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Someone Else's Shoes

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No matter what Jinyoung claims, they all know he has a soft spot for Coco. One night Jaebum catches him sneaking Coco a treat, another he finds them asleep on the dorm couch together.

All it takes is for Youngjae to ask, “Do you wanna play with Coco for a bit?” and Jinyoung shows up, a toy in hand. Youngjae’s one of those rare people with a heart of solid gold, someone who everyone likes. And when they play with Coco, Jinyoung’s face is impossibly young and relaxed and Jaebum wonders if he has any worries at all. It’s more because of Youngjae than Coco—because of the man constantly radiating brightness, the man who brings out the peaceful side of Jinyoung that’s hidden far too often.

Jaebum wakes up late one morning to Jinyoung and Youngjae lying on the floor, breathing easy with smiles on their faces. Curled between them is Coco, her head on Jinyoung’s stomach, and Youngjae just reaches over Jinyoung’s body and ruffles her fur like it’s that simple.

Sometimes, Jaebum wishes he were Youngjae.

 

*

 

Jackson’s just a clingy person and he always has been. Even as a trainee, Jackson would dish out hugs like they were compliments, effectively winning over the entire trainee population in a single week. He’s only changed a bit since then, just in the face and physique, but Jackson still has no reservations when it comes to affection.

It looks so simple when he does it, when he swings an arm over Jinyoung’s shoulder or pulls the man into a light hug after practice. And Jaebum always wonders what it feels like, to float through life with arms draped across other people’s shoulders.

Jinyoung’s not a touchy man. But with Jackson, the touching is something normal, something none of them can avoid. So Jaebum watches every time Jinyoung leans into Jackson, his arm careless around Jackson’s waist, expression open and bright.

Sometimes, Jaebum wishes he were Jackson.

 

*

 

Out of all of them, the quietest are Mark and Jinyoung. Mark is naturally quiet, a good listener more than anything. Jinyoung just likes to concentrate on reading or his own thoughts (and Jaebum would kill to know what he always thinks about). Sometimes the quiet boys sit together, in a near-silent room, with Jinyoung’s head in a book and Mark’s stuck to his phone. It’s why they get along so well.

But when they start talking (and it doesn’t take much to have them bickering about things that don’t matter), they shift into an impossibly noisy pair.

Mark can make Jinyoung laugh like it’s nothing. Maybe it’s his own laugh, squeaking and contagious, or maybe it’s Mark’s blunt and obscure sense of humor. Jaebum doesn’t know what it is. But Jinyoung still laughs, a loud and bouncing sound, and his eyes crinkle along the edges.

Sometimes Jaebum wishes he were Mark.

 

*

 

“I’m gonna kill Yugyeom someday,” Jinyoung says it all the time, fixed with a scowl that makes him look like an immature child. He goes on these rants, about how ‘Yugyeom needs to respect his elders,’ and ‘Just because Yugyeom’s tall doesn’t mean he has more authority than me,’ and they fall on deaf ears.

Yugyeom is gutsy. He takes all of Jinyoung’s nagging and spins it around in the form of a quick-witted insult (but he wouldn’t dare try the same thing with Jaebum, and the leader doesn’t blame him for that).

Somehow, Jinyoung and Yugyeom are close. None of the words mean anything; every time Yugyeom plays the instigator, any resulting threats from Jinyoung are empty and spoken around a grin.

It’s the kind of light-hearted teasing that exists only between Jinyoung and Yugyeom. It’s odd, paradoxical—but it works. Jaebum wants it.

Sometimes, Jaebum wishes he were Yugyeom.

 

*

 

Even if he acts tough and mature, BamBam is sensitive. He lets it show in the littlest things—searching for hugs when he feels down, nonchalant questions of, “Did I do a good job?”

They all support him. They all support each other, but sometimes BamBam needs something extra.

Of course Jinyoung’s the one who provides it. Of course Jinyoung’s the one who texts BamBam positive message when he knows they’re needed, of course it’s Jinyoung who volunteers to watch stupid movies with BamBam when no one else wants to (and Jinyoung doesn’t want to either but he still does). Because Jinyoung pays attention to those things; he’s the only one who can read people so well.

And when Jaebum looks hard enough, he sees that Jinyoung takes care of everyone. It’s the most obvious with BamBam, but Jaebum always sees him living for other people, and he’s fascinated by it. He takes tiny snippets of Jinyoung and collages them onto the walls of his brain, telling himself that’s an excuse for thinking about Jinyoung as often as he does.

Sometimes, Jaebum wishes he were BamBam.

 

*

 

He’s speaking at an awards show again, and Jaebum doesn’t know what he’s saying—something about thanking the fans and supporting their next comeback—but Jaebum hates how he’s done this a hundred times and he’s still nervous. He has one hand curled around a microphone and another supporting the gold trophy, both threatening to slip in his palms.

After the cheering, after the encore, after the confetti, they stumble backstage and Jackson’s crying and maybe the rest of them shed a few tears, too. They worked hard.

When the celebration winds down, Jinyoung pulls him aside with a deadly look and says, “You forgot to thank the fans, you know. In you speech.”

Jaebum’s heart stops too quickly. “No, no, I said—I remembered, really—”

“I’m messing with you,” and then Jinyoung’s slim hand finds a place on Jaebum’s arm, then his back, making little circles in the suit fabric. “You get so nervous. Just relax,” It almost sounds like Jinyoung’s reprimanding him, but there’s a spark of maybe-pride in his eyes. “You’re the best leader we could ask for. I mean it.”

Jinyoung doesn’t give praise easy. So Jaebum lets out a deep breath, and it hovers between them for a bit. There are so many things he wants to tell Jinyoung—things he’ll probably never tell Jinyoung—and they all nearly rush out in that one exhale. He packs them back in, buries the words deep in his chest and throat where they’ve lived for years, and decides instead to pat Jinyoung lightly at the shoulder and offer a, “Thank you.”

Sometimes, Jaebum wishes he were someone else.

(But most of the time, he’s fine as himself.)