“Jeno!” Jaemin called. He watched as his best friend spun around. The setting sun framed his head, amplifying the smile that stretched across his face. He looked even more like an angel than usual.
“Jaemin! What’s up?”
“You guys nearly finished?” Jaemin gestured to the group gathered on the basketball court. Jeno was co-captain and star of the school basketball team. He’d joined after some gentle nudging on Jaemin’s part. Albeit reluctant at first, Jeno thrived on the court. “I wanna get ice-cream.”
Jeno nodded. “Yeah, we’ll be like fifteen minutes. Wait on the bleachers for me?”
“Sure.” Jaemin grinned. He began to turn away when Jeno’s hand wrapped around his wrist. As Jeno tugged, Jaemin followed willingly.
Jeno squinted as he looked at Jaemin’s arms. “You’re freezing! Look at these goosebumps!” Jaemin choked back the giggle that threatened to escape at how affronted his best friend sounded. “My sweater is on the bleachers, put it on.”
“Jeno, I’m fine.”
“No, Jaem, you’re not. Come on. It’ll look better on you anyway,” he teased.
“Shut up.” Jaemin rolled his eyes but the sudden heat to his cheeks could cure any hypothermia.
His blush didn’t die down as he pulled Jeno’s sweater over his head. His blush didn’t die down as Yuqi giggled at him from two steps up where she drowned in her boyfriend’s own sweater. His blush certainly didn’t die down as Jeno pushed his sweat slick hair back from his forehead, biceps bulging as he pushed his fingers through his wet locks.
There was just something so… intimate about wearing someone’s sweater. Jaemin couldn’t explain it, really, but it was the typical American coming of age movie stereotype. Guy gives girl sweater, girl is in love with guy, girl ends up dating guy. Textbook stuff. Of course it was going to make Jaemin feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside. He grew up thinking this was peak relationship goals.
And yeah, maybe Jeno looked a little sexy out on the court but that was nothing new. He had always been quite good looking. Jaemin wasn’t blind. All the girls in their year - and some of the younger girls - would stare at Jeno wherever he went. Even if Jaemin couldn’t see that Jeno was handsome, it would be hard to miss that. But Jaemin could see it. He saw Jeno’s ethereal smile, he saw his gorgeous jawline, he saw his beautiful eyebrows. Even looking past the physical features, Jaemin saw Jeno’s cringey sense of humour, his cute little noises, his quiet intelligence, his- Oh.
So, maybe Jaemin had a little crush on his best friend. That was fine. He could deal with it. Jeno was (most likely) straight. It would be an easy thing to get over. He doubted Jeno would ever see him like that. The best thing to do was forget about it.
Jaemin spent the next few minutes reverting any slightly romantic thoughts about his friend back to completely platonic ones. If he nipped this in the bud, there’d be no chance of his feelings blossoming. He wouldn’t let himself fall in love with his best friend. He wouldn’t let himself become a cliche. He wouldn’t.
“Mark, you clearly need to get your eyes tested because no way is anyone more sun-like than I am.”
“His teammate literally calls him ‘Sunny’ because his smile lights up the world, Duckie.”
“So? You guys call me Haechan!”
“We really don’t,” Jaemin protested, doubling over in pain as Donghyuck’s elbow made contact with his gut. Mark howled with laughter at his misery, Donghyuck quickly joining in. Jeno, however, was oddly silent. He usually loved situations like this and would actively take part in anything that allowed him to make fun of his twin brother and/or his best friend. Despite his efforts to stop his feelings from developing, Jaemin still constantly searched for Jeno when he couldn’t see or hear him.
Raising himself up again, he found Jeno wasn’t paying much attention to them. In fact, he didn’t seem to be taking notice of them at all. His eyes were focussed somewhere behind Jaemin, trailing slowly along as if he were following something. Jaemin furrowed his brow, turning around to track where Jeno was looking. Oh, it was just Renjun. Why wasn't Jeno calling him over? Jaemin looked back to his best friend in confusion. Jeno’s eyes looked really… soft. Jaemin had never seen him look like that before. He was about to question his friend when Jeno’s face fell. With widened eyes, Jaemin spun to look at Renjun. The older boy was now talking to Harvey. The foreign exchange student placed a friendly hand on Renjun’s shoulder as a crack resounded from across the table.
Jaemin was greeted with splintered plastic covering the table. He followed the trail to Jeno’s hand, where half a plastic spoon sat. Jeno was staring at the spoon in shock, clearly surprised that he’d somehow snapped it in half.
“Um, I’m gonna go get a new spoon,” Jeno stated. The others simply nodded as he hurried away.
“What was that about?” Donghyuck asked.
“Why was he holding the spoon so tight?” Mark agreed. “Maybe you should go check on him.” Donghyuck sighed, but stood anyway. "Don't be mean to your brother."
“I can go,” Jaemin protested.
“You sure?” Donghyuck looked sceptical.
Jaemin nodded. “I’ve got this.” He joined Jeno at the counter quietly. “Hey, you okay?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” Jaemin pursed his lips. Jeno could be so stubborn.
“You looked really upset a minute ago,” Jaemin prodded. Jeno sighed, squeezing his eyes shut.
“I’m just tired, Jaemin.”
Jaemin didn’t believe him. How could he when Jeno didn’t even believe himself? Jaemin waited, hoping his friend would tell him the truth. They passed a minute, then another in silence. Jaemin gave up. He let out a long breath, then returned to their table with a smile plastered across his face.
“Is he okay?” Donghyuck inquired.
“Yeah,” Jaemin assured. “He’s fine.”
Jaemin held completely still as Donghyuck painted little flags with the school colours on his cheek. It was the day of the basketball cup final and their friend group was getting ready to go cheer on Jeno and Mark. Renjun was in the same position next to him, Chenle gripping the older boy’s chin as he meticulously coloured between the lines he had drawn. Jisung was buzzing with excitement, unable to sit still. Chenle had attempted to give him little matching flags but after the fourth time the youngest moved and caused Chenle to paint a streak of red across his face, he had given up.
“Okay, you’re all done,” Chenle announced, pulling Renjun up and shoving him towards the mirror.
“Ah, thanks, Chenle. We have to take a selfie when Jaemin’s are done!” Renjun replied as he pulled out his phone. He cooed when he unlocked it, turning it to face the others. “Jaemin! Look at Jeno and Mark. Aren’t they so cute?”
Jaemin fought off a blush as he agreed.
“Stop talking,” Donghyuck scolded him immediately, voice hard but eyes filled with pity. Jaemin had admitted his crush to Donghyuck about a month beforehand - shortly after the spoon incident. Since then, Donghyuck had been looking at him with a sorry expression any time he and Jeno were in the same room (which was very often). It kinda sucked but Jaemin was happy to be given an out from responding further.
In the past month since he’d first noticed Jeno staring at Renjun it had become more and more frequent. Any time the Chinese boy walked past them Jeno’s eyes would trail away from Jaemin to follow where Renjun went. Jaemin had accepted his fate at this point. Jeno wasn’t straight but he still didn’t like Jaemin. It made sense, really. Why wouldn’t he like Renjun. He was so much prettier than Jaemin was.
That didn’t make his own feelings any easier to get rid of.
Donghyuck quickly finished up Jaemin’s flags and rushed to finish getting ready. As Jaemin tied up his shoelaces he saw Renjun pulling on a sweater out of the corner of his eye. It looked familiar. Jaemin would recognise those red and mustard sleeves anywhere. He should. He had worn it only two months ago, after all.
“Oh my God, is that Jeno’s sweater?” Chenle squealed. Donghyuck winced at the volume, taking a step away from him and towards Jaemin.
“Yeah,” Renjun confirmed. Jaemin’s heart plummeted into his stomach. “He said I should wear it today.”
“Are you guys like dating now?” Jisung asked. Jaemin held his breath. Renjun nodded.
“I guess so. He’s taking me for ice-cream tomorrow.” Chenle squealed again. Jaemin ripped a layer of skin from the inside of his cheek.
“We should go,” Donghyuck said. “We’ll be late.” He hung back and let the others file out the door ahead of him, holding tight onto the sleeve of Jaemin’s own sweater.
Jaemin looked at him confusedly.
“Shouldn’t we go?”
“Are you okay?” Jaemin blinked. “Jaemin. Seriously, are you okay?”
“Yeah.” No. “I’m fine.”
'I wish I were Renjun.'