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Jaemin’s car couldn’t go any faster.

He taps his cigarette against the edge of his open window, annoyed. He wouldn’t normally care to be on time, hell, he never is, but with his Oldsmobile's constant stops in the middle of the road tonight, who wouldn’t want to set this piece of junk on fire once and for all?

To his luck, it’s a fairly quick ride to the dirt roads along downtown Newark, and Jaemin takes a harsh breath, finding the dirt and dust in the air oddly comforting at this point.

His headlights shine on three figures up ahead, and Jaemin smirks upon seeing Hendery wave at him cooly, his two other cronies loitering by the dead end sign, blocking his path. Jaemin revs his car up, hitting his horn to announce his arrival.

It’s just Jaemin by himself tonight. Just him and The Ravens.

He can go far as to say they’re friends, what with the way he sees them more often than not. Usually there would be some animosity between greaser gangs, especially when they border cities so close to each other but The Ravens are different—they’re a rowdy bunch that was a guarantee, but they’re always friendly with their approach.

It helps that they’re all but a bunch of Asian immigrants trying to find some familiarity in deserted northern New Jersey, trying to belong somewhere, and god did they only have themselves. 

“Sorry I'm late.” Jaemin nods at everyone as he exits his car. He closes the door with a loud bang. “My bugger’s been acting shit lately.”

“We can tell.” Yangyang grins, in the obnoxiously endearing way he always does. “It’s a perfect time to race then, huh, Golden Boy?”

Jaemin laughs. “The one time you see me lose is when it’s rigged like this.”

“Still as arrogant as ever.” Dejun rolls his eyes, Jaemin merely shrugs at him, not even trying to hide the smug tug of his smile. “Don't flip your wig just yet, Jaime, we’re waiting for someone else to join us.”

Jaemin raises a brow. “This is news to me.” 

“Can you believe it? Someone has the balls to be even later than you.” Hendery crosses his arms at Jaemin. “You might have heard of him, Jeno Lee? He’s new to this part of town, just moved down to your turf in Jersey.”

“Maybe.” Is Jaemin’s clipped answer, already averting his attention to sudden rev of an engine  half a mile away. Fluorescent headlights pierce through the darkness and it has Jaemin squinting his eyes. It’s not long before a mint Cadillac stops right in front of Jaemin.

The door opens, and out comes a stranger with hair neatly greased back, loose beaten up white singlet and jeans ripped at the shins. He makes his way to where Jaemin is with a blank face, nose sharp, jaw even sharper. Jaemin spits out the remainder of the cigarette he’s been nursing in the corner of his lip and promptly crushes it with boots, smirking at the display in front of it.

“Hey.” Jaemin nods. “So you’re the one racing with me today?”

The stranger puts a hand out for Jaemin to shake, nodding simply. “Jeno Lee.” He—Jeno Lee introduces himself, voice airy. Jaemin decides he likes the sound of it.

“A pleasure. Jaemin Na.” He hums, closing a hand over Jeno’s, gripping slightly. Jeno’s hand is calloused and rough, and Jaemin decides he likes that too.

 

It doesn’t take a genius to know the turnout—it’s almost too predictable.

Jaemin could easily chalk them all up on circumstance—his car is the shittiest it’s been yet, he couldn't get a proper start. He already lost as Jeno zooms past him the second Hendery raises his flag, and when Jaemin finally got his car to run, the engine inevitably dies on him the minute he drifts into a turn.

But Jaemin is too stunned to be angry about it, not when Jeno is an insane driver. With him stuck in standstill, Jaemin watches Jeno speed up, easily overtaking his lead by a long shot. His Cadillac is clearly hot rodded to be faster than what it should have been, what with the Bent Eight engine and the way the wheels almost spark from the force of Jeno’s drift, it has Jaemin mouth open in fascination.

When Jeno passes by his car again, back to the finish line, Jaemin sees the absolute crazed look in his eye, the way he clearly thrives in the speed, thrives in the adrenaline that comes with racing. Jaemin shivers, because he exactly knows how he feels. Too bad he couldn't join in for the ride.

It's a miracle in itself that Jaemin gets to drive his car back to the starting point, but he makes it somehow, painstakingly so, much to Hendery and his gang’s amusement. Jaemin pays them no heed however, eye locked on Jeno immediately, at Jeno who is leaning cooly against his car, blank faced again.

Jaemin stops just a feet away from Jeno, the corner of his lip tugging when Jeno moves back slightly. “Well, you beat me, Lee.”

Jeno blinks up at him, regarding him quietly.

“Seems a bit unfair, don’t you think?” He mutters.

“Oh?” This has Jaemin smirking fully, and he rests a hand against Jeno’s car door, just a little ways away from Jeno’s waist. Jaemin’s fingers twitch at the thought.

“That eager to see me again, huh?” If it were up to Jaemin, he’ll make sure he gets to see Jeno again. Who wouldn’t? Not when Jeno Lee is such a sight for sore eyes.

“If you're up for it.” Jeno shrugs, a hint of a smirk on his lips. “I’d like a rematch.”

Jaemin laughs, shaking his head, because Fuck, yes is he up for it.

“I’ll definitely win next time, babe.”

 

--

 

Jaemin knows of Jeno Lee.

And god, did he.

“You’re so stupid,” Jeno growls as his head collides with the leather of his back seat. “You knew it was me coming, didn’t you?”

Jaemin just hums, settling his knees on either side of Jeno’s hips. His hands slide under Jeno’s flimsy tank, the cold tips of his fingers melting at Jeno’s scorching skin. “God, you're so hot when you ignore me.”

Jeno let out a laugh then, and just like that, his cold facade breaks—eyes crinkling in mirth the way Jaemin is so used to seeing. When Jaemin presses a palm against Jeno’s chest, he smiles at the way it rumbles as he laughs.

“Idiot, I told you not to use your car before I fix it!” Jeno reprimands lightly.

The whine in Jeno’s voice has Jaemin lunging forward, engulfing Jeno into a tight hug. He kisses him loudly on the jaw, to both of his blooming cheeks, then finally on his lips, pecking him a couple more times, until Jaemin can’t help but finally press harder, probing his tongue along Jeno’s bottom lip teasingly.

“Jeno, Jeno, Jeno,” Jaemin clicks his tongue. He blows air at Jeno’s ear, delighting in the way he shivers. “That’s not important right now.”

“Right.” Jeno snorts, and Jaemin didn’t have to pull away to know he’s rolling his eyes at him.

Jaemin chuckles, lips leaving wet kisses down Jeno’s throat. “This car is sexy, you did a great job, babe.”

“Grody up my backseat and I’ll set your car on fire.”

It’s almost a growl the way Jeno grumbles his threat at him, but Jaemin smirks against the fresh mark he’s left with his teeth.

Jaemin knows of Jeno Lee—he's been seeing the lone Philly greaser long distance for four months now.

 

--

 

Jaemin isn't so much of a morning person, so it's a wonder he’s even up at this time of day. He doesn’t remember what time he got back from Jeno’s last night, but having to be up by eight for overpriced toast isn't exactly what Jaemin wants right now. Still, Renjun is banging at the basement door and if that isn't the most irritating noise to wake up to.

“I’m up! I’m up!”

They're at Sunshine and Toast, a diner they've been frequenting recently.

Renjun has been pining over a waiter there named Donghyuck and refuses to go to the diner without them. Sometimes, Jaemin regrets bringing his boys to the diner that one random morning in spring, but seeing Renjun fumble around his words most days is somehow worth giving up what once was his secret stomping ground.

He still has the diner all to himself at night, at least. That—he’d like to keep for himself.

Lucas announces their arrival with a greeting and the waiters smile at them tiredly, as sleepy as Jaemin feels that early morning he bets. Before he even settles down in their usual booth, Jaemin is hit at the back of the head.

“Hey!”

“Why did you go alone again last night?” Renjun grits. “You know they're looking for you down there!”

“Relax, I was just passing by Hudson.” Jaemin huffs, resting his leather clad arms onto the table. “I was at Newark and it was just Hendery and his Ravens. No Vipers in sight.”

“But he could've been there,” Renjun insists. “You shouldn’t be so reckless.”

“But he wasn't and I'm still here.” Jaemin slides the menu over to his person, sharing it with Mark beside him. “Anyway, I want waffles.”

“You’re missing a small detail here, RJ.” Lucas chimes in, his sunny smile easily easing the tension in the air. He laughs. “I heard through the grapevine that Jeno was there, and he apparently wiped the floor with your ass, Jaime.”

“Get bent,” Jaemin rolls his eyes as Renjun and Mark join in Lucas’ snickering. “I had a clear disadvantage! Don’t worry, the next time I see him, I’ll get him good.”

The thought has Jaemin covering his face with the menu, hiding his growing smiling from plain view. God, he misses Jeno already. He’s particularly clingy in the morning, and Jaemin hasn't had the chance to take advantage of the fact these days with Renjun dragging him out so early.

“There won't be a next time if you don't get your damned rod fixed first.” Renjun reprimands.

Jaemin rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah.”

Word from the bird is his car has been slowly rotting since six races ago. Jaemin’s been putting the repairs off for while, deeming his Oldsmobile still capable of running, and he was right, for the most part—it’s served him well until his race with Jeno.

Jeno was kind enough to tow his car back to Renjun’s garage last night. If it were up to Jaemin, he’d leave the rod out in the dirt roads back at Newark, but Jeno insists that he can fix it, bless his heart.

“Hey, isn’t Jeno’s a mechanic?” Mark thinks aloud, and thank god he’s moved away from Jaemin because the sudden thunder in his chest is so loud in his ears. Jaemin bites his tongue. 

“What about it?” Jaemin asks and he schools his expression, eyebrow raised.

“Why don't you let him look at it? It wouldn't hurt to befriend him, to be honest.”

Lucas claps his hands excitedly. “I was wondering if we can convince him to join us, actually.”

“Having a proper mechanic in our group would be good for us,” Renjun hums, chin cupped in his palm. He gives Jaemin a look. “What with how reckless you drive all the time, we need one to keep you in check.”

Jaemin crossing his arms over his chest. “You lost me there, now I’m not sure if you’re setting me up with Jeno or just rattling my cage.”

Renjun rolls his eyes. “I mean if you wanna hook up with him, be my guest. I know you have fun with the paper shakers at Jisung’s school fawning over you and whatnot, but that's not gonna get you anywhere.”

Jaemin clutching at his chest dramatically, “You wound me again, RJ.” He fakes a sob. As everyone snickers, a brown moptop catches his eye and Jaemin lets out a cheshire grin.

“Hey, Hyuck!”

“What are you doing?!” Renjun hisses. He straightens in his seat immediately, wiping the invisible dust in his jacket anxiously, and if that isn’t the most amusing thing to Jaemin.

Lucas slaps Renjun playfully on the arm, and Jaemin bites back his laugh as Renjun recoils at the impact. “Come on! Donghyuck must have seen Jeno around, I wanna know what he thinks!”

Donghyuck is rounding their table before Renjun could protest any further, his signature Sunshine and Toast pastel yellow apron on. “Hey guys, what can I get ya?”

“Actually,” Jaemin drawls lowly. The boot kicking at his leg under the booth just fuels him to amp up his tone even sleazier. “I’ve heard there's some fresh meat in town, yeah?”

“Oh, I’ve seen him.”  Donghyuck puts a hand on his hip, snorting. “Let’s see, really cute smile, mole on his right cheek? A bit of a dreamboat?”

Jaemin’s grin is annoyingly triumphant at the tick of Renjun’s eyebrow. “That’s the one.”

Lucas suddenly roars in laughter. “Aw, he’s jealous!” He teases, poking at Renjun’s cheek.

There’s a glare that is clearly directly at Jaemin and the steel toe of Renjun’s boot digs into his own shoe, but Jaemin is too used to the treatment to react to it. Instead, his shit eating grin stays in place, especially when Donghyuck coos, patting Renjun’s head.

“Don't worry, cookie. I still think you're cuter.” Donghyuck says, and everyone in their table positively cheers. Their hollering has some onlookers squinting their eyes at them. Jaemin doesn’t blame them, it’s too early to be this excited but he couldn’t help it not when Renjun is as red as the diner tiles.

“Drop dead twice, all of you!” Renjun slumps on the table, letting out a loud muffled groan that issues another round of laughter.

Donghyuck smiles at them, hand still tangled in Renjun hair in a soft caress. “I’ll get you guys your usuals.”

 

--

 

“Lover boy at 5 o’clock.”

Jaemin looks up at Donghyuck at the counter untying his apron and grins. It’s around seven in the evening and Donghyuck’s shift is ending. It’s when the sky is painted violet like this where Jaemin day really begins.

He’s moved to the bar up front, it’s Jeno favorite place to sit. It’s quiet and private in a way that if there were people around, all they get a proper view of is their back facing them.

“I'm leaving, have fun on your little date. Try not to make a complete mess. You know how Johnny is with mess.”

Jaemin holds up a mock salute. “Will do, babe.”

Donghyuck knows about him and Jeno. In fact, this is the exact spot where he met with Jeno. The only difference is that it was at an ungodly hour when Jaemin can mess with the jukebox without anyone else in the diner complaining about his song choices.

Donghyuck rolls his eyes but he’s smiling. “You owe me.”

Jaemin sees the motorcycle boots before he feels the arms wrapping around his neck, and he’s snickering as Jeno lays his head on top of his with a bemoan that is clearly unhappy.

“How’s unpacking, cookie?”

“Tiring.”

Jaehyun, an older mentor of his, was moving out of his old house in Jersey City, and Jeno couldn't pass the offer. It was infinitely better than the beat up trailer he’s been cooped up back in Philly—the house had a garage and a decent one floor space, all he had to do was take care of the old stray cat they left and Jeno was good to go.

Jaemin’s been trying to help him unpack but Jeno insists he can handle it on his own, says Jaemin is too much of a distraction than actual help. Jaemin would protest to that, but he can’t really get any unpacking done if his hands are too busy roaming around Jeno’s body. Still, whenever he’s over at night, he helps in any way he can, or at least tries to.

Jeno slumps down on the bar stool beside him, unruly hair over his tired eyes. Jaemin resists a coo at the pout on Jeno’s lips, but his hand is reaching out anyway, running a hand through his hair. “Not sure a big bad wolf when you're like this, huh?”

“Ice it.” Jeno bites, snarl only lasting a second when he turns his head to the side to look at Jaemin with those puppy eyes of his.  “A milkshake would be killer right now though.”

Who could possibly say no to that face?

Jaemin nods at Johnny who’s already making his way to his mixer with a knowing grin. It doesn’t take long for him to hand Jaemin the drink and Jaemin places it between them, reaching over to pluck two straws from a dispenser near him.

The frown on Jeno’s face as Jaemin takes a sip is gold.

“Who said we could share?” Jeno huffs. It’s a whine, no absolute bite in his voice despite his furrowed brows, and Jaemin goes ahead and helps himself with another sip, smiling into it. “Me.”

Jeno doesn’t say anything else, he doesn’t have to, not when he slides his stool closer to Jaemin anyway, not when he’s leaning his weight against Jaemin who almost slurps half of the milkshake gone.

 

--

 

Jaemin didn’t know it’s Jeno when they crossed paths for the first time.

It was about two weeks since he discovered the quaint diner by Triangle Park, and he arrived at Sunshine and Toast at two in the morning for his midnight caffeine run.

When he got there, he saw Jeno occupying his usual spot by the counter, passed out, cheek squished against the cool table. There’s grease smeared on his face, grey singlet dirtied, and his denim mechanic coveralls unzipped halfway.

Jaemin doesn’t know what compelled him to sit beside the sleeping stranger that night—he didn’t really talk to him either, or better yet bother waking him up to strike a conversation, but he did anyway. Maybe it was because it’s usually just Jaemin and Johnny at this hour, so having company was oddly nice, even if said company was rather dead to the world and Jaemin.

So Jaemin settled down on the stool beside Jeno’s, eating his salted fries quietly as the jukebox played a soft humming of Mr. Sandman. Jaemin had snorted then, there was nothing more quite fitting than The Chordettes to accompany him that night indeed.

 

Jaemin didn’t know it was Jeno at the time until Lucas told him about this drag racer from Philly.

“Pretty hot commodity these days.” Lucas had mentioned casually. “Says he doesn't even belong to a gang, prefers flying solo. Heard The Players’ Club have been convincing him to join them for a while too.”

Jaemin’s first thought of lone wolf Jeno Lee? Pretty pretentious. This was the first time he’s heard anyone reject an invite from The Players Club.

His second thought is well, Jeno must be really fucking good if The Players’ Club want him so fucking bad. And with how much praise Lucas sang while talking about Jeno in front of Jaemin, shit eating grin growing by the second, Jaemin had a sneaking suspicion that Lucas was purposefully trying to get a rise out of him.

As someone who’s crawled up the Jersey food chain for a painstaking year to be who he is right now, who wouldn’t think his fellow Golden Boy was not challenging his leader right now?

It worked, to say the least. With a tip from Hendery, Jaemin set out to see one of the races at Green Street, Philadelphia. If there really is a knock-out hot rodder just an hour and a half away from Jaemin, he had to see him for himself.

Lucas was definitely downplaying just how good this Jeno Lee really is, not to mention the fact that he forgot to fucking mention just how hot this man was.

The race was already taking place when Jaemin got there—it’s Jeno versus a greaser gang from Fremount Jaemin doesn’t care enough to know who. The Players’ Club were also there, mostly likely to monitor Jeno, maybe convince him to join them again, but Jaemin paid no heed to everything. He’s standing with his arms crossed by the finish line, jaw clenched as Jeno goosed the track in his Deuce, his opponent quite literally eating dust as he left a wall of dirt behind his trail.

Jaemin smirked. He knows a bird dog when he sees one, and as Jeno exited his car—tight black shirt taut to his broad frame, fitted 501s and black pompadour hair—Jaemin can clearly see that Jeno Lee was a man after his own heart.

Jaemin waited by the fences as Jeno was surrounded by everyone present. He couldn’t help but narrow his eyes at a group of biker girls—The Velvets, he presumed from their racer jackets, latched onto Jeno to congratulate him.

It’s only when they all disperse and pack up did Jaemin make his approach, pace slow, hands in his jeans pockets. Up close, Jaemin had this odd feeling that he’s seen Jeno’s face before, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

“Hey,” Jaemin greeted anyway, nodding when Jeno turned to him. “Good game.”

“Thanks.” Jeno raised a curious brow. “I don't think I’ve seen you around here.” He said slowly, then, “I would know.”

Jaemin remembers his lips stretching into a mischievous grin. “Yeah? It's because I’m not. I’d love to get to know you though.”

 

Everything clicked for Jaemin the next time they saw each other again.

It’s another two am at Sunshine and Toast, and Jaemin stops by the entrance, just watching Jeno dip his fries into his milkshake by the bar counter.

It's only then did Jaemin realize why Jeno looked oddly familiar back when they first spoke at the drag race. Jaemin was wondering where he saw that sharp profile before, albeit softer in the diner’s fluorescent glow.

Jeno also seemed shocked to see him there when Jaemin sat beside him.

“Jaemin, right?” He asked, head tilting to the side. Jaemin couldn’t help but crack a grin.

“The very one, babe.”

Jaemin found out why Jeno's so tired when he’s at the diner—he’s a mechanic. He wasn’t surprised—he figured from the coveralls, but Jeno confirmed it anyway. That first night Jaemin saw him, Jeno was test driving his Deuce for an hour until he got to the Jersey diner by chance. It was on a whim that he decided to rest for a bit, and Jeno didn't know he had passed out until the next morning.

Jeno thought it was the perfect distance to test drive his rod, as well as it was also a place he could rest for a bit before heading back home. Since then he’s been coming back every night, until he just ultimately decided to make it a frequent pit stop for him to test cars.

Jeno would always be too drowsy to strike a conversion, which Jaemin understood. He likes the company regardless. Jaemin can’t complain, not when he found it adorable every time Jeno would nod at him in greeting before eventually passing out.

On nights when Jeno was a bit awake to have a meal, he’d give Jaemin a look when he catches Jaemin’s eyes on him. Jaemin would just smile, he doesn’t mind being caught staring, albeit he wanted Jeno to catch him. Who could help but stare when Jeno’s anything but his intimidating drag race persona when he’s like this, quite the opposite really. It’s almost as if Jaemin’s in on the secret too, and to hell if Jaemin didn’t get to relish in this Jeno Lee for himself.

They’re quiet kinship went on like that for weeks. It’s become something that Jaemin would almost call a routine with how much he’s seen Jeno at Sunshine and Toast since the first time, and honestly, he could get used to this.

One night, Jaemin arrived at the diner first, only to turn around minutes later when the bell rang, eyebrows raised as Jeno walked in all dressed up, more than he usually did during his stop-ins. It’s the first time Jaemin was seeing him in his leather jacket while his usual 501s hug his thighs in an irresistible way. As Jeno’s motorcycle boots skid against the vinyl tiles, Jaemin crossed his arms, amused.

“Hey.” Jeno had greeted him, a nervous hand at the back of his neck. When he arrived at the bar counter, he ordered two milkshakes, sliding the other drink in front of Jaemin.

Jaemin lets his smirk bloom across his face. “What’s all this, cool cat?”

“Just,” Jeno had shrugged, “My treat.” He moves to stand, and Jaemin’s eyes follow, watching Jeno drop a coin into the jukebox. The Dominoes’ Sixty Minute Man and it’s blues beat softly crooned into the quiet diner.

Look a here girls I'm telling you now
They call me “Lovin’ Dan”
I rock ‘em, roll ‘em all night long
I'm a sixty-minute man

Jaemin remembers laughing into his straw, shaking his head. “Quite forward of you.” He commented, it earned a cough from an embarrassed Jeno and Jaemin smiled at his red ears.

They usually did sat close together at the diner, arms brushing on occasion, but Jaemin didn’t remember how they got to the point where they’re flushed together, leaning on each other, quietly chatting and laughing. The whole night was brimming with tension, quite palpable enough that even Johnny eyed them with a raised brow of his own.

Before they knew it, the sun was already rising, signaling a new morning.

Jeno offered to drive him home, but Jaemin quickly declined. It’s a bit complicated right now, he didn’t really have a home right now. Jaemin’s been taking over Renjun’s basement and it would be too rude to bring a guest over, especially at that hour.

Instead, Jaemin insisted Jeno take him back to Jeno’s trailer. He’s been wanting to visit since the first time Jeno mentioned his elusive home, and with much reluctance, Jeno eventually agreed.

It was a quick drive to Philly, no cars in sight, no people in sight. Jeno had brought his motorcycle along that night, and Jaemin had no qualms getting in the seat behind Jeno, enjoying the wind as his arms rested around Jeno’s trim waist.

Jeno’s trailer is a shabby old thing. Jeno said it’s second hand and Jaemin promptly snorts. It looked like it’s been used up by probably three more people before him. Jaemin had asked why he hadn’t upgraded already with the amount of prize money he’s gotten from drag racing, but it was Jeno’s first big purchase since he ran away from home, and Jeno was too attached, or so he said.

Jaemin had snorted then, only to laugh up a storm months later when Jeno accepted Jaehyun’s offer to move into his old lot as his old mentor wanted to settle down somewhere bigger in New York.

Jaemin kissed Jeno for the first time there in Jeno’s shitty trailer, head bumping against Jeno’s cabinet beside his cramped makeshift bed, and they spent the rest of the morning tangled in each other under Jeno’s sheets. 

Since then, Jaemin has visited often. He always came around to pester Jeno while he worked. He’s been working on this handsome mint Cadillac he got for a sweet deal at an auction, and Jaemin wanted to see the magic happen, wanted to see Jeno’s magic hands at work as he fixed the car up.

It took a few months—a few months of Jaemin’s bugging, a few months of Jaemin warming his bed, a few months of his Elvis records playing on repeat. 

When finally, Jeno set out to test his newly hot rodded Cadillac for the first time, they had driven up to a hilltop in downtown Jersey, parking beside a vandalized tree trunk. In the back seat they settled, roof rolled down and out of the way as they watched the night sky together.

“Ever made out in this car before?” Jaemin quipped that night, turning to Jeno with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Jeno rolled his own eyes at him, but he let Jaemin make quick work of untucking his shirt anyway, his back digging against his car door as he made room for Jaemin. “Can’t say I have.”

“You're in luck then,” Jaemin had smirked, and he leaned down to kiss Jeno fleetingly on the lips. “Front row seats to the backseat bingo, baby.”

 

--

 

After breakfast with the gang, Jaemin makes it a point to stop by Jeno’s house in the afternoons. Jeno has been bemoaning how quiet the house is despite being someone who loves being in his lonesome.

Jaemin was more than delighted to disrupt that peace. There’s always a mischievous smile on his face when he goes in and Jeno’s still in his bed, awake, either reading some book or just listening to the radio, and Jaemin would climb into bed with a purpose.

Jeno would groan in annoyance, but it’s only moments later that he caves in, so pliant in Jaemin’s hands. He lets Jaemin’s hands roam, lets him mouth at every inch of his skin he can place his lips on. He lets Jaemin leave finger shaped bruises against his waist, lets him cage Jeno underneath him, pressing impossible closer, legs tangled that it’s hard to tell where they start and where they end.

It’s only been a week since Jeno moved into this house and this part of the day is surely becoming Jaemin’s favorite so quickly. Just lying here in Jeno’s new bed, the entire house all to themselves, Jeno entirely his for the taking—it all seems all too good to be true.

And Jaemin finds out quickly that it is, frowning at the sudden knocking at Jeno’s garage door.

“Expecting anyone?” Jaemin grits, his grip on Jeno’s hip tightens. God, he was so close.

“No,” Jeno shakes his head, legs slipping around Jaemin’s hips. “I'm not answering that until you get me off.” He hisses.

Jaemin almost blacks out at the way Jeno clenches suddenly around him. 

“I should take my time then.” He lets out a laugh. “Think they’ll leave?”

 

They don’t, ten minutes in and the knocking only gets succeedingly more annoying by the second.

Jaemin ends up sighing, watching as Jeno runs around his room, grumbling as he picks up his clothes from the floor. Jaemin didn't get to take his time, Jeno was worried he’d scare off his first visitors. Adorable, really. The boy’s too nice for his own good, but Jaemin’s balls are blue and it's all on Jeno.

At least he’s not the only one suffering—Jeno’s opted for some pajama pants, trying to make it easier for his own hard on, tying a jacket around his waist for good measure, and then he’s out of the room.

It’s then that Jaemin sees Skipper enter, the tabby cat jumping up the bed to land on Jaemin’s chest. Jaemin groans. “You're getting heavier every time I see you.”

It’s the cat Jaehyun left in Jeno’s care, and despite their rather cold first meeting, Skipper has deemed Jaemin’s chest the perfect bed.

Jaemin lays there with him, smiling as Skipper paws at him before settling his head down. Jaemin yawns when Skipper does, closing his eyes when Skipper closes his. Maybe he’ll get some shut-eye too.

 

When Jaemin wakes up next, it’s to Jeno pulling at his arm and dragging him out of the room.

“Come with me.” He commands simply, and Jaemin lets himself be dragged, too groggy to function just yet.

Jaemin can think of a couple of important things why Jeno is in a hurry like this, most of which involve finishing up where they’ve left off earlier. The last thing Jaemin thought he’d be led to however is into Jeno’s garage with his beaten up Oldsmobile sitting in the middle of it.

Jaemin blinks. The car stays in place. “Why is this here?” 

“Your boys came by,” Jeno crosses his arms. “Said hello and welcomed me to town. They also want me to fix your car, even towed it all the way here.”

Jaemin runs a hand through his hair, laughing. Of course. Of course this would be his friends’ doing. “What a bunch of finks, how did they even know your address in the first place?”

Jeno raises a brow. “Care to explain?”

Jaemin sighs. He walks towards his rod, running his fingers along the chipped paint on the hood. “Long story short, they’re trying to set us up.” He snorts. “Also might wanna butter you up to join the group too.”

Jeno frowns. “You still haven't told them.”

Jaemin just grins. “Where's the fun in that, babe?”

Yeah, he still hasn't told them about him and Jeno. It's been a few days since that morning at the diner, and ever since then they’ve been trying to squeeze Jeno into the conversation to possibly get a rise out of him to no avail.

Jaemin isn't an actor per se either, but he can't help but be a bit proud he can fool just about anybody with the right smile, the right tone, even if the subject of his tricks are his friends.

At first he thought they’re just doing an elaborate joke, but seeing his actual car here at Jeno’s has nothing but brought amusement to Jaemin’s day. He does want to tell them eventually, but for now the fun's just beginning.

Jeno isn’t sharing his sentiment and the exasperation is written all over his face. “Why do you insist on making your life complicated?” He leans against Jaemin’ car door, shaking his head. “First the race the other night, now this—whatever this mess is! And you know I already agreed to join, the least you could have done was told them that!”

Jaemin juts his bottom lip out, moving to cage Jeno with his itching hands settling at his hips. “Don't be mad, cookie. At least the car’s here with you now.”

“I'm not mad, you’re just impossible sometimes.”

“But you like me anyway?” Jaemin tries with a sorry grin.

Jeno sighs, looking up at Jaemin. He reaches out to wrap a hand around Jaemin’s neck, his thumb resting right at Jaemin’s pulse. It jumps predictively at the touch, and Jeno leans in closer. “You’re right about one thing, lover.” Jeno whispers. Jaemin shivers.

“I have been itching to get my hands on this car of yours for a long time.”

Jaemin pushes Jeno away with a groan. “Bug off!”

Jeno laughs up a storm behind him, smacking his ass before Jaemin could walk back inside the house.

“Go get dressed!”

 

--

 

The rush Jaemin feels when he’s on Jeno’s motorcycle is like no other.

He doesn't remember what it was like without it anymore really, sometimes he wonders about switching to bikes in the future, but his love for drag car racing triumphs over his heart.

By four in the afternoon, Jaemin would borrow Jeno's bike, leaving for James Ferris High School to fetch Jisung. Even when he had his car, Jeno’s motorcycle just lets him go faster through the school traffic.

Jaemin zooms past students walking home, smiling at them as they regard him with their curious eyes. The onlookers double take as he parks just outside the gates, and Jaemin didn't have to wait looking to see his little brother run to him, brows furrowed and lips in a frown. Jaemin grins.

“Jaemin!”

Jaemin ruffles Jisung’s hair, earning a whine. “How was school, buddy?”

“Okay.” Jisung fixes his hair hastily and then he’s pushing at Jaemin to move. Jaemin laughs, staying in place on purpose. “Hurry, they're looking at you again!”

Jaemin turns his head only to see a group of cheerleaders sitting by the front steps, waving their pom poms at him. He waves back, laughing when they scream.

Jisung kicks the side of his leg and makes an annoyed noise.” Stop being gross, just take me home already!”

“You’re no fun.” Jaemin tuts, waving one more time at them before turning to his bike.

He’s clutching onto his spare helmet when he hears a familiar voice shouting.

“Wait! Jisung!” Chenle runs towards them, cheeks pink. From the run or from Jisung, Jaemin isn't really sure, but he smiles at Chenle anyway when he greets him too.

“You forgot this.” Chenle hands over a worn out notebook that is very much Jisung’s. “Thanks for lending me your notes.”

“It's no problem.” Jisung clears his throat, equally flushed. “See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, see you!”

Jaemin hums as they watch Chenle run off just as quickly as he came, waving his own hand goodbye. Wordlessly, he places Jisung’s helmet in Jisung’s frozen arms, patting his shoulder as he starts Jeno’s bike.

“Come on lover boy, time to go home.”

 

Jaemin can't say he hasn't been home in a while, the Na-Park household isn’t quite home to him in the first place.

He still stops by to take Jisung home. The boy had opted not to take the school buses home just so he could see Jaemin everyday, even if just for a short while. And everyday he watches as their house remains unchanging day after day.

It makes a bitter smile appear on Jaemin’s face. It’s very apparent that Jisung misses him, and god, did he miss the kid just as much, but he can't say the same for their rest of their family. They seem to be doing just fine without him, still living their boring, mundane suburban life. Everyday it’s just becoming so clear that Jaemin was the problem anyway, and kicking him out did them good.

“We’re here, buddy.” Jaemin sighs. He kicks the bike stand upright and switches off the engine. But Jisung is still behind him unmoving, still clutching at his jacket.

“Can you stay for a bit?” He mumbles quietly against his back, it makes Jaemin turn and smile at him softly.

“You know I can't.” He says, just as quiet.

He’d love to, god did he want to, so fucking bad. Even if he had to face his close minded parents, as long as Jisung would have him, it's enough.

But it's not so simple. They have an agreement—Jaemin can still see Jisung as long as he keeps his distance, as long as he’s not pulling him into his unruly lifestyle—their words not his—and he’s respected that for almost two years now. Granted, it could be better, but he’s happy to just be able to see Jisung everyday. 

“Screw mom and dad, I miss you.” Jisung arms around Jaemin tightens. “They can’t possibly kick you out twice.”

“You never know,” Jaemin chuckles, resting his own hands atop Jisung’s. “I’m really sorry, bud, but it’s best if I don't stay here too long, they might think I'm corrupting you or something.”

Jaemin climbs off the bike before Jisung could respond, and helps him off the bike. He’s careful as he helps Jisung with his helmet, fixing Jisung’s hair for good measure, and pets at his sullen face. Jisung barely moves, visibly upset about this whole situation and Jaemin’s heart aches to see him like this.

“Be careful okay, Sungie? I’m serious.” Jaemin says.

Jisung looks down at his shoes, toeing the pavement. “I'm trying.”

Jaemin smiles, patting his cheek one last time. “I have to go.”

“Okay.” Jisung sighs. There's a flush on his cheeks when he says, “Can you tell Jeno the new bike rims are cool?”

Jaemin laughs as he puts his helmet back on. “I will, he will like that.”

 

Jeno hasn't met Jisung yet, but Jeno knows enough from all of the stories Jaemin has told him, and at this point, Jaemin can say Jeno maybe knows Jisung better than their own parents will.

Jeno is very eager to meet him, more smitten each time Jaemin reports back from James Ferris.

“How is he?” Jeno asks when Jaemin enters the garage.

“Still pining, both of them.” Jaemin laughs. He moves to stand behind Jeno. He has Jaemin’s Oldsmobile’s hood open and he’s checking the dead battery.

“He let Chenle borrow his notes.” Jaemin snorts. “Only someone smitten with him would go and read through his terrible handwriting. Chenle doesn't even need them—he’s a year higher!”

Jeno shakes his head but he’s snickering too. “Let them be.”

Jeno is wearing Jaemin’s racer jacket, Golden Boys in reflective gold stitched across his broad back. Jaemin smirks, it’s taking jacketing a bit too literally, but he can’t lie and say it doesn't suit Jeno, can’t help the way the pit of his stomach warms at the sight either.

Jaemin moves to press closer against Jeno’s back, hands on either side of Jeno, chin resting on his shoulder.

“Are you staying for longer?” Jeno mumbles, melting into Jaemin’s embrace.

“Leaving soon,” Jaemin hums. “Think they'd be looking for me by now, especially now with their master plan in action. Shouldn't keep them waiting much longer.”

 

Jaemin lives in Renjun's basement floor. He took Jaemin in when he was kicked out. It’s been two years since then, and Jaemin feels both grateful and a burden.

He needs to move out of here soon. He’s working on it, the price money he gets from drag racing isn't much, but he’s gathered a fair amount already and when the time comes he won't be bothering Renjun and his family for much longer.

The basement also serves as their stomping grounds—when they're not at the diner, they’re down here lounging around Renjun’s while there aren't any races or gatherings happening around the state.

“Welcome home, Nana, thought you forgot about us.” Renjun greets as Jaemin descends down the basement stairs. It's a bit dim and cramped down here, but Jaemin has found comfort in the odd little room. And with his gang around like this, it really isn't too bad of a place to spend the rest of his day in. 

“Miss me already, RJ?” Jaemin settles on the couch across from Renjun, squeezing between Mark and Lucas, much to Mark's annoyance.

“Barely.” Renjun rolls his eyes. “Since you like disappearing to who knows where, we decided to take matters in our own hands and drop your car off at Jeno’s already.” Renjun shrugs. “You’re welcome.”

“Huh,” Jaemin leans back, hands behind his head. All eyes are on him, waiting for his reaction, his reaction they’ve been most likely have been waiting to see all day. Jaemin bites off a laugh, he feels quite powerful.

“I was wondering where that piece of junk went.” He drawls boringly. Jaemin kicks his feet up their makeshift coffee table made of boxes, adding a yawn for effect. “Thought you got rid of it for good.”

“Useless,” He hears Renjun mutter against his breath and Jaemin watches him stand and look through their collection records while sighing loud enough for all of them to hear.

“What were you expecting,” Lucas snickers, and Jaemin watches Mark reach out to pinch at Lucas’ arm. His friends are a mess in front of him and Jaemin’s loving every second of it.

This time, Jaemin can't hide his smile when Renjun plops back onto the couch as Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel echoes through the room.

Jaemin’s wearing Jeno’s denim jacket, accidentally having picked it up earlier and didn’t realize until he was halfway to Renjun’s. It’s soft with use and it smells very much like Jeno and the citrus of his Brylcreem.

Jaemin closes his eyes. God does he miss Jeno already.

 

--

 

It’s another day of Jaemin being woken up by Renjun too early for his liking, but Jaemin's in for a loop when he’s shoved into the backseat of Lucas’ car out of nowhere, forced to sit in the middle between Mark and Renjun.

“Where are you taking me?” Jaemin mumbles incoherently on Mark's shoulder. He nudges Renjun with his knee.

“You'll see.” Is all Renjun says, and Jaemin promptly knocks out again.

When Jaemin's sluggish body is pushed out of the car and forced to knock on a familiar mahogany front door, Jaemin bites back a smile as Jeno appears on the other side, equally sluggish.

He has his favorite worn out white shirt to sleep on, two sizes entirely too big for him, his pinstripe boxers and his hair all over the place. It's very apparent that Jeno’s just rolled out of bed and Jaemin would kiss him right now if he could.

“Hey, Lee,” Lucas greets with a grin. “Remember Jaime over here?”

Jeno runs a hand over his unruly hair, flattening his palm over the top as he leans against his door frame. “I can't say I do.” He hums, his voice scratchy from sleep.

“Is that right?” Jaemin smirks. Ever since he’s told Jeno of the little game he was playing, he’s been consistently nagging him about all the bluffing. And yet here Jeno is now, game face fucking on, no matter the hint of sleep in eyes.

This just got a lot more interesting, and Jaemin is going to take full advantage of it.

He moves in closer into Jeno’s space, reaching out a hand to rest at Jeno’s waist like it was automatic. He’s glad he’s facing Jeno, it hides Jeno’s wince from everyone’s view as he presses at the Jaemin shaped bruises he’s left there.

“I'll make you remember,” Jaemin promises, making sure to say it loud enough for everyone else to hear.

“Oh?” Jeno raises an amused brow.

Jaemin shrugs one shoulder. “Thought we’d check in on my car too while we’re at it. Is that fine with you, Lee?”

“Okay, sure,” Jeno sighs. “But let me at least change out of my underwear first.”

What happens next has Jaemin blinking in shock. Like a fever dream Jeno reaches down to grasp the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head. He tosses it to Jaemin, all the while staring at him intently before he closes the door in Jaemin’s face.

“God,” Mark groans behind him, and Jaemin could hear the exasperation in his tired tone. “You two will definitely get along.”

Jaemin shakes his head, rolling up Jeno’s shirt into a ball, as he laughs to himself.

Well, he’s definitely awake now.

 

Jaemin didn’t think he’d be spending most of his day at Jeno’s garage. Granted, it’s not what he envisions mornings with Jeno would be, but it’s a close second.

Early morning till the afternoon they spend the entirety at Jeno’s garage, chatting as they watched Jeno work. He’s changed into a pair of dark wash coveralls and brought out the toolbox Jaemin has seen so many times in the past.

None of the Golden Boys are mechanics, so watching Jeno work is a spectacle to all of them.They gather around Jaemin’s Oldsmobile as Jeno opens the hood and tells them which car part does which.

It’s a treat to watch his friends talk to Jeno—Jeno gets along with everyone already despite just meeting them mere hours ago and Jaemin is happy to see him in his element, happy to entertain questions about cars and how to hot rod them accordingly.

Around two o’clock, Renjun and Lucas go out to get food, after much instance from Lucas wanting hotdogs from Triangle Park. They took the car, didn’t bother to wake up Mark who’s knocked out on the living room couch, tired from his night part time shift at T&J’s Alley.

Jaemin sees them off with a lazy wave, already closing the door before he could see them take off from the driveway. Jaemin makes an immediate beeline to the garage, entering with purpose. And when the croon of Jeno's record player welcomes him, the familiar trumpets of Mellow Blues have his lips stretching into a smirk.

“They're gone, lover.” Like a moth into a flame Jaemin presses himself close to Jeno, hands running down his bare arms. The afternoon heat had Jeno unbuttoning his coveralls, sleeves tied around his waist. Jaemin squeezes at his biceps, humming. “For now, at least.”

Jeno ignores him, still facing the car. It makes Jaemin sigh, Jeno’s always like this when he’s concentrated on something and although it’s a hot look on him, Jaemin’s hands are itching to roam. He leans his forehead against Jeno’s shoulder. “You’re spending more time on the car than me, I have needs.”

“Jaemin,” Jeno warns, such a simple call of his name but it has Jaemin smirking again. He watches Jeno close the hood of his car shut and turn around in his hold. Jeno crosses his arms over his chest and Jaemin likes the way his arms look against his black singlet.

“Just one kiss, then I'll let you get back to work.” Jaemin grins, already taking a step forward to trap Jeno against the hood of his car. Jeno leans back, almost sitting on it, and he doesn't say anything when Jaemin’s hand finds their way to his cup his jaw. Jaemin leans in.

It doesn't end in one kiss, Jeno doesn’t let him pull away when Jaemin attempts to pull back. He circles his arms around Jaemin’s neck, bringing him closer as he locks their lips a second time. Jeno’s whine is music when Jaemin sucks on his tongue, he could taste the menthol from the mint he was nursing in his mouth earlier.

Jaemin unties Jeno’s sleeves around his waist, snaking his hands under his thin singlet, and Jeno jumps at the feel of his cold fingers against his heated skin, squirms when Jaemin thumbs at his nipples.

“So responsive,” Jaemin croons, licking his Jeno slicked lips. He moves to kiss down Jeno’s clavicle, licking at the salt in his skin, from the heat and from exertion. Jaemin’s been wanting this all morning, wanted to map Jeno’s with his mouth, wants to sink his teeth in his skin. Watching him work had Jaemin wanting, but with his friends around he had to bite his tongue. 

So Jaemin takes his time, savoring these few minutes they have alone. It’s inevitable that he gets carried away, he can’t help it when Jeno is so willing to give. The desire only intensifies tenfold when Jaemin hears the distant knocking from outside and the shout that is distinctively Renjun’s.

Jaemin smiles against Jeno’s lips. It doesn’t look like Jeno was aware they are already back with the way his hands are itching to unbuckle Jaemin’s belt.

It’s only when Marks barges through the garage door does Jeno pull away startled. He jumps off the car hood, tugging down his singlet and hastily fixing his hair.

“They got hotdogs...” Mark trails off.

“Thanks,” Jaemin laughs—from the way Mark was suddenly eyeing the both of them, albeit suspiciously,  or the way Jeno has turned fidgety, either way it has Jaemin biting off a winning smile. “We’ll get some when we’re done here.” Jaemin says.

“Okay,” Mark narrows his eyes, and god did Jaemin want to laugh in his face. “Help yourselves inside.”

They all gather around Jeno’s living room. Apparently Lucas bought way more than expected, says the guy handling the stall knows him from way back and likes him enough to give him extra. As they ate and chattered, Jaemin has been meeting Mark’s eyes from across the room from time to time. He wasn’t even hiding that he was observing the both of them.

Jaemin can’t blame him, in fact, he wonders just how much Mark has seen earlier, or maybe even heard. He thought he’d make it more exciting for Mark anyway, and by proxy, his other boys, as Jaemin takes every chance to be near Jeno, pressing against his side, reaching over to wipe at Jeno’s messy mouth.

Jeno catches on quickly, sending his own glare his way, but he’s leaning into his touch anyway. It’s adorable, really.

On the ride home there is obvious contempt written all over Mark’s face. Jaemin bites back a laugh as he asks him what’s wrong, but Mark doesn’t supply an answer. Jaemin just shrugs, already thinking about coming home again to Jeno later that night.

 

Since that one morning at Jeno’s, the Golden Boys drags him along everywhere.

And really, Jaemin can’t complain. It's kind of fun to keep up the act in front of everyone. The looks Jeno would give him when no one is looking are secretive as they are amusing, and spending more time with Jeno out in the open like this is always a treat.

Early mornings are still hell, Jaemin still has trouble waking up and Renjun’s loud banging does nothing to absolve his morning headaches, but having Jeno around with him at their booth makes it not as bad.

Donghyuck caught on to their little game pretty quickly when he saw Jeno enter the diner with them that morning, and watching him pretend to flirt with Jeno is hilarious, especially when Renjun ends up grumbling about the whole thing for the rest of the day.

With the help of Jeno, Jaemin’s car is coming along great too. Jaemin thought the piece of junk was damaged beyond repair, but Jeno was determined to get it fixed. Seeing his car slowly come back to life is definitely a wonder. Jeno would tell him in detail what repairs need to be done, and although Jaemin doesn’t really understand half of it, he’ll still kiss Jeno silly for all the work he’s done anyway.

The gang visits Jeno’s home from time to time to check up on him, and they’re always a hint of  suspicion in their eyes every time they see Jaemin already there, lounging on a stool as Jeno worked. Ever since that almost run-in with Mark, Jaemin has found them eyeing every move they’ve made and Jaemin loves seeing them speculate about them, it’s always a fun time.

 

On most nights, they test run Jaemin’s car whenever they’re able, and they spend the nights wherever the Oldsmobile's engine dies. It's a different place every time, sometimes it’s barely out Jeno’s garage, sometimes it takes them halfway to Sunshine and Toast, sometimes even passing by the dim lit James Ferris High School campus at two in the morning.

On one night, they were able to surprisingly drive as far as Hudson.

There’s a movie drive-in that Jaemin used to go to a lot in highschool, just a few blocks away from The Hudson School, and they managed to sneak in just in time for the second half of Kiss Me Deadly .

“I’ve always wanted to take you here.” Jaemin mumbles. His eyes are locked on the projection in front of them but his hands are preoccupied with Jeno’s, playing with his fingers idly.

“What took so long then?” Jeno hums.

“It’s complicated.”

“How complicated?”

Jaemin sighs. “Getting suspended complicated.”

Jeno’s hand stills between his. He turns to Jaemin with furrowed brows. “Are you even supposed to be here?”

“Not particularly,” Jaemin answers with a grim smirk. Jeno doesn’t say anything else, but throughout the rest of the film Jaemin could feel his eyes on him the entire time. And the entire time he still has his hand over Jeno’s, squeezing reassuringly.

It's a miracle they even manage to get home that night, just in time for the engine to die by Jeno’s street, but none of that really mattered when Jeno is laughing up a storm inside the car with him, also thankful for the close call.

“Is this thing ever going to work properly?” Jaemin sighs, leaning back against his seat.

“Don't worry, I'll get in running somehow.” Jeno hums beside him. “I don't know how, but somehow.”

Jaemin turns to Jeno, smiling at him softly. “Thank you by the way, you don’t have to do this—hell, to do any of these—this junk car and my gang. They’re a rowdy bunch, and they really want you in. That, and also set us up. Can’t say it isn’t fun to mess with them, but I do hope all of this isn’t actually troubling you.”

Jeno chuckles. “It isn’t bothering me at all. I like spending time with you guys. It's nice to be welcomed, you know? I can see that now.”

Jeno turns to face Jaemin, mirroring his soft smile and soft eyes. Jeno has told him before how lonely it has been for him all this while. Granted, he’s rejected offers from many a group, but majority of the time the reason for wanting Jeno in the group was to win races. And at the time when Jaemin casually offered for him to join the Golden Boys, Jeno has admitted he only accepted out of courtesy. To see and hear him now, the interest and security in his eyes are clear and Jaemin’s heart leaps.

“Besides,” Jeno shrugs, and then he’s leaning in. “I get to spend everyday with you too, lover.”

 

It doesn't take long after that for the Golden Boys to decide to let Jeno join officially. The next morning at Sunshine and Toast, Jeno is greeted with a familiar racer jacket with the infamous golden lettering at the back, exactly the same as the one he’s been stealing from Jaemin, the one he liked sleeping in so much.

“Is this?” Jeno couldn't hide his smile as he examined it. It makes everyone else in the booth smile at him too. Jeno doesn't know how contagious his happiness is, Jaemin thinks.

Jaemin shrugs, eyes softening. It’s practically a done deal, there was no need for ceremonies like this, really, but to see Jeno genuinely excited to receive the jacket makes it so much more meaningful for him, for all of them. “It’s all yours, Lee.”

Jaemin helps him put it on, giving an extra squeeze on his hip when he’s done. They celebrate with milkshakes, Jaemin's treat. It’s never been especially sunnier that morning at Sunshine and Toast than today.

 

The festivities don’t last for long.

Just as they pay up at the counter to leave, Hendery comes crashing into the diner, shocking everyone in the vicinity with the concerning state he was in.There are bruises blooming on his cheek and temple, lip busted, clothes dirtied, and the slight limp suggest even more damage underneath all the leather. Jaemin’s jaw clenches.

“Jesus Christ,” Donghyuck clutches his pad and paper against his chest, alarmed. Then he’s running off to the back to see if they have a first aid kit.

Jaemin stands, pointedly ignoring the uncomfortable drop in his stomach as he leads Hendery to their table. The onlookers at the diner eye their booth curiously and Jaemin shoots everyone with his own questioning stare. It makes everyone turn their heads back in fear.

“What happened to you, Raven?” Lucas frowns.

Hendery answers by hitting Jaemin the shoulder, lips in a snare. “If you wanted to watch a fucking movie, do it in your own cinema!”

Oh.

Jaemin turns to Jeno and his heart almost leaps out of his throat at the equally alarmed expression in his face, muddled with both confusion and realization.

God, what was he thinking? Keeping away was the last thing on Jaemin’s mind last night. He just wanted to show Jeno around one of his favorite old places back in Hudson. They must've seen him. They could've driven past them without them knowing and recognized Jaemin’s car.

Shit.

Renjun crosses his arms. “Care to explain, Jaime?”

“It's the Vipers,” Hendery answers for Jaemin. He hisses when Mark makes a dab of ointment at his bruise on his cheek and Jaemin’s jaw clenches. “They saw him around downtown last night, saw me this morning and wanted to pass the message along.” Hendery stares at Jaemin, eyes hard. “Think the message is pretty loud and clear.”

“Did they want anything?” Lucas asks.

Hendery shakes his head. “They didn't say, but be on the lookout. They're obviously up to no good.”

Renjun glares at Jaemin. “What are you doing, Jaime? Didn’t we tell you to stay the fuck away?”

“Look, I was just—I was just passing by, okay? I was with Jeno, we were test driving. Right?” it’s not entirely a lie, not entirely the truth, but he already looks bad, they didn't have to make things even more sour with the details.

“He’s right.” Jeno nods. Under the table he squeezes Jaemin’s thigh.

“Still,” Renjun clicks his tongue. “You know how aggressive they've been since your little falling out two years ago. I don’t know if you forgot, but they don't particularly like you!”

“Jaemin.” Jeno chimes in. There is a question in his eyes, worry in his brows that Jaemin wants to smooth out. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we can change testing routes if you can't go downtown.”

Jaemin smiles at him slightly, nodding. “It’s fine, don’t worry about this, Jeno.” He promises. 

Jaemin hears Renjun scoff, loud and clear, and Jaemin can’t even retort, he feels the same way—it's a bit too late now to be saying all these when he already fucked up.

 

--

 

When Jaemin twists Jeno’s door open that day, it's to the sight of Yeeun cuddling beside Jeno on the couch as he reads.

Yeeun is a greaser girl from Philly, leader of biker gang The Velvets. She’s a close friend of Jeno’s, albeit maybe a little too close.

She’s known him the longest, has known him since they were youngsters, and no one babies Jeno more than Yeeun does, not even Jaemin could compete with her. And as much as it's amusing to see how Jeno is easily incredibly flustered in her presence, his brow always does twitch when she's most often than not pressed against Jeno when she’s around.

Jaemin knows better however not to mess with a sweater girl like Yeeun, so he keeps his ground, but he doesn't hold off on speaking his mind about her questionable antics with Jeno, not when she fires back at him just as strongly.

“Well, if it isn’t Jaime.” Yeeun snorts, crossing her lilac trouser clad legs.

“Jang.” Jaemin crosses his own arms over his chest. He tilts his chin up. “If it were up to me, you wouldn’t even be allowed in here.”

“Well, good thing it's not up to you.” She smirks. Yeeun turns to Jeno, keeping his eyes on Jaemin in doing so, and leans in to press her red lips on Jeno’s cheek. Jeno offers no reaction but the burning of his ears. Still, he keeps his attention on the page he’s reading.

The entire exchange is something Jaemin has seen so many times, but the lipstick stain on Jeno’s cheek has Jaemin’s left eyebrow predictably ticking.

“You’re not here for Jeno, in case you forgot.” Jaemin grits. “Just give me what I asked for, babe, and we wouldn't have a problem here.”

“Give me five more minutes,” Yeeun hums, pressing another kiss this time against Jeno’s jaw. “I haven't seen my baby in a while.”

Jaemin shivers. Sometimes he does question if he’s actually sharing his lover with Yeeun when she’s around.

“Alright.” Jaemin ends up sighing, seemingly defeatedly. He almost breaks out a smile when Yeeun prematurely rejoices, but then he’s moving to sit on the other side of the couch, on the other side of Jeno, smirking when Yeeun expectedly glares at him.

“Five minutes, correct?” Jaemin hums, leaning his head on Jeno’s shoulder. “I’ll be counting, babe.”

 

“Be gentle.” Jaemin grumbles. His head is pulled to the right as Yeeun runs her gloved hands through his hair.

Jaemin sees Yeeun roll her eyes in the mirror and if his head was doused in hair lightener right now, if his life wasn’t in Yeeun’s hands right now, he’d bite back. Instead, he’s sitting straight, shoulders tense as he watches Yeeun work.

Jeno is beside him thankfully, leg resting on Jaemin’s thigh—it’s a grounding weight on top of him. He’s reading the back of the Miss Clairol box Yeeun brought with her curiously.

“Champagne blonde Color Bath?” Jeno blinks. “Does this really work?”

Yeeun hums. “As long as we do the bleach first properly, the dye will look exactly like the lady in the box.”

“It better work, Jang.” Jaemin hisses, eyebrow twitching from the slight itch in his head right now.

The decision to dye his hair so suddenly, it’s glaringly out of nowhere. Jaemin wanted a distraction, badly. He’s been anxious about the vipers, ever since that run in with Hendery, ever since they’ve made themselves known to Jaemin again. Jaemin knows this isn’t ideal, clearly a decision made in haste, but he’ll do anything not to think about them right now. And if that distraction came in the form of Yeeun and bleach, he’ll take it.

Besides, he’s been thinking about dyeing his hair anyway. Jaemin has no particular color in mind. He probably made a mistake of letting Yeeun decide for him, he didn't exactly envision a bold choice like platinum for him, but there's no turning back now.

“I hope you look great bald if I mess up then, babe.”

“What makes you think I won’t look good?” Jaemin turns to Jeno with a raised brow, squeezing at Jeno’s thigh. “Lover? What says you?”

“Bug off.” Jeno glares but his neck flushes red anyway. It’s enough to make Jaemin smile.

“I’ll decide when you’re finished.” Jeno grumbles.

 

It turns out greater than expected, much to Yeeun’s disappointment.

After a painstaking twenty itchy minutes, Yeeun let him to the bathroom to condition his hair. Yeeun also helped him trim and taper his hairs at the back, giving him a cleaner look and finish after the dye job.

Jaemin doesn't even get to get a proper look himself before Jeno’s on him, pulling him into the bathroom and smashing their lips together the minute Yeeun leaves.

When Jeno pulls away, it’s only to get down on his knees. Jaemin runs his hand through Jeno’s hair and tugs. “Have you decided, lover?” It’s almost a growl.

Jeno didn’t need to talk, that afternoon, Jeno shows him just how much he loves the platinum blond.

 

The Golden Boys didn't share the same sentiment, when he and Jeno got down to Renjun's basement that same day, they were all looking at Jaemin like he grew a second fucking head.

Renjun is especially livid, he stands up immediately, face hard.

“You're a walking hazard!” Renjun throws his arms up. A laugh follows and it’s almost hysterical. Jaemin winces. “Might’ve just put a sign on you saying you want to get got! We said lay low, but you're literally asking for beating!”

And believe him, Jaemin gets it, this isn’t exactly one of Jaemin’s best ideas, but it’s still entertaining to see Renjun act the way he expected him to be.

“Looks cool though, Jaime.” Lucas whistles, clearly ignoring Renjun’s glares. “Suits you.” It’s another reaction Jaemin expected and he can’t help but laugh.

“Thanks.” Jaemin grins, wide and obnoxious. He sits beside Lucas, swinging his arm around his shoulder.

“Any news?” Mark asks.

Jeno shakes his head. “Still no sight of him around here.”

“He’s definitely planning something.” Jaemin sighs. “It’s only a matter of time before he shows up.”

With the help of Jeno, Jaemin’s been doing his own surveying around the perimeter. They ride around in Jeno’s bike every night to see if The Vipers are anywhere around town. They’ve also enlisted the help of Johnny, asking him to report to him if he sees any suspicious onlookers around Jersey City that are clearly not from here.

“Don't let your guards down, all of you,” Renjun says. He turns to Jaemin with a pointed stare.

“I won’t.” Jaemin replies.

This time, Jaemin plans to keep his promise.

 

--

 

Jaemin met The Vipers in his junior year at The Hudson School. Back then, Jaemin was living at their little apartment home with his dad, at least until that year. His dad was just settling the plans to move to Jersey City with Jisung and his mom in the middle of Jaemin’s final exams.

Jaemin had mixed feelings. For one, having to move to a new school so suddenly was stressful enough, and his dad could’ve waited until he finished senior year at least. His dad wasn’t taking no for an answer either no matter how Jaemin reasoned to stay back just for one more year.

But there was also Jisung.

If it wasn’t for Jisung, Jaemin wouldn’t even agree to the sudden move in the first place. He met the kid two years back when their parents started seeing each other and had adored the kid at first sight. Really, if it wasn’t for Jisung’s excitement to be living in one roof with him, Jaemin would not want to move.

It’s not like Jaemin was an excellent student either. He wasn’t running for honors, wasn’t in any clubs at all to begin with, so he wasn’t losing anything if he changed schools.

Jaemin was a pretty average student. He was late to a few classes here and there, but he didn't cause any trouble.

That was until he bumped into Hyunjin and his gang of senior cronies.

Jaemin saw them out back at an abandoned lot on his way to the Hudson Cinema Drive-in, huddled in a circle in their motorcycle jackets, smoking up a storm.

It was quite late, and Jaemin thought he’d be unrecognizable in the dark, but they saw Jaemin anyway and invited him over with a grin Jaemin wasn’t, and still isn’t sure if, genuine. Jaemin was too afraid to refuse, thinking they'll do something bad to him.

Jaemin didn’t know what to expect when he got to their spot, but it was definitely not Hyunjin throwing his car keys at him, asking, “Hey Jaime, wanna race?”

They take him to the abandoned Hudson Airport, and it's Jaemin’s first time seeing so many cars as there are people. He swore he inhaled so much dust that night, and he wondered if it was the dirt in the air or the bright flashing headlights were responsible for how dizzy and disoriented Jaemin felt that night. 

But one thing’s for sure, that night changed Jaemin’s life forever.

Since then, Jaemin has been roped into The Vipers’ shenanigans. He started to sneak out late at night just to see the races, the cars. They taught him how to drive, gave him his first greaser racer jacket, even gave him the opportunity to lead in their havoc.

The Vipers were known around town for causing a ruckus in the suburbs, but that only a small part of what experiences Jaemin will never forget.

Jaemin discovered that he maybe liked kissing boys, and that it didn't seem so different from kissing girls, and The Vipers weren’t repulsed with the concept than most folk. In fact, they encouraged it, and Jaemin witnessed that charged chemistry within the group himself.

As they got to spend more nights together, Jaemin was incredibly infatuated with Hyunjin. To his luck Hyunjin indulged him, and Jaemin had never thought his thrill for racing could be topped, but being with Hyunjin, holding his hand, kissing his lips, it was a different thrill that Jaemin welcomed for the first time.

It goes on like that for months, and what a difference it was compared to what Jaemin used to do. Honestly, Jaemin doesn't know how he managed to hide any of it—from school, his dad, from Jisung—and god, was Jaemin scared to be found out he was like this.

But if there was one thing Jaemin can say for certain, it’s that even with all the danger the group brought with them, they were also a group Jaemin once had felt safe in.

It’s only a matter of time before his worries ring true. One night when they were in a drag race, someone from their school happened to see him driving around with the gang, and it’s almost as if in one instance, everything was taken away from Jaemin.

The principal called him in and he tattled on Hyunjin and the group out of fear. Told the administration that The Vipers’ influenced Jaemin to do everything. It did nothing good, Jaemin thought he’d get out squat free after his talk with the principal, but he was still suspended along with everyone else.

Worse, his dad found out, Jisung and his mom found out, and before he could even set foot in Jisung’s house, they already shouted for him to leave and take all his delinquent shenanigans away from them and Jisung.

Hyunjin didn't take the suspension lightly as Jaemin had hoped—and really, Jaemin should have expected the worst in the first place.

Hyunjin never let what Jaemin did go. When Jaemin tried to apologize to them after talking to the principal, Hyunjin didn’t let him even speak. It was at the back alley where they usually gather at, but it was only Hyunjin in the area that night, Hyunjin’s whose eyes we’re almost red, and Jaemin remembers how he shivered as their eyes met. A fist is what Jaemin receives first, and then again, and again, and again. Hyunjin beat Jaemin up, cursing him for what he’s gotten them into. 

Jaemin found refuge in Renjun’s home in Jersey. He was kind enough to let him stay despite their sudden distance when Jaemin had found himself roped with The Vipers.

There was never an inch of malice in Renjun and Jaemin appreciated that, so much, and he’s not gonna take it for granted. With so much time in his hands, Jaemin was itching to drive again, to race, and thankfully, he still got to live up his new hobbies, sharing his love for cars with Renjun, and they started their own little group.

The Golden Boys would be born that day, and Jaemin swore as leader that he’d be anything but the way Hyunjin was.

Since then, The Vipers have been lounging around that abandoned airport at Hudson, and in just a few months have made it known it’s their place and no one else should dare come close to them, especially Jaemin.

If Jaemin ever dares to show his face to them again, hell, even step foot in their playing grounds, they're going to cause as much havoc as he did to their lives. The taunt was clear and the phantom pain all over Jaemin’s body sang at the thought of their words.

When Jaemin finally told everything to Jeno, Jeno had wanted to go down at Hudson out of spite, maybe let them have a taste of their own medicine. Jaemin had kissed him silly then, but told him that that would just worsen the sticky situation they're already in.

All they have to do now is wait, wait for their next move.

 

--

 

It happens where Jaemin feared the most, as he gears up to go to James Ferris High School, the pit of his stomach is the most uncomfortable yet and he asks Jeno to come with him. Jeno seems to sense his unease and quietly gets Jaemin’s helmet from him, tossing it aside and fishing his car keys in his pants pocket.

Jaemin sees them before they get to properly park by the gates, and never has his blood boiled so fast. Jaemin runs out of the car, not waiting for Jeno to stop and marches over to where Hyunjin is standing and talking to an unsuspecting Jisung. 

“Stay away from him!” Jaemin growls, moving to stand between them. Jisung steps back, shock and confusion on his face.

“Jaemin? What’s wrong?” He asks, and the fear is clear in Jisung’s voice.

“Go to Jeno,” Jaemin tells him, squeezing his arms reassuringly. “He's over there, go!”

As Jisung runs off to where Jeno has parked, Jaemin turns around to face Hyunjin, Hyunjin who merely grins at him, albeit mockingly, pocketing his hands in his pants with a laugh.

“Oh hey, Jaime. I was just chatting with that little fella of yours, Jisung was it? Funny seeing you here too. Last time we were ever at school, we weren't even allowed on school grounds.”

Jaemin’s lips are in a firm frown. “If you wanted to talk with me, leave him out of it.”

“You’re no fun,” Hyunjin toots. He spreads his arms, moving closer to capture Jaemin in a hug. Jaemin doesn't move from his spot, letting The Viper do what he wants. Jaemin can’t help the way he jerks at how close Hyunjin is, the way Hyunjin still makes his stomach churn, even just a little bit, even after so long. Hyunjin could clearly sense his unease, smirking as he pulled away. Jaemin feels sick.

“Where's the affectionate Jaime I know?” Hyunjin juts his lip out. “And to think I was looking forward to seeing you again.”

“I know damn well that’s not why you’re here.” Jaemin grits. “If you want to have at me, just name the time and place. I get it, I broke the rules, plain and simple, so let’s get this over with.”

“Whoa whoa, aren't we hostile?” Hyunjin puts his hands up with a laugh. “Well, since we’re on topic, I’ve been wanting to try something we’ve never got the chance to do actually.”

“Just spit it out Viper.”

“How about a race to settle things once and for all, hm?” Hyunjin shrugs. “I'm curious, been hearing your name a lot in this part of town for the last year, even down in Hudson you’re the take of the town. It got me thinking, what does this Golden Boy really have to offer?”

“A race, huh?” Jaemin snorts, there is a hint of smile on his lips for the first time that day, but it’s anything but happy. “If I win, you back off of Jisung. Don't go near him, don't even breathe the same air as him.”

“Alright, easy now,” Hyunjin chuckles. “If you win, okay, I back off. Maybe even let you stroll around downtown, do whatever you want. But if I win, maybe I’ll recruit little Jisung over there, said he was interested in cars too.”

Jaemin snarls. “Of course he is, he's a kid!”

“Even better, it’s always better to start young.” Hyunjin grins. “Isn’t that right, Jaime?”

Jaemin scoffs. “Not a chance! You won't win, I’ll make sure of it. And even if you do, I won't let you get away with anything without a fight.”

“So feisty, it looks good on you.” Hyunjin is already turning back, and Jaemin watches the Viper walk away with a wave of a hand. As if Jaemin’s blood wasn’t boiling already. Prick.

“Ten o’clock at Hudson Airport. You know the one. I’d say “don’t be late” but i know you will be. Don't be too late at least.”

 

The minute they get back to Jeno’s, Jaemin runs to the rotary phone in the living room, spinning the number he still regretfully knows by heart.

“Hello?” The soft voice of Jisung’s mother on the other line sends a chill down Jaemin’s spin. He hasn’t heard that in a while, and he knows he’ll not have the pleasure of hearing more of that as soon as he opens his mouth.

“Miran.”

“And why are you calling, Jaime?” And there it is. Jaemin almost smiles at the hostile tone change. “What do you want?”

“Look, Miran.” Jaemin sighs. “Jisung can’t come home right now.” He leans against the wall, pinching the bridge of his nose. He feels something move against his leg and Jaemin looks down to see Skipper rubbing at his calf affectionately. Jaemin eyes soften.

“What!? Where are you taking him?! Give Jisung the phone right this instant!”

“I don’t know why you’re yelling, As far as I know I’m being responsible here by letting you know. He’ll be staying with a friend for a while.”

“And what makes you think I believe you?!”

Jaemin rolls his eyes and turns to Jisung. Jisung purses his lips and runs to him, taking the phone out of Jaemin’s hands.

“Mom, I’m fine! Y-yes, I am staying with a friend. Don’t worry it’s someone from school! No! No, Jaemin’s not forcing me to say this.” Jisung’s eyes darting back and forth from Jaemin to the phone, cringing.

“My friend’s name?” This time Jisung’s eyes dart to Jeno in panic. “Um, right—His name is, um—Jeno!”

Jeno blinks, eyes wide.

Please , Jisung mouths at him, hands clasping in front of his face, and even Jaemin is reaching out to squeeze at Jeno’s shoulder to play along.

With reluctant steps Jeno takes the phone, taking a deep breath before he presses the receiver to his ear. “Hello—uh, this is Jeno speaking. Yes,”

It’s minutes of staring at Jeno’s back and his hushed words, the room silent with tension, and it's too both Jaemin’s and Jisung’s surprise when Jeno suddenly laughs, voice turning sweet and airy as he says, “Goodbye, Mrs. Park. Have a nice evening.”

They merely blink as Jeno puts down the phone, turning around with his own confused grin.

“Well, that went better than expected?”

 

--

 

Watching Jeno and Jisung interact is a treat.

Jaemin watches with a smirk as they dance around each other, or lack thereof. Jeno’s gotten back to working on his Oldsmobile, changed into his usual work gear and the minute he stepped out into the garage where he and Jisung were waiting, Jisung was already standing, wide eyed and curious.

Jisung looks like he’s in a candy shop and Jeno is there, ready to give him all the candy he wants. When he asks jeno things jeno easily supplies it for him. He lets Jisung sit in the driver seat as he marvel’s the car interior, lets him honk the horn, lets him touch things Jaemin won't normally let him. 

Jisung got his love for machines from Jaemin. Jaemin couldn't really tell anybody about it at the time and Jisung was there to listen to his stories when he was over at their house, excited yet too young to join the activities.

When Jaemin was kicked out, he didn’t have the heart to tell Jisung at first.

The next time they met again was a full month later. Jisung was visibly angry at him, at first Jaemin was so sure it was about his suspension and their parents must’ve told Jisung the reason he left by now, but as Jaemin was walking towards where he stood angrily, Jisung had ran and punched him in the stomach weakly, asking him why he disappeared when he was starting to learn about cars and Jaemin wasn't there for that.

Jaemin was so shocked, and he remembers laughing and hugging the boy extra tight.

It’s nice to see Jisung has someone like Jeno now, Jeno is the perfect role model for him. And watching Jeno treat Jisung kindly like an older brother would, Jaemin wishes they'd met sooner.

“UCC has an engineering program, they just opened it this year.” Jisung says.

“Are you planning to go?” Jaemin asks.

Jisung nods. “I want to, but mom isn’t so sure.”

Jaemin rolls his eyes, “Still thinks I'm corrupting you or something, I see.”

“Union County, right?” Jeno asks from inside the car. He turns the key, and Jaemin’s car roars into life.

Jaemin's eyes soften. Jeno has been thinking about college lately. Since he moved and dropped out of highschool himself, he’s been busying himself with drag racing, if only to distract himself. But Jaemin could clearly see that Jeno missed school, if not the classes, but the learning.

With all the books he has and has been reading lately, to the university pamphlets he picks up he’s driven past some campuses, Jeno’s not even trying to hide it anymore.

“You should go together with Jisung, Jeno.” 

“Really? You’re going too, Jeno? “ Jisung jumps off his stool with excited feet.

“I don't know yet,” Jeno shakes his head, laughing.

“Please? We’ll try scholarships, I'm trying to aim for one myself. Jaemin said you’re really smart, so I don't think that would be a problem right, Jaime?”

Jeno’s ears are red. “What?”

“It’s true.” Jaemin nods. “And don’t go denying it, cookie. You're smart, Jeno, and you’re very hands on. I mean you just met Jisung today and you’ve probably taught him so many things even I don’t know. 

“Oh.” Is Jeno’s simple reply. He exits the car,  closes the door behind him as he chews on his bottom lip, thinking. Jaemin nears him then, hands running up his arms in a soothing manner.

“At least try, I'm sure we can take some aptitude test to see if you are certified to apply.” 

Jeno nods. “Yeah, maybe I should look into that.”

“Don't sweat it, okay?” Jaemin lips tug in a small smile. He squeezes at Jeno’s forearm, and leans in to give Jeno a kiss on the cheek. “We still have a year to work this out.”

Jisung coughs. “I’m still here.”

“Sorry” Jeno laughs, pulling away from Jaemin. “Your brother can't read the air sometimes,” Jeno pauses, and then corrects, “Or chooses not to.”

Jisung rolls his eyes. “Tell me about it.”

When they both laugh as Jaemin gapes, Jaemin’s not so sure about letting these two goons meet after all.

 

--

 

T&J Alley is a cozy little bowling alley near Montclair State. Mark has been partiming since he entered MSU, and since then he’s been hooking them up on days Mark is not on duty.

It’s a Sunday, two nights before Jaemin’s match and Mark invited everyone, everyone including Donghyuck is here, having begged to come with them when he ran past their booth one morning and heard them talking about it.

On the bright side, it’s nice to see Renjun enjoying himself with Donghyuck around, Donghyuck and him bickering in their own lane they've claimed their own. They've been a bit on edge since Jaemin’s meeting with Hyunjin. Jaemin feels guilty for roping them into his personal mess like this, but when he tells them just this, they also refuse to let him deal with this alone. Jaemin’s both guilty and thankful.

So when Mark had presented the free bowling passes, he thought it would be a shame to turn them down. Jaemin knows it isn't really a time to celebrate, but his mess has caused his own group some distress. They needed a change of scenery.

“Jeno’s still not done with your car?” Lucas asks as he laces up his bowling shoes. Jaemin sighs, sitting down beside him to toes his own boots off.

“Almost.” He replies. “I'm getting anxious.” Jeno volunteered to stay behind to fix his car. He also wanted to make sure Jisung was safe while he was staying at his house. Jaemin didn’t really want to bring Jisung in late night outings like this, who knows who they meet at this hour, Jisung is safer at Jeno’s. Jeno had also volunteered to fetch him home after school.

Jaemin can't lie and say he isn’t kind of bummed to not have Jeno here with them. They've been to a bowling alley once at Philly and Jeno was quite good at it too, like he is in most things. But Jeno shook his head, squeezing his shoulder and told him to have fun. Jaemin wishes it was that easy.

“Hey,” Mark smiles. “Come on, it's going to be fine. You’ve never lost.”

“Lost to anyone but Jeno at least.” Renjun gripes from his lane, shining his bowling ball. Donghyuck is beside him smirking at Jaemin too.

Jaemin rolls his eyes, there is a hint of smile in Jaemin’s lips for the first time that night. He bends down to pick up his own ball, welcoming it’s adequate weight in his palms. “You know the race was rigged, it will never count.”

“Keep telling yourself that, cookie.”

“You'll be eating your words once I wipe the floor with you, RJ.”

“Bring it.”

It’s a fun night, just what they needed after this past week. The race is something they will have to deal with sooner than later, but for now, it’s just Jaemin and his boys and the familiar laughter and banter they haven't had for a while.

 

The last thing Jaemin wanted to hear when he got back to Jeno’s was a loud crash.

It makes Jaemin twist the door open hurriedly, only to fall back into his tracks at the sight of Jeno holding Jisung and Chenle back by the collars.

“How did you even get here?” Jaemin asks an equally annoyed Chenle in front of him. He sinks down into Jeno’s couch, exhausted.

He rubs at his temples. Jaemin thought he would be resting when he got back, but Jisung and his friend had different plans. Jeno plops down beside him, squeezing at the back of his neck the way he does when he knows Jaemin is stressed.

“Sorry,” Jisung toys with the hem of his shirt. “He followed me back hom—I-I mean here.”

Chenle isn't as sorry, huffing as he crosses his arms. Great, another feisty one.

“I was worried! I offered to walk him home but he wouldn't let me? I was wondering why, and then saw him running to a different direction, entering a different car I didn’t recognize. Could you blame me for following?!”

Jisung shrinks beside Chenle, flushing, and it almost breaks Jaemin’s stoic face. Almost.

“I’m sorry, Chenle. It’s a complicated situation.”

“Well,” Chenle throws his hands up. “I’m already here. I have all night.”

Jaemin groans.

 

--

 

Jaemin and Jeno spent the whole day and night doing the last fixes in on Jaemin’s car. It’s about eleven o’clock when they finish their final test run, and Jisung and Chenle greet them, Skipper in Chenle’s arms.

Ever since the other night, Chenle demanded to be let in in what's going on. To want in in such a dangerous situation, it did nothing but make Jaemin’s headache even worse than before. Still, it was late, too dangerous to take Chenle home, so he stayed the night. Jaemin was sorry to Jeno because his house is suddenly turning into a hotel for stray kids, but Jeno just laughed and kissed him softly, telling him to Sleep, lover.

“I'm sorry you got involved in this.” Jaemin tells Jisung. They're in the kitchen washing dishes. They had a meal with the four of them after celebrating Jaemin’s completed car, and Jaemin and Jeno cooked. Jaemin volunteered to clean up and Jisung stayed behind to help him clear the table.

“It's okay.” Jisung mumbles beside him, but Jaemin shakes his head.

“It shouldn't be.”

Jisung just smiles as he puts away the places. “Is it bad that I'm kind of glad I get to spend more time with you now?”

“Me too, kid.” Jaemin smiles, ruffles Jisung’s hair. “I love you.” He knew the trips back to Jisung’s house aren’t quite enough, and he can fully attest to it now that Jisung is partially living with him this week.

“Stop it.” Jisung pulls away pouting, hands flying to his hair

Jaemin pulls him back to him, wet hands around jisung waist. He pays no mind to Jisung’s screams. He justs out his lip, almost pouting himself. “Say it back, Sungie.”

Jisung’s screaming continues. “Stop being gross!”

They hear a resound laughter in the distance that makes them both stop their bickering and look back to see Jeno wrestle a laughing Chenle by the doorway.

“It's Jeno!” Chenle laughs, squirming about as Jeno attacks him with tickles. “He was eavesdropping!”

“I wasn't!”

“Yes you were! You were totally jealous!”

Jaemin couldn’t help but grin, walking to where they were squabbling. “Come here then, lover.” 

Chenle takes the opportunity to run away then when Jaemin wraps his arms around Jeno’s waist. Jaemin smiles at Jeno’s pink cheeks, even pinker lips, and he takes no time to kiss him right there and there, smiling wider into the kiss when he hears Jisung and Chenle scream.

“There are kids in here!” Jisung yells, obviously scandalized by the display in front of him. Jaemin pulls away to smirk at him.

“Well then leave.” Jaemin says simply, earning a huff from a flushed Jisung.

Jaemin doesn't get to say anything else as Jeno pulls him away to his bedroom. As they close the door behind them, they both laugh at Jisung’s and Chenle’s shouts of protest, shouts loud enough to hear from inside their room.

 

--

 

Jaemin wouldn't say there’s a science behind his tardiness.

Sometimes he does have his valid reasons to arrive late. Sometimes he just has important things to attend to that he can’t just postpone beforehand. Other times Jaemin is just not in the mood to get up, and he spends the rest of the day wasting as much time he possibly can and ends up arriving to things at the last minute.

But no matter the reason, Jaemin likes the attention that comes with being late. Everyone's eyes are on him—most times with anger and frustration and tonight isn’t very different.

He was up early getting ready for tonight really, but then Jeno had to come out of the room looking irresistible in his 501s and pegged sleeves, and when he asked Jaemin if they could do a safety test run around town before the race, Jaemin really couldn't resist.

When he arrives at Hudson Airport, Jeno in the passenger's seat, everyone’s eyes are on Jaemin.

His boys are there, having arrived before him just in case The Vipers had any funny business under their sleeves. Jisung and Chenle were there with them too, refusing to be left behind at Jeno’s house.

The Vipers in question are stoic as they eye Jaemin, except for Hyunjin who has an amused look on his face.

“Fucking finally!” Hyunjin laughs, and if his goal was to unnerve Jaemin, it doesn't work. Jaemin merely exits the car, unfazed. Jeno follows behind him, stone faced.

“Sorry we’re late,” Jaemin shrugs. He pats the hood of his car. “Took this baby on one last little detour.”

“The car?” Hyunjin raises a brow, mocking. He tips his chin up at Jeno. “Or Jeno Lee?”

Jaemin turns to Jeno then, to Jeno who was looking at him with shining brown eyes, and he grabs his face, kissing him right there and then in front of everyone. The screams Jisung and Chenle let out never fails to make Jaemin smirk.

“Both.” Jaemin says proudly as he turns back at a snarling Hyunjin. Never has Jaemin been happy to have the fucker’s smile wiped off his goddamned face.

“Let’s race, baby.”

 

Jaemin hasn’t felt this thrill in a while.

It’s almost been a month since he’s had a proper race, and as he sits on the driver’s seat and turns his key, Jaemin almost shivers at the sound of the engine coming to life.

Jaemin and Hyunjin line their rods up off the line and Jaemin can’t help but smirk, albeit a bit melancholy. Hyunjin is still using his red Studebaker, the one Jaemin learned how to drive in. It's an odd feeling to be racing against it now, but it’s not enough for Jaemin to waver.

He’s not here to relive his nostalgia, he’s here to prove himself—showcase his growth as a former Viper, and show Hyunjin what it takes to be the Golden Boy. 

Jaemin admits he’s a bit nervous tonight, and how could he not be? The fact that Jisung is on the line tonight, it’s been an unwelcome feeling in his gut. It’s not that Jaemin will let that happen, he doesn’t plan to lose. And on the off chance that he loses, he’ll fight tooth and nail for the boy.

But if there was one thing Hyunjin was good at, it was to hit right where it hurts. He knows how to tick people off, throws them off their game just to get what he wants, and Jaemin will not let that happen.

Seungmin is clutching onto The Viper flag, still black with their serpent symbol in the middle. He races the flag, and for a moment he meets eyes with Jaemin, a hint of a smile on his lips, eyes determined as if he’s telling him: You got this.

Jaemin smirks at him, and then he’s turning his attention back to the road, feet itching by the pedal. When he hears the swoosh of the flag, Jaemin floors it.

The standard race has three full laps around Hudson Airport. What once was abandoned airport is now a breeding ground for greasers, using it as a spot to meet up until it turned into what now is a popular drag racing venue. The airport runway gives them enough space to do their long winded laps. And even if the greaser groups had enough money combined to invest in getting the place asphalted, they kept the dirt paths intact, says it adds to the charm of the dingy place.

Jaemin agrees. His blood sings as the speed of his car covers the entire sight with dirt and sand. He can’t see anything, but he could hear the rev of Hyunjin’s engine from behind and it’s all Jaemin needs to know.

It's been awhile since Jaemin had raced here, but he guesses it’s muscle memory as his hands do their own thing, knowing the right time to turn and drift in the dirt road knowing, right time to speed up and slow down.

Hyunjin is one of the best racers Jaemin knows, and to see him lagging behind him is a miracle in itself. Jaemin has to smirk, he did noticed that his car is a hell of a lot faster now, even faster than when he first got it hot rodded and god, is he going to do Jeno good when he’s done with this fucking mess of race.

Jaemin wanted nothing more than to end this quickly and get this over with, and he really thought it would end quick with how smooth it was going for him, but as they speed up to the last lap, Hyunjin honks his horn too many times to not be suspicious of and jaemin glares at his through his rear view mirror. He's met with eyes he hasn't seen in years, eyes Jaemin so vividly remembers where were looking at him so mercilessly as he got beat up at the back of the school.

Jaemin’s stomach drops.

It’s a guaranteed win for Jaemin now having passed by Seungmin for the third time that night, but it’s the last thing on his mind. Just as he made his last drift, he saw Hyunjin take a turn, a turn towards where his boys were standing by to watch.

Jaemin thought his blood would sing tonight at the acceleration and adrenaline racing brought him, but never as it boiled so quickly and so intensely as when he heard Jisung scream.

Jaemin turns his wheel in haste, crashing against a post. He runs out of the car to where Hyunjin has Jisung by the arm forcibly, attempting to take him away to god knows where.

“What did I fucking say, huh?! Get the fuck away from him!” Jaemin roars, grabbing Hyunjin by the collar just in time.

Hyunjin has the audacity to laugh in his face, hand still wrapped around a struggling Jisung. “Aw, come on, Jaime. You know we were just having a little fun! Just wanted to chat up little Jisung here, what’s the harm in that?!” Jisung suddenly shouts in pain and Jaemin's eyes turn red.

Jaemin throws the first punch, and then the next, and the next. It’s a blur for him, all he hears are Jisung’s cries and his fists colliding with Hyunjin’s face, over and over and over, and it's only when Jeno drags him away does he notice that Hyunjin is curled up in himself on the ground.

Everyone quickly surrounds them then, and god was Jaemin ready to fight, he’s ready to throw his fists at everyone if he fucking had to—

But he didn’t have to.

Instead, Jaemin is shell shocked to see the other Vipers grabbing at Hyunjin as he tries to stand, surrounding their leader, but instead of helping him up, they restrain him from all sides.

“That’s enough, Hyunjin.” Felix grits, but Hyunjin still tries to resist their hold on him.

“NO! Let me fucking go! He’s right there!”

“If there was someone who should be letting go, it’s YOU!” Seungmin bellows. “Its been a fucking year, leave Jaemin alone already!

Jaemin purses his lips at the scene in front of him, never would he have thought he would see The Vipers go against their own leader. He clenches and unclenches his fists, and then Jaemin is standing right in front of Hyunjin again, face determined.

“Get out, Jin.” Jaemins says.“You don't get to own me and play with me and my family. Let it go. Let me go.”

 

Jaemin hands haven’t fidgeted this much in a long time, in some regard he still respects The Vipers, they were his friends first after all, and out of all of them it was only Hyunjin that was aggressive with him, the rest weren’t even there when Jaemin came to apologize that one afternoon at school. He never really got to know if they were just as livid, but seeing them today, he has fate in that they would have stopped Hyunjin at the time if they were there too.

“Hey.” Jaemin nods at Felix. They had locked Hyunjin in the backseat of his Studbaker to reflect, Felix and Seungmin keeping guard outside until they could drive him back home.

Felix crosses his arms in front of him, nodding back. “Just leave him to us, Jaime. Please trust me.”

“Okay.” Jaemin sighs in resignation. “He’s all yours. Unfortunately.”

Felix grins. “You did good, squirt. You’ve grown a lot.”

Seungmin reaches out to touch Jaemin’s shoulder, smiling as serene. “We’re proud of you.”

“Thanks,” Jaemin laughs, feeling a bit bashful, feeling like it’s junior year all over again.

They round up everyone in Lucas’ car with Jaemin’s car deemed useless again, much to Jeno’s annoyance. Jaemin was helping Mark attach the tow to his Oldmobile when he turned around one last time to see the rest of the Vipers getting ready to leave as well.

“Hey,” Jaemin calls out. The Vipers turn to look at him.

“Can I see you guys again?” He asks, and he wonders if the hopeful tone of his voice is obvious.

There’s a finger tapping Felix’s check in thought. “We’ll see. Hopefully after we knock some sense into Hyunjin first. You know him, always cruisin’ for a bruisin’.”

Jaemin laughs, “Right. Go do that first then. See you.”

“Goodbye Golden Boy.” Seungmin mock salutes. Jaemin could only roll his eyes.

“Bye Viper.”

When Jaemin enters Lucas’ backseat, he’s met with everyone’s stares, everyone looking at him funny.

“What?” Jaemin almost pouts. Almost. His neck is getting hot by the minute though.

Renjun smirks. “You thought that was cool didn’t you, squirt.”

Jaemin glares, closing the door beside him. “Shut up, let’s just go home.”

On the way home, everyone takes turns teasing Jaemin, even Jeno was laughing as he kept looking at him from the passenger’s seat with mirth in his eyes.

The car is packed, too many people making the entire ride humid and sticky. With Lucas driving and Jeno in the passenger’s seat, Renjun, Jaemin and Mark occupy the back with Chenle and Jisung sitting on Jaemin’s and Renjun’s laps respectively. Renjun hates the way Jisung squirms around and makes it loudly known, and when Chenle in turn offers to let Jisung sit on him instead, Jisung is suddenly the picture of innocence.

Jaemins sighs, there a headache blooming at the back of his head and he leans back against the stiff leather seats.

Still, there’s a smile lingering in the corners of his lips and he knows for the fact that he won’t trade this moment for the world.

 

--

 

Jisung is bummed to be going back home now that the Viper fiasco is finally over, but it’s short lived.

Jaemin still doesn’t know how but Jeno had somehow convinced his parents to let Jisung stay at his house again after school. Both Jaemin and Jeno now pick him up just in case Hyunjin is out loose again, but so far the Viper boys’ promise ringed true. 

Jaemin has noticed how Jeno would often observe the students at James Ferris whenever they’re there waiting for Jisung. They always park by the school gates, and Jeno thinks Jaemin doesn't notice but it's obvious in the way he would linger, longing clear in his stare. Even Jisung noticed and has been secretly relying the news to Jaemin.

 

“Jisung is graduating next year.” Jaemin yawns.

Jeno doesn’t look up from the newspaper he’s reading. “Yeah?”

Jaemin stretches, it’s nice to wake up late for once. The gang had let him stay in for a while now after the race with Hyunjin. His knuckles are still quite sore from that night and Jeno had him wrapped in bandages just in case. It wasn’t bad, but it also prevented Jaemin from picking at the bruises, and god were they itchy.

“I think he would like it if he had someone to start college with.”

Jeno smirks, this time turning to Jaemin beside him. “I’m that obvious, huh?”

“Just a little bit.” Jaemin grins sleepily. “I think we have a shot with the scholarship program, I mean that is if you want to do it.”

“I’m not opposed to it, Jaemin. Really.” Jeno sighs. “I'm just not confident, I can’t help it. It’s been a while since I was at school.”

“We’ll study for it. We have a year to get you ready for exams again.” Jaemin moves to rest his head against Jeno’s side, sighing as Jeno’s hand reaches out to play with his hair. “I know my words aren't going to do anything, but I still think you’d do well.”

Jeno smiles down at him, putting his paper away. “Come here, lover.”

Jeno pulls him in for a lingering kiss, slow and gentle. The sun streaming from the blinds has Jaemin squinting as he moves away, but he can’t help but be in awe at the way it paints Jeno in such an unbelievable manner.

Jaemin kisses him all over, every little of Jeno the sun touches, he pressed his lips to.

“Do you remember where you put it?” Jeno mumbles, hands running down Jaemin’s bare chest, leaving goosebumps in his wake.

“Put what?”

“The prize money.”

The Vipers sent it as an apology and they received it a couple days ago. It’s a generous sum that Jaemin deemed a bit unnecessary but Felix had only laughed and told him to enjoy.

“Yeah? You need it? I can go get it if you need it for UCC.”

Jeno snorts against his skin. “Not that. I need it to buy you a new fucking car. Your junk of metal is hopeless now.”

Jaemin bursts out laughing then, pulling Jeno closer again to kiss him on the nose.

“Mmm, later,” He hums, lips already going back to mapping along Jeno’s jaw. “Let me get my fix first.”

 

--

 

Donghyuck sighs tiredly.

“I don't know how you managed to fit yourselves into this booth but it's giving me a headache.” 

It’s 5pm at Sunshine and toast not their usual time but they’re here for a celebration. They being everyone, including Jisung and Chenle who have somehow weaseled themselves into their little group over the past weeks.

Donghyuck brings his cart over, and Jaemin snorts when Renjun stands immediately to help Donghyuck lay down all the food and treats they’ve ordered—all requested and paid for by Chenle himself. It’s Chenle’s graduation day, and right after the ceremony he knocked at Renjun’s door to invite them, Jisung in tow.

“You okay?” Jaemin pets Jisung head beside him. The boy had been a bit quiet throughout the entire day and Jaemin had a sneaking suspicion it was because of Chenle leaving soon.

Jisung scrunches his nose. “Of course I am, why wouldn't I be?”

“Well, for one, your little lover boy is leaving for college, leaving this town too maybe.”

“I know.” Jisung stabs at his stack of pancakes. “It's not like i’m not going to see him again though.”

Huh.

Jisung seems to realize his mistake, eyes wide as he covers his mouth, but it’s too bad it’s too late to cover Jaemin’s.

“Hey Chenle, where you heading off to next year?”

Chenle turns to him, pouting, clearly about to wolf down his wad of fries dipped in milkshake. Jaemin can only laugh, endeared.

“Not far.” Chenle replies. “UCC for Business.”

Huh. Jaemin turns to a red Jisung, smirking. “Well, that makes perfect sense now.”

On the other hand, Chenle is only smiling. “Jeno’s going too, right?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not sure about that yet.”

Jaemin and Jeno stare at each other, both holding up an eyebrow at each other.

“I thought we decided you would go?” Jaemin asks. He reaches for his cup of coffee, watching as Jeno butters his toast quietly.

Jeno sighs, “Anyway, anything you want from us? We kinda all promised to chip in on something you like.”

“Oh?” Chenle perks up in his seat.

“Please nothing expensive, kid.” Mark gripes.

“It’s not!” Chenle shakes his head. “I was actually wondering if I can see you guys race again? Last time was terrifying, but it was also kind of cool to watch? Jaemin was so cool!”

“Why thank you.” Jaemin laughs. “My car is still busted though, so I won’t be as good.”

Everyone at the table snorts.

“We’ll see about that, kid.” Renjun snickers. “Maybe when Jaime here is less of a drama queen.”

“Hey!”

 

It’s a luxury to have Sunshine and Toast so peaceful these days. The diner was getting more popular with the locals and mornings are getting more crowded by the day. That’s why Jaemin likes his two o’clock run-ins here, just him, Jeno, Johnny and the jukebox accompanying them.

It was around eight when they all went home after Chenle’s graduation celebration and Jaemin and Jeno also made a move to go back to Jeno’s house, only to return hours later to the diner, just the two of them.

Jeno is changing the jukebox when Jaemin hugs him from behind, The Chordettes familiar clapping of Lollipop fills the entire diner.

“Still stressed?”

“Sorry,” Jeno leans back against Jaemin’s chest. “I know I’m being really indecisive right now.”

Jeno hasn’t stopped thinking about the UCC applicants. He was clearly hesitating, despite his countless back and forth with Jaemin on the topic. Jeno was not only a skeptic of his chances with the scholarship program, he didn't want to take the money Jaemin was offering either, no matter Jaemin’s insistence.

“All this time I knew you buffoons were bluffing.”

Jaemin’s heart almost leaps out of his chest at the sudden remark, and he turns around to see all of his friends standing there, all with expectant looks on their faces. Even Donghyuck was there with them, although he looked a bit less smug than the rest, apologetic even. When Donghyuck meets Jaemin’s eye he holds his hands up in a Sorry!

Jisung and Chenle run through the door behind them, both looking quite distressed, both looking like they’ve just run a mile and a half. Jaemin can only assume they were chasing the rest to try and stop them, only to no avail.

For a moment they’re all just stood there, silently regarding each other, Jaemin has been anticipating this moment since he started this facade with Jeno, and really, all he wanted to do was burst—burst into laughter.

Jaemin does just that, he chances a glance at Jeno and they both start laughing.

“Alright, you caught us.” Jaemin puts his hands up in surrender. His heart is still hammering against his chest, and if the jukebox wasn’t so loud right now he bets everyone in the diner would hear it too. “I guess I wasn’t being subtle about this whole thing after all.”

“Subtle?” Renjun snorts. “You call kissing in front of The Vipers subtle?”

“That’s pretty subtle to what else we’ve seen at least.” Chenle chimes in, and the way he shivers after has everyone shaking their head, containing their own laughter.

“So,” Jaemin rests his arms behind his head, eyebrows raised. “I know why you’re here, what’s this gonna cost me?”

 

Chenle is the most excited he’s ever been, the most excited for anyone awake at two in the morning, really.

They’re at the dirt roads at Newark and Chenle’s awaited request of a drag racing is happening right where Jaemin and Jeno raced for the first time. The Ravens are there to officiate the race, they couldn’t help but stay and watch when they’ve heard about it.

Jaemin has Hendery’s Chevy Bel Air to use tonight. Jaemin’s Oldsmobile is never going to see the light of day—ever, at least according to Jeno’s inspection. Better safe than sorry, Jaemin thinks, especially if he didn’t want a repeat of what happened here before.

“Rules are simple, babe.” Jaemin leans against his car, regarding Jeno with a grin. They were at the start off, just standing by each other while the rest prep for the race. “If I win, we drive to UCC tomorrow, take a look around, maybe even talk applications with the admin.”

“I won't accept the money if you’re still insisting on doing that.” Jeno says. He’s leaning against his own rod, fingers tapping against the door.

“Can you guys please hurry up?” Renjun quips from the sidelines. There are only so many benches around during a drag race that is so short notice like this. They let the youngins sit while the Golden Boys stand behind them, arms crossed, clearly already a bit cranky. They should know by now that their irritation only fuels Jaemin to only cause more delays.

“One second,” Jaemin laughs, and then he’s pulling Jeno by the belt loops, kissing him loudly on the lips.

“Oh my god.”

Jaemin doesn’t even have any gripes about possibly losing to Jeno again. There are much more important things to think about, like how all of his friends are here indulging in another night of tomfoolery, how Jeno is here too and Jaemin can be as open and as gross as he pleases without having to worry about being caught anymore.

His stomach flips as Jeno smiles against his lips, and when Jaemin pulls away slightly, he’s greeted with smiling eyes.

“Here’s what we’ll do if I win, lover.” Jeno says, and his voice has never dipped so low. Jeno leans in again, lips grazing the shell of Jaemin’s ear. Jaemin shivers, and Jeno blowing air against his sensitive neck is just one of the reasons.

Jaemin shakes his head, chuckling. “You drive a hard bargain, Jeno Lee.” 

Jeno shrugs, already climbing into his car with a smirk.

“Let’s race, baby.”