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my north star

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Jaemin was born into the world completely silent. He worried everyone in the delivery room (his parents, doctor, and nurses) with his refusal to cry, denying them all any sign of life. It wasn’t until later that the doctor was able to confirm to his mother, who sat restless in her hospital bed, that she had given birth to a completely healthy boy. Back then, with a helpless newborn, the thought of illness was intangible. They had no idea that the screaming would come later.

When Match Your DNA came on the market, Jaemin signed up almost immediately. To him, the action was cathartic, the first step in moving on from a dream that would never come into fruition. Instead of waiting for a love that was never his, he could be matched with the person he was fated for; his soulmate. The person he was literally connected to as told by his DNA.

Besides, it was easier this way. All Jaemin had to do with spit in a tube, send it away, and wait. Wait for the notification that will lead him to the one. And there has been a lot of waiting. For the first week or so after Jaemin submitted his consent form, he checked his phone religiously, waiting for the one notification that would change his life forever. But as time went on, he’s more or less forgotten about his matched status. That is, until tonight.

It was a stupid, stupid, bet--- one Jaemin had no part in. His best friends decided that whoever scored lowest on an exam in a class that they all share would also submit their consent form to Match My DNA and allow themselves to be matched. Jaemin doesn’t believe that something as significant as finding your soulmate should be taken so lightly, but at the end of the day, it is their decision to make, not his.

His best friends are sat in his apartment, and none of them are looking as anxious as Jaemin feels. Donghyuck, who is chaos walking, is as cool as a cucumber, and Renjun looks bored out of his mind. Jeno has a content smile on his face, as if he is fine with any outcome. Knowing his friend’s calm demeanor, he probably is.

He knows it’s selfish, but all Jaemin can think is Please don’t be Renjun, Please don’t be Renjun, Please don’t be Renjun. He doesn’t know how he would cope, seeing the boy be matched with someone else. While Jaemin has long since come to terms with the fact that he missed his chance with Renjun, that doesn’t mean he is thrilled with the idea of seeing him with someone else. But as luck would have it, Renjun is the one who loses the bet. And Jaemin has to try not to have a panic attack while the older boy submits his consent form.

It’s the longest second of his life, waiting for something to happen, and he feels his heart drop when he hears the famous ding (one that’s already become a pop culture staple) indicating a match. It takes a second for Jaemin to process that it’s not just one.

He stares at Renjun for one long moment, before shakily reaching for his phone and opening the notification.

One New Match: Huang Renjun

Jaemin can’t believe it, the shock from the news overwhelming him. He had never thought that Renjun would be his soulmate. Subconsciously, he had hoped that it would be the case, but he never let himself have faith. He didn’t want to be crushed when he was inevitably matched with someone else. He couldn’t imagine a scenario where Renjun, the best person he’s ever met, would be matched with someone like him.

There are tears in his eyes as he makes his way over to Renjun, practically throwing himself at him. For a second, he fears that Renjun will push him away and reject him, but the smaller boy clings to him just as tight. He can feel Renjun’s heart beating quickly in his chest, his own matching at a similar pace. Renjun fits so perfectly in his arms it almost feels like it’s meant to be.

Except… it is meant to be. They are literally soulmates. Renjun is his soulmate, and Jaemin’s brain doesn’t even know how to process it. There are a thousand emotions running through him: sheer uncontainable joy (that Renjun is his, as destined by the universe), fear (that Jaemin will somehow fuck everything up), and determination (to do everything in his power to keep this, to not let it go.)

Jaemin doesn’t know how long he stands there, Renjun trembling in his arms, neither of them saying anything. Jeno and Donghyuck cautiously approach them, offering them their congratulations, before leaving to give them privacy.

Neither of them utter a word until they are alone. It’s such a beautiful, perfect moment, Jaemin wants to hold onto it, to cherish it, and never give it up. But they have a lot to talk about, and Renjun has always been the pragmatic one, so he breaks the silence.

“So Jaemin,” he begins, “My soulmate…” he trails off, breaking into a grin. Renjun is almost breathless with his joy and Jaemin feels his chest tightening at the sight. “I always assumed I would be matched with a stranger, but I guess it makes sense that it was you. Someone who has always been by my side.”

“I never imagined this either, but Renjun, you have to know… I always hoped that it would be you,” Jaemin admits, voice thick with emotion. “It’s always been you for me, and I want this to work out so badly. I want us to work out so badly.”

Renjun’s expression turns soft, and his gaze is so lovely that Jaemin almost melts to a puddle on the floor. “Then we’ll make it work,” he reassures him, so confident in a way that Jaemin never manages to be. “We’re in this for the long haul now, we have all the time in the world to figure things out.”

Jaemin bites his lip, eyes his soulmate cautiously. “Does this mean we’re, you know, dating? Or whatever? Are you like my boyfriend or something?” he inquires, refusing to meet Renjun’s eyes.

Renjun lets out a loud and short laugh, nodding his head easily. “What the hell else would I be, dummy,” he counters, a smile wide on his face. It’s so easy for Jaemin to match it, he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

“Does that mean,” Jaemin begins, licking his lips, “Can I kiss you?”

Instead of answering, Renjun dives down, capturing Jaemin’s lips in his. It’s slow and passionate, and everything Jaemin could have ever asked for. He never expected any of this. He never thought he would get another chance. He never thought he would have the opportunity to kiss Renjun again.

When he pulls away, his face is wet, and he is crying again, for real this time. Renjun doesn’t comment, just simply pulls Jaemin into his arms and lets him cry. Jaemin can’t find the right words to say, the only thing he can bring himself to mutter are desperate, broken, cries of “Thank you.”

Renjun and Jaemin almost dated their Junior Year of High School. Before they could make it official, Jaemin fucked it all up. It’s been years and he still hasn’t fully forgiven himself for it yet.

Jaemin doesn’t know when his feelings for his best friend shifted from platonic to romantic, but once he realized the shift, it was all his brain could think about. Renjun’s beautiful smile. Renjun’s delicate hands. Renjun’s sweet voice. Renjun’s charming personality. It was like Jaemin was addicted to him, he couldn’t get enough.

Their group of four (Renjun, Jeno, Donghyuck, and Renjun) was solid, as strong as always. Jaemin loved being with them all dearly, but he secretly relished in the time alone together we got to spend with Renjun.

They started spending their afternoons together just the two of them. In hindsight, that’s probably where it all began. Renjun would be in the art room after school, finishing up on some projects he’d been working on. Jaemin would accompany him and do his homework in the calm, quiet room.

Sometimes they spent the entire afternoon goofing off, schoolwork ignored. Other times they worked on their own projects in a comfortable silence. Jaemin loved spending time with Renjun, even when they were doing nothing at all.

Their first kiss just kind of happened. Renjun was teasing Jaemin, pretending to smear a paint-stained hand onto Jaemin’s shirt. Jaemin immediately grabbed onto Renjun, laughing as he shoved the other boy away from him. It seemed like the farther he pushed the boy away, the closer he would come back into him, like a rubber band snapping into place.

And when Renjun was that close, Jaemin couldn’t deny it any longer. He couldn’t keep dancing around the truth that both of them already knew but refused to acknowledge. So instead of pushing him away once more, he leaned in and kissed Renjun square on the mouth.

Renjun, in turn, brought his paint-stained hand up to Jaemin’s face, cupping his cheek as he kissed him gently. Jaemin felt fireworks exploding in his chest, and he couldn’t help but feel as if this was the best decision he had ever made.

When Renjun pulled away, there was mischief in his eyes. “You have paint on your face now,” he giggled, causing Jaemin to break away and look in the mirror. Sure enough, there was a blue and purple handprint on the side of his cheek. Before he could comment, Renjun was already grabbing him and pulling him towards the sink.

They spent the next couple of minutes standing there, Renjun gently wiping off Jaemin’s cheek while sneaking tiny kisses. They didn’t talk about their feelings that afternoon, but there was an understanding there. They liked each other, and it was only a matter of time before one of them decided to bite the bullet and make things official.

After their first kiss, Jaemin felt on top of the world, like he was in a state of euphoria. He spent all of his free time either kissing Renjun or thinking about kissing Renjun, and he was so ready to make things official.

There was a party on Friday night, at some rich kid’s house that Renjun knew, and they were all invited. Jaemin was determined to make Renjun his officially by the end of the night.

The night before the party, Jaemin was so excited that he didn't sleep. At all. He thought it was okay though, because he didn’t even feel tired at all. If anything, he felt more energized than he ever had. It’s amazing that love can do that. That it can move him so deeply. Instead he spends the entire night doing various house chores while he catches up on dramas.

When the sun rises, he goes for a run, going for miles and miles without getting tired. When he gets home, he gets ready, eats quickly, and heads off to school. He still isn’t tired. He plans to take a nap after school before he gets ready for the party, but after sitting through an entire school day, he doesn’t need to. He’ll rest when Renjun is officially his, hopefully in his arms.

He headed to the party with Jeno, the two of them planning to meet up with Renjun and Donghyuck later (Donghyuck was apparently having a fashion emergency that only Renjun could solve.) Jaemin didn’t mind though. He was feeling great, and he was sure he would see Renjun soon.

As soon as he got to the party, Jaemin poured himself a drink, which he downed quickly. He then ran into some friends from his english class and they did shots. The alcohol burned his throat, but it didn't phase him. He felt amazing, and the alcohol only enhanced that. There was so much energy buzzing through him, that the only logical move for him was to head to the dance floor to blow off some steam.

He flailed his arms around on the dance floor for a while, before a slender girl from his biology class slid up to him. They started dancing together, bodies moving against each other slightly off rhythm from the music. Neither of them seemed to care. Jaemin was drunk at this point, and nothing could ruin his mood.

Suddenly, without him expecting it, his dance partner wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Jaemin, mind hazy from the alcohol, can’t think of a single reason why they should stop, and pulled her closer. The rest of the night is fuzzy after that.

When Jaemin woke up the next morning, he found himself passed out on Jeno’s floor, the older boy standing over him, arms crossed. He looks pissed off, but Jaemin can’t place why. He’s still feeling great, despite the slight aching in the head.

“What the hell was last night about, Jaemin?” Jeno asks, practically seething. “You acted like a fucking lunatic all night.” Jeno rarely gets mad, and it’s how Jaemin knows the boy is serious. He sits up slowly, offering his friend a questioning look.

“You were so drunk. And you were running around so much, I could barely keep up. You even took your shirt off at one point. Do you know how hard it was to get you home last night?” Jeno questions irritably.

Jaemin offers an apology, not seeing what the big deal is. So he made an idiot of himself, who cares? It was all worth it, given how much fun he had. “Look man, I appreciate you taking care of me last night. You don’t need to be so upset, it’s not like there is any long-lasting damage. I just made a bit of an ass out of myself,” he offers. Jeno just shakes his head.

“No long lasting damage?” Jeno seethes, and for the first time Jaemin recognizes the gravity of the situation. Something happened last night, something that Jaemin is going to regret. “You don’t call Renjun witnessing you making out with someone else long lasting damage?”

Jaemin’s heart immediately drops. What? That didn’t happen...did it? Jeno’s the only one who knows that Renjun and Jaemin were seeing each other (after an unfortunate incident where Jeno walked in on them making out in the art room when they thought no one was around), and Jaemin can tell from his best friend’s stern expression that he’s telling him the truth.

“It took Renjun a long fucking time to come out of his shell when he first moved here. And I’m never going to forgive you if your actions sent him back into his shell. You probably broke his heart Jaemin, I hope a quick hookup was worth it,” Jeno growls, before turning around and storming out of the rooms.

No. It wasn’t worth it. His relationship with Renjun, it meant everything to him. And he doesn’t know how he was able to ruin everything in the matter of a night. He’s disgusted with himself, that he would hurt the one person he cared about most. Renjun could completely cut contact with him, and he wouldn’t blame him. Jaemin doesn’t know how he’ll ever look him in the eye again. How he’ll ever make up for the hurt he has caused the boy.

Renjun doesn’t cut him off though, not entirely. Jaemin suspects it’s because he doesn’t want to blow up their little group, which he is immensely grateful for. It’s more than Jaemin deserves in all honesty. He stops addressing Jaemin directly though, and their individual meeting with just the two of them cease completely.

It breaks Jaemin’s heart, how he lost something he never really had. But he knows deep down that he doesn’t have the right to ask Renjun for anything more. Not when Jaemin’s actions were what ruined them. Not when he was responsible for the hurt both of them are feeling.

Jaemin always thought he had lost his shot with Renjun, and how he acted that night remains the greatest regret of his life. It took a long time for Renjun to begin to open up to Jaemin again, and even then things never quite went back to how they used to be.

Jaemin never knew why he did the things he did that night, or why he was feeling so energetic and enthusiastic. It wasn’t until much later, after several hellish months and a clinical diagnosis, that he was finally able to put a name on it. He was manic.

“One normal coffee for me, and one devil coffee for you,” Jeno jokes, putting down their respective drinks on the coffee table in front of them. It’s been a couple of weeks since Jaemin and Renjun were officially matched as soulmates, and things have been going great so far. (It’s making Jaemin suspicious, and he can’t help but wonder when it will all inevitably fall apart.)

When Jeno offered to meet him for coffee, Jaemin happily accepted. He’s the only one who knows everything about Renjun and Jaemin’s history: their almost relationship in high school, Jaemin’s immense guilt and longing, Renjun’s reluctance and acceptance. Jeno is truly the only person Jaemin feels comfortable with sharing his thoughts and feelings with, and he knows the boy will never judge him for anything. Other than his coffee order.

“So, how are things with Renjun,” Jeno asks, taking a sip of coffee, and leaning back in his chair. Jaemin can’t help the soft grin that spreads across his face on instinct, just at the mention of his boyfriend. (Wow. Boyfriend. Jaemin still can’t believe that he gets to call him that.)

“It’s been going amazing…” Jaemin replies, almost dazed. “Everything just feels so perfect and so right…” he trails off.

“Why am I sensing a but?” Jeno questions, putting down his coffee and resting his hands on the table. Jaemin considers denying it, but the expectant look on Jeno’s face tells him that his words would be useless. Jeno knows him well enough now to understand when something is wrong, even if it’s only slightly.

“It’s just, I’m so happy. And it makes me scared,” Jaemin begins. Jeno gestures for him to continue. “I’m just worried that it won’t last. That I’m going to mess everything up and it will all come crashing down. Again,” he admits.

Jeno nods sympathetically. It’s one of the traits Jaemin loves most about his friend. He never tries to invalidate what Jaemin is feeling, even if it seems irrational.

“You guys aren’t going to have a perfect relationship, even if you are soulmates. You’ll be incredibly happy, but you’re also going to hurt each other sometimes. There’s no use getting anxious over things that haven’t even happened yet,” Jeno offers.

“But it has happened. I already hurt him. In fact, I feel like I’m the only one doing the hurting in the relationship. And it makes me feel so guilty for being so happy knowing I can’t give him that same happiness in return,” Jaemin admits, voice soft and broken.

“Jaemin, don’t be ridiculous,” Jeno states firmly. “Renjun is happier than I have ever seen. He’s always been the most happy with you. And you shouldn’t put him on a pedestal like that. I love Renjun, but we both know he can be a little bitch sometimes. Please don’t think like this, Jaemin. It isn’t healthy,” he pleads with his friend.

“I just feel so volatile sometimes. Like I don’t always have control over my actions,” Jaemin mutters softly, unable to meet Jeno’s eyes. Jeno reaches across the table and grabs onto his hand tightly.

“You’re medicated, and you’ve been to therapy. You are more mature. You don’t drink anymore. Renjun is kinder, more understanding. He communicates his feelings better. It’s not going to happen, Jaemin. You’ve both grown up so much since high school. Have a little faith,” Jeno urges him.

Jaemin thinks it over, before nodding in agreement. He takes Jeno’s words to heart, and promises to not let his fears overwhelm him and get in the way of the happiness he is experiencing with Renjun.

Their conversation changes from there, moving on to lighter topics. Jaemin is grateful for his best friend, and the time they spent together. Jaemin leaves the coffee shop determined, no longer dwelling on negative thoughts. Instead he is going to put his energy into being the perfect partner for Renjun. It’s what he deserves.

The hardest part of being mentally ill is that Jaemin can never quite figure out how responsible he is for his actions. Why does he do the things he does? Is he having a depressive episode? Is he manic? Is he acting on his own volition?

It feels like a cop-out, for Jaemin to blame his shitty actions on his bipolar disorder. Because at the end of the day, he is the sole person responsible for his actions. The accountability doesn’t go away just because he is having an episode. He doesn’t always grab the gun, but he’s the one that pulls the trigger.

But at the same time, there have been moments when Jaemin can’t believe he acted out in the way he did. Where he feels ashamed of himself and his actions, where he feels like a fool or an asshole or a crazy person.

It’s been years since his diagnosis, and even less time since he’s felt confident in managing his symptoms. But he’s never quite learned how to manage the shame that comes with being mentally ill. He’s never learned how to accept this part of himself.

And while no one in his life has ever made him feel less than for having bipolar disorder, he still feels like he has to constantly be the best version of himself, as if he is making up for some character flaw that he has. As if everyone will leave him if he isn’t on his best behavior.

Jaemin’s experienced a lot of lows in his life. All he wants is to manufacture some highs as well to balance it all out. Renjun is Jaemin’s highest high.

It’s been a long day for Jaemin. He’s had back-to-back classes, and a shift at the campus library. By the time it reaches 6pm, he is ready to treat himself to dinner (i.e. cereal) and spend the rest of the night glued to his couch. He isn’t expecting the surprise that is waiting for him at home.

Jaemin opens the front door, and finds his apartment already occupied. The lights are all on, and there is fainting humming coming from the kitchen. Jaemin can’t believe he gets to come home to this.

He walks through the apartment, not stopping until he reaches his boyfriend, hunched over a pot of delicious looking stew on the stove. Jaemin wraps his arms around Renjun’s smaller frame and hugs him from behind. He buries his face in Renjun’s hair and breathes him. He is so content, standing in his little uni apartment with his favorite person. He’s only been dating Renjun for a couple of weeks, but he already knows he wants this to be a forever thing.

“Hey baby,” Renjun mumbles, still stirring the delicious stew cooking in the pot. He does reach one hand back though, and pulls Jaemin impossibly closer. They stand like that for a minute, neither saying anything, instead choosing to bask in each other’s warm presence.

“I know you had a busy day today, and thought you deserved a home-cooked meal,” Renjun offers simply, and it makes Jaemin’s heart melt. He had given Renjun a key to his flat after only a week of dating, when it was obvious that Renjun was going to be over a lot. Surprises like this tell him that he’s made the right choice.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Jaemin mumbles softly, squeezing Renjun even tighter, hoping that his boyfriend understands his appreciation. Renjun turns around in his arms, pecking Jaemin softly on the lips. “I wanted to, silly. Now grab the plates, it’s ready!”

The two of them sit at Jaemin’s little breakfast nook, eating the meal that Renjun cooked and talking about their respective days. Jaemin, feeling extra affectionate, plays footsie with Renjun under the table. The smaller boy rolls his eyes when he feels Jaemin’s clothed foot grazing his ankle, but doesn’t comment, nor does he pull away.

After dinner, Renjun gets up to do the dishes, despite Jaemin’s protests. “You’ve had a long day, let me do this for you. Go put on your pajamas and we can watch a movie or something.” Jaemin tries to argue, but there is no use, so he lets Renjun take care of him.

They end up on the couch the latest drama that Jaemin’s addicted to playing on the TV. Renjun thinks Jaemin’s taste is a little bit on the dramatic side, but he indulges Jaemin every now and again. Tonight is one of those nights.

Before they were a couple, Renjun would come over to his apartment once or twice a week. Each time he would stay well into the evening before it was time for him to head home. Spending the night together just the two of them felt like a boundary neither of them was ready to cross.

Now that they are dating though, and boundaries have been redefined, they spend the night together often. Renjun has a toothbrush and backups of all of his skincare and hair products sitting in Jaemin’s bathroom. He also has a lot of clothing that he keeps in the extra drawer in Jaemin’s dresser, though Jaemin secretly prefers when Renjun opts to wear his own clothes instead.

It’s entirely domestic, and everything Jaemin could have ever hoped for. He can’t help but be grateful, so fucking grateful, that they both submitted their DNA to that stupid little dating site. That it gave them both the courage to take the plunge and fight for what they’ve both wanted for years.

Jaemin stares at his boyfriend, who has long since fallen asleep on him, TV still playing in the background, and starts to get emotional. This evening was so mundane, but it brought him so much happiness. All of his worries were diminished, and all of his plans and activities were elevated, all because Renjun was there. Because Renjun decided to offer a helping hand for the night. Because Renjun went out of his way to take care of him.

Jaemin has suffered a lot in his life, especially in the past few years, and at some points he wanted to give in to the sadness. He never thought that he would ever experience happiness like this. He never thought he would be given such a gift from the universe. He never thought that all of his wildest dreams would come true. There is one thought running on repeat in Jaemin’s mind as he stares down at the boy on top of him.

“I am never letting you go.”

Back when Jaemin kissed that other girl at the party, he seriously thought he ruined things with Renjun forever. He never thought he would be given a second chance, and the thought triggered something within him.

He became more withdrawn. He hung out with his friends less often, not wanting to burden Renjun with presence. He stopped caring about his hobbies and extracurricular activities. He just didn’t see the point.

The depression crept up on Jaemin gradually, getting worse as weeks went on. It wasn’t as if Renjun pulling away from him was the cause of his bad mental state, but it certainly didn’t make things any better. If anything, Jaemin felt more alone than he ever had, while growing through the deepest pain he had ever experienced.

It all reached a head when his parents went away on a business trip. With no one at home forcing him to go to school, he simply stopped attending. He couldn’t find the energy to get out of bed, let alone sit through his classes.

He missed three days in a row before someone came to check on him. He hadn’t been answering any messages, the task too daunting and too hard to commit to. He knew he was probably making everyone worried, but he couldn’t help it. Things were just becoming too hard for Jaemin to deal with.

He hadn’t heard the knocking on the door, nor did he hear the front door opening several minutes later. It was his bedroom door opening that finally brought him out of the fog. And when he looked, it was the last person he had expected to see.

Jaemin was so shocked to see Renjun standing in front of him, that he almost thought he was hallucinating the entire thing. But he was there, having let himself into Jaemin’s home (he knew the code to the door), and looking strikingly beautiful, despite the worried expression painting his face.

Renjun kneeled in front of him, voice softer and kinder than he deserved, asking where he had been. “Jaemin, are you sick? Are you not feeling well?” he questions.

And Jaemin can barely answer. How is he feeling? He doesn’t know if he feels anything at all. He is so numb, and so so tired, he can’t bring himself to respond.

“Jaemin have you eaten? Have you showered recently? What have you been doing the last few days?” Renjun asks, voice getting more and more frantic with each question that leaves his mouth. Jaemin knows he’s worrying his friend (can he even call Renjun that anymore?), but it’s so hard. Still he tries.

“I’m tired,” he manages to get out, and at the very least it’s a sign of life from him. Renjun looks at him in understanding, something Jaemin doesn’t feel he deserves and leaves the room. Jaemin thinks he must have left. Knowing that Jaemin is alive is enough, and now he can go about his day. Jaemin has no right to ask Renjun to stay, so he lets him go.

He isn’t expecting for Renjun to come back a couple of minutes later with some toast and tea. The smaller boy doesn’t even ask, just maneuvers Jaemin into a seated position and holds the bread up to his mouth. He takes a tentative bite and his stomach screams back to life. He can’t remember the last time he had a proper meal, and while it’s a little humiliating to have Renjun feed him like this, he’s grateful for the gesture. He doesn’t know if he could do it on his own.

He slurps up the tea Renjun has made him, and is shocked to realize how thirsty he was. He wonders how long he would have gone without taking care of himself if it hadn’t been for Renjun.

He rests some more, going in and out of consciousness, until Renjun drags him to the bathroom where he has drawn a bath for the boy. He undresses Jaemin carefully, pointedly not looking anywhere but his face, and guides him into the water. It’s when Renjun starts washing his hair that he begins to cry.

He feels more vulnerable than he ever has in his life, sitting in a bathtub unable to take care of himself. Renjun shushes him, whispering comforting words into his ear, but it just makes him cry harder. He doesn’t deserve this. After all he has put Renjun through, he doesn’t deserve his kindness.

They finish quickly afterwards, and Renjun gets him dressed into warm, clean clothes and hands him a toothbrush. Jaemin summons all of his energy and brushes his teeth. After he is done, Renjun rubs some cream gently on face.

Jaemin’s hooked up with people before, but this is the most intimate he has ever felt with someone. He feels stripped bare, having Renjun take care of like this. He feels like a part of himself that he’s never shown anyone before is on full display. Renjun, in all his kindness, accepts him as he is.

Jaemin goes back to his room and falls asleep again quite quickly. He has no idea how long he’s out before he comes to, the feeling of someone gently stroking his hair bringing him out of consciousness. He opens his eyes and sees his mom hovering over him. A quick glimpse of his surroundings tells him that his dad and Renjun are also in the room.

Before he realizes what is happening, his father is putting his coat on him while his mother helps him with the shoes. By the time he is really lucid again, he is already in the car, Renjun holding his hand gently.

He later learned that Renjun called his parents, telling them that they needed to come home as soon as possible. They tried to be as quick as they could, but they were a plane ride away. Renjun stayed with him for 15 hours until his parents were able to make it back.

He’s brought to a hospital, and though he wouldn’t choose to be there, he doesn’t oppose it either. After a series of tests, Jaemin is finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And suddenly, he has a name for the things he has been feeling, for the behaviors he’s experienced that he couldn’t make sense of.

During this time, his friends and family were all extremely supportive, and stayed by his side until he finally started feeling like himself again. More than anyone though, Renjun was the one who acted as a pillar of strength for Jaemin to lean on.

The two of them became close again, and their friendship more or less was back to normal. The only reminder of Renjun and their failed almost-relationship was the guilt that Jaemin harbored. To be met with such kindness and grace from the person he had hurt the most was more than Jaemin could ever ask. More than anything, Jaemin is so lucky to have Renjun by his side.

Jaemin is on babysitting duty. He doesn’t think it’s necessary but Renjun insists. If something bad were to happen, and neither of them were there to help mitigate it, they would both feel guilty.

Donghyuck was matched with his soulmate the same night that Jaemin and Renjun were matched, only his experience was less of the fairytale dream he’d been hoping for. His soulmate, a Canadian bloke named Mark, rejected him immediately, without even giving him a chance.

Donghyuck wanted to avoid his soulmate as much as possible, but as luck would have it, the two of them were forced to work together on a project for their literature class. And after one too many blowups between the two of them, Renjun didn’t feel comfortable ‘leaving my best friend alone with some prick!’

So Jaemin finds himself in the living room of Renjun and Donghyuck’s apartment, doing his homework and trying not to make his presence too obvious. He tries not to cringe at the awkward, stunted conversations he’s witnessing, but it’s hard when the two soulmates can barely hold a conversation.

Luckily however, Mark doesn’t pull any funny business, and he leaves the apartment after a couple of hours of work. Donghyuck looks exhausted though, despite the meeting going relatively well. So when he makes his way over to Jaemin and throws himself on top of him, Jaemin welcomes him with open arms.

They’ve always been the most affectionate of their little group, and it isn’t at all uncommon for them to seek each other out when they want a little bit of physical comfort. Jaemin just wishes that Donghyuck didn’t need it.

“How is it that we were matched with our soulmates on the same day and you and Renjun are practically married at this point, and me and Mark can’t even hold a conversation,” Donghyuck whines. Jaemin’s heart pings in sympathy for his best friend.

“Don’t be dumb, Duckie. I’ve known Renjun for years. You just met Mark. Of course we’re going to be at different stages in our relationship,” Jaemin explains, rubbing Donghyuck’s back in a gentle circle.

Donghyuck is quiet for a moment, before pulling away with a sigh. “I know, it’s just been really hard. I never thought that things would be like this. I never thought my relationship with my soulmate would be such a mess,” he says bitterly.

“You’re still at the beginning of your relationship, Donghyuck. You’ve seen how many ups and downs Renjun and I have gone through. It’s very possible that you and Mark will overcome all of this. Or, at the very least, you’ll find someone else who will treat you right,” Jaemin reassures.

 

“Do you think it’s worth it? The whole soulmate thing?” Donghyuck asks seriously. Jaemin stills at the question, not expecting it. He isn’t quite sure how to respond to Donghyuck, balancing his own feelings as well as Donghyuck’s in the moment.

“Renjun is worth it,” Jaemin finally answers after a beat of silence. “He is worth everything.”

Donghyuck doesn’t respond, just clings on to Jaemin even tighter. They fall asleep like that, napping together until Renjun gets home later and wakes them up, a soft smile on his face. Jaemin’s mood immediately brightens, just at the sight of his soulmate, and he can’t help but wish that Donghyuck could experience the same feeling.

It’s a couple of days later when Jaemin finds that Donghyuck’s situation might not be as hopeless as he initially thought. The four of them decided to go out for some drinks, and Renjun ran into his friend Chenle, who just so happened to be out with Mark (his best friend) and another guy named Jisung.

Chenle seemed determined not to let the awkward tension between Mark and Donghyuck ruin their evening, and kept everyone’s spirits relatively high. The alcohol that everyone was rapidly consuming didn’t hurt either.

Jaemin is the only sober one at the table, but it doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t trust himself around alcohol anymore, and he never really had much of a taste for it anyway. His boyfriend, however, does not share the same aversion for alcohol.

Renjun drinks like a sailor, and Jaemin can’t bring himself to complain, not when Renjun is so giggly and cuddly when drunk. They’ve been sat at their table for over an hour, but Jaemin hasn’t made conversation with anyone other than his boyfriend. How could he possibly pay attention to anyone else when his soulmate is sat next to him looking and acting this adorable?

“Minnie,” Renjun attempts to whisper in his ear, though it’s loud enough that the others could probably hear if they were listening. “I have a secret!” he says with a mischievous grin on his face.

“Is that so?” Jaemin smirks in response. “Go on then baby, I’m all ears.” This should be good.

“I only pretend to hate your cuddles,” Renjun whispers loudly. “I actually really love them!” Jaemin laughs out loud in response. He knew this was the case, given that Renjun has never pulled away any time he’s tried to cling to him, but it’s nice to have the suspicion confirmed.

Then, without giving Jaemin a chance to even answer, he takes one of Jaemin’s arms and wraps it around his shoulder. Then he grabs the other hand and places it on his upper thigh. Then Renjun shuffles a little, leaning into Jaemin until he is in a comfortable position, practically in his boyfriend’s lap.

Renjun sighs dramatically, “Much better!” he proclaims, and Jaemin is never letting him live this down. He doesn’t want to ruin the moment, however, so instead of replying with something snarky he just holds on even tighter.

Jaemin knows he can be insecure sometimes, especially in regards to his relationship. Having verbal affirmations from Renjun is extremely helpful in terms of his mental health, even if they are given while drunk.

Jaemin has always been much more expressive with his love, while Renjun prefers to be more reserved. It took a while for Jaemin to recognize that about his boyfriend, and accept their difference in showing emotion. So when Renjun chooses to outwardly express his affection for Jaemin, it warms his entire soul. Even when it’s kind of embarrassing.

Like right now, in the karaoke bar their friend group has moved to, where Renjun has decided to serenade Jaemin with the cheesiest love song he’s ever heard. And while it’s kind of embarrassing (Renjun can’t stand up straight when drunk, so he spends the entire song stumbling around while he tries to sing) it makes Jaemin the happiest he’s ever been.

For once in their short-lived relationship, Jaemin has no worries. Anything bad that comes their way, they will get through it. Because Jaemin cares about Renjun, and Renjun cares about him, and they will work through anything that comes their way.

Renjun is a little stupid when he’s drunk, but Jaemin doesn’t care. Even as he is half-dragging Renjun home and trying to rile him into his pajamas, his boyfriend wiggling his limbs just to be difficult. Jaemin wants every part of Renjun, even the stupid parts.

For every sweet, cuddly drunk Renjun, there is a grouchy hungover version of well. He’s lucky that Jaemin finds both versions of him cute, or he would be out of luck.

They wake up the next morning tangled together and Renjun closes his eyes again, almost as soon as he opens them, groaning loudly. “God, why did you let me drink this much? I feel like I’m dying.”

“Oh sweetie, we both know I couldn’t stop you even if I wanted to. You’re stubborn as hell,” Jaemin laughs in response. Though his tone is lighthearted, his body language is already serious. He is strictly on “take care of unwell boyfriend” duty. He gets up and leaves the room, coming back a minute later with a big glass of water and some painkillers.

“Take these and go back to sleep,” Jaemin urges, handing him the pills. “While you’re sleeping, I’ll make us some breakfast, alright?” Renjun follows his orders, before passing out again in Jaemin’s bed. (He still can’t believe he gets to wake up next to Renjun in the morning. Even when Renjun is like this, Jaemin feels so lucky.)

He goes to the kitchen, and gets to work on some breakfast. When Renjun is nauseous, he can’t eat sweet food, so that eliminates many options. He decides instead to go for rice and a simple stew. Plus, this dish takes slightly longer to make, meaning Renjun can sleep in a little while longer.

Because Jaemin is feeling extra, he decides to go all out. He puts the food on a little tray, remembering Renjun’s favorite tea, and brings his boyfriend breakfast in bed. His boyfriend is awake when he greets him, scrolling mindlessly on his phone. When he looks up and sees his boyfriend, he is immediately pleased.

(It’s so nice having someone who is happy to see you all the time. It makes Jaemin feel so much less like a burden. It makes him feel wanted and cared for, even if the gesture isn’t too grand.)

“God,” Renjun groans, moving into a seated position. “You are the absolute best thing to ever happen to me!” he finishes, before reaching for the tray and getting to work.

Jaemin is so happy to hear Renjun say that, he can’t even put it into words. Sure his boyfriend was sweet to him yesterday, but it feels so much nicer to hear the words while his boyfriend is sober. Maybe his insecurities aren’t such a big deal after all.

When Jaemin first met Renjun, was it love at first sight? Not exactly, but it was something.

Renjun moved to Jaemin’s middle school when he was thirteen, and immediately joined their friend group like he had always been there. Since childhood, it has always been Jaemin, Jeno, and Donghyuck, the three of them against the world. He never imagined someone new would come in and disrupt their routine, nor would he have imagined that he would be so grateful for it.

Despite fitting in perfectly, Jaemin couldn’t help but treat Renjun differently. Don’t get him wrong, it’s not like he mistreated the other boy or something like that. If anything, Jaemin treated Renjun better than anyone. He just didn’t know why.

Renjun is just so cute. It drives Jaemin crazy, the way he glows without trying. The way that his sleepy bed head makes Jaemin’s heart race. Things that annoy him when Jeno and Donghyuck do it, are endearing when Renjun does it.

What attracted Jaemin to Renjun the most, even from the beginning, was his confidence. Which is why Jaemin was surprised when he found Renjun crying in the bathroom a couple months after he transferred to their school.

“Hey, hey hey,” Jaemin begins, practically running towards Renjun, and wrapping him in his arms. “Injunnie, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” he asks gently.

Renjun just shakes his head silently. “It’s nothing. I’m sorry for worrying you,” Renjun sniffles, refusing to meet Jaemin’s eyes. They haven’t known each other for very long, but they’ve become impossibly close in the months that they’ve known each other. Never though, have they had the opportunity to be truly vulnerable in front of each other. Until now.

“Don’t be sorry!” Jaemin coos, bringing Renjun’s head to his chest. “It’s not nothing if it’s hurting you. I want to help you, if I can,” he reassures.

“Someone was making fun of my accent,” Renjun begins slowly, and Jaemin immediately sees red. He has half a mind to find that person and give them a piece of his mind, especially when Renjun speaks so well.

“And it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it just kind of made me feel like an outsider, you know?” Renjun continues. “New school, new country, new language, new friends, new house. It’s a lot. It’s been months, and I’m just worried that I’m never truly going to fit in.”

Jaemin’s heart aches in sympathy. He doesn’t know what to say, especially when he has never experienced anything like what Renjun is describing. He’s lived in the same place his entire life, and has never had his life disrupted in any meaningful way. But he has to comfort Renjun, and has to reassure him in any way possible. He doesn’t know why, but his body is screaming at him to protect the boy in front of him.

“Renjun, I don’t know what to say to make things better, but I hope you know that no one sees you as an outsider. In fact, I kind of think you fit in like a missing puzzle piece,” Jaemin admits, even though it’s embarrassing. He thinks some temporary awkwardness is fine, if it makes Renjun feel better in the long run.

Jaemin thinks it’s a sweet moment, which is why he is surprised when Renjun laughs in his face. “Oh my god, that was so cheesy,” he wheezes, making fun of Jaemin and his sappy ways. (Not that Jaemin minds though, not when Renjun is smiling again.)

“You know, Jaemin. I actually do feel better,” Renjun begins, once he has stopped laughing. “How could I feel like a weirdo, when you’re right next to me!”

“Hey!” Jaemin protests, and Renjun just giggles again. And just like that, all is well again. Renjun is smiling and happy, and as a result, Jaemin is smiling and happy too.

His prep talk may have been cheesy, but Jaemin meant every word. Renjun was the piece of Jaemin’s life that he didn’t know he was missing. And even then, just months into their friendship, he knew that he wanted Renjun to stay in his life for a long, long time.

Jaemin is a big ball of anxiety. Just when he started to feel comfortable with his relationship with Renjun, he received a text. The most dreaded text that exists.

Im coming over later, we need to talk about something

Jaemin’s mind is running at a thousand miles per hour. Is Renjun upset with him? Is he rethinking their relationship? Does he no longer want to be boyfriends? Does he wish he was matched with someone else?

Jaemin, admittedly, is a people pleaser. He can’t stand the thought of someone being upset with him, much less Renjun. Though, he doesn’t know if Renjun is actually upset with him. But what else could he need to talk to Jaemin about? He’s a mess, and Jaemin is learning quickly that he isn’t as okay as he thought he was. It’s easy to pretend not to be insecure when everything is going exactly to plan, but once something pivots from that, he doesn't know how to handle things.

Jaemin spends the time leading up to Renjun’s arrival cleaning his apartment. He doesn’t know why, but it’s the one activity that calms him down when he is on the brink of over-thinking things. Which is what Jaemin recognizes he is doing, so he tries to put on a brave face when Renjun finally gets there.

Renjun, as always, lets himself in with the key Jaemin gave him at the start of their relationship. He greets Jaemin with a wide smile, and most of the fear leaves Jaemin’s body.

“Hi, love,” Renjun approaches, making his way over to Jaemin and kissing his cheek gently. “How has your day been?” he asks sweetly.

Jaemin fakes a pout. “Awful! I spent the whole day missing you,” he whines. Renjun pretends to be annoyed, but his smile gives him away.

“It’s been like 2 days, Jaemin” Renjun giggles, pulling him close. They kiss each other gently, and everything falls into place in Jaemin’s chest. “That’s two days too long,” Jaemin complains.

The two of them spend some time talking about their days (Jaemin leaving out the part where he nearly drove himself into a panic over a single text message) and make their way over to the couch.

They spend some time catching up (and admittedly some time making out), until Renjun pulls away from him looking serious. Jaemin’s stomach drops, though he isn’t as nervous as he was before.

“I told you I had something to talk about with you, yeah?” Renjun asks suddenly. Jaemin gulps, and nods slowly.

“Well,” Renjun begins, “It’s my grandma’s birthday next month.” Jaemin goes from nervous to confused really quickly. Does Renjun need help with a birthday present or something? Jaemin can’t say he is an expert in the eldery.

Renjun, taking in Jaemin’s bewildered expression, continues. “I was, uh, wondering if you wanted to come to her birthday party with me?” he asks nervously.

Jaemin has met Renjun’s parents before, but never his extended family. Even so, he hasn’t seen Renjun’s parents since they were matched. It’s the logical next step in their relationship, and if it were anyone else, Jaemin might be a little hesitant.

But this is Renjun, and Jaemin has known him for years. He trusts him and his family, and is ecstatic at the idea of maybe becoming part of the family someday (though that’s a thought he keeps to himself.)

“I’d love to,” Jaemin beams at him, surprised when Renjun hugs him tightly. Jaemin feels guilty for ever having any doubts about what Renjun came to talk to him about. It’s clear that the other boy cares for him a lot, and is confident in the way their relationship has been progressing. The least Jaemin could do is let go of his insecurities and allow himself some grace.

“I can’t wait for you to meet my grandma,” Renjun remarks softly, “I just know she’s going to be obsessed with you. She’ll probably want to adopt you as her own or something. I don’t know how you manage to charm every elderly person you meet, but you better not make me look bad,” Renjun jokes.

Jaemin has a lot of experience with the elderly, given that he volunteers at nursing homes from time to time. He prefers to volunteer for the suicide hotline more often though. He knows what it’s like to be at your lowest, and wants to do all he can to make sure others get the help that they need just like he did.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m excited to meet your family too. If they’re anything like you, I’m sure it’ll be a great time,” Jaemin replies easily.

They spend the rest of the evening talking logistics, eating dinner, watching movies (and yes, making out again.) While Jaemin was worried at the start of the day, after receiving the initial text from Renjun, he ends his day feeling absolutely content.

Jaemin doesn’t always trust himself, but he trusts Renjun with his entire heart. It makes him want to do everything he can to keep him happy and in his life. Renjun deserves everything.

Jaemin is absolutely buzzing. He thought that the “love drunk” was just an expression, but he is almost delirious with everything he feels for Renjun. It’s like his heart is a jar full of love for Renjun, and it’s about to overflow.

The only issue is, Jaemin doesn’t know how to relay this information to his boyfriend. They know they feel deeply for each other, they are soulmates after all, but neither of them have said the “l” word.

It’s still early in their relationship, and Jaemin doesn’t know if it’s too soon to tell Renjun that he loves him. There are so many factors at play: the fact that they haven’t been dating for very long, the fact that they’ve known each other forever, the fact that they’re soulmates etc. Jaemin could run circles in his mind trying to figure out if now is the right time or not.

He doesn’t know how long he has to make the decision though, because at some point, he is probably just going to blurt it out. Because really, it’s all Jaemin thinks about.

Renjun laughs (I love you), Renjun stretches in the morning after waking up (I love you), Renjun enables Donghyuck in his chaos (I love you), Renjun cries at romance movies (I love you), Renjun pets his head fondly (I really fucking love you.)

Even now, sitting in the library, his chem notes scattered everywhere, all he can think about is Renjun. Now that the semester has picked up a little, they have study dates to keep up with schoolwork without losing their time together.

“Why are you staring at me, weirdo,” Renjun interrupts his train of thought. “Shouldn’t you be studying?” he tuts, though there is a smirk on his face.

“I can’t help it when you’re sitting right there, looking so pretty in front of me,” Jaemin whines, and Renjun laughs, blush spreading across his face.

“Well you aren’t going to get to look at me at all if I graduate and you’re stuck here for years because you failed all of your classes,” Renjun warns, but Jaemin doesn’t take the bait.

“Don’t be silly, I’ll just be your sugar baby,” Jaemin winks, as if he has everything in life figured out (even if that’s far from the case.)

Renjun just rolls his eyes in response. “You’re lucky I love you,” he rolls his eyes, not noticing the way that Jaemin stills immediately at his words. It was so quick and nonchalant, Jaemin almost thinks that he imagined it.

“You love me?” Jaemin asks, unable to control the massive smile that spreads across his face. Renjun doesn’t even flinch.

“Duh,” he replies, not even looking up from his notes. “Of course I love you, stupid,” he answers easily, failing to notice the way his boyfriend is melting in front of him. His attention isn’t captured until Jaemin reaches across the table for his hand.

“I love you too. So much. It makes me stupid when I try to verbalize everything I feel for you,” Jaemin confesses.

Renjun smiles softly. “I know.”

It’s nothing and it’s everything. They’ve reached the next step in their relationship, and Jaemin can’t believe he is lucky enough to love and be loved by this magical boy.

Donghyuck and Renjun decide to have a roommate date, so Jaemin invites Jeno over to keep him company. Jaemin is close with everyone in their little group of four, but Jeno is his bro. Jaemin trusts him a lot, and knows he will always be there to listen to his problems, or simply shoot the shit with him on a boring Thursday night.

They order takeout, and set up shop in the living room. They have beer, greasy fast food, and video games, and really, what more could they possibly want. Conversation flows easy, as it always does.

“So…” Jeno begins, taking a bite of his greasy burger, “I assume things are going well with Renjun?” he asks, smirk on his face.

Despite everything, Jaemin blushes. “What makes you say that?”

“Jaemin, you’re like, glowing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look this happy. Also, every time your phone dings, you look at it with a big ass smile on your face. It’s disgusting,” Jeno jokes, though Jaemin knows he is genuinely happy for him.

“Okay, fine. You are right. I’m really fucking happy, Jeno. We’re in love, and nothing has imploded at all, and I feel like I can finally breathe now. I really think things are going to work out this time,” Jaemin admits, for the first time since he and Renjun began their relationship.

“I hate to say it, but I told you so!” Jeno goads, smiling cheekily. Jaemin points out that Jeno actually loves to say it, and the two of them continue on their night laughing basking in their happiness. Things seem to be going great. They don’t take a turn until Jeno goes to the bathroom.

Jeno comes out fuming, holding something in his hand that Jaemin can’t see. Jaemin is a little scared, wondering what could possibly be making Jeno this upset.

“Jaemin,” Jeno seethes, “Why the fuck was this in the potted plant in your bathroom?” Jaemin immediately knows what he is referring to. His eyes zero in on the object in his best friend’s hand as shame creeps throughout his body: his medication.

“I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not that,” Jaemin tries to defend himself, though the situation looks pretty incriminating. “I promise I’m taking my medication. Every day, like clockwork.”

“Then why is it hidden in a plant?” Jeno asks incredulously, still visibly angry. Jaemin feels guilty, like he’s disappointed his best friend. But at the same time, he’s a little annoyed that he even has to explain himself. It’s none of Jeno’s business.

“It’s just, Renjun’s been staying over a lot lately. And I… didn’t want him to see it,” Jaemin confesses. Even to his own ears, the explanation is stupid. It’s the truth, but it doesn’t change the fact that what Jaemin is doing is utterly ridiculous.

“Jaemin, Renjun knows you take medication. A lot of people do? Me and Donghyuck are also on meds. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. To be honest, Renjun wouldn’t bat an eye if he saw your medication in the medicine cabinet, you know, where it belongs. But if he saw it in the plant like I did, he probably would be a little concerned,” Jeno lectures. Jaemin hangs his head in shame.

Jeno’s right. And the shame of hiding the medication, overtakes the shame of having to take medication, and leaves Jaemin feeling even shittier than before. It’s hard to acknowledge the fact that even after all of these years, he still hasn’t made peace with his diagnosis. He still hasn’t stopped feeling less than because of it.

Jeno’s anger dissipates after seeing how deflated Jaemin became, and goes to put Jaemin’s medicine in the cabinet in the bathroom. Jaemin makes no effort to move it, and leaves it as is. It’s better that way anyways.

Jeno doesn’t comment further, other than putting a hand on Jaemin’s shoulder and squeezing it gently. “I just wish you’d learn to accept yourself, Jaemin.”

Jaemin wishes he could too.

People think that when you take medication, you’re suddenly better and all of your problems disappear. For Jaemin, that certainly wasn’t the case.

His entire medication journey was a process, trying to find the right ones, waiting for them to be adjusted, only for them to stop working out of the blue and for the entire process to start again. It was exhausting.

He didn’t feel like himself. He tried one medication that turned him into a zombie. He felt as though he was being sedated, like he was no longer a person and just a body. He lost a lot of friends during this time, because he couldn’t be his normal, bubbly self.

His best friends were the ones that stuck with him through everything, and he couldn’t be more grateful. Even when he wasn’t fun to be around, they still included him, they still stayed.

Besides, while being medicated can have some negative side effects, it beats the alternative. Jaemin learned this lesson first hand, the first and only time he went off his meds.

Jaemin was tired of the sluggish feeling his pills gave him. He hated how not himself he was feeling, how he could barely remember who he was before his diagnosis. Instead of going to see someone, who could adjust his medication to make it work better for him, he simply stopped taking them. And it led to the worst manic episode of Jaemin’s life.

Their classes had ended for the year and they were finally done with high school, so their friend group decided to celebrate at a rooftop bar. That euphoric feeling of heightened energy overtook Jaemin once more, and this time, he wasn’t able to recognize the signs. If anything, he was instead glad to finally be feeling something.

Somehow the conversation got to the topic of parkour, and the crazy things that people will do to seek a thrill. Renjun casually mentioned how some people even jump from building to building, and for some reason, Jaemin took that as a personal challenge.

While Jaemin had recognized at this point that he had lost his chance with Renjun, he still wanted to impress him. The desire to be wanted by the boy he had been pining for overtook everything else, and he immediately knew what he needed to do.

He got up from the table, not even saying anything, and started climbing the safety railing. It took his friends a second to catch on, and once they did, they started screaming his name. To Jaemin, it felt like they were cheering him on.

Before he knew it, he was leaping from the building to the next, landing safely, though stumbling a little bit. He looked over to his friends, expecting to see them cheering, but instead saw horrified looks on their faces.

He knew he needed to get back to them, to reassure them that he was okay, and the quickest way to do that was to simply jump back. Only this time he slipped a little. Not enough to actually fall, but enough for everyone (including himself) to think that he would.

Luckily Jeno had been there at the railing and pulled him out, and dragged him far away from the edge and into safety. Jaemin didn’t understand why he wouldn’t let him go, and why Donghyuck and Renjun had joined them, all crying and begging Jaemin to please never do that again.

Jaemin saw the devastation on Renjun’s face, the guilt that he carried knowing that he was the one who brought up the jumping in the first place, and knew that he fucked up. He agreed to see someone the next day.

Jaemin not only went back on his medication, he had his dosage adjusted and finally started to feel more like himself. He also gained an unlikely companion who held his hand the entire way, and supported him on his mental health journey: Donghyuck.

Donghyuck had always been one of his closest friends, however, he was admittedly closer to Jeno and Renjun. That changed quickly when the two of them learned how much the other had been struggling.

Donghyuck had always had self worth issues, much to the surprise of everyone who knew him. He was such a shining light in everyone’s eyes, that few people understand how he could be depressed. He seemed to have it all, they would say. Jaemin knew better than anyone that struggling with your mental health can make anyone doubt themselves.

When Donghyuck opened up to him about his own issues, it felt like a relief more than a burden. That finally, someone knew what he was going through, even a little bit. He would never wish harm on any of his friends, but it was so comforting to learn that he wasn’t alone.

Even now, when it comes to his healthcare, Donghyuck is his emergency contact. Not because he doesn’t trust the others, but because he knows Donghyuck understands the best. He knows what it’s like to be at your lowest low, and how to come back from that.

It’s probably Jaemin’s greatest blessing that his bipolar disorder has given him, the opportunity to get closer to Donghyuck. And he would never take that for granted.

Even now, Donghyuck is there for him, to help him along with even minor issues. Like finding out what to wear to Renjun’s grandmother’s birthday party.

“Do you like the purple or the blue better?” Jaemin asks, holding up two identical shirts in different colors. Donghyuck looks them both over before shaking his head.

“Neither, go with the pink,” Donghyuck answers simply, and upon closer inspection, he is right. The pink is more him.

They continue shopping, hitting various stores, and purchasing more than they intended. But Jaemin can tell there is something on Donghyuck’s mind. The smaller boy keeps zoning out, deep in the thought, in the middle of their conversations. He also keeps looking at his phone, messaging someone with a slight frown on his face.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Jaemin asks after Donghyuck puts his phone away with a deep sigh. He hesitates for a moment, and then he word-vomits everything that’s on his mind.

“I’ve been matched again so now I have two soulmates. And Mark confessed to me and I don’t know what to do or who to choose or anything-” Donghyuck blabs.

“Ok, slow down,” Jaemin says, guiding them to a nearby bench. Luckily the mall isn’t too crowded on a Thursday morning, and they have some semblance of privacy.

Donghyuck’s soulmate journey has not been smooth sailing. He was originally matched with Mark only to be rejected by him immediately. Forced proximity allowed them to get closer with each other and mend the wounds that they suffered at the beginning of their relationship. And just when they thought things might finally be okay, another wrench was thrown into the mix. Donghyuck was matched with a second soulmate.

Jaemin feels pangs of sympathy for his best friend as he shares his story. Donghyuck deserves his happy ending more than anyone, and he wishes that things were easier for him.

“I don’t know what to do,” Donghyuck whines, putting his head in his hands. “Things were so hard with Mark at first, but they’ve been so fucking good lately. And I don’t know anything about Lucas. I don’t know if it would be worth it, giving Mark up for the possibility of something else.”

“I know this is cheesy advice, and probably not going to help you at all, but you need to follow your heart, Donghyuck. I’ve known that Renjun was the one long before we were matched, and if I listened to my heart, we could have been a lot happier sooner,” Jaemin says simply.

“But how did you know? Weren’t you afraid of making the wrong decision?” Donghyuck asked worriedly.

Jaemin shakes his head. “Renjun is my north star. I trust him to guide me, to give me direction when I am directionless, to be my light where there is darkness. I never once doubted him. I doubted myself and if I could be a good partner to him. Do you trust your instincts? Do you love yourself enough to trust yourself?” Jaemin asks, looking at his friend closely.

Tears well in Donghyuck’s eyes and he nods quickly. “I do. I know what I have to do. But I think I just meet Lucas before I make any final decisions, just in case,” he grins.

Jaemin pulls Donghyuck in for a hug, rubbing his back gently. He’s going to be okay. After years of fighting and advocating for themselves, they’re going to be okay.

Jaemin shows up to Renjun’s grandmother’s birthday party with his shirt ironed, shoes shined, and hair styled to perfection. Renjun had arrived earlier to help set up, and Jaemin took advantage of the extra time to finish getting ready. He’s meeting his boyfriend’s extended family tonight, and he is determined to make a good first impression.

He isn’t empty-handed either. He comes with cookies that he baked himself earlier in the day, some flowers for Renjun’s mother who is hosting the party, and a present for Renjun’s grandmother (gardening gloves, because he heard it’s her favorite hobby.)

“Oh Jaemin! You shouldn’t have!” Renjun’s mother gushes, pulling him in for a quick hug when he presents her with the flowers. Jaemin was a little nervous to see Renjun’s mom again, even though they’ve met before. But this time is different. He isn’t just Renjun’s friend anymore, he’s his boyfriend, his soulmate.

“It was no trouble Mrs. Huang. I’m just so thankful that you invited me to this special event. I’m happy to be here,” Jaemin replies, smiling earnestly at her.

“Of course, Jaemin. I have to say when I learned that you and Renjun were matched, I couldn’t say that I was surprised. You guys are so good together. I’m glad I have the opportunity to officially welcome you to the family,” she says kindly. Jaemin’s eyes well with happy tears but he blinks them away before anyone notices.

“Mom, I hope you aren’t scaring away my boyfriend,” a voice interrupts, and Jaemin turns to see his favorite person staring at him with a fond expression. Without even thinking, Jaemin raises his arms out and makes grabby hands at Renjun until his boyfriend greets him properly with a hug.

“Thank you for coming,” Renjun whispers sincerely, leaning up to kiss Jaemin softly on the lips.

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Jaemin replies sweetly, giving him one last peck before they pull away.

From there, they make their rounds. Renjun introduces Jaemin to practically every member of his extended family, and Jaemin uses some of the chinese phrases he had practiced on his own. Renjun looks shocked when he hears it, but the little smile on his face tells Jaemin that he’s pleased.

They get separated at some point, but Jaemin keeps himself busy. He helps Renjun’s mom and aunties serve food to their guests, and even helps clean up too. He keeps himself busy, always finding something to do or someone to talk to. He doesn’t want to hang onto Renjun all night, knowing he hasn’t seen some members of the family in years. He lets him have some family time while he finds other ways to keep himself occupied.

That includes running around and playing with the children, greeting the elders, and dancing on the makeshift dance floor with Renjun’s mom and all of his aunts. He doesn’t think he has sat down once all night, and in his opinion, the night has gone really well. Even Renjun’s grandmother told him that she was happy to have him there. Overall, the night felt like a success.

“Did you have a fun night?” Jaemin asks at the end of the night. They’ve made it home just a couple minutes prior, and are already sitting on Jaemin’s couch in their pajamas, a disney movie playing in the background. Renjun smiles at him softly, but there is some hesitancy there.

“I had a great time. And my family loved you, especially my grandmother. It’s just… Jaemin, I was a little worried about you. You seemed… a little manic…” Renjun trails off. And just like that a dam breaks.

Jaemin starts crying before he can stop himself, and soon his cries turn into full blown sobs as Renjun frantically grabs him and pulls him towards his chest, muttering assurances and apologies into his chest.

Jaemin is devastated. He tried his best to the best partner he could for Renjun and his family, and somehow he had messed it up. It was too much. He’s upset with himself, and the way he cannot be the perfect partner he longs to be for Renjun.

And more than anything, he is upset because Renjun could be right. He might have been manic, and didn’t realize it. It’s so hard for Jaemin to figure out where his bipolar disorder ends and his personality begins. People are always telling him he’s either up or he’s down, but is that really who he is? Or is that his mental illness peeking through? Who is he, if not a shell of the part of himself that he hates the most.

Renjun holds him as he cries, and the guilt is evident on his face. “I’m sorry,” Jaemin finally stutters out. “I just wanted to be good for you. I wanted to be the boyfriend that you deserved when I met your family and I ruined it,” he cries. Renjun looks devastated at his words.

“Jaemin, what are you talking about? You didn’t ruin anything? Everybody loved you, I loved you. I was just a little concerned and wanted to check in with you. Why are you talking about yourself like this?” Renjun begs, eyes impossibly sad. Jaemin doesn’t know why he always has to make Renjun so sad.

“I love you so much Renjun,” Jaemin counters, surprising the smaller boy. “And if I could promise you the entire world, I would. But I’m volatile, and I’ve hurt you before, and I will probably hurt you again, and it kills me to know that. It kills me to know that of all the people in the world, I’m the one that you got stuck with as your soulmate.”

Renjun is full-on crying at this point. “Jaemin, the only time you hurt me is when you are hurting. When you aren’t well. You act like you make me miserable and that I’m stuck with you, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You make me happier than anyone else could. Everything in my life is better because of you. Please don’t ever doubt that,” Renjun begs, holding Jaemin’s face firmly in his hands.

“Jaemin, you are the only one who can’t see how great you are. We are going to have problems in our relationship, because that’s normal. Even for soulmates. And some will be my fault and some will be yours but none of it will matter because we love each unconditionally. Because nothing you could ever do would make me not want you,” Renjuns finishes, out of breath.

“Do you mean that?” Jaemin asks, shocked by the weight of Renjun’s words and how much they mean to him. It almost seems like Jaemin invented the conflict in his head instead of talking things out with Renjun personally.

Because of course Renjun would reassure him. Renjun loves him, despite everything, and he accepts every part of him, good and bad. The least he could do is extend that same compassion to himself.

“I mean every word. You are it for me, and I’m not going anywhere,” Renjun says, and he is so serious that Jaemin has no choice but to believe him.

“I think the issue was not that you didn’t accept me. I think the issue is that I’ve never learned to accept myself. I’ve never grown out of seeing myself as a nuisance. I’ve always seen my bipolar disorder as something to hate about myself,” Jaemin admits, and Renjun nods along sympathetically.

“Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to try therapy again?” Renjun suggests hesitantly. Jaemin thinks it over, and decides it can’t hurt. If it can ease his mind and allow him to enjoy his relationship with Renjun, then it’s probably worth it.

They spend the rest of the night talking everything out, their honest feelings and insecurities, and it’s cathartic. Just because they are soulmates doesn’t mean they don’t have to work on their relationship. Communication is key to making any relationship work, and Jaemin is determined to be an open book from now on.

As they lay in bed that night, Jaemin wrapped safely in his boyfriend’s arms, he finally feels at peace with everything in his life, the good and the bad. Because no matter what happens to them, Jaemin is sure that he will make it through it, with Renjun by his side like always.

When they wake up the next morning, the news is everywhere. Match Your DNA has been hacked, and at least one-third of the matches made via the app were not valid. Jaemin looks over at Renjun and they both shrug. It doesn’t matter to them either way. No one can tell them what they’ve already decided for themselves.

There will never be anyone else, for either of them. And they don’t need an app to tell them otherwise. Jaemin is confident in his relationship because he trusts Renjun, their love, and even himself.

Some things in his life are out of his control and Jaemin will never be able to change that. But if there’s one thing in this world that is constant, it’s Renjun and Jaemin’s love for each other, and that alone is enough to get them through whatever life has to throw at them.