“Well, there he is,” Taeil says, pointing to the other side of the café where Jaehyun sits in a lone booth pouring over three spread out textbooks. “Are you going to talk to him?
“When the time is right,” Doyoung replies, pushing around his shitty salad and shielding his face with an arm. “Don’t bring attention to us.”
Taeil is silent. Doyoung looks up at him. Taeil is confused. “You’re the one who asked me to come with you to see him.”
“I was,” Doyoung grumbles, admitting defeat. In fact, he had come to this particular café, hidden in the alley between the Biochemical Science and Electrical Engineering buildings, a ten minute trek from the Arts block and far out of the realm of convenience for Doyoung, just so he could confront basketball captain—and Doyoung’s Official Least Favourite Person in the World—Jaehyun Jung. Jaehyun, who had scouted Doyoung’s freshman talent Donghyuk Lee for the basketball team, stealing him away from the a capella club, and thus, leaving Doyoung with one less tenor.
Confrontation was the plan at least. What had actually happened was: Doyoung had caught sight of Jaehyun; was struck with a deep chord of nausea he could only attribute to having stayed up until 4AM redoing his group project for Modern Poetry; and had decided that nourishment took priority over giving Jaehyun any time of the day. Now, fifteen minutes later, they sit here, Doyoung poking at his garbage salad, and Taeil squinting at him. Doyoung hunches his shoulders and tries not to squirm under the scrutiny.
“You know, Jaehyun is really nice,” Taeil says, testing. “You don’t have to do this. You could probably shoot him an email or something. He’s reasonable.” He says the last word very pointedly. Which is uncalled for. Doyoung is reasonable. He wouldn’t have thrown such a fuss about Donghyuk if it weren’t for the fact he’d resigned only a month before regional championships, and not even in person, but with an offensive note that Doyoung hadn’t even bothered to read after the first line.
(A lie. Doyoung keeps it in his wallet and uses it to fuel his ire:
I finally got a spot on the bball team so I gotta bail on this suckapella thing. I mean it was fun but my captain said the practice schedules are too conflicting and gave me an ultimatum. AND I WISH I COULD SAY IT WAS A HARD DECISION BUT you are a man of integrity whom I deeply respect and so I cannot lie to you.
My deep condolences,
“I’m going to get Donghyuk back on the team and then kick him out again,” Doyoung says, almost snapping the fork in his hand in half.
“Um…” Taeil blinks. “Okay? But you don’t even like Donghyuk’s voice. You always tell me he sounds like a mosquito.”
“True,” Doyoung says, flicking a chickpea from his bowl onto Taeil’s side of the table. “But he’s a mosquito that can hit a clean D5.”
If Taeil’s about to make a point about the declining morale amongst the club, the way he usually does when Doyoung makes comments like these, he’s interrupted by a familiar voice behind them calling out “Taeil!”. Doyoung winces.
Jaehyung Jung approaches their table, pulling out a chair and taking a seat between them. He smiles at Taeil, in that sweet but patently practiced away, and then turns his gaze towards Doyoung, who had stuffed half the remaining salad into his mouth, and is chewing aggressively in the hopes that Jaehyun gets the hint and leaves. Doyoung is too busy for him. Has important things to attend to like masticating, and detailing the failures of this entire day into his planner.
“Doyoung!” Jaehyun grins and skids his chair around to face him. Doyoung edges his chair away. “I haven’t seen you in a while. What brings you to my side of the campus?”
“We were looking for you,” Taeil says. Doyoung wants to disagree, but there’s still food in his mouth, so instead he makes a garbled sound of protest. “It’s about Donghyuk.”
Jaehyun’s mouth drops open a fraction and he nods in understanding. “Right, well. I didn’t tell him to quit. It was his decision.”
Doyoung swallows, but the food only makes it halfway down before it lumps in his throat. “There’s such a thing as multitasking Jaehyun,” he says, thumping his chest, eyes watery. “He can very well do both.”
Jaehyun, a lot more artful in his fake attempts at diplomacy than Doyoung could ever be, looks almost sincerely regretful. “I’m sorry. I went through the practice schedules for both clubs and they just aren’t compatible unless he misses a handful of hours for each every week. You understand Doyoung, why that’d be a problem for both of us.”
Doyoung does understand this. But he also understands that Jaehyun Jung is nothing more than a duplicitous liar who happens to look good in a sweater vest. “Yuta is on both the a capella and basketball team,” Doyoung counters. Yuta is also benched for three quarters of the season, and Doyoung always leaves the technicians a reminder to keep Yuta’s mic muted during performances. Neither of them point this out, but there’s a silent acknowledgement of its pertinence. Doyoung clears his throat, trying to maintain his composure when Jaehyun cute-smirks. “I care about Donghyuk,” Doyoung tries again. “He’s only a freshman, and he should spend his first year of college becoming a well-rounded individual. Music is incredibly important towards personal development.”
“I agree.” Jaehyun flashes his dimple. “Which is why I personally recommended Donghyuk for the choral society.”
“I’m sure he didn’t do it out of malice,” Taeil assures, starting to sound a little desperate. “Because objectively, you know, there’s really nothing wrong with the choral society. I mean their song choice is a little outdated. Like ‘Breakaway’, hello, 2004 called they want their song back. No? Not funny. Alright—”
Doyoung cuts Taeil off, smacking his pointer stick against the top of the white board. There, inscribed in capital letters, underlined, and in bubble font because Yuta had been the one to write it and had done so in permanent marker, lies the core principle the a cappella club had been founded on: ”ANY MENTION OF THE C-WORD WILL RESULT IN CLUB MEMBERSHIP BEING REVOKED”
Everybody always mentions the c-word anyway, but Doyoung still takes the rule very seriously. If not in practice, then in heart. He will never forgive the choral society for delegating him to the female altos when he’s a light lyric tenor; and more damningly, for plagiarising Doyoung’s rearrangement of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, right after they’d disparaged it by calling it too predictable. In retaliation, Doyoung had started the a cappella club, stealing as many members of the choir as he could in the process. He’d only actually managed to snag Taeil, who’d agreed to jump ship because Doyoung made him slightly less anxious than the choral leader, Sooyoung Park, did. Only slightly, Taeil made sure to emphasise.
(“You would start a club out of spite,” Jaehyun said when Doyoung had first submitted the forms to the Student Office two years ago. “Thanks, I’ll pass these on. You’ll hear from the university in about a week.”
Doyoung placed the pen he’d borrowed on the edge of the desk, forcing Jaehyun to exert unnecessary physical effort in order to reach it. “Suck a dick,” he’d replied in thank.)
“You’re wrong Taeil,” Doyoung says, pacing around the auditorium. “It was transparently malicious, but it’s fine. I’m over it.”
“Over it after twenty minutes of ranting,” Mark, the other freshman Doyoung had managed to recruit this year alongside Donghyuk, mumbles. Doyoung narrows his eyes at him, and Mark raises both hands before using one to point to the laptop perched on his knees. “You asked me to keep the minutes.”
Doyoung did ask Mark to keep the minutes. He had done so because Mark cannot sing. And unfortunately, Mark is not an anomaly. Only sixty percent of the a cappella club can hold a note, and now with the absence of Donghyuk’s reedy, grating, prepubescent timbre, that percentage is down to fifty.
It’s Doyoung’s junior year. He’d abandoned all other extra-curricular commitments in order to keep the a cappella club afloat. And he will not have the unripe fruit of his labour turned into compost for the basketball team to leech off, just so Jaehyun Jung has another success story to put on his resume. Right above his stint as High School Student President (he’d beaten Doyoung by two votes), valedictorian of their graduating class (he’d sabotaged Doyoung during finals week and effectively put him out of the running), and volunteering regularly at their hometown’s animal shelter (an obvious ploy to make his college application look better). As the saying goes, once bitten, twice the vengeful petty asshole.
“Taeil.” Doyoung clicks his fingers twice. “What’s the next party Jaehyun’s attending.”
Taeil purses his lips. “Taeyong’s birthday party is this Friday?” Then he laughs, waving a hand dismissively. “But I mean, you’re definitely not invited to that.”
It’s not just that Doyoung isn’t invited to Taeyong’s birthday party. It’s that Taeyong had specified on the Facebook event page that Doyoung was not to be let past the threshold of the front door. As it goes though, Taeyong is uncharacteristically naive for someone who looks like an anime supervillain and spent sophomore year selling overpriced adderall out of his dorm room; and doesn’t understand that in the good, free world of college, by explicitly blacklisting Doyoung he might as well have named him honorary VIP.
“Doyoung dude!” Johnny greets him at the door of Taeyong’s parents’ two-story manor, taking Doyoung’s jacket for him. “Man, I cannot wait for Taeyong to see you.”
To the disappointment of many, Doyoung is sure, there is no drama when after fifteen minutes of awkward loitering, Doyoung finally finds Taeyong standing in the kitchen refilling a bowl of doritos. Doyoung smiles and waves. Taeyong’s eyebrows droop sadly.
“You weren’t invited,” Taeyong states, sounding disappointed. Doyoung approaches him and hands him a cardboard box decorated with a stick-on bow on top. Taeyong holds it at an arm’s length, shaking it as if to make sure it won’t detonate in his face. “Also you really didn’t need to bring me a gift, I already know it’s going to be terrible.”
Doyoung is affronted. He’d spent a good twenty minutes going through the boxed junk at the back of his closet, trying to find something equally useful as it was expendable. “It’s a book Taeyong,” Doyoung says, like he’s talking to a child. “It’s actually one of my favourite books. My brother would read it to me as a kid.” Doyoung is aware, as soon as the words leave his mouth, that it sounds like an obnoxious lie. Jokes on Taeyong though, as it’s actually the obnoxious truth.
“Is it a self-help book?” Taeyong jokes, snorting meanly. “How to Make Friends and Influence People?”
That is, in fact, exactly what the book is. “Where’s Jaehyun?” Doyoung asks, deflecting.
“He’s on the back patio,” Taeyong says. “Suck him off and then please leave.”
Doyoung has no plans to suck Jaehyun off. Not now. Not ever. His other expertly thought out plan though, does fall to pieces when it becomes apparent that Jaehyun is not in the back patio, or anywhere else in the house. This is despite Doyoung checking every room of both floors twice, and routinely refreshing his instagram feed for live party updates, hoping Jaehyun might be standing in the background in one of the pictures photobombing like a loser. In this time, Doyoung’s managed to consume not enough alcohol to become drunk, but enough that he can feel himself getting tipsy.
He’s on the balcony leading out from Taeyong’s room, leaning against the railings and letting the crisp night air bite some sobriety back into him, when there’s a tap on his shoulder. Doyoung jolts, startled, and spills half the contents of his red solo cup onto the grey dress shirt of the dude standing behind him. The dude who happens to be none other than Jaehyun Jung.
“Shit,” Jaehyun swears, jumping back. He pats down his shirt, like he can somehow soak up the liquid with his hands. Doyoung always did have a higher mark than him in chemistry. “This was a Christmas present from my Grandmother,” he whines, like a big baby.
“Sorry,” Doyoung finds himself saying, and to greater horror, actually meaning. This doesn’t go past Jaehyun, who glances up at Doyoung and tilts his head to the side, smiling a shy smile that makes Doyoung's veins thrum and has him second-guessing just how much he’d actually drunk.
“It’s no problem,” Jaehyun says. “She’s been giving me the same ones every holiday for the last two years.” His voice is clear and present and it dawns on Doyoung that—
“You’re not drunk.”
Jaehyun stops speaking. “No I’m not,” he says slowly. “I have a 9AM tomorrow, there’s no way I’m touching anything.”
Doyoung can feel a headache building up behind his eyes. Not due to the noise or alcohol, but born from the knowledge that several hours have fallen to futility thanks to his carelessness. How could Doyoung overlook such a simple fact? Of course Jaehyun, the perennial overachiever, had decided to overload this semester. Of course he was enrolled in a 9AM class on a Saturday.
“You look disappointed,” Jaehyun notes. By some daring, he smiles and tries moving closer to Doyoung. To intimidate him, probably. They’re of the same height, but Jaehyun has far more weight and breadth to his body, compared to Doyoung’s lanky, string-beaned figure.
Doyoung swishes the cup in his hands around like a repellent, forcing Jaehyun to retract the steps he’d taken. “I needed to talk to you about Donghyuk,” Doyoung explains, holding the cup against his chest.
“And you need me to be drunk for that?” Jaehyun asks. Doyoung doesn’t respond, but his extended silence bides enough time for Jaehyun to be able to draw an incorrect conclusion on his own. “Aaaaaah,” he says, lips curling into a knowing grin. Doyoung lowers his gaze, choosing to focus on the bright white of Jaehyun’s sneakers. “Right, you wanted me to be drunk so you could, in frank terms, take advantage of me in an inebriated state and… I don’t know? Make me call Donghyuk and kick him off the team?”
More accurately, Doyoung has a booking request form sitting in the front seat of his car. One that assures him that the earliest the basketball team will have access to the gym is 9PM, and it only needs Jaehyun’s signature to be ready to go.
Doyoung scrunches his nose. Jaehyun is staring at him with a mixture of judgement and amusement. An inevitable combination, as Jaehyun consistently finds amusement in judging Doyoung. ’Fuck off’ Doyoung wants to say. Instead, “I’d only try it with you,” lolls off his tongue in a murmur.
As always, Jaehyun is infuriatingly calm. But over the years Doyoung has compiled a collection of Jaehyun Cheat Codes he can use to read him. Right now: Jaehyun blinks thrice in rapid succession, which means he’s caught off guard; then he sighs, but after a moment’s hesitation, which means he’s about to try and sound more unhappy than he really is. “Look the team can’t afford to have any of their players skim on practice,” he says, to Doyoung’s displeasure. “But, if you really want Donghyuk to stay on that badly, maybe we can discuss and work something out?”
It’s a fair proposal. Possibly more anticlimactic than Doyoung had expected, but contrary to popular belief he doesn’t go out of his way to try and make his life harder. “Fine,” he agrees, pushing himself off the railing and standing upright. “Let’s talk about weekends.”
Jaehyun shakes his head. “Not here,” he says, peeling his damp shirt away from his stomach. Doyoung’s eyes subconsciously follow the gesture. “I can barely hear you over the noise and this is sticky. We can talk back at my place. Ten’s asleep and I can change clothes.”
After a moment of silence, Doyoung huffs his assent. “Alright,” he says. “But we’re taking my car. You can drive.”
As soon as Doyoung enters Jaehyun’s apartment an ominous chill runs up his spine.
“Hey,” Jaehyun says, shrugging off his jacket and throwing it on the sofa. “Do you still write in your diary.”
“I still write in my planner,” Doyoung replies, curt and on edge. “Yes. It’s good to be organised Jaehyun.”
Jaehyun merely hums in response. “I’m going to change into something comfortable,” he says. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge if you're hungry.”
Doyoung most certainly does not help himself to anything in the fridge. He does, however, take the opportunity to survey Jaehyun’s apartment carefully, which happens to involve looking through the fridge. The contents are predictable. There’s the microwavable food Jaehyun shares with his roommate Ten, that makes up the staple diet of every poor college student. Fraudulently, Doyoung might add. Jaehyun’s parents are both doctors and even if Jaehyun wasn’t on a scholarship, university expenses wouldn’t be quite the source of particular hardship for him as it is for everybody else. But besides that, there’s an entire shelf containing such an unsubtle assortment of Jaehyun-esque items that it might as well have a label with his name stuck on it. It contains, from left to right: three types of gourmet bread you can only purchase from legitimate bakeries; a tub of yoghurt; a tupperware container of quinoa salad; and what Doyoung recognises as ingredients for the ‘Kale and Honey Brain Booster Smoothie’ that Doyoung had introduced him to.
Doyoung scowls and slams the door shut with the force of a million potent and misdirected feelings. In doing so, a flimsy magnet slides down the fridge and falls on the tiled floor right at Doyoung’s feet. He contemplates crushing it under his heel, but ultimately goes with sighing and picking it up, wiping it down with his shirt to make sure it hadn’t collected any dirt.
It’s one of those magnetic picture frames that come bundled with school photo packages. Looking up at Doyoung is a seventeen year old Jaehyun Jung, hair neatly combed and falling down in a blunt fringe just above his eyebrows; baby fat obvious and enduring despite how obsessively Jaehyun used to hit the gym back then. Other than that, Jaehyun looks mostly the same. Guess there’s no need for a radical hot-after-high-school transformation when you were already hot to begin—
“I’m back. Sorry about that.”
Doyoung slaps the magnet back against the fridge so hard his hand stings. If Jaehyun finds anything about his behaviour strange, he doesn’t comment on it. Instead, he drops a hefty, colour-coded, 3-ring binder on the kitchen counter that separates them, licking his index finger and flicking through the pages with a competent ease. It doesn’t go unnoticed by Doyoung, that by changing into something more comfortable, Jaehyun had chosen to don a white muscle-tee that when viewed from an angle, only barely covered his left nipple.
But if Doyoung’s being completely honest with himself, it’s the colour-coded binder that does it for him.
“I pulled up the team’s timetables and I don’t think it’s possible to move practice, but maybe we can organise—”
“I need to use the bathroom,” Doyoung interrupts. That ominous feeling from earlier pools in the bottom of his stomach, this time a lot less vague.
Jaehyun’s expression pinches, but smooths itself out not even a second later. “Oh okay. It’s the—”
Hansol lives in the same apartment building, so Doyoung doesn’t have to be told and makes an immediate beeline for the bathroom door. He thanks the cosmos that unlike Hansol, Jaehyun’s bathroom lock actually works, and after feeling down the pockets of his jeans, breathes another sigh of relief that he’d brought his phone with him.
Alone and with a renewed sense of awareness for his surroundings, Doyoung undergoes a moment of intense self-reflection. This isn’t the worst situation he’s been in, that much is true. But he knows it could take a sharp nosedive in that direction if he goes back out there. Because right now, there’s a ten out of ten chance he’s going to hook up with Jaehyun by the end of the night. That’s the only possible outcome. Doyoung is smart. He’d graduated as salutatorian (fuck you, Jaehyun), has a 3.6 GPA (fuck you, compulsory Exercise Science general education unit), and he didn’t achieve that by turning a blind eye to the objective truths that faced him.
Yes, Doyoung had fucked up. But, the situation is not unsalvageable. He isn’t fit to drive in this condition, so he shoots Taeil a message to come pick him up from Hansol’s apartment building and not ask any questions. Then, after crouching down on the bathroom floor and performing a series breathing exercises recommended by the NHS to combat anxiety, makes his way over to the glass window above the sink.
He remembers, from the time Hansol had forgotten his keys and was forced to break into his own apartment, that outside the bathroom there’d been some sort of protruding ledge, that was once supposedly a garden bed, but now stands empty and could be used to shuffle towards a rusty ladder scaling up to the roof. Doyoung pulls the window open and sticks his head out to confirm that, yes, Jaehyun’s bathroom was on the same side of the building as Hansol’s.
Making his decision, Doyoung hefts himself up onto the sink, accidentally knocking over the soap dispenser and creating a loud clang. Doyoung flinches but doesn’t have time to look back. He slides the window open as far as it’ll go, and carefully lowers his foot out until it’s steady on something solid. He grins, ducking his head and climbing the rest of the way through.
The night is colder than he remembers it being, a gust of wind causing goosebumps to erupt along his arm. But it doesn’t matter, because to his left he can make out the silhouette of the ladder. His deus ex machina. His get out of jail free card waiting to be claimed. He presses himself flat against the wall, digging his fingers into the gaps between the bricks to secure himself. He breaths in. Takes one step. Two steps. Three Steps.
He’s about ten baby steps in when, in an unnecessary bout of curiosity, he wonders if he can see Hansol’s window from here. Jaehyun’s apartment is on the third floor of the building, and Hansol’s is on the second. Doyoung looks down and realises that—
The third floor is very high up.
“It’s okay Doyoung!” Jaehyun says, leaning out the window. “Ten texted me, he’ll be back in five minutes.”
“Don't talk to me Jaehyun!” Doyoung squeezes his eyes shut. The air up here is thinner. Doyoung’s having trouble breathing. “This is all your fault. Your toxic, Type A personality, that you’ve concealed behind a glamour of likeability, revolts me. I find your kindness, that is simply a veneer for a damaging inability to be in tune with your own genuine needs and desires, deplorable. And—” A breeze blows by and Doyong inhales sharply, clutching the wall tighter. “And you hurt my feelings when you stood me up for senior prom.”
Beyond the pounding of Doyoung’s own panicked heartbeat, he can hear Taeil’s deep sigh resonating from somewhere below him. “There it is.”
Doyoung swallows and turns his head, cautiously opening his eyes. Jaehyun looks stricken, and if Doyoung wasn’t in the middle of planning his own funeral procession, he would be feeling very gratified right about now.
“I’m really sorry about prom, Doyoung,” Jaehyun says. “I kept trying to apologise to you, but whenever I opened my mouth you told me to—”
“Suck a dick, Jaehyun,” Doyoung says, closing his eyes and turning away again.
From the ground there’s an annoyed groan. “I didn’t get that in the snap. Hey, can you repeat that?”
Doyoung grits his teeth, and through a fresh new wave of fear, looks down to where Donghyuk has his face hidden behind his brick of a smartphone. “Why the fuck did you bring Donghyuk with you?”
It’s possible that Doyoung is hallucinating, but two overlapping Taeils reach up to simultaneously scratch the back of their necks. “I knew you were going to the party tonight, and I assumed by Hansol’s building you really meant you went back to Jaehyun’s. So I thought bringing Donghyuk here might make the discussion easier. Clearly, I didn’t anticipate….” The Taeils make an aborted gesture, a limp flick of the wrist. “This.”
“You ruined your parents’ life, Donghyuk,” is Doyoung’s righteous response.
Donghyuk laughs. “Already unpacked all that shit in therapy, man.”
“Look,” Jaehyun starts speaking again. “I mean it. I’m so so sorry for standing you up. But it’s just that… I wasn’t sure if you were into me as much as I was into you? You said all those things about me, but you run pretty hot and cold yourself. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if you even liked me.”
Of course Jaehyun chooses to start this conversation when Doyoung is stuck hanging for dear life from the third floor of a building and has virtually nowhere else to run. He could, theoretically speaking, jump off the ledge and become one of those college folk tales they talk about on bonfire night. Or, he could sniff indignantly and press his cheek against the cool brick. “You gave me mono right before finals week,” he mutters, petulant.
“I didn’t give you mono, Doyoung. It was already flu season.”
“Ten’s back!” Taeil exclaims, clapping his hands. “Ten’s back. He’s going to rescue you. You can stop talking now. Please. Please stop talking.”
A flicker of hope ignites in Doyoung's chest, but is promptly extinguished when Jaehyun deadpans: “Ten. That’s not a ladder.”
Ten stands safely on the ground. In his arms, he carries something large and deformed that has Doyoung briefly wondering whether he’d returned with a body bag.
“All the department stores are closed and nobody owns a ladder that’s high enough,” Ten says. “But.” He drops the lump he’d been carrying on the grass, like it was the carcass of a deer he’d hunted to sustain them through the winter. “I did manage to borrow the jumping castle the EngSoc used for their fundraiser last semester. It’ll soften his fall.”
“It’s deflated,” Taeil points out.
“You sing. You have lungs.”
Doyoung is actually going to die. Someone’s going to open Donghyuk’s snap story, tap through five videos of Mark doing the running man, and find exclusive footage of Doyoung falling to his demise.
There’s a grunt to his left. Doyoung looks up, and to his alarm, finds Jaehyun with one leg hanging out the window. Even though he’s not as lithe as Doyoung, he still manages to climb out the rest of the way with a lot more grace.
“What are you doing?” Doyoung squeaks. Can the ledge even take their combined weight? Is Jaehyun trying to steal a slice of Doyoung’s future infamy as a viral star?
Jaehyun places both palms flat on the wall, smoothly sidestepping across the ledge until he’s standing right next to Doyoung. Then, he pulls his right hand away from the bricks and slowly brings it down to rest on Doyoung’s waist. “The window isn’t too far,” he says, smooth, deep voice tickling Doyoung’s ear. “Come on, you can do it. Just a few steps.”
Doyoung’s stomach churns at the thought. “I’ll take my chances with the jumping castle, thanks.”
Jaehyun pulls Doyoung an inch closer, making his breath spike. Doyoung clenches his eyes, focuses on the frantic beating of his heart until he’s assured that he’s still alive, and will remain alive until the next time he decides to pull a stunt like this. “If you fall, you’re going to knock into me, and I’m going to go down and also die,” Jaehyun says. His arm is pressing against Doyoung’s back like a guard. “Does that make you feel better?”
That does make Doyoung feel better. And so does the warmth that emanates from Jaehyun’s body, seeping through Doyoung’s skin and dissolving into his blood like a relaxant. Doyoung holds his breath. Very carefully, he moves his left foot, and then his right. Jaehyun follows him, holding him close, his arm never leaving Doyoung’s side.
“I hate you,” Doyoung whispers, unconvincing even to his own ears.
Jaehyun smiles. “I know.”
“Just reminding you, even though I’ve already put it into your calendar, that you can’t have Donghyuk next Thursday because it’s the regional auditions and I can’t keep on using Chenle for the high parts of the harmony when he’s away. The kid is like twelve. Someone’s going to find out sooner or later.”
Instead of the affirmation Doyoung expects, there is only silence. Jaehyun sits on the sofa glumly, looking down and playing with his fingers. Doyoung frowns and drops his bag to the floor, striding over to where Jaehyun’s sitting and bending down to kiss him. On reflex, Jaehyun places both hands on Doyoung’s hip to tug him closer, but seems to remember the same thing Doyoung realises when he registers that the unnatural heat of Jaehyun’s skin is not from the fervour of the kiss, and pushes him away. Doyoung presses the back of his hand against Jaehyun’s forehead.
“Do you have a fever?” Doyoung asks. It’s then that he notices the pallor of Jaehyun’s face, who despite being normally pale, now looks ghostly. “Fuck. Better I get sick now than next week though, I guess.”
“Um… Don’t get mad at me,” Jaehyun says, his voice jarring Doyoung with how croaky and broken it sounds. “But like a month before we hooked up I made out with Wendy at this KSA Karaoke night thing. And anyway, remember how she was incredibly sick for like two weeks?”
“No,” Doyoung says, running a hand through Jaehyun’s sweaty hair. “Wendy is in the choir. I don’t associate with those people. But why would I be mad at you? It’s been three years. I’ve hooked up with people too.” He’s hooked up with Taeyong. Several times. To both their mutual regret. Every time.
“It’s uh…” Jaehyun averts his gaze. “It’s mononucleosis.”
Doyoung halts his ministrations on Jaehyun’s hair.
Jaehyun makes a small noise in the back of his throat. “Please don’t hate me.”