar sweet voice fills the air.
Baby, baby, I'm aware of where you go
Each time you leave my door
I watch you walk down the street
Knowing your other love you'll meet
Jeno frowns, biting his lip as he turns to Jaemin's peaceful face, still obvious to the world. While his own mind is working a mile a minute, a bucket of ice was just thrown to his entire body and he shivers at the painful reality of the situation he’s gotten himself into
But this time before you run to her
Leaving me alone and hurt
Think it over
And this time, Jeno lies back and thinks this over.
What was Jeno thinking? Who was he going to fool that this would work out in the end? He can’t stay like this forever—it’s already a miracle that it’s gone long enough.
Weeks upon weeks of suppressing this feeling that has been slowly driving Jeno mad. Just because it’s a thought Jeno’s shoved at the back of his mind doesn’t mean it isn't happening.
Jeno likes Jaemin—No, he’s in love with him.
It’s been something that has been building up inside of Jeno. From the get go, he already liked Jaemin, he was attractive, he was friendly, he was flirty, it was inevitable.
And when this arrangement started, he thought he could push those feelings aside and just have a fun time with Jaemin, fooling around like he did with other people. And Jeno really thought it would stay like that, just stop at them being friends with benefits and that he wouldn’t fall harder. And yet it was the fucking opposite—Jeno ended up dived into Jaemin’s trap anyway, dived into his strong arms, even stronger kisses, his unexpected tenderness and his distracting warmth.
Jeno found himself longing to hold Jaemin’s hand, bury his face at the crook of his neck, kiss Jaemin tenderly so—all things they’ve done so many times in the past month, and yet they didn't feel quite right in their intimate nature, and it’s then did Jeno see the problem in the first place—he couldn’t get enough.
There's no sugar coating this—though their friendship took a physically intimate turn, Jeno equally valued the times where they were just together, hanging around in Jaemin’s apartment or spending breakfast at the diner drowning their pancakes with syrup.
And god did it scare him, to want more when he shouldn’t be asking for such in the first place.
When Jeno should be remembering Jaemin’s own words—Jaemin’s own warning months ago: A relationship isn't something he’s going to get with him. And Jeno knows that, hell, he let Jaemin fucking fool around with other people.
And Jeno knows he kind of started this mess in the first place, but it still hurts, god, does it fucking hurt, no matter if it was an inevitable outcome in the first place.
He can't stay like this forever. A relationship is what he wants, what Jeno craves, but a relationship is something Jaemin isn't willing to give.
Jeno doesn't remember how he got to the lobby, but here he is anyway, nothing but his crumpled shirt put on haphazardly and his equally crumpled pants. He walks to the front desk, maybe talking with someone with reason can knock some sense into him.
Yeeun chose the worst time to be out right now, but Jeno can't really blame her for wanting to visit family after so long. Though she’s not going to like that she won't be the first to know, Renjun is the second best when it comes to seeing through Jeno’s bullshit so Yeeun will just have to deal with it when she comes back.
“You look rough.” Renjun comments without looking up from his desk.
Jeno frowns, but he can't even dispute him. Renjun’s right—he’s a fucking mess right now.
“Hey, can I tell you something in confidence?”
Renjun turns the page of the book he’s reading. “If I say no will that stop you?”
Jeno sighs. “No, I guess not.” He rests his arms over the marble countertop, leaning his head against his arm in defeat.
“I think I’m in love with Jaemin.”
To finally say it out loud is both terrifying and relieving—terrifying because it’s not something he’s made up in his mind, it’s something real that he has been surpressing for so fucking long. It's not something Jeno can just brush off as nothing anymore, and because of that it’s equally as relieving, because it feels like such a huge weight that has lifted from his chest right now. Lord knows how it's been tormenting Jeno in his countless sleepless nights.
This time, Renjun does look up, closing his book shut quietly. He smiles at him softly, and says, “I know.”
And Jeno would have screamed if he didn’t see this coming, instead, he can only slump even further into the counter, tired. “That obvious, huh?”
Jeno’s wondered if he’s been obvious all this time—can't help but think that his inner turmoil was written all over his damn face, in plain sight for people to see. Yeeun has always said she knows how he feels just by looking at him, and with the way Donghyuck, Jaehyun, and even Renjun were all warning him about Jaemin, Jeno guesses everyone noticed along with her.
“Do you think even Jaemin knows?” Jeno asks, because at this point, why wouldn’t he, no matter how much the thought scares Jeno, it’s not impossible.
This time, Renjun doesn’t look as knowing as before. “That I'm not sure of.” He says, smile apologetic.
To be honest, it’s a scary thought that Jeno never wants to entertain. They're already in this complicated arrangement, and it won’t sit well with him if Jaemin has just been indulging him all this time. Jeno’s realistic enough to not even think about Jaemin reciprocating his feelings—what with Jaemin making it clear from the very start about his ideals even before they started this.
Jeno knows it won't change soon, even at his expense, and to hell will Jaemin change his entire lifestyle just for the likes of him—it's just too absurd.
Jeno runs his palms across his face tiredly. Being Jaemin’s priority—it’s something he could only daydream about.
He’s pulled out out his thoughts when the elevator door pings, and for a moment, Jeno wonders if his manifestations are playing tricks on him because that can’t be Jaemin running out of the elevator—That can't be Jaemin meeting his eye, looking at him wide eyed one moment and then sighing in relief in the next—it just can't.
Jeno bites his lip, nervous, as he watches Jaemin stop just before him.
“There you are.” Jaemin breathes.
In a brave moment, Jeno voices what he’s always wanted to, “Were you looking for me?”
“I was.” Jaemin nods. “You disappeared all of the sudden, I just—” Jaemin wipes his hands on his sweatpants, seemingly uneasy. “I thought we were going to get breakfast, is that still on?”
Jeno looks at Renjun briefly, meeting his intrigued eyes, then he laughs, albeit a bit forced, clasping his hands together. “Oh, right. Sorry. I just needed some air.”
“Don’t be sorry.” Jaemin says hurriedly. It has Jeno raising his brows a little, surprised, and Jaemin seems to catch himself too, coughing as he plays with the hair on his neck.
“Don’t ever be sorry.” He says softer this time. “Let’s—Let’s just go.”
Breakfast was quiet—not the usual quiet Jeno is used to, but it’s a quiet that he finds oddly placed. Even the walk back to the hotel is quiet, and for a moment Jeno worries if Jaemin is feeling okay.
The thought disappears however, when they reach Jeno’s door. Jaemin has Jeno backed up against the wall, kissing him suddenly, deeply, hands slipping under Jeno’s shirt, and just like that, Jaemin is back to normal.
“Are we done here?”
Jeno jolts at the sound of Yeeun’s voice and surely enough she’s standing by their door frame, one hand on her hip, the other gripping her suitcase handle. The corner of her lip up in a smirk, but Jeno has seen it enough to know it’s a disappointed one.
The warmth is gone too quickly as Jaemin pulls away, laughing slightly. “See you later.” He says to both of them, smiling at Jeno one last time before he turns to enter his own room.
Jeno plops onto his pillows with a groan, hands over his eyes.
“I know what you're going to say.” He mumbles.
Jeno didn’t have to look at Yeeun to know what the long, exasperated sigh she lets out means, let alone need to see the look on her face when she does it.
“And you never listen.”
She’s right, he never did, but Jeno is determined to change that now.
“Yeeun, I need to make a phone call.”
“Hi, this is LUNA Jinsoul speaking. How can I help you, darling?”
“Hello, um. This is… This is Jeno. I’m ready to talk.”
It’s a day of celebration.
Yeeun and Jeno are getting their keys to the apartment today. Yeeun for one was very excited, she borrowed Donghyuck’s car so they could drive to Sunshine Manor quicker, too impatient to wait for the bus. They've signed the papers and paid three months in advance—they were set, just needing to pencil in when they can move their stuff in.
Jeno should be just as excited—yes, he is happy, really, a small proud smile on his lips as he examines the keys in his hands, but he just wasn't in the mood to celebrate.
Instead of going back to the hotel, Yeeun parks Donghyuck’s Beetle at the McDonalds nearby. Inside the car they sit in silence, their chairs reclined, cold soda and fries in their hands.
“You really do love him, huh?” Yeeun breaks the quiet, voice just as quiet, as if any louder could be considered criminal.
“I do, I do love him. I can’t deny that anymore.” Jeno sighs. He rubs at his tired eyes. He hasn’t really slept since he got off the phone with Jinsoul yesterday, and that was so many hours ago. “Are you happy now? You were right, all of you were right, and I didn’t listen.”
Yeeun turns to him, eyes furrowed, lips in a frown. She takes his hand in both of hers and squeezes. “How can I be happy when you’re falling apart like this?”
Jeno once again wonders if, like the way they can see the love in his eyes, the hurt is written all over his face again. This time however, he figures it out quicker, because when Yeeun pulls her into her arms, letting his head rest against her shoulder, it’s only then does Jeno realize he’s crying when he sees the wet stains on Yeeun’s shirt.
“Yeeun,” Jeno whimpers. “It hurts.”
And to admit that just has Jeno crying even harder, has Yeeun pulling him closer, her soothing hands running down his back. “I know, baby. I’m so sorry.”
Jinsoul told Jeno to break things off with Jaemin.
“Have a break from Jaemin,” Jinsoul insisted. “The more you stay, the more you suppress your feelings, the more it will hurt. It's starting to take an unhealthy turn and it’s best to get out of it now, lest something worse happens.”
But Jeno is hesitant to break things off, it’s not that simple. Jaemin isn't even a bad person, that’s the last thing Jeno would describe him as, and they’re good friends, close friends even, and he doesn’t want to disrupt that either just because he has strong feelings for him.
The truth is that Jeno agrees he has to break things off, but to tell that to Jaemin, he’s too afraid to do so. Jeno’s afraid that he’ll not want to end things, he’s afraid that if he sees Jaemin, sees him smile that smile of his, hear his voice, feel his warmth even just for a second, Jeno would end up being too caught up in Jaemin’s presence to even spit the words out in the first place.
Jinsoul takes the worths right out of Jeno’s mouth, the words he’s too afraid to voice out.
“It’s because you love Jaemin that’s why you’re hesitating.” She tells Jeno, and if Jeno could see her, she'd be smiling at him softly, just as soft as her voice is. “You don’t want him to get hurt despite him unknowingly having hurt you.
“You are a good person, Jeno, and it's really admirable to see you care so much, but it’s time to put yourself first, and the very first step in doing that is to let go.”
With Yeeun’s help, and Renjun and Jaehyun’s permission, Jeno takes a week off work. They were kind enough to approve of it quickly knowing the situation.
Jeno was going to tell Jaemin about calling this off before his sudden absence, but he spent the first day of his break just cooped up in his room, exhausted from the night before, exhausted from crying. Jeno ended up spending the day sleeping.
Yeeun told him to leave it to her, she’ll tell Jaemin on his behalf.
“Jaemin was looking for you.” Yeeun says when she came back to their room later that evening. She laughs as she toes off her shoes. “He got annoyed when I wouldn’t tell where you were.”
“Don’t be mean to him.” Jeno frowns, and yet there’s odd satisfaction in knowing that Jaemin can feel his absence. At the same time however, Jeno also kind of wants to go to Jaemin and tell him that he's okay. He shakes his head.
It didn’t take long for Jeno to feel stuffy in his room. It’s seven in the evening on a Wednesday where he finds refuge at the rooftop, lucky enough to find it unlocked.
The air is also so nice and cool up here, and Jeno was up here just in time for the moon to rise, sighing as he watches the sky is slowly filled up with stars before his very eyes. Jeno remembers the first time they spent together on this rooftop and how Jeno was already questioning his feelings for Jaemin at a time.
He snorts, how apt that he’s here again, still thinking about Jaemin, still questioning his feelings.
For a moment, Jeno contemplates staying a bit longer, maybe bring up a blanket and stargaze with Yeeun when they get the chance. That is until Jaemin shows up, startling Jeno.
It’s reflex when Jeno turns around, and he wishes he didn’t. The sight of Jaemin by the door, staring at him, wide eyed, lips in a frown, has Jeno’s heart thumping treacherously and he quickly turns away.
“I was looking for you everywhere, Jeno. You have no idea.”
“Shit.” Jeno curses quietly to himself. He can hear Jaemin’s foot steps come closer and closer as he runs to him, and Jeno chances a glance at the door again—it’s a long shot since it’s quite the distance, but Jeno tries to make a run for it any.
“Hey, hey! It’s just me!” Jaemin exclaims. He blocks Jeno’s way easily, spreading his arms, and it’s only inevitable that Jeno is caught in his arms, caught in his web like he was in the first place.
“It’s just me, Jeno.” Jaemin says, softer this time, and when he pulls away, his hands hover awkwardly, like Jaemin wasn’t sure if he wanted to touch Jeno or not. Jeno decides for him, moving away so they could have more distance between them, and Jeno clearly sees the hurt flash across Jaemin’s eyes when he does.
Jeno clears his throat. “Why are you here?”
“I just—” Jaemin licks at his lips. “I wasn’t sure if Yeeun was joking when she said you wanted to call things off. I just needed to hear it from you.”
Jeno guesses this was inevitable too—he'd been avoiding this conversation until he was able to, and who knew Jaemin would actually seek him out for the same thing. Jeno has been wracking his brain for the past few days how he would actually go about this, his ideas more ridiculous than the next. Ultimately, he’s thought of something short and sweet, or bittersweet, if Jeno was being more honest.
“It’s true.” Jeno says, just like he’s rehearsed, over and over again in his head. He looks up at Jaemin, bottom lip catch in his teeth. “I told you before, right? I like someone else, in fact, I think I’m in love with them,” Jeno smiles despite himself, albeit a little sullen. “And with us fooling around, I just—I couldn’t think properly. I’m just asking for time for myself, if that’s okay?”
One could accuse Jeno of spinning a web, but It’s not a total lie, isn’t it? Jeno’s in love with someone, but Jaemin didn’t have to know it was him, and he doesn’t have to know that he’s the one messing up his mind either.
And alone in his thoughts, Jeno has been thinking about how Jaemin would react once he’s said his piece—explosive reactions, maybe a crack of a joke or two to name a few, but Jeno never expected silence. He never expected Jaemin to just be staring at him, like he just said that most absurd thing in his life.
“Jaemin?” Jeno calls out softly, not sure how to proceed. He reaches out to touch Jaemin’s arm, it’s only then that Jaemin seems to snap out of it, running a palm through his face, sighing deeply.
And then, Jaemin’s shaking—laughing, and in Jeno’s ears, it sounded like it wasn't because of something funny. “I wish you could have told me sooner, you know?” Jaemin chuckles, shaking his head. “I seriously thought I did something wrong, or if I hurt you.”
A little too late for that, rests at the tip of Jeno’s tongue, but he just gives Jaemin a shake of his head and a tight lipped smile.
“We’re still friends, right?” Jaemin asks. This time, there is no laughing, just Jaemin and his kind, hopefully eyes, and Jeno almost drowns in their beautiful brown color.
“Yeah,” Jeno smiles. “We're still friends.”
When Yeeun hears about his encounter with Jaemin at the rooftop, she was a bit ticked off about not being able to fend Jaemin off herself. Jeno had laughed, having to appease her sulking back at their room.
Jeno finds new refuge at the LUNA office. Whenever he feels a bit locked in, the girls are kind enough to accommodate him and give him a place to rest. Sometimes, they talk to him, play some board games to ease the time, and it has Jeno wondering if this is how it’s like to have older sisters because as much as Yeeun has spoiled him, he’s never felt this dotted over as much as he did now.
Yeeun would stop by the LUNA office before and after work, never failing to check up on Jeno.
The thing about Yeeun is that even in their silence, they understand each other. Jeno wasn’t lying when he said he considers Yeeun as his soulmate, there is a comfort with being with someone like Yeeun that Jeno will never trade for the world, and no one will be able to replace the Yeeun shaped hole in his heart if not her.
And here, as Jeno and Yeeun sit side by side in a pile of blankets at the LUNA office, listening to the lull of the FM radio, Jaemin is the last thing on Jeno’s mind.
Jeno's back to work before he knows it. Taking some days off did Jeno good—he feels refreshed, and re-energized, ready to work harder, perform better and make up for the days he’s missed.
When he enters the lounge that evening, he can’t help but feel a bit flattered at the people that come up to greet him, having missed him in the week he’s away, and Jeno promises them that that will never happen again with his best grin.
Things, for the most part, are back to normal, even when it comes to Jaemin.
Jeno is glad that they’re at least aren’t on the wrong foot and he can at least not have to completely avoid Jaemin. Though, Jeno can’t deny that it’s a bit awkward as they’re clearly walking on eggshells with each other.
It didn’t matter, as long as Jeno can say hi, can greet Jaemin when he sees him and Jaemin would respond in kind. It didn’t matter as long as from time to time, Jeno can meet Jaemin’s eye during performances and Jaemin would smile at him, sings the words back to him, even wink that stupid wink of his. Nothing mattered as long as Jeno could stop by Jaemin’s bar after their shows to chat for a while, and Jaemin would slide him his favorite martini like always.
And it's not intentional one night when they perform one of Jaemin’s favorite songs, but the way Jaemin’s head perks up at the start of the song does have Jeno smiling.
Are you lonesome tonight
Do you miss me tonight
Are you sorry we drifted apart
Does your memory stray
To a brighter sunny day
When I kissed you
And called you sweetheart
Nothing more ironic than this, Jeno thinks, having a song that is both a dedication and a memory he’d rather forget, and it has Jeno smiling rather sadly as the melancholic melody echoes in the lounge room.
“I wonder if you’re lonesome tonight,” Jeno recites Elvis’ infamous monologue, and there’s this odd sense of comfort that envelopes Jeno as he recites everything back to Jaemin, and having Jaemin’s mouth mimicking his perfectly.
“You know someone once said that the world's a stage and each must play a part. Fate had me playing in love, you as my sweetheart. Act one was when we met.”
“I loved you at first glance,” Jeno watches Jaemin mouth back to him. “You read your line so cleverly, and never missed a cue. Then came act two. You seemed to change and you acted strange, and why? I'll never know.”
“Honey, you lied when you said you loved me, and I had no cause to doubt you.” Jeno acts out the next line with flair, like he was performing at a Broadway stage. On the side, Yeeun shaking her head, eyebrows raised, but lets him be.
“But I'd rather go on hearing your lies, than go on living without you.”
If he can at least guise his pain with a performance, Jeno would rather still be able to put on a show.
It has the audience going anyway, and everyone laughs along as Jeno continues with his theatrics, and Jeno can’t be held but be a little proud when Jaemin laughs with them.
“Now the stage is bare and I'm standing there, with emptiness all around. And if you won't come back to me, then make them bring the curtain down.”
Sometimes, when it’s too quiet and Jeno can’t sleep, Jeno allows himself to drown in thoughts of Jaemin.
He can’t help but miss him, especially now that he’s seeing him everyday like this again. There is a carefulness in the way they talk now that Jeno finds a bit jarring, but having the courage to face Jaemin everyday despite their circumstances has Jeno feeling fortunate, anyway. They’ve reached a point where they’ve fallen back into their breakfast routine, and that is something Jeno has missed dearly.
When it’s too quiet, the dreams of Jaemin are so loud. In them, Jeno drowns in want, of kissing Jaemin again, of holding him close. He can't help it, it’s not so simple, and he knows it won't go away anytime soon. If only he could just restart and just never have fallen in love with Jaemin, it would make it so much easier.
But Jeno knows that even if he had that option, he wouldn’t want to go through it anyway.
It’s a night that is too quiet, a night where Jeno lies awake in the darkness while Yeeun sleeps soundly in her own bed.
It’s too bad that the night is too quiet that Jeno hears everything, and clear sounds of moaning coming from Jaemin’s room has Jeno sitting up and wiping at his tears.
Shaking, Jeno toes his hotel slipper on and grabs the nearest towel he could find, and runs off.
It's a night that is too quiet, and Jeno has to get out of here.
Jeno doesn’t know where he’s going, all he knows is that he just has to leave, he has to get out. He pushes through the fire exit door, too impatient for the elevator to ping.
It’s unfair—it’s unfair how he’s so affected by all of this to point where he’s falling apart and yet—and yet, Jaemin can just go back to how he was back then, back to fucking whoever he wanted, like this whole thing between never happened.
It makes Jeno wonder how significant he really is to Jaemin’s life, that he’s so easily tossed to the side like this, so easily forgotten.
Jeno reaches the lobby, or at least, what he thinks is the lobby behind his blurry eyes. His franticness has him bumping into something solid, bumping into someone.
“Jeno?” That someone says, and Jeno clutches at the lapels of his suit, letting out a sob.
It is bad that he’s still hoping it’s Jaemin to find him?
“Jeno, what’s wrong?” Comes Mark’s worried voice.
Jeno’s too choked up to answer, hiccuping bubbling in his throat instead of words. He just launches himself at Mark, wrapping his arms around Mark’s shoulder blades, and when Mark’s hesitant hands find their way to Jeno’s back, patting carefully, Jeno breaks.
Jeno accepts the mug of coco from Mark with a sheepish look, blinking his tired eyes slowly. “You didn’t have to.” He says, cringing at how scratchy his voice has become.
Mark just waves a dismissive hand, going back to the reception. “Just rest up. I’ll be here if you need anything.”
Jeno nods shyly, adjusting the towel over his cold shoulders before sinking further into the couch. Mark was nice enough to let him loiter at the lobby for a bit until he calmed down, even going to the trouble of making him something hot to drink.
Now that he’s calmed down a bit, Jeno just feels tired. Tired of his feelings, tired of Jaemin, tired of his feelings for Jaemin, tired of himself—tired of everything.
God, is he ready to knock out.
Jeno is just about down with his drink when the elevator pings. Jeno doesn’t look back, but he feels an odd shiver run down his spine he can’t explain, and it’s only when he sees Jaemin familiar broad back come to view as he escorts a lady to the hotel entrance that finds his answer.
Jeno and Mark share a look, and before they could say anything, Jaemin turns back, freezing at the sight of Jeno as Jeno is sitting still in equal shock.
Jaemin tries to smile at him, but Jeno remains stunned in place, saying nothing when Jaemin comes to sit beside him.
Jaemin seems restless, constantly moving his hands around, clearly on edge, clearly uneasy, and for once, Jeno’s glad he’s not the only one feeling this way.
“We didn't do anything.” Jaemin mumbles. He runs a hand over the hairs on his neck. “I wasn't in the mood, so I just sent her home.”
Jeno looks down at his empty mug. “Why are you telling me this?”
“I don't know.” Jaemin sighs. “I just—miss you.”
Jeno looks up for the first time that night, smiling a little. “We see each other every day.”
“Yeah, but it’s—I can't explain it, I just miss you.” The frustration is clear in Jaemin’s voice, and when Jeno looks up again, he’s almost pouting, crossing his arms against his chest. “Besides, you leave too early, and you know I can’t beat Yeeun’s potty mouth without you as a buffer.”
It’s treacherous the way Jeno’s heart skips, it’s such a small detail, not even in a romantic sense, and yet it has Jeno laughing despite himself. “You’re an idiot.” He says, and god, is he just so in love with this idiot, it hurts.
For a while, they stay there in the lobby in silence, and it's something that Jeno missed. Despite everything, Jaemin has become a comforting presence in his life and it’s in this kind of quiet that Jeno finds himself constantly drowning in, again and again and again.
And even if they're not touching, Jeno still feels Jaemin’s comforting warmth beside him and it's—it's enough.
When they get back up to their floor, Jeno can’t help but linger by Jaemin’s door.
“It’s really late.” Jeno says, restless fingers playing with his towel. “You should go ahead.”
Jaemin is quiet before him, making no moves to go back instead his room either. Instead, he stares at Jeno, expression Jeno can’t quite read, like he was lost in thought. Jeno feels fidgety under the attention, Jaemin was never one for subtle eye contact, and when Jaemin fleets his gaze on Jeno’s lips, Jeno gulps.
“Jaemin?” He calls out, heart picking up suddenly. Jeno thinks he knows where this is going, and yet when Jaemin’s hand finds refuge on his hip, grip loose enough for Jeno to pull away if he wants to, Jeno finds himself staying in place, finds himself staring at Jaemin’s lips too.
“Can I kiss you?” Jaemin asks, voice barely above a whisper.
But it’s enough for Jeno’s ears to ring, enough for his stomach to drop, and it’s enough for Jeno to break.
It’s different from their usual kisses—there is no rush, no hunger in the way Jaemin moves his mouth against Jeno’s. No, instead, it’s slow, deliberate, almost careful even, and it’s something so surprising to Jeno that it has him stunned for a moment, before he’s slowly kissing back, just as chaste and fleeting.
Jeno flutters his eyes shut as he feels the familiar prick, the familiar sting, and he lets his tears fall down his face, tasting the salt in his lips as he surrenders, wrapping his arms around Jaemin’s shoulders.
Just like that, Jeno slips back into his old habits, their old routines.
His friends are not going to be happy about this, especially Yeeun, but he missed this, god, did he miss Jaemin. And as Jaemin brings him to his room, as Jeno sinks into Jaemin’s cool sheets, Jeno decides Jaemin doesn’t have to love him back—this is enough.
Jeno shifts in Jaemin’s lap, panting against his shoulder.
“Shh,” Jaemin soothes a hand down Jeno’s spine, the other making work of Jeno’s cock. Jeno didn’t have to see him to know that Jaemin is smiling. “Close?”
Jeno nods frantically, clenching around Jaemin with a whimper.
“Me too, baby.” Jaemin hisses. “But you first, okay?”
He speeds up, jerking Jeno’s cock faster, Jeno a whimpering mess on top of him, trashing as the sensations turn overwhelming. It doesn't take long for Jeno to cum, and he cums all over Jaemin’s chest.
Jeno’s too tired to mind the mess as he slumps against Jaemin’s form, letting Jaemin manhandling him, hands bruising at his hips as he brings Jeno up and down his cock, chasing his own completion.
“Have you ever been to prom?” Jeno prompts sleepily. He leads his back against the edge of the tub, knees knocking with Jaemin in front of him. He grins, “I think you’d easily be Prom King.”
Jeno hasn't shut up about prom since Jaehyun told him the hotel would be hosting one weeks ago. He knows Donghyuck is annoyed by his constant chatter about it, much to Renjun’s amusement. And Donghyuck’s complaints only worsen when Yeeun gets hold of the news, even more enthusiastic than Jeno, already planning what they would wear and what they would sing throughout the night.
Jaemin shakes his head. “I’ve never been.”
Jeno stills. “You’re kidding me.”
Jeno’s shock must be clearly written all over his face because Jaemin laughs at him. “It’s just that I don't know how to dance, is all.”
“I’ll teach you.” Jeno says adamantly, suddenly more awake that he was a minute ago.
“Careful.” Jaemin clicks his tongue, hands coming up to steady Jeno as he kneels on the tub to drain the water, and then he’s laughing as Jeno pulls him into the bedroom, creating a path of their wet footsteps as they go.
With their robes secured on, Jeno turns on Jaemin’s radio, smiling as Adam Williams’ Moon River permeates the air with his soothing voice.
Moon river, wider than a mile
I'm crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you're goin', I'm goin' your way
He turns to Jaemin with a grin, smiling only stretching when Jaemin seems a little hesitant about the whole thing, arms crossed over each other, but he ends up taking Jeno’s hand anyway and Jeno guides them to the middle of the room.
“Tell me what to do, babe,” Jaemin says softly against Jeno’s ear, and Jeno almost loses his balance, they haven't even started yet.
Jeno slides one of Jaemin’s hands down to his shoulder blade, the other he holds loosely in his own hand. Jeno then rests his other hand onto Jaemin's broad shoulder. The silk of the bathrobe Jaemin is sporting is smooth against Jenos fingertips, and he gulps as he watches a droplet of water run down Jaemin’s open chest.
“Just follow my lead.” Jeno says, clearing his throat.
With an exhale, Jeno moves his right foot back softly, letting his heel hit the floor first then his toes. Then, he moves his left foot to the side, bringing his right foot back beside his left right after. Lastly, Jeno moves his left foot again, this time forward, and then he slides his right foot to the side, closing both his feet back together again.
“Easy right?” Jeno grins. It’s a loop of the same four steps that Jeno can do with his eyes closed. Jaemin doesn’t seem to share the same sentiment, already looking troubled.
“Sorry,” Jaemin grimaces as he steps onto Jeno’s foot accidentally, the second time since they’ve started practicing, but Jeno is too amused at Jaemin’s adorable pout to get angry at him. He shakes his head.
“Idiot. I told you, just follow my lead.”
Once again, Jeno carefully guides Jaemin to mirror his actions. Once, twice, and a couple hundred more times, until they could get a decent slow waltz box step going. He could tell that Jaemin is getting a bit frustrated from every little mistake he makes, and yet in contrast, Jeno finds everything quite endearing, smiling at Jaemin’s every attempt.
Eventually, Jaemin gets the hang of it and Jeno’s never been prouder.
Two drifters, off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see
We're after the same rainbow's end, waiting 'round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me
As the song comes to an end, they take a few liberties with the steps.
Jaemin’s hand eventually slips to Jeno’s waist the way he always does, his loose robe threatening to fall down onto his shoulders. Their feet eventually come to a stand still, and yet they don't let go of each other, just silently staring and swaying in each other's arms in the silence.
“I better see you dancing tomorrow night,” Jeno says quietly, and yet it sounds so loud in the tiny room.
Jaemin smiles softly at him. “No promises.” He says.
Jeno rolls his eyes, slipping away from Jaemin hold. He tugs at his robe, feeling chilly all of a sudden. “I wouldn’t expect less from you. Oh, and don't forget to dress up nicely too!”
Jaemin waves him off as he flops back down on his bed. “Anything else?”
When Jeno shakes his head, Jaemin pats the empty space beside him with a sleazy smile. “Good, now come here.”
Jeno wakes up the next day with a start. Something just didn't feel right.
When he looked to his left, Yeeun’s bed was empty, and when he looked at the clock across from him, it was merely eight in the morning. Things aren’t adding up.
Still, Jeno shook his head, and went through his usual morning routine—got up to shower and get dressed to go to his favorite breakfast diner. He’s thinking of blueberry pancakes today and some OJ.
But alas, it was one of those days Jeno couldn't get to his favorite booth in time to eat at today because it was already occupied.
And it shouldn't be a big deal, he can just sit else, the diner is pretty empty at this time of day anyway, but Jeno chooses not to.
Because of all the people sitting in his booth, it’s Jaehyun and Jaemin, sharing a plate of waffles between them.
This isn't… something Jeno expected to see so early in the morning, or something he expected to see ever at all. See, Jaehyun and Jaemin are friends, but there has always been a little tension between them, so Jeno couldn't help but be a little surprised to see this fever dream happening right before his very eyes.
Jaemin seems to be in the middle of discussing something rather serious, the look on his face void of the usual carefree cheek he has on practically all the time, and likewise, Jaehyun seems to be listening intently to whatever he was saying.
Jeno can’t help but feel a little left out, and as his curiosity peaks, he quietly marches to their table, and the triumph Jeno feels when they jolt up in the seats, looking like two deers caught in the headlights, it’s enough to have Jeno smiling widely.
“Getting chummy without me?”
“Jesus, you scared me.” Jaemin lets out a breath, a hand over his chest. Jeno rolls his eyes.
“Mind if I join?”
“It’s fine, babe. Take a seat.” Jaehyun offers with a wink, and Jeno bites down a smile as Jaemin sends a glare Jaehyun’s way that is less than discreet.
Before Jeno could settle at the booth, a commotion at the door has Jeno turning, only to find Yeeun announcing her arrival, cradling a suspicious looking brown bag to her chest. Jeno raises a brow at her, but she doesn't seem to notice him until Jaehyun stands up and greets her.
“Yeeun, just in time! Look, Jeno’s here!”
“Jeno!” Her eyes are wide as saucers when she meets Jeno’s gaze, and she quickly shoves her brown bag into Jaehyun’s chest with a force that has Jaehyun stumbling. Yeeun approaches him before Jeno could react, looping her arm around his shoulder.
“Come on, breakfast is on me!”
Breakfast is weird—Yeeun insists on eating at the bar table up front, already calling up their orders the minute they sit. At least Jeno got his blueberry pancakes that morning, for free even.
Though from time to time, he couldn't help but look back to the booths, eyes finding Jaehyun and Jaemin still talking. At one point, Jaemin’s looking inside the brown bag, smiling, and it does nothing but makes Jeno increasingly curious what could be in it.
On another instance when Jeno looks back, Jaemin meets his eyes. Jeno ends up flushing when Jaemin all but smiles at him, winking that dirty wink of his, and when Jeno turns back to their table he then meets Yeeun’s expectant smirk.
“Shut up.” he grumbles through a sudden mouthful of pancakes.
“Didn't say anything.” Yeeun singsongs, twirling her straw in his drink.
It’s been a while since Jeno and Yeeun have hosted any events, and he’s glad to be here tonight as Las Vegas High School has their long awaited Junior Senior Prom at the lounge.
He made sure to dress up for the occasion, well, Yeeun made sure he did, and his cream three piece suit matches perfectly the lovely evening gown Yeeun is sporting, pearls and lace gloves to boot.
When they push through the curtains to the Moonlight Lounge, the place is decorated with banners and lit with so many colors that it has both of them in awe.
Everyone is dressed in their prettiest evening wear, and Jaehyun and the band are already playing a jazzy number as they wait for the program to officially start. Everything has Jeno’s hands gripping excitedly at his cue cards, excited for the festivities to start.
“Are you in the mood for love?” Yeeun croons into the microphone, rather low, rather droopy. The Julie London impersonation makes Jeno snort, but it does make the highschool seniors in the crowd cheer and clap in excitement.
“I know my partner Jeno is.” Yeeun winks. “Aren’t you, darling?”
Jeno rolls his eyes, smiling when he hears a few laughs. “I don’t know about that, but I’m sure tonight is going to be pretty unforgettable for most you, you and your dates, I mean.”
“Why don’t you bring your little lovers onto the dance floor over here, get the party started with some sweet slow dancing.”
As Taeil starts the delightful intro of the Nat King Cole classic on his keyboard, Yeeun and Jeno get into their own slow dance position, Jeno places a careful hand on Yeeun’s waist, the other cradling the microphone as they watch the kids pad their way into the dance floor with their partners.
Unforgettable, that's what you are
Unforgettable, though near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me
Never before has someone been more
For a moment, Jeno fleets his eyes at the bar. They’ve closed it for the night, only allowing punch and a bit of wine to serve with the catering they’ve booked, but still, Jeno frowns when he doesn’t see Jaemin there, nor anywhere for that matter.
Jeno kind of wanted to show to him how wonderful prom can be, and with them having practiced dancing yesterday, he was kind of looking forward to dancing with Jaemin tonight too.
Yeeun lightly squeezes at his shoulder, catching his attention, and she smiles at Jeno, warm and reassuring.
Sorry, Jeno mouths, cheeks pinking at being caught, but Yeeun shakes her head.
Trust him, she mouths in reply, and it has Jeno furrowing his brows in confusion.
What? He asks.
Yeeun merely winks at him, already pulling away to spin around on her own. She brings her microphone to her lips like nothing happened.
That's why, darling, it's incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too
In between songs, Jeno and Yeeun would banter a bit, having everyone excited when they begin talking about who they should pick as Prom King and Queen.
“I think Jeno could be Prom King, don't you guys think?”
Jeno blushes when the girls in the audience cheer, and he waves them off, “Please, you should know by now to not entertain Yeeun’s antics, everyone.”
“Unfortunately, Jeno already has someone’s best interest. I’m sorry girls.”
Again, the crowds collectively sigh, making Jeno blush even deeper.
“And again, don’t listen to her.” He chances another glance at the bar, a reflex at this point. It’s getting late, and Jeno doesn’t think Jaemin is going to come anymore. Maybe he’s getting some rest, Jaemin doesn't get days off very often.
It’s selfish to want him here, Jeno thinks. And if he did come, it’s not like Jaemin would burst through the room and ask him to dance anyway.
“The next song requires you and your partner to be really close.” Yeeun says with a teasing tone. “So don't be shy, this is your chance!”
Jeno shakes his head at Yeeun, smiling as the gentle piano fills the room, the bass loud as if Johnny’s fingers are tugging at his heart strings, Jeno braces himself to sing.
Wise men say
Only fools rush in
But I can't help
Falling in love with—
Jeno stills, microphone almost slipping from his fingers.
Everything falls into a silence, a silence so deafening that it makes Jeno’s heart thumping the loudest noise in the room.
Like a fever dream, Jaemin emerges through the curtains, long hair slicked back neatly, blue velvet coat and dark suit pants, his white shirt underneath unbuttoned at the top.
Jeno blinks once, twice, thrice, until he confirms that this—this is really Jaemin is standing right before him, that this really Jaemin is staring back at him, making his way to the stage, the dance floor parting its way for him like the red sea.
When Jaemin smiles at him, beautiful yet a hint shy, his hand stretched out for Jeno to take, for a moment, everything blurs in front of Jeno, and it’s only when Yeeun comes up to him and turns him around, does he realize he’s crying.
“Hey,” Yeeun laughs, wiping at Jeno’s tears. “It’s okay. Come on, you big cry baby.”
It clicks—it finally clicks. Everything is starting to make sense—from the very moment Jeno stepped into the diner that morning, he felt something was off. Now he gets it, he finally understands Yeeun’s reactions, her knowing smiles and looks throughout the night.
They planned this, the wait, this whole entrance for Jaemin, and if they did all this to play an elaborate prank on him, well, congrats, they did it.
“Whatever you’re plotting Yeeun—” Jeno hiccups against his palm. “Just stop it—this isn’t funny anymore.”
It shouldn’t be funny, and to Jeno it wasn’t, but then Yeeun’s laughing again, pressing at his cheeks like she does when he’s being cute, shaking her head at him like he’s being ridiculous. Jeno is nothing but confused.
“It’s not a prank, baby.” Yeeun assures, smiling softly. “You really shouldn’t keep him waiting, you know?”
Surely enough, when Jeno carefully turns his head, Jaemin is still there, hands restless at his side, eyes worried. Jeno’s heart aches when their eyes meet, the gleam of hope in Jaemin’s gaze making it race.
“But the show—”
“I'll take it from here.” Jaehyun cuts in, and it’s only then does Jeno notices that he’s not holding his microphone anymore. Jaehyun races it to his lips and winks.
Yeeun squeezes at Jeno’s arms, grabbing Jeno’s attention again. There’s the smirk on her lips that Jeno knows all too well. “Go to him.” She says.
And Jeno—Jeno finally turns to face Jaemin again and steps forward.
“Sorry I took too long.” Jeno says, cheeks dusted pink.
Now that he’s in front of Jaemin, he can’t help but feel shy. He can feel everyone’s eyes on them, and he’d love nothing to hide. It doesn’t help that Jaemin is staring at him too, especially when he looks this good up close, suited up and hair up and everything.
Jaemin smiles at him then, and as if sensing his distress, takes his hand and leads them to a less crowded space. “I should be the one saying that. Are you okay?”
Jaemin reaches out to gently cup his cheek, and Jeno sighs against his warm palm. “Yeah, I was just—I wasn’t expecting that.” He purses his lips. “Now, I’m embarrassed.”
There’s a frown on Jaemin’s lips, only deepening when he traces his thumb over Jeno’s tear stains, over Jeno’s tired eyes. He leans in closer, letting his forehead knock against Jeno’s softly. “I’m sorry.” He whispers, only for Jeno to hear.
“I’m okay now, don’t worry.” Jeno assures with a laugh, and when he pulls away, he grabs Jaemin’s hand and intertwines their fingers together.
“Shall we dance?”
They slow dance, or at least they try to.
At first, Jeno just watches, mirth in his eyes as Jaemin tries and remembers the steps they practiced yesterday. Jaemin would do a step in the wrong direction and they would stumble a little, and Jeno doesn't even do anything to help him, finding everything adorable.
It’s only when Jaemin looks up at him almost pleadingly does Jeno cave.
Jeno leads the dance this time, smiling as Jaemin follows quietly, mirroring his step carefully. They get a rhythm going, and Jeno closes his eyes, smiling as the pleasant duet of Yeeun and Jaehyun’s voices filling the air.
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Jeno doesn’t remember how they’ve stopped dancing, how it’s turned into this soft and slow swaying. He can't even remember how Jaemin’s gotten closer, their chests touching, shoes knocking, but Jeno lets him, hands curling around his shoulder blades, pulls Jaemin even closer.
When Jeno looks up, Jaemin is smiling softly at him, eye crinkling, and then he’s leaning in, his lips grazing Jeno’s ear as he sings along with Jaehyun.
Take my hand
Take my whole life too
For I can't help
Falling in love with you
Jeno thinks it's useless to be so shy like this, given their intimate nature, but he blushes anyway, cheeks aflame as Jaemin chuckles at him fondly.
“You want to get out of here?” He whispers, and Jeno stills.
His eyes are wide, yes on the tip of his tongue, but Jeno instinctively bits it off.
“But,” he starts, head already turning to the stage where Yeeun is. He’s surprised to see her already staring right back at him, like she knows, and god does she always know.
She shrugs, a soft smirk on her lips. I’ll handle it, she means, and she all but rolls her eyes before the band starts playing another song.
Jeno finds himself laughing in disbelief, and then he’s turning to Jaemin and his expecting gaze, his own eyes gleaming.
It’s all Jaemin needed for him to curl his hand around Jeno’s wrist and run out the lounge room.
Vegas at night is a spectacle, sometimes you couldn't help but stop and admire the lights, bright and inviting, places open at this hour for people who love the glamour and thrill of its eccentric nightlife.
Jaemin doesn't tell him where they’re going. When Jeno asks, all he gets is a cheeky smile and a singsong of “You’ll see.”
Jeno can't lie and say he didn't have some expectations, because who was he kidding? He’s with a man, a handsome man in a dapper suit at that, a handsome man he’s gotten far too intimately close with, and who happens to know his way around The Strip.
So all things considered, Jeno never expected to be standing in front of a McDonald’s with said man, opening the glass doors for Jeno with a laugh. The confusion must be written all over Jeno’s face, but then again, Jeno wasn't exactly hiding it either.“What are you planning, James?” Jeno raises a brow when Jaemin all but silently leads him to an empty table at the back of the drive in, urging him to sit down while he gets something.
“Wait here.” Jaemin says, before Jeno could question him more he’s rounding the corner, leaving Jeno alone at their table, blinking.
When Jaemin comes back, Jeno’s eyes widen.
Jaemin had Jeno wondering if he was really awake or if he was reliving some sort of deja vu moment, because Jeno swears this already happened, how could anyone forget? And just like that one sunny afternoon Donghyuck set up for him, Jaemin is walking up to his table with a bouquet of daffodils in his hand and a shy smile on his face.
“For you, dollface.” He says, but the usual tease that accompanied the pet name is lost. This time around, all Jaemin has on him is the flush of pink high on his cheeks.
“Thank you.” Jeno squeaks, equally as flustered. He smiles down at them, admiring their bright yellow against the rather dim night.
“You almost actually saw them.”
Jeno looks up, blinking. “I did?”
“This morning at the diner.” Jaemin shakes his head. “You almost caught us preparing for tonight.”
Oh. So this is what they were hiding from him. It’s a miracle that they’re untouched then when Jeno recalls Yeeun and Jaehyun’s roughhousing. They’re very pretty though, leave it to Yeeun to know what flowers he likes.
“So I guess I'm a bit of a flirt.”
Jeno looks up then, raising a brow at Jaemin. “A bit?”
“A lot of a flirt then.” Jaemin laughs, and Jeno watches his cheeks bloom, watches Jaemin run his fingers through his hair nervously. He lets out a slow exhale before he turns to Jeno, eyes determined. “I don’t know, it’s something second nature to me. I like having fun with every person I meet, I like making people feel good, and I like knowing that we didn't have to worry about any sort of feelings getting in the way of that.
“That’s how our arrangement was too,” Jaemin smirks. “Or at least, that's what I thought it would be.”
Jeno gulps. “Where are you going with this?” He asks.
The feeling in his gut tells Jeno what it could be, and with Jaemin’s intention to relieve exactly how Jeno’s blind dates took place, it’s all telling him the same thing. But it just seems too unbelievable, seems too similar to what Jeno is hoping to happen rather than what will.
A nudge of Jaemin’s leg on his pulls Jeno from his thoughts and he meets Jaemin and his sincere eyes. Jeno’s heart constricts.
“I was really hesitant at first, you told me you liked someone else, you know? That was enough for me to stay away. Then that afternoon at my balcony happened, the weed really loosened you up. Still, I didn't want to take advantage of you, but then even hours after, when you got to sober up a bit, you were so willing to give. And I guess so was I.
“But it’s different with you, Jeno, I know you.” Jaemin shakes his head, laughing. “I see you everyday, you're my friend, Jeno, maybe even closer than that. And I guess that made me feel some sort of comfort to come back to you after the first time, even though I normally never wouldn’t.
“For some reason, I couldn't just let you slip away from me. Yeah, the sex was good, but the talks we have afterwards, the songs you would sing while we’re in the bath—those were things I found myself anticipating, and it made me look forward to seeing you everyday.”
“The next thing I knew,” Jaemin smiles at him. “I stopped sleeping with other people.”
Jeno’s mouth falls open at the admission, heart pounding as Jaemin just continues to smile at him, albeit a little sullenly. “I don’t know what I was thinking either, I even turned down everyone that came up to talk to me at the bar. It was ridiculous, I’ve never done that before, but I just—I couldn’t stop thinking of you.
“So when that one morning, you weren't there when I woke up, it scared me. At the same time, it reminded me that you weren't mine to begin with.
“Then days after that, you just started avoiding me. I felt like shit. I was so confused because I thought we had something good going on, you know? At least, to me it was. I found myself looking for you, but clearly, you didn't want to be found. And when I did find you, you again told me that you liked someone and I was stepping in the way of that. That hit me, that just solidified that you weren't mine, Jeno.
“So I tried to get back into fucking around with other people again, well, tried to. I couldn’t do it, I still kept looking for you in every person I met and I just ended up sending them off without doing anything. They weren’t you, and that made me realize how important you were becoming in my life, and so fast. I just couldn't keep doing this to myself anymore, to you especially.”
“Yeeun and Jaehyun were kind enough to encourage me to do this, and I already know you don’t feel the same way, but I just wanted to tell you what I’ve been feeling this whole time. I think you have the right to know, after all, it’s long overdue.”
“What I'm trying to say is,” Jaemin sighs. “I’m kind of in love with you, Jeno Lee.”
Jeno’s hands are shaking under the table.
He’s speechless, this all seems a bit too surreal for him to process.
Jeno remembers that afternoon at Jaemin’s balcony, remembers the moment of courage he had and how stupid and reckless his request was, and Jaemin was adamant to make sure he wanted it, serious despite the haze they felt around them. And from that night, everything just spiraled into this mess they’re in right now.
Being with Jaemin—it both destroyed and completed Jeno. Destroyed that he was having to push his feelings to the side to continue messing around with Jeno, completed that even through this, Jeno gets to be with Jaemin. And oh did Jeno hurt, oh did he anguish. He beat himself up for hoping, for letting go only to come crawling back.
So to hear this, to have Jaemin open up to him, it’s liberating, it's freeing. Jaemin himself also looks more relieved, like he was holding on to this for as long as Jeno, and it makes Jeno realize maybe he wasn't alone in the torment he was subjecting himself in.
“You don’t have to say anything,” Jaemin assures, smile tight lipped. “You’re not obliged to say you like me too.”
Jeno can’t help it, he snorts.
He looks around, pleased to have the drive-in mostly deserted at this hour, and then Jeno’s looking at Jaemin, biting his laugh back at the incredibly puzzled look on Jaemin’s face.
Jeno leans forward then, grabs the lapels of Jaemin’s suit and pulls the unsuspecting Jaemin into a quick kiss.
Jaemin’s eyes are wide as Jeno pulls away, and even as he stumbles back into his seat, he’s nothing but stunned.
Jeno takes a deep breath.
“What I told you is true, I was already in love with someone else, and he was both the person I sang love songs to, as he was the source of my agony. But,” Jeno laughs, soundly awfully hysterical. “You are the one I liked, you idiot! And being with you and not actually being yours, it was torture, you did nothing but driving me insane, you know? So I had to stop whatever we were doing because how could I continue? When from the very beginning you told me you weren’t looking to be tied down?”
“So,” Jeno shrugs, letting out a huff. “Surprise.”
“So all this time, you—”Jaemin slumps further into his chair, the shock still evident in his face. “You’re shitting me.” He says under his breath, running a palm over his face like he couldn’t quite believe what he just here.
Oh does Jeno know how that feels, he’s still buzzing at his own seat, adrenaline pumping, still finding this whole night a bit too unreal.
Jaemin throws his hands up in the air. “God, we’re idiots. We’re fucking idiots!”
Jeno laughs at him, loud and boisterous and happy, and when Jaemin stands, stretches his hand out for him for the second time that night, Jeno immediately accepts.
“Let’s get out of here.”
As they easily fall on Jaemin’s bed, Jeno feels the rumble Jaemin makes against his sternum as he chuckles. There are hands already dancing down Jeno’s navel, Jaemin already making work of Jeno’s dress shirt.
“You look so pretty like this, dollface.” Jaemin says, moving up to nose at Jeno’s ear.
Jeno shivers, eyes closing at the weight of Jaemin over his very much naked torso. “You think so?” Jeno pushes at him, and he smiles as Jaemin lets him, easily turning on his back as Jeno crawls on top of him, his open shirt falling like a curtain around Jaemin. “What about now?”
Jaemin answers by cupping his face, bringing him in for a short, lewd kiss. When he pulls away, Jaemin wraps his arms around Jeno, pulling him closer to his person, and lets out a content sigh. It has Jeno smiling, resting his chin against Jaemin’s sternum.
“Tired already, James? We haven't even started yet.”
Jaemin just chuckles. “I’m just happy.” He says, kissing the top of Jeno’s head. Jeno blushes, not expecting that at all. To be frank, he’s not sure when he’ll get used to this softer side of Jaemin—ever. It’s no doubt adorable, to say the least.
“Don't get mushy on me yet.” Jeno mumbles, cheeks pink.
“Don't worry, we have the whole night to ourselves. And the next morning. And the next morning after that. So spare me and my mush, I’ll fuck you in a second.”
“Christ.” Jeno wrinkles his nose, letting out a laugh. “We really need to do something about that mouth of yours.”
Jaemin leers. “I may have an idea.”
It’s not long before they're kissing again, languid and unhurried, Jeno straddles Jaemin’s hips, whining into their kiss as he presses against Jaemin's groin with his own.
Jaemin sits up, shrugging off his suit. He leans against the headboard as Jeno shrugs off his own shirt. Jaemin pulls him in again, hands sliding from his shoulders to his tiny waist, giving him a squeeze. He keeps his fingers tapping at Jeno’s sides, watching Jeno make work of the rest of Jaemin’s clothes, tossing them to the floor. Jeno shrugs off his own pants, and then he's crawling between Jaemin's open legs.
Jeno runs his finger at the band of Jaemin's boxers, pulling them past Jaemin’s thighs. He licks his lips as Jeno carefully wraps a hand around Jaemin’s half hard cock, chuckling a little when he feels Jaemin jerk at the delicate touch. Jeno noses at the length, tongue poking out to wet the pink flesh before he scatters kisses atop the head teasingly.
Jeno’s stare doesn't falter as he takes Jaemin’s cock past his lips, groaning when Jaemin’s hands find themselves tangled in Jeno’s hair when he starts sucking him off, hands squeezing at the base where he can’t reach.
“You look so good like this, sweetheart. Feels so good around my cock.”
The gruff of Jaemin’s voice, the tinge of momentary pain as Jaemin’s grip tightens on his hair has Jeno wanting to do more, wanting to make Jaemin feel even better. He keeps a steady pace, tightening his jaw as the taste of precum hits his mouth. Jeno only whimpers when Jaemin starts carefully pushing his head further down onto his cock, fucking his mouth slowly.
Jeno could feel his own cock twitch against his stomach, hard and aroused himself. It doesn't go unnoticed by Jaemin either as he moves to pull Jeno’s head back and crush their lips together. Jaemin sucks on his tongue the way he knows has Jeno’s knees buckling, and he pulls him to his lap. Jeno jumps at the feel of a thumb against his bubbling tip, melting when he feels that same wetness press again his rim.
The whine Jeno lets out when Jaemin pulls his finger away has Jaemin smiling. He reaches for the lube on his bedside, cooing, “You’re so cute when you’re jazzed.”
“Shut up,” Jeno drops his head against Jaemin’s shoulder as Jaemin makes careful work of his hole with experienced fingers. Jeno squirms at the feeling of being filled, and yet not quite full, the lewd sound of the slick slide of Jaemin’s fingers has him almost drooling. As Jeno’s arousal builds up, so does his impatience and he finds himself riding Jaemin’s fingers.
“Jaemin, hurry,” He begs, on the brink of desperate, and he closes his eyes shut. His nails dig at Jaemin’s shoulder blades hearing the sound of a condom packet rip.
"Up," comes Jaemin’s easy command and Jeno doesn’t need to be told twice. He lifts his ass up, whining at the feeling of Jaemin’s cock slides between his ass cheeks teasingly.
“Please,” Jeno chokes, “Please just—just put it in already.”
Jaemin chuckles, squeezing at Jeno's hips. “See? You know what to say. Such a good boy.”
Finally, Jaemin lines his cock to his rim and pushes. Jeno’s eyes roll into the back of his head, gaping as Jaemin slides himself into him slowly. The pain doesn't even register, only the delicious feeling of being so full, and it has Jeno clenching around him greedily.
Jeno’s on his back before he realizes, Jaemin caging him with his body. Jaemin fucks him slow, each slide of his cock toe curling. It feels so good, but it’s not enough. Jeno makes it known with a whine and it has Jaemin laughing.
“Harder? Like this?” Jaemin pushes back in suddenly, and Jeno gapes.
“Look at you, you’re making a mess,” Jaemin clicks his tongue, and he reaches out a hand to squeeze at Jeno’s cock, precum pooling on his stomach. Sensitive, Jeno jerks even at the slightest touch, earning another chuckle from Jaemin. Jeno doesn't let him get away with it, pushing back against Jaemin's dick, clenching around him for good measure. It's his turn to smirk when Jaemin hisses, furrowing his brows at him.
The action has Jaemin finally moving, faster, more hurried, more aggressive as his hands leave finger shaped bruises against Jeno’s heated skin. Jeno hooks his ankles behind Jaemin’s ass, whimpering as Jaemin picks up his already face pace.
Fuck, does it feel so, so fucking good, he’s flushed from his chest to the tips of his ears, and Jaemin leans down to capture his lips in a contrastingly chaste kiss. It sends Jeno into a spiral.
Jeno lets himself be used, limb arms loosely around Jaemin's shoulder blades as he eventually cums, making a mess against their stomachs. When Jaemin reaches his own climax, Jeno finds himself giggling as Jaemin’s hands cup his cheeks, pressing sweet kisses all over his face.
Jeno thinks his cheeks are going to hurt from smiling so much, and he pushes at Jaemin weakly, scooting on top of him to kiss him one last time, short and sweet, humming in content when Jaemin smiles against his lips.
“Do you really just keep your door unlocked at all times, James? Really?”
Too many things happen at once as Jeno stirs awake the next morning.
One minute, Jaemin’s pulling him in for a sleepy, lazy kiss on the lips. In the next, Yeeun is bursting through the door, boisterous as she ever is in the morning.
“As much I'm happy for you guys, Jeno and I have work to do.” She pulls at Jeno’s arm, and Jeno’s lithe and lethargic body follows willingly.
Jeno laughs, most of his body already off the mattress. “I guess i’ll see you later?” He smiles at an equally sleepy Jaemin.
But then Jaemin’s tugging him back to bed, enough for Jeno to land his ass back on the sheets, and he’s pulled in for another kiss. Jeno can't help but giggle into it, especially when he feels Yeeun pull at his free arm on one end, Jaemin resisting from the other.
“We’re leaving!” Yeeun announces when Jeno lets himself be dragged away a second time that morning. There’s a sorry smile on his face as he waves goodbye at a pouty Jaemin on the bed, scratching the back of his head in defeat.
“And put a shirt on, Jaemin,” Yeeun grimaces by the door, “It reeks in here!”
Jeno lets out another laugh at the last comment as Yeeun closes the door behind her. She turns to Jeno, an excited gleam in her eyes that has Jeno sighing. Oh does he know that look well.
“Okay!” Yeeun claps happily. “Tell me everything!”
By eight o’clock, it's back to business for everyone like nothing happened.
It’s a regular work night, no fancy events, no surprise grand gestures. They sing, they play songs, they serve drinks like usual, and it’s only during closing did they all go back to the bickering they left off that morning.
“By the way you forgot this,” Yeeun tosses something at Jeno. He blinks. It’s a plastic crown. What for? He’s not really sure.
“You shitheads walked out before prom king and queen crowning, and well, you actually won. Both you and Jaemin are prom kings. Congratulations, I guess.”
“But you told me it was okay to leave!” Jeno rebuts to no avail, Yeeun just waves a hand at him.
“Excuses, excuses. Anyway, give this other one to Jaemin. I’ll let you have your first dance as prom kings.”
Yeeun prepared a special performance that evening as the waiters cleared up the tables. She sits both Jeno and Jaemin in front of the stage, and they watch in amusement as she sings a hilariously dramatic rendition of Bobby Vee’s Take Good Care of My Baby.
My tears are falling
‘Cause you’ve taken him away
And though it really hurts me so
There's something that I've gotta say
Jeno glares at Yeeun when she jumps down the stage to stand in front of Jaemin, pushing at his chest with a purpose.
Take good care of my baby
Be just as kind as you can be
And if you should discover
That you don't really love him
Just send my baby back home to me
Jaemin holds his hands up in surrender, laughing. When he turns to Jeno, his eyes twinkling in mirth and he gives him his signature wink. Jeno should be used to it by now, but he blushes anyway. He does send Jaemin a playfully glare his way, shaking his head while crossing his arms to compensate.
After Yeeun’s performance, Jaehyun does actually sing their first dance for them, starting off Sinatra’s charming intro of The Way You Look Tonight on his trumpet.
And it would've been as touching and romance as Yeeun had wanted it for them if the plastic tiaras they were wearing didn't keep falling off. They still have a fun time dancing around the dance floor anyway, mirroring each other’s big smiles.
“Was this what you imagine prom to be?” Jeno asks.
“Hell no.” Jaemin laughs. He stretches an arm out for Jeno to turn, and turn Jeno does, giggling as he did so. The end of his spin has him bumping chests with Jaemin, and Jaemin secures a hand on his waist, smiling softly at him. He presses a kiss against Jeno’s temple. “It's so much better.”
Jeno realizes that their dynamic doesn't change much after their whole debacle at the drive-in. They still get to fool around in Jaemin’s room like always, still spend their time pruning in the bath to Frank Sinatra, still get their favorite pancakes every morning at Starry Night.
If there was a change that was apparent, it’s just the added security that they have each other to come back to at the end of the day, and that’s all the reassurance they needed, really. It’s all they need to make this so much more real and more intimate.
One thing’s for sure, Jeno is shit at romance, or so Jaemin says. It's ridiculous really, how inevitably shy Jeno gets at the cuddles and soft affirmations when they've done far more unspeakable things under the sheets.
Jaemin easily calls him out for it, especially how shy Jeno gets at the mention of the word boyfriend, or when he tells Jeno he loves him. In Jeno’s defense, it's been awhile since he’s been in a relationship like this. It still just sounds too much of a dream to him to have Jaemin showering him with affection like this.
Jaemin finds it adorable, making sure Jeno isn’t short of the affection he is so willing to give to him. If he was a flirt before, he is far worse now, a connoisseur of romantic gestures, he graciously dubs himself.
His favorite thing to call Jeno nowadays is lover. It makes Jeno shiver, always never fails to. It’s especially haunting when Jaemin is pressing it into every surface of Jeno’s skin he can put his lips on.
“What should we get for breakfast, lover?” Jaemin whispers against his cheek one morning.
“No kissing in my lobby.” Renjun calls from his desk, amusingly more often than not these days. Jeno finds it hilarious, especially the very much expected exasperated sigh he would let out after.
Renjun does nothing to stop them despite the constant reminder, but they don't take advantage of Renjun’s consideration anyways. For them, it’s still a work environment, especially in the morning like this. Besides, they don’t really want to scare anyone out of the lobby either.
When it comes to work, Jeno and Jaemin don't let it get in the way either. With Yeeun, Jeno serenades Moonlight Lounge as everyone dines, while Jaemin remains at his bar table, serving everyone their drinks.
That didn’t mean they couldn’t look at each other from time to time, an instant smile on their face when they catch each other’s stares. It does nothing but boost Jeno’s spirits to perform, never mind the side eyes from Yeeun.
It’s only after hours do they fool around, whether it be out in the streets of Vegas, making out in the back alley at some club down Fremont Street, or watching the stars out on the sixth floor pool, toes dipped in the cooling water. There is no in betweens, but Jeno loves it all the same, loves every little moment they can spend together.
After a long day of work, it’s nice to have someone around like this, just their skin pressed against yours, just their warmth surrounding you like a cozy blanket, and he wouldn't trade these little moments with Jaemin for the world.
“Did you hear about New York?”
Jeno turns to Jaemin beside him, white smoke around him, eyes closed. He takes the blunt from Jaemin's fingertips and takes a hit.
"Yeah," Jeno breathes. "Taeyong and the others were there too, right? I was worried."
The situation in New York is getting out of hand. Out of nowhere, gay clubs were being raided, the premise was getting violent by the minute, and for what?
All the queer folk do in these establishments is be their authentic selves, especially in a place they’ve considered a safe space. Those safe spaces are being taken away from them, for no reason. Is being yourself that condemnable by punishment? Jeno asks himself everyday. Protests have been increased tenfold—it's an admirable feat, really, but also frustrating that this has to be done.
People can be so close-minded and selfish, it's baffling.
"Do you want to go?" Jaemin asks suddenly, and Jeno looks down at the hand squeezing his fist, something he didn't realize he was doing. He deflates, shoulders drooping.
"If we can."
Jaemin smiles at him softly. "I’ll talk to Renjun about it. I'm almost certain he’d want to come too."
"Thank you, Jaemin."
Jeno turns back to the sunset in front of them, the skyscrapers do nothing to shield its beautiful yellow orange hue. He feels Jaemin move from beside him, snorting when he feels Jaemin pressing himself against his back, caging Jeno against the railings when he snakes his arms around Jeno's waist.
"I'm cold." Jaemin reasons without Jeno asking, voice low. Jeno almost melts in his arms.
“Can I tell you something?”
“Hm?” Jeno giggles against Jaemin's chest. He doesn’t remember how long they’ve been lounging around Jaemin’s balcony for, nor does he remember how they ended up lying against the cool tiles, but whenever Jaemin speaks, his chest rumbles, and Jeno finds that funny.
Jeno almost whines when Jaemin moves to sit up, leaning against his elbows to look at Jeno.
“When we were here the first time, all I wanted was to kiss you.”
“Stop!” Jeno glares at him. “You’re making me remember everything again.”
Jaemin chuckles, “I haven't stopped thinking about it. I can’t believe you let me do that. I just want to make sure of something—was it the smoke talking or did you really want to kiss me?”
“Of course I wanted to kiss you,” Jeno rolls his eyes, pointedly ignoring Jaemin's smirk. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to, okay? The weed just gave me the little push I badly needed.”
“Is that so?”
“You're so dumb.” Jeno pushes Jaemin away. He turns to his side, back facing Jaemin, neck warming as he mumbles, “It’s not like you didn’t already know that.”
Jaemin lets out a laugh at that, and from his view, Jeno watches the shadow Jaemin casts over him, feeling Jaemin’s knees knock at his back gently.
“What about now?” Jeno mumbles stubbornly, still facing away.
Jeno almost jumps when he suddenly feels a breath tickle his ear.
“Do you still wanna kiss me?” Jaemin whispers.
Jeno finally turns, only to glare up at Jaemin.
“Not when you’re making fun of me,” He says, cringing when it sounds like too much of a whine in his ears. Jaemin catches this too, moving to spoon him with a pleased laugh. “God, you’re so adorable.”
Jeno vowed to spend his morning productively today, and by productive, he meant he’s finally starting to pack his stuff to his and Yeeun’s Sunshine Manor apartment. He enlists Jaemin's help, hoping they could finish majority of the move right before work.
That was the plan for today, Jeno swears.
So he’s not sure how he ended up perched onto his bare kitchen counter, half clothed, with a fervent Jaemin marking down his neck.
God, he hates Jaemin sometimes. They haven’t even put his boxes inside yet. Hell, he didn’t even give Jeno the chance to close the door properly.
“Yeeun’s going to kill me if I soil this place before we could move in,” Jeno grits, biting off a whimper when Jaemin licks over a mark he’s just made.
“She doesn’t have to know,” Jaemin whispers against his sternum, and Jeno could feel him smirk against his skin. “Besides, I know you want someone to walk through that door and see you like this. You can drop the act.”
Jeno wrinkles his nose, “Don't project your fantasies on me.” He says, but he can’t help but crane his neck at the open door, just in case someone does, shivering every time he hears footsteps.
Jeno whimpers, whipping his head back to Jaemin—his hands have somehow pulled at Jeno’s jeans while he was distracted, and suddenly Jaemin’s squeezing at his half hard dick.
"Pay attention to me, lover." Jaemin smiles, thumb pressing at the head of his cock. Jeno jerks, almost slipping from the counter if it wasn't for Jaemin iron grip at his waist.
Jaemin hoists him up further on the counter, and Jeno fully expects him to continue ravishing him, but Jaemin does no sort, just standing there smiling to himself, taking his time with the buttons of Jeno's shirt.
“Can you hurry up?” Jeno almost whines, glaring when all Jaemin does his laugh at his expense.
“Well, aren't we cranky.”
“You started this,” Jeno pulls Jaemin closer. He smirks when Jaemin jerks as Jeno presses his knee against his crotch. “Now hurry up and fuck me, Na.”
It consumed most of their week, a lot of arguments at the furniture store about rugs and curtains and coffee tables, but Jeno and Yeeun eventually finish furnishing their new place. As he and Yeeun slump against each other on their new couch, Jeno feels a sense of pride overwhelm him.
This is a place they're going to be staying at who knows how long, in a neighborhood he’s yet to explore, but with Yeeun beside him, it already feels like home.
What Jeno finds kind of funny though, is that sometimes, Jaemin is at their apartment more than him and Yeeun themselves.
"You are one of the reasons we thought of moving out in the fucking first place! You loud horndog! But low and behold, the noise came with us!"
Jeno would wake up to Yeeun and Jaemin fighting more often than not, oddly enough, fighting while they share toast and coffee at the dining table. It's a domestic scene he wouldn’t mind waking to every morning.
“At least pitch in in the rent!” Is Yeeun's common quip whenever Jaemin’s over. When Jeno does ask Jaemin if he was interested in moving in with them however, he would decline, not wanting to impose.
“I’m fine at the hotel.” Jaemin shrugs. “I mean, I think I’m a pretty okay tenant, Renjun hasn’t kicked me out yet.”
Jeno would frown at that despite Jaemin’s joking manner, and Jaemin would pull him in for a hug to appease him. They would seize the couch for the rest of the morning, much to Yeeun's obvious disgust.
Though, as Jeno finds out later, Jaemin finds it amusing to piss Yeeun off, hence his frequent visits and amped up PDA. He wants to get back at her constant nagging one day, and when that happens, he’s going to have a field day with it. Jeno snorts in his arms as he tells him this, but he doesn’t stop him either.
The day comes sooner than expected, much to Jaemin’s delight.
For once, it’s Jaemin waking up from a noise in the middle of the night. Jeno is shaken awake by him, blinking a few times as he turns to Jaemin, curious to why there’s a slow smile creeping onto his lips.
Jaemin presses a sweet kiss to his temple, whispering, “Listen.”
It takes a while for Jeno to focus, still a bit disoriented from sleep, but then he hears it, a quiet, yet consistent thud from the next room—Yeeun’s room. And when the telltale voice of what he now knows is Yeeun moaning, Jeno has never felt more awake than he has in his life.
If it wasn’t for Jaemin, Jeno would have stormed out and confronted whoever Yeeun was with right now. Fortunately, Jaemin has a firm hold on his waist, snickering as he tells him to Calm down, at least let them finish.
With adrenaline pumping in his veins, Jeno didn't get any wink of sleep after that, feeling a little bit bad for Jaemin who was trying to ease him until Jaemin tired himself out, sound asleep himself.
The next morning finds Jeno up and awake, earlier than usual, and he waits by the arm of their couch, arms crossed until Yeeun comes out of her bedroom.
The shock on her face is evident when she sees him just outside her door, and before she could scramble and explain herself, Jeno pushes past her to peek through her open door. He’s pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face, the birdie biker from Club Prismo from months ago. Jeno grins at the pretty stranger’s confused, sleepy stare.
“I’m going to steal Yeeun away for a minute if you don’t mind.”
Jeno doesn't wait for a reply, already wrapping a hand around Yeeun’s wrist and pulling her to the balcony.
“Listen, Jeno. I know I said no funny business with guests here, but let me explain first!”
Jeno lets out the excited laugh he's been suppressing all of last night, confusing the hell out of Yeeun in front of him.
“Okay, tell me everything!”
Jeno twirls the cord of the baby blue telephone around his finger, humming as the phone rings. When the line finally clicks, and a groggy voice crooks out a Hello? into the receiver, Jeno lets out a smile.
Put your head on my shoulder
Hold me in your arms, baby
Squeeze me oh-so-tight
Show me that you love me too
Jaemin chuckles into the receiver as Jeno continues to sing the familiar tune through the phone, a tinge giddy when Jaemin joins in with his sleepy humming.
Put your lips next to mine, dear
Won’t you kiss me once, baby
Just a kiss goodnight, maybe
You and I will fall in love
It’s one of Jaemin’s favorite Paul Anka songs and Jeno didn’t miss a beat, using that little knowledge to his advantage that quiet, yet special morning.
“Happy birthday, Jaemin.” Jeno says softly.
“Thank you, baby.” Jaemin replies, and Jeno can hear the smile in his voice. “Can I see you today?”
“Of course, I will be there for work.”
Jaemin sighs, a bit exaggerated. It makes Jeno roll his eyes. “Bummer, I was hoping to see you now.”
“We’ll see each other later.” Jeno laughs. He slides back down his pillows, closing his eyes. “I’ll make sure it’ll be worth your while,” Jeno pauses. “Lover.”
It’s Jaemin turn to laugh. “Oh? You do know that Renjun is going to be informed about this call, right?”
Jeno shrugs, even though Jaemin couldn’t see him. “Let him listen.”
Jeno finds out later when he’s greeted with a rather expectant look from Renjun that yes, Renjun was informed of the call, and that yes, he did listen. Unfortunately, he could hear the taunt in his mind without Renjun voicing it, and it only has Jeno laughing harder.
To celebrate his birthday, Jaemin prepared two rounds of shots for the band just as the night was closing. Donghyuck and Yeeun were happy to indulge in the treat, while the rest just watched in amusement as they made a competition out of it, sliding their shots towards the pair just to keep it going.
“Are you not drinking?” Jaemin asks when Jeno slides his own drink to Yeeun. Jeno just shrugs, smiling that innocent smile of his, that given Jaemin’s raise of a brow, is not innocent at all.
Once they close up the lounge bar, Jeno drags Jaemin to the emergency exit and up a flight of stairs that Renjun, on a normal day, wouldn't let anyone have access to.
The cooling summer evening breeze has Jeno exhaling softly. The weather is perfect, always is at the rooftop—the sky is clear and the stars are out.
Jeno feels a warm hand clasp his own, and he turns to Jaemin. The weather is perfect—and yet they pale in comparison to the man beside Jeno, profile sharp and jaw strong, eyes soft and smile pleasant as he looks around, admiring the Vegas skyline.
Jeno gently pulls Jaemin to a tucked corner by the water tank. There, he left a big basket in preparation for tonight and he crouches down with a laugh at the obvious confusion in Jaemin’s face. In it was a blue blanket, a bottle of champagne and two wine glasses.
Jaemin crosses his arms, a playful smirk on his lips. “I was wondering where that went.”
Jeno laughs, tugging him down on the blanket he laid out for them. “Sorry?” He also brought along Jaemin’s radio from downstairs, and has pressed a wet kiss on Jaemin's cheek multiple times as an apology. And no, he wasn't looking for an excuse to kiss Jaemin.
They revel in the quiet night as Elvis Presley’s voice fills the air.
Love me tender, love me sweet
Never let me go
You have made my life complete
And I love you so
"You're old." Comes Jeno’s sudden remark, leaning against Jaemin's side. He twirls his wine glass with a cheeky smile.
“I'm not that older than you.” Jaemin nudges him. “You make it seem like I’m your father’s age or something.” He turns to look at Jeno, now sporting a smirk that has Jeno’s smile falling. “Unless?”
Jeno blushes, “Oh god, no! That’s—that's not what I meant—"
Jaemin shrugs. “You say that now."
Jeno glares, putting down his glass to the side and lunges at Jaemin, straddling him until Jaemin’s lying flat on the floor. Jaemin is just laughing throughout the whole thing, hands automatically resting on Jeno’s hips, like it was always meant to be there.
“I like this view better, actually.” Jaemin hums.
Jeno rolls his eyes. "Gross as always." He says, and yet he doesn't plan on getting off of Jaemin anytime soon.
Jaemin kisses him, then, slow and deliberate. When they pull away, Jaemin is sitting up, leaning against the cool wall behind him. He pulls Jeno closer, hands cupping Jeno’s warm face. There’s still a little furrow in his brows that Jaemin smooths with his thumb easily.
“Thank you for tonight, Jeno.” Jaemin says.
“It’s nothing.” Jeno mumbles, leaning against Jaemin's familiar touch. “Sorry if it isn’t much. It was a bit last minute.”
Jaemin shakes his head, smiling softly. “It’s more than anyone has ever given me.”
Love me tender, love me true
All my dreams fulfill
For my darling I love you
And I always will
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you with hair past your shoulders.”
“Oh, yeah,” Yeeun smiles at Jeno in the mirror, twisting the cap of her mascara shut. “I haven't really got it cut since we moved here. It’s been that long, huh?”
Jeno hums, admiring the waves of dark locks that stop just at Yeeun’s mid forearm.
“Can you braid it for me, darling?”
Jeno rolls his eyes at the request, but grabs for the brush on the bathroom counter anyway. “Whatever you say, your highness.”
The traffic wasn’t that bad tonight, and they get to the Satellite Hotel with a few minutes to spare. When they get there, they greet Renjun, Mark and Donghyuck at the lobby.
When Jeno walks past the reception desk, he makes a grab for Donghyuck’s collar, making Renjun and Mark snort. “Okay, that's enough flirting today, lover boy. It’s time to work.”
“Good evening Jeffrey, boys.” Yeeun singsongs as they set up their instruments on the small stage.
“Let's have another good show tonight, hm?”
Tonight, Yeeun is in an emerald misses party dress, cropped jacket tapered to her dainty wrists. Her hair is up in a long braid coil, secured with a green ribbon at the back of her head. Jeno is in a matching navy green boater stripe suit, hair gelled and parted to the right tastefully.
After all the times they’ve been up on stage, they're still a bit nervous and excited. The giddy has never left them with every night’s performance and it’s the same that evening when the lights dim, and the spotlight shines bright on Jeno and Yeeun, there is no place they’d rather be.
Strangers in the night, exchanging glances
Wandering the night, what were the chances
We'd be sharing love before the night was through
Jeno smiles as he notices the patrons sway their heads along to his words, mouthing the lyrics as him and Yeeun continues their serenade.
He chances a glance at the bar, smile etching a little wider as Jaemin watches him, a serene look on his face, as serene as the drawl of the bow on Johnny’s violin strings.
Something in your eyes was so inviting
Something in your smile was so exciting
Something in my heart told me I must have you
Jaemin’s gaze never falters, never has, and Jeno has come to find that it’s something that has never failed to have Jeno’s butterflies in haywire either. But tonight, Jeno feels a little playful, and he winks at Jaemin’s direction, delighting in the momentary shock that paints Jaemin’s face until Jaemin’s laughing at him from the bar, shaking his head with a huge smile on his face.
Jeno feels a bump against his shoulder and it only has him chuckling to see Yeeun’s raise of a brow, something he’s come to deem a part of their routine at this point.
Jeno makes a show of bowing in apology, making the patrons at the front of the stage laugh, and then he’s looping an arm around Yeeun’s waist, leaning his head against her shoulder as he continues to sing.
And ever since that night we've been together
Lovers at first sight, in love forever
It turned alright for strangers in the night
For strangers in the night
“On the house, babes.” Jaemin slides their drinks onto the counter.
“You know,” Jeno draws, lining the rim of glass with his pointer. “You’ve never actually let me pay for any of my drinks since I got here.”
Jaemin merely shrugs, smiling. “I simply don't charge cute people, dollface.”
Jeno rolls his eyes. “That means you haven’t let everyone you’ve been with pay for their drinks at this bar! It’s really a wonder Renjun hasn’t kicked you out yet.”
Jaemin guffaws, placing his hand over his chest like he’s been shot. “You wound me, Jeno.” He sighs dramatically. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
“Then how many?” Jeno raises a brow. “Do pray tell.”
Jaemin leans in closer, smiling as he hooks a finger underneath Jeno’s chin. “Just the one.” He whispers.
“Oh?” Jeno snorts.
Jaemin rolls his eyes, thumb pointing at Yeeun beside him. “And unfortunately this other one too.”
“Why thank you, James!” Comes Yeeun boisterous cackle. “I’m flattered, really.”
“You two come in a package deal. Again, unfortunately.”
Jeno still doesn’t believe him, crossing his arms over his chest. “Is that so?”
Again, Jaemin laughs at him. “You don't have to believe me, lover. But,” Jaemin rests his arms against the counter, matching Jeno’s raise of a brow with his own. “You might have to make it up to me, instead.”
Jeno lets the corner of his mouth slip into a small grin. “And what would that entail, James?”
“Spend a Saturday with me, in New York City.” Jaemin says. He grabs his hand and squeezes, smiling softly. “Protest at Greenwich Village. Renjun gave all of us permission to go.”
Jeno stills. That’s—He didn’t expect that at all. They’ve been discussing this for a while now, especially as the protests have gotten much worse and more harrowing over the past few weeks.
Jeno’s eyes prink at the thought of stepping back into New York to join the protests. When he turns to Jaemin, he bites down at his wobbling lip, seeing the same passion in his eyes as Jaemin looks back at him, just as determined, just as resolute. Jeno’s heart leaps.
“I'm leaving,” Yeeun announces as she vacates the counter with her drink in hand, and it dispels the tense atmosphere around them instantly, making both Jeno and Jaemin laugh.
“What do you say, Kyle?”
Jeno wrinkles his nose. “I’m still not a fan of that name.” He grumbles, and he knows Jaemin only even calls him that because he hates it. Of course Jaemin snickers at his reaction, case in point.
“What do you say, lover?” Jaemin asks again, eyes crinkling.
“You already know my answer to that.” Jeno shakes his head. “You know I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
When he leans forward, Jaemin meets him halfway in a long, chaste kiss. They pull away smiling.
“New York, huh?” Jeno hasn’t been excited at the sound of his hometown until today, really. And to go back there with Jaemin in tow, having the chance to rally beside him for something he’s been fighting for all his life, it has Jeno wanting the weekend to come sooner.
“Now it's your turn to show me around.” Jaemin hums, pouring himself his own martini. He raises his glass at Jeno for a toast. “Cheers.”
Jeno grins, bringing his glass up to clink with Jaemin’s. “Anywhere you wanna go, James? I know New York like the back of my hand.”