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how long has it been since you've sung me romance's song

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There's something in the way that Mark perpetually looks at people (though more than often, Jinyoung) with a look of pining and admiration that doesn't sit well with Jaebum. Though he dismisses such thoughts as fast as they surface—knowing that they're silly and over-thought. They're a team, and he has enough trust in Mark to know that any affection he has for the other five don't surpass that of friendship—or if so, it'll only venture into the domain of family. The entangled space between, though, is reserved for himself—painted grey and crimson into muted shades of pink.

 

But when does logic overtake the anxiety driven insecurities of romance—rendered useless when it comes to doubts and what if's. And with every moment that he glances from the corner of his eye to see the older male joking too closely with Jinyoung, he can't help the small but frequent clench in his heart. The momentary pain that overcomes him, stomach morphing into a bottomless pit before he shakes his head, blinks hard enough to focus himself on more important things. You're thinking too much, he mutters.

 

It's Jinyoung—whom he's known since the very beginning. It's Mark, who he trusts more than anything but the thoughts don't stop, and the worms of anxiety gnaw their way under his veins—travelling towards his mind. Because unlike Jackson, who pines for everyone's affection and is constantly attempting to get under Mark's skin, there's a different air between Mark and Jinyoung's interactions. It's the way that unlike the usual dynamics with the oldest member, it's only Jinyoung where he's initiating contact and affection. It's a stark contrast even with their relationship, where they've settled into a comfortable silence and tranquil love. They've long passed the stage of romance laced with fleeting butterflies, the ups and downs of puppy love; yet, the silence sometimes morph into uncertainty for Jaebum. Where the silence from Mark takes on a more apprehensive air, and Jaebum is left thinking just what it is that would make Mark continue loving him.

 

 

 

 

 

There are no such things as jokes, Jaebum had once read in his psychology class—a small excerpt in his textbook discussing Freudian theorem. And the words flash through his mind after the recording, as he's boarding the van and the youngest two are still laughing over their makeshift skit. "Do you even know what I like?" he says with a smile that covers up the wavering in his eyes, that he can only hope Mark can't read. But as Jaebum sits in the front seat, eyes closed in pretend-sleep, he wonders if Mark really knows that he doesn't like strawberry milk. It's a petty thought, he thinks—a uselessly petty one but his mind keeps thinking back to the way Mark had known exactly what brand of snack that Jinyoung preferred the morning before. His brows knit together in a grimace and Jaebum shuts his eyes tighter, missing the glance that Mark throws him through the rear-view mirror.

 

He's over-thinking, he knows it—and Jaebum shifts his head to his right, brows furrowing for a moment, leaning on the headrest. It's Mark, who remembers the number of lights above him on set, the names of various fans during their Meet and Greets, little details about the world around him. Of course he would remember little things about each and every one of them.

 

Stop thinking, he tells himself, but the insecurity only proliferates through the neurons in his mind—and when they finally arrive to their company, it becomes the only thing in his mind.

 

He feels as if he's drowning in echoes of his worries.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark approaches him later that night, when he's sitting alone in the living room at three in the morning, psp in hand. He's attempting to pass through another obstacle when the older male sits beside him, couch seat dipping under the added weight, arm wrapping around Jaebum's waist and pulling him back. He doesn't give much of a response, pretending to be immersed in his game though he was never really focused to begin with. He was simply looking for something to distract him enough to run on autopilot without thoughts.

 

"You think too much," Mark says, and Jaebum pauses his actions, character falling off the ledge and screen fading to black. He sighs, tossing the console beside him. "I know."

 

"It's cute though," Mark muses and Jaebum only leans back into Mark's embrace, falling back on the soft fabric of Mark's favourite hoodie. "Seeing that Im Jaebum can also have moments where he's unconfident like this."

 

"It's..." Jaebum pauses, searching for the right words, "...just that we've fallen into this pattern where we don't need to express ourselves." He doesn't continue, letting the words burn into his throat because he doesn't want to break through that barrier—where his ego won't let him voice how much he wants to hear Mark tell him that he does, indeed, love him as much as Jaebum loves Mark.

 

It's uncharacteristic of him to hold words back, it's always him who speaks what's on his mind—him who doesn't like hiding, pretending, or walking into dead ends. Yet, when he's facing Mark in such close proximity, where he can see the reflection of himself in the other's eyes—he wants to take a step back. Every part of him seems to lose his usual character when it comes to the older male, and all he wants is to stop for a moment and lessen his accelerating heartbeat.

 

"Then let's express our thoughts," Mark says, pulling Jaebum over so that they fully face each other. "So that I could tell you every little thing about you that infatuates me—your eyes, voice, lips; everything." There's something about the slight wavering in the way Mark talks, the vulnerability and fragility of his emotions that hits Jaebum's heart in ways that make his legs go weak. And Jaebum doesn't understand how someone so imperfectly perfect, so beautiful and intricate as Mark could be in love with someone like himself—too flawed and full of scars. It's the event of how he hasn't heard such words from Mark in so, so long that his breath escapes him, and all that he can do is widen his eyes and look at Mark with a hesitant but also concentrated gaze. 

 

It's also then that the electrochemical signals in his brain finally cease—and he's finally freed from nonsensical vexations. And he can't even seem to think of anything at all but the way that Mark is looking at him, the subtle intensity in his gaze, the warm hold of the other's hand on his waist, the weight in his words.

 

"Just you, and only you."

 

 

 

 

"I also know you like banana flavoured milk, so you don't have to break up with me."

 

"Shut up."