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pop! goes my heart

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92. 92. 92— 

“Why are you so calm right now? Is this thing broken? Should I try to set something on fire so you'll be your usual jittery self?” Chenle is tapping at his phone screen, checking his Apple Watch screen against Jisung’s. 

The two screens show that Chenle’s heart rate is a fluctuating 100, while Jisung’s is a steady 92. 

He raises an eyebrow, puzzled by how high Chenle’s heart rate was. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d have a crush on me,” Jisung says. “But is that what you think of me? So easily shaken?” 

“Look, Jeno hyung is coming in!” Chenle yells instead, pointing at the door. 

Jisung wonders why he looks, when he knows for a fact that Jeno doesn’t have this class with them. Logically, he should know Chenle is baiting him and trying to confirm his crush on Jeno. Still, his body moves faster than his mind, eager to catch a glimpse of Jeno.

The heart rate monitor starts blinking more rapidly, the number rising from 92 to 96 to 100. Chenle cheers, and Jisung’s heart sinks when he notices that the door remained shut, and that Chenle just proved he was not as stoic as he thought. 

Not that anyone but Jisung ever thought that, though. 

“I guess it does work,” Chenle muses. He’s looking at Jisung with a triumphant expression, cackling at how quickly Jisung sinks into his seat in embarrassment. 

“I guess it does,” Jisung replies sarcastically. 

He's lucky that they're in the lecture hall early, just hanging out while it was empty. Their lecture wasn't for another hour, but Chenle wanted a peaceful place to game and Jisung wanted to be in class to get first-dibs on seating. No way Jisung was going to end up right next to where the microphones were passed down for class participation.  

“If you’re gonna be this obvious about your feelings, you might have a hard time when you work with Jeno-hyung for this project then.” 

At that, Jisung does a double-take. His hairs stand on end, startled by the implication of Chenle’s words. Chenle himself is looking half-sheepish, the other half his usual shit-eating grin.

“What did you do?"

"Why must you always say it in that tone?" Chenle whines. "Why can't it be wow, Chenle, I'm sure you did something great that will dramatically change the course of my boring life." 

Jisung fixes a stare on him, and Chenle caves. “I’m not taking this class with you, Jisung. Jeno-hyung is taking my place, we talked to the professor-in-charge already.”

In a totally justified move, Jisung smacks him. Chenle protests with a loud ow! but Jisung doesn't blink, used to Chenle's dramatics. “What the hell? You promised we’d finally take a module together, you asshole! You’re totally setting me up here. You wanted to take this class.” 

“You’re right about that,” Chenle agrees breezily. “But I did overload last semester so I’m planning to take it easy this round. Is that so bad?” 

He’s guilt-tripping Jisung, this much Jisung can recognize from the crazed glint in Chenle’s eye. Fuck his stupid cupid tendencies. He's totally milking the fact that Jisung couldn't say no to him.

But because Jisung is a sucker for his best friend, he can’t even be mad. He rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. “Just say you want to spend time tutoring Jaemin hyung for his Chinese mod.” 

“Oh, definitely. He’s going to fail without me, especially with Renjun gone for the semester.” Chenle doesn’t bring any attention to the fact that he volunteered to help Jaemin out, and Jisung doesn’t push it, content to be the one to smirk at Chenle for once. 

Chenle pats Jisung’s shoulder, but it feels patronizing. “There, there. I’ve yet to hear a single bad review about this class, and I doubt you’ll be the first. Don’t you want to spend more time with Jeno-hyung?”

He’s right about the first part— Introduction to Cognitive Psychology, or PS7018— is a fan-favourite among students in their school. It’s extremely popular for its hands-on approach to psychology, with half the grade owing to a single report. Students either love it or hate it. It’s a cutthroat fight to get a spot in the class, moreover with someone you like, but Chenle has his ways. 

It’s also notorious for being brutally honest with its results, with the group-mate who had to be strapped to a heart monitor forced into inevitable transparency. 

Or as Chenle puts it: “Isn’t this the perfect chance to see whether Jeno-hyung likes you? The heart wants what it wants. It beats for you, or whatever.” 

“You are such a romantic,” Jisung says, playfully shoving Chenle. Chenle doesn’t budge, perpetually unimpressed at him, and he can’t help the way his cheeks heat up.

Jisung isn’t going to deny that he’s curious and hopeful. Jeno is usually pretty private with his emotions, and he has publicly slammed Jisung in order to proclaim Chenle as cuter than him. It’s a lot of mixed signals, and Jisung is desperate to get an answer. 

(Unless the answer is a no, then forget Jisung ever asked.) 

(But then again— as if Jisung will ever ask.) 

 

Jeno comes into the lecture hall about five minutes later, briefly nodding at Jisung before quickly bickering with Chenle again. 

Jisung stares down at his book, the words filtering in one ear and going out the next. In the corner of his eye, where he’s trying to steal glances as discreetly as he can, he takes in Jeno in all his sleepy glory. He's in one of his signature hoodies, paired with a pair of loose sweatpants. Jisung is convinced Jeno is the only human able to make the worst, most causal outfit look presentable. 

The class is early, at eight in the morning, or as Chenle likes to put it, “ass a.m.” That’s probably partly the reason why he’s dropped it like it’s hot. Jisung knows Jeno would do the same, always preferring to sleep in after a long night of gaming.

So he observes aloud, “You’re up early.” 

Jeno smiles at him, amused. “Heard you needed someone to accompany you, so naturally, I came." He’s obviously teasing Jisung, making him look young and needing a chaperone, but still: 

101. 104. 107.

Damn his traitorous heart.  

The rising numbers are accompanied by loud beeps, and Jisung hastily turns off the screen of his Apple Watch, clumsily trying to rip it off where it’s on his wrist. Jeno grins at him even wider, and Jisung wants to melt into the floor. He takes his textbook and covers his face with it. 

“You know object permanence is a thing, Jisung,” he hears Chenle say. “Just because you can’t see us doesn’t mean we can’t see you.” 

110. 112.

He’s going to kill Chenle. 

The laughter that follows is muffled, with Jeno hitting Chenle lightly, the signature baby-talk back-and-forth rising in volume again. 

When Jisung has the bravery to look up from his book, Chenle is strapping his Apple Watch onto Jeno’s wrist. The distance between them is close, so much that Jisung is sure Chenle could probably count the number of long eyelashes Jeno has. 

The strap Chenle’s using is gifted by Jeno, too, and Jisung tries not to focus on the jealousy that flares in his chest. Jeno is never that close to him, has never let him do those things, has always pulled away before Jisung can ever act on any ephemeral courage that fills him.

It’s a hot, irrational anger that spreads in his chest. Jisung puffs out his cheeks, slowly curling his fingers into a fist, trying to dissipate the building tension in his body.

There’s an unrelenting beeping sound that begins, and Jisung glances at his watch before realizing it didn't come from him this time. 

It’s from Jeno, who’s desperately tapping the screen while Chenle laughs at him. He’s trying to shut Chenle up in the way he always does, one hand on Chenle’s nape and the other coming up to cover his mouth.

Go figure. It would only be Chenle who could get such a reaction from Jeno. 

Jisung looks away and turns off his heart monitor. 

 


 

True to Chenle’s word, he does end up spending more time with Jeno.

Like, a lot. 

It’s good. Jisung loves spending time with Jeno, especially alone. Luckily for Jisung and his sanity, Jeno agreed to be the test subject for their project, subject to wear the heart rate monitor for a week. 

Jisung is sitting cross-legged on the bed in Jeno's shared dorm room with Haechan, watching a dance video, while Jeno is half-sitting on the floor, swiping through the previous recorded statistics of the Apple Watch.

They’re three days into the project, and like the professional procrastinators they are, they spend the day doing nothing but listening to Jaemin and Chenle rant about each other separately. At one point, they both mute their phones and listen to the pair bitch about each other. It’s stupid, Jisung observes, how their care for each other filters so clearly past the tinny speaker sound. And their unbearable grievances about each other. 

Personally, Jisung thinks this might even be at the level of Mean Girls' phone gossip.

“He is the most insufferable hyung—” 

“Chenle’s absolutely dense—” 

Jeno turns to Jisung and they share a look of despair. They’re both wondering if it’s possible to fast-forward real life past the dancing around each other part that Jaemin and Chenle are very obviously going through.

When it’s over, Jisung monitors Jeno’s heartbeat over the past few days. It doesn’t fluctuate much, not even beeping rapidly like how it did when Chenle was around. Jisung frowns— it must really have been Chenle who got that huge reaction from Jeno, then. 

“They say we should provide stimulus and provide the reacting beats per minute,” Jeno says, pushing his glasses up his nose as he reads the project brief off of Jisung’s laptop screen. 

“Are there any suggestions about what stimulus to use?” Jisung asks, and Jeno presses his lips into a tight line, suddenly quiet. Jisung peers over his shoulder to see the first one: tickling

That plan goes down the toilet very quickly, because as it turns out, both Jisung and Jeno are very ticklish. After Jisung tries to ambush him (bad idea, Jisung kicks when he's agitated), Jeno simply picks Jisung up and wrestles him to the ground (good idea, Jisung would never admit it but the skin-on-skin contact is electric).

Jisung tries to be stealthy, but the mere contact of the pad of his index finger and the side of Jeno’s waist sends Jeno flying into fight mode. 

Jeno digs his fingers into Jisung’s sides in retaliation, and Jisung doesn’t squeal, but his face scrunches up, and he thrashes in Jeno’s grip. 

He shouldn’t have enjoyed it, but after his head is simply on Jeno’s chest after he stops resisting and Jeno stops trying to get revenge by ticking Jisung too, it feels worth it. He feels comfortable, and Jeno doesn’t make any movement to try and get Jisung off him, so he lets himself be in the moment. 

He can feel the rise and fall of Jeno’s chest, and Jisung should feel tense, but he’s literally just putty in Jeno’s arms. Jeno’s head rests on the edge of the sofa cushions. It’s pure tranquility for a while, only the sound of the tinny radio playing from Jeno's laptop filling the room.

“I think this is broken, hyung,” Jisung says, trying to take a look at the Apple Watch still securely on Jeno's wrist. “No way your heart didn’t beat after that workout.”

Jeno’s hand is on Jisung’s shoulder, and his fingers dance on the top of Jisung’s collar bones before slowly going down to his chest. It’s a light touch, and it makes Jisung jerk up slightly. He catches Jeno’s hand when he tries to do it again, obviously wickedly entertained by Jisung’s involuntary reactions.

He shoots Jeno a look, one that he hopes conveys a warning not to do it again. Jisung is sensitive, and not just emotionally. But Jeno isn’t making fun of him, unlike what he expected. 

It’s the first time Jisung has seen this delighted look in his eyes, one that Jisung feels is daring him to move. It’s only now that Jisung realizes how close their faces actually are when Jisung turns to look at him. He’s now in that space he envied Chenle for being in. 

This close, he can see the little finger prints on Jeno’s glasses where he’s adjusted them, and past the glass he can properly count Jeno’s eyelashes. 

Jisung should be caged in by Jeno’s posture, especially since Jeno could easily physically overpower him even though Jeno’s hand was in his grip. But he feels in control, as if Jeno is giving him the chance to make the move. The ball was in his court, now. 

Something in the air stills, and suddenly the way Jisung’s holding Jeno’s hand feels different. Makes Jisung want to intertwine their fingers instead of the pinched way he’s gripping the back of Jeno’s hand. 

Somehow, he feels like an adult. He could make a move, but—

But Jisung doesn’t know what move to make, so he hastily stands up, and just like that, the moment passes. 

Jisung’s body feels like it’s been lit up, a burning want that doesn’t dissipate with just a simple shake of his body. It’s a new feeling, one that only grows whenever he looks at Jeno for too long. 

Jeno curls into himself, pulling his knees to his chest. He looks uninterested again, a sight familiar but hurtful to Jisung, and he’s back to feeling like a child begging for attention but only receiving punishment.

The glimmer of Jeno’s Apple Watch reflecting the ceiling lights catches Jisung’s attention, and he can’t help but notice that it remained silent. 

While Jisung could barely contain himself, Jeno’s heart was still.

 


 

The next day finds Jisung and Jeno in an amusement park. 

Jeno knows Jisung is deathly afraid of heights, but they’re not there for the rides. Another stimulant suggested was to get excited reactions, and Jeno had in turn proposed that they do a typical Korean-drama-type date recreation. 

At first Jisung thought he was crazy — 

“How about a date?” Jeno asks, not looking at Jisung. Jisung can spy the base of his neck reddening, though. “What do people get most excited about in those shows Jaemin and Haechan are always watching?”

“Their favourite drama is Penthouse, hyung, people get murdered in that drama.”

Jeno ignores him, but he’s imagining a date with Jisung, so Jisung can’t really complain. He drums his fingers on the table. “Couple tees, shoes or those things you have on your head?”

“You mean you get excited about, hyung?”

“I’m a homebody. I get excited about staying at home,” Jeno says sarcastically. 

“And we’ve been there, done that,” Jisung replies. 

Jeno blushes a bright red, but the watch is quiet.

— but who was he to say no to Jeno? 

Now they’re in the whole shebang: matching varsity jackets (surprisingly enough, Jisung’s), matching animal headbands (Jeno’s, but Jisung is dying of curiosity why he would have these on hand) and each a red bean bungeobbang in hand (both their ideas). 

Jeno tries to bargain with Jisung to get him onto the viking ride, promising that he would hold Jisung’s hand during the ride. While it sounds tempting, Jisung doesn’t want to risk it. 

Instead, they stroll, mindlessly sharing stories about their stupid friends’ antics and Jeno stops under a random lit arc next to a garvage bin, neatly folding the paper bag that once contained bungeobbang, and shooting it into the opening. 

“Is this the part where you kiss me goodbye and walk me home? Or is it the other way around...” He rubs his hands together, shaking off any crumbs that might’ve gotten on him. He's kidding, tone light, but Jisung has never been one to be careless with euphemisms and implications.

Under the light, Jeno’s expression is illuminated. It’s that gleeful look again, the one that tries to goad Jisung into doing something bold. And maybe, just maybe, when the light hits Jeno’s face just right, letting Jisung forget that he has a mouthful of pastry in his mouth, he might just dare. 

If anyone asks Jisung, Jeno is the one who planted the idea in Jisung's head. 

Jisung licks his lips, trying to clean them of any pastry crumbs before depositing the paper bag into the bin. “You have filling on your cheek, you baby.” Jeno’s hand comes up to Jisung’s cheek, gently thumbing away some red bean off his face.

The endearment is teasing, but Jisung’s heart jumps anyway. He can’t focus on anything but Jeno’s hand still on his cheek, now cupping it properly, and the way Jeno’s mouth is still parted, scanning his face for any stray spots. 

He is probably being too obvious, staring and drinking in the sight of Jeno’s lips to quench that fire that continues to blaze in his chest. With Jeno this close, he could probably kiss him. 

That probably morphs into a searing realization that Jisung has never done this before, he doesn’t know how, he can’t even cycle yet, how could he ever live up to whatever expectation Jeno might have of him?  

Jeno must feel how tense Jisung is, though, absolutely rooted to the ground. His arms are planted to his sides, and his jaw locked. His eyes are no longer focused on Jeno’s lips, downcast with worry. Jeno doesn’t hear Jisung’s thought process, but he can feel how Jisung isn’t in it anymore.

Immediately, Jeno takes his hands off Jisung, mumbling a sorry, I shouldn’t’ve before turning and quickly making his escape. Giving Jisung space. 

Quickly enough Jisung’s feet unstick, and he strides forward to stand in front of Jeno, effectively blocking his path. Jeno raises his eyebrows curiously at Jisung’s sudden bold actions. 

He has to look up slightly to meet Jisung’s eye line. It’s not much, but Jisung likes it a lot, likes how he can take all of Jeno it at once. Likes how if Jeno wanted to do the same, he would have to do a once-over type of look, a full body scan that makes Jisung feel seen. 

It seems like Jeno realizes this too, because he looks down for a moment and takes a breath. 

Jisung takes the opportunity to do what he’s wanted to do this whole time. Any move, right? He cradles Jeno’s head, fingers pressing against Jeno’s scalp and the dog-ear headband. He gently pulls forward, pressing his lips to the top of Jeno’s head. A kiss. 

Then he lets go, Jeno almost staggering back from the sudden loss. Jisung starts running, fearing for his life and refusing like hell against seeing Jeno’s reaction. He can hear Jeno’s but it’s only the rush of blood in his ears, and the intense did I just do that? looping in his head.

He sees a rentable bicycle, quickly nabbing it, slinging his leg over the bicycle seat, positioning his legs and pedalling

And just like that, in the worst times of crisis, Jisung learns how to cycle.

 


 

They still haven’t talked about it. 

It’s two days to deadline, and Jeno and Jisung have made little progress. They’ve studied the project brief and research questions carefully, but it seemed like the information they gathered while carrying out the scientific method led to less than promising results. 

In other words, Jeno was still a zombie on the inside. Jisung personally wonders how his heart beats when he exercises. Not that Jisung is imagining Jeno working out. No, siree. 

Jeno and Jisung are in the library meeting room at 10am, deciding on starting early to accommodate the time they’re surely to spend procrastinating.

And procrastinate they do. 

Jeno has fallen asleep, head pillowed by his arms and a stray blanket Jisung is convinced has spent more time on the dirty floor than on any clean surface. Still, it’s Jeno’s problem for later, and Jisung has one to focus on right now. 

“Hyung. Jeno-hyung.” Jisung lightly pokes Jeno’s shoulder. 

No movement. 

Jisung is half-convinced he’s dead. There’s a soft rise and fall to his shoulders, the signalling of steady breathing, and Jisung sighs in relief. “Hyung. We haven’t gotten anywhere with this project. Because of you and your sucky heart. Okay, I know your heart’s probably strong because of your exercise and strict diet and whatnot, which has led to your firm chest and—” Jisung stops, palm meeting his lips in a gasp. 

Fawning about Jeno aloud? New low, Jisung, he thinks.

Then it hits him. Jeno is asleep. Jisung knows he’s already thought that, but he’s processing it and what it means. The fact that Jeno can’t hear what Jisung would say to him, far away in dream land. It’s the perfect time to—

Jisung straightens up, clasping his hands together. He’s staring at the top of Jeno’s head with newfound determination when he asks, “Hyung, do you really feel nothing when you see me? Your lungs just work fine when I’m around?” 

He thinks back to every time his chest would tighten whenever Jeno showed up. It didn’t matter in what— those white shirts and jeans combos, or simple training gear he’d show up wearing after running just to wrestle Jisung in, suited up to attend Jaemin’s sister’s wedding— he likes them all. 

“Mine ache whenever you’re around. I used to not know it was because of you, so I was telling Chenle and Renjun-hyung how I was sure I was dying. Or maybe suffering from Hanahaki, if that were a real disease, anyway. It feels nice, though, to know you like someone so much your body literally can’t help but act like that. So maybe you’d want to try that, hyung.” 

Jisung sucks in a deep breath, and places his palms together and says, “Can’t you just try to fall in love with me?”

His voice is high pitched, Jisung doesn’t recognize the whiny edge it takes on, but at this point, he’s a little desperate. 

“You see— I’m trying to—” He scratches his head, trying to arrange his words in a way that makes sense. “I know you know I like you, hyung, I think everyone can tell, as much as I hate to admit it. But it’s not enough. I want you to like me back, so. Do me a favour and fall in love with me?” 

To anyone unfortunate enough to walk past at this very moment, Jisung would like to apologize. He must look pretty insane, ranting to someone asleep in a library, but Jisung is already in the zone, so he braces himself and continues. 

His brain is spilling, thinking of all the dreams he’s had of Jeno taking him out to Everland with matching headbands and couple clothing. He has to at least try, even though he has a feeling Jeno isn’t into that kind of thing. 

Still: “I think it would be fair to take me on a nice date and see what it’s like. I clean up nicely, you know. If you need time, I can give that, too. I'm young, not like super young, but I have time to wait. I’m not impatient—” He pauses. “Okay, maybe a little. But…”

He deflates. Even without a real audience and only Jeno’s unconscious figure in front of him, Jisung still isn’t able to say what he wants. He lays his head on his arm, facing Jeno but shutting his eyes and mumbling the rest. 

“As you might know, I’m a great kisser. Not that that…” He struggles around the word kiss, knowing it’s not accurate. He gave Jeno a peck on the head. “That I gave you was the best example of that. Actually, I wouldn’t know, but maybe you’d like to be the first to find out.” 

A beep startles him upright, and he opens his eyes to see Jeno staring at him. He almost falls out of his chair, Jeno getting up to hold him just in time. 

He even has the audacity to calmly say, “Good morning, Jisung. That’s a very nice proposition you’ve got there.” 

“Oh God.” Jisung groans, pressing his palms to his cheeks. “How much of that did you hear?”

“Just the end, but now I’m very curious to find out what else you’ve been wanting me to do to you,” Jeno says, not even bothering to hide the suggestive tone. He wiggles his eyebrows, signature eye smile on his face. Jisung doesn’t understand how someone could look so smug and sweet simultaneously. 

Only Lee Jeno. 

“It’s cute,” Jeno says. He twists his wrists, and the beeping continues. Jisung glimpses the lit-up screen of his watch, showcasing the climbing numbers representing Jeno’s heartbeat. “You were right, the watch was faulty. Its sensor wasn’t working so I got it replaced. So, I…”

112. 115. 119.

Jisung’s in awe of the sound, and surprised at how eager he was to hear the annoying tune, even in the small intervals. Jeno makes no move to turn it off. 

“So if I could take you up on being the first to find out, just to calm my beating heart, if not anything else, that would be great.” He says it like it’s easy, but his heart is beating like crazy, indicated by the incessant alarms, and Jisung laughs. 

It was insane to really think Jeno had been feeling like he had been this whole time, entire body reacting uncontrollably to every little thing Jisung did. 

Jisung nods, giddy. All of his silent (and subsequently, verbal) wishes were coming true, and it felt unreal. 

Jeno leans in, and when their lips touch, Jisung’s heart is set ablaze.