Jaemin doesn’t remember when he started to wake up in an orphanage instead of the bed at home, but once it started, it didn’t seem to stop.
The simple mornings with sunlight filtering through windows stopped occurring, along with the bowl of cereal on a cherry wood table, white dishes and plastic cutlery. Halted were the nights filled with bedtime stories from a delicate and soothing voice, the rainy and loud nights nestled between two larger, warmer bodies.
What he wanted to believe to be a simple vacation, or maybe something else along those lines, turned into a prolonged eight year stay. Jaemin tries to think back to a time where he lived in an apartment with his mom and dad, but as more years go by, the fainter the memories become, until it’s almost impossible for Jaemin to recall life before the orphanage. No longer are there distinctive facial features on the two faces that occasionally pop into his dreams, and as much as he wants to believe he’d see parts of his face in the other two, features never show themselves.
Soon enough, he forces himself to let it go. The faces were the ones who left him here, weren’t they? They didn’t want to be known anyway, Jaemin deems, since they wouldn't show themselves. He’d stop chasing after them if they didn’t want to be found.
The only thing he holds onto is a stuffed bunny, a raggedy old thing with muted blue fur and a white bowtie around its neck. It seems to be the only thing he’s willing to keep with him from outside the orphanage, interested by its appearance and tiny tail. The origin of the tiny bunny, he has no clue, nor how old it is. He doesn’t try to think about it either, content with its simple presence. The bunny didn’t speak on its own, nor did it move on its own, but that meant that it wouldn’t say mean things to him, like some of the other kids he lives with, or leave him, like some of his friends have.
The friends Jaemin managed to make never lasted long, maybe a few months at most. Before he knew it, the same friends were the ones walking out of the orphanage with a backpack on their shoulders and their hands in someone else’s.
They all get adopted, while Jaemin is left to say hellos only for them to quickly turn into goodbyes. Why wasn’t he getting adopted?
Time seems to go by slow, days feeling like weeks, weeks feeling like months and months feeling like years. The time between sunrises and sunsets seem nonexistent, and Jaemin goes to sleep feeling the same way he had waking up.
It’s a routine that’s extremely mundane, kind enough aunties dropping him off at school and picking him up. The more Jaemin went to school, the more he realized that he’s in the small fraction of kids whose parents don’t pick them up at the end of the day, or drop him off in the mornings. He doesn’t get the cute post-it notes in his lunch, he gets the same variation of food, and while he’s grateful to eat, he wonders what it feels like to expect a surprise and some kind words before eating a meal.
He supposes it feels nice, but he wasn’t in the position to ask for anything more. The older he got, the more appreciative he was towards being placed in the orphanage instead of being left to fend for himself. Although it isn’t ideal, and far from the dreams Jaemin has had, he’s grateful.
Jaemin guesses all his patience and gratitude finally paid off, the day a rather lovely looking couple come to see him at the orphanage.
They’re brought in by one of the aunties, who sports a blindingly large smile, and introduces them to each other. Jaemin learns they’re both alphas, meaning that they couldn’t have biological kids of their own. Jaemin empathized with them, frowning at the sadness in their voices.
They both talked about their other adopted children, two boys by the names of Donghyuck and Jisung. Jisung is only eleven years old, two years younger than Jaemin. He learns that Donghyuck is the same age as him, and his interest is piqued.
The couple let him know that they’d be back tomorrow, which Jaemin doesn’t know the reason for, but he simply nods and watches them go.
He spends that night laying in bed and wondering what it meant, to have a couple visit him and then promise to come back the next day, until he recalls some of his old friends recounting this same story to him.
Suddenly, his heart beats to a hopeful rhythm.
Was he going to get adopted?
The answer comes three weeks later, after consistent visits from the couple every single day, who occasionally bring their other two kids. Jaemin finds himself immediately having a fun time with Donghyuck and Jisung, who are both the nicest boys he’s ever met.
Jisung has the chubbiest cheeks Jaemin has ever seen, unable to restrain himself from pinching the skin between his fingers. Jisung may be on the more quieter side, but he's adorable and doesn’t seem to dislike Jaemin.
Donghyuck, on the other hand, seems to be the complete opposite of Jisung, eccentric and always talking loudly. He also has an extremely loud laugh, something which makes Jaemin want to laugh along with him too, even if he doesn’t understand what they’re laughing about.
The day the couple asks Jaemin if he’d like to be adopted into their family, it’s raining outside. The thunder is a loud and disruptive noise, and the lightning flashes every few minutes. The pitter-patter of the rain is deafening, but he’s still able to hear their question over it all.
Did he want to be adopted by them?
Did he want to see their lovely smiles everyday? Did he want to wake up to the warmth of their presence? Did he want to be able to hang out with Donghyuck and Jisung all the time?
When it’s those questions he asks himself, the answer seems obvious.
Of course he does.
He lets the couple know as much, finding himself smiling at the bright smiles they show him. Donghyuck also catches him in a hug immediately after he answers, and Jaemin doesn’t waste any time before hugging him back. They’re… Brothers now anyway, right?
The first year with his new family feels like a dream. Or maybe it had been real life, and everything after that had been a nightmare.
He doesn’t know which one is worse.
Jaemin presents early.
At fourteen, he presents as an omega, home alone with just his adoptive parents. Donghyuck had taken Jisung to the park a block down, and Jaemin had refused the invite because he wasn’t feeling well.
‘Not feeling well’ translated to being in heat, the scents around the house becoming overwhelming as he curls up in his blanket, terrified of what was going on.
Maybe his parents had smelled him, Jaemin has learned that omegas in heat give off an excess amount of pheromones, to the point where it’s borderline unbearable for certain people. They come barging into his room, flinching at his overwhelming sweet scent of Rosé and peaches. It was practically unbearable for Jaemin, so he couldn’t imagine what it was like for other people.
“Mom,” he calls out, letting the name fall off of his lips as a whine, stomach rolling with waves of heat and nausea. He curls more in on himself, finding comfort in the heavy blanket despite sweating buckets underneath it. “I’m hot and it hurts.”
Jaemin sees his father leave the room for a moment, and he thinks it’s because he needs some fresh air. When he comes back though, he’s holding a bottle of what looks like pills. Jaemin thinks they’re painkillers, and is grateful, because his system seems to be getting worse with every passing second. He knows he’s in heat, but he doesn’t know what to do about it.
“Take one of these, Jaemin,” his father says, holding a pill out towards him. Jaemin takes it without a question, swallowing it down with a bottle of cold water. The water refreshes his system, the coolness toning down everything burning inside of him. He doesn’t know where to go from here, but he’s grateful for the small pause in the constant and overwhelming heat.
“I didn’t think we’d have to bring these out, but it seems as though you’re an omega,” his mother says, tilting her head to the side as she looks at him. Her voice sounds rather stoic for some reason, but there’s a million delirious thoughts running through Jaemin’s mind right now, so he could just be imagining it.
But then his father says,
Flinching at the harsh words, Jaemin peeks out from under his blanket to look at them, wishing he could hide from their cold and emotionless stares. Jaemin doesn’t know why they look like that, they’ve only ever held kindness and love in their eyes, so what he’s looking at right now is foreign.
The air around them all then morphed into something sour and bitter alongside his own diminishing scent, and Jaemin wonders what it is that the pill he swallowed does.
“W-What do you mean?” He finds himself stuttering, whimpering under the glares they send him at his question.
“This family is a family alphas,” his mother says angrily. “You don’t get to ruin it by being an omega .”
Jaemin doesn’t understand.
“I can’t control it,” he weakly answers, cowering under their harsh looks. He doesn’t understand what they want from him. He’s presented as an omega, and they didn’t like that. What were they going to do to him? Would he be kicked out? Would he be sent back to the orphanage?
“Yes you can,” his father snarls, shaking the bottle of pills in his hand. “With these heat suppressants.”
“What?” Jaemin whispers, terrified by the fact that he had just swallowed a heat suppressant.
He’s learned about those in school, about how they’re hard to find and about all the horrible side effects. The long term damage it could do to someone’s inner omega if taken regularly, like his parents seem to want him to do. Not to mention the spirals he’s read of closested omegas doing through, the mental and emotional trauma.
“Starting from today, you’re taking one everyday,” his mother states matter of factly, leaving no room for argument as she dumps all the pills into an empty vitamins bottle. “If your brothers see you, you tell them they’re vitamins. Don’t disappoint us more than you already have, omega ,” she spits, seeming disgusted at the mere sight of him.
But why would she be? He can’t change his biology, and it’s not like he’s the only male omega in the world.
“But nothing’s wrong with me!” He insists in a moment of bravery, only to lose his confidence when both alphas’ scents flare into something so bitter, Jaemin is sure he could choke on it.
“Omegas aren’t useful,” his mother states. He’s ready to argue back despite how small he feels, but she continues to speak before he can. “They’re hindrances and they’re worthless.”
Jaemin feels his heart sink at the words, his gut twisting into something so tight and ugly that it hurts more than anything else he’s ever experienced. He wants to bite back and say that omegas weren’t useless, he wants to list off all the accomplishments omegas around the world have contributed to.
But he holds his tongue back before he can. If his parents, two of the sweetest people he’s ever met, two of the nicest alphas who have it in their hearts to adopt, think that he’s worthless… Then he probably is, right? Why else would they say such things, they love him. They took him into their home and gave him a family, why else would they do that if they didn’t love him?
“Don’t look so scared. If one of your brothers also presents as omegas, they’ll be shaped into alphas, just like you,” his father says. In a sickening way, Jaemin realizes his father is trying to sound comforting. Instead, it makes him shrink further into his mattress, wanting to escape their judgemental eyes.
Jaemin can only hope that neither Donghyuck nor Jisung present as omegas.
Unfortunately, it only takes Jaemin six months to get used to swallowing down a suppressant and a scent blocker, along with a pill that gives him the artificial scent of cedarwood a cumin, every morning with his breakfast. He doesn’t even want to know how his parents had gotten their hands on all of this.
Donghyuck and Jiusng are under the impression that they’re vitamins and calcium pills for his health, and that he needs to take them every morning in order to prevent his immune system and bones from weakening. He doesn’t know the logistics of that excuse, but they both buy it, probably not knowing any better themselves.
Jaemin wouldn’t say it’s okay, he doesn’t know how to feel about the situation, but it could’ve been worse. He could’ve stopped living under a roof with a family, could’ve stopped eating hot meals three times a day.
Until he gets a boyfriend.
He doesn’t tell his parents, doesn’t even tell Jisung. The only person he tells is Donghyuck, seeing as he’s the only person who Jaemin thinks won’t tell their parents. He can trust Donghyuck in a way he doesn’t know if he can trust Jisung yet, not knowing if he’ll throw him under the bus in a moment of desperation.
He meets his boyfriend in history class when he’s sixteen, immediately finding the other boy cute and funny. The other boy approached Jaemin first, sharing mutual interest, and they exchanged numbers. Jaemin remembers squealing to himself under his blankets late at night while texting the other, cheeks red and face muscles aching because of how much he was smiling.
Donghyuck had to put up with two months of endless rambles about said boy, before he encouraged Jaemin to do something about it. As far as anyone at school knew, including his crush, Jaemin was an alpha. He didn’t know if he had to tell him the truth before they got together, and he was scared about what his parents would say if they found out. To play it safe, Jaemin doesn’t tell them at all.
He also doesn’t tell his crush, simply setting up a date to meet and then he confesses his feelings, elated to find out they’re reciprocated.
It’s smooth sailing for a month before Jaemin is strikingly hit by his boyfriend presenting as an omega.
An omega who smells of oranges and vanilla, an omega who goes into heat.
Jaemin thinks that in an ideal world, he’d be able to tell his boyfriend that he wants to break up because he doesn’t know how to be close to another omega without feeling his own omega yearn to feel comforted, doesn’t know how to be close to another omega without feeling like his own omega was incompetent, repressed and hidden away from everyone, and not that he isn’t ready for a relationship.
Donghyuck had stood by his reasoning, though Jaemin doubts he understood it. Especially because he failed to see his perspective, seeing as Donghyuck himself had presented as an alpha two months prior. Jaemin always knew that they didn’t see eye to eye and that he couldn’t relate to a lot of the problems Donghyuck complained about, but he blamed it on the fact that everyone’s experiences are different, and not because he wasn’t even an alpha to begin with.
Jaemin doesn’t know if he’s grateful or not, that Donghyuck bought his excuse.
Jaemin lays off romantic feelings for a while after that, choosing to focus more on his studies. His parents forced him into joining the soccer team though, and he did so without a complaint. He did enjoy soccer, though he thinks he would’ve enjoyed it more if he wasn’t being forced into it. He just sees it as a stress relief now, something to help him blow steam off.
It continues into his senior year of highschool, where he’s granted a scholarship to a university three towns over at the same time Jisung presents as an alpha. Jaemin is glad he doesn’t have to experience what he’s experiencing, and that Jisung wouldn’t be seen as a disappointment to the family, or as worthless.
Donghyuck and Jisung didn’t deserve to be called worthless. Maybe Jaemin did though, the only omega in an alpha family, destroying his body everyday with three pills which don’t even take up the entirety of his palm. If he wasn’t worthless before, he definitely will be when everyone realizes they don’t want a damaged omega as a mate.
If he’ll ever even tell someone he’s an omega.
Following graduation, Donghyuck gets accepted into the university Jaemin had accepted the scholarship from, and the two of them are elated to know they get to go to school together. Jisung would never admit it, but he shed a few tears when Donghyuck and Jaemin moved out of the house, but Jaemin thinks he’ll be okay. Jisung is an alpha, after all.
Jaemin is surprised he’s able to hide his omega when it’s just him and Donghyuck in their apartment, but he’s grateful, he guesses. His parents send him new supplies of his pills every three months, when he runs out. They’re hidden in the Tupperware of homemade food their mom sends, and Jaemin feels a little sick when he eats the meals, feeling like he’s swallowing a sense of comfort and then washing it down with an equal sense of dread.
He doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore.
He could stop taking the pills, his parents aren’t around anymore. They only visit every three months, and other than that it’s the occasional phone call. They can’t smell him anymore either, and Jaemin knows that realistically, seeing as now he’s an adult in his second year of university living away from his parents with his brother, he didn’t need the pills. He’s never needed the pills.
But he couldn’t just stop taking them out of nowhere. He doesn’t even know who he is without his heat suppressants, without his scent blockers, without his artificial scent. He doesn’t even know when they had become his pills instead of his parents’ pills, but Jaemin guesses he’s let them become a part of him now.
If he doesn’t even know who he is without them, what will he be to Donghyuck? To Jisung? For all the time he’s known them, he’s been an alpha. For all the time he’s known them, he’s been keeping the way he yearns to build a nest, to be romantic with someone without feeling insecure about his own biology, to be an omega , from them. They wouldn’t know what to do with him when the truth is out, so Jaemin decides the truth just shouldn’t come out.
He won’t let it.
Because he’s Na Jaemin, a nineteen year old boy who hides his omega inside where he hopes no one can find him, who doesn’t want to play soccer, who doesn’t know how to be with someone while also being comfortable, who…
… Is damaged he guesses.
No one would want him, as an alpha or omega.
Maybe he should learn how to deal with that.
It’s another day after soccer practice, when Jaemin enters the locker rooms dripping in sweat, once again overwhelmed with the overbearing smell of pure alpha from all his teammates. Sure, there were betas on the team too, but he’s the only omega along with one other. He wonders how he holds up changing after every practice, but he also guesses that not all omegas have a hard time coming to terms with their biology like he does.
He also guesses not all omegas are as irked by the scent of alphas as much as he is.
“Yo, Jaem!” His teammate, Yukhei, calls, coming towards Jaemin already fully changed. It makes Jaemin wonder how long he spent wallowing in how he wished he could be as carefree as the betas on his team, like Huang Renjun. “Some of us were planning on getting dinner on campus. Do you wanna join?”
Jaemin likes Yukhei as a friend and teammate. He’s an alpha, who smells like bamboo and sea salt, and it’s strangely comforting. Jaemin has never been around a scent he felt this safe around, except for Donghyuck and Jisung’s scents. Donghyuck, who smells like freshly mowed grass and rain water, and Jisung, who smells like mint leaves and limes.
He guesses only the best type of alphas have a comforting scent.
Back to Yukhei’s question though, Donghyuck wasn’t going to be home until later at night, and he didn’t really have anything else to do. He guesses nothing bad could happen if he let himself have fun, especially after such a tiring afternoon of practicing.
“Sure,” he answers easily. “Where are we going?”
“A diner place, it’s across campus so I can give you a ride if you’d like. I’m already driving Renjun and Hyunjin.”
Jaemin takes him up on the offer, only because he’s offering, and guesses it shouldn’t be that bad, when Renjun and Hyunjin are both betas. Jaemin doesn’t want to have this stigma around alphas, but it’s hard for him when he’s forced to be one. He knows he can’t truly ever relate to the struggles or experiences of a real alpha, but that doesn’t mean he likes them.
It’s not even like he’s ever met an alpha that’s rotten to the core, just a few sour ones here and there. Jaemin believes in treating everyone with kindness until they’ve done something to not deserve it, but it’s a bit of a biased, different story when it comes to alphas. Jaemin couldn’t be a comfortable omega, nor could he be a comfortable alpha, and he isn’t a fan of seeing people living the way he wishes to. It’s a pathetic thing to loathe, but he can’t help it. Any of the alphas in this locker room could be what he needs to be, or what his inner omega wants, but he’s never able to act on that urge.
Because an alpha shouldn’t want what an omega wants.
“Sweet! I’m gonna bring my car up to the front, it’s a blue minivan,” Yukhei announces, smiling kindly before he leaves.
Jaemin sighs, making quick work of changing. He never likes this part of his days. For other alphas, it’s easy to take off their shirts and shorts, proud to boast. Jaemin would be proud to boast too, if he were to boast as an omega. One thing the pills can’t hide is the way his body develops. Jaemin is curvier and somewhat smaller than the average alpha, with a narrow waist that swells at his hips. His shoulders are pretty board though, so with all the baggy clothes he wears, his body doesn’t give out too much. The only thing he can really hold onto are his abs, gaining and maintaining them from when his father had started dragging him to the gym.
His face though, that’s something that he can’t do much about. His face is rounder than an alpha’s, less defined and more on the cute side. He doesn’t necessarily hate his face, but he did wish it was different so that it was easier to pretend to be an alpha.
“Ready to go? Hyunjin left with Yukhei,” Renjun asks from behind him, startling Jaemin with his sudden presence.
They’re not awkward per se, they’ve been on the soccer team together since freshman year, and they have shared a few classes together here and there. The only thing now is that they don’t need to fill the silence between them with anything, finding simple solace in each other’s presence. Jaemin considers Renjun a good friend, and he and Donghyuck are pretty close too, so it makes for good company.
Jaemin climbs into the back seats with Renjun, Hyunjin sitting shotgun, and from there it’s a five minute drive to the diner Yukhei had been talking about.
Upon entering, Jaemin spots another five teammates already sitting at two tables that are pushed together, and he grabs a seat next to Renjun before he has to sit next to anyone else. Jaemin isn’t necessarily awkward with any of his teammates, he’s quite respected and looked up upon by their younger members because of his skill. Jaemin acknowledges that he’s quite talented at soccer, but it’s only because of all the practice he’s had to do over the years. His talent isn’t from raw passion like the majority of the team.
“How’s Donghyuck been? I haven't seen him in like… A week, damn,” Renjun says from beside him, snapping Jaemin out of staring at his menu. “And we even share a class.”
“He’s still just Donghyuck, pretentious brat,” Jaemin hums casually, finally catching sight of what he wants to order. He runs the order through his mind a few times, memorizing it, before closing the menu and putting it down on the table in front of him. “But busy with some assignments, so he’s been holding him up at the library. I think he may be skipping class for it.”
Jaemin would try to talk some sense into Donghyuck and tell him that skipping more class would just backlog him more, but he’s done that before and Donghyuck just decides that he’s deaf to Jaemin’s voice, so he’s stopped trying so hard.
“Sounds like him,” Renjun admits. Then, he turns to completely face him. “How’ve you been Jaem?”
Jaemin is about to answer, he swears he is, but then their waiter comes to their table to collect their orders. Jaemin is sitting in the last seat, right where the waiter stops, in a casual white button up, black apron around his waist and black jeans hugging his legs. When
Jaemin looks up at him, he catches a whiff of his scent, tree bark and vodka, before seeing his name tag.
Before he can say his name in his head, the waiter greets them,
“Hello, my name’s Jeno, and I’ll be your waiter for today. What could I get you guys?
As odd as it is, Yukhei knows Jeno.
He had immediately greeted the waiter with a bright smile and a loud laugh, clapping him on the back. He lets everyone who’s looking at them know that Jeno is a friend from high school, and that he’s on the university swim team.
Jaemin is thinking about how he’s never seen him around, and then Yukhei says that he’s majoring in pre-med, which is the complete opposite of what Jaemin’s majoring in; architecture. So he guess it makes sense that he’s never seen the black haired boy, who he also learns is an alpha.
Jeno takes their orders with a smile on his face, kindly waving goodbye to them all and telling Yukhei that they should hang out soon. Jaemin watches him as he walks away, and finds it odd how his scent lingers despite him walking into the kitchens. It could just be because he was standing next to Jaemin, but then he sees a pen on the floor that wasn’t there when he had initially sat down.
Jaemin bends over a bit to pick it up, able to smell the tree bark and vodka when the scent wafts from the object.
“When did you get a pen?” Renjun asks, seeing the object in his hand. Jaemin doesn’t blame Renjun for asking, a beta’s sense of smell isn’t as strong as an alpha’s or an omega’s.
“The waiter dropped it,” he answers, putting it down next to his plate. He can give it back to him when Jeno comes back.
“The waiter has a name,” Renjun corrects, raising an eyebrow. Jaemin shrugs, fiddling with his fork.
“The waiter isn’t my friend.”
Then, he and Renjun are whipped away into a conversation with two of their teammates sitting in front of them. Their conversation ranges from today’s practice to tomorrows, from their upcoming tournaments to mundane things like their classes.
Despite Jaemin holding an irrational stigma towards half of his soccer team, he doesn’t necessarily think that they’re bad people. If he were being honest, they’re all really nice boys, and from what he’s seen for the past year and a half that he’s been on the team, the ones with bad attitudes and rotten behaviour get kicked from the start.
Jaemin sees a lot of them as friends, and where some people say there’s no friendship like the friendship you make with your teammates, Jaemin thinks he would’ve appreciated his bond with all of them more if he liked playing soccer. For now, he sees them all as friends past their biology, and in the back of his mind, he thinks it’s a pity he can’t see them as more.
Before he can wallow in how pathetic he deems his situation, Jeno is coming back with half of the table’s orders. They’re all for the half of the table Jaemin isn’t sitting in, but he still grabs onto the pen so that he’s ready to give it to Jeno when he comes by.
“I’ve seen him around before,” Renjun comments, drawing Jaemin’s attention away from looking at Jeno walking back into the kitchen.
“Jeno,” he answers, turning to Jaemin with an easy smile.
“Didn’t you go to highschool with Yukhei? Of course you’ve seen him around,” Jaemin points out. Renjun then nods slowly, looking at Yukhei for a quick moment at the mention of his name.
“Yeah, but we weren’t close,” he says. “We weren’t even friends. He presented early for his age, in freshman year. Didn’t have a lot of friends then, and people only wanted to talk to him to ask what it was like presenting, or what it was like being an alpha,” he explains, though Jaemin didn’t ask.
He can’t hide that he’s a tiny bit intrigued, seeing as Renjun said that Jeno had presented early, just like he did. He doesn’t let that show though, just plays with the pen as he listens to Renjun continue.
“Yukhei didn’t befriend him until he offered Jeno a ride home when he was the last one to leave swim practice. After that, people saw them around together often and Jeno’s popularity skyrocketed, even after Yukhei graduated. It wasn’t difficult, considering that he was a fit and handsome alpha. Ticks all the boxes.”
“So he’s just some alpha jock?” Jaemin scoffs, unable to hide the distaste in his tone. Jeno didn’t look like a deadbeat alpha who only cared about taking their shirt off in public, but Jaemin could always be wrong.
“No. That’s another reason he was so popular. He’s really nice,” Renjun hums, almost as if he could sense Jaemin’s prejudice. “He never cared about the social hierarchy, tradition or stereotypes.”
That does sound better to Jaemin, to know that there are still some alphas around who didn’t feel superior because of their secondary gender. It was also a bit surprising, just because Jeno seemed to be the textbook definition of an alpha. It wouldn’t have shocked Jaemin if he was as douchy as a textbook alpha too, but he should’ve known Yukhei wouldn’t have been friends with him if he was.
“That’s cool,” he answers to Renjun's story, more like a background check. He doesn’t really know why Renjun told him all this, but maybe he was just reminiscing. “Hard to find people like that.” It’s more real for Jaemin when he says that, reminded of his parents. He hopes there aren’t too many people like them around.
Renjun hums, and then Jeno comes back with more plates balanced in his hands and on his arms. Jaemin has always seen waiters and waitresses do that, but he doesn’t understand how. He’s terribly uncoordinated, and couldn’t imagine holding four plates at the same time.
“Here you guys go,” Jeno says, sliding plates in front of the respective person who ordered them. Jaemin guesses Jeno is good at his job, if he can remember who ordered what without having to recite the name of the dish. Or maybe he just has really good memory and Jaemin’s memory is really bad so he couldn’t even begin to understand.
“You dropped this,” Jaemin says to him when he’s handed everyone their meals. He holds the pen out in front of him to Jeno, watching as he looks at the pen confusedly, before realization dawns on him.
“Oh! Thank you,” Jeno smiles, Jaemin notices that his eyes disappear into half moons, and gently takes the ballpoint pen from him. “Jaemin, right?”
Jaemin startles at the mention of his name coming out of Jeno’s mouth. His brain briefly wracks itself for a time where they might’ve met or interacted, but gives up when he recalls he has a terrible memory. Plus, he’s pretty sure he’s ever seen Jeno before today?
“Uh, yeah,” he answers, just sounding a little awkward to his own ears. “How do you know my name?”
“I’ve seen a few soccer games,” Jeno says casually, and Jaemin remembers that he is in fact on the soccer team. There’s probably a lot of people at school who know his name then, or who at least know of his name. Perhaps it should’ve been the same for Jaemin when he heard that their waiter was Lee Jeno from the swim team, but he doesn’t really pay attention to sports. Then, Jeno looks to Jaemin’s left. “Hey Renjun.”
Renjun looks up from where he was eating, only nodding at Jeno before he turns back to his food. Jeno laughs at the other’s behaviour, and Jaemin takes note of how it’s an airy sound.
“Enjoy your meals,” Jeno says politely before leaving, pen now tucked into the front pocket of his apron.
There’s less talking now as everyone’s eating, but the occasional appreciative hums and comments here and there are still present. Jaemin thinks that the food here is good, and is definitely thinking of bringing Jisung here the next time he comes to visit. He comes every two weeks whenever he can, but it’s been more frequent because his best friend had also started attending the same university.
Jaemin is distracted with planning what to do the next time Jisung comes over, only noticing that his plate is empty when he goes to take another bite and his fork clangs against the glass of his plate instead of food.
Renjun laughs at him.
“Hungry?” He teases, to which Jaemin rolls his eyes. Renjun’s favourite thing to do seemed to be making fun of everyone he was so much as an acquaintance with, and it’s one of the reasons he gets along with Donghyuck so well. “Practice was kinda tough today,” he adds, sympathizing. Jaemin bets it’s just to make him feel a bit better and not because he actually meant it.
“Shut up,” he ends up grumbling to his friend.
It only takes around another ten minutes for everyone else around the table to clear off their plates, and then Yukhei is waving Jeno down.
“Was everything okay?” He asks politely, the same smile as before eased onto his face. Jaemin hasn’t even been his presence for more than ten minutes, but he wonders if he ever stops smiling. Was there even that much to smile about in life?
The table gives a general positive consensus towards Jeno’s question, and Jeno beams, as if he cooked all their meals himself.
“Would you like to pay all together or individually?” Jeno asks.
“Individually,” a few of the boys answer, and Jaemin thinks that it makes more sense to split one bill amongst themselves as he watches Jeno walk away to get their receipts.
“Isn’t paying together smarter?” Renjun mutters to him, and Jaemin hums, glad that Renjun sees the sense behind it too. But it’s not like they were going to say anything.
Jeno comes back quickly, handing everyone their individual receipts and asks if they’d like the card machine. Jaemin and Renjun simply smack a few bills onto their receipts, making sure to include the tips too. Jaemin tips rather generously compared to other times, seeing as Jeno had to tend to so many people alone.
Jeno starts collecting and thanking his teammates starting from the side of the table that he isn’t sitting at, so he fiddles with the coins on Renjun’s receipt while he waits for Jeno to come to their side.
It doesn’t take long, and when Jeno collects Renjun’s payment and says thank you, Jaemin watches as Jeno puts down a piece of folded paper in front of him before collecting his cash and receipt.
Jaemin, because he’s curious, unfolds the paper, glad that Renjun is talking to another one of their teammates and that no one is paying attention to him. What he sees staring back are nine digits written in black ink. Jaemin bets it’s from the ballpoint he dropped.
Still, he’s not dense enough to not piece together that Jeno had just given him his number, but it still feels surreal. The last time someone hit on him was in his senior year of highschool, but he hadn’t been interested then, and he doesn’t know if he’s interested now either. He didn’t even think an alpha like Jeno would look his way, a handsome and (supposedly, according to Renjun and Yukhei) nice boy who’s also on the swim team.
He looks up at the waiter with a raised eyebrow, to which Jeno simply smiles the same smile he’s had on all night, and winks at Jaemin before disappearing off into the kitchen.
Jaemin comes home three hours before Donghyuck is supposed to, but he still finds a bowl sitting on the dining table with a lid covering it and a note attached to it.
This is your dinner, I wasn't sure what you had planned to eat. You can leave this for me if you’re not gonna eat it. Love you, I’ll be back at around 10:00.
“Love you too,” Jaemin mumbles, sighing as he puts the note back onto the lid. He isn’t going to eat it, and he feels just a little guilty about it. The guilt goes away though, when he remembers that Donghyuck loves eating.
When Donghyuck isn’t at home, it’s significantly quieter, and Jaemin doesn’t like it. He likes the boisterous noise Donghyuck carries with him wherever he goes, and even though he’s only been home for five minutes, he already misses his brother. He doesn’t know when he grew so attached to his brothers, both Donghyuck and Jisung being people he would constantly keep around him if he could.
Maybe it’s because they’re the closest two people to him, people he considers family.
His only family.
Jaemin feels a frown tug at his lips, so he brushes these thoughts away before he makes his way to his bedroom. He didn’t want to think like that right now.
Jaemin’s bedroom isn’t anything exciting, white walls bare save for the space above the head of his double sized bed, where he keeps a calendar and a photo of him, Donghyuck and Jisung. There’s a few white shelves put up near his dresser, holding a few potted plants and a little cactus, along with some textbooks and miscellaneous items.
The sheets on his bed are also white, along with his blanket, half of the reason for aesthetics, the other half so that Donghyuck doesn’t come in with food. His desk is black though, the only part of his room that stands out. There’s a monitor and a laptop sitting on it, with a gaming chair that Donghyuck bought him, claiming it was more comfortable than desk chairs. He was right.
Jaemin keeps his room clean at all times compared to Donghyuck’s literal swamp, and sometimes he thinks it’s the omega in him. If bits of his omega can even come out anymore, that is. Either way though, the cleanliness is something he admires himself for, seeing as it makes choosing a pair of clean black sweatpants and a blue t-shirt easy before he makes his way to the bathroom to shower.
He takes his time today, knowing that Donghyuck wouldn’t be back until late. And because soaking under the warm water was an irreplaceable feeling. He goes slow as he makes sure to scrub away all the sweat caked into the crevices of his body, places he didn’t thoroughly clean in the quick shower he took in the locker rooms. His body wash at home smells better than the one he keeps in his locker anyway.
An hour has passed by when Jaemin steps out, skin kinda pink and fingertips wrinkly. His hair feels lighter though, shampooed and conditioned to wash away all the sweat and other things that have accumulated from him not washing it for three days. Stepping into his fresh and clean clothes feels like heaven, and he’s comfortable when he steps out of the humid bathroom.
He doesn’t have much to do, assignments already completed and handed in. He did his readings for the day before soccer practice, so he guesses the only thing he can do is review whatever notes he took in class today. Jaemin isn’t necessarily a studious person, but he does force himself to stay on track, if only to not end up prematurely graying like Donghyuck.
Donghyuck dyes his hair to hide his stress problem, so Jaemin does as well just so that he wouldn’t feel alone. Donghyuck’s hair is currently all silver, while his own is pink. His parents didn’t necessarily like his choice, but he didn’t tell them beforehand and he’s not going to do anything about it.
Sure, he’s an adult and can do whatever he wants, but he can’t pay for his tuition, the apartment, soccer, or the other luxuries he has. It sounds bad to the average person, but when Jaemin’s parents can afford to buy him supplies of stupidly expensive pills, he doesn’t feel too bad using them to finish his education.
After that, he’ll worry about what to do after he graduates.
For now, he revises until he hears Donghyuck opening the front door, dumping his backpack down and dragging himself to the kitchen. Jaemin knows he’s tired, he always is after coming home from the library, and he can’t help but want to fret over him like some urge inside him is screaming for him to. He doesn’t know how to act on it though, so he stays put in his room and listens to Donghyuck warm up his food in the microwave, the kitchen drawers opening as he takes out what Jaemin assumes is a spoon.
Donghyuck never took a long time to eat, so Jaemin isn’t surprised when he sees his brother walk into his room ten minutes later, clad in basketball shorts and a grey hoodie.
“Hi Nana,” he greets, planting down face first onto Jaemin’s bed.
He’s glad Donghyuck can’t see him smile when he notices the shift in the older boy’s scent. No longer is it a bit sour because of mood, but more like normal after stepping into his room. Jaemin likes to believe he comforts Donghyuck, even if it was his artificial scent. He wonders what Donghyuck would think of his real scent. Perhaps it’d be too sweet for him after getting used to his alpha scent for so long.
Jaemin stops thinking about it before the pile of dread in his heart overflows.
“Hey Hyuck,” he says instead, getting up from his desk. He sits down on his bed with his legs crossed, pulling the other’s head into his lap. Donghyuck and Jisung have always known him to be touchy, and he’s even more so with Donghyuck being the only person he’s constantly around and comfortable enough with, so he’s used to all his antics. One day when Donghyuck was drunk, he even admitted that when he feels stressed during the day, knowing he comes home to Jaemin makes him feel better.
Jaemin cried a bit when he found that out, but he’d never tell him. It just feels nice to know he’s doing something right enough for someone who means the world to mean.
“Did you get some work done?” He asks gently, earning a groan from Donghyuck.
“Some stuff. I’m almost caught up now,” he answers, shifting around until he was laying on his back, head still in Jaemin’s lap. “Renjun’s giving me notes, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he assures.
“I don’t worry about you,” Jaemin scoffs, but the hands in Donghyuck’s hair say otherwise.
“Sure,” the other agrees, clearly too tired to bite back. Donghyuck sighs, closing his eyes. “Tell me something interesting that happened to you today. How was soccer practice?”
“Practice was fine,” he says, focusing more on trying to braid a part of Donghyuck’s hair more than trying to answer him. “Some of us went out for dinner, then I came back.”
“Ugh, seriously? Nothing interesting? C’mon, my day was terribly boring, there had to be something more interesting than the books I’ve stared at all day,” Donghyuck insists.
Jaemin yanks a few strands of his hair particularly harshly, just for being irritating.
“Lee Jeno gave me his number,”
“What?” Donghyuck shrieks, sitting up so fast that he almost bumps his head into Jaemin’s chin. “ Who gave you what ?”
“Lee Jeno,” Jaemin answers, tilting his head to the side confusedly at Donghyuck’s reaction. “His phone number.”
“Oh my God,” Donghyuck gapes, his jaw practically unhinging itself. “Dude, oh my God? What the fuck?”
“What?” Jaemin asks, not understanding why Donghyuck was reacting the way he was. He couldn’t even gage anything off of the other’s facial expression, it being too comical to understand anything. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Do you know how hot Lee Jeno is? Do you know how hot his brother is? How did he even give you his number, holy shit.”
Jaemin’s brain hurts with how fast Donghyuck is talking. And who’s Lee Jeno’s brother?
“First of all, how do you know how hot Lee Jeno is? And secondly, he was the waiter where we went to eat,” Jaemin explains, watching as Donghyuck’s eyes widen.
“I watch the swim competitions,” he dismisses with a wave of his head. Jaemin raises an eyebrow, as if asking Donghyuck to elaborate. The older sighs. “I watch them for Jeno’s brother. Mark Lee. They’re both hot,” he says. “And oh my God ? He took an interest in you ?”
“What’s that supposed to mean!” Jaemin gasps offendedly, smacking Donghyuck’s arm. “I’m a total catch!” He may not believe it, but he didn’t need Donghyuck questioning it.
“Yeah okay, Mr. I Don’t Look Men In The Eyes,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes. “What did you do with his number?”
Now that Donghyuck asks, he realizes that he hasn’t done anything with Jeno’s number, the piece of paper still tucked into the pocket of the pants he wore out. He points to where they are in the hamper.
“Left it in my pocket,” he says, finding it weird how big Donghyuck’s eyes bulge.
“You have to text him,” Donghyuck says seriously. He looks Jaemin dead in the eyes, grabbing him by the shoulders. “If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me,” he pleads. “Put in a good word about me for Mark.”
Jaemin shrugs Donghyuck’s hands off of him, annoyed.
“Goodnight Donghyuck,” he dismisses, pushing the older away and off of his bed. “Have a good night.”
“Dude, come on,” Donghyuck whines, a tone that would’ve been annoying if Jaemin wasn’t so used to his antics.
“Jaemin-ah,” he persists, trapping the younger boy in his arms. “For me?” Jaemin tries to wiggle out of his grasp, but his gained muscle doesn’t compare to an actual alpha’s strength, rendering him almost immobile.
“You’re so annoying, why don’t you just talk to Mark yourself?” He asks genuinely, groaning when Donghyuck doesn’t let up.
“Have you seen him? I can’t just talk to him, he’s like… A God,” he sighs admirably, causing Jaemin’s face to scrunch up in disgust.
Donghyuck has never really had crushes growing up, just infatuations with some people that weren’t based off of real feelings. He doesn’t know how much his ‘crush’ on Mark is based on real feelings, but he didn’t even know he knew of the other, so there could be a lot more he doesn’t know.
“You suck,” Donghyuck grumbles, letting his grip around Jaemin loosen up. “Why are you such a brat?”
“ Me ?” Jaemin scoffs. “You’re the brattiest brat.”
Jaemin expects Donghyuck to snark back at him, but instead, he just leans up a little, because Jaemin is taller, and kisses his forehead.
Before Jaemin can say goodnight back, Donghyuck is already leaving his room.
Jaemin sighs, closing his door and flopping back down onto his bed.
Donghyuck was so annoying, honestly one of the most annoying people he’s ever met in his life. But that didn’t mean he was any less of a mandatory presence in his life. Jaemin doesn’t know where he'd be mentally if it weren’t for his brothers.
It’s with that thought that he turns the lights off and yells ‘ Goodnight Hyuck ’ into the hallway, before closing his door, and laying down under the blankets.
He thinks about how it’ll be a bit easier to swallow his pills the next morning, with the promise of seeing Donghyuck once he wakes up.
He’s right, because not only did seeing Donghyuck already brighten his day, but he had made oatmeal for them with berries and peanut butter, so Jaemin just makes a note to give him an extra lot of love today.
As Jaemin is eating at the table with his uniform on, Donghyuck frowns a bit.
“Morning practice?” He asks around his own mouthful, and Jaemin hums. “But you had evening practice last night.”
“It means we have to get better,” Jaemin mumbles around his spoonful. Donghyuck makes good oatmeal for someone who’s useless in the kitchen, leaving them in overnight in the fridge and topping them prettily. “When did you even make these? I thought you passed out after you left my room.”
“Jesus Jaem, you guys are working to the bone,” Donghyuck whistles. Jaemin doesn’t know why he sounds surprised, he’s known this since he’s started seeing Jaemin come back home exhausted. “I woke up in the middle of the night because I was hungry, so I just threw those in the fridge.”
“Hm,” Jaemin nods in understanding, choosing to not say anything about the first thing Donghyuck said. If the schedule he memorized is anything to go by, Donghyuck’s class starts in twenty minutes, and by the looks of him still sitting comfortably at the dining table, Jaemin knows he’s going to be late. “Don’t you have a class soon?”
Donghyuck spares a glance at the clock, and his eyes widen comedically when he sees what time it is.
“Shit,” he mutters, shoving the rest of what was in his bowl into his mouth. He drops his bowl and spoon into the sink with a sound so loud that it makes Jaemin wince, and he can only hope he didn’t break anything. “Bye Nana, I’ll be home for dinner tonight! Don’t forget your vitamins!” Donghyuck says, and a second later, the front door closes.
His shoulders slump once Donghyuck is gone, looking down at the pills staring back at him. They’re so extremely small, but their impact makes Jaemin’s insides churn. It doesn’t get easier to swallow them down, but he has gotten used to the bitter taste. Even when he washes them down with water, he’s always afraid he’ll choke on them. They may be small, but it’s the knowledge of what’s awaiting him that makes his throat close up.
Sometimes, like the times when Donghyuck left early in the morning, he would stall taking his pills, just so that a bit of his real scent would bleed out. Maybe it’s for assurance that his scent isn’t completely gone, or maybe it’s to remind him of who he could be, if the circumstances were different. He’s only done this once though, afraid of his scent lingering. He didn’t want Donghyuck to grow suspicious.
Jaemin shudders as he swallows them down, defeatedly putting his glass of water down.
Jaemin wished that at least the effects would’ve been like vitamins, at least then it wouldn’t feel like his omega is slipping away from him every single day.
When he steps into the locker room, he’s the first amongst two other teammates. He thought there’d be more people around, but he understands since it is, in fact, way too early for this.
Jaemin is pulling his socks up to his knees when he feels a presence next to him. He thinks it’s Renjun at first, ready to complain about the absurd hour of day, but then he catches hints of tree bark and vodka, and knows that it isn’t Renjun next to him. It’s not even anyone from the soccer team.
“You didn’t text me,”
Jaemin looks up from where he’s been looking down at his socks, making eye contact with Jeno, who’s black hair is dripping wet.
“What’re you doing here?” He asks, taken aback, instead of answering the other. He’s never seen Jeno in the locker rooms a day in his life, nor has he ever plainly seen Jeno a day in his life, so he wonders why he’s popping around everywhere all of a sudden.
“Ignoring how you didn’t answer me,” Jeno starts, and Jaemin raises an eyebrow at his boldness. “The swim team has been sharing a locker room with the soccer team since forever? Did you not know?”
Jaemin doesn’t know how to admit that he did in fact, not know that, without sounding like a dunce, so he just shrugs, trying to play it off as cool.
“I don’t really pay attention,” he says nonchalantly, hoping that it doesn’t sound ignorant, or that he doesn’t sound like a dumbass. What kind of idiot doesn’t notice the team they share the locker rooms with? Especially when they’re in there everyday?
“That’s fine, we don’t overlap often,” Jeno hums, leaning against the row of lockers behind him. Jaemin doesn’t know what the hell Jeno is looking at from behind him, but wills himself not to think of anything unnecessary.
Jeno wouldn't look at another alpha like that anyway. And as far as everyone knows, Jaemin is an alpha.
Jeno doesn’t say anything as Jaemin pulls his other sock on and ties the laces on his cleats tight. Jaemin thinks it’s weird, and lets Jeno know as much when he turns around to see him still leaned up against the lockers like everything was normal.
“Um…” Jaemin starts, looking around to see that more of his teammates have started to file in, some of them giving side glances towards the two of them. “Is there something you need?”
Jeno looks so unbothered as he answers, that Jaemin almost wants to kick him. Almost, because it’s not like Jeno has done anything to warrant getting kicked yet.
“You didn’t answer me yet,” he explains, still leaning against the lockers like the rest of the swim team hasn’t filed out already. “You didn’t text me.”
“Was I supposed to?” Jaemin scoffs, turning to his own locker to close it. He hopes Renjun gets here soon so that he doesn’t have to keep talking to Jeno, who doesn’t look like he’s going to be leaving any time soon. “I didn’t know it was written into my schedule.”
“You know,” the other starts, finally pushing himself off of the lockers. “Even if you aren’t interested, you could’ve texted me so.”
Jeno is looking at Jaemin with a sense of ease, like he wasn’t nervous trying to flirt with him. Could it even be classified as flirting? He wasn’t sure, it’s been too long since someone had behaved this way with him. Or was he just overly confident? Renjun had said that he was popular in highschool, and that a lot of people liked him. Perhaps that attention boosted his ego and carried onto university.
“I had other things to do before texting a boy became important,” Jaemin answers, pretending like he can’t smell the way Jeno’s scent thickens, almost as if he were still intrigued with Jaemin even after all he’s said.
“You can reject me,” Jeno says calmly. He looks Jaemin up and down, Jaemin wills himself to not flush at the blatant way Jeno is checking him out, and glares at the other. “No hard feelings.”
“Shouldn’t you try courting an omega?” It’s not a rejection per se, it’s just what slips from Jaemin’s lips every time someone tries to show an interest in him. Sure, since the whole fiasco with his first boyfriend, being romantic with someone was a challenge for him. But it didn’t mean he didn’t long to feel what anyone his age would. He wanted to feel secure and safe with someone, he wanted to go on cute dates and hold someone’s hand in a non-platonic way. He wanted his omega to feel comfortable with someone who would scent him when they were away, with someone who’d help him with his heats.
He wanted to be romantic, but it isn’t easy when he wakes up everyday to just lie to everyone around him. He rejects the idea of anyone trying to get close to him in a way that friends wouldn’t, because that means that he’ll have to tell them the truth, that he wasn’t an alpha. And that’s too much to unpack, Jaemin doesn’t know when he’ll feel comfortable enough to spill all his secrets. If he’ll ever feel comfortable enough.
Jaemin forgets about his thoughts when Jeno raises an eyebrow.
“I don’t care for that,” Jeno says. “I can and will court whoever I like.”
“So you don’t care that you’re trying to flirt with an alpha?” Jaemin asks again, squinting his eyes at Jeno’s coolness. He can’t gage anything about him because of his nonchalance towards this whole situation, and it briefly makes him wonder how serious Jeno is about this. In the forefront of his mind though, he reminds himself that he doesn’t know Jeno, so this could very much just be the way he is.
“Nope,” the other answers, smiling the same way he did yesterday, popping the ‘p’ at the end of his word. “Do you?”
Jaemin thinks about it.
It’s a weird question to ask.
Does he, an alpha, care that another alpha is trying to court him? Does he care that he isn’t looking at omegas to be with, like his parents have always wanted? Does he care to be seen around with another alpha romantically?
But then there’s the question of does he care. Does he care that his omega is filled with butterflies at the prospect of being courted by an alpha? Does he care that someone other than an omega or beta is taking an interest at him despite his ‘status’? Does he care that his omega knows that he’ll be spending time with an alpha who isn’t his brothers or friends?
Does Jaemin care that what he’s always dreamed of, a sense of normalcy with an alpha trying to date him, is coming true? Does Jaemin care that the omega in him is already jumping around with joy at the idea of being with an alpha? Does Jaemin care that he’s putting himself a vulnerable position?
Jaemin guesses he takes too long to answer, seeing as Jeno looks him up and down one more time before saying, “It’s none of my business if you do, but—”
“I don’t,” Jaemin says before Jeno can finish his sentence. “I don’t care.”
He pretends like his lips don’t twitch to pull into a smile as he watches Jeno smile.
“Nice,” is all the other says, adjusting his swim bag on his shoulder. “So… Text me?”
Jaemin gulps, slowly nodding his head.
He pointedly ignores the way Renjun has been side eyeing him ever since he walked into the locker room to see him and Jeno talking, and does a pretty good job of avoiding him while he gets changed at the end of practice.
He also ignores the way Renjun is calling his name as he hurriedly runs out of the locker rooms, not keen on answering any of his interrogative questions.
“I have a class to get to!” He yells over his shoulder as he leaves, feeling stupid and outed when Renjun yells back saying, “Your class doesn’t start for another hour, dumbass!”
Jaemin is just glad he’s escaped far enough from the locker room before Renjun could catch up to him, slightly cursing himself for it too once his calves start to ache. Why did he think it was smart to run away from Renjun after a morning of hell practice?
All the exhaustion from practice bleeds out of Jaemin’s system along with the breakfast he ate in the morning, and now he’s starving as he makes his way to a café on campus. His soccer bag feels heavy on his shoulder, but he’s used to it, although they don’t have practices in the morning that often, only when it was used as reprimation for a shitty practice the day before.
Jaemin is glad there isn't a long line when he makes it inside the café, relatively short with three people working behind the counter. He puts all these factors together in his brain, and is glad to find out that it means he doesn’t have to wait long before he can leave and start his trek towards the other side of campus, where his first class is.
He orders a simple americano and a slice of a lemon loaf cake, takes his receipt and thanks the cashier before heading to the waiting queue.
Jaemin believes that the amount of clumsy people out and about is heightened when it’s earlier in the morning, many people not fully awake or aware enough to keep themselves in check.
He thinks the same thing when he feels someone bump into him from behind, before he hears the sound of multiple coins hitting the ground and spinning around. He sighs, but figures he should at least help, so he turns around and makes sure that he doesn’t give anything away with his expression as he scoops coins into his hands. There’s an abundance of dimes and nickels, and Jaemin wonders what type of person keeps so much loose change with them.
Once again, Jaemin is startled by the fact that someone he doesn’t know or recognize is calling his name. He looks up towards where the question had come from, and sees the same boy he’s helping pick up his coins look at him confusedly. Jaemin wouldn’t look at someone who was helping him pick up his coins like that, but to each their own he guesses.
“Yeah?” Jaemin answers, equally as confused as he hands the other all the spare coins into his palm. As Jaemin uses these few seconds to get a closer look at his face, he deems he’s never seen him around, and from the light scent of sage and maple that isn’t drowned in the smell of espresso, Jaemin understands that the boy in front of him is an alpha. “Who’s asking?”
“Oh!” The boy startles, almost as if he remembers that he and Jaemin don’t know each other, and that it is, in fact, weird to start a conversation like this. “I’m Mark. Mark Lee. Sorry, I’m uh… Clumsy,” he introduces sheepishly, motioning towards some of the stray coins still laying around them. Jaemin picks them up before handing them to Mark, and then the both of them stand up together.
“Okay um, Mark Lee,” Jaemin says, vaguely registering in the back of his mind that this was the boy Donghyuck had been gushing over last night. He figures he could at least gain one good thing out of this encounter. Plus, if he doesn’t do this and Donghyuck somehow finds out about this, he’s going to have Jaemin’s head on a stick. “Can I have your number?”
Jaemin knew Mark was clumsy, he had just said so, but he didn’t think he was also… Odd? Was that the right word to describe how Mark started choking at his question?
“Dude, I’m like, flattered or whatever, but I couldn’t do that to Jeno,” Mark explains, and then Jaemin remembers that this is the Mark that is Jeno’s brother.
Huh. So that’s why Mark knew his name.
“It’s not for me,” Jaemin clarifies, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He guesses it’d be a bit too rude for their first encounter. “It’s for my brother. Lee Donghyuck?” He hopes the name rings a bell in Mark’s head, or else Jaemin is dead meat for throwing Donghyuck under the bus like this.
“Donghyuck? The dude who’s always watching swim practices?”
Donghyuck hadn’t said anything about watching the swim team’s practices along with their competitions, but he guesses he wouldn’t be too proud admitting that either. He makes a mental note to make fun of Donghyuck for it later.
“Sure,” Jaemin shrugs, preening his ears to make sure he doesn’t miss his order being called out. “So can I have it to give it to him?”
“Jeno was right, you are intimidating,” Mark mumbles as he grabs a pen and a piece of paper from his backpack, but Jaemin hears him anyway.
“What else does Jeno say about me?” He asks, watching the other boy scribble nine digits onto the paper. He wonders if Mark was also interested in Donghyuck, seeing as he doesn’t understand why he’d give his number out without a fight if he wasn’t.
“He says you’re the prettiest boy he’s ever seen,”
Mark immediately slaps a hand over his mouth when he realizes what he said, looking at Jaemin with wide eyes.
Jaemin just looks amused.
“I wasn’t supposed to tell you that,” Mark says alarmingly, looking like Jeno was there to witness his slip up. Jaemin just knows that Donghyuck is going to find how much of a spaz Mark is to be something endearing.
“I figured,” Jaemin hums. “It’s okay, I won’t tell him,” he assures. “What else does he say?”
“I feel like you’re using me for information and information only,” Mark sighs beside him, and Jaemin shrugs. He wasn’t going to lie to him. “But I don’t wanna tell you anything if you’re gonna end up playing my brother.”
Jaemin understands that perspective, his brothers are the only people in the whole world who he holds close to his heart. He understands the want and need to protect them from anything that could hurt them.
“I won’t give Donghyuck your phone number if you’re gonna end up playing him,” Jaemin says back. He sees Mark purse his lips out of the corner of his eye, probably upset that he didn’t get a straightforward answer.
“I don’t play people,” Mark says. “‘Specially not cute boys like Donghyuck,” he adds in a mumble but Jaemin still hears it. Satisfied with Mark's answer, he answers the other’s original question.
“I don’t play people either. So tell me, what else does Jeno say about me?”
Jaemin manages to buy Renjun into not interrogating him a few hours later during their shared class together with a cup of this stupid green tea he likes from a specific shop. But he does get silence from Renjun, so he guesses walking ten minutes in the opposite direction of his class was worth it.
Silence from Donghyuck though, that wasn’t something he’s granted easily.
He comes home after Donghyuck today, to the sight of the older boy putting a pizza box on the table along with cans of soda.
“You’re home! I was worried you’d get back when the pizza turned cold,” he says, pulling Jaemin into the kitchen by the wrist. “Wash your hands, and come sit, I’m starving.”
Jaemin complies, eager to sit down. His calves have been killing him since practice this morning, and he wants nothing more than to soak in a bath or something, maybe with salts and a few candles. Donghyuck doesn’t understand how calming baths are, but Donghyuck also showers for a whole of three minutes so he doesn’t expect much from him to begin with.
“I have something for you,” Donghyuck says when he reaches the table. He lets Jaemin sit down and puts two slices of pizza on both their plates before putting a singular purple lily on the table. “This is from Jeno.”
Jaemin’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, tentatively picking up the flower. He holds the stem between his thumb and pointer finger, bringing it up to his nose.
“How’d you get it?” He asks Donghyuck, who’s already managed to get pizza sauce on his face.
“I was hanging out with Renjun and Jeno came over to tell Renjun to give it to you. I took it from Renjun because well, duh, I live with you,” he explains, already reaching for his third slice. Jaemin hasn’t even finished his first. “But mind explaining why he’s courting you? Not even twenty four hours ago you hadn’t even texted him.”
Donghyuck looks expectant, so now seems like a good time to dig through his pocket for the scrap piece of paper Mark gave him.
“If I give you something really, really important, will you stop asking Jeno questions?”
Donghyuck looks at him weird, almost like he didn’t think Jaemin had anything valuable enough to keep him silent about the whole situation. Jaemin also kind of second guesses if it really will make Donghyuck shut up and distract him, but it’s worth a shot.
“You can try to give me something really important, sure,” he ends up agreeing, only for Jaemin to smirk and reach into his pocket. He slides the paper over to Donghyuck, who looks at it wearily before reaching for it. Jaemin watches as he unfolds it, reading the numbers. “What is this?”
“A phone number,” Jaemin answers, and Donghyuck almost reaches over the table to smack him, but Jaemin giggles and answers him properly before he can. “Mark Lee’s phone number.”
What follows Jaemin’s words is eerie silence, until Donghyuck lets out a shriek so loud, Jaemin wouldn’t be surprised if they got a noise complaint the next day.
“ What ?” Donghyuck is standing up now, staring down at the piece of paper like there was more than just nine digits on it. Jaemin stays eating his pizza, amused at his brother’s antics. “What the fuck — How did you get this? When did you get this?”
“I bumped into Mark when I was picking up coffee,” he admits. “Told him you were interested. He seems pretty cool, I approve.”
“No fucking way you got to talk to him before I did!” Donghyuck complains, to which the younger simply shrugs. He couldn’t do anything about it now. Suddenly, Donghyuck’s face gets serious, no longer staring at the paper but now staring Jaemin dead in the eyes. “Wasn’t I right? Isn’t he like… God?”
Donghyuck looks too serious for Jaemin to take him seriously, leading the latter to burst out in laughter.
“You need to relax. Just eat your dinner and then text him while squealing into your pillow.”
“I do not squeal into my pillow, Na Jaemin.”
Jaemin doesn’t believe him, but he doesn’t push it. Instead, Donghyuck sits back down and they finish their dinner talking about what kind of ice breakers he can use on Mark, and Jaemin is glad the topic of Jeno doesn’t come up anymore.
He tells Donghyuck that he’ll clean up, and the older boy is more than happy to escape into his room, phone and paper in his hand. Jaemin simply rolls his eyes as he clears up the table.
When he’s done, he heads to his room to collect some clean clothes and the little bluetooth speaker he keeps specifically for baths and showers. Donghyuck borrows it sometimes, but Jaemin has started hiding it since the last time Donghyuck borrowed it, he blasted obnoxious heavy death metal through the apartment during his 1:42am shower.
Before he makes way to exit his bedroom though, he sees his hamper out of the corner of his eyes. Jaemin doesn’t second guess it before he fishes out the pants he was wearing yesterday, taking out the piece of paper Jeno had given him. Maybe it runs in the family to write phone numbers of scrap pieces of paper.
Jaemin runs his bath, warm water with his bath salts and a little bit of rose and pomegranate oil.
When the tub is almost full, Jaemin types in Jeno’s phone number, sends his message, cues up his playlist and promptly ignores how his phone buzzes.
to: jeno lee
i guess sometimes i am rather pretty
oh, and for the flower :)
This continues for weeks on weeks, Jeno constantly dropping a flower into Jaemin’s locker, handing him a box of chocolates when their practices sync up, walking him to class because Renjun had ratted him out and now Jeno knows his schedule.
Jeno also takes him out to eat often, little places on campus or fancier places just a little bit outside.
He seems serious about the whole courting process, so Jaemin takes it seriously too. He didn’t think he’d find himself in the position where he lets an alpha hold his hand while walking to class, but he doesn’t pull it away. Sure, his mind still reels with the prospect of letting someone get romantically close to him, but it’s not as terrifying when it’s Jeno, for some reason.
Having someone court him, it felt nice. Knowing that someone’s interest could stay on him for as long as it has, it feels nice. Especially someone like Jeno, who Jaemin has learned has a lot of admirers. He gets it, he does, Jeno is unexplainably handsome and a sweetheart in all aspects, but he can’t help but feel a hint of jealousy when others try to flirt with Jeno.
He was courting Jaemin after all.
It’s been two months, and because of that, everyone catches onto the fact that alpha Lee Jeno from the swim team has his eyes on alpha Na Jaemin from the soccer team.
That’s another thing.
Jaemin doesn’t know how to tell Jeno that he isn’t actually an alpha.
He didn’t want to ever tell him, he didn’t want to ever tell anyone . But with the way that he’s becoming more and more used to Jeno’s gifts and the dates that they go on, it seems like he’s letting Jeno in closer than he ever intended.
And he guesses it’s scary. It’s different, for sure, letting himself fall into someone’s arms like that and letting someone try to win his heart. He doesn’t even know why he’s so comfortable with it, he didn’t think he could ever be comfortable with it, but here he is. Here he is, thinking that he has a chance with an alpha.
Jaemin doesn’t like thinking about how his omega may be what’s drawing him into Jeno, and not how sweet the alpha genuinely is. He doesn’t even want to venture into thinking that the way he feels about Jeno is masked by what his omega wants.
But it’s impossible to completely eliminate those thoughts when Jeno is giving him the attention he’d never gotten before.
His omega was never looked after, but Jeno always asks if he’s eaten today, or he’d like him to buy him a snack on his way over.
His omega was never allowed to feel cared for, forced into being an independent alpha, but Jeno makes him feel like he’s the only boy in the world when they’re together.
His omega was allowed to indulge, but Jeno puts an arm over his shoulder and hugs him really close when they part ways, and Jaemin always fills his lungs with the alpha’s scent.
Sometimes he thinks it’d be okay if he told Jeno. Sometimes he thinks it’d be okay if he lets his deepest desires come to the surface, to be looked after, cared for and loved. Because he’s tired of having to hold up his own, of having to pretend like he doesn’t melt at the way Jeno holds him like he’s the most delicate person out there.
But then he remembers that Jeno isn’t courting him as an omega. He remembers that Jeno isn’t looking to take care of an omega. He remembers that Jeno doesn’t know.
Jeno is courting an alpha.
And if being an alpha is what it takes to keep Jeno around, he wouldn’t be the first person Jaemin is doing it for.
“Are you crying?”
Jaemin is ripped out of his thoughts at Jeno’s question, reminded that they’re in the latter’s dorm room watching a movie on his laptop.
“No,” Jaemin denies, but it’s fruitless, especially with the way he brings a hand up to his face to wipe his tears away. He doesn’t know why or when he started crying, cursing himself in his head for ruining what would’ve been a flawless date.
Jeno had invited him over so they could watch movies, not so that he could start crying.
“Yes you are,” Jeno frowns, and Jaemin feels his gut twist.
Oh, he doesn’t want to ever see Jeno frown.
“It’s a sad movie,” Jaemin protests, hoping that Jeno doesn’t question it again after that. But that’s stupid, because then Jeno says,
“ The Little Mermaid is sad?”
Jaemi siffles, turning away from where his head was on Jeno’s chest, just so that he wouldn’t feel even more embarrassed. If Jeno thinks he cries over The Little Mermaid, he’s going to think Jaemin is the most emotional alpha out there, something he didn’t want people to know. That’s not a typical alpha character trait.
Remembering he has to answer Jeno’s question though, Jaemin is reminded of the time Jisung had started crying to The Little Mermaid , granted, Jisung was twelve, but Jaemin still fishes out his excuse from his memory to use now.
“King Triton just loves her so much, you know?” He asks weakly, sniffling. “Letting her out of the ocean and shit.”
This seems to make Jeno laugh, and Jaemin is at least glad that the heavy atmosphere isn’t there anymore. The arm that the other boy has around his shoulders pulls him back in closer, laughing right into his ear as he hugs him to his chest.
“You’re so cute, did you know that?”
Jaemin’s heart does somersaults at Jeno’s words, and he can feel his cheeks flush red. He briefly registers that he’s an alpha, and that he shouldn’t be rendered so weak by a few simple words, but when he’s with Jeno, it’s easy to throw these thoughts away.
Because being with Jeno was easy.
“Shut up,” he mutters, throwing his arms around Jeno’s waist and settling back comfortably on the other’s chest. “Just watch the movie.”
“What? You wanna see if I’ll cry too?”
“Jeno,” Jaemin groans, looking up at him with a glare. “Do you ever get tired of being an asshole?”
“Not really, no,” he shrugs, a smile ever so present on his face. “Plus, you’re cute when you’re mad.”
If Jaemin thought that Jeno was bold when they first met, he’s only learnt that that’s exactly who Jeno is. He isn’t scared to speak his mind, or to let someone know how he’s really feeling, no filters or anything. Jaemin wishes that he could be like that sometimes, wishes he didn’t have to filter the way he was around Jeno.
But it’s just that at the end of the day; wishful thinking.
Jaemin doesn’t say anything more to Jeno, just lays his head back down comfortably and watches as the next movie Jeno selected starts to play.
Jeno dorms alone, which surprised Jaemin. He thought he’d be living to Mark, but Jeno had said that they would end up killing each other before obtaining their degrees. Jaemin thinks it’s fair, sometimes he wants to strangle Donghyuck.
As thoughts of Donghyuck come to his mind, Jaemin realizes that he hasn’t told Jeno about how they’re adopted.
He guesses that’s one of the first, and easier secrets to start with, something not too extreme. Plus, at some point, if he wants to continue with things the way they have been going, Jaemin needs to tell Jeno all these little things about him.
So far, all Jeno really knows about Jaemin’s personal life is that his parents live three cities away, he has three brothers, and that he’s the middle child. It’s not like Jaemin is intentionally keeping these things from Jeno, it’s just that he doesn’t know how to say these things. Plus, one of Jeno’s questions may lead to other things, which makes Jaemin’s stomach churn with anxiety.
That was a whole can of worms he wasn’t ready to open.
But for now, he’ll start slowly. Because Jeno deserves to at least know that.
For comfort (he doesn’t know when Jeno’s skin became his comfort), Jaemin reaches to hold Jeno’s hand. The latter doesn’t question it, and Jaemin feels pride in knowing he gets to hold Jeno’s hand whenever he wants.
“Can I tell you something?” He whispers, purposefully low, but just loud to be heard over the volume of Jeno’s laptop.
“Sure,” he answers happily, lowering the volume of the movie instantly, and Jaemin thinks it’s because he remembers that one time he told Jeno that one of his pet peeves was when people didn’t listen to him when he was talking.
Just to prove his point, Jeno rubs his thumbs over Jaemin’s knuckles, and the younger swoons.
“I’m adopted,” he starts quietly, not really knowing how to talk about this. He probably should’ve thought about that, especially since he doesn’t think he’s ever had this conversation with someone. “So is Donghyuck, and so is our other brother, Jisung. Our parents are both alphas, so they can’t have their own kids,” he explains, feeling Jeno squeeze his hand in silent encouragement.
“You and your brothers have a really beautiful relationship,” Jeno comments, and it’s then that Jaemin remembers that Jeno had met Jisung a few weeks ago when the younger had come to visit. Jeno had insisted about meeting him, claiming that he wanted to show Jaemin and the important people in Jaemin’s life how serious he was. Then, Jeno whistles. “A family of alphas huh? That’s impressive.”
Jaemin feels his heart clench at the mention of that, and he wants nothing more than to tell Jeno that they’re not a family of alphas. But now isn't the right time. He isn’t ready.
But it sounds weird when Jeno talks about it. Does that mean Jaemin will be less impressive when he finds out that his family isn’t all alphas? That he himself isn’t even an alpha?
He’s always known that he’d end up disappointing people when they found out that he wasn’t an alpha, but the prospect of disappointing Jeno seems more heartbreaking than anything else.
He doesn’t know he’s crying until he sniffles and feels Jeno wipe his tears.
“There’s nothing wrong with being adopted, you know,” Jeno says softly, pulling Jaemin’s face up just a little so that they were making eye contact. “It doesn’t make you any less of a family.”
Jaemin knows that Jeno’s words are true, because he’s never had a problem with being adopted. Sure, maybe there was a lingering uncertainty about why his birth parents gave up on him, but he was too young to even remember much about that time in his life.
“I’m scared, Jeno,” Jaemin admits, letting the other hold him close, because he doesn’t know the next time he’s going to feel this much comfort. Jeno’s touch is something he can’t explain, something that makes him feel so safe that it’s insane. For some reason, while he had the hardest time trying to open up to others and make new friends, opening up to Jeno doesn’t seem difficult at all. “I’m scared I won’t be good enough.”
His confession stems more from when someone will eventually find out he’s an omega, but there’s no way Jeno knows that. Still, Jaemin feels comfortable enough to tell him about what he’s really thinking. Even if Jeno doesn’t know the whole truth and context behind his words, Jaemin thinks anything from the older boy will make him feel a bit better.
He never liked depending on people like that, but something about Jeno just… Compels him.
Him and his omega.
“You don’t have to please anyone but yourself,” Jeno assures, moving his hands from Jaemin’s face to pull him into a hug. “You’re the center of your own world, Jaemin. Your happiness comes first.”
Jaemin finds a semblance of the home he only ever found with Donghyuck and Jisung when he breathes in Jeno’s scent, something that he’s only ever found with two other people before.
It’s something he never thought he’d find, something he never knew existed outside of his family. It’s something he never knew he could be experiencing, always running away from feelings and the closeness that comes with romance.
But as it always seems to be with Jeno, it’s different with him. So different, that Jaemin doesn’t feel as ashamed as he would if he was in front of Donghyuck or Jisung, when he cries in Jeno’s arms.
“I don’t want to be alone,” he whispers brokenly into the crook of Jeno’s neck, right where his scent glands are, right where he feels safest.
It’s his biggest fear, to be alone. Whether it be alone without a family, alone without his brothers, alone for the rest of his life without a mate— he’s terrified of it.
“You won’t ever be alone,” Jeno whispers back comfortingly. His hands are stroking up and down on his back, drawing him in closer every few seconds. “Because you’re beautiful inside and out, Jaemin. You leave a mark on everyone you meet.
“And… If you’re okay with it, I don’t have any intentions of going anywhere, y’know…”
Jaemin laughs a little into Jeno’s neck, albeit wetly, but it’s enough to make Jeno let a nervous laugh of his own.
“I’d like that, Jeno,” he admits, bringing his head out of the other’s shoulder.
He knows his face is flushed pink, tear tracks probably ugly and eyes a little red. His eyelashes are most probably clumped together by his tears, and he doesn’t even want to get started on his nose. However, despite all of that, Jeno still brings one hand to cup his face, his thumb under his eye.
“You’re so pretty,” Jeno breathes out, looking at Jaemin like he was in awe of the other boy. There’s a soft smile tugging at the corner of the other’s lips, and Jaemin has never loved the look of something more than he loves the look of a smile on Jeno’s lips. “Can I kiss you?”
Jaemin blinks three times before Jeno’s question has fully processed, and as if on cue, his cheeks flush darker than what they already are.
“If you want to,” Jaemin mumbles after a few seconds, nodding his head. He casts his gaze down, feeling warmth flood his insides. Jeno is so polite, always so careful even when he doesn’t have to be. It makes him, along with the omega inside of him, preen under the attention.
Jeno doesn’t seem to waste anymore time after Jaemin’s green light, pulling the younger’s face down slowly and leaning his own up slightly. Jaemin closes his eyes, and they meet in the middle as their lips press against each other.
There’s no fireworks, nor is there any explosion in his chest. Colour doesn’t erupt behind his eyelids, and his breath doesn’t catch in his throat.
But it feels like home.
It feels like coming home after a long day, it feels like drinking coffee in the morning together, it feels like eating dinner at the same table.
Kissing Jeno feels like home.
And that’s enough to let Jaemin know that he doesn’t ever want to let Jeno go.
The euphoria he felt when kissing Jeno doesn’t come to a stop, if anything, it’s constantly around now.
Because every day spent with Jeno feels more intimate now, even if they were only drinking milkshakes together. After that night, it’s clear that the two of them became closer, and while Jaemin is still hiding a rather big secret from him, it still feels right.
Every second spent with Jeno feels right.
It feels like walking on clouds, like not even the most powerful of rainstorms can dampen his mood.
It feels like touching the sunshine with his fingertips, like nothing could dim the happiness he feels when he’s around the other boy.
It feels like… Everything falling into place. It feels like a dream almost, but when Jaemin threads his fingers with Jeno’s, he knows the other is very much real, and he’s choosing him amongst all the other people he could have.
“I haven’t seen you smile this much since… No, that’s it. I haven’t seen you smile this much ever,” Renjun sighs from his right side. Renjun lifts his shirt up to use the hem to wipe sweat off of his forehead, and Jaemin uses the fact that he’s distracted to kick the ball towards him.
Rightfully, Renjun doesn’t see the ball rolling towards him until it passes him, so he rolls his eyes at Jaemin before running after it. When he comes back, they resume their warm up, but not really since they’re just passing the ball between themselves.
“I’m just thinking about the date Jeno has planned for tonight,” Jaemin answers truthfully, and his smile widens at the mere thought of the date. He thinks he hears Renjun gag, but he pays it no mind. “We’re going café hopping.”
“Jesus Jaem, you’re gonna be bouncing off of the walls with how much coffee that’ll be,” Renjun says with wide eyes. “Your boyfriend is trying to kill you.”
“I’ve had more caffeine in my morning coffee than what we’ll end up having today,” he shrugs off, his eyes following the ball. Then he registers the second thing Renjun said, and he furrows his eyebrows. “Also, Jeno’s not my boyfriend.”
Renjun raises an eyebrow at him, and Jaemin breaks out into a smile immediately.
“ … Yet.”
Renjun rolls his eyes fondly, passing him the ball. They’re not even standing that far apart, so Jaemin feels like they’re just wasting time under the excuse of warming up, but their coach hasn’t said anything yet so they continue.
“I’m happy for you, Jaemin,” he says out of nowhere, startling Jaemin. “It’s nice seeing you be with someone.”
“Is this your way of saying you’re sick of hanging out with me?” He asks jokingly, to which Renjun plays along.
“Mhm yeah, took you long enough to figure out,” he teases, but the soft smile stays on his face, so he knows that he’s being sincere. “But all jokes aside, you look happier. You and Jeno seem good for each other.”
Jaemin feels a sense of warmth bubble in his chest at Renjun’s words. Other people see it too then, huh?
“Thanks,” he smiles, happily passing the ball to Renjun. “Jeno makes me really happy.”
Happiness lasts for all about two minutes before Donghyuck bursts his bubble with a condom in his hand.
“Look at this,” he tells Jaemin seriously, shoving the condom right in his face first thing when he comes home. “Jaemin, look at it— seriously.”
“Hyuck, you’re so fucking weird,” Jaemin groans, pushing the condom out of his face as he tries to take his shoes off without Donghyuck harassing him. “Dude! Get the condom out of my face!”
“Nana, you’re not understanding,” this time it’s Donghyuck who groans, holding Jaemin by the wrists. He drags Jaemin to the couches, where he makes them both sit down. Donghyuck looks Jaemin dead in the eyes, and he’s just a bit weirded out by how stern Donghyuck looks. “I found this in Mark’s room.”
Jaemin’s eyes widen, looking between Donghyuck’s face and the condom.
“You stole a condom from Mark’s room? What’s wrong with you—”
“You’re missing the point,” Donghyuck insists, cutting him off. Jaemin doesn’t even think there’s a point to begin with, because realistically, what the fuck could it be, but he lets Donghyuck continue. “Read the wrapper.”
Jaemin does so, albeit reluctantly, and finds his eyes widening again.
“Does that say—”
“ ‘Extra Large’ ? Yes, yes it does.”
“Donghyuck! You already had sex with Mark?”
“No! I just saw this lying around, and well, now I know how big his dick is. It’s his fault for keeping them in plain sight, honestly.” Jaemin doesn’t understand how Donghyuck is justifying himself, but he lets it slide as he sighs. “Have you and Jeno—”
“No!” Jaemin exclaims before Donghyuck can even finish his question. He blushes red at the thought, and can feel his omega preen a little at the innuendo. “We’re not even dating, he’s just courting me.”
“Well can you guys hurry up?” Donghyuck sighs, as if the pace of their relationship was affecting him. Which Jaemin doesn’t understand, but if today has taught him anything, it’s that he doesn’t understand a lot about Donghyuck.
“I will not set my pace based on what you think, Mr. I Stole A Condom Off Of Mark Lee’s Floor,” Jaemin sasses, getting up from the couch. “I’m gonna shower and then do some work. Have a fun night, try not to jerk off to Mark.”
“You’re terrible, did you know that?” Donghyuck yells after him, to which Jaemin makes a finger heart over his head.
Jaemin thinks Donghyuck didn’t intend for him to hear it, but he still manages to make out him saying, “Love you too, idiot.”
As Jaemin walks into his room while responding to a text from Jeno, he thinks that for once, he’s happy.
Jaemin likes to take pride in his memory. He thinks it’s something that’s both a blessing and a curse, remembering things he doesn’t necessarily want to, but it also comes in handy during school and when it comes to important dates, tests and exams.
This morning isn’t a good example of those times.
After Jaemin’s shower last night, he had been pleasantly surprised to see an incoming call from Jisung as he was walking into his bedroom.
Jisung calls one to three times a week, but Jaemin still feels happiness bubble in his chest when he sees the call. Talking to Jisung is always like a distraction, and it takes him back to a time where he wasn’t stressed with school work and things like that.
He also loves hearing anecdotes about Jisung’s life, whatever was going on in school, with his friends, or anything else. The phone calls remind him of how much he misses Jisung, but he knows that the phone calls will hold him off until he gets to see the younger again.
Either way, it was with a lovely conversation with Jisung, Donghyuck dropping by his room to give a snack creation he had made, and a goodnight text from Jeno that Jaemin drifted off into a peaceful, and dreamless sleep.
He doesn’t remember the last time it was this easy to fall asleep, but he guesses all the positive things circling him are helping. Jaemin doesn’t know what he did to deserve all this, but he also doesn’t dare complain.
It’s not everyday, good things come to you. He’s learned to cherish the little things which put a smile on his face, mostly in fear of not knowing when a similar feeling would appear.
But it’s okay. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s content.
More than that actually, he’s happy .
His happiness seems to bleed into the next morning, waking up with a smile on his face as the sunshine filters in through the windows. He wakes up fifteen minutes before his alarm, simply laying down in bed without moving as he listens to the quiet hum through the apartment.
Jaemin knows Donghyuck isn’t awake yet, his class starts at noon today, so he was dead to the world until 11:00am, at least.
Surprisingly, it’s easier to drag himself to sit up this morning, slipping his feet into his slippers happily. He also feels uncharacteristically refreshed, and he briefly wonders if this is how other people live on a daily basis.
Huh. They seemed lucky.
But he doesn’t let that thought put a damper on whatever serotonin is coursing through his own veins, happy to walk himself to the bathroom for a quick shower and to get ready.
He takes care to not make too much noise, not keen on dealing with a grumpy Donghyuck.
After he dresses himself, Jaemin silently makes his way to the kitchen with light footsteps, grabbing an apple from the fruit basket. It’s red and large, and Jaemin washes it under warm water for fifteen seconds before taking a big bite from the fruit.
Once again, because the simple things in everyday life are the easiest things to appreciate, Jaemin hums as he chews, and swallows, content. It may be a small breakfast, but as he puts on his backpack and toes on his shoes, his thoughts are filled with positivity.
Perhaps that’s why he forgot about a very important, very vital, very negative part of his morning routine.
Perhaps that’s why he didn’t bother checking the date on the fridge calendar like he normally does.
Perhaps it’s also why he dismisses the calendar notification on his phone screen without so much as a second glance.
So no, this morning is not a good example of his stellar memory.
Jaemin feels excitement bubble in his chest when he sees a text from Jeno asking him to meet by the student center, located halfway between both their accommodations. Jeno doesn’t have a class for another two hours, and while Jaemin only has forty minutes before his next one, he’s happy to spend those forty minutes with Jeno.
Things with Jeno… They’ve been going better than Jaemin had ever expected them to.
Sure, since day one he didn’t truly expect them to progress as much as they had, but now it’s almost been three months of him looking forward to Jeno’s presence everyday.
Getting to see the older boy everyday gives Jaemin enough motivation to pull through, and the cute goodmorning and goodnight texts let Jaemin wake up and go to sleep satisfied. He never expected Jeno to have such a large impact in his life, but he doesn’t hate it at all.
He knows all happiness, and even this one, will be temporary though. He can’t expect to be this way with Jeno forever.
If Jeno doesn’t leave him because he’s an omega, then he definitely will when he realizes that Jaemin has been lying to him all this time, and even if then not, it’ll be because of how damaged his omega is.
Jaemin understands though, why would Jeno want to stick around after all of that?
As far as Jeno knows, Jaemin is just curvier than other alphas, smaller, and a bit… Softer? Was that the right word? He did have muscles, and he was built to give off the impression that he was a real alpha, but with all the hugs, cuddles and touches Jeno gives him, he knows that Jeno thinks his body isn’t the typical alpha’s body. He never says anything, but Jeno is open minded like that, and Jaemin knows it’s because it doesn't matter to him.
And it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t matter to anyone except maybe Jaemin himself. At first he’d been confused towards why his parents expected him to get together and mate with an omega, but with a further explanation of how Jaemin had more to make up for since he wasn’t a real man, a real alpha, he guesses he’s the exception of many rules.
His own aren’t very different.
So just like many other luxuries in life, Jaemin will enjoy his time with Jeno before it inevitably comes to an end.
He’s forced out of his thoughts when someone comes running into him, scooping him into their arms and spinning him around.
“Jaeminnie!” Jeno’s way too energetic morning voice greets, spinning him in a circle once more before gently setting him down onto his feet. “Good morning!”
“It’s too early for you,” Jaemin groans teasingly, nonetheless smiling at the other and reaching up just a bit to peck his cheek. “Morning.”
Jeno smiles again, Jaemin briefly wonders if he ever stops, and then laces their fingers together, leading them into the direction he came from. Since Jeno lives on campus, more of the cafés and food places are near him, and it makes for horrible convenience, which Jaemin admits he’s jealous of.
“Have you eaten breakfast?” Jeno asks, and there he is again, weakening Jaemin’s fragile heart and making his omega swoon with a simple question.
“I ate an apple,” he answers, swinging their joined hands between them. He vaguely acknowledges the eyes of other students on them, looking from their hands to their smiles. But today, Jaemin finds he doesn’t mind the attention more than other days.
Sure, when he woke up in the morning he was already in a stellar mood, but now he feels like he’s dancing on a rainbow right now, and he has no clue towards what made him so happy. He could almost mistake the unusual boost in his mood to be the effects of a drug, but he knows that isn’t the case.
But he doesn’t dwell too much on it, seeing no reason to. Instead he should be appreciative of this random high, something out of the blue.
“Well that won’t do,” Jeno tsks, leading them to turn a corner. Jaemin recognizes this area as one of the hot spots where there’s a multitude of food places, and suddenly, the apple in his stomach feels awfully lonely.
“I suppose it won’t,” he hums back playfully, earning a brilliantly adorable smile from Jeno. Sometimes Jaemin wonders how Jeno manages to be so cute all of the time, but then he remembers that it must simply be the way he is.
Jeno has a lot of little mannerisms which Jaemin finds endearing, a few of the prominent ones being how he says hello to random honking cars out of habit, how he makes devastatingly cute noises whenever he’s confused, and how he stops to pet every single stray cat he sees, looking like he’s having an inner turmoil about whether to take them in or not.
Jaemin knows that if it weren’t for his student status or upsetting cat allergy, Jeno would’ve had a lot of cats living under his roof.
“I know a waffle place,” Jeno says happily. “Right there, do you see it?” Jeno points to the last café in a string of little shops. It’s still rather early in the morning, so there aren’t many people out right now. Jaemin knows that neither he nor Jeno particularly want to be awake at 7:30am, but the other’s presence makes it all a bit better. “Also, do you smell that?”
At Jeno’s question, Jaemin tries sniffing the air for anything unusual, but only comes up with Jeno’s scent which he’s already so accustomed to.
“No?” He says confusedly, furrowing his eyebrows. They’re out in the open and there’s not too many people around, so Jaemin doesn’t know what he could be talking about. Nothing smells out of the ordinary for the morning in the middle of campus next to Jeno, at least to him.
And then, Jeno takes a step closer to him, and puts his nose right up against his scent glands, and he’s nervous.
The pills he takes for his artificial scent of cumin and cedarwood are obviously not as strong as a natural alpha’s scent, and although it does come from his scent glands, it won’t be as strong, even there. Jeno has shoved his face in Jaemin’s neck before, but it was never to explicitly scent him. And while his scent is weaker even then, Jaemin blames it on it simply always being like that.
He knows that isn’t the case, and he doesn’t know if Jeno really does believe him or if he’s just being sweet and ignoring the bluff.
Jaemin doesn’t know how either of those options sit with him.
“ No ,” Jaemin immediately says, mainly out of habit, out of not knowing how to handle that comment. He never thought he’d be having this conversation, nonetheless this soon and nonetheless with Jeno.
“Yeah,” the other says nonchalantly, and Jaemin doesn’t know if he’s feigning it or if he’s genuinely this calm about it. “You smell like peaches. Is it a new perfume?”
And then, Jaemin’s blood runs cold.
His heart sinks to the bottom of his stomach, and his hands start sweating. His breathing picks up, and although he could lie to Jeno and say that it is a new perfume and that it is something other than his real scent that has managed to bleed through, his tongue feels glued to the roof of his mouth, unable to speak.
It’s with Jeno’s question that he comes to realize that he didn’t take his pills this morning, that he didn’t take a single one . Not his heat suppressants, not his scent blockers, not his artificial scent supplements. Nor did he check his calendar, nor did he read the calendar notification on his phone before swiping it away.
Which means it’s been more than twenty four hours since he’s last had either of the three in his system.
Which means his heat is scheduled to be within the next few days.
Which means he’s out in public right now, alone with Jeno, smelling like an omega.
No wonder he felt like a burden had been lifted off of his shoulders this morning.
And because he doesn’t know what to do, he rips his hand out of Jeno’s hold, suddenly overwhelmed by his close presence and scent.
He wants to tell Jeno that everything is okay, but it isn’t.
He wants to tell Jeno that he’s fine, but he isn’t.
He wants to turn away from Jeno’s overbearing alpha , but he doesn’t. Because as much as he isn’t used to Jeno’s presence without the safety of the walls his pills put up, it’s also strangely comforting.
“Hey,” Jeno says softly, trying to catch Jaemin’s panicked and scattered gaze. “What’s wrong?”
Jaemin can hear him, but he can’t really hear him, too drowned in what Jeno was thinking.
Does he know he’s an omega?
Does he know what the scent of peaches means?
Does he not want to see me anymore?
And then Jeno takes a step closer, and Jaemin breathes in a lungful of his scent. Of his vodka and his tree bark, of the woodsy and oddly intimate scent he’s been breathing in for weeks on end.
It’s nothing new, it’s not a new scent. He’s so extremely used to it, sometimes smelling of it himself when he puts on Jeno’s t-shirts and hoodies. He’s not a stranger to the smell of Jeno, but when he breathes in his scent this time, something inside Jaemin switches.
No more does his system just acknowledge Jeno’s scent and find comfort in it, but now his insides churn, and heat starts coursing through his entire body.
That’s never happened before, and it isn’t something that feels good. He feels his stomach rolling, even though all he ate was an apple in the morning. He feels his skin start prickling with heat, even though he’s wearing comfortable clothes and it isn’t too hot outside right now. His heart starts beating faster, and it’s not with the usual fuzzy feeling he gets around Jeno. Instead, this time it’s with an unnamable need, something so, completely, foreign to Jaemin.
“Jaemin,” Jeno calls again, grabbing onto his hand.
This time, instead of the usual butterfly inducing warmth spreading through his body, Jeno’s touch sends sparks of pure heat through his body, enough for it to burn and make Jaemin rip his hand away again.
He sees the hurt and confused look on Jeno’s face, and as much as he wants to tell Jeno that it’s not his fault, his shaky hands reach for his phone without saying anything.
His mind zeroes in on the one person he thinks he can trust right now, when he doesn’t know what’s happening to his body.
He blindly dials Donghyuck’s phone number like muscle memory, ignoring the way Jeno is looking at him worriedly.
Obviously, because it’s too early for Donghyuck, he doesn’t answer on the first call. Jaemin taps the call back button through laboured breaths, finding a little bit of relief wash over him when the line connects.
“ Jaemin-ah, what do you want ?” Donghyuck groans, clearly irritated. His voice is thick with sleep and croaky, and Jaemin finds it in himself to feel a tiny bit bad for waking him up. But that feeling goes away when another wave of heat courses through his body, and when the scent of Jeno standing a mere few feet away from him gets too overwhelming.
“Hyuck,” he says shakily, hoping to convey that this was serious, and that he needs the other to be attentive. He hopes it works when he hears the bed sheets rustle on the other side. “I don’t know what’s happening, please, I need you.”
In the back of his mind, where things are a bit less chaotic, he knows he isn’t making any sense. But when all he can think about is how much pain and heat he’s in, coherency is thrown out the window.
“Jaemin,” Donghyuck says, seriously this time. Jaemin is glad for that at least. “Where are you? Are you alone?”
“With Jeno,” he answers. “I don’t… I don’t know where—”
“By the center fountain,” Jeno supplies firmly from where he still is in front of Jaemin. When the latter looks over at him, he looks concerned but at least a bit more put together than before. Jaemin can still see worry swimming in his eyes, and his heart feels awful for shutting the other out when all he clearly wanted to do was help. But then the omega inside him begs to be next to Jeno, in Jeno’s arms, to hear Jeno’s heartbeat, to smell Jeno’s scent, and he’s reminded of why he can’t give Jeno any of the answers he’s looking for.
He himself doesn't know what’s happening, but Jeno had smelled peaches on him and Jaemin didn’t take his three pills this morning, so he knows nothing good is happening. Plus, where was all this pain and heat coming from? Jaemin knows when his heat is scheduled if he were to go through them, and it wasn’t now.
“B-By the center fountain,” Jaemin says through his bated breath, keeping eye contact with Jeno the whole time.
He doesn’t know what he’s looking for in the other’s eyes, if he’s even looking for anything at all, but it’s comforting. Looking into Jeno’s eyes where he doesn’t see any judgement, anything other than confusion, he feels a little at ease.
“I’ll be there. Stay put Jaemin, and stay with Jeno. Don’t move.”
And then Donghyuck hangs up before Jaemin can thank him, leaving him in silence with Jeno.
“You’re hiding something—”
“I’m not,” Jaemin denies, wincing at how quick his answer came.
“You are,” Jeno insists, but he doesn’t sound mad. Instead, he just motions for Jaemin to sit down on the bench near them, knowing better than to try to guide him there himself, seeing how Jaemin had retracted from his touch two times before. “Because you smell like peaches, Jaemin.”
“Stop it, I don’t ,” he says, more fire in his voice than he intended. “It’s just perfume, like you said.” He tries to sound convincing, but he guesses the way he doubles over and clutches his stomach isn’t helping his case.
“Babe, it’s not perfume,” Jeno sighs, biting his lower lip. He looks at Jaemin, who looks miserable as he holds his stomach. Jaemin probably doesn’t know it, but his scent doesn’t smell just like peaches anymore, it smells a bit rotten. Like a mix of ripe and rotten peaches and too strong alcohol. He’s learned enough of this in school to know that an omega’s normally sweet scent turns pungent when they’re upset or distressed, and this was a textbook example; going into preheat. “You’re an—”
Donghyuck comes running towards them, his steps faltering once he’s close enough to get a whiff of Jaemin’s scent. He throws Jeno a look, and truthfully, Jeno doesn’t know what he’s asking with his eyes, but he shakes his head either way.
“Hyuck, I’m hot,” Jaemin moans, face contorting in pain. Now he can smell both Jeno and Donghyuck’s scents, immediately feeling even more at ease. The feeling of ease doesn’t subdue how much pain is rushing through him though, but it does distract him a little.
“What happened?” Donghyuck asks, crouching down in front of him and putting his hands on his shoulders, taken aback by how hot he feels through his clothes. “Do you have a fever?”
Jeno wants to say it obviously isn’t a fever, but he feels like Donghyuck knows that much and is just saying this to make Jaemin feel better.
“No, not a fever,” Jaemin whines. “I didn’t take my vitamins today. I need to take those.”
At the mention of vitamins, Jeno’s eyebrows shoot up.
Sure, Jaemin had never mentioned vitamins to him, and it’s not like he expects the other to tell him everything, but the mention of vitamins doesn’t sit right with him.
It’s not like he and Jaemin are mates, they aren’t even officially dating yet, but he’s always known he had a bit of a connection with the other boy. It’s undeniable, and he knows Jaemin feels it too.
It’s with that instinct that he knows that they’re more than just vitamins, that Jaemin is talking about.
“Shit— Okay. Okay, let’s go back home, you need those,” Donghyuck says alarmingly, eyes wide at Jaemin’s revelation.
As far as Donghyuck knows, Jaemin has never skipped his vitamins, ever . He doesn’t know what’ll happen to Jaemin if he skips them, and he isn’t too keen on finding out.
Jeno, however, squints his eyes.
“Donghyuck,” Jeno says lowly, motioning for the other to come a bit closer. He does, and Jeno tries his best to look like he’s saying something nice instead of, “Don’t give him the vitamins. Look at what’s in the bottle.”
Donghyuck looks extremely confused, rightfully so, Jeno was also terribly confused, but he is going off instincts which haven’t failed him yet, so he only hopes they aren’t going to fail him now.
For extra measure, he adds in,
“Please. You smell him too, I know you can.”
Jeno feels bad talking about Jaemin like he wasn’t right beside them, but his concerns are more than just if Jaemin can hear them.
His concerns range from questions all centered around what, why, when and how, but he knows he’s going to have to wait to get answers. All he hopes for now, is that Jaemin will be okay.
Jaemin’s voice breaks them out of their semi silent conversation, Donghyuck breaking eye contact with a simple nod.
“Nana,” Jeno says to Jaemin next, putting his full attention on him. “Can I give you a hug?”
Jaemin hesitates before answering, not wanting Jeno close enough where he could smell the peaches. But it doesn’t seem like Jaemin is the one who gets to answer, his instincts making him nod, knowing that he wants Jeno to hug him just as much as the other wants to.
Gratefully, Jeno engulfs the younger into a hug, avoiding his neck and instead burying his face in his hair. He lets out a breath in relief when Jaemin hugs him back, arms around his torso.
“Feel better soon, Jaemin-ah,” Jeno whispers, pressing a short kiss to Jaemin’s lips.
They both know Jeno means more with his words, they both know that he knows something.
But for now, Jeno will pretend like he’s oblivious, if only for Jaemin’s sanity, will pretend like Jaemin didn’t smell beautifully sweet, will pretend like Jaemin isn’t just as much confused as he is.
Because Jeno knows.
So all he’s left to wonder, as he watches Jaemin and Donghyuck’s retreating figures, is how Jaemin had managed to hide it, and how he had managed to miss it.