It all started on the first day of class. With a pen and paper.
Their creative writing professor wasn’t around yet but an assistant coach came to give them an assignment: a 500-word creative self-introduction. It wasn’t much of a deal because Taeyong writes quick and the prompt was easy. The great exception was that Taeyong didn’t have a pen. And he ran out of paper. It didn’t help that this was an elective which meant that he knew no one in this class. Obviously, he was failing his first day. He hoped this wasn’t a foreboding of what this term was going to be on him.
Left with no other choice, he leaned towards the person next to him. “Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind but uhm, do you have an extra pen?”
Just like any normal person would do, his seatmate turned to him and oh, Taeyong froze, caught off guard. He felt a small jump in his chest and he wasn’t sure what to feel about the fact that on the very first day of the term, a handsome distraction was ready to ruin him off his creative writing track. Straight brown left-parted hair, pale skin, smooth peachy cheeks, and eyes that shone like they were made to entrance anyone who’d look at them. This was too early for Taeyong’s liking but he wasn’t regretting it.
The person fished a pen from his bag pocket and handed it to Taeyong. “Here,” he spoke and then smiled. When guys like his seatmate looked like they just walked out of a fashion magazine, they shouldn’t be casually throwing smiles as if they don’t know what effect they have on people like Taeyong. They were too beautiful and Taeyong loved-hated it.
“Thanks,” Taeyong mumbled, bowing his head as he reached for the pen, failing to ignore the slight touch of their fingertips. With a sigh, he tried to get his head back on the prompt. Except that he forgot about the paper. He began tapping on his desk, shaking his head as he fought a battle in his head if he should ask his seatmate for a piece of paper.
Which seatmate did before Taeyong could ask. “I thought you might need one. Or… well, two. Scratch.”
Taeyong stared but jolted back to earth as he took the papers and mumbled another thanks. “Uhm, Taeyong, by the way. And sorry.”
“Jaehyun,” cute, peachy-faced handsome model-like seatmate said. “And it’s okay. Not a problem, sweetie.”
Taeyong froze again, this time wide-eyed. He almost asked Jaehyun to repeat but he knew he’d heard it right. And he didn’t understand why his heart raced. People do not simply call people they just met “sweetie.” This was just too fast. And when guys of Jaehyun’s like throw such terms as if it’s the most normal thing to call people, it definitely wasn’t just strange—it was unfair.
Jaehyun kept a smile at which Taeyong responded with an awkward nod. He could feel his ears burn, the sensation enveloping his whole face.
It’s the first day of his term and he already had a crush on his seatmate. Crap.
“No. You do not understand. He also called me sweetie. Sweetie! Can you believe it?”
Taeyong slammed his hand on Taeil’s desk. He’s back in the dorm where he shared a unit with his philosophy major roommate and the first thing he did was to rant how “offended” he was at Jaehyun’s actions. The older, arms across his chest, simply stared back at Taeyong with an empty face.
Taeyong groaned, frustrated. “You couldn’t care less do you? How come you’re so apathetic about this?”
“You weren’t offended,” Taeil shrugged, grinning to himself as he resumed work on his laptop. “You liked it.”
Taeyong looked at Taeil with furrowed brows, sighing in frustration before speaking. “I didn’t like it! I was offended! How could I like it!”
“Stop it, sweetie. I’m pretty sure you liked it.”
“I can’t believe the person I have always trusted would just dismiss my emotions on the first day of school. You can’t say I wasn’t offended when I obviously—”
Taeil then raised his head, threw a serious gaze at Taeyong, and then chuckled. The younger stopped. “You didn’t even notice I called you sweetie.”
Taeyong blinked. He parted his lips in an attempt for a defense but he couldn’t. Hands on waist, he shook his head. “N-no. You didn’t. I… I didn’t hear anything.”
“Yes, I called you sweetie. And you didn’t get offended.”
“B-because it’s you who’s calling me sweetie!”
“So you did hear me call you sweetie.”
Obviously losing the argument, Taeyong raised both hands in defeat as he dashed into the kitchen for water. “Nope. Not gonna talk to you. This is pointless. I’m just going to eat.”
Taeyong has his fingers wrapped around the fridge handle when Taeil threw at him the worst bargain of the day. “If I say I know that Jaehyun kid, would you admit that you like him?”
Taeyong stopped, turned around slowly, and after a second of hesitation, walked back to Taeil. “You know what, you’re the worst friend ever.”
Jung Jaehyun. Sophomore, literature major, born on Valentine’s day. Lived in America for four years. Played basketball and planned to join the college varsity. Taeyong took back all his words two nights ago and made Taeil the most reliable friend again. Although he hated how he kept on imagining Jaehyun in jersey uniform and playing hoops, giving the best three points shot straight to Taeyong’s heart. And probably pants.
“You’re going to drool on your laptop,” Taeil snapped a finger. Taeyong jolted, biting his lower lip as a result that it almost bled. They were having brunch in a small college cafe and Taeyong was supposed to work on an assignment. Except that he wasn’t working on anything. He was staring at his screen which wasn’t an empty document but was actually Jaehyun’s Facebook profile.
“What the fuck?” Taeyong almost threw bread at Taeil.
“If you’re fantasizing about him, I hope you’re keeping it PG.”
“This was your fault, okay? I didn’t need to know he plays basketball.” The silent, cute muffin got stabbed a little too violently with a fork, finding its way in Taeyong’s angry mouth. “Basketball players look arrogant but they’re nice. They share pens. And papers.”
“It was a nice confession, though.” Taeyong could see the menacing grin on Taeil’s face and he could only bite on his food harder. Suddenly, Taeil straightened up and looked to his left, a hand shooting up in the air as he waved. He called the name, one that could perfectly bring Taeyong to a panic.
Jaehyun with a frappucino on one hand and a small plate of muffin on the other smiled at the sight of Taeil. Taeyong gasped, closing his laptop shut before throwing a why-the-hell-is-he-here glare on Taeil. The older could only just shrug, and the rising corner of his lips suggested he was enjoying Taeyong’s impending misery.
“Hi hyung!” Jaehyun greeted before giving Taeyong an I-know-you look. “Ah!” That was it. He recognized. On whether that was a good thing or not, Taeyong wasn’t entirely sure yet. “Taeyong. Creative Writing class, right? Didn’t know you’re friends with Taeil hyung!”
Jaehyun sounded too animated for a meet-up and Taeyong would never admit that he actually liked it. “Yes. We’re roommates.”
“Oh, cool! That’s… uhm, interesting,” Jaehyun mumbled although the trailing words rolled out blankly. He was searching for a seat. Taeyong’s bag occupied a free chair. Realizing how rude it must be of him to let a bag sit and a person not, Taeyong removed and put it on the floor instead.
“Here. Sorry,” Taeyong mumbled.
Jaehyun, already struggling with his food, gladly took it. “Thanks, sweetie.”
Sweetie. And there went the magic word again. Taeyong wanted to think it was the sunlight hitting him directly on his back (as they sat by the window) but no, the warmth was creeping slowly from his chest to his neck, then to his face. He must be red by now, he supposed, only to be confirmed when Taeil looked at him with the most annoying grin to ever exist. So he shifted to his left, away from Jaehyun’s seemingly prying gaze.
“Are you sick?”
Not just curious. Dense, too.
Taeyong shook his head, throwing pleading looks at Taeil who was just not-so-evil enough to respond. “Nah. Just probably the sunlight. He doesn’t like the sun. Move a bit, it’ll help.”
That was a really bad excuse, Taeyong knew, but Jaehyun nodded and seemed to have taken it. When he nudged to his left, he realized Taeil actually wanted him to scoot closer to Jaehyun. It’ll help. Nope, it wasn’t going to give him any help at all! Taeil was there to embarrass him and ruin his morning!
“Are you sure?” Jaehyun asked, this time not to Taeil but to Taeyong. Directly.
Taeyong could only nod. Probably the worst reaction was when he gasped a little too louder than necessary because Jaehyun leaned too close, suddenly a hand on Taeyong’s forehead.
“Ah, yes. Not sick. That’s good I guess,” Jaehyun spoke, composed and collected. Then he smiled. Which was another breaking point for Taeyong’s growing heart for the new guy he just met the other day.
“Th-thanks. That’s great. I guess, too,” Taeyong muttered. What’s with “sweetie” to begin with to get him all flushed and heart fluttering?
He didn’t understand.
Also, why did feelings have to grow this fast?
“I don’t believe in love at first sight.” That was the third time Taeyong said the same line, same words, same tone, one night. Taeil was on his laptop again looking seemingly disinterested until he broke his silence.
“To be honest,” he began. “That wasn’t love at first sight.”
“I’m not in love.”
“You are. And again, not at first sight. At confession.”
Taeyong, who was lying on his bed, an arm on his eyes, sat up. “I’m sorry?”
“You see, since you confessed to me that you liked him, you’ve mentioned his name 358 times,” Taeil spoke nonchalantly, close to as a matter of fact. Of course, counting the mention of somebody’s name was the most normal thing to do. “That means on the average, you mention his name 71.6 times a day which is a lot given that we only like spend five hours together, that’s the longest by the way, for the past days.”
“And that doesn’t mean I already love him”
Taeil raised a brow. Then he laughed. “Whatever.” He turned his laptop so that the screen faced Taeyong. “Jaehyun played basketball this afternoon, by the way. Pictures.”
Ignoring the photos could have been a wonderful proof to Taeyong’s argument. But he was weak for anything Jaehyun—too weak if it was basketball and Jaehyun and Jaehyun in jerseys and Jaehyun with balls and Jaehyun being awesome and manly and sporty and hot.
“Oh god that’s attractive.” Taeyong was doomed.
Taeil shook his head. “You gotta do something about that thirst.”
Of all the most wonderful days, the rain decided to pelt down on a Friday afternoon. It was a sudden downpour and Taeyong hated it. Fridays were the worst because his schedule for that day was a truckload of maths—college algebra, statistics, and trigonometry. He couldn’t blame anyone because it was him who did his schedule. He had long accepted his horrible weekend fate but not now when his body seemed to be always dead tired he could already feel exhausted for next week. God bless him more because he didn’t have an umbrella. Not that it would be useful. With the way the rain came down in sheets, even with an umbrella, he was pretty sure he’d reach the dorm soaked.
Frustrated and annoyed, he slumped on an empty bench inside the building’s main hall were a number of students, umbrella-less, too, just like him, were stranded. Staring at the heavy rain, he groaned as he longed for his bed, that amazing weekend sleep, waking up only because his stomach grumbled for dinner or midnight snack, the latter occurring a lot more often.
“No umbrella, too?”
Taeyong with a gloomy face on shifted to his right. He was greeted with a familiar bright-smile he recognized just from the shape of the lips.
“Uh, hi?” Jaehyun said when Taeyong just gave him wide eyes.
“Hello.” Taeyong sounded blank and he regretted it at that instant. “And yes. I forgot it at the dorm. You?”
“Ah, I have one.” Jaehyun kept a bubbly look. “But it’s torrential. The rain, I mean. It’d be useless. I hope it’d stop the soonest.”
Taeyong nodded. Torrential. My feelings are torrential right now. Then he sighed. Then remained silent. He couldn’t help but find it weird—and annoying, too—that he would always end up in almost a state of malfunction when Jaehyun’s around. They would see each other twice a week in class but it did little help to make his heart stop overreacting or his stomach from making the craziest somersaults. Especially when Jaehyun smiles. The shortest “Hello” could get him all fuzzy. The “sweetie”? Saying that it made Taeyong elated would be an understatement.
It was quite a torturous awkward ten minutes before the rain started to weaken. A few seconds later, it was a slightly strong drizzle; at least it wasn’t as heavy as earlier. Jaehyun pulled an umbrella from his bag and stood up. “Come on before it rains hard again.”
Taeyong blinked. “What?”
“We can share my umbrella. It isn’t too small so I guess we’ll fit,” Jaehyun explained as he peeled the velcro. “That private dorm by the second avenue right?”
Taeyong nodded as he stood up. His heart made a funny jump because Jaehyun knew where he lived but it sank just a second later when he realized he also knew Taeil. And he probably knew it because of him.
Their distance from each other was practically an inch away. They walked under an umbrella and the touch of their skin would send a sharp trail of spark down Taeyong’s spine. It felt like a soft burn, not bad but he wasn’t sure if he should feel good about it either. Their proximity felt awkward, at least to Taeyong, as if he was invading Jaehyun’s personal space. As they progressed down the almost empty roads, at every step, he’d try to keep a short distance away from Jaehyun.
But Jaehyun would notice. So he stretched his arm and reached for Taeyong’s shoulder, effectively pulling the other closer to him. Taeyong held his breath.
“You’ll get wet,” Jaehyun whispered. His grasp was firm and tight. The burning feeling in Taeyong’s stomach rose to his head until his brain went haywire. It wasn’t long before they reached the dorm but Jaehyun kept him wrapped in his arm. All of Taeyong’s attempts to wriggle out—just to test, not really to get out of it—would be met by a tighter hold.
“Thank you,” Taeyong muttered, bowing shyly. By the time they arrive at the dorm’s entrance, the drizzle had almost dissipated into a mist.
“No problem, sweetie. See you next week!”
And the magic word was dropped. Taeyong remained in his spot, his gaze following Jaehyun as he walked away, disappearing when he turned a corner. He could feel—even hear—his heart thump hard and fast against his chest. He placed a hand on it in an attempt to calm it down. It wouldn’t.
Still reeling from earlier, he went straight to his room, lightheaded but heart beating like it’s going to explode. The silence suggested Taeil wasn’t home yet, not that he actually cared. He dropped his bag on the floor, and threw himself onto the bed. Sweetie. Taeyong groaned loudly, face flat on the pillow that muffled all the sound. This was bad. Really, really bad.
Taeyong rehearsed a speech. He spent extra fifteen minutes in the shower to make it perfect. It wasn’t for a class, or for any academic or extracurricular activity either. It was for something important though. And it would happen right after his creative writing class.
He asked Jaehyun to talk about a “serious, personal matter.” Jaehyun agreed, although an apparent anxiety and worry washed over his face, the usual morning smile disappearing. Taeyong felt guilty so he assured that it wasn’t anything bad. But he wasn’t sure if it was good either. Anyway, point was they were to talk.
And so they met in a rather people-less part of the grounds just behind the college building. Taeyong was nervous had he eaten a lot during lunch he could have puked everything out by now. Jaehyun looked just as anxious but Taeyong had all the more reason to be. If only he could say that.
“Uhm,” Taeyong began.
“If… if I did something wrong I’m so—”
“No! No,” Taeyong shook his head and chuckled, an awkward one. “You didn’t. Well, sort of. I just… Okay. The reason why I wanted to talk to you is because you keep on calling me sweetie.”
First part done. Smooth. He inhaled a mouthful of air and slowly breathed nervous air out.
“Oh. Did I make you uncomfortable? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Taeyong could feel how sincerely apologetic Jaehyun was, with his slanted brows and pouty lips, and another pang of guilt struck his chest.
“No, don’t be. It was me,” Taeyong said. “It’s just, well, it didn’t make me uncomfortable but it kind of surprised me.”
Jaehyun remained silent and Taeyong took it as a cue to carry on. “The thing is,” he closed his eyes, inhaled again, this time longer, before sighing it all out in one blow. The resolution was there, bold and strong.
“You see, I think I like you. I like you because you’re handsome and cool and yes maybe hot, too, and you are kind and you lent me a pen and gave me paper on our first day plus you play basketball which I find really amazing. I think you are really sweet but you keep on calling me ‘sweetie’ but okay it’s not entirely because of it but it sort of is and now I am assuming things because I think I’m getting signals but they’re probably wrong so please forgive me. Bottom point is I like you I could kiss you right now but I won’t do it because you could report me for assault and harassment and I’m on scholarship. I don’t want to risk that.”
Taeyong was sure he was running out of breath but he couldn’t stop his mouth. Words kept rolling out as he emptied pent up feelings, which was both a relief and a source of another anxiety wave. He knew he was red—he could say with the warmth that never left his face as soon as he word-vomited. Jaehyun on the other hand looked at him in what could be described as half-amusement half-bewilderment.
“I hope we can still be friends after—”
Jaehyun smiled. “To be honest, I know.”
“I…” Jaehyun scratched his head. “I know that you like me.”
“How did you…” Taeyong’s eyes furrowed in both curiosity and embarrassment.
“Taeil-hyung told me.”
Taeyong could only leave his jaw hanging in quick frustration, dismay, and anger. “I… I am going to kill that fucker!”
“Don’t tell him I told you, please?”
Jaehyun was giving him puppy eyes and it was super effective. Taeyong calmed down. “Okay. Okay. I won’t. So, I’m not going to kill him but I might kill myself because I just made myself an embarrassment.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did. You probably think I’m a horrible, assuming person. I could melt right now or like disappear as vapor,” Taeyong was obviously babbling nonsense.
“Okay, listen,” Jaehyun spoke, firm but somewhat defending. “About the ‘sweetie.’ It’s weird. I mean I thought you looked like a sweet person when I first saw you. Well you still do, to be honest, but yeah. So I thought that would be a perfect nickname. I know that’s kind of strange, giving a person you don’t even know a nickname. But I just… I couldn’t help it. Then weeks passed and I kept on calling you that but I didn’t do it because I intend to give you the wrong signals.”
Taeyong gave him a confused look.
“Because they weren’t wrong signals at all.”
“What do you mean?”
Jaehyun didn’t know what to say. He shrugged and stepped forward. “Uhm, maybe this?”
Then the distance between their faces disappeared. Taeyong felt it; the closeness of their eyes—of Jaehyun’s eyes—on him was something he had never expected to realize this soon. His lips were sealed, not by his own lips, or his teeth, or the silence he imposed on himself but by another pair. Warm. Sweet. Intimate. It sent a chill down his spine, and he could feel it against the warmth that began to envelope him.
Jaehyun held him on the shoulder, fingers cold and shaking, as Taeyong remained frozen. Jaehyun kissed him. Jaehyunwas kissing him.
When they broke, it was just as they expected: silent and awkward. Neither spoke nor moved until Taeyong gasped, a hand over his mouth.
“You should’ve asked first,” he muttered.
“I… I’m sorry.” Jaehyun sounded alarmed.
“But it doesn’t matter. I’d say yes, anyway.”
And the awkward wall crumbled. Short chuckles escaped. With fleeting gazes, they laughed together. There was a sort of agreement, but it was silent, until they left the place and had it all clear. The more important and the best part so far anyway had been done and they supposed they should have it there until the next move.
“And you’re not dating?” Taeil threw wide eyes, craning his neck so he can look at Taeyong on the bed slouched against the headboard, just in time to see the younger shrug and purse his lips.
“Well, he kissed me which wasn’t bad—”
“Translation,” Taeil cut him off, “Which I liked.”
“Not gonna deny.” With a shaking head, Taeyong continued. “But we agreed not to officially date yet until we learn enough about each other.”
Taeil raised a brow, and his questions made it obvious how curious he really was, despite his seemingly dull and hollow expressions. “And how do you define enough?”
“Not sure. But it will come.” Taeyong answered confidently. “But to be honest, you can say we’re like ‘soft dating.’ if that term even exists.”
“I only know soft porn.”
Taeyong hissed. He shouldn’t be surprised. He knew Taeil had a porn stash in his laptop.
“But what if he suddenly started dating someone else? Like… I don’t know. Doyoung? From the basketball team?”
“He won’t, I know it.” For once, Taeyong felt overly confident. Jaehyun promised it and he trusted him. “And you can’t use Doyoung against me or him.”
Taeil raised a brow. “And that is because?”
A smug smile slowly etched Taeyong’s face. He straightened and sat on the edge of the bed. “Because you like Doyoung and Jaehyun’s got his number for you.”
Taeil’s wide eyes grew wider, lips parted until his jaw hanged it looked like it’s locked. He was turning red. He tried to laugh it off only to sound like he was choking on his own saliva. “Ah so that’s what I get from telling Jaehyun you like him.”
“Yup. Also, I already met Doyoung yesterday. I told him you cried over a Hamtaro episode once,” Taeyong said, throwing himself back on the bed, now his head on the pillows. He got Taeil screaming the longest stream of expletives in his life.