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The only thing worse than watching The Kissing Booth with your best friend-maybe-turned-crush-maybe-not-you're-still-not-sure (puberty is hard, okay?) is watching it twice.

The first time he’d watched it, Mark had scoffed the moment the girl got on the motorcycle so that they could ride off into the sunset and said, "Even I could write a better rom-com than that!" just as Yerim Kim had dabbed at her eyes with the palms of her hands and sobbed, "Isn't that so romantic?"

(Needless to say, their relationship hadn't lasted.)

The second time through Mark makes sure not to make the same mistake, for two reasons: one, this has been Donghyuck's favorite movie ever since it came out (toppling Clueless' six year reign) and Mark would be a horrible friend-via-shared-suffering-in-daycare if he didn't let Donghyuck use it as an excuse to invite Yukhei over—and two, because Jeno seems to like it and Mark would be a horrible friend-currently-future-boyfriend-potentially-(!!!) if he didn't react appropriately.

(Okay, so he lied. He's sure he’s crushing on Jeno.)

"—not a dog person?"

Mark tunes back in just in time to catch the latter half of Donghyuck's question, to which he squints quizzically at until he realizes that Donghyuck's not talking to him.

(It'd be weird if he was. Mark has two dogs—Chu and Seok, to mirror Jeno's Seol and Nal. Not that he'll ever tell Jeno.)

"No, I love dogs," Yukhei says. Behind him, Jeno makes a face, like, can you believe these two?

Mark snickers into his hand.

Behind Jeno, Renjun makes a face at him too, like, as if you two aren't just as bad.

(Mark's really good at reading between the lines, okay? He scored a 5 on AP Lit.)

"Can we watch something else?" Yukhei asks, eyes darting to Donghyuck cautiously. "Not that I don't like this movie, because I do, truly—"

Donghyuck visibly preens, just enough to be annoying.

"—it's just that there's a new BuzzFeed Unsolved episode out?"

"Yeah," Mark clears his throat. "We can do that."

"Thanks man," Yukhei grins, leaning back into the couch.

As it turns out, they don't watch that either—after Mark and Jeno tussled over the remote (which had to be broken up by Mark's grandma, embarrassingly enough), he, Jeno, and Renjun spent the rest of the night watching in thinly-veiled horror as Donghyuck and Yukhei honest-to-god tickle-fought each other, as if a) that wasn't ridiculously obnoxious and gross (but also kind of cute, not that Mark would ever admit that) and b) the rest of them weren't sitting right there.

"How long do you think it'll take them to realize," Renjun drawls, not really a question. He'd claimed the one lone armchair the moment he'd arrived and now sat on it stroking Mark's cat, which is kind of a feat in and of itself. His cat is notoriously picky.

"A month?"

Jeno twists his face into a grimace—cute, Mark's brain supplies—and turns to give Mark a highly judgemental stare. "A month? No way."

"How long do you think then?"

Jeno takes a look at the couple in question. Donghyuck has now upgraded to sitting in Yukhei's lap. "At the rate they're going? A week, tops."

Renjun snorts. "Your confidence in them is astounding."

"What do you think?" Jeno challenges, indicating Renjun with a tilt of his head.

"I think romance is boring and overrated anyway," Renjun huffs, turning away from them to coo at Mark's cat, who mewls in response.

Jeno cocks his head to the side. "Don't you have that thing going on with Jaemin?"

"I have no such thing," Renjun hisses, "and the fact that you even insinuated as such shows just how little you think of me."

(Donghyuck swears up and down that he saw them getting it on a month ago. Usually anything that comes out of Donghyuck’s mouth isn’t worth listening to, but then Jeno saw them under the bleachers. And Mark caught them by the water fountain. And now the three of them have silently agreed to never breathe a word about it, because the best way to retain Renjun’s friendship is to pretend that he isn’t stunningly easy to read, and also to pretend that Jaemin doesn’t exist. Combined, the two guarantee that Renjun will help them bury anybody, anytime, anywhere.

So: if Jeno wants to rock the boat, that’s on him.)

"Oookay," Jeno says, hands raised in defense. "Just checking.”

"Anyway," Renjun sniffs, looking at Mark. "Don't you have that thing with Yerim Kim?"

Jeno turns to look at Mark too, gaze strangely clouded.

Mark shifts uncomfortably under the weight of their stares. "Um, no. I don't."

(A note on Yerim Kim: the two of them were student government reps for their grade and as a result spent many hours fighting admin together, one ambiguously-worded email at a time. A month ago she'd asked him to semi so that she could make Saeron Kim, who'd just broken up with her, jealous. Mark agreed because otherwise he would've gone with Donghyuck, who in turn would've spent the whole night staring longingly at Yukhei's ass. Really, it was a win-win situation.)

"Oh sure," Jeno scoffs, uncharacteristically bitter. "She literally kissed you in front of the lockers a week ago?"

(Another note on Yerim Kim: Saeron had looked vaguely displeased at semi, but evidently not enough to go full-on begging-on-her-knees, Jackson 5 levels of "I want you back" like Yerim had expected. So, when Yerim had snuck one on his cheek between classes and told him to just go with it, he had. And if Jeno had seen them do it? Well, then so be it. It was supposed to be a win-win situation, after all.)

"That wasn't real," Mark protests, arms crossed over his chest.

Jeno shrugs. "If you say so."

They both turn back to the screen. Planet Earth is playing, because Mark doesn't have anything better and Donghyuck is too busy asleep on Yukhei's shoulder to make fun of him for it.

"Tonight," Renjun contributes, after a moment's pause. “I think it’ll be tonight.”

 

 

 

 

 

"Hey." Mark reaches out to pull Jeno aside just before he can follow Renjun out the door. It's late enough that Renjun is shepherding them all home, though Donghyuck had to be carried upstairs to Mark's room by an embarrassingly-red Yukhei. There is no way Mark trusts Renjun with an asleep Donghyuck.

"Just so you know, I don't like Yerim Kim."

"Sure," Jeno agrees, shrugging on his coat.

"No really," Mark presses, still not letting go of Jeno's sleeve. "I don't."

Jeno sighs. "Okay, whatever. Can I go now?"

"It's complicated," he says, then realizes how bad that sounds. "I like you," he blurts out instead, then tries to backtrack. That is not what he meant to say.

Too late. Jeno is already looking at him strangely.

"I—I named my dogs after you," he continues breathlessly.

Jeno wrinkles his nose in response. "I remind you of a dog?"

"No," Mark splutters, trying to fix his mistake. "I mean it like—actually yeah, you kind of do. A samoyed, maybe?"

“I’m a cat person,” Jeno says, nose scrunched, as if this was the greatest insult he had ever heard.

“I just mean you’re cute,” Mark tries.

Jeno goes tomato-red. “Oh.”

"Yeah."

"Well," Jeno smiles, tentative and slow. "I think you're cute too."

Mark can feel himself grin. "Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Cool." Mark says, cheeks trembling under the weight of his smile. "That's really good, because it would've been really awkward if you didn't and I just told you for no reason and ruined everything—"

Jeno cuts him off by kissing him.

"Do you wanna catch a movie tomorrow?" Jeno says as he pulls back, before Mark can even begin to process what just happened. "We can watch whatever you want, just not—well, that." He jerks a thumb back at Mark's house.

Aha, Mark thinks victoriously. So he doesn't like it either. Take that, Donghyuck!

Then he realizes just how lame it is that he’s still trying to best Donghyuck even inside his own head.

"Yeah," he says, instead of… all that. "We can definitely do that."

They stand there for a while, grinning at each other, until a car horn startles them out of it.

"Are you guys done?" Renjun hollers.

"Well," Jeno says, walking backwards slowly. "Guess that's my cue to leave."

"Guess it is."

"See you tomorrow?"

"Yeah," Mark smiles, waves. "I'll see you tomorrow."

So. Turns out that that movie isn't so bad after all.

(They're definitely watching something else tomorrow, though.)