It's not everyday that Jeno can say he gets a phone call.
Even less often can he say it's a phone call from the local hospital.
He debates whether he should even pick up, it could easily be a misdial? Plus, as far as Jeno knows, no one in his life is currently prone to landing themselves in the hospital, so he's weary about the number flashing across his phone screen.
But he's also not an asshole either; this could very much be a worst case scenario for someone in his life, so he swipes right to answer.
It's sunny today, when Jeno steps onto the balcony of his apartment. It's some place small, just a studio apartment, but Jeno's content with the living space. It's in the middle of the city, and his job pays well for him to be able to afford it.
Jeno looks down at the cars driving on the streets below him, watches some people walking their dogs or sipping a cold drink. They look below him, like ants.
It's a nice day, with a cool breeze and a complimentary sun.
"Is this Lee Jeno?"
His balcony has a few pots littered here and there, he's been growing plants. They're nothing special, just mint leaves and simple flowers, but they add a little bit of nature to his space, so he likes it.
It's easy to decorate such a small space, but he prefers to leave the walls blank. That, and maybe he doesn't know what exactly to put up. He's never been good with the whole 'interior design' thing anyway.
"Yes, this is he."
Jeno steps off of the balcony and back inside, the outside being too loud to have a proper phone call. He slides the glass door shut behind him, and makes his way to sit at his little circle table. It's probably only enough to seat three people comfortably, but Jeno doesn't really need more than that.
He only ever keeps a mug and a jug of water on a circle tray on the table, preferring the minimalistic look. He's never been one for clutter, but sometimes when clutter was the intended 'look', he didn't mind.
"Na Jaemin has been in an accident, and is currently undergoing surgery. You're listed as his emergency contact."
Sometimes, when it's late and night and there's nothing to do, Jeno thinks about how his life has been going.
He's a law graduate, who earned his degree through blood, sweat and tears. He does have a soft spot towards animals though, always thinking about the zoology path.
He has a nice group of friends, people he's kept with him since high school. They've formed a nice little circle, and now imagining life without them is almost impossible.
It's easy to be grateful for what he has in life. He's earned some and then he's been given some, he’s lost some and then he’s been taken away some, and he's happy. Ever since he had reached the age where he understood ethics and gained an appreciation for everything, he's been happy.
If Jeno was given the chance to change something in his life, he wouldn't know what it'd be.
"Lee Jeno? Are you still there?"
He remembers moving in half a year ago.
He remembers the help his friends had been, he remembers Renjun staying up with him trying to build IKEA furniture. He remembers Jisung and Chenle buying them pizza to eat after they helped unpack all of his things.
It's only been six months since then, but why does it feel like an eternity?
"Yeah, I am."
There was a time in his life where he thought it would be difficult to do things on his own. It wasn't that he wasn't independent, he liked to believe he was. His thinking was that it would just be harder to live life solo, after years of not doing that.
But he finds solace in the quiet. And he thinks the silence sometimes helps clear his mind. It's not easy to think coherently when there's a million things happening at once, and sometimes in the early hours of the morning, Jeno appreciates being alone.
"Are you able to make it? Unfortunately, no secondary contact has been attached."
It's not smart to only have one contact on your file, but Jeno knows that not everyone is as smart in the sense that he is.
He hasn't been to the hospital in a long time. The last he's stepped foot into a hospital building was probably three years ago, when someone he knew had to undergo a surgery.
Uncanny , he thinks, as he replays what the voice over the phone had said.
"I'll be there. Thank you for calling."
Jeno isn't a mean person, he likes to think. He just knows what he wants and how to get it.
He cuts distractions from his life and doesn't let anything unnecessary get in the way of his goals. It's a nice mindset to have, it sets his goals and priorities straight.
But it also makes him prone to slip ups. Because he doesn't know if his priorities are in check when he steps into his shoes and grabs his keys.
Na Jaemin isn't a priority anymore.
Jeno feels eerily steeled as he walks into the hospital, and he doesn't know how to feel about that. It's not like the other times he's been inside a hospital. This time there's no franticness in his movements, there's no blood pumping in his ears. His fingers aren't shaking and his breathing is pretty even.
Whether or not it should or shouldn't be that way, Jeno makes his way to the receptionist desk calmly.
"I'm here for Na Jaemin," he informs the nurse, who starts tapping away on her keyboard without a second to waste.
The name feels foreign on his tongue, and Jeno thinks it's too soon for it to feel distant.
But he's not complaining.
"Mr. Na is still in the OR, located on the third floor, east hallway," she explains monotonously.
Jeno nods and makes his way to the third floor silently, following the directory signs hanging from the ceiling until he makes it outside the operating room.
He doesn't know why he expected to see Mark here too, maybe because he forgot that he's the only number listed on Jaemin's file. Jeno still can't believe Jaemin even put down his number over Mark's to begin with.
He can't do much except wait, it's not like he can leave. He's going to get another phone call requesting his presence anyway, since no one has checked in to see if Na Jaemin's emergency contact had arrived.
Jeno doesn't want to be his emergency contact.
He also knows better than to be the first person Jaemin sees when he's out of surgery.
Admittedly, he still has a certain number, or a few numbers, but that doesn't matter, memorized and tucked into the back of his brain.
Jeno doesn't want to be here, so he pulls his phone out of his pocket and dials the number which has been engraved into his mind, for better or for worse.
It takes six rings before the line connects.
Jeno presses his lips into a thin line.
"Your brother is in the hospital. Third floor in the east wing."
Jeno hangs up right after, ignoring the protests and confused, alarmed voice through the speaker. Jeno doesn't want to answer, he doesn't even have the answers. He shouldn't even be in this position to begin with, but at least now he's able to change that.
Jeno is about to turn around and walk back to where he parked his car, about to go home and erase this from happening, and forget about it.
But of course, today just won't go his way, will it?
"Are you here for Na Jaemin?"
It's a nurse who asks, and Jeno belatedly acknowledges that the voice is familiar. She's probably the one who called him.
"No," he answers, monotone, as he always is when talking about this. "The person coming for him will be here shortly."
She looks confused, rightfully so, but Jeno doesn't pay her any mind. This shouldn't be his headache to deal with, there's a reason he left this all in the past.
"Then who are you?"
Jeno is already making his way towards the end of the hallway, the sudden urge to leave this hospital overwhelming him.
Who is he?
It truly isn't hard to pretend like the last few days of his life hadn't happened. It's not hard to find distractions in his daily life, nor is it hard to drown himself in work and pretend to clean his already spotless apartment.
But it's something, at the very least, something that can take his attention away from how his phone is constantly buzzing with incoming calls from one specific number.
Jeno knew he should've tried harder to erase the nine digits from his brain, maybe then he wouldn't be getting fifty missed calls within the span of four hours.
He thinks he has a right to be mad, but not really when he was the one who reached out in the first place. Jeno only reached out to Mark so that he didn't have to be a part of whatever happened, but it's on the fifth day of nonstop phone calls that he finally picks up.
"What?" Jeno growls into the speaker, patience close to none as he waits for a response.
It's almost silent on the other line, muffled at best, because Jeno still hears voices and the sound of someone breathing. He's about to hang up, but he receives an answer before he can.
"Five fucking days? You don't get to go MIA after you dropped a bomb on me."
"He's your problem to deal with, I'm sure the nurses have informed you of everything, and frankly, I don't care to know what happened," Jeno scoffs, not giving himself enough time to think before spitting his response back. Truthfully, Jeno doesn't know if he's being too... Abrupt? He isn't a stranger to Mark, nor is Mark a stranger to him, so maybe this was allowed? Then again, he didn't quite leave Mark with the best impression of him, but he also doesn't care about what Mark thinks of him.
At least, not anymore.
"He's not a problem , you son of a bitch."
Jeno doesn't remember Mark ever being so hostile with anyone, really. But he thinks Mark has reason to speak to him this foully, so he lets it go with clenched teeth.
"Either way, he's yours to deal with, I have no part in this," Jeno states, final and firm as his thumb makes its way to tap the 'end call' button.
Mark however, as Jeno had always known him to be, is full of surprises, isn't he?
"He's asking for you."
And that just doesn't sound real. It doesn't sound like it could be happening, because it doesn't seem like reality.
There's no way, because there just simply couldn't be a way. There's not a universe, anymore, where Jaemin would be asking for Jeno.
"Do you think I want him to see you? I don't have a fucking choice when he's crying his eyes out because you're not here," Mark hisses, stirring up all kinds of unwanted feelings inside of Jeno's chest. Feelings of disdain and confusion.
"What the hell? Tell him to get a grip," is what Jeno manages to spit out, eyebrows furrowing as he replays what Mark had said.
It doesn't make any sense.
It wouldn't be reality.
"Jeno, there's a serious fucking problem and whether you like it or not, you are involved. So get your stupid ass to the hospital now."
Mark doesn't give him time to answer, immediately hanging up as he's finished speaking.
And Jeno doesn't have to go. He doesn't have to go back to the hospital, because Mark isn't in his life anymore, and he doesn't have to listen to Mark.
Truthfully, no one in that hospital is in his life, so he doesn't have to show up.
But Mark had been right.
Whether he liked it or not, his conscience is guilt tripping him into heading out in similar fashion to the way he did five days prior, shoes on his feet and keys in his hand.
Jeno can feel the hard gazes of Mark and Donghyuck boring into his skull from behind.
He's here, regretfully, standing in the middle of the hospital room where he’s unwelcome, with Mark and Donghyuck making their way to the door to leave, and Jaemin staring up at him with sparkly eyes, tubes and bandages covering his body.
"Where are you going?" Jeno hisses to the other two, glaring at Donghyuck when he turns around and crosses his arms over his chest.
"You think I want to leave him with you? He asked for some alone time so suck it up and stop being a bitch," he spits, venomous as he drags Mark out right after.
Jeno kind of wants to kick something, but before he can expel his anger onto the trashcan in the corner of his eye, Jaemin is speaking up.
"Duckie was mean," he sighs, and Jeno alarmingly realizes that he doesn't have to look at the other to know he's pouting. "Jeno, baby come here. Why are you so far away?" Jaemin whines, and it makes his ears bleed.
"What's wrong with you?" He finds himself asking, remaining unmoving with his hands on his hips. He doesn't understand where Jaemin is coming from, much less why Donghyuck and Mark had left him in a room alone with him.
"What do you mean?" Jaemin asks, petulant pout still on his lips. "You're the one who hasn't visited since I woke up. I missed you Jeno-ya, why didn't you come see me?"
Jeno kind of wants to rip his hair out.
Everything leaving Jaemin's mouth is bullshit, and none of it makes any sense. He sounds hysterical to Jeno's ears, and he kind of wants to smack Jaemin's head to get the blood flowing properly, but decides against it when he notices the bandages wrapped around his head.
"You're out of your damn mind Jaemin, we—"
Before Jeno can finish what he was saying, the door of the room opens again, and in comes Donghyuck and Mark, followed by a doctor.
Jeno really doesn't want to be here.
"Ah, you must be the fiancé," the doctor greets kindly, smiling brightly at the sight of him.
Jeno's eyes widen, and his heart feels like it stopped beating in his chest.
He's what now?
"The what?" Jeno shrieks, breath picking up with something between anger and frustration, but is probably equal parts both of those things.
Instead of answering Jeno, the doctor simply asks him to follow him outside.
Jeno is more than willing to leave the room.
"But he just got here!" Jaemin protests, sounding disgruntled.
"I just need to have a few words with him, Jaemin-ssi," she says kindly. "I promise I won't keep him too long."
"You'll be fine," Donghyuck grunts, shooting Jeno another uncalled for glare. Or maybe it was called for, just probably not in this context. "Don't stress yourself out Jaeminnie, it's not good for your vitals."
Jeno is being led outside by the doctor after that, and he gratefully takes in the air, albeit sterile, but it's better than whatever weird atmosphere was inside the room.
"So, your fiancé—"
Jeno feels a bit bad, cutting her off, but if he has to hear her refer to him as Jaemin's fiancé one more time, he'll lose his mind.
"I'm not his fiancé," he states, firm and unwavering, because it's the truth.
It's nothing far from the truth.
"Hm? But Jaemin-ssi kept going on and on about how his fiancé hadn't shown up. Are you not his emergency contact?"
Jeno's nostrils flare up in frustration, but he wills himself to keep it to himself. The hospital is the least appropriate spot to blow up, much less at a doctor who seems just as confused as he is.
"I am. But it's a mistake. We were engaged but we broke up months ago, I don't know what's going on in his head," he explains, tone clipped because he doesn't want to talk about this. It's enervating, and Jeno wants nothing more than to just go home and water his plants. Maybe ask Jisung to come over.
Instead, he has to watch as realization dawns over the doctor, and how her lips purse out at the sight of him.
"Right. That makes a bit more sense," she mutters, staring him up and down. "Explains the reactions of his friends."
"Look, whatever happened, it really isn't my business anymore, alright? I'll just head off now."
"It is your business, Jeno-ssi," she counters, looking conflicted.
Jeno was about to ask how exactly it could be his problem, when he isn't even a part of Jaemin's life anymore. He has no role anymore, and all he wants is to leave this behind him. But before he can even open his mouth, the doctor is continuing.
"Jaemin-ssi is suffering from memory loss. He only seems to remember up until his brother Mark's birthday in 2018."
Jeno feels the breath get knocked out of him.
Since he doesn't say anything, the doctor continues.
"He got into a car accident, the memory loss can come from his brain choosing to forget something traumatic or extremely stressful that's happened on impact. It's short term, it is possible for him to regain his memories, but it seems like it's a rather large part of his life he can't seem to remember."
If the last thing he remembers is Mark's 25th birthday, then Jaemin doesn't remember anything after...
After getting engaged.
Jeno had proposed a week before Mark's birthday, which entails that Jaemin doesn't remember the falling out of their relationship.
Jaemin thinks they're still engaged. That they live together. Jaemin thinks that Jeno still works his intern job and that he still probably volunteers at the floral shop.
Jaemin doesn't know that they're broken up, living separately, that Jeno had gotten promoted and that he stopped volunteering at the floral shop after the owner had passed away.
"I still don't know what that has to do with me," Jeno says, despite knowing full well that he was involved. Maybe speaking it out of his own mouth was going to make it too real, and maybe if he didn't acknowledge it, it'll all go away.
Maybe he'll wake up tomorrow, and this would've all been a nightmare.
"The patient will suffer if he's suddenly being told that everything he thinks is happening, isn't," she explains calmly, but Jeno can see the slight irritation in her eyes.
"So you want me to help him live in the past? Things aren't the same anymore," he insists. It's not hard to say, things are extremely different. Both of their lifestyles are totally different now, after four years of adapting to each other, going solo is a one-eighty change.
"Not live in the past, per se, but help with slowly, very slowly , easing the patient into gaining their memories back. After seeing such familiar mannerisms and behaviours, it's likely things will start coming back to him."
Jeno understands the doctor’s words, he processes it all too. What he doesn't understand is why his life is so fucked up, to the point where he's found himself in this situation.
He'd rather be anywhere but here, hands tied because it doesn't seem like he has a choice.
Jeno could leave. He could leave and never look back because he doesn't care about Jaemin like that anymore. He didn't have to do anything for him, he didn't have to play a part just for him.
But Jeno never found it in himself to put someone else in harm's way for his own selfish reasons. Jaemin is vulnerable, annoyingly, because he doesn't know what's happening in the present time. He's backlogged two years, and things just happen to be drastically different now.
And it's not only Jaemin who's affected, now Jeno has to go back to living like he did two years ago. In a house with Jaemin, with a ring on his finger and drool on his pillow.
He doesn't drool anymore.
"Jeno-ya, where are the cats?"
How was Jeno supposed to tell Jaemin that the cats are thirty miles away? That they're in his apartment, because he's the one who wanted to adopt them anyway. He wouldn't have let Jaemin keep Seol, Bongshik and Nal, not when Jaemin was the one who always forgot to clean up their shedding.
"The vet," he lies, the words slipping out easy, like butter rolling off the tongue.
He wonders when it got too easy, lying to Jaemin.
But then he remembers the last few months of their relationship, and yeah, maybe that's where he practiced all of his lies.
"What're they doing at the vet?" Jaemin gasps, scandalized, and Jeno has to remember that this Jaemin isn't pretending like he doesn't know. This Jaemin isn't sarcastic, and this Jaemin isn't pulling his ear. Because this Jaemin doesn't know anything about what's going on, he's living in the past.
This is the Jaemin he's still engaged to.
This is the Jaemin who thinks he's in love with Jeno.
"Don't you remember?" He taunts, a cruel play of words which he can't help but let slip past his lips. He smiles, it's so forced, but Jaemin is looking at him with those wide puppy eyes, curious and concerned, which means he falls for it. Internally, Jeno scoffs. Does Jaemin not even pay enough attention to him to remember his smile? "They all got sick."
"All of them?" Jaemin asks, eyes wide and the corners of his lips turned down.
Jeno doesn't remember when Jaemin started caring. He can't even remember if he was this caring two years ago.
"Yeah, all of them," he grunts, waiting for Jaemin to walk further into the house, because as much as the house looks familiar, it's unfamiliar.
The photo frames, some of them are taken down. Jeno doesn't know why there's still the pictures from some of their first dates, some of their first anniversaries. Other pictures, like their engagement rings and their third year anniversary photo are taken down. The pictures that Jaemin himself had taken of Jeno aren't there anymore either, and when Jeno closes his eyes for a second, he can see the black frame which holds a photo of him in a green sweater against white flowers.
When he opens them, it's a blank space on the wall.
"Jeno, where did all the pictures go?" Jaemin asks, and for some reason, some godforsaken reason, Jeno knows he's pouting without even looking at him.
He's horrified when Jaemin turns around, when he sees a petulant pout on his face.
"You took them down for dusting," he lies, walking past Jaemin and into the kitchen.
The kitchen, that looks like a mess. Not in the sense that there's a mountain of dirty dishes in the sink, but in the sense that the clean dishes aren't put away. There isn't a little tray with a pitcher of water and two glasses anymore. Jeno vaguely remembers that it's something he had insisted on, Jaemin never drank enough water in a day for the system to be useful.
There isn't a vase on the island anymore; no more flowers. There used to constantly be flowers, new ones always replacing the dead ones. Jaemin would try to take good care of them, but he could never keep them for long.
And just to irk Jeno even more, there's no wine bottles displayed on top of the cabinets.
How much had Jaemin hated him to remove wine bottles?
"Well let's put them back up!"
Jaemin's voice breaks Jeno out of his trance, turning to look at where the younger boy is standing. He looks excited to put the photos back up, and Jeno wonders what he looked like when he took them down.
Maybe Jeno didn't want to take them when he moved out because he didn't want to be the one to take them down, but for, he won't think like that.
For now, he just nods his head silently at Jaemin, whose smile widens, if that's even possible.
It is possible, actually.
Jeno remembers a smile one thousand times bigger than this one, July 26th of 2018.
But he pushes that thought away, when Jaemin furrows his eyebrows.
"I don't remember where I put them though?" He mumbles, more to himself than to Jeno, but the latter hears it anyway. He kind of wants to tell Jaemin that there's more he doesn't remember than just where he put the photo frames, but he won't say anything yet.
As much as Jeno would rather be anywhere but somewhere alone with Jaemin, he wouldn't do something as detrimental as tell Jaemin the truth when he wasn't ready to hear it.
The doctor had told Jeno, Mark and Donghyuck that Jaemin's memory will come back to him when it wants to, when his mind is less traumatized and when the shock factor won't be as intense and scary anymore.
Jeno can only hope it happens soon.
"Check the storage room," Jeno says, clearing his throat right after.
It's not actually a storage room, it's a closet in the office bedroom which they've dumped all their miscellaneous things in, and he hates how he remembers.
Below the surface though, something about Jaemin putting their pictures where their junk is stored doesn't sit right with him.
"Why are they in there? They're precious!" Jaemin exclaims, exasperated, and Jeno guesses it doesn't sit well with him either.
At least, with this Jaemin.
Present Jaemin probably had no problem dumping their pictures in the storage room.
Jeno doesn’t know how much time he spent thinking about what was going on in Jaemin's head, or the Jaemin who had taken the photos down, but the next time he’s aware, he’s watching Jaemin walk towards him with a big box filled with their pictures.
Pictures of the cats, of flowers, of everything.
“Jeno, get the nails. You’re Mr. Handy Man, remember?” Jaemin smiles, putting them box down in the hallway.
Jeno sighs, but makes his way towards where he last remembers the tool box to be, and feels something weird stir in his chest when his guess is right.
Nonetheless, he doesn’t dwell any longer as he takes the box out, hammering new nails into the old holes. Jaemin should’ve drywalled the walls after taking the nails out, but he guesses it's okay since it makes this part easier.
They work in silence, kind of, if Jeno ignores Jaemin’s humming. He’s not sure if the quiet is welcomed though, because it leaves him alone with his thoughts.
Thoughts on how the house still smells like lavender and almond blossom, as it was Jeno’s favourite air freshener.
Thoughts on how the key hanging board was still the one that has their initials carved into them.
Thoughts on how he can see a folded piece of 8 ½ by 11 inch white paper on the fireplace shelf.
His eyes linger on the folded paper for longer than necessary.
Why does Jaemin still have that?
The more he looks at it, the more he remembers the night it was made.
It’s nothing special, it's a messy pen and sloppy handwriting on a piece of printer paper, but Jeno remembers how Jaemin’s eyes lit up at the finished product.
How he gave it to Jeno with a sparkling smile, cheeks flushed red from all the alcohol he had. His hair was blond at the time, falling into his eyes as he explained what was on the paper through hiccups.
Jeno remembers his heart melting when Jaemin explained what he had written.
Now, as Jeno looks at the handwritten wedding invitation, he wants to rip it to shreds.
“Hm? What’re you looking at?”
Jaemin’s voice, once again, breaks him out of his reverie. He looks over, and for a split second, he sees blond hair, wide eyes, a sparkling smile and rosy cheeks.
All he has to do is blink once, and he sees blue hair, confused eyes, a lopsided smile and pale cheeks.
Nothing is the same.
“Oh, the wedding invite?” Jaemin asks amusedly, catching where Jeno’s eyes had been locked. “It’s cute, isn’t it? Mister and Mister Lee,” he sighs dreamily, not noticing the stoic expression that makes its way onto Jeno’s face.
The names sound like poison in the air, like if he were to inhale and accept them, it’d be the end. What it’d be the end of, he isn’t too sure.
Jeno doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t think he’s said more than twenty words since he’s stepped foot into what used to be his home.
Everything is just... Weird.
And he hates it.
This isn’t his studio apartment with three cats walking around, with plants on the balcony and open walls everywhere.
This is a two story house with a staircase, memories and Jaemin.
And he doesn’t want any of it.
He finishes hammering the rest of the nails into the wall silently, letting Jaemin hum his tune without thinking much of it.
Maybe, if he pretends like Jaemin isn’t here, he wouldn’t have to acknowledge that he’s standing in the house he used to pay half the mortgage of.
“Why did I take so many down?” He hears Jaemin mumble to himself.
Jeno sighs, returning the tool box to where he had found it. When he comes back to the hallway, Jaemin is putting up the frames, and when he sees Jaemin put a picture of Jeno with Seol and Bongshik between a picture of baby’s breath and a picture of Jaemin, he speaks before he can stop himself.
“That one doesn’t go there,” he says, startling Jaemin. Probably with how he’s finally spoken, but Jeno doesn’t pay that much mind. Instead, he makes his way over to where Jaemin is, taking the picture frame from his hands and putting it in its rightful place, next to a picture of Jaemin under the rain.
He gulps when his eyes land on the photo, black and white and insanely detailed, and tears his gaze away as he hooks the picture up, cursing himself mentally for remembering the details of this house, down to where each photo was hanged on the wall.
Maybe it’s like a memory jog.
He pushed everything to the back of his head when he moved out, tried to forget everything about the life he wanted to leave behind. But maybe it wasn’t enough to just push his years worth of memories to the back burner, which is why they’ve resurfaced with the tiniest sight of things from the past.
Like the multiple nights he walked into this exact hallway late at night after a shift at work, walking past the pictures hanging without a second glance.
This time, he gives it more than a glance.
This time, he stares at the pictures, fragments of time captured into single, still shots. Memories, of either large or small significance.
But there’s one thing they all have in common.
All the photos, every single picture displayed in a frame, tells their story.
Jeno doesn’t know if it’s because of time or ignorance, but he finds that he can’t read their story anymore.
Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want a story with Na Jaemin anymore.
“Where are you going?”
Jeno curses in his head, wanting to have left before Jaemin could come out of the shower. He also doesn’t have an excuse to give Jaemin, he couldn’t just say ‘Oh, I have to go back to my apartment because my life is actually within those confinements and not next to you’.
Well, he could.
It just isn’t advised.
So, he settles on the next best excuse.
“I’m going to pick up the cats,” he mumbles, slipping into his shoes and taking his keys off the hanging board. Jeno feels nauseous at how familiar the action is.
“Can I come?” Jaemin asks excitedly, eyes bright with wonder, like a child going to the mall for the first time.
But he can’t come. Because Jeno isn’t actually going to the vet, he’s going to his home.
Home isn’t here.
“You stay here,” he says, turning his back to Jaemin as he twists the front door knob open. Before he can make it two steps out the door though, Jaemin tugs on his jacket sleeve. Jeno has to take a deep breath in to will himself not to snap immediately when he turns back around. “What?”
“Don’t take too long,” Jaemin says softly, a small smile tugging at his lips. “Sleeping in a hospital bed for a month without your arms was torture, Jeno-ya.”
Then how did you survive six months?
With a jerky nod, Jeno slips out the door, leaving it unlocked, not because he doesn’t have a habit of locking the door behind him, but because he literally can’t.
He doesn’t even remember what he did with his key to this house.
Jeno steps into his car, turning on the ignition and driving just outside of the neighbourhood and out of Jaemin’s sight before stopping on the side of the road.
He takes a shaky breath, fingers curling around the steering wheel. His knuckles are white, and his hands are shaking when he finally opens his eyes again.
In a fit of anger, Jeno slams a fist down on the wheel.
“I hate you!” He screams, to no one particular, maybe someone in particular, releasing a gasping breath, not knowing he held so much anger in his system.
It takes him ten minutes to relax fully, back to a headspace where he can drive safely. Once he’s back on the road, he makes the decision to tell Jaemin that the cats needed to stay at the vets for a little longer, not wanting to deal with the hassle of bringing them in their crates, along with their food and litter boxes. It’s too late at night for that, he can bring them to Jaemin’s house another time.
For now though, he’ll simply head home to feed them, and pack a few clothes and toiletries in a bag.
He feels defeated when he concludes that he’s staying the night at Jaemin’s house, because knowing the younger, he’d call the police if Jeno didn’t show up tonight without an explanation.
Jeno wishes he didn’t know him, but this is another part of his memory he guesses he didn’t try hard enough to repress.
Now, he’s dealing with the repercussions of knowing the tiniest tidbits and details for someone he wishes he could erase from his life.
He sighs for the nth time today, feeling just a bit of familiarity as he parks in his designated parking spot, taking the elevator up to his apartment.
It’s familiar, when he unlocks the door with his key.
It’s familiar, when Seol, Nal and Bongshik come up at his legs.
It’s familiar, when Jeno spots the open walls.
This is home.
So why is it easy to leave after feeding the cats and packing a bag?
He doesn’t dwell on the question for too long, petting each cat and kissing their heads before he leaves again, sure to leave their food and water out. If they made a mess, he’ll gladly clean it up. There’s not much else he could do for them right now anyway.
He had only brought enough clothes for one night and the next day, not planning on staying longer than that. Maybe Jeno could tell Jaemin he had a business trip or something like that, something that he’d buy and leave Jeno alone for.
He’s been by Jaemin’s side for the past month, since he’s been informed of what happened on that day in the hospital. As much as he doesn’t want to be glued to Jaemin all the time, no one seems to be giving him a choice. It also doesn’t seem like he has another option, given how Jaemin would throw a fit every time he wasn’t around.
Jeno doesn’t remember Jaemin ever being this clingy, but he guesses the after effects of the accident could be reason enough. He doesn’t know, anyway, so he doesn’t think he’s in a position to judge. Doesn’t mean he can’t hold distaste towards the scenario though.
It’s with great power that Jeno drives himself back to Jaemin’s house, and not somewhere like Renjun’s or Chenle’s, where he could drink away the sorrows the last month had brought him. He had told his friends about his great misfortune, but they all seemed to be in the same boat as everyone else involved; Jeno didn’t seem to have a choice. It was either the nurse who convinced, his sub-conscience guilt who made him stay, or maybe it was how even a year ago, he would’ve done anything for Mark.
He doesn’t think about it for too long.
Soon, he finds himself parked in Jaemin’s driveway again, stepping out of the vehicle and tossing his bag over his shoulder. He makes it to the front door, about to key himself in, until he remembers that he doesn’t have a key to the house.
He doesn’t have a key anymore.
So he sighs again, and rings the doorbell. It doesn’t take more than three seconds for the door to open, and Jaemin’s briefly worried face is replaced with one of happiness.
“There you are, you took a while,” he chastises lightly, pulling Jeno in with a hand on his arm.
Jeno doesn’t know how Jaemin managed to go this long without touching him, but when Jaemin’s hand makes contact with his arm, Jeno feels like he’s gotten burned.
It’s hot, unbearably so, stinging and painful.
Like a reminder of the hundreds and thousands of times he’s done this before, like a distant memory of the times Jaemin had placed a hand on him without a second thought.
He does it now without a second thought too.
The difference now is that Jeno doesn’t accept it without a second thought.
“Where are the cats?”
It’s the second time Jaemin had asked this question today, but it’s the first time Jeno has an answer prepared.
“They have to stay for a bit longer. Checkups and stuff,” he says, refusing to look at Jaemin’s eyes.
“Oh,” he pouts, hand never letting go of Jeno’s arm. “Do you know when they’ll be able to come home?”
Jeno wants to say that they’re already home, already content and happy within the four walls of his studio apartment, but he bites his tongue.
“Few days,” is all he says.
“Hm, okay. Are you hungry? I can make you something before we go to sleep.”
Before we go to sleep.
Does he have to sleep in the same bed as Jaemin?
Jeno ends up saying he is hungry, solely because he is, and not because his sub-conscience wants to eat Jaemin's cooking.
It's not like he misses the taste of Jaemin's fried rice on his tongue, because he doesn't. It's not like he misses being able to have a perfectly cooked egg because he's incapable of making one that doesn't stick to the pan, because it isn't. And it most certainly isn't because Jaemin arranges his rice in the shape of a cat head. Most definitely not.
And with all of this true, he doesn't know why he freezes, upon seeing Jaemin play around with the rice, shaping it into a cat's head. Why he freezes, upon seeing Jaemin crack an egg with one hand into a frying pan, flipping it with ease. Why he freezes, upon seeing the plate of fried rice Jaemin sets down in front of him.
Why does it make him feel guilty?
Why does he feel guilty as he watches Jaemin sit down in front of him, the same way he has thousands of times before, at this very dining table? Its aging cherry wood, the matching wood chairs, the knitted place mats.
"Eat well, Jeno-ya,"
Maybe it's because Jaemin's voice doesn't get any less sickeningly sweet. Maybe it's because honey coated sugar bleeds into Jeno's ears whenever the younger speaks, as if they didn't break up in the first place.
Maybe it's just because Jaemin doesn't remember.
Perhaps it's just as simple as Jaemin not being able to remember how much he dislikes him, that makes Jeno feel guilty for eating the food he graciously prepared for him.
Jaemin once said that the greatest way you could show your love for someone was making them a home cooked meal.
It's those words which repeat themselves over and over again in Jeno's head like a mantra as he eats spoonful after spoonful, each bite getting harder to swallow.
"You eat well," Jaemin comments, chin perched on his hand as he watches Jeno. "Is it good?"
Jeno nods, just so that he wouldn't have to verbally answer, and feels a weight lift off of his shoulders when he realizes his bowl is empty. If it were the past, Jeno wouldn't feel burdened, eating food Jaemin has cooked.
"You can go wash up, honey, I'll clean up," Jaemin says, snatching the bowl up in front of Jeno, who's frozen in place.
Jaemin's favourite thing to call Jeno is honey.
Instantly, like a tsunami, hundreds of flashbacks attack Jeno's mind, ranging from his first kiss with Jaemin to his last. From the first meal they shared to their last. From their night in this home to their last.
“Honey, I'm home!”
“Honey, could you wash the dishes for me?”
“I love you honey! Have a good day!”
“Honey, what's wrong?”
“Honey... Do you not love me anymore?”
Jeno gulps, and it feels like swallowing needles. Thousands of pricks which pain him as he looks up at Jaemin, who's tilting his head to the side confusedly.
"I'll go wash up," he croaks, hastily standing up from the table. He pushes his chair in, a habit because Jaemin hates it when he doesn't, and makes his way to the bathroom in the main hallway. Maybe Jaemin looks at him weirdly for going to the bathroom that wasn't in the master bedroom, their bedroom , but he can't bring himself to step into the confinements of those four walls just yet.
Not when his mind is muddled with memories of him and Jaemin.
Their days spent together, nights spent wrapped up in each other's arms. Their car rides to the grocery store, walks on the beach and bike rides in the park. Convenience store ramen when they were still students, Italian pasta when they both had real jobs. Curtain fabric swatches that were laying around when Jaemin got his first client as an interior designer, restless nights when Jeno got his first client as a lawyer. Beer from the grocery store with fried chicken on cram nights, expensive wine and premium meat when they both got home at the same time.
Days spent alone, nights spent on the couch. Bus rides to the grocery store, walks alone on the beach, bike rides to clear his mind. Convenience store ramen when Jaemin left without cooking dinner, Italian pasta when he wanted to apologize. Curtain fabric swatches laying around when Jaemin wanted to drown himself in work and ignore Jeno, restless nights when Jeno tried to look through a case to distract himself from Jaemin on his mind. Beer from the grocery store with fried chicken when he wanted to forget who was living with him under this very roof, expensive wine and premium meat when his friends took him out to eat to make him feel better.
Jaemin is the one who lost his memories, so why is Jeno the one who's getting them all back?
Jaemin is the one who lost his memories, so why is Jeno the one who's being forced to remember what they used to be like?
Jaemin is the one who lost his memories, so why... Why is Jeno the one who's hurting?
Jeno walks into what used to be his shared bedroom with Jaemin, to see the latter already under the covers, scrolling through his phone idly.
He hasn't seen this room in over six months, and as he takes in what it looks like now, he hates how familiar it is.
The bedside tables, Jaemin's table decorated with photo frames and wires for his phone and laptop. Jeno's, a photo of them holding hands with their engagement rings on. Black and white, five inches by three inches. When he sees a tray with a water jug and glass of water, he winces.
So that's why there wasn't one in the kitchen.
Across from the bed, the same bed , three portraits.
One of Jaemin, with a flower up to his face, held by the stem and covering one of his eyes.
One of Jeno, with a flower up to his face, held by the stem and covering one of his eyes.
One of both of those flowers, laid against a plain white surface, stems intertwined and connected.
“Just like us, Jeno-ya. Together forever!”
Jeno rips his eyes away from the wall before he can think more about the day those photos were taken, in the confinements of their backyard and with the aid of Jaemin's photography skills.
He wants to know why he hadn't taken these pictures down, why there's a tray on his bedside table, and why there were only a few pictures hanging in the hallway when they came home.
When they came to Jaemin's house.
But what use can Jaemin be, answering those questions? What use can Jaemin be to help him understand, when he didn't remember anything after having a ring slipped onto his finger?
Similarly, what use is Jaemin in his life?
"What're you doing just standing there? Come to bed,"
As if it were that easy. As if taking the seven steps from the door to what used to be his side of the bed was easy. As if it didn't feel miles away, as if it didn't feel impossible to reach.
But Jaemin is looking at him with confusion in his eyes, which slowly grows into concern when Jeno stays standing in the doorway, motionless. And Jeno is too tired to explain why it's hard to even look at the bed, to have even a fragment of their moments spent in that bed come back to him.
The nights where the sheets would smell like Jaemin's favourite body wash, the mornings where Jaemin would chastise him for getting drool on the pillowcases. The late hours of the morning, with their bodies pressed close, skin on skin with promises whispered in each other's mouths, breaths mingling and lips never parting.
Because to them, that was love.
Love was as easy as falling next to each other at the end of the day, as easy as holding each other close when they were too tired to do anything else.
Love was as easy as finding each other's hands in the darkness of their bedroom, through the whirring of the air conditioning system, because apparently, the only thing they could agree on was that it had to be cold when they were sleeping.
Love was as easy as asking for five more minutes every morning, because they couldn't remember the last time they simply basked in each other's warmth and embrace.
But maybe love wasn't that easy.
And maybe that's why their love didn't last.
But that's too much to explain to Jaemin, so it's with extreme reluctance that he puts one foot in front of the other and sits down on the bed.
It's just a bed, but the memories between the sheets are enough for Jeno to be cautious as he sits down, to close his eyes when the springs squeak gently under his weight.
Jeno hates how familiar it feels. It's like his body is still moulded into the mattress, like he never left. It's warm, like he just woke up, despite the air conditioning being on full blast. Worst of all, it fills a void in his soul.
Maybe it's the heat of another human next to him after so long.
Maybe it's the closet where he used to put his guitar staring back at him.
Maybe it's the familiar way Jaemin's arms wrap around his waist from behind, cheek pressing against his back.
Whatever it is, Jeno wishes it would go away.
"Honey, what's wrong? Are you tired?"
“Honey, what's wrong?”
Maybe time was a cruel construct. Maybe it was history which always seems to repeat itself. Maybe it could even be the fact that life liked to play cruel jokes on Jeno.
But no matter what it is, Jeno can't help the answer the same way he has a million times before.
Perhaps in the hopes that it would help Jaemin remember.
Or that it would lessen the weight of the question.
Or that they could forget about this.
But Jeno isn't naive. He knows his answer is strikingly identical to what he's said countless times before because it's a habit. It's a habit, to not burden Jaemin with what's on his mind. It's a habit to move on from this topic.
“Honey, what's wrong?”
“Nothing, baby, everything's fine.”
"Nothing, baby, everything's fine,"
It's sick, the way Jaemin believes him, like he did all those months ago when Jeno first started lying to him.
Jaemin doesn't remember his lies.
But there's not much more Jeno can do now, not when Jaemin pulls him down to lay next to him. Arms around his waist, chest pressed to his side and head resting above his heart.
It's weird to feel someone's body heat pressed next to his body after so long, to feel someone's breath on his skin, to feel someone slot their legs with his.
As much as it's weird though, it's familiar. It's so familiar that it brings Jeno back two years in the past, so why isn't it bringing Jaemin back too?
Why doesn't he remember anything after feeling Jeno's body pressed next to his?
Why doesn't he remember anything after hearing Jeno's heartbeat under his ear?
Why doesn't he remember anything after twisting their legs together like puzzle pieces?
"You're warm," Jaemin mumbles, sleepy with the way his words mumble into one. Jeno thinks Jaemin is about to fall asleep immediately, and he's glad because that means he can disentangle their bodies and replace himself with a pillow. Before he can start the waiting game though, Jaemin continues to speak. "I missed you so much Jeno. When you didn't visit me at first, I was a little upset. But Mark told me you had a business trip, so it's okay. I'm just happy you're here now."
Jeno barely registers all of what Jaemin said, mainly focused on how apparently, he was on a business trip?
Why would Mark lie for him? Why after all this time, after everything that happened?
"I'm happy I get to fall asleep in your arms again. I love you."
It should be the equivalent of poison. Maybe it is the equivalent of poison, and he just hadn't heard enough for the poison to take effect. It should scald his throat and destroy his insides, render him useless and motionless, because he doesn't know where to go from here.
Where does he go from Jaemin confessing to missing him?
Where does he go from Jaemin leisurely speaking to him, like it isn't brewing a storm up in Jeno's brain and heart?
Where does he go from Jaemin wanting to fall asleep in his arms?
Admittedly, maybe even ashamedly, Jeno doesn't remember the last time he held Jaemin in his arms, as they both drifted off to sleep. And although Jeno's arms are folded across his stomach, not wanting to, not knowing how to touch Jaemin, the thought is the same. The answer isn't there. Jeno knows better than to think that he doesn't remember the last time because he pushed this part of his life away, but he knows it's simply because it's just been that long since he has.
He guesses that's the difference between him and Jaemin.
Jaemin can't remember anything.
Jeno doesn't want to remember anything.
Jeno can't fall asleep.
No matter how hard he tries, he can't close his eyes and bring himself to not focus on Jaemin's breath on his neck, or Jaemin's body pressed next to his.
He's long ditched the idea of trying to slip out of the younger's hold, because it's vice-like, and Jeno figures he couldn't escape without waking him up, thus defeating the whole purpose.
He sighs, not knowing what to do.
He supposes he could go a night without any sleep, he's done it before. Granted, at those times it was the deadlines of his job and tens of documents keeping him awake, and not his ex-fiancé.
He's never thought about it like that, probably because he didn't let himself think about it. An ex-boyfriend, maybe an ex-best friend. But wording it like that... An ex-fiancé...
They were about to get married.
Jeno was about to spend the rest of his life with Jaemin. Recite vows that he wrote, put a wedding ring on his fourth finger, kiss him in front of their families. Dance with him, pop a bottle of champagne with him, cut into a cake with him.
Jaemin made him promise that they'd have a white wedding cake.
Jeno was ready to give Jaemin a white wedding cake.
Jeno was ready to give Jaemin everything.
But as he feels the stinging in his heart when he looks over at Jaemin for a second, he thinks it's okay that he didn't get to recite vows, put a ring on his fourth finger, kiss him in front of their families. That he didn't dance with him, pop a champagne bottle or cut into a cake. He thinks it's okay that he broke his promise of a white wedding cake. Because it wouldn't hurt if he was still willing to give Jaemin all of it, right?
Maybe it was for the better, that they parted ways.
Or maybe, it's just easier to say.
Either way, when Jaemin shifts a little and loosen his hold on Jeno's body, he takes the opportunity to get out of bed. Where his feet would've met grey slippers, there's now nothing. He sighs internally, standing up on the icy cold floor as he quietly makes his way out of the bedroom.
The trek to the kitchen is familiar, even when the house is encapsulated in darkness. He doesn't miss a single step, walking down the stairs, and finds himself sitting down on a barstool he vividly remembers ordering online.
"But orange is an ugly colour, Jeno-ya~"
"You're an ugly colour."
It's a distant memory now, at best.
From here, there's a view of the wall that they hung the pictures on a mere few hours ago, covering the entirety of it.
An affinity of Jeno and Jaemin.
Of what could've been theirs.
As his eyes leave that wall, Jeno notices the little things that are missing around the house.
Mainly the things that Jeno had bought for the house. He didn't really give enough time to himself to pack up everything his life had held in boxes when he moved out, primarily focused on leaving as soon as possible.
But as he takes in just how much is missing from the house, he wonders what Jaemin did with all those things.
He also wonders if Jaemin will notice all the things he did. Will he ask about where all the little trinkets went? Will he want to put them back up? What excuse could Jeno give about them not being up?
He guesses it's better to be safe than sorry, as he gets up from the bar stool and heads to the storage room.
Jeno should've thought more about it. He should've been more tentative, because he doesn't live here anymore. This isn't his home anymore, so he wonders, as he opens the door, why what used to be his desk looks untouched against the wall.
The stack of post-its, the stapler, the spare file folder...
Everything looks just like he had left it.
Jaemin hadn't touched a thing.
But he refuses to give it any thought, because he simply doesn't want to. He doesn't want to think about what it could mean, his brain already hurts enough as it is after today's events.
Instead, he opens the door to the closet, spotting a tornado of sorts. There are many objects tossed here and there carelessly, many overflowing boxes and miscellaneous objects he doesn't remember ever seeing.
He forces himself not to read too much into things as he steps into the closet, eyes simply searching for the decorative pieces and paintings that had been hung up around the house. Jeno hadn't been lying when he said that he still had a vivid memory of what the house looked like, and he guesses this is the only time it could be deemed more useful than annoying.
So he relents, grabbing an empty box and putting some things inside, leaving the room to start putting things back in the living room.
A tiny cat statue, which belongs on the fireplace mantle, between the wedding invitation and a candle.
When he catches sight of the invitation, he can't stop his fingers from reaching out and grabbing the paper between them.
The paper crinkles loudly in the silence of the house, amplified because Jeno feels like he stopped breathing too. All he can do is stare at the front of the invitation card, where 'JenJaem's Wedding' is written in barely legible writing.
But it's Jaemin's writing, so he's gotten used to being able to read it.
He's scared to open the card up, afraid of what he'll see. Afraid of the broken promises scrawled onto the paper, written in permanent ink with a hand that didn't know any better.
However at the end of the day, Jeno's weak.
If you get this card, that means you're either special to Jeno, or Jaemin! This is our wedding invitation!
Can you believe it? I'm going to marry Jeno! He's going to be my husband, and I can cook him breakfast every morning and make him his favourite rice, soy sauce and egg as a snack whenever he wants.
Jaemin and Jeno's wedding is going to be beautiful! Please bring your kindness, but gifts are also cool.
I don't know when it's going to be yet, or where, but it doesn't really matter. As long as I get to be Jeno's husband, I'll be happy.
I hope Jeno will be happy too.
Anyway, this is your wedding invite! Don't lose it, and we hope to see you when we get married.
P.S. I'm really marrying Jeno, I can't believe it. I hope I can make him happy.
And then, Jeno cries.
Once the sun peeks through the curtains that Jeno always forgets to draw close, Jaemin notices the cold spot next to him in bed.
He frowns, a bit upset that the first morning back from the hospital, he wakes up without Jeno. But he doesn't think much of it, instead deciding to search for the other boy.
Jaemin makes quick work of brushing teeth and taking a very short, very quick shower, carelessly drying his hair and changing into something which weren't his pyjamas.
He would've liked to wear one of Jeno's t-shirts, but he guesses they're in the laundry or something, because there aren't many of his clothes in the dressing drawers.
Once again though, Jaemin pushes the thought to the back of his head, more excited to spend his first breakfast with Jeno since he's come back from the hospital.
Meals have been tiresome and lonely when he was admitted, stuck to the confinements of his hospital room since he didn't really feel like going down to the cafeteria. Sure, Donghyuck and Mark were good company, as they always are, but they weren't Jeno. And it sounds a bit bad to say, but could you really blame Jaemin? He just wanted to have his fiancé by his side while his injuries healed. He's thankful no major bones are broken, or that his organs didn't take the blow, as it seems it's just his head that suffered the most.
He's glad that the accident didn't mangle his face, for Jeno always tells him he looks like an angel. It doesn't matter if he believed it or not, what mattered was that Jeno liked it.
Back to the point though, Donghyuck and Mark's company didn't even come near Jeno's company. Whenever Jeno came around for lunch or dinner, never for breakfast, for some reason, he'd simply sit near Jaemin and they'd eat together, in comfortable silence.
At first, Jaemin didn't understand why Jeno wouldn't talk, but he didn't question it, assuming that it wasn't really a pleasant atmosphere, not when Jaemin was injured.
So he let it go, because there's a lot he'd keep unspoken if it meant Jeno’s comfort, and simply enjoyed the other's presence in the hospital room with him.
Jeno always calls him the sun, but Jaemin thinks that Jeno was the one who brightened up the room whenever he walked in.
Padding down the stairs, Jaemin immediately sees Jeno laid down on the couch, and he frowns, wondering what he could be doing down here.
He hopes Jeno didn't spend the entire night on the couch, not when their bed was so comfortable.
Walking closer to the boy, Jaemin crouches down to sit in front of Jeno's laid body, one of his hands coming up to gently move his brown bangs out of his eyes.
Last time Jaemin checked, Jeno's hair wasn't this dark of a brown, but it could've simply been the way he adds hair dye into his conditioner to keep the colour longer.
It's when Jaemin's gaze moves from Jeno's hair that he notices the tear stains on his fiancé's face.
Now with a deep frown on his face, Jaemin's knuckles brush over Jeno's cheeks, touch barely there, like a kiss of skin. He sighs when he takes in how Jeno's eyes are slightly swollen, and Jaemin wonders what could've made him cry.
It doesn't sit right in his heart, knowing Jeno cried and that he wasn't there to comfort him. Maybe he didn't want to bother Jaemin in the middle of the night, making his way to the living room before breaking down. Jaemin wishes that Jeno would've just woken him up, but he understands that maybe Jeno just needed a good cry by himself.
He's about to get up and find a blanket to lay over Jeno's body, but he notices something clutched between the other's hands.
Tilting his head curiously to the side, Jaemin reaches down to carefully pry the paper out of Jeno's hands, identifying it as their handwritten wedding invitation.
Instantly, a fond smile makes its way onto Jaemin's face, memories from the night he had written it coming to mind.
It had been about a day or two after Jeno had proposed, and Jaemin had still been feeling over the moon about their engagement. The promise of marrying Jeno in the near future made his stomach erupt with butterflies every time he was reminded of the fact, and it made his heart beat a mile a minute.
It may have been two years ago, when Jeno proposed, but as he looks down at the ring strung through the thin metal chain around his neck, he knows that it doesn't matter when they get married, as long as the promise always stays.
As long as in this life, Jaemin gets to look at Jeno and proudly say that he's his husband, nothing else matters.
"Are you happy?" Jaemin whispers into the silent air between them, crouching back down next to Jeno's head. He lays the invitation card down onto the coffee table, mesmerized by Jeno's face. No matter if he had been crying, with his eyes swollen and lips chapped, Jeno still looks like his dream. With a sculpted nose, the prettiest lips, most beautiful jawline, the cutest mole by his eye, his kissable cupid's bow.
He looks like everything Jaemin has ever wanted.
"Were you crying because you're happy?" He asks again in a whisper, knowing he wasn't going to get a response. Maybe it was comforting, knowing that he wasn't talking to someone in particular, more so the atmosphere between them. "Sometimes I cry when I'm happy too."
It's easy to sit in the living room with Jeno, to sit in the house which they've searched for, bought, decorated and continue to pay for together. The house they've customized to their liking, the house they said that they'd raise cats and kids in.
Living in a house with Jeno is easy.
Looking at a future with Jeno in it is easy.
Loving Jeno is easy.
"I can't wait," Jaemin says, running his fingertips gently across the outline of Jeno's face, as if committing every angle and edge to memory.
He could never forget Jeno.
"Can't wait to marry you, Lee Jeno."
When Jeno wakes up, it's to a sugary scent in the air and fingers in his hair.
It's with unease that he registered the feeling of waking up like this familiar, but he guesses he's been getting used to pushing the uncomfortableness down, all the way down until it was numb.
There was no point thinking about it anyway.
"Hey," Jaemin calls, soft with the way he speaks, dainty with the way he smiles. "You slept a long time," he adds, fingers never stopping in his hair, as if it were his favourite thing to go.
Somewhere under the layers of protection Jeno had put up, he remembers that it is in fact, one of Jaemin's favourite things to do, play with his hair.
Closer to the surface though, Jeno wants to move his head away and say something along the lines of, 'Yeah, you normally tend to knock out after crying your eyes out ', but settles against it once he realizes that then he'd have to explain why he was crying.
Even as he runs the hypothetical question though his head, he wonders; why did he start crying? A reason to feel so sad to the point where Jeno couldn't help but sob uncontrollably, trying his best to muffle it behind his hand, because Jaemin hearing him was the last thing he wanted.
Surely, he knows that it was the empty promises written onto the wedding invitation, the promise of a wedding, the promise of breakfast every morning and rice, soy sauce and egg whenever he wanted.
It was overwhelming.
He couldn't imagine it anymore. The life they had built, the one they had promised each other, and the one they wanted in the future.
He couldn't imagine Jaemin being so happy every time the engagement was brought up, every time the wedding was brought up.
He couldn't imagine him getting down onto one knee, ring box open and Jaemin in front of him, shocked, happy, crying because he's so happy .
But it's all just that.
It all ends at that.
He couldn't imagine it.
Because he already lived through it.
He already lived through the life they built, the life they promised each other, the talk of the one they wanted in the future.
He already lived through Jaemin being so happy every time the engagement was brought up, every time the wedding was brought up.
He already lived through getting down on one knee, ring box open and Jaemin in front of him, shocked, happy, crying because he's so happy.
He's lived through everything pummelling his brain, so then why does it all feel like nothing more than a dream?
"What's that smell?" He finally asks after finding his voice, pushing himself up from the couch. This forces Jaemin's fingers to leave his scalp, and whether he's glad for that or not, he's not too sure yet.
"Pancakes! Your favourite," Jaemin answers, beaming with a content smile on his face.
Maybe it was the way Jaemin sounded so perky.
Maybe it was the way Jaemin smiled like the shining sun.
Maybe it was the way Jaemin looked at him like he hung the stars.
But whatever the reason was, Jeno finds himself saying,
"You shouldn't be doing so much when you just got out of the hospital."
"It's alright," Jaemin immediately brushes off, similarly to the way he always would whenever Jeno would chastise him for cooking lunch when he was running a fever. "I just wanted to make you feel a bit better. You were crying last night..."
At the mention of his tears, Jeno's head whips to look at Jaemin, who seems bashful as he looks back at him.
"I know sometimes you don't wanna talk about it, and that's okay with me, but I just wanna know if you're okay. Are you okay, Jeno?"
This is something Jeno doesn't remember.
Everything else has been striking a nerve of resemblance in the back of his brain, but this Jaemin, the one who's sitting next to him on the couch with a shy look on his face but sincere words on his tongue—
He doesn't remember this.
He doesn't remember Jaemin being so open and understanding of him not being able to speak up. He doesn't remember Jaemin saying it was okay to not want to talk to him if something was wrong. He doesn't remember Jaemin asking him, simply, so simply , if he was okay.
Whenever Jaemin had shown his concern or worry for Jeno in the past, it had greatly consisted of over the top gestures and never ending questions.
Jeno, at the time, had somewhat understood it. Jaemin was concerned, had every right to be when they were... Fiancés , or whatever. Jaemin had simply wanted to know Jeno's problem and help, but it wasn't that easy for Jeno.
For him, it had been easy to cover up and hide his emotions. Digging them out from inside of his soul was already a task, but it was never any easier when Jaemin would always insist on solving the problem right away.
Jeno can't do it right away.
Jeno needs time.
And for some reason, the Jaemin sitting in front of him is giving him that.
"I'm alright," he finds himself answering, eyes glued to how Jaemin nods slowly, as if to show Jeno that it's okay, that it's okay that he didn't want to talk now.
"Okay," Jaemin smiles. "But um, Mark texted me about him and Donghyuck coming over today, is that alright?"
Mark and Donghyuck.
They were another headache Jeno didn't even think about yet.
The first thing Jeno notices is the way Mark purses his lips when he sees the pictures back up all over the wall. Judging by the obvious distaste on his face, Jeno being back in Jaemin's life is just as unpleasant for him as it is for Jeno. Perhaps he even helped Jaemin take them down for all he knows, Mark could've had an internalized vendetta against him that he kept inside all these years for Jaemin's sake but let out once they broke up.
Or maybe Jeno is trying to find a fault in what used to be a perfect picture in the past.
Either way, Mark looks upset, as he walks into the living room.
"Is it harder at home? You can always go back to the hospital for a bit," Donghyuck says, ever so always doting on Jaemin. Jeno used to think it was the other way around when he’d first seen their dynamic, Jaemin was always so used to taking care of everyone around him. With Donghyuck though, it was different. Maybe it was because Donghyuck didn’t really have a lot of people younger than him in his life, so he decided to take care of Jaemin, despite them only being two months apart.
Jeno thinks that’s also why he was so fond of Chenle and Jisung.
But he won’t think about what used to be seven of them right now, not when Mark is glaring daggers at him.
If looks could kill, Jeno would be six feet under by this point.
“What?” He hisses, glad that they’re a fair distance away from Jaemin and Donghyuck, who’ve fallen into conversation about Jaemin taking care of himself at home.
Also, Mark had always said that Jeno could treat him just like a brother. And Jeno has a foul mouth on his real brother, so why not use one on Mark too? Maybe his kindness had only been extended until his relationship with Mark’s younger stepbrother had come to a stop, but Jeno never looked at the technicalities anyway.
“I hate that you’re here,” Mark simply, honestly says, arms crossed over his chest and jaw clenched in what Jeno can only assume is frustration.
“How do I think I feel? I’d rather be anywhere than this damn house,” Jeno shoots back, glaring to make him look equally as frustrated, maybe even more, he and Mark were always competitive. “You know I had to sleep in a bed beside him last night?”
Mark seems to tense at that, hardening his look even more, if that was even possible.
“Don’t you dare do a thing to make him uncomfortable,” Mark says in a low voice, bordering on a growl if Jeno listens closely enough.
“Not like there’s a thing I’d want to do with him in the first place,” Jeno spits back, firm in his words. “Who do you even take me for?”
“I don’t know you, Jeno,” Mark says blandly, stating his words as a fact, as if it was well known.
Maybe Mark thought it was well known to the people around him, but it’s for that reason that Jeno is just a little taken aback.
He’s not in Mark’s life anymore, how was he supposed to know?
How was he supposed to know that Mark didn’t know him? Didn’t know the first time they met and Mark spilled his coffee on him accidentally? Didn’t know that he treated him out to dinner when he graduated? Didn’t know that he helped pick out flowers the night he proposed to Jaemin?
How was Jeno supposed to know that Mark erased him from his life, when they weren’t in each other’s life anymore?
“Then I don’t know you, Mark.”
Dinner is more awkward than it needs to be. Or perhaps it was destined to be this awkward, because there’s no way that Jaemin can’t feel the obvious tension between all four of them as they’re sitting around the dining table, stew hot yet sitting untouched in the bowls in front of them.
Jaemin had asked Mark and Donghyuck to stay for dinner, and in order to keep the normalcy and keep up the facade that everything is like the past, the two had agreed. Maybe they were tired of pretending too, but they did a better job at hiding it than Jeno did.
So then it started, Mark and Jeno sitting on opposite sides of the living room while refusing to even look at each other. Jaemin dragged Donghyuck to the kitchen because while saying that it’s a ‘Jaem and Duckie cooking show!’ , clearly unaware that they’ve stopped calling themselves that ever since Renjun had told them they weren’t stellar in the kitchen, having set off his smoke alarm.
Donghyuck almost bursts into tears when he hears Jaemin say that, and Jeno has to pretend like he doesn’t see Mark wince at the memory.
If it was the memory of Jaemin referring to him and Donghyuck in the kitchen as the ‘Jaem and Duckie cooking show’ or the memory of the smoke alarm being set off, Jeno doesn’t ask.
Instead, he sits and scrolls through his messages, mainly from Jisung and Renjun asking how he’s holding up, and Chenle asking if he should drop off Jeno’s things so that it didn’t seem suspicious that he was leaving the house.
Jeno texts Chenle back, saying it’d be appreciated if he could bring some more of his clothes and the three cats, seeing as it was pretty obvious that Jeno wasn’t about to leave this house any time soon. Especially when he couldn’t use his business trip excuse anymore, courtesy of Mark who already said he’d been gone on one during the days he was avoiding this whole situation.
And plus, how often do lawyers even go on business trips? He’s glad Jaemin fell for it once, it won’t happen again, he’s pretty sure.
“Hyung, honey, food’s ready!” Jaemin calls from the kitchen, and this time it’s Jeno who winces at the familiar call. Mark must’ve noticed it too, if the way he sighs as he gets up is anything to go by.
They both pocket their phones, walking towards the dining table, seeing Donghyuck and Jaemin already sitting down. This leads to Mark taking the seat beside Jaemin, where Jeno used to sit, leaving Jeno to sit next to Donghyuck across from the two brothers.
Thus leading them to present time, staring at the stew that honestly looks delicious in front of them, silent.
“What’s with the atmosphere? Come on, eat!” Jaemin urges, picking up his spoon and bringing the hot stew to his mouth. Before he can take a bite though, Mark speaks.
“What kind of stew did you guys make, hm?”
“Kimchi stew with tofu—”
It’s like a trigger word.
It sounds stupid, but the single four lettered word takes Jeno back thirteen months.
It was just Jaemin and him, alone in a restaurant eating. If they were celebrating something or simply on a date, Jeno doesn’t remember. All he remembers is that they were having a nice conversation, and that he ordered cold noodles while Jaemin ordered kimchi stew with tofu.
They were around twenty three years old? At least, Jeno was, Jaemin’s birthday still hadn’t approached. It was almost a year after they graduated university, and they were already living in their house. They were also already engaged.
He doesn’t really remember what they were talking about, only remembers that it didn’t take a long time for their food to arrive. Jaemin’s hot bowl and Jeno’s cold one placed in front of them respectively, and Jaemin had been so excited to eat, he almost knocked down his glass of water.
And then, he remembers something he doesn’t think he’d be able to forget, even if he tried.
Maybe it was because it was important information, maybe it was because Jaemin looked funny with a red face, Jeno shamefully admits, or maybe it was because it scared him more than it should’ve.
After all, it was his fiancé choking on his throat closing on him.
It was that night they learned about Jaemin’s sudden allergy to tofu.
Granted, they didn’t tell anyone except Mark, simply deciding to be careful and whatnot, but Jeno sees the flaw in that mindset, right now, thirteen months later.
Realistically, he couldn’t blame Donghyuck for this, he didn’t know. He also couldn’t really blame Jaemin, because Jaemin didn’t remember this discovery. But it’s easier to blame Jaemin for these things, and Jeno realizes he’s been doing a lot of that lately.
In present time though, when Jaemin says ‘tofu’ , he’s taken back to the feeling he felt that night at the restaurant.
The fear and the hopelessness and the uncertainty, and maybe because it was important, maybe because it was funny, maybe because it was traumatic, but Jeno finds himself springing to action before his mind can even fully process what’s going on.
“Don’t eat that!” He exclaims, standing up from his chair and grabbing the spoon from Jaemin’s hand. It falls back into the bowl with a small sound, and Jeno notices just how quiet it is in the house.
“What? Why?” Jaemin asks, frowning, and now Jeno doesn’t know how to explain the situation.
How does he explain what happened to Jaemin when he didn’t remember it? How does he tell Jaemin that he’s allergic to tofu when he hasn’t been his whole life?
Thankfully though, Mark comes pipes in.
“Maybe you don’t remember, but you were drunk one night and had tofu. We learned you were allergic that night,” he explains, tone even, and now Jeno wonders when it had become easy for Mark to lie to Jaemin.
But he doesn’t dwell on it for too long, spooning the tofu out of Jaemin’s bowl and putting it on his own.
“Just don’t eat the tofu,” he mutters, refusing to look at any of the boys sitting around the table with him.
He knows the look that they’ll have for him, and he knows he doesn’t want to deal with it.
Jeno doesn’t know why he remembers this detail from thirteen months ago.
But for the first time, he’s glad he does.
The first month that goes by like this is almost completely unbearable.
Everyday, Jeno seems to find something which takes him back four years, three years, two years, one year, eight months, six months into the past. Everyday, he finds something which reminds him of the life he used to live, the people he had lived this life with, the feelings he felt living that life.
Everyday is a reminder of what it used to be like when he was in a relationship with Jaemin.
When he was dating Jaemin, the little notes he used to write for the younger, were all kept in Jaemin’s office drawer. When they were celebrating their one year anniversary together, Jaemin’s half of the matching bracelets sat on his bedside table. When they were engaged, Jaemin’s ring sat strung through a chain on his neck.
But there’s no semblance of when they broke up.
Because according to this house, according to this Jaemin, and according to this Jaemin’s timeline, they didn’t break up.
They’re still together. They’re still living in this house. They’re still engaged. They’re still going to get married.
And for whatever reason, Jeno finds the role easier to play than he thought.
He thought it’d be hard to walk down those stairs every morning, after waking up next to Jaemin every morning. He thought it’d be hard to eat at the table with Jaemin everyday, to come back to this house at the end of every day. He thought it’d be unbearable, getting a kiss on the cheek as a welcome home, getting a kiss on the mouth as a silent gesture.
Old habits die hard, he guesses.
It’s one word.
It’s two letters but the weight of it, along with the mouth curling up, paired with the eyes shining bright, finished with the lips on his cheek, and it’s more than a word.
It’s more than a greeting.
Two words, nine letters, a kiss on the forehead and an arm around the waist.
It feels like something he shouldn’t be allowed to do.
But if that was so, why did it feel like home?
“How was work?”
Toeing off shoes, shrugging off a blazer, putting down a briefcase. All in places he wouldn’t have put them in his own apartment, all in places where they belonged at one point.
“It was alright. You?”
A hand leading him to the table, a table filled with dishes, dishes filled with food. Nothing like this greeted him at his apartment, but that could be because nothing like Jaemin greeted him at his apartment either.
“It was nice,”
A seat across from his, a plate identical to his, dinner piled on and water poured in a glass.
And maybe in the worst way; normalcy.
“That’s good to hear, darling.”
“I didn’t think you’d be here this early,” Donghyuck muses, smiling cheerily at Jaemin. The younger boy comes into the café, hair a bit ruffled and adjusting his jacket. “Even though you’re still late.”
“Sorry,” Jaemin apologizes, sitting down on the chair opposite of Donghyuck. He takes a sip of the complimentary ice water, sighing in satisfaction as the coldness hits his tongue. “Jeno had an early shift and I went back to sleep after making his lunch.”
At this, Donghyuck is surprised. He tries not to let his show, biting his straw between his teeth, but he can’t help the inquisitive quirk of his eyebrow.
“You make his lunch?”
Jaemin hums, eyes scanning through the menu in his hands. Donghyuck had already looked through and decided on what he wanted to order for brunch, given how much time Jaemin had provided him with by oversleeping.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” Donghyuck isn’t meant to answer the question, so he doesn’t. “He likes the shapes I make with rice, and even asked for a bunny next time.”
Donghyuck watches, as Jaemin continues to look through the menu.
Nothing about him physically has changed much, since the accident. The injuries on his head have healed and the bruising is gone. He’s still as thin and healthy as he was before, but when Donghyuck looks at Jaemin’s cheeks, they’re fuller. Rounder, and his eyes are brighter, no longer dull. No longer dull and there’s a skip in his step.
No, nothing about Jaemin’s physical appearance has changed, but when Donghyuck looks closely, his spirit has.
It’s obvious, and as much as Donghyuck doesn’t want to admit it, Jaemin is happier now.
He’s happier with Jeno in his life.
But he doesn’t know that. Jaemin doesn’t even know he was sad without Jeno in his life. He doesn’t know that there was a point in time, where Jeno wasn’t in his life.
For some reason or another, it hurts Donghyuck to know that Jaemin is living like this. Living without the memory of someone who he held dearest to his heart, while also being someone who broke his heart. It doesn’t sit right with Donghyuck, knowing that Jaemin is only aware of one of those things.
He admits, seeing Jaemin like this is refreshing. Seeing him when he isn’t moping around all day, staring blankly at the vacant walls and empty drawers. It’s better seeing him smile all the time than watching his soulless eyes. But with that admission, Donghyuck has to acknowledge Jeno.
Jeno coming back into Jaemin’s life seems to be benefiting only Jaemin. No doubt, Jeno had been weary about the whole thing, and as comfortable he seems now, Donghyuck knows better than to assume he’s at ease. Mark had also hated the idea of phone calling Jeno five days after Jaemin woke up from surgery, but with the sight of his younger brother’s tears and blubbering pleas, it was hard for Mark to say no.
He doesn’t really know how long things can keep going like this, but it’s safe to assume that seeing Jeno with Jaemin, and Jaemin grinning ear to ear, is going to be something he should get used to.
“Just wondering,” he tacks on, remembering that he had to continue the conversation with Jaemin. “Aren’t you guys both too old to be eating animal shaped rice?”
Looking scandalized, Jaemin gasps.
“Never too old for animals,” he says, closing his menu. “I’m ready. Are you?”
“I’ve been ready Jaemin, you’re the one who was late,” Donghyuck tsks, but waves a waiter down nonetheless.
This Jaemin, who’s sitting in front of him and ordering his food, is a Jaemin he hasn’t seen in a while.
He doesn’t think Jeno knows, because there is no way for him to find out, but Jaemin hadn’t been going out a lot, ever since six months ago.
He’d been holding himself up in the house, neglecting chores like doing the dishes, laundry and even cooking. Donghyuck remembers that month where he and Mark had temporarily moved in, in order to help Jaemin with stepping back into his routine. Mundane tasks were starting to complete themselves again, and he even started cooking more than ordering food in.
It was a slow process, but it was nice to see Jaemin push forward. Because Jaemin has always been determined, and if there’s something he wants, he’ll find a way to get it.
It’s always nice to see him somewhere outside of his house. Jaemin in the world looks better than Jaemin against the couch.
“Are you listening to what I’m saying?”
Jaemin’s question brings Donghyuck back, and he belatedly realizes that Jaemin had been saying something that he wasn’t listening to at all.
That’s another thing.
Jaemin talks more now.
He really did shut in on himself after Jeno moved out, never really keeping a conversation going for longer than a sentence or two. He couldn’t go longer without noticing Jeno’s striking absence in a conversation, or else he’d start breaking down into heavy sobs.
Donghyuck hated it, seeing Jaemin so broken over someone who didn’t fight for him. Who walked out of his life, his home, his heart , so easily, without looking back. He ached for Jaemin whenever he’d cry himself to sleep, whenever he’d call him in the middle of the night, bordering on being blackout drunk and crying about how cold the bed feels.
Donghyuck slept next to Jaemin in that bed for a month after that.
The number of times he woke up to Jaemin calling him ‘honey’ was unimaginable.
“Why are you staring at me?”
Donghyuck realizes he still wasn’t paying attention to Jaemin.
“No reason. You look happy,” he ends up shrugging, trying to come off as nonchalant, as if he wasn’t thinking about how the Jaemin sitting in front of him and the Jaemin from two months ago were completely different people.
He didn’t know whether it was a good or bad thing either.
On one hand, this Jaemin is happier, and his happiness makes Donghyuck and Mark happy. But it was based off of a lie, based off of a secret kept from him.
And on the other, at least the Jaemin from two months ago was aware. At least he knew the truths about what happened in his life, Jeno’s life and the lives of everyone else around him.
That Jaemin wasn’t as clueless.
But that Jaemin also wasn’t as happy.
“Is there a reason for me not to be?” The younger asks, tilting his head to the side confusedly. “I have everything I could ever ask for. A beautiful best friend, an amazing brother and a lovely fiancé,”
He smiles, and it’s the brightest Donghyuck has seen in months.
“Why wouldn’t I be happy? I’m the happiest boy in the world, Donghyuck.”
Sooner than he would’ve liked, Jeno realizes Mark’s birthday is next week.
“What should we get him? Cufflinks?”
Jeno wants to tell Jaemin that they already bought Mark cufflinks as a part of their gift to him a year ago for Christmas, but figures it’d be pointless.
It’s not like he could remember that anyway.
“Ties,” Jeno simply suggests, finding that his fingers absentmindedly reach for Jaemin’s waist, drawing shapes onto his skin above the fabric.
He remembers Mark saying he needed ties to Donghyuck, last time they were here for dinner.
He also remembers how he used to trace promises onto Jaemin’s waist, before he left them all broken.
That is enough for him to withdraw his fingers.
Once again, he guesses old habits die hard.
“Ties are good. Three?” Jaemin agrees, easily, as he’s been doing a lot lately.
It’s not necessarily weird, Jeno would take the Jaemin who agrees with him over the Jaemin who argues with him over mundane things any day, but it’s just a bit of a shock.
The last few months Jeno spent with Jaemin before their break up consisted majorly of arguing, over big and small things alike. They weren’t those healthy arguments either, because healthy arguments don’t lead to ignoring each for a week or sleeping on the couch every night for said week.
“Three is good.”
“Do you... Want ties?”
“For the wedding... Do you wanna wear ties?”
Of course Jaemin would be talking about the wedding, whereas Jeno hadn’t thought about it in months.
Where had they left off with that?
“What else would we wear?”
It’s an easy way to deflect the question, because Jeno doesn’t know the answer. He doesn’t think he’s ever even had the conversation with Jaemin, to wear ties or to not. It seems like something that should be lower than the lowest thing on his list of priorities, but when Jaemin looks at him with his bottom lip between his teeth, he wants to settle this.
Maybe it was because they hadn’t talked about it before, Jeno doesn’t know. All he knows is that he now wants to know if Jaemin wanted to wear a tie or not.
“I was thinking bow ties,” he simply says, quietly, as if he were afraid of Jeno’s reaction to the idea. “I like bow ties.” He tacks on after a few seconds, softer.
However, at the mention of bow ties, Jeno remembers.
They did have this conversation before. It consisted of a lazy afternoon, warm tea and their legs intertwined. He can’t remember when, but he doesn’t think that’s important.
What’s important is the way the conversation flowed.
“What else would we wear?”
“I like bow ties.”
Jeno scrunches his nose.
“Bow ties are kinda ugly babe, no offense.”
“Ties... Ties are good too, I guess.”
Jeno can’t remember the date of when this conversation had taken place, but he remembers the disappointed look on Jaemin’s face.
Because he said bow ties are ugly.
Jaemin was willing to wear a tie, because Jeno said bow ties were ugly.
And suddenly, it’s not just a piece of clothing anymore.
Suddenly, it’s more than just fabric. It’s more than just something to tie around their collars. Now, it’s a choice.
It’s a choice between what he wants and what Jaemin wants.
And just like that, it’s suddenly like their arguments all over again.
What he wants versus what Jaemin wants.
What he likes versus what Jaemin likes.
What he thinks versus what Jaemin thinks.
It’s more than a tie or a bow tie. It’s something bigger than that. It’s not a simple choice of what to wear, it’s a choice of what they both want.
When was the last time he and Jaemin had come to a compromise?
“I don’t like bow ties,” Jeno finally answers, unable to ignore the familiar look of disappointment on Jaemin’s face. He knows what the younger is about to say before he even opens his mouth, and for once, he’s glad about that. “But you don’t like ties. So let’s not even bother with any of those.”
Jaemin furrows his eyebrows, confused.
“Then what do we wear?”
Jeno thinks about it.
The question isn’t, ‘What would you like to wear?’ not is it, ‘What am I going to wear’.
‘What do we wear?’
This is a compromise, so it has to be something both he and Jaemin wouldn’t mind wearing.
Jeno isn’t looking at him, but out of his peripheral vision, he can see Jaemin perk up.
This isn’t how it usually goes.
Usually, it’s about yelling at each other about who’s selfish, about who only thinks about himself, about who didn’t care.
It ended with aggravating silence through the house, with burning passion in their hearts and unease as they fell asleep.
It didn’t end with an agreement.
It didn’t end with an understanding.
It didn’t end with a comprehensive conclusion.
Except this time, it does.
This time, it ends with them both satisfied and peaceful.
There’s no aggravating silence, no burning passion, no unease.
Instead, there’s a gentle hum from Jaemin’s throat, a soft atmosphere between them and a calm beat through their chests.
Jaemin doesn’t remember their arguments, doesn’t remember the destructiveness of it all. Doesn’t remember the pain their arguments brought on them and their relationship, and doesn’t remember the rift they had caused between them.
Maybe it’s a good thing, to not remember something so stressful and aggravating. Jeno is sure that if he had the choice to remember the dozens of times Jaemin and his voices pierced through the air, viscous words with speared tips aimed at each other, he would choose to forget.
Jeno’s proud of himself for coming to one.
“I like brooches. Silver?”
Jeno pretends to think, but he doesn’t have to.
Because there’s nothing to think about, when Jaemin still knows him like the back of his hand.
Despite maybe wanting to change after ridding his life of Na Jaemin, Jeno sees that he hasn’t done a good job or letting go of the way he was.
Jaemin, who looks up at him and kisses his cheek, positively beams at Jeno’s words.
Time and time again, Mark wonders why he dared to dial Lee Jeno’s number that fateful day.
The day that he willingly tapped on nine digital digits, giving Jeno the power he once held over Jaemin. The power that he lost, and that Mark had placed back into his hands.
For that, Mark doesn’t forgive himself.
Doesn’t forgive himself for pushing a fake narrative onto Jaemin’s life, for the second time. A break up should end at that, Jeno was right when he said he didn’t have any business with Jaemin anymore.
But in a moment of weakness, in a moment when he looked through the window of the hospital room door, and saw Jaemin shaking and crying because he wanted Jeno to be here with him while Donghyuck was trying his best to calm him down, he knew he had to do anything to at least get Jaemin to see Jeno’s face again.
It didn’t matter if he hadn’t contacted Jeno for six months.
It didn’t matter that his name left a vile taste on his tongue.
It didn’t matter that he tried to forget the brother bond he made with Jeno.
Because Jeno broke Jaemin’s heart, but was also desperate to see him again.
And that’s enough for Mark to never want to see him again.
So when Jeno comes into the hospital room, he’s more than eager to punch a hole through his face. Donghyuck, who could probably sense that, dragged him out of the room and didn’t let him say a word, afraid he’d come off as too much and say something Jaemin could’ve heard.
It was a valid point, and Mark is glad that Donghyuck had pulled them out of that hospital room before he could’ve done colossal damage to Jeno’s face.
Simply seeing him blink made Mark want to do unspeakable things to him.
As reluctant as he had been, Mark trusted Jaemin enough to leave him in a house alone with Jeno.
He also trusted Jeno enough when the latter said he wasn’t even interested in going anything with Jaemin, but that was before the two had come to his little birthday-get together.
He didn’t necessarily want Jeno here, but he couldn’t simply ask him not to come. Jeno is an extension of Jaemin, just like he’d always been, and Mark has to get used to it again. At least for a little bit.
“You’re seeing it too, right?” Mark whispers to Donghyuck, who’s looking in the same direction as he is.
They’re both looking at Jeno and Jaemin, watching as Jaemin eats cake off of his plate, talking to some of Mark’s colleagues he’d invited from work. They don’t know about everything that went down with Jaemin’s accident and memory, which makes watching Jeno and Jaemin introduce themselves as fiancés even more unsettling.
It’s been a while since he’s seen the two of them walk around acknowledging that label.
But that wasn’t what Mark and Donghyuck were looking at, no.
Their gazes are transfixed on the way Jeno has a hand on Jaemin’s thigh, casually, as he made light jokes and spoke to the other couple sitting in front of them.
They looked like they always had, as if they hadn’t been broken up for six months, been arguing for four more before that, and like one of them hadn’t lost their memory.
Mark doesn’t know how it sits with him, knowing that no matter what the circumstance, Jeno and Jaemin look like they belong together.
Mark doesn’t want Jaemin to belong to someone like Jeno, not after everything that had gone down.
“Yeah, I see it,” Donghyuck answers, sighing as he takes a sip of the alcoholic drink in his cup. “Heads up, he’s happy again.”
Unwillingly, Mark accepts and knows it’s true.
Jaemin is happier.
He’s happy again because Jeno is by him again.
And as much as Jaemin’s happiness means the world to Mark, it feels dirty when it comes like this. Via a fake situation they all have to uphold for the sake of Jaemin’s sanity.
He understands what’s at risk, he truly does. He doesn’t want to put Jaemin under any more mental stress or trauma, more than what the accident had caused him. He doesn’t want to hurt Jaemin, God that’s the last thing he’d ever think of doing.
But where Jeno hates this situation because he has to live a fake life with his ex-fiancé, Mark hates this situation because he’s putting his stepbrother in the hands of the man who broke his heart.
At least, Mark thinks Jeno used to hate the situation.
He can’t be too sure now, not with the way Jeno has tender a hand on Jaemin’s thigh, thumb occasionally rubbing circles over the fabric of his pants.
“I can tell,” Mark grumbles, taking Donghyuck’s cup from him and chugging down all the liquid inside, before Donghyuck could get a chance to complain. “I don’t like it.”
“Mark,” Donghyuck sighs, heading to pour more alcohol in his cup.
Mark follows, just because he didn’t want to keep looking at Jeno and Jaemin.
“I don’t think you can change Jaemin’s opinion on this one. After six months... He’s finally happy.”
Jaemin wakes up holding Jeno's hand.
He wakes up in bed, with the sun barely peeking up over the horizon and his head on Jeno's chest, leg over Jeno's hip and hand in Jeno's own.
Jaemin feels warm.
"What time is it?" He asks quietly, not moving a muscle, afraid he'd disturb the quaint and calm atmosphere between them. And if he liked the way Jeno's heart sounds right under his ear, that's a bonus.
"5:12 in the morning," Jeno's quiet answer comes, his voice groggy and laced with fatigue. "Happy birthday, sweetheart."
Without even trying to fight it, knowing there'd be no point, Jaemin smiles into the darkness of their bedroom.
Birthdays have seemingly gotten better with Jeno to celebrate them with, and this year isn't any exception. They haven’t done anything yet, the day has barely started, but Jeno's simple presence next to him already makes this day special.
Jeno doesn't have to do anything extravagant to make Jaemin fawn over him, the simple fact that he's always been by his side is enough.
Waking up next to Jeno is enough.
"Thank you, Jeno," he whispers, right into the skin of Jeno's neck, where he can't see, but can feel the dips of his collarbones.
Jaemin knows Jeno's body inside out. All the dips and divots, the curves and planes. He knows the number of moles scattered down his chest and their exact locations. He knows that his right foot is slightly, very slightly bigger than his left foot, and that his fingertips always have calluses on them from playing the guitar.
Jaemin likes to think he knows everything about Jeno, there's no need for secrets between them, after all.
"What would you like to do?" Jeno asks, equally as quiet as his hand never lets go of Jaemin's.
Jaemin always loved how Jeno found the smaller ways to touch him, versus how Jaemin would show off in a large way. Jeno always seems to find his hand under his sleeves, his hand always placed on the small of his back, sometimes wrapped around his waist. Jeno always presses their shoulders together and has their thighs touch when they're sitting next to each other, and Jaemin finds the smaller actions heartwarming.
Since Jaemin has gotten out of the hospital, Jeno hasn't been able to stop touching him. Always in small ways, but way more frequently than what he used to do. Jeno always seems to be holding his hands, or always seems to be pressed right against him. When Jaemin isn't facing him, he always seems to be glued to his back.
Jaemin wouldn't complain on a regular day, but he's told himself to be quiet about this one especially.
He doesn't like to think about it, but he could've very well… Died in that car accident, and he doesn't even begin to understand how stressful it must've been for Jeno, especially when he was so far away on a business trip during that time.
If he were in Jeno's shoes, Jaemin would be scared of losing him too.
So he keeps shut about how Jeno's more touchy than normal, deciding to simply bask in the affection and let the older boy know that he isn't going anywhere.
Jaemin is here to stay, and one day, Jeno will realize that.
"Can't we just stay in bed all day?" Jaemin sighs, enjoying the warmth of Jeno's body heat, as well as the cool air from the air conditioning and the sunshine starting to peek through the window curtains.
Jeno never gets around to closing them.
"I don't think Donghyuck and Mark would appreciate that very much," Jeno answers, one of his hands slowly making its way to Jaemin's hair, almost as if it were tentative.
Jeno's fingers gently put themselves into his hair, right at the scalp as he scratches lightly, pulling on the roots gently.
Jaemin feels sleepy again, lulled away by how soothing Jeno's fingers are in his hair.
"Careful," Jaemin slurs, eyes already shut and body falling into slumber. "Don't pull too hard, my hair might fall out. You wouldn't wanna marry me if I was bald," he jokes, referencing how bleached and damaged his hair is.
Ever since he was a student, Jaemin liked expressing himself through his hair colour. It started calmly at first, different shades of brown to replace the black atop his head, but then it went into blondes, pinks, purples and now he's at blue. No doubt, his scalp hates him, and his hair isn't healthy at all, but Jeno always said he didn't mind and that he looked handsome in any hair colour.
Now though, as Jaemin is seconds away from falling asleep, Jeno says something else.
"Even if you were bald, you'd still look beautiful. I’d still want to marry you because…
"Because I don't think I can stop loving you, Na Jaemin."
The next time Jaemin wakes up, Jeno is still beside him, but this time there's breakfast beside him too.
Jaemin knows better than to assume that Jeno is the one who cooked it all. Granted, Jaemin won't discredit the knowledge Jeno does have in the kitchen, but it's nowhere near what's presented in front of him.
It's the second time Jeno says this, but Jaemin's more aware when Jeno kisses his temple, muttering the words with his lips moving against his skin.
"Thank you, Jeno,"
Jeno is sitting up on the bed, back against the headboard and legs laid out. Jaemin sits up next to him, careful not to rustle the bed too much and tip over the tray of food on Jeno's lap.
Different bowls of different sizes are displayed on the tray; rice, stew, vegetables and beef. There's a cup of banana milk in the corner too, and Jaemin wonders if it could get any better than Lee Jeno.
It may be what they do every morning on Jaemin's birthday, but every year, Jaemin is reminded just why he loves Jeno so much.
"Eat with me," Jaemin says, picking up one pair of chopsticks and placing them in Jeno's hand. He takes the second pair into his own, balancing the tray between them. "You shouldn't skip breakfast."
"Who said I was gonna skip breakfast?" Jeno mumbles, nonetheless picking up rice and putting it into his mouth.
He'd rather let Jaemin get the first pick.
"Hm, you shouldn't," Jaemin continues, digging into his own food. He's looking more at the dishes than he is at Jeno, which gives the latter the perfect opportunity to openly stare at him without feeling too weird.
Jaemin, with all his pores, puffy eyes and swollen face.
Jaemin, with all his messy hair and rumpled pyjamas.
Jaemin, with all his chapped lips and oily nose.
When did Jeno start appreciating all of these little things again?
Instead of thinking about it, Jeno decides it’s smarter to move on from the internal conflict he's having.
"What do you wanna do today?"
Jaemin pretends to think, and Jeno pretends to wait. Jaemin always asks to do the same thing every year, simply asking to have Donghyuck and Mark over, just a little get together with his closest friends. He never really called Jeno's friends for his birthday, despite how close they all used to be. Or in Jaemin's head, how close they all are.
Jeno never said anything about it, but he's aware enough to piece together that it's because he keeps his birthday intimate.
"Donghyuck and Mark hyung coming over? They can bring food and we can get a cake," he says, saying the same thing he has for every birthday since they've started dating. "All I need is you guys. The people I love the most in this world."
Jaemin looks away from Jeno's face before he can see how stony it becomes, but Jeno guesses that's for the better anyway.
It didn't matter if he hadn't celebrated a birthday with Jaemin in months.
It didn't matter if he didn't know how to celebrate Jaemin's birthday anymore.
It didn't matter that having Donghyuck and Mark over would remind him of how... Simple things used to be.
It didn't matter because this is Jaemin's twenty fifth birthday, and although theoretically the responsibility doesn't fall on his shoulders anymore, he won't let anything ruin Jaemin's birthday.
Easier said than done, obviously.
Because Mark and Donghyuck swarm Jaemin in affection and hugs, to the point where it makes it impossible for Jeno to so much as look in Jaemin's direction for more than twelve seconds. Showering him in gifts and food, and Jeno is left to clean up the messes they make. Pick up the plates and discarded mugs, pick up the forks and wipe the table.
He doesn't mind though.
Because Jaemin shouldn't lift a finger on his birthday.
Jaemin shouldn't lift a finger ever, but if Jeno couldn't be there for that 'ever' , he'd ensure it now.
"Open your gifts!" He hears Donghyuck squeal, from where he's holed up in the kitchen. He didn't volunteer to do dish duty, he was going to tackle the task after Donghyuck and Mark had left, but alas, Donghyuck shoved him into the kitchen and handed him rubber gloves without a word before going back to where Jaemin was.
It didn't need to be spelled out.
It was obvious he wasn't necessarily welcome.
Jeno brushes the thought away, scrubbing plates with the sponge in his hand to get rid of the greasy residue.
"You almost done?"
Jeno turns his head briefly, although he knows he doesn't need to. He'd recognize that voice anywhere, anyway.
"Yeah, almost," he answers, looking down at the few plates and utensils he had to rinse the water off of. "What're you doing here?"
"I feel like I haven't seen you at all after breakfast," Jaemin whines, walking deeper into the kitchen. He stops when he's next to Jeno, wrapping his arms around the other's torso and perching his chin on Jeno's shoulder. "It's my birthday and you're hiding from me."
Jeno can't help but snort.
"You can blame Donghyuck for putting me on dish duty. And Mark for giving the stink eye for not cleaning up,"
Jeno wouldn't say that he should blame Donghyuck and Mark for deliberately keeping him busy so that he wouldn't be spending too much time with them, but he didn't need Jaemin to think like that right now.
"But don't worry. I'm done now, see?"
True to his words, Jaemin looks down in the sink to see that the dirty dishes are all gone, and when he looks back at Jeno, he's taking off his rubber gloves.
"Come on, I didn't want to open the presents without you," Jaemin smiles, dragging Jeno out of the kitchen by the arm.
He brings them both back to the living room where Mark and Donghyuck are conversing quietly, pausing when they see Jeno and Jaemin come into the living room.
They watch in relative silence as Jaemin sits down next to Jeno on the couch, immediately lacing their fingers together.
Mark looks away, Donghyuck can see from his peripheral, and he puts a smile on his face so as to not make the atmosphere weird.
Even if it was unspoken, the one thing all three of them in the room could agree on, was that there were to be no funny business today.
Not on Jaemin's birthday.
"Open mine first," Donghyuck says, eager as he pushes a box into Jaemin's hands.
Jaemin marvels at the pretty wrapping paper, yellow and floral, with hints of blue and purple here and there.
"Duckie, this paper is really nice. Where'd you get it?" He asks, looking up at Donghyuck expectantly.
Donghyuck knows the answer, of course he does. What he doesn't know is how to tell Jaemin.
He knew Jaemin would like this wrapping paper, how could he not? How could he not like it when it was what he wrapped Donghyuck's birthday gift in last year?
He made a joke about how jealous he was that he wasn't receiving a gift wrapped in this paper, so Donghyuck had been extra careful when unwrapping his gift, making sure to not tear the paper.
He always wanted to gift it back to Jaemin, and he assumed it'd be a nice surprise since he wouldn't remember.
The sparkle in Jaemin's eyes when he looks at the wrapping paper just proves Donghyuck's point.
But it's hard to choke the words out, and answer Jaemin without letting his emotions get the best of him.
Not on Jaemin's birthday.
"I can't really remember now," Donghyuck says apologetically, but one glance at Jeno's hard face and Mark's sympathetic expression lets him know that at least they know he's lying. "Just open your gift, you goof. It's just wrapping paper."
Donghyuck expected Jaemin to tear open paper like he normally does whenever he receives a gift, but when he gently peels the paper away, Donghyuck feels his heart break a little.
"Oh Donghyuck," Jaemin gasps once all the paper is out of the way and he sees the box underneath it. "This place is expensive."
Donghyuck shrugs, smiling gently as Jaemin opens the box.
He pulls out a photo frame, one that's heavier than normal frames. There also isn't a hollow in the center of this one, but a screen.
He puts the card aside on the coffee table for later, turning on the digital photo frame. As it turns on, a slideshow of memories starts to show up on the screen. Picture after picture, some dated back to years ago while others are as recent as a few months ago, if his blue hair in the pictures is anything to go by.
Pictures of him and Mark, arms around each other's shoulders. Pictures of him and Donghyuck, kissing each other's cheeks. Pictures of the three of them together, of Jeno with the three of them, of the seven of them.
They're all beautiful memories.
It's quiet, as Jaemin looks through the photos playing, and the last one that comes up before the cycle repeats is one of him and Jeno kissing under the rain.
He can hear Jeno suck in a sharp breath, but he doesn't really care for it, not when his heart feels a little bittersweet.
As if sensing his mood, Donghyuck speaks quietly.
"I know you don't like how you can't remember much right now," Donghyuck whispers, sending Jaemin a small smile. "But you loved taking pictures of everything, Jaem. Just look back on them and maybe your heart will feel lighter."
Despite not wanting it to, Donghyuck's voice cracks at the end of his sentence, and his vision starts to blur.
Seeing his best friend looking upset, Jaemin frowns, gently placing his gift down on the coffee table.
"I'm sorry," he frowns, and Jeno notices how he squeezes his hand tight. "I'm sorry I don't remember anything yet, it must suck, Donghyuck," he continues, his own voice starting to choke up. "I wish I could, I really do. And I'm trying but... It's just... It's not coming back."
Jaemin sounds defeated, and looks the part too, if the way he ducks his head down and cries silently is anything to go by.
"Oh Nana," Donghyuck cries, getting up from his seat and wrapping Jaemin in a tight hug. "I'm not mad at you. It's not your fault," he soothes through his own tears, patting Jaemin's back when the younger's hand comes to hold him around the waist. "It'll come back when it wants to Jaemin, no one's mad at you," he assures.
"I want to remember too," Jaemin whispers, burying his head into Donghyuck's shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"Don't say sorry," Jeno cuts in, sounding firm. "You didn't do anything wrong."
Mark stares at Jeno for a second longer than he normally does, before also adding something in.
"It'll be okay, Jaemin-ah."
Ten minutes pass before Donghyuck and Jaemin calm down enough to laugh their tears off, and Mark takes that as his cue to hand Jaemin his gift.
It's not wrapped in a box like Donghyuck's, in a bag instead. There's decorative tissue paper keeping what's inside hidden, and Jaemin pulls the card out first before removing the tissue paper.
Everyone watches in silence, as Jaemin pulls out a rather large quilt.
"It's so lovely," Jaemin smiles, eyes scanning over the multiple little squares. The more squares he looks at, the more apparent it becomes. "Are these your baby clothes? My baby clothes?"
Smiling, Mark nods his head.
He looks a bit bashful when he looks at Jaemin, but he's still smiling.
"You're my brother Jaemin, doesn't matter if it's by blood or not. I know sometimes you second guess it, but you don't have to. We're the same family, Jaemin. We're family."
"Mark hyung," Jaemin says tearfully, eyes watering as he gets up to hug his brother. "I love you."
Mark smiles, but he knows Jaemin can't see it.
"I love you too, Jaemin."
When Jaemin gets back to his seat, he carefully folds the quilt away, giving it a final fond gaze as he puts it back into the bag.
"I love it," he mutters under his breath, but Mark manages to catch it, feeling happy with himself about his gift.
"Here," Jeno mumbles, handing Jaemin a single, small box wrapped in plain red wrapping paper.
It may be the smallest gift out of the three, but Jaemin's smile is the widest for this one.
Just like the others, he takes his time, gently unwrapping the paper and opening the brand name-less box, opening his mouth in shock once he sees what's inside.
"You may be confused, we’re past that step I guess," Jeno mumbles, turning to face Jaemin completely. Whether it was to tune Donghyuck and Mark out, he doesn't know. All he knows is that he doesn't want any distractions.
"A little," Jaemin admits, but he still smiles down at the gift, admiring how pretty it is. "What is it for?"
"It's a promise ring."
Jaemin can't hide the confusion on his face anymore, tilting his head to the side as he looks up at Jeno with a furrow between his eyebrows and pout on his lips.
Just like Jeno remembers.
Before Jaemin can ask the question that Jeno sees swimming in his eyes, 'Promising what?' , he speaks.
"Sometimes, things won't always be easy," Jeno starts, looking down at the ring in the box.
His matching one feels like it's burning a hole in his pocket.
"We're gonna argue. We're gonna fight. We're gonna second guess things, if it gets really bad.
"But I'm gonna love you, Jaemin. I'm gonna love you every second of it because I feel like that's my only purpose in life. I may have graduated university and I may be on the way to becoming a lawyer, but it doesn't feel like anything compared to loving you.
"This is a promise, Na Jaemin. A promise that no matter what, no matter anything, anything at all , I'm going to love you. Whether it be your secrets or mine, your fault or mine, your heart or mine, I'm going to love you for the rest of my life."
Jeno's eyes flicker to Donghyuck and Mark briefly, Donghyuck looking at him, speechless, and Mark looking at him, unimpressed.
He pushes their gaze out of his mind, because this is about Jaemin.
And nothing will ruin Jaemin's birthday.
"These last few months have really shown me, Jaemin. I don't think I can truly be happy without you."
When Donghyuck and Mark leave, albeit reluctantly, if the looks they shoot Jeno is anything to go by, Jaemin hugs Jeno tight.
"I didn't get to say anything to you after your gift," he whispers into Jeno's shoulder. "But I love you, Jeno. I don't think anything can change that."
Jeno doesn't know how to tell Jaemin that that did change, at some point.
With a heavy heart, Jeno’s arms come to hold Jaemin close to him, pressing their bodies so close together that not even air could pass through them.
Jeno loves Jaemin.
Jeno doesn’t think he’s ever stopped loving Jaemin.
Aggression, anger, and frustration were all secondary emotions. Maybe they all stemmed from him feeling incompetent, that he couldn’t salvage their relationship in time. His months of numbness rooted from not knowing when or how their relationship turned sour.
Jeno walked away before he could try to piece them together one last time.
Because Jaemin said he didn’t want him.
Jaemin said they were over, and even then, when it felt like an arrow had pierced through his heart, Jeno wouldn’t dare upset Jaemin more, intentionally.
But saying it like that made it seem like he didn’t have any faults. It made it seem like he was the victim.
But he isn’t.
He’s not, because they both are.
“Jaemin, I mean it,” Jeno whispers, right against the younger’s ear. “I promise you, I love you. No matter what happens, I love you. There’s a thousand things that may make you think otherwise, so I can’t, and I won’t make you promise me anything back. But if things ever turn for the worse, I’ll just always need you to know that I love you.”
“I don’t know where this is coming from,” Jaemin says, equally as quiet, not moving from his spot in Jeno’s arms, against Jeno’s shoulder. His heart pounds at Jeno’s words, fluttering as a swarm of butterflies attacks his stomach. He always feels like this around Jeno, and he never wants it to stop. “But I love you Jeno. I want to promise you that I’ll always love you.”
You can’t, Jeno thinks, squeezing his eyes shut and urging his emotions to get the best of him. You don’t know it yet but you can’t always love me.
Not on Jaemin’s birthday.
After that, it’s a quiet night of getting themselves ready for bed, fondness in their gazes and promises lingering in their touches.
They don’t have the best track record with promises, but Jeno forgets about that for one night.
Once they’ve crawled into bed together, and Jaemin is fast asleep in his arms, Jeno lets himself succumb to the thoughts that have been haunting him ever since Mark and Donghyuck had left.
You can’t always love me. I think you want to, right now, but I know better than to take your words to heart. It’s not your fault you don’t know. But when you remember, maybe then I’ll be ready to finally let you go.
It doesn’t make sense, living happily without you by my side, but if it’s what will make you happy, then I don’t mind, Jaemin-ah.
Maybe I’m being selfish, but you’ve been forgetting everything for the past two months so please... Let me forget everything just for tonight.
Jeno presses a kiss to Jaemin’s forehead, lips trembling in an attempt to keep his sobs from coming out of his mouth.
You can’t always love me.
Because when you remember, you’ll remember you didn’t love me when you wanted to break up.
"Honey, look here~"
If he hadn't been used to it, Jeno would've been annoyed. But it's Jaemin and he is used to it, so he simply turns to the camera with a lazy smile.
The lens is closer to his face than he thought, but it's not unwelcome. Jaemin snaps three photos before pulling back, a satisfied smile on his lips.
It's a sunny day, but it's not too hot, which was a shocker for August weather. The clouds have also made somewhat of an appearance, casting a light shadow over the park they've found themselves in.
The flowers tickle his cheek, where he's laying on the grass, and the sky is a clear blue, behind Jaemin's head. He looks like an ice lolly , Jeno thinks, blue against blue. Sweet, just like Jaemin.
"Oh, Jeno-ya, you're so handsome," Jaemin sighs, eyes still trained onto the digital display screen on the camera.
"You're more handsome," he counters, just to watch the way Jaemin's eyes light up and cheeks darken with a red flush.
Jaemin smiles, gently placing his camera down on the grass near their picnic basket, laying face to face next to Jeno. They're noses are only centimetres apart, and while there's a field of flowers behind Jeno and the expanse of the sky above him, Jaemin thinks that Jeno is the only sight worth looking at.
Jeno smiles, heart fluttering in his chest.
Giggling, Jaemin throws a leg over Jeno's hip, throwing the latter flat onto his back and sitting up straddling his thighs.
Jeno thinks Jaemin looks like a goddess, sun shining behind him and cheeks perked up in a smile.
"Stay still," he whispers, hands stretching out to reach for Jaemin's camera. He doesn't understand focus, lighting or things like that as good as Jaemin does, and he's rather intimidated by all the buttons and dials. So he leaves the settings on whatever Jaemin had them set as, and simply brings the camera up to his face, looking through the lens to capture Jaemin right in the middle, glowing in the afternoon sunlight. Satisfied, Jeno brings the camera down. "Beautiful."
Jaemin doesn't say anything, only takes his camera out of Jeno's hands and puts it back near the basket. He continues to pull Jeno up by the shoulders, wrapping his arms around his neck once he's sitting up.
Wordlessly, Jeno's hands come to hold Jaemin around his waist, and at the same time, they both lean in until their lips meet in the middle.
A soft press of a kiss at first, until Jaemin tilts his head to the side and Jeno presses his fingers harder into Jaemin's skin. Then it's Jaemin's tongue against the seam of Jeno's lips and Jeno's hands underneath Jaemin's t-shirt.
Despite the sun shining down on them, the heat from their bodies is what makes them sweat, until Jaemin breaks away for oxygen. Jeno doesn't let him get too far though, kissing Jaemin's cheeks and forehead, peppering kisses down along his jaw, chin and neck. He can smell the younger's cologne and taste a hint of his sweat, but it's all so Jaemin that he couldn't bring himself to care.
It's all the love of his life.
"Jeno," Jaemin gasps, Jeno's tongue probing out to dip into the crevices of his collarbones. "The fruit is gonna get too warm," he points out, lolling his head onto Jeno's shoulder, curling in on the other's body.
"Okay," Jeno whispers, pulling his lips off of Jaemin's skin, landing a final kiss to his cheek before leaning back. "Let's eat some fruit."
So they do just that, Jaemin getting off of Jeno's lap until they're sitting side by side, a bowl of cut up kiwis, mangos, pineapple, apples, watermelon and berries between them.
It's relatively quiet between them, save for the occasional appreciative hum when the cool fruit slides down their throats to cool off their systems.
"Let's have a fruit table at our wedding," Jaemin comments, staring at the flowers around them instead of Jeno. Maybe because he's shy, maybe because he's unsure, but for once, Jeno minds Jaemin not looking at him when talking about their supposed wedding.
This is the one time Jeno doesn't let himself feel the looming reality behind Jaemin's words, and simply indulges the boy next to him. He can keep all his thoughts to himself, finding no reason to take them out on Jaemin, who's rather innocent up until now.
"Yeah?" Jeno simply asks, poking the prongs of his fork into a mango cube. "With a chocolate fountain?"
He doesn't have to look at Jaemin to know he's smiling.
"Yeah. A chocolate fountain."
Within the next half hour or so, through murmured conversations and gentle touches, all the fruits have been eaten. Jeno is the one who puts the bowl and forks back into their basket, taking out water bottles right after.
“Jeno, that cloud looks like a frog,” Jaemin notices, pointing a finger up at the sky. Jeno tries to follow where Jaemin is pointing, but for the life of him, can’t see a cloud that looks like a frog.
So, he settles on saying the next best thing.
“You look like a frog,”
Jaemin scowls, as he should, offended as he looks at Jeno.
“You’re marrying this frog, so I wouldn’t be too proud if I were you,” he retaliates, satisfied as he tilts his head up to look at the clouds again.
“I guess that just means I have a thing for frogs,” Jeno sighs, too enchanted to realize the weirdness of his words. It takes a few seconds, but when it dawns on him, he scrunches his nose. “Okay no, never mind, that sounds gross.”
Jaemin laughs, still looking up at the sky, amused by Jeno’s antics. His laugh could rival all the bright things laying in the field around them; the flowers, the sunshine, the small pond and even the butterflies. Because Jaemin’s laugh is more than all those, it’s more beautiful than it all.
“Hey Nana,” he calls, reaching a hand out and cupping Jaemin’s cheek. It diverts Jaemin’s attention solely to him, and the younger hums, eyes gazing over all of Jeno’s facial features. “I love you.”
Even if it’s for a day, even if it’s for a few hours, Jeno will let himself indulge in the feeling of getting to be with Jaemin so freely again. He’ll indulge in getting to tell Jaemin his confessions this easily, to kiss him this easily. He didn’t know until he got the chance to, but he missed the warmth of Jaemin everywhere around him. He’s missed the presence of Jaemin whenever he’s so much as in the same room as him. He missed his taste and his smell, and everything about him.
So even if it’s only for a while, even if it’s temporary, even if it’s under a lie, Jeno will let himself have this.
Because underneath it all, this is the only way he can love Jaemin.
“I love you too,” Jaemin grins, moving forward and kissing Jeno. He’s smiling into their kiss, to the point where it’s more teeth than anything else, but Jeno can tell it makes Jaemin so happy, with giggles escaping his lips between them, so Jeno guesses he doesn’t mind all the teeth either.
Because he’s come to realize again that, more than anything, Jaemin’s happiness directly affects his own.
“Ice cream?” Jeno mumbles against Jaemin’s lips, immediately earning another bright smile from the younger.
“Yeah, let’s get ice cream,” he agrees, voice low in a whisper. He looks up at Jeno’s eyes under his eyelashes, unable to stop his hand from making its way to Jeno’s waist, holding him close and pressing a proper kiss on his lips.
He’s enthusiastic, refusing to part and coming back for more every time he catches his breath. The continuous small kisses turn into longer and softer ones, with Jaemin’s grip tightening on Jeno’s waist and his eyebrows furrowing with all he wants to put into the kiss.
“Excited?” Jeno chuckles when he finally manages to put some distance between them.
“Just happy you’re with me.”
Jeno’s smile softens, planting one last kiss on Jaemin’s forehead.
“I’m happy you’re with me too, Jaemin-ah.”
Jaemin doesn’t want to think of the implications of those words, he could’ve very much not been here right now, if things a few months ago played out differently. He doesn’t know how often Jeno thinks about it, but he hopes it isn’t too often. He can’t deny that sometimes it haunts him, the fact that so much was on the line, but he's somewhat glad that he can’t remember too much.
If it’s possible, Jaemin doesn’t want to leave Jeno’s side ever again.
With that thought in mind, Jeno helps him off of the grass, and he picks up their picnic basket too. It’s only around 7:00 in the evening, and the cool breeze shifts to something the tiniest note chillier as they walk hand in hand towards the car.
“You’re a bit burned,” Jaemin notes when they’re both inside the car, Jeno in the driver’s seat this time. The air conditioning is on, blowing cool wind into the tiny space. “Just on your nose and arms,” he continues.
“Oops,” Jeno answers, driving out of the parking spot and parking lot. “Maybe you’ll have to kiss it better.”
Jaemin smiles to himself, amused. He doesn’t remember Jeno being this clingy before, but he doesn’t mind it. Sure, Jeno had his days where he demanded more affection than usual, but those days have started to become everyday.
But again, Jaemin doesn’t mind, he’d give Jeno all the kisses he wants.
It’s a silent drive to the ice cream shop, with the radio playing gentle music. Jeno’s hand rests in Jaemin’s two hands, the younger playing with his fingers and tickling his palm.
“Ow— Jaemin!” Jeno whines, turning to glare at the younger boy a split second. “Stop cracking my knuckles.”
Jaemin giggles, it’s a melodious sound, if Jeno’s being honest, but relents and turns to simply holding Jeno’s hand in his. He presses his thumb to the pulse on Jeno’s wrist, not too sure why. He’s always done it, something about it just seems comforting.
They arrive shortly after, Jeno parking the car and the two exit. Almost like an instinct, Jeno moves to hold Jaemin by his waist, just something he’s always done.
Much like Jaemin, he doesn’t know why.
Chuckling because they’ve spoken at the same time, Jeno and Jaemin nod their heads either way.
Just like always, Jeno knows that Jaemin’s favourite ice cream is rocky road, and Jaemin knows that Jeno’s favourite ice cream is mint chocolate.
They order, Jaemin pays, and they make their way to sit on the picnic benches outside the front of the shop. It’s still relatively bright outside, the sun having yet to fully say goodbye. There’s an orange hue that falls onto everything, including Jaemin’s face, illuminating his side profile and giving him an ethereal glow.
An angel, just like always.
“—But I don’t understand why, because it wasn’t in the original colour palette.” Jaemin finishes his story with a sigh, putting his spoon away in his now empty ice cream cup.
He’s complaining about a client, there’s always a rotten one thrown in the bunch, and Jeno pretends that he’s able to sympathize. He doesn’t understand interior design and all that, much less the problems that come with it. The only thing he can somewhat understand is a bitchy client. Jeno’s seen his fair share of one too many of those.
“But you still got the job done?” He asks, to which Jaemin shrugs and nods.
“I gotta get paid,” he admits cheekily, stealing a scoop of Jeno’s ice cream from his cup. His face scrunches up in distaste. “Yuck.”
Rolling his eyes, Jeno sighs and eats the last bite of his ice cream.
“You do this every time. You know the flavour is not gonna change just because you want it to,” he lightly chastises, earning a pout from Jaemin. Jeno has to hold himself back from cooing out loud, having a feeling that Jaemin wouldn’t necessarily appreciate it right now.
“A man can dream,” the younger settles on saying. Jaemin sighs, perching his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his palm. “Tell me Jeno,” he starts, staring right into the older boy’s eyes. “Blue and silver? Or grey and gold?”
Perplexed, and slightly taken aback, Jeno pauses before answering.
He doesn’t know what Jaemin is talking about, and tries to quickly wrack his brain for what he could be alluding. He comes up with nothing though, and settles on Jaemin simply asking him which colour palette he preferred. Sure, it was odd and completely out of left field, but Jeno guesses there could’ve been worse questions to be asked in the world.
“Grey and gold is a nice combination,” he says, nodding.
For some reason, Jaemin grins brightly at the revelation of Jeno’s answer.
“I think so too,” he says softly, an almost dreamy look in his eyes. He looks particularly floaty, and where Jaemin always had doe-like eyes that held galaxies in them, today his eyes look like they’re housing all the clouds in the universe.
“What’s it for? Design inspiration?” He asks, mirroring Jaemin’s position, elbows on the table and chin held in his palms.
“Something like that...” Jaemin whispers. “A colour scheme for our wedding.”
Jeno stops breathing for a few seconds, unable to catch himself before his easygoing expression falls off of his face.
Unfortunately, Jaemin seems to notice.
“You always do this,” he frowns, sitting up straighter and putting his hands in his lap. Jeno doesn’t have to look at the younger’s hands to know his thumbs are twiddling themselves, as it’s a nervous tick of his. “You always freeze whenever I mention the wedding.”
Jeno feels his throat dry out, at a loss of what to say.
For obvious reasons, mentions of the wedding slap him across the face and remind him of what the hell he’s doing, living in a house while paying rent for an apartment and wearing a promise and engagement ring when his fingers have been bare for months.
It’s easy to ignore, when no one brings it up. It’s easy to ignore when it’s not there, obviously. And Jeno can’t blame Jaemin for mentioning it, how could he? He was excited and he didn’t have a reason to stay shut about it.
In present time, Jeno guesses he took too long to answer, watching as Jaemin looks to the side and wraps his arms around himself.
In the quietest voice, Jaemin whispers,
“Do you not want to marry me?”
“Don’t think that,” Jeno immediately denies, firm with his tone. “Jaemin, I really want to marry you. It makes me happy to know that you’re going to be my husband one day,” he assures, swallowing the bit of guilt which crawls up his throat at his words. He doesn’t need to think about it now. “Don’t second guess it ever, okay? You’re the only boy I want to marry.”
Reluctantly, Jaemin nods, and looks back at Jeno. His lips are still pressed into a thin line, but his eyes are a bit unsure. Jeno wants to fix that.
“Then why do you... Do that ?” He asks defeatedly, gnawing on his bottom lip.
Another nervous tick.
“It just catches me off guard,” he explains. “I still can’t believe I get to marry you.”
It’s not a lie per se, this is what he used to act like before too. Every time Jaemin used to mention the wedding, it’d take him a few seconds to remember that this was reality and that it really was happening. Although it wasn’t the case anymore, he can’t necessarily explain that to Jaemin.
“We’ve been engaged for two years,” Jaemin sighs, and as he says it, it dawns on him.
A panicked look washes over his face, and now he looks scared when he next speaks.
“Is it because I can’t remember? Did we already plan it all and I don’t remember any of it?”
Jeno feels his heart break a little in his chest.
“Jaemin,” he starts, reaching across the table and taking one of the younger’s hands in his own hand. “Baby, please stop psyching yourself out like this. I’m not mad at you for not remembering, you can’t help it,” he assures, tone sincere as he tries his best to convey to Jaemin that he’s being honest. “I’m just so glad that you’re here right now.”
Jeno ignores how the words feel funny in his heart, knowing he wouldn’t have really meant them if this was months ago.
“I really want to,” Jaemin pleads, hands squeezing Jeno’s tightly. “I really want to remember but it’s just— It’s not — I don’t know Jeno,” he frustratedly admits, head dipping down in shame. “I don’t like it. I don’t know.”
Jeno gets up from his seat, sitting down next to Jaemin instead. He wraps an arm around his shoulder and holds him close, keeping their joined hands pressed against their hearts, just a little something for reassurance.
“It’s okay,” Jeno shushes, feeling Jaemin shudder against his chest. He kisses the younger’s forehead, letting Jaemin rest his head on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Jaemin whimpers, curling more in on himself. “I’m sorry it’s not coming back.”
Jeno sighs, but doesn’t say anything else for a while. He lets Jaemin calm down, breathing coming back to normal and no longer hiding himself from Jeno.
“You know,” Jeno starts, looking into the younger’s eyes once he moves his head from his shoulder. “Even if you never do remember... I still love you. I still want to marry you, and I still think you’re amazing, sweetheart.”
Jaemin shakes his head, just a bit in awe of how magical Jeno’s words sound. They sound like something he could’ve only ever dreamed of hearing, but listening to Jeno now, it makes him realize that Jeno is a dream.
His dream came true.
“I love you,” Jaemin simply pouts, kissing the older boy’s cheek.
“I love you too. Wanna look at the stars now?” He asks with a grin, knowing that the little lights in the sky always brightens the younger’s mood.
It was already in their itinerary anyway.
“I already have my star with me,” Jaemin smiles cheekily, earning laughter from Jeno. Either way though, he agrees.
So they make a quick drive back to the house, putting the picnic basket away and heading to their backyard. Similar to the park, Jaemin and Jeno lay down next to each other, looking up at the sky which is now illuminated by thousands upon thousands of tiny stars.
“Make a wish,” Jeno teases.
“Don’t have one,” Jaemin admits blissfully, fully immersed into the beauty of the sky.
Jeno turns his head to look at him, fully immersed in the beauty of Jaemin , and finds it hard to breathe at just how breathtaking he is.
If Jaemin feels Jeno’s haze on him, he doesn’t say anything.
“There’s nothing more I could want,” Jaemin continues softly, smiling up at the sky. “I’m happy, Jeno-ya. So happy.”
Jaemin wakes up extra early, on September 16th, bubbles erupting in his stomach when he steps out of the bedroom.
It's their anniversary.
Jeno is still asleep, tucked away in their blanket and hugging the pillow Jaemin used replaced himself with. Maybe it's not as warm as his body was, but Jeno was dead to the world whenever he was asleep.
It's with tiny and quiet steps that Jaemin makes his way to their kitchen, surveying their pantry and refrigerator. Maybe it would've been smarter to plan out what to cook for breakfast the night or day before, but here Jaemin is, trying to make sense of what he can cook using eggs, butter, meat and sugar.
Maybe he'll just make waffles.
Admittedly, he doesn't like waffles as much, and Jeno likes pancakes more, but they had pancakes two days ago and waffles come in a close second for Jeno, so he guesses it's the right decision.
He quickly looks up a recipe, bringing out the waffle iron and plugging it in. He takes out the oil spray to grease the iron with, and a mixing bowl for the batter.
Thankfully, every ingredient the recipe calls for is available, although some of it is tucked deep inside the pantry and on the brink of being expired. It isn't though, which gives Jaemin enough assurance to measure out the required quantity and add it to the mixing bowl.
It doesn't take long to make the batter, but now Jaemin is trying to figure out how to make the perfect waffle every time. He doesn't use the waffle iron often, and he needs everything to be perfect. Nothing can go wrong today, and he won't let anything go wrong.
It takes two burned waffles for Jaemin to get the timing and temperature right, but after that it's a smooth sail to eight perfectly golden waffles displayed on a plate. Jaemin's kind of proud of them, but he has to remind himself that it doesn't end there.
Jeno likes fruit, chocolate and whipped cream with his waffles, and despite all that, he has the audacity to say Jaemin is the one who has a bigger sweet tooth between the two of them.
Nonetheless, he cuts the strawberries in halves, washes blueberries, and slices up kiwis and bananas. He serves each fruit in their own individual bowl, and takes out the whipped cream and chocolate syrup from the fridge.
He guesses he should fry up some bacon to cut through all the sweetness, and he decides to do just that when it nears the time for Jeno to wake up.
Jeno always wakes up to the smell of bacon, and this only further strengthens why Jaemin calls him a puppy.
Just about when everything is plated and set on the table, Jaemin hears footsteps padding into the kitchen.
He turns around after he places the final glass onto the table, to see Jeno gaping at the display in front of him.
"Happy anniversary!" Jaemin greets, opening his arms up for a hug.
With slow and somewhat groggy steps, Jeno walks into Jaemin's arms and reciprocates his hug, giving him a good morning kiss when he pulls away.
"Happy anniversary," Jeno greets back, minding clearing up and becoming more aware. He smiles lovingly at Jaemin, who beams under the older boy's eyes. "I love you."
Jaemin has taken notice of Jeno constantly throwing around that statement every chance he got, and it was different from the Jeno he remembered. The Jeno who was awkward with his feelings and took a really long time to accept the big confession slipping from his lips. The Jeno he remembers doesn't add 'I love you' to the end of every other thing he says, but Jaemin would be lying if he said it didn't melt his heart. He also sometimes thinks that maybe Jeno had simply been like this for a while, and that he just couldn't remember it.
"I love you too," Jaemin grins, pecking Jeno's lips again shortly before leading him to the table. "I made us waffles and bacon!"
"You're the best, did you know that?" Jeno sighs, excitedly sitting down on a chair. Jaemin sits down adjacent to him, and shrugs.
"I may have heard it here and there."
They then continue to eat comfortably after that, conversation flowing easy between them as they finish their breakfast.
"Jeno-ya," Jaemin jumps when they're both done eating, grabbing Jeno's hand over the table. "Let's go ride our bikes. And have dinner somewhere nice," he says, and like always, his eyes are too sparkly for Jeno to say no. How is he expected to, when Jaemin looks at him like that?
Jaemin's smiles and galaxy eyes have always been Jeno's weakness, and if the younger boy does know that fact, he uses it to his advantage all the time. But Jeno could never bring himself to be mad, not when Jaemin was just so cute.
"Is that what you'd like?" Jeno asks, running his thumb over Jaemin's knuckles. The latter nods enthusiastically, so Jeno simply smiles back just as bright. "Then that's what we'll do."
Jaemin leaps up happily, pressing a wet and sticky kiss, courtesy of the chocolate syrup, onto Jeno's cheek.
"Clean up while I shower," is all Jaemin says before skipping away to their bedroom, deaf to the scoff Jeno lets out behind him.
He doesn't mind though, easily picking up their empty dishes and dumping them all in the sink. He puts on rubber gloves and gets to washing, lost in his thoughts when he listens closely to the sound of the water streaming from the tap.
He sighs, letting the smile fall off of his face.
What is he doing?
What is he doing, celebrating five years with Jaemin when they've been broken up?
What is he doing, celebrating five years with Jaemin when the latter can't remember half of their relationship?
What is he doing, celebrating five years with Jaemin when they broke off their engagement?
What is he doing, living a lie?
Jeno doesn't like to think about it that way, never likes to think about him living a lie. But just because he doesn't think about it doesn't mean it's not true, especially when whenever he's left alone with his thoughts, it's all he can think of.
He's not supposed to be in this house right now, washing the dishes as Jaemin showers upstairs to prepare himself for a day spent together. Jeno isn't supposed to be spending anymore days with Jaemin in the first place.
He doesn't want to be this dampened over their supposed anniversary together, but he can't help but feel more guilty than he has in months over this. He can pretend that the ugly feeling isn't clawing away at his heart for as long as he wants, but it only makes the inevitable pain harder to bear, just like now.
It's hard to be so enthusiastic about a date he shouldn't be going on.
It's hard to be so enthusiastic about a day he shouldn't be celebrating.
It's hard to be so enthusiastic about a boy he shouldn't be with.
And it isn't a sacrifice at all on his end, but he pushes it all aside. Because Jaemin deserves to be enthusiastic and feel happy, to be overjoyed and to bubble with love.
Jeno used to take immense pride in being the one to provide Jaemin with all those feelings, but now it just feels superficial when he thinks about it too much.
Now it just feels like a ticking time bomb, Jeno just waiting for Jaemin to regain his memories and remember all the nastiness of their relationship.
Jeno's just waiting for Jaemin to see all their downs, all their lows and all their arguments. It isn't always the marshmallows and fluff Jeno is trying his hardest to provide right now, granted it's easier after he acknowledged how his heart hadn't stopped beating for Jaemin.
And he thinks his heart will always beat for Jaemin. It doesn't mean that Jaemin's has to beat for him too, but he'll always appreciate the times when it did.
So for now, he'll savour Jaemin's heart beating for him for the last time.
It's not too hot in the September weather, rather pleasant instead. The wind blows cool and refreshing air in their faces as they bike on a trail, even when they struggle a bit with going uphill.
It takes them both back to their college days, when they had a bit more free time to simply lay back and go on bike rides multiple times a week. Even if they were short and just a lap around campus, they were always cherished as time alone for the two of them. It was an inexpensive and solely personal date, and Jaemin can't even count how many times they've biked together on all appendages.
Right now, Jeno is ahead of him and waiting at a fork in the trail, smirking when Jaemin catches up to him, panting.
"My quads aren't made for this anymore," Jaemin groans, stepping off of his bike for a minute to stretch his legs.
"You're making it sound like you're older than you are," Jeno giggles, clapping Jaemin on the shoulder. "We can have a nice bath when we get home if you'll need it," he offers, already mounting his bike again.
Jaemin internally groans at how short their break was, but then registers Jeno's words.
"We?" He asks.
"Sure. Why not?"
Jeno winks at him before speeding off, leaving Jaemin to splutter at his audacity before rapidly mounting his own bike and pedalling after him.
"You suck, Lee Jeno!" Jaemin yells to him, halfway cut off by his laughs as he sees Jeno cast a glance at him over his shoulder.
Jeno sticks out his tongue, and oddly enough, Jaemin feels his heart swell.
They finish their lap around the trail and then go for another before they're really burnt out, slowly riding side by side as they make their way back to the where they parked the car.
After loading their bikes on properly, Jaemin turns to Jeno and gives him a big, long, and sweaty hug.
"Jaemin," Jeno groans, attempting to push the younger away. But Jaemin stands his ground, simply tightening his arms around the other. "Seriously, you're hot and sweaty. This is uncomfortable."
"I love you,"
Jeno sighs, unable to fight the stupid smile which crawls onto his face.
Jaemin's confessions, Jaemin's hugs, Jaemin's smiles, it's all detrimental. They all push past whatever Jeno had tried to put up around his heart, every time.
It's not even like Jeno doesn't hear him say this a lot, he hears it all the time, even more so with how frequently Jeno himself has been saying the three words.
But it still renders him useless, pathetic, because all it takes is for Jaemin to easily say three words, and he's putty in the younger's palms.
Maybe that's the scary part about when the truth will be discovered. Jeno will end up doing whatever Jaemin wants, when the time comes.
Just like he did when they broke all those months ago.
It feels like centuries ago, when he looks back on it now, but he knows it hasn't even been a year since they've split.
Maybe time is passing by slower than usual because of the fact that Jeno is pausing his life, pausing the routine he's crafted for himself within the six months they haven't been together.
It feels like a pause. Like a stop to everything he'd forced himself to learn.
The thing about the pause button though, is that eventually, you'll have to press play.
And when Jaemin presses play, Jeno...
Jeno doesn't know what he'll do.
"I love you too,"
It's easy to say because it's the truth. It's easy to reciprocate because he's not lying about how he feels.
Jeno knows loving Jaemin will be easy, no matter what happens to them.
But holding him won't.
Kissing him won't.
Going on bike dates with him won't.
Jeno remembers a time when their relationship was anything but easy. A time where their dynamic was everything except easy.
He wonders if it would've been possibly to be together this easily, if they hadn't split ways.
Dinner is a simple affair, mainly consisting of a restaurant that they both frequent and are fond of. It's a lovely meal and even lovelier time together, if both of them were being honest.
The only thing that was slightly less than lovely was the way Jaemin had taken his hands over the table, similar to what he did that morning, and given him a whole speech on promising to stay together until they're both old and wrinkly.
Jeno wants that with Jaemin too, but he doesn't think Jaemin knows that his promise will be broken sooner or later.
This time, it's hard to put on a smile. It's hard to push the corners of his lips up and nod his head to every cotton filled promise Jaemin had made, to look him in the eyes when he spewed sap into his ears.
But he takes them all, because if he listens closely enough to just the sound of Jaemin's voice, if he listens closely enough to drown out all his thoughts, he can hear a future.
Jeno hears a future where they're together and not on different islands because of the lies between them.
A future where they're both paying mortgage again and where the cats never left.
A future where they never took the rings off their fingers.
The way Jaemin promises this future, he makes it sound like it's within their reach. He doesn't make it sound like it's far away, he doesn't make it sound like there's mountains to cross before they can achieve this future.
He makes it seem easy.
And Jeno is reminded, once again, that loving Jaemin is easy.
It's the easiest thing in the world to him.
Perhaps that's also why it was so easy for them to fall apart too.
Jeno promises, because he does. He wants a future with Jaemin, and if circumstances were different, maybe they’d be able to achieve this future.
Jeno promises, because even if he may not be able to keep it for too long, it'll always rest in his heart.
Jeno promises, because he knows the end is coming soon. He can't lie to himself to say that Jaemin is never going to gain his memories back, because although the possibility is there, Jeno can feel something telling him that soon, it'll be time to let go.
But he doesn't want to let go.
This time, Jeno doesn't want to let go of Jaemin's hand, or Jaemin's heart, or Jaemin's love.
Jeno doesn't want to let go of Jaemin.
Jaemin promises because he doesn't know any better.
Jeno promises because they're the only things he can hold onto.
After splitting the bill for dinner and making their way out the front doors, Jaemin grabs Jeno's hand as they make their way back to the car. They had to park a street down because of the limited parking space, but they both agreed that the food was worth it.
"Did you know that—"
Jaemin doesn't register much after Jeno yells his name, only a ringing and painful sensation in the back of his head.
He registers Jeno's arms around him a second later, and then that he's pressed against a post at an intersection.
"You have to check both ways before you cross Jaemin, Christ," Jeno says shakily, willing his heart to stop thumping madly in his chest.
Although he wasn't there when Jaemin got into his first car accident, this one would've been similar, if it weren't for Jeno seeing that the light hadn't turned green yet and pulling Jaemin back.
Admittedly, it could've gone smoother with Jeno being a bit more careful himself and preventing Jaemin from hitting the back of his head against the stoplight post, but all that he really cares about right now is that fact that Jaemin is safe in his arms.
However, the lack of response is worrying Jeno.
"Baby, are you okay?"
" Don't call me baby."
Jeno can tell from the tone of Jaemin's voice, that his bad feeling had been right. It was to happen sooner or later, and it happened sooner.
Jeno doesn't know if he's grateful for that or not.
"Get your fucking hands off of me!" Jaemin yells, and Jeno, out of fear of causing a scene, immediately unwraps his arms from Jaemin, finally seeing his face.
His angry face.
The face he's been so used to seeing smiling and pouting, the face he's been so used to seeing giggling and laughing, the face he's been so used to seeing everyday for the past few months.
That exact face, which isn't smiling at him anymore, which isn't staring adoringly at him anymore, which isn't holding the galaxies in his eyes anymore.
Instead, Jaemin looks angry.
And Jeno is reminded of why he hated to see Jaemin angry, once again.
"Jaemin, please ,"
Jeno doesn't know what he's pleading for. Maybe for a chance to be heard out, maybe for a chance to explain, maybe for a chance to deal with this all before it gets blown out of proportion.
Or maybe it's been blown out of proportion since day one.
Maybe it's been out of proportion since Jeno moved back in, since Jeno started sleeping next to Jaemin again, since Jeno started falling back into the old routine.
What was he thinking?
Holding Jaemin close in bed, kissing him in the evenings and slipping another ring onto his finger.
Why did he ever think this would work?
Why did he ever think happiness was promised when the only reason they're back together is because of a lie?
"You lied to me," Jaemin seethes, looking at Jeno with something the latter had never seen in his eyes. "You all lied to me! You put your hands on me when you knew we were over, you slept in my bed, you lived in my house!" Jaemin lists off, growing more and more infuriated with each word.
Jeno gulps, at a loss of what to say.
He can't defend himself.
He did do all those things.
And he doesn't think Jaemin is in the right headspace to listen to his reasoning, to listen to how he felt like he didn't have another choice. He doesn't think Jaemin will listen to him if he tries to explain how emotionally vulnerable he was when he woke up from surgery. He doesn’t think Jaemin will listen to him when he tells him that the pictures were still up, that his desk was still intact, that the wedding invite was still displayed.
So he doesn't.
Because as humiliating as it is, Jeno would rather take all of Jaemin's accusations right here, right now, rather than try to justify himself and distress Jaemin even further.
That could wait for another time.
If there'll even ever be another time.
"Who gave you the right?" Jaemin spits, eyes dark as he shifts his gaze to Jeno's hand, which remains unmoving at his side. His eyes catch his ring glistening in the setting sunlight, and he laughs humorlessly. "Did you think a new promise would fix everything? 'No matter anything, anything at all, I'm going to love you.' News flash Jeno! All you ever fucking do is break your promises!”
Jeno knows Jaemin’s words are meant to hurt, but he knows that what he’s feeling could never amount to what Jaemin is feeling right now. How confused, hurt and angry Jaemin is feeling.
“You should’ve stayed away,” Jaemin continues, taking a step closer to Jeno and ignoring how they’re still in public. “You should’ve left me the hell alone, as if I’d ever want you back in my life!”
Another arrow to the heart, but Jeno guesses he deserves it.
“I’m not a charity case, Lee Jeno, I didn’t need your pity. Just because I couldn’t remember anything doesn’t mean I wanted to remember you!”
And from this close, Jeno can see that Jaemin’s eyes are getting teary with anger, and can see the red rims forming out of frustration.
No matter what, it seems like Jeno always makes Jaemin cry.
Despite his intentions, he guesses he’s always the reason for the tears streaming down the younger’s face.
“Are you satisfied? Were you not happy messing with me the first time? Did you come back to make it hurt more? Was it fun seeing me in love with you like a fool?” Jaemin sobs, jabbing his fingers into Jeno’s chest.
It hurts, but not as much as the bullets spilling from Jaemin’s mouth.
It hurts to know that this is what Jaemin thought of him, but he knew that when the truth came out, it wouldn’t be pretty.
“Fucking answer me!”
And maybe Jeno could’ve chosen his words more carefully.
Maybe he could’ve given himself a second to think over his words before he spoke.
Maybe he could’ve stayed silent, because it probably would’ve been better than,
“I love you,”
A heartbreaking sob ripped through Jaemin’s throat, and if Jeno wasn’t already going to cry from the mess he's made of them, he is now.
Jeno never wants to hear such a vulnerable sound from Jaemin ever again.
“No you don’t! You don’t fucking love me, Jeno! You’re an asshole! You’re a monster and you don’t care about me!”
It’s all so wrong, it’s all way too wrong that Jeno can’t stay still anymore, he can’t help but shake his head and let his tears slip because it hurts him too.
“No, Jaemin, I love you. I love you so much it hurts,” he confesses, probably barely coherent through his tears, but he doesn’t pay that any mind. “Yes I’m an asshole, maybe I’m a monster, but I care about you. I care about you Jaemin.”
Jaemin shakes his head, scoffing.
“All you do is lie Jeno,” he sniffs, getting close to Jeno again, poking his finger to his chest once more. “Get it together, get it through your thick fucking skull. We broke up Jeno. We’re not getting married, we’re not engaged, we’re not together and you’re nothing to me!”
Jeno is openly crying now, shaking his head with every word which leaves Jaemin’s mouth because it can’t be.
It can’t be like that, it can’t be that they’re not getting married, they are engaged, and they’re together.
“No,” Jeno whimpers, the thought of breaking up with Jaemin again hurting his heart in a way he didn’t know was possible. He knew he said he’d do anything Jaemin had asked for, but this is too much. This is what he should’ve done the first time round, stand his ground, and he curses himself everyday for not doing so. In the back of his mind, he knows it’s too late now, but he can’t help but try. “No, I want to marry you. You’re my fiancé and we’re going to wear brooches on our wedding day—” He can’t finish, but off by his tears and cries which crawl up and out of his throat. “You wanted grey and gold and a fruit table and—”
“I don’t want any of that!” Jaemin cuts off, feeling overwhelmed with everything Jeno had just thrown at him. He sobs himself, unable to keep the sound down. “I don’t want anything with you. I’ll never be happy with you, you jerk!”
“Yes you will!” Jeno cries, he too, overwhelmed. “Because I love you. I love you, and you love me. Let’s get married Jaemin-ah, I want to marry you.”
Jaemin doesn’t immediately say anything, and the silence forces Jeno to calm down a little so that he can pay attention to what Jaemin’s doing.
Once his vision clears up, he wishes it hadn’t.
Because now he’s forced to watch Jaemin, standing in front of him with tears staining his cheeks, eyes red and looking absolutely devastated.
He’s forced to watch as Jaemin takes the ring off his finger.
He’s forced to watch as Jaemin rips his necklace off.
He’s forced to watch as Jaemin throws the two items at him.
“Go to Hell, Lee Jeno.”