banana split, 02
pairing: na jaemin x cheerleader!reader
word count: 17.0k (17,079)
genre: fluff, angst, enemies/rivals to lovers, high school au, fake dating
warnings: ah the part in the relationship where the enemies slowly start to realize that the other isn’t so bad... (aka reader and jaemin bond?), idiots to lovers
★ summary: acting is in jaemin’s blood. he knows how to read lines off a script, what facial expressions fit best, and where to stand onstage so the light doesn’t blind his eyes. acting is in jaemin’s blood, but lying with you about the arrangement proves to be a whole different challenge, and he hates to admit that he might be the one to blow this all up before you do.
★ note: parts named after ice cream flavours: jaemin’s pov. parts named after cheer stunts: reader’s pov
PART 01 | 02 | 03
“So, I’ve been thinking…” Jaemin begins, flipping through a bright pink notebook while you stand in front of him, on the brink of annoyance. “Our deal wasn’t exactly fair. You benefit more from this than I do, so I was brainstorming last night on things you could do for me.”
When he deems it’s been too long waiting for your answer—five seconds—Jaemin looks up, only to see your lips curl. You cross your arms over your chest, hands tightening its grip on your elbow before loosening. “This is what you called me down for?” you scoff. “I have practice.”
Jaemin rolls his eyes. “It’s not like you’re far from the field. All you have to do is turn the corner and walk for, like, three minutes to get to your team.”
“You couldn’t have just talked to me about this on the bleachers?”
“No, because nobody should see me.”
“Well, because—!” he sputters, waving his arms wildly towards you. He’s sure he looks like an idiot, sitting on concrete, flailing his limbs, while you’re towering over him with thinly veiled chagrin. “You’re you. Isn’t that enough of an answer?”
You furrow your eyebrows, glancing away from him to gather your thoughts into a sentence. “Is that supposed to be a compliment or something?”
He sends you an aggravated look. “You should know by now that it’s nowhere close.”
Checking the time on your phone, you mutter, “Better hurry up, Jaemin, if I’m late by a minute, Coach is going to beat my ass.”
The statement does nothing to scare Jaemin into continuing, and he wants nothing more than to keep you here longer just so you can face the wrath of your cheer coach, but he needs to leave soon for his shift—apparently, his aunt is stopping by to pick which ice cream she wants for the wedding reception. Jaemin’s nowhere near excited. Ever since Saturday, she’s been radiating an aura of love, and it feels like Valentine’s Day whenever he walks into the house.
“Since I’m telling you what you want and helping you with homecoming stuff, I should get two things, too,” he pushes himself up to his feet. “You helping with the wedding is definitely not enough for me.”
You blink at him before tilting your head. “Theatre kids like you just love being dramatic, huh? You’re acting like I’m asking you to be my mom’s midwife,” you grumble under your breath. “Fine. What do you want, Jaemin?”
“Well… there’s a lot of options, I did spend all night coming up with—”
“Okay?” you interject, eyes trained on your phone, slowly losing interest in the conversation. “Just tell me your best idea.”
“Right, of course,” Jaemin nods even though you don’t see it. “It’s a little weird, though. I just want to make sure you’re okay with—”
“Yeah, whatever, sure,” you mutter, exasperated and impatient. “What is it?”
Jaemin struggles to find a way to formulate his thoughts into words, and your vexation only grows when he opens his mouth and words fail to fall. You’re about to chide him for wasting your time—he wonders, for a moment, if this is what he acts like whenever you talk to him. “My family’s been bothering me about when I’m gonna get a relationship.”
Your eyes narrow. “I’m not going to date you, Jaemin.”
Jaemin feels an unwelcome blanket of desperation take over him. “Y/N, please,” he pleads, and your eyebrows rise high at the sound. You open your mouth, about to comment on his hopelessness, when your phone buzzes in your hand.
“I have to take this.” Bringing a finger up to silence his attempts to continue talking, you press your phone into your ear. “Yes, hi, I’m here— no, not at the field, I mean at the school— shut up—” you look at Jaemin, scrutinizing the curve of his lips, and something flickers in your eyes; a mixture of exhaustion and discontent and another emotion he can’t interpret. “I have to go—I’m not talking to you, Chanhee—fine, I’ll date you—Chanhee, I’m not talking to you—!”
It takes a moment for Jaemin to realize your words were directed at him. “Wait,” he calls, and you turn sharply to silence him, pointing harshly at your phone. You don’t want Chanhee blabbering about the two of you—frankly, he doesn’t either, but Jaemin feels a weird thrill in getting a reaction out of you. Quietly, he mouths, “We’ll talk later.”
“Whatever,” you mumble in response before you make your way around the corner to walk to the field.
And it’s not that Jaemin cares or anything, but once you’re out of sight, he can’t help but think about how there was no goodbye muttered into the air. He grips the notebook tightly, and he convinces himself the feeling surging through him is resentment.
The only person you have to blame is yourself. Anybody with common sense knows that the last person you should be calling while finalizing a fake dating agreement is Choi Chanhee, with his big mouth and his thirst for drama that never seems to be quenched. The only bright side to this situation is that Chanhee doesn’t know who you were talking to, and that the whole arrangement is fake. Thank God, otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to face any of your classmates for the rest of your life.
Y/N, head cheerleader, agreeing to fake date someone. The jokes write themselves.
The day the gossip’s released is always the worst, because it’s the only thing people have their minds on for the rest of the day. Chanhee, knowing this, didn’t tell people what he heard yesterday at practice—but you’re sure it was eating him up, from the way he refused to talk to you throughout the entire two hours—and told people today. First being Rue, who’s trustworthy with secrets, but gets loud and excited when she’s told them.
Rue tells Ryujin while they’re waiting for their Applied mathematics teacher, but the whole class definitely heard her. Ryujin tells Yeji, and Yeji lets it slip to Donghyuck while they’re on their way to Graphic Arts. Donghyuck sends a text to Chaewon, and they both send you plentiful angry texts in the groupchat; your phone buzzes so much that Mr Cruz has to take it away from you during class.
By the time the third period arrives, you’re sure everybody knows about your so-called relationship. During Culinary Arts, you ask your teacher to transfer groups because it’s the only thing Chaeryeong and Ryujin will talk about. Unfortunately, you’re placed with Liu Yangyang, and he spends the entirety of the class trying to guess who the lucky person is. He burns half of the food.
Jaemin finds you in the library when lunch arrives.
He ignores the surprised look on your face as he places himself in front of you, clutching his red lunchbox and rolling you an apple.
Simply, he says, “You need to eat while we go over some details.”
He sighs. “Tricking my family,” he points his chin towards the fruit, and you carefully pick it up. “I didn’t poison it, Snow White.”
You throw him an annoyed look and fiddle with the stem of the apple, watching Jaemin’s movements closely. “How did you even find me? Did you follow me after class?”
“Asked around,” Jaemin says. His jaw clenches for a moment when he adds, “Donghyuck doesn’t know where you are, but he thinks I’m a lover scorned. I never got to talk to you about that—why did you tell people I’m in love with you?”
“I didn’t, that was Hyunjin’s friend. And don’t look at me like that, you’re going to have to pretend to love me anyway, so it all worked out in the end, right?”
“I guess,” he tilts his head. Then, innocently says, “I’m gonna admit it might be a little hard.”
You don’t take the bait. “Really? This can’t be as hard as other things you've pretended to be,” you rest the side of your head in your hands, giving him the same look he gave you. “You’re in Drama, you know how to act. For me, however…”
“I’m a saint compared to you.”
You tut. “There you go again, Jaemin.” He hates the way you say his name. No matter how much poison you’ve twisted into the vowels of your words, you pronounce his name softly, gently, with fragility. You’re not aware that you do this, but Jaemin knows how to pick up on the smallest details. “Acting like I’ve ruined your life. Here’s a question—if Chaewon didn’t sabotage you all those years ago, would we be friends right now?”
It’s something he’s never thought of, a friendship between you and him. And it’s something he definitely doesn’t want to think about now. Annoyed, he ungracefully dodges the subject. “Details about our agreement, Y/N.”
“Of course,” you drawl. “So what, are we going to be one of those people who make a contract? Do I have to sign my name on something? Is that why you’re taking a piece of paper out right now?”
“What? No,” Jaemin falters slightly. “Well—yeah, but only because I don’t trust you to hold your end of the deal.”
“I see. Is this legally binding?”
He shoots you a look. “If you break it, it’ll be on your subconscious forever. You know, like in the movies? Haunt you in your dreams and have you begging me for forgiveness when you can’t take it anymore?”
“Hm,” you muse. “You’ve given this a lot of thought, huh?”
Jaemin sighs again. He taps his knuckles twice on the paper laying before him. “We have to figure out the terms of our agreement, Y/N, otherwise I’m going to fuck up your homecoming stuff and you’re going to slip up during the wedding.”
You furrow your eyebrows. “Wait,” you stop him from digging through his pencil case for his coloured pens. “I’m going to the wedding?”
“I thought we already talked about this.”
You shake your head quickly. “Um, no, I was helping out with the wedding, and also lying to your family about you finally getting a social life.” An offended scoff slips past his lips, and the sound almost makes you laugh. “You never said anything about actually going.”
“Well, you’re gonna have to if this thing is going to work—” He sees the joy on your face and he’s quick to scowl. “Great. I forgot that you loved this—what did you call it?—celebration of love?”
You roll the apple between your hands, shaking your head as if you’re scolding him. “Are you really not excited about this?” you question. “Someone you care about is marrying somebody they love and you’re telling me none of this is making you the tiniest bit happy?”
He uncaps a Sharpie marker. “I’m not saying that I’m not happy for them, it’s just…”
It’s a gateway for him to open up, a chance for him to show you that he’s more than the boy who works behind the ice cream display four times a week, or the boy who auditions for parts in the school musical only to get the second lead. You want him to give you a reason not to dislike him. He wants you to leave it alone.
“Nothing,” Jaemin bites. He writes in capital letters, Y/N AND JAEMIN’S CONTRACT at the top of the page. It’s not in the middle, but you say nothing that’ll sour his mood more. “Okay, rule number one: don’t break the agreement. This means you don’t tell my family the truth, and I don’t purposely ruin your cheer routines, or whatever.”
“I’m not letting you anywhere near cheer, we’re just helping the student council organize some stuff,” you say, and Jaemin huffs while he writes the first rule on the pale blue lines. “Rule number two: um, I don’t know. Don’t back out until both parties have finished their part of the deal.”
“Don’t back out…” Jaemin murmurs under his breath. “Alright. Rule three: don’t tell people.”
“Whoa, what? Why?”
He shuts his eyes. “Please don’t tell me you already told Donghyuck and Chaewon.”
You scoff loudly, and you hear a faint shh! coming from the librarian at the front desk. “God, no, what do you take me for? I’m not telling them I’ve agreed to fake date someone. And Chaewon would get pissed if I picked you of all people to—”
Jaemin blinks. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“No offence, it’s just,” you lazily toss your apple from your left hand to your right. “You’re you.”
He scowls. “I said that about you yesterday.”
“Yeah? Feels like shit, doesn’t it?” you smile mockingly. “I don’t care if people find out we’re helping each other out.”
“Fine, then we don’t tell people about the fake dating thing. Anything else?”
You clasp your hands together. “Oh, yes!” you lean forward, and Jaemin leans back. “When I meet your family, are we supposed to do all that PDA stuff? Kiss each other, hold hands, give each other compliments—”
Jaemin’s swift to interrupt you. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” He kicks your shin and you yelp in pain, moving back to bring your leg to your chest. He slides the paper to you and tosses a pen. “Sign at the bottom.”
You smirk, rubbing the skin Jaemin jabbed. The sight is foolish. “You didn’t think that far ahead, did you?”
“Obviously not,” he snarls. “Sign here.”
You throw your hands up in surrender and bring your foot back down onto the carpeted floor, taking Jaemin’s pen and messily writing your signature. Handing him back the contract, you say, “You better start using lip balm before we kiss. There’s no way we’re gonna make out if your lips are chapped.”
Your laughter bounces off the walls of the library, earning the both of you another angry hiss from the librarian. Jaemin realizes, as he scribbles his name next to yours, that letting go of this grudge is going to be very, very difficult.
You’re gonna be ambushed. You can tell from the way Chaewon and Donghyuck share a scheming smile when they spot you walking into the cafeteria.
You don’t know why you decided to leave the comfort of the library, especially since it was quiet and undisturbing, but after Jaemin left, you felt strangely lonely. A small part of you liked the company and the scolds you kept getting from the librarian. But in hindsight, being alone is better than what you’re about to face now. Better to be surrounded by books than to step foot into the mouth of a shark.
Hyunjin blocks any chance you have of escaping when he slides towards you at lightning speed, eyes wild and grin wide. You suppose it wasn’t hard for Chaewon and Donghyuck to persuade him to help with their plan; Hyunjin has always loved love, despite it biting him back in the ass more times than he can count.
His fingers wrap around your wrist and he guides you towards the table your friends occupy. With a dreadful start, you realize that they’re at the cheerleaders’ table, and some of your friends eagerly talk amongst themselves. Chanhee isn’t one of them—Chaeryeong told you during third period that he had to leave early for a dentist appointment. The little snake—and you make a mental note to send him angry Animojis after lunch is over.
“You’re late,” Donghyuck drawls when you place yourself in between him and Chaewon. He taps the watch on his wrist—for performance purposes, since he bought that thing at Walmart and it broke after a week—and adds in a condescending tone that makes his face look more punchable than it usually is, “Lunch started forever ago, Y/N. We missed you.”
You huff, taking one of his fries. He doesn’t seem to care. “Yeah, I got your texts.”
“And you just ignored them?”
“You’re an easy person to ignore,” you quip. You glance at the other person next to you. “Hi, Chaewon. Can I have your apple?”
The one Jaemin gave you lies in the trash. Even though he said otherwise, you’re still suspicious that he poisoned it.
“Go for it,” Chaewon says, quick to dismiss any of your attempts to avoid the inevitable conversation. “Where were you? Jaemin was looking for you.”
Across the table, Rue pipes up, “He looked very heartbroken,” she laughs at her own joke. Some of the people scattered around the table grin as well. “You should’ve seen Jeno, though. Broke his heart and everything.”
You scowl as you take a bite of Chaewon’s apple. “You guys are hilarious. I was in the library finishing some work.”
Donghyuck grins. “I bet. Or meeting with your secret lover—”
Chaewon sends him a look. “Don’t say it like that.”
“—that you told none of us about,” Donghyuck finishes, ignoring Chaewon’s interruption. You know the hurt he feels is drowned out by the happiness. Happy for you, for getting your first relationship since freshman year. Happy for himself, because now he has new guilt trip material to use on you when he needs a favour. “I’m very hurt by that, in case you were wondering.”
Donghyuck isn’t fazed and starts to pick at his food—a gesture to tell people he’s done with his teasing for now, and anyone else who wants to suffocate you with their questions is welcome to step up. For a split second, you think Chaewon might go next, but she’s the type of person to observe now, ask questions later. She knows you well enough to assume that the relationship gossip is a misunderstanding, and you know her well enough to assume that she’ll do her best to get the truth from you. In private, when the people have dispersed and it’s only you and her. And maybe Donghyuck, too. He has his good and bad days when it comes to keeping his mouth shut.
He’s been having a lot of bad days as of late.
You’re used to the attention people give you. Usually, the kind you’re given is the type you like. Praise for the routine at the football game. Compliments on the new sweater you bought last Sunday. The turn of heads when people hear you laugh.
The attention you don’t like is this. The ones that spark from rumours. The last time you were on the receiving end of stares akin to these was when someone said that you and Donghyuck were dating—a rumour that didn’t last long, but it was awful nonetheless—and this feels no different. Except, it might be worse, since people found out because of Chanhee, and everybody knows he’s terrible when it comes to lying.
Chanhee values nothing but the truth. And good gossip.
Hyunjin talks next. His excitement reminds you of a puppy. “So, who is it?” he leans forward, and as if on instinct, everybody else does, too. “Wait, no—don’t tell me. Tell me how it happened, because I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that you’re dating somebody that goes here.”
Yena, a former cheerleader who handed you the title of captain before she quit, nods her head in agreement. “Yeah, everyone here is kind of… bland,” she says. “I’m sure the person you’re dating isn’t, though!”
You sigh. “I’m not dating anybody.”
Hyunjin tuts. “Don’t be silly. Chanhee said—”
Frowning, Hyunjin says, “Y/N, come on.” He has a need to make people happy, and Hyunjin believes love is what makes someone happiest. You understand what he thinks, to some extent. Hyunjin was happy with Jamie. Your brother’s happy with his girlfriend. Your mom was happy with your dad. You like to think your dad was happy with her, too.
Something claws at your chest and you don’t like it. “He said he had a crush on me,” you speak, hoping it’s enough to quiet your thoughts. “The guy. He asked me out on a date, I said yes. We aren’t dating.”
Eden, one of the freshmen and a new asset to the team, whispers slowly, “I thought it was going to be more romantic than that.”
Donghyuck sends the blond a glance. “For your sake, I hope your expectations for high school romances aren’t big,” he wipes the grease of the fries on his jeans. Chaewon slides a bottle of hand sanitizer to him, which he accepts gracefully. “Or that you’re not some sort of hopeless romantic. This place isn’t the place to fulfill your biggest desires for love.”
Eden falters, pouting as he picks at the label on his bottle. Beside him, Hyunjin’s eyes hold some type of faraway bliss. He’s thinking, choosing his words carefully. “Every once and a while there’s a cute love story,” he replies, then he cuts his gaze to you. “Who’s the lucky guy?”
You gulp. “I thought you said you didn’t want to know?”
“Well, if we want to prove to Donghyuck that romcom romance exists in real life, then I need to know who he is,” Hyunjin shrugs a shoulder. “And also to make sure he’s good enough for you. Blah, blah, blah. All that cliché best friend stuff.”
“I’m not telling you guys who he is,” you respond. Immediately, there’s a cluster of protests that erupt from the table. Eden and another freshman who hasn’t spoken a word—Daisy, you think her name is. She doesn’t speak much during practice—stay silent, watching the table’s havoc. Chaewon is in her own little world, mulling over your words. You know for sure now that she’s going to talk to you later. “Not until I’m—uh—sure that we’re dating. And I don’t like the idea of you guys bothering him.”
You’re slightly thankful Chaeryeong is sitting with her other friends today, otherwise she would be cooing about the romance, and having Hyunjin here is insufferable enough. “You must really care about him, huh?” Yena practically swoons. Donghyuck gags beside her and she shoves him. “Wait, does this mean you’ll go with him to homecoming?”
Fuck. You should’ve discussed the homecoming dance with Jaemin when you had the chance.
Sensing your inner turmoil, Chaewon speaks up, throwing an arm over your shoulder. “It depends if Y/N decides they’ll keep him around,” she answers for you, and your chest collapses with relief. “They’ll still go with me and Donghyuck.”
“Oh, thank God,” Donghyuck exhales. “Y/N’s my safety date, I didn’t know what I was going to do if they bailed—”
You punch Donghyuck’s arm. He masks his wince with a broad grin. “Fuck off, Hyuck.”
“If all goes well, you’re gonna have to go to homecoming by yourself,” says Rue, her comment directed to the boy beside you. In response, he sulks. “Oh, Y/N, make sure you guys are matching when you get to the dance, because it would be embarrassing if you weren’t.”
“Um, I still don’t know if we’re actually going together—”
Eden gasps, startling Daisy. “Is he going to be in the stands during the game?”
The idea of Jaemin in the bleachers is something you can’t imagine. Now you know why you never remembered who he was—he’s never been to a game, and you remember all the faces you see in the stands. “Um, I doubt it—”
Hyunjin shrieks. “He’s a football player?”
Embarrassment blankets you when the table starts receiving curious glances. You shake your head immediately. Jaemin playing football is another thing you definitely can’t picture. It almost makes you laugh, actually. “No—”
Rue is quick to cut you off. “Does Jeno know him?”
Chaewon taps her chin. “I assume so, they are on the football team together.”
You jab her side with your elbow. “I never said he was on the football team!”
Rue is crooning. You do not like the situation you’ve found yourself in. “So, head cheerleader and football player… oh my God, Disney Channel would eat this up.”
Sometimes you forget Rue is in the drama club. You roll your eyes. Theatre kids and their never ending desire to be melodramatic. “I’m leaving,” you announce. Donghyuck takes your wrists to prevent you from standing, but you’re stronger, and you leave him whining at the table. His words are drowned out by Rue and Hyunjin making a list of people you could be dating.
Chaewon joins your side, stuffing her lunchbox into her bag before zipping it up and letting one of the straps hang on her shoulder. You weave your way through the maze of cafeteria tables, murmuring under your breath about how everybody you know seems to have no life or anything to keep them entertained, all while Chaewon listens.
You two stop by the garbage cans first. Chaewon empties her pockets of wrappers and you throw what’s left of your apple into the compost bin. “I texted Chanhee after Hyuck told me about your date,” she begins, glancing up at you. “The rumours didn’t say anything about you sounding annoyed when you said you’d go on a date with lover boy.”
“It’s a long story,” you explain, waving your hand in the air in dismissal. “And you would just tell me I’m stupid for getting myself into a situation like this.”
Chaewon frowns, voice lowered. “Are you in trouble or something?”
You shake your head. “No, I’m fine, Chaewon, seriously,” you confirm, and she searches your eyes for any trace of a lie before nodding. “It’s nothing you have to worry about. Besides, I think this rumour is going to die down once everyone realizes I’m not actually dating someone.”
She hums. “Chanhee’s gossip credibility would be ruined.”
You find yourself smiling. “Good. Serves him right.”
Once Chaewon’s done putting her trash into the cans, you both turn to start walking towards the doors of the cafeteria. “So you’re still coming with me and Hyuck to homecoming?”
You don’t know how it happens and how he finds you, but Jaemin’s gaze catches yours moments before you reach the exit. He’s with his friends, barely contributing to a lively conversation between Yangyang and Renjun, and he seems to have noticed that you and Chaewon have to pass their table to leave. Suddenly, you want to shut down the conversation about your love life.
“Hey, Y/N!” Jeno greets you as you pass. Chaewon stops walking, causing you to still as well. You send Jeno a polite smile. “I heard about your new relationship! Happy to know that at least someone in my life is head over heels and in love.”
Jaemin tenses, though nobody notices except for you. “Yeah,” you exhale uncomfortably. “We’re not dating, though, it was just—Chanhee misheard.”
Jeno doesn’t look convinced. “Oh. Well…” he trails off, unsure on how to continue. “That’s too bad?”
“Yeah,” you scratch your cheek. Jaemin looks at you as if you’ll spill out all the secrets and break the contract you just created. You’re offended he has absolutely no faith in you. “It’s too bad. I’ll see you in Calc?”
Jeno nods and Chaewon drags you out. Before you leave, you see Jaemin’s shoulders droop in relief.
Part of you wishes you broke your promise and told everyone you’re dating him.
iv. FRENCH VANILLA
“I never took you to be a baker.” Jaemin is so lost in looking for the right food colouring that he almost forgot there was someone else accompanying him on this spontaneous Walmart trip. “I figured you were more of a food critic or a judge. Like, you know all the tips and tricks to make a good meal, but you can’t do it yourself.”
Jaemin glances over his shoulder. “Talking high and mighty for someone who burnt their pancakes in eighth grade cooking class.”
“Do you have any memories of me that aren’t from eighth grade?” You plant your feet on the metal underneath the shopping cart and grip onto the handle to keep from falling. “Because that was a horrible time for me. My skin was so dry and I always paired polka dot pants with striped shirts.”
Jaemin grabs a bottle of red colouring and carefully puts it in the cart. “You dressed like that in sixth. Your skin was just dry in eighth,” he says absentmindedly. He misses the way your eyebrows crease.
“You need to stop saying things like that.” When Jaemin gestures for you to hop off the cart, you jump and move to the side so he can lead you to the next aisle. “If I didn’t know that you hated my guts, I would think you actually liked me. Know me better than I know myself or something.”
Jaemin barks out a laugh. “I just have a good memory.”
You’re silent as he pushes the cart. Then— “I’ve never heard your laugh before.” A pause once he reaches the end and waits for a mother to walk past. “It’s nice.”
Jaemin flinches and almost slams the cart into another in the process. The mother is just as startled as him, albeit for other reasons. She nods quickly at Jaemin’s mumbled apologies and continues her trek to another aisle where she most likely won’t be surprised by a bumbling teenager accompanied by a grinning individual. When Jaemin turns to look at you, you’re already smirking. You like the effect you have on him.
“God, don’t just say stuff like that,” he huffs, skillfully turning the cart. You follow from behind; the angry stomp he’s doing right now isn’t as intimidating as he thinks it is.
“Like—you know what.”
You stand by his side again when he’s parked the cart near the cereals. He refuses to meet your eye—instead focussing on choosing between a box of Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes—but he doesn’t need to, to know that the grin still hasn’t wavered from your face. The only thing to get it to slip is to insult you or annoy you back, but Jaemin can’t find the energy to. Not when he’s standing in front of a large variety of cereal.
“It was a compliment, Jaemin.” He doesn’t reply. “Have you never been complimented before?”
“I have,” he says defensively. “I just don’t want to get any from you.”
You take the box of Lucky Charms from his hand and place it in the cart. As he’s about to open his mouth to protest, you raise a finger to quiet him, and he feels the familiar twinge of annoyance in his chest. “You were staring at this box more than that one, and we’d just be wasting time if you continued playing eenie-meenie in your head. Also,” you tilt your head with a glint in your eye. “I knew you were gonna say that—I don’t want to get any compliments from you—you’re predictable.”
Glowering, he says, “I don’t sound like that.”
“Yes, you do. Your voice is very high-pitched.”
Jaemin doesn’t know what he was thinking when he invited you to come with him. You had come into the parlour after practice—“Ditched,” you had told him, exhausted. “They wouldn’t shut up about me and you. Well, me. They don’t know about you.”—and even when you mocked him after he asked if you were okay, he still let you come.
Jaemin’s good at convincing himself. He sinks into the comfortable idea that he let you tag along because of what Jeno said about Jaemin and his unhealthy grudges.
Your music taste isn’t bad. The station you picked on the car ride here didn’t make Jaemin want to rip his ears out. Sometimes, when he isn’t the person you’re laughing at, your jokes are funny. You’re passionate, too. About cheer, about weddings, about other things that Jaemin supposes he’ll find out about if he continues to spend time with you like this.
That’s his list of things he likes—tolerates—about you. His list of things he hates is longer.
Apparently he’s silent for too long because you’ve switched the topic. “What are you baking anyway?” you examine the contents of the shopping cart, ignoring the food his mom asked him to buy. “A cake? Is this for your aunt?”
Jaemin exhales. “Yeah, for the wedding.” He watches you deflate. “What?”
“That means I have to help you, right?”
“It’s part of our agreement.”
“Oh my God.”
The smirk is on his face before he even realizes it. “I’m assuming from your reaction that you still can’t bake?”
The smile on your face is long gone, replaced with sheepishness. “You knew that already,” you hiss, shoving him to the side to push the cart, just so you have something to do with your hands. “You said so yourself. Eighth grade, burnt pancakes.”
Jaemin falls into step beside you. “Yeah, I was joking,” he refuses to let a laugh slip past, in case you comment about it again. “I figured you would’ve at least gotten better.”
You look hopeful when you say, “Does this mean I don’t have to help with baking?”
“No, you are,” he responds. Your optimism melts. “I don’t care if the cake ends up tasting like ass.”
“You really want this wedding to go to shit, don’t you?”
“Of course not,” Jaemin gasps, very offended by the accusation. Although a small part of him doesn’t mind it. “Everyone will be too busy gushing over the newlyweds to even care. All that matters to me is that we get a cake made.”
You’re hunched over the cart handles as you lazily push it towards the checkout. “You’re a very pessimistic person, Jaemin,” you observe. It almost catches him off guard. “Are you like this all the time?”
“Only with you.”
You smile. “Oh, I feel so special,” you sigh wistfully with sarcasm dripping from your lips. Once the two of you make it to the checkout and Jaemin starts putting items on the conveyor belt, you tap your fingers on the cart, trying to get his attention. He hums. “Do you want to go to the diner after this?”
The offer causes him to stop, and the cashier eyes him with concern. “Sorry?”
“I have a feeling Chaeryeong and Rue are gonna be knocking on my door asking why I didn’t come to practice,” you explain. Jaemin has noticed that, when you’re frustrated, you tighten your grip on something to control it. “Head cheerleader ditching isn’t something very… leader-y.”
His eyebrows rise. “Leader-y?”
“Yeah.” You pout, waving your hand in his face so you don’t have to see his mirth. “I don’t know the right word. Point is, I don’t want to go home.”
Jaemin bites his tongue, turning his gaze to look at the display of gum. He pretends that he’s considering buying a pack of Mentos before he replies with, “Maybe next time.” He almost winces at the implication that there will be a time when that happens. He forces himself to suck it up, because things like this are bound to happen with the arrangement you two have made. “I can’t let the ice cream melt otherwise my mom will kill me.”
He doesn’t see your face when you release a breath through your teeth. “Right, I wouldn’t want to ruin your beloved French vanilla,” you say. He has a feeling you’re not used to being rejected. “And I guess facing my friends now would be better than facing them tomorrow. Chaewon is always telling me I shouldn’t be running from my problems.”
Jaemin has a feeling there’s more weight to the words than you’re letting on, but he doesn’t push. Frankly, because he doesn’t care. Your problems are your own to deal with.
When Jaemin drops you off at your house later—the car ride is quiet, and he’s surprised to see that you still live in the same house after all these years—you dig through one of the reusable bags in the backseat before you get out. Jaemin doesn’t hurry you because he assumes this is your way of stalling—he spots Chaeryeong’s car parked out front—and the thought that you shouldn’t be scouring through the bags doesn’t cross his mind. Jaemin went to Walmart to get his own things. You only tagged along; you didn’t buy anything.
The door slams shut, and you bring your hand up to wave Jaemin goodbye. The silver of the Mentos package glints before it disappears as your fingers curl around the object. Jaemin’s eyes meet yours, and you grin.
You have got to stop exploiting him like this.
v. SPREAD EAGLE
It seems as if, no matter how much you attempt to grow out of the person you once were, it becomes all too easy to fall back onto bad habits. And you would like to think that you’re no longer the same person you were in eighth grade, but being competitive is written in your DNA. And there is no way you’re going to lose to Na Jaemin.
He’s out of breath, panting as he collapses against the fence separating the football field from anything outside of school grounds. A deflated soccer ball rolls to his feet after you tiredly kick it in his direction before collapsing on the field yourself. You know that when you get up, strands of grass will be stuck to your back and won’t fall no matter how many times you try to brush them off, but you can’t bring yourself to care.
“Five minute break,” Jaemin heaves, and you barely hear him through the heavy panting of your own. “And then we go again. Tiebreaker.”
A simple game of twenty questions had evolved into a game of truth or dare and then turned into a game of soccer after Jaemin mentioned that he used to play when he was little. You then in turn said something along the lines of Oh, I bet you were pretty bad, though, which probably wasn’t a good idea, in hindsight, since Jaemin never backs down from a challenge, and neither do you. So you two might be here until the sun goes down.
You probably won’t even be able to hear the school bell ring from this far out in the field
“I would’ve won by now if—” you cough when you feel your throat dry up, “—if you counted that shot earlier. It wasn’t out. You’re just a sore loser.”
“Yeah,” he agrees breathlessly, then points to the improvised goals you two made using the limited materials you have. “But that was out of bounds. Flew past my hat.”
Unable to come up with a retort you hadn’t already used when this problem first arose, you decide to reply with: “Your hat is fucking ugly.”
If you didn’t know any better, Jaemin’s smiling. Exhaustion must really fuck with his brain. “Thanks. It was a gift from Jeno, so maybe you should tell him just how much you hate his sense of fashion.”
“Maybe I will,” you sit up, but the sun glares into your eyes and you flop back down to avoid the harsh light. “That shade of red doesn’t go well with your hair. Or anyone, now that I think about it. Maybe Donghyuck. I don’t know what it is about him, but he can pull anything off…”
Jaemin quietly sighs. “I bet.”
You rub your eyes. “I think it’s been five minutes.”
“No, it hasn’t.” You can feel him staring holes into your figure. “It’s barely been three.”
You shield your eyes using your hands. “I’m so tired, Jaemin.”
A laugh bursts from your throat. “I don’t think surrender is the right word.”
He scowls, but it’s only temporary. “Fine, forfeit. They both mean the same thing,” he answers plainly. “Let me win, Y/L/N. You owe me.”
“Here we go again. Eighth gra—”
“What? No,” Jaemin scoffs. “I meant that you made me pay for your meal the other day at Denny’s, and yesterday you slipped a pack of Mentos into my cart so I’d pay for them. I think that’s, like, illegal.”
Strategically sitting up so the sun doesn’t ambush you with its luminescence again, you say, “Not illegal. Morally bad, I think, fits better.”
“Exactly. Morally bad. Let me win this game, Y/N.”
You stare at him for a long moment, enjoying the way he shifts uncomfortably under your stare. When something involves you, Jaemin will turn anything into a competition, and the corner of your lip quirks up when his posture hardens. Honeyed eyes glare into yours—an unspoken staring contest—and you don’t waver until you see his eyes start to water.
Blinking, you look away, and let him savour this win, because pigs will fly before you lose to him in a game of soccer.
“You know I’m not gonna do that.”
You expect him to sigh, give you another long winded speech about how you screwed him over all those years ago—which he did last night, after you said you couldn’t remember anything from that day. It was supposed to get a reaction out of him, but you never expected to be tired after reading the dozens of messages he sent.
( [11:44 p.m] you: wtf are you writing an essay? those texts are like paragraphs
[11:45 p.m] you: you had a thesis and everything
[11:47 p.m] loml 🤥: this doesn’t sound like you’re appreciating all the effort i put into those messages
[11:47 p.m] loml 🤥: my fingers hurt
[11:47 p.m] you: I DIDNT ASK YOU TO DO THAT
[11:48 p.m] loml 🤥: i think they might be broken?? ur helping me pay my health bills.
[11:49 p.m] you: GOODNIGHT. JAEMIN. )
Jaemin only blinks, and with an unnecessarily long sigh, he pulls himself up and grabs the soccer ball. It startles you. Jaemin never listens to what you have to say, especially if it’s said just to piss him off. In the short amount of time you’ve spent with him, you’ve grown used to his rancor and his actions fuelled by spite, to the point that you just assumed he would be like this with you even after the arrangement ends.
“Hey, idiot!” he bellows so loudly you think some of your wandering classmates might hear. But lunch is nearing its end, and you and Jaemin picked a spot on the field that nobody hangs out in because it’s so far away from the doors. “Are we ending this game or what?”
Jaemin’s skin glows under the sunlight. You think he would be pretty if his personality wasn’t so horrible.
(single losers + yn) cheerleading team :D
[12:05 p.m] chaer 🌙: hey yn are you eating with us today? i wanna know more abt your bf
[12:06 p.m] rue 🦋: I think they will ?? Chaewon n Hyuck are in a student council meeting right?
[12:06 p.m] chaer 🌙: mhm yeji mentioned something abt one
[12.09 p.m] hyun 🤓: omw some1 save me a seat
[12:09 p.m] hyun 🤓: also what if yn is eating with their boyfriend and not with us?
[12:09 p.m] eden: Who is he btw? @ Chanhee
[12:10 p.m] TRAITOR: idk 😅 if i did i’d tell u guys but sadly… ):
[12:34 p.m] chaer 🌙: yn???
[12:35 p.m] TRAITOR: where r they lol
[12:47 p.m] rue 🦋: Ditching us for love already? BOOO 👎
[12:47 p.m] rue 🦋: jk I hope you and him are having fun yn!!! You deserve it <3
vi. SUGAR FREE VANILLA
This was never supposed to happen.
“I swear,” Jaemin tells you as you slip off your battered Nikes and scan the havoc that is the Na household. “I thought they weren’t going to be here today.”
“It’s fine,” you reply. He spots the familiar glint of mischief he’s grown to hate. “I’m not complaining. This gives me the perfect chance to get blackmail material.”
“Childhood stories,” you say simply. Jaemin feels the colour instantly drain from his face. “Come on. Introduce me to your family.”
You step forward, skillfully dodging two of Jaemin’s cousins running down the hallway, but before you can get any farther in your search for the living room, Jaemin’s fingers curl around your wrist before he pulls you towards him. You ungracefully trip over the pile of shoes scattered by the door, and if it weren’t for Jaemin quickly placing his hands on your shoulders to keep you upright, you would’ve fell.
“We haven’t rehearsed,” he hisses into your ear. “And if we haven’t rehearsed, this isn’t going to be believable, so go home and I’ll call you later.”
You brush his hands off and gently squeeze your knuckles into your shoulder to get rid of the unfamiliar tingles on your skin. “Aren’t you an actor?”
“This is different,” he says, eyes wide with alarm. “If we fuck this up, then it’s over. The deal’s over.”
You turn away from the screams and the giggles that seem to be coming from every direction. “Why are you making such a big deal out of this? You’re so dramatic,” you raise an eyebrow as he huffs and slips his black denim jacket off his shoulders. “Is it because I said I’d blackmail you? I was only joking.”
Jaemin leans down to pick up your shoes. “Go home, Y/N.”
“You’re an awful boyfriend.”
“I’ve never been one.” The comment slips before he can even think, but it’s enough to startle you. Now that your guard’s down, Jaemin takes the chance to steer you towards the door, and he would’ve been successful in leading you out the house if it weren’t for the loud call of his name that causes both of your heads to snap in the direction of the doorway leading to the kitchen.
“Jaemin!” Aunt Eunbin exclaims, flour dusting her cheeks. “Who is this?”
“Y/N Y/LN,” you interject, pulling away from Jaemin’s hold to shake his aunt’s hand. The picture-perfect smile he’s so used to seeing—in the yearbook, in group photos posted on Instagram, in the hallways at school whenever he walks past you—appears, and he’s startled by how much it brightens your face. He’s never seen it this close before. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jaemin’s…”
Aunt Eunbin’s eyebrows raise when you trail off and glance over your shoulder to look at him. He snaps out of his daze and averts his gaze from your smile to his aunt. He swings an arm over your shoulder, and he hopes he made it look natural. “We’re dating.”
“Oh?” Eunbin tilts her head in confusion. “Why have I never been told this? Did you tell your mother? Because she didn’t tell me when I saw her earlier.”
“No, it’s…” Jaemin bites his tongue when you place your hand over his. “It’s new.”
“Oh. Well,” Eunbin smiles at you widely. “It’s nice to meet you, Y/N. I’m Jaemin’s aunt Eunbin.”
“It’s nice to finally put a face to the name,” you respond politely. You’re sucking up, Jaemin knows this, except you don’t make it sound like you are. It’s odd that you can talk to strangers like you’re already best friends. “Jaemin mentions you a lot! Congratulations on the wedding, by the way—he won’t stop talking about it. He’s really excited!”
He tries to refrain from stepping on your toe.
Eunbin smiles, cheeks flushed with a cherry hue, and reaches out to take your hand to lead you further into the house. Jaemin stands on the welcome mat, dumbfounded, as you hypnotize yet another person with your charms and kind smile. He sees this happen so much that he wonders if you’re aware of it.
“As amazing as that is,” he hears Eunbin say, “he hasn’t talked about you a lot. And Jaemin loves talking.”
Jaemin almost stumbles while he’s dropping your shoes back on the floor, racing to join your side again and narrowly missing a lego structure his little cousins left in the middle of the hallway. “Oh, it’s just because it’s…” he trails off, desperately wracking his brain for an excuse only to fall short. “It’s just new.”
“Yes, you said that earlier, Jaemin.”
You send him a look, baffled at his inability to improvise. “Well, we’ve kept it quiet for a while,” you say quickly. Jaemin looks at you, eyes wide, frightened that you’ll blow everything up with a simple statement. He wouldn’t put it past you. “Even Jeno didn’t know.”
“Yeah!” Jaemin exclaims, relief engulfing him like a fuzzy blanket on a cold winter night. “He was—uh—really surprised when he found out.”
Eunbin frowns. “But why would you keep it a secret?”
All eyes are on Jaemin when you glance over, handing this question over to him. To make me suffer, he thinks, but he knows it’s because you’ve already answered one question and now it’s his turn to answer another. Except his throat closes up—he never expected lying to his family to be this hard—and as Eunbin’s face quickly turns suspicious, you turn away from him, giving his aunt a nervous smile.
“It was my fault,” you reply. Your hand slips into his, and he hates how easily it happens. “This is my first relationship.”
He knows for a fact that isn’t true. In freshman year, you dated Lee Chan for five months until he had to move during the summer. The news of your relationship had been Jeno’s first heartbreak, and Jaemin had to stop himself from saying I told you Y/N didn’t like you back for over two weeks. But the look in your eyes is honest, and he’s scarily intrigued by how good you are at pretending.
But he’s thankful you saved him from the terrible lie that was about to tumble from his mouth.
Eunbin’s eyes soften. “Well, I’m glad that Jaemin is your first boyfriend.” Her eyes flicker up to him. “He’s a good kid.”
Your hands tighten around his. “He is.”
Eunbin excuses herself to go back into the kitchen and help her nephews bake cookies. Once she’s gone, Jaemin tears his hand from your grasp. The warmth from yours leaves an odd tingling sensation on his skin, burning and setting his flesh ablaze. He dusts his hands on his jeans, hoping to rid the feeling, but it sticks to him, reminding him that this is how things are now. Hand holding, shoulders brushing, smiles of teenage young love.
Jaemin always imagined his first relationship would be like this. But with someone he actually cares about. Someone that makes his heart beat with happiness and not fury. Someone that doesn’t take and take from him. Someone that isn’t in this relationship because they benefit something from it.
But pretending was his idea, and so he keeps his mouth shut.
You, however, have let your lips curl into a sneer.
“What the hell was that?” you hiss so quietly it almost gets lost in the shrieks of his cousins. “Hyuck was telling me how you’re always playing important parts in musicals, and you would think that someone like that would be good at acting.”
He leans against the small wooden table by the stairs, littered with family photos and souvenirs from trips. “You asked Donghyuck about me?” He’s not very happy at the thought of Lee Donghyuck, deceitful and troublesome, telling you about him. Donghyuck has never been known for being a very credible person.
“He’s my friend.”
“And you didn’t tell him about—?”
“No! Of course not,” you scoff. “I asked him about you before this whole thing started. Like, the day after I met you.”
“We met before that day in the parlour, you know. Years before.”
“Yeah, I know that,” you sigh, folding your arms over your chest. “I just forgot about you because—whatever.”
His eyes narrow. “No, finish your sentence.”
You sigh and purse your lips together afterwards. This isn’t the right place for the two of you to get into an argument, but the moments spent talking with Eunbin about your relationship felt wrong, and he’s unknowingly clawing for a sense of familiarity. So, if it means riling you up until you’re babbling to him about the grudges he holds and his seemingly permanent moodiness, then so be it.
Your eyes shut. “If you had just told me about what you felt that day, we wouldn’t be here,” you tell him. He isn’t quite sure if you’re referring to last week or three years ago. “Or if you just told me how I could fix it, we wouldn’t—”
“Have this agreement,” he interrupts before you can get ahead, losing yourself in an alternate reality that will only ever exist in a different world, not here. Never here. “And I’d be stuck with suffering through the wedding alone.”
Your arms fall to your sides. “You really think I wouldn’t help you even if we were on good terms?”
“Why would you?” he swipes a small building block off the table to avoid your eyes. “You wouldn’t get anything. And don’t say that you’d get homecoming stuff—I know you have plenty of people you could’ve asked instead. You added it into the agreement because you know how much I’d hate it. The only reason you’re in this is cause you want to know what you did wrong, and you can’t live with the fact that not everyone is in love with you.”
You don’t reply as quickly as he thought you would. No retort comes flying from your mouth to pierce through him. Instead, all Jaemin hears is mayhem. Screams and shouts and laughter bounces off the walls, but your lack of response is what rings through his ears. He wonders if it would be better if the two of you were just standing in deafening silence instead of this.
Eventually, you say evenly, “You make this a lot harder, you know?”
Jaemin doesn’t know what emotion is on your face, but he knows for a fact he doesn’t like it. “Y/N—”
“I’m going to talk to your aunt,” you interrupt, turning from him and following the trail of flour dusting the floor that Eunbin left behind. Jaemin hopes he doesn’t have to sweep that up later. “I came here for childhood stories, and that’s what I’m getting.”
Jaemin stands alone in the hallway for a moment, watching your figure disappearing before he sighs, pushing himself off the table and following you to the kitchen.
On the neverending list of things Jaemin hates, messy cooking areas is one of them. For some reason, he finds that cleaning kitchens is so much harder than cleaning any other place in the house. Food seems to stain every surface, from the countertop and the inside of cupboards, to the floor underneath the fridge and under the sink. Jaemin has always loved cooking. There is something therapeutic about mixing ingredients until they’ve bloomed into something better—but he hates cleaning. He will always hate cleaning.
He better not be forced to help clean this.
“Jaemin!” Jisung, one of his younger cousins exclaims, flour adorned on the tip of his nose. Jisung lives down the street but attends a private school, and so Jaemin only sees him at family gatherings. “I didn’t know you were here yet! I thought you said you had a shift?”
Jaemin winces but brushes the statement off, hoping that Jisung will be so blinded by his excitement that he won’t put two and two together and realize Jaemin lied about his afternoon plans. “I thought you guys were supposed to be at the park?”
Jisung jabs his thumb behind him. “Forecast said it was going to rain.”
Jaemin looks over Jisung’s shoulder at the window, where the sun shines brightly in a clear cerulean sky. “It’s nice out, though?”
“That’s what Soojin told me, though,” he frowns, glancing over to the tall brunette girl that just entered the kitchen, Airpods shoved into her ears and phone grasped loosely in her hand. “Hey, Soojin. It’s going to rain soon, right?”
Soojin blinks at him. “Sorry?”
“You said it was going to rain.”
“Oh,” Soojin mumbles, following Jaemin’s line of sight to the open window. Her lips twitch into an amused smile before she shrugs a shoulder. “I did. Guess I was wrong.”
Jisung scowls, dusting off the flour on his shirt before huffing an annoyed, “You lied to us?”
“Because I didn’t want to go,” she replies before taking one of the freshly baked cookies off the rack. She takes a bite, lets the gooey chocolate melt in her mouth, then nods her head towards the figure sitting on the counter. “Shouldn’t you be questioning why Jaemin brought someone that isn’t one of his loser friends into this house, though?”
Jaemin pouts. “Don’t call my friends that.”
“We both know I’m right,” Soojin shoves her phone into her pocket before loading her hands with as many cookies as she can hold. “These are good, by the way.”
As Soojin goes to leave, Jisung shouts, “They’re poisoned!” before he turns his head and examines you, chatting with Eunbin about the embarrassing childhood stories you wanted to hear about. For a moment, Jaemin had forgotten you were here, parading around his house, and his shoulders drop at the thought of having to introduce you to the rest of his family as the person he’s dating.
But in order for everything to work, he has to.
Jisung eyes him suspiciously. “Who is that?”
Jaemin settles into the stool placed at the kitchen island. “Friend.”
One of his younger cousins sticks his tongue out and says very dramatically and very loudly, “They’re dating!”
Jisung’s eyes widen. “What? Since when?”
Your head snaps over to the two boys, head tilted at the sound of Jisung’s surprised shriek. You’re met with the boy hurrying to slide into the seat beside you while Jaemin—ever the knight in shining armour—helplessly stares as everything unfolds.
“Hi,” Jisung says eagerly, clasping his hands together and slightly scaring you with the bright wide smile split across his face. “How are you? I’m Jisung.”
Eunbin shifts her gaze from the dough she’s kneading. “What are you doing?”
Jisung keeps his eyes on you and you keep your eyes on Jaemin. He gives you an uneasy smile, and you decide then and there that you have never met anybody as unhelpful as him. “Interrogating Jaemin’s friend,” Jisung replies. “Well, not his friend. His first relationship, which I didn’t know about until—”
Jaemin sighs. “Jisung.”
Jisung ignores him. “You look familiar.”
Your eyebrows furrow and you give Jisung a tense smile. Uncomfort seeps into your bones. “Uh, yeah,” you reply with a small nod. Jaemin slowly stands from his spot, inching closer to you in curiosity at the sudden change in your mood. “I think I’ve seen you around before, too.”
The younger boy doesn’t seem to notice the sudden tension and the way you’ve stiffened. “What did you say your name was?”
As each second of quiet passes, your shoulders start to droop. Jaemin makes a mental reminder to bother you about your behaviour when the two of you are alone. It’s not that Jaemin cares or anything. But seeing you like this is something he’s not used to, something he never thought he’d see—you’re cracking, and it’s all because of Jisung.
The discovery of you not being as perfect as everyone says you are just might be the highlight of his day.
Except Jaemin feels his hands twitch with worry when Jisung snaps his fingers and grins. “Oh! You’re related to Cal, right? He’s your brother?” he questions, although from the recognition on his face, you don’t need to confirm anything. “Me and him coach the little league soccer team. Well—he coaches, I help out. He’s a nice guy.”
You smile back, but this statement has clearly opened up a wound that won’t be able to close so easily. “Yeah. A little annoying sometimes, but overall really nice.”
Jisung rests his cheek on his palm. “How are you parents?” he asks with naive interest, taking his eyes off you momentarily to reach over and grab a cookie. Eunbin grumbles under her breath about how most of the sweets have already disappeared off the cooling rack and walks towards the oven to check on the other baked treats. Both of them don’t notice the way your smile slips, almost completely, for a fraction of a second before you plaster it on your face again.
But Jaemin sees it, and you make a point not to meet his eyes.
“They’re, uh,” you stammer, wringing your fingers together. “They’re okay, I guess. Mom’s good. I don’t know about Dad. Cal talks to him more than I do. But they’re on good terms.”
“That’s good to hear!” Jisung says enthusiastically. “Cal was telling me last week that they had been fighting about—”
Jaemin speaks for the first time in minutes and almost blows the operation for, what feels like, the umpteenth time. “Fighting?” he interrupts, confused.
“Uh, yeah,” Jisung tilts his head. “Did you not know?”
Jaemin meets your eyes and you shake your head subtly at him—what that means, he doesn’t know, but he feels the urge to pause the conversation. “No, I did, I just—Y/N doesn’t like to talk about it.”
Jisung blinks before shaking his head vigorously, panicked, and looks to you with regret. “Oh! I’m so sorry! Oh my God,” he rambles, shooting up from his chair and placing his hand on top of yours while apologies fervently spill past his teeth. “That was way out of line, I’m sorry, Cal usually talks to me about this stuff, and I got carried away—doesn’t matter. I’m so sorry—”
“It’s okay,” you say gently, slowly taking your hands from his desperate grasp and standing up. “I know you didn’t mean any harm. I just, um—” you clear your throat, looking at Jaemin with another expression he can’t decipher—but he thinks it comes close to sadness. And something pounds against his ribcage. “I should really get going. My mom, she, uh—”
He doesn’t let you speak any further, knowing that from the way you look, you won’t be able to come up with an excuse. “I’ll walk you home,” he says, moving past Jisung to stand in front of you. Behind him, Jisung is still blubbering apologies. “It’s dark outside.”
“No, it’s—” you take a step back and Jaemin purses his lips at the action. “My brother’s classes just finished, I can call him and ask me to pick him up.”
“I don’t mind.”
“Jaemin,” you say his name with a sliver of caution in your tone. “It’s alright. I’ll see you at school tomorrow?”
You don’t bother to hear his reply as you walk towards the kitchen door. Jaemin sighs, sends a brief glare to Jisung, before following after you as you dial a number on your phone.
“I’ll wait with you,” he offers as you make it to the welcome mat and scan the ground for your shoes. “I can wait with you outside while you wait for your brother.”
Phone to your ear, you turn to Jaemin, face stoic and expressionless before you send him a smile that seems more genuine than any other he’s ever seen before. He thinks he likes it more than the one meant for family portraits and yearbook pictures.
“Okay,” you say quietly. Softly. With a tone that could ease anger, stop thunderstorms, and slow his battering heartbeat.
“Sorry about Jisung,” Jaemin tells you first thing in the morning, sliding beside you on the bench on the school’s front lawn. “He talks too much.”
You murmur something into the fabric of your sweater—something he doesn’t understand but doesn’t bother asking you to repeat—knees pulled to your chest and arms wrapped around yourself as wind blows by. “How do you know him?”
“Cousin,” Jaemin answers, tone mute that it would’ve gotten lost in the breeze if you two weren’t so close. “He goes to the private school a couple blocks from here.”
You nod slowly. “Yeah, Cal told me. I see Jisung sometimes if I bother going to one of the little league soccer games.”
“If I bother,” Jaemin scoffs as he repeats your sentence, except his tone is lighthearted and not at all mocking. “You make it sound like a chore.”
“Those kids are devils!” you lift your face from your arms and are suddenly hit with a gust of wind. You don’t mind it too much, though, because at least now you can turn your face and properly see Jaemin. “They get so aggressive sometimes. The last game I went to, one of them tackled this guy on the other team—”
Jaemin shifts so he’s facing you. “So, you can watch high school football but not a twelve-year-old’s soccer game?”
You kick his thigh. “Don’t make fun of me!”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m not! I’m just saying, you’re scared of the wrong things.”
Your sigh lingers in the air as you hug your knees closer to your chest. The wind is relentless today and the only thing keeping you warm is a thin old sweater. You thought it would be enough to protect you from the cold, especially since yesterday it wasn’t so chilly. From the corner of your eye, you see Jaemin’s fingers curling around his jacket, as if to take it off, before his hand drops on his lap the same way your heart drops to your stomach.
You shake it off.
“So I’ve met your aunt,” you muse. “When do I meet your parents?”
He turns so he’s facing forwards. You don’t spot his smile. “Getting ahead of yourself,” he says, a soft chuckle following after. “I don’t know when you’ll meet them. The next time you're over?”
“Unless Jisung scared you off and now you want to avoid him for the rest of your life,” Jaemin states with a shrug. “Which I completely understand. He’s a nuisance.”
“So are you.”
“It runs in the family.”
A soft laugh slips out before you can even think. It’s not loud and boisterous like your typical one. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you think that if you’re to speak above the wind, it’ll break the bubble you and Jaemin have found yourselves in. There isn’t an ounce of coffee in your blood, and yet you don’t have an urge to bicker with him. Which is a first.
He hasn’t done anything to purposely piss you off either. It’s odd, but you don’t mind.
You jump, arms loosening the grip around your legs as they fall back onto the ground. Jaemin winces, and this time it’s him curling himself up to seem smaller. You glance behind you only to spot a bewildered and annoyed Lee Jeno stumbling towards the pair of you, walking with more purpose than you’ve ever seen.
Immediately noticing the sudden tensity in the air, you meekly greet, “Good morning, Jeno.”
“Y/N,” he says curtly before glaring at his best friend. “Jaemin.” When he doesn’t reply, instead examining his nails, Jeno huffs and turns to you. “Are you guys dating?”
An unpleasant croak falls out as you sputter, “Excuse me?”
“I saw his aunt at the grocery store last night,” he explains, his eyes growing with worry when neither you nor Jaemin don’t deny his accusation. “She was asking me why I never told her that Jaemin’s dating someone. And I thought she was joking at first, until she said that they stopped by the house earlier and—she said you’re the one Jaemin’s dating, but I didn’t believe her. Of course I didn’t believe her. Until I texted Jaemin and he left me on read—”
You reach over and smack the back of Jaemin’s head. “You idiot—”
“Are you guys dating or not?” Jeno asks before his jaw drops and he frantically points to Jaemin. “Are you the one Chanhee was talking about?”
Jaemin’s eyebrows furrow. “What?”
“The rumour!” Jeno replies exasperatedly. “About Y/N going on a date with someone—oh my God, it’s you, it explains why you weren’t speaking while we were talking about it a few days ago!”
“I wasn’t talking because I didn’t care!”
“You say that a lot but you’re always finding a way to insult Y/N—”
“Hey!” you exclaim.
“Are you dating,” Jeno repeats, his eyes moving to you in hopes that you’ll answer him. “Or not?”
You freeze, unable to come up with something to say. You and Jaemin didn’t go over the details for something like this. What are you supposed to do if his best friend asks if you’re dating a boy who hates you? What are you supposed to do if he thinks you are and he tells your friends before he can?
You jolt and spring to your feet. If anyone’s going to fuck this up now, it’s not gonna be you.
“I have to go,” you say suddenly and Jaemin stands once you start walking towards the entrance doors. “I need to—”
“Class doesn’t start for another fifteen,” Jaemin states, his eyes pleading you to do anything but leave him with his friend before class starts. Your heart drops at his desperation. “Where are you going?”
Behind him, Jeno is watching the interaction with exaggerated shock, his jaw slack as he looks at an exchange where Jaemin isn’t blowing up on you and you aren’t blowing up on him.
“I just have to—”
“I’ll walk you.”
Your eyes flitter to Jeno. “Jaemin—”
“I can walk you,” he says again, begging you to take pity on him, just this once, and let him leave Jeno in the dust. A conversation about your relationship can only be avoided for so long, and it’s no doubt that this information will be released today, and you’ll probably be forced to sit through a whole lunch while your friends question you. It would be best to tell Jeno now about whether or not his accusation is true—leaving his question unanswered will only make everything worse.
But you don’t want to. Not now. You and Jaemin will deal with the consequences later.
“Okay,” you reply, smiling at Jaemin. “See you, Jeno.”
As the two of you are walking away, Jeno mumbles, “Oh my God…” to himself and you grimace.
This is not going to end well.
“Nice to see you too, Hyuck.”
“You,” Donghyuck points a finger at your face, wiggling it in front of your nose as he huffs and puffs, face scarlet red, “betraying, untrustworthy, animalistic asshole—!”
Chaewon throws something at him, causing him to yelp and catch the attention of other gossiping students scattered across the field. “Easy now,” she warns and reaches over you to grab her eraser before Donghyuck decides to hold it hostage. “No name-calling before twelve.”
“Then no name-calling.”
It’s warm, a contrast to the chilliness of this morning, and you had been dragged to spend your lunch period with your friends outside in the sun rather than in the preying mouths of the cheerleading team. You’d been told it was because sunshine so illuminating shouldn’t be put to waste, and before autumn is entirely engulfed by winter, every person should soak in its luminescence until the air turns crisp.
But you know it’s because Donghyuck wants to get answers from you before Chaeryeong and Rue do. For a while, they’ve been in an unspoken feud about who knows you better, and neither side is willing to back down. It’s your fault for befriending such competitive people.
And it’s not like you’re complaining—the thought of facing Chanhee annoys you. Nobody would even be talking about this if it weren’t for his big mouth. Although sitting next to Chaewon isn’t much better, since she seems to enjoy your squirming and fidgeting as your lips part and close while you try to answer all of Donghyuck’s persistent questions.
“Out of all people,” he lays down, eyes squeezed shut so the sun doesn’t blind him. He has to force a small grin when the grass tickles his ear. Staying mad at you is hard enough; he says it’s because you just seem so likeable, “out of all people—you pick Na Jaemin. You know he hates you, right?”
“Yeah,” Chaewon narrows her eyes thoughtfully. “I always overheard him blubbering to his friends like an insecure and jealous child. You know he used to say you’re insufferable? You don’t date people who think you’re insufferable, Y/N.”
“Used to,” you rasp. “Feelings change.”
Compared to your friends, your posture is stiff. Chaewon has her legs sprawled out in front of her while one hand keeps her upright and the other fidgets with her favourite pink eraser. Donghyuck lounges on the grass like he’s a king in a ridiculously comfortable bed surrounded by jewels, diamonds, bitter coffee, and anything that could make a guy happy. Your legs, however, are crossed, and your back is alarmingly straight.
Chaewon glances over at you, concerned. “Not that quickly.”
“You don’t know how long we’ve been talking.”
Chaewon frowns deeply. “Still. I don’t trust him. What if he’s dating you only so he can hurt you?”
Donghyuck hums in agreement, which definitely startles you because he doesn’t agree with you or Chaewon about anything. “She has a point. That happens in movies a lot.”
You try not to reach over and flick his forehead. “Good thing this isn’t a movie then.” A loud scoff fills your ears and you’re not sure if it came from either Chaewon or Hyuck. “Can we talk about something else?”
“What?” Donghyuck cries, sitting up at the speed of light and mirroring Chaewon’s position, except he’s turned so he’s facing you. His eyes hold more heat than sun and fire combined, and your blood goes cold. “No way. You do know that you’re dating somebody—who’s a loser, just so you know—”
“Don’t call him that.”
“Chaewon agrees with me.”
“What? He has a point!”
“As I was saying,” Donghyuck clears his throat to catch your attention again and stops an argument before it can even begin, “you’re dating someone that me and Chae don’t know. In fact, we didn’t know this relationship was a thing until Jeno ran his big mouth and basically informed the entire student body.”
Chaewon sighs dramatically. “I heard about this from Yeji. She texted me,” she says, throwing you a look etched with vexation. “Which is embarrassing. How are we supposed to be best friends if you aren’t telling us anything? We keep on having to find out from other people!”
“I swear if something big happens to you and I have to hear it from Chaeryeong, I’m cutting you off,” Donghyuck declares, flopping back on the ground again. “I’m being serious. Do you know what’s worse than you dating Jaemin? Me losing to her.”
Chaewon peers at Donghyuck with a frown. “Lose to her at what?”
“That’s what I’m saying!”
“Shut up, Y/N, we aren’t on the same team this time.”
You huff. “What the hell?”
Absentmindedly twirling a loose thread on her sweater around her finger, Chaewon tilts her head slightly to get a good look at you. “You really should’ve told us about this beforehand,” she says with the typical know-it-all manner she uses whenever she needs to prove a point. “We could’ve talked you out of it.”
Maybe this sentiment would be sweet—albeit a little more frustrating—if you were actually dating Jaemin, but you aren’t, and this conversation would never happen if you hadn’t gotten caught. Or if you hadn’t agreed to this fake dating thing in the first place.
Funny, because you wouldn’t be suffocating right now if it weren’t for Jaemin. Everything always leads back to him.
You admit that you’d rather be fake dating somebody else. It’s not like Jaemin is just as prickly and annoying as he used to be, but if you were fake dating Jeno or Renjun—hell, even Hyuck, it would be so much easier to convince people. But in this arrangement, you get something from Jaemin and he gets something from you.
Your head snaps to Chaewon.
“He promised to help with homecoming stuff,” you say absentmindedly while she’s listing off reasons why you and Jaemin would never work out, Donghyuck chiming in on occasion. At the sound of your statement, though, Chaewon blinks at you, and she shares a look with Hyuck before urging you to continue. “He’s really good at arts and crafts. He can help with banners. And, um, organization, he’s good at that stuff, too. He can help take more things off your plate.”
“Huh,” Chaewon breathes, eyes looking farther away. She’s no doubt imagining a world where she has less to stress out about. Being class president is horrible. You don’t know how she does it.
“No,” Donghyuck grunts as he sits back up. Strands of yellow grass adorn his hair and back and you reach over to dust them off while he chastises your friend, “Chaewon, don’t give in. Jaemin doesn’t even like homecoming.”
Your eyes narrow. “How do you even know that?”
“He never shuts up about it,” he tells you dismissively. “Chae, for all you know, Jaemin could ruin this whole thing.”
“Actually,” you pipe up, “Jaemin didn’t mind when I asked him for help.”
“Uh, because he’s planning on ruining everything!” Donghyuck exclaims, and he throws his hands up in the air just for the dramatic flair. If you had a dime for every time you rolled your eyes whenever Hyuck tainted a conversation with his melodrama and theatrics, you’d be rich enough to drop out of school and not work a day in your life. “And besides, we don’t need Jaemin! The student council has me.”
Chaewon pulls a face. “Exactly why we need more help.”
Your friend turns to look at you, reaching over to take your hands into hers. Her eyes burn with want and need, and you think there may be a part of you—ever so small—that’s thankful you took this arrangement. With Jaemin’s help, you’ll finally see Chaewon with a smile on her face that lasts longer than five minutes. With Jaemin’s help, you’ll repay her after everything she’s done for you, and she’ll be able to stand without a weight sinking on her shoulders.
“He’ll really help?” she asks eagerly.
You give her a genuine smile, because Jaemin has to help out whether he likes it or not. “Yeah,” you say.
She squeezes your hand and drops them before beaming at Donghyuck. “I like him,” she declares, as if her approval was the make or break of you and Jaemin’s relationship. You silently sigh in relief, though, because if she was still wary of Jaemin, it would’ve made things so much harder. “I think this is the first boyfriend of Y/N’s who I actually like!”
“Woah,” you say immediately. “Did you not like Chan?”
“Oh, I forgot you dated him,” Chaewon mumbles, before speaking louder, “Jaemin is the second boyfriend of Y/N’s I like!”
Donghyuck whines, “Chae!”
“If he’s helping out with homecoming then I don’t hate him,” Chaewon shrugs. “Convince Y/N to break up with him yourself.”
Donghyuck groans before taking your hands and pulling you towards him. Your legs skid across the ground, and your legs burn from the heat. Hyuck doesn’t bat an eye, instead placing his hands on your shoulders to keep you from moving and fixing you with a stare that only furthers his intentions of keeping you in place. Something flashes in his eyes—worry, and maybe a little concern.
“I don’t trust him,” he states. “He used to hate you before and who’s saying he still doesn’t?”
You exhale. “Hyuck—”
“I’m serious,” he says firmly. “He’s gonna end up hurting you.”
You frown. “Everything will—”
“Y/N,” he says cautiously, warningly, because he thinks this is the type of thing he’ll be right about. The type of thing where he’ll tell you to listen to him and you won’t, and you’ll end up getting hurt. “Don’t date him.”
“Listen to me,” you murmur softly, and you say it in a way that Donghyuck knows you’ll deny what he’s asking you to do before you get a chance to say it. “You don’t know him as well as I do.”
“You don’t even know him at all.” And he’s right, but you force yourself not to wince.
Telling Hyuck that you can handle yourself will never work; to convince him, you have to show him, which means that once lunch is over, you need to send a quick text to Jaemin about discussing a game plan. All Chaewon has ever done is worry, and when she’s not worrying, Donghyuck is.
And even though you’ll never say it out loud, you need your friends to be okay with this relationship, otherwise it will never work out.
Things would be so much more complicated if you and Jaemin were actually a real thing.
You give Donghyuck a crooked reassuring smile. “I’ll be fine.”
It’s ninth grade, and Jeno has a crush on you.
Well, the word crush is far fetched, because to a fourteen-year-old barely halfway through his first year of high school, it’s love. To any logical adult who’s gone through the lovesick teen phase themselves, it’s infatuation. It’s not a crush, because crushes are usually labelled exactly that when there are symptoms, like sweaty hands and your heartbeat pitter-pattering against your chest, or the nerves dancing around your head and making you dizzy.
This is what Jaemin tries to tell Jeno five minutes before the curtain goes up, but he sounds like a broken record. Convincing his friend that he’s only nervous because tonight is opening night is difficult when said friend is told the person he has a crush on and their boyfriend are here to watch the show. Jeno’s hands are clammy for all the wrong reasons, and if he continues to behave like this, Jaemin’s going to have to ask the understudy to take over.
Except the understudy is sick—a cold, is what Xiaojun said over the phone, followed by an obvious fake cough. Jaemin doesn’t even know how he got to be the understudy.
Renjun is leaning against one of the props, showing no care about what he thinks if things were to go south because the weight of this musical has been on his shoulders for months and he can’t bother to carry it any longer. So, now it’s up to Jaemin to snap Jeno out of it, because everyone and their dog knows that Yangyang would absolutely be no help, since he was the one that broke the news about you and Chan in the first place.
Which is amazing. The owner of the lead’s heart sits in the audience, front and centre, hand in hand with their boyfriend.
You always did like to ruin good things.
“I need a moment.”
“We’re on in five!”
Jeno sends a glare to the stage manager. She doesn’t bat an eye. Freshmen could try all they want to be intimidating but it will just never work out.
Jeno pushes himself farther backstage and Jaemin’s back hits one of the sets while he screws his eyes shut. Yangyang shoves his hands into his pockets and clicks his tongue. “Why does he act like he’s in love with them?”
Renjun scoffs, except he’s smiling, just a bit. “Because he is.”
“You can’t love someone you don’t know,” Yangyang quips, his eyes following Jeno’s movements as he skirts past his castmates and people part of the crew. “I know you guys have all known each other since kindergarten—because you’re lame like that. I thought those things only happened in movies—but I feel like I know Y/N better than he does.”
Jaemin rolls his eyes. “Make sure he doesn’t hear you say that,” he grunts, before snapping his head up to the other boy. “Wait, how do you even know Y/N?”
“We have science together. We were lab partners once for a class. They’re not so bad. I don’t know why you hate them so much.” Jaemin sneers but he doesn’t bother replying because Yangyang keeps talking. “I found out whether they’re a cat or dog person, and what their take is on the subtitles or no subtitles debate in less than ten minutes. We failed that lab, by the way.”
Jaemin heaves a sigh. “What’s your point, Yangyang?”
He shrugs. “I know all of this and Jeno only knows that they’re a cheerleader and their favourite colour is yellow—well, not anymore. Things change after six years. Typically, people aren’t the same people they were when they were eight,” he walks slowly to the curtain and peeks out from the side to look at the turnout. “The Y/N Jeno knows is eight-year-old Y/N. He shouldn’t be nervous.”
“But he is.”
“He’s nervous because he’s painted an idea of someone he hasn’t talked to in years and told himself he has a crush on them,” says Yangyang, turning to look back at them. “Tell Jeno that, and maybe he’ll pull himself together.”
Jaemin huffs. “What?”
Yangyang sighs, a little exasperated, but he asks, “What ice cream flavour does Jeno hate?”
“Chocolate,” Jaemin says quickly, like a reflex. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Y/N’s favourite flavour is chocolate,” Yangyang grins. “They also like dogs better than cats, so tell Jeno that, and say something about them believing all of those cat stereotypes, or whatever. You know how dog people are. It’s small, but it’ll help Jeno realize that Y/N is a real person and not a figment of his imagination. And then he can go out on that stage and be fine.”
Renjun glances between the two of them before shrugging and mumbling something about going to talk to their friend. Jaemin goes to follow, before Yangyang adds, teasing with a hint of seriousness Jaemin is not used to, “They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad, Jaem,” he states, as if saying so will distinguish the fire of hatred Jaemin has for you. “You should give them a chance.”
It’s tenth grade, and everyone has a crush on you. And you’re using it to your advantage.
Which—okay, Jaemin will say this once—good for you. Using the love everyone has for you as a business tactic is smart, maybe a little unethical and manipulative, but how else is this fundraising bake sale supposed to thrive? According to Yangyang, half of the cheerleading team can’t even make a simple batch of cookies without risking setting their kitchen ablaze, which is why most of these baked delights came in a box from Walmart.
Jaemin stands in line with two dollars in his hand so he can buy himself two sugar cookies—it’s a guilty pleasure, and who was he to resist sugar cookies? Jaemin may be moody sometimes, but he’s not a monster. Behind him is Jeno. Apparently, he wants to support a friend, although Jaemin suspects Jeno just wants to see you.
You and Jeno are attached to the hip. Kind of. If being attached to the hip during one class of a day counts. Jaemin thinks it doesn’t, but he says nothing about it. Some things are better left unsaid.
“What should I get?” Jeno asks, pressing his toes into the ground as he tries to get a glimpse; whether of you or the brownies Renjun claims he bought from the grocery store last week, Jaemin doesn’t know, and he won’t ask. “I want the lemon bars, but seeing as the past three people walked off with some, I should probably think of getting something else—why are there so many people?”
The answer to Jeno’s question comes in the form of Kim Chaewon and Lee Donghyuck, who stand by the edge of the table and converse with one of the cheerleaders. Dreams of a good turnout come true when it involves good advertising and the student council. Jaemin thinks those two would be very powerful people when they grow older.
Doesn’t make him dislike them any less.
Jaemin feels like he’s been standing in this line for an eternity when he finally gets to the front, greeted by your beaming face before Jeno steps in front of him and starts asking for three lemon bars and a brownie. Jaemin scowls but moves to talk to someone else.
“Jaemin!” Chaeryeong exclaims in surprise. “I didn’t know you were here!”
Chaeryeong is one of the newer employees at Nova Crunch, but he already considers her one of his favourite co-workers. He’s never seen her like this before, though, in an environment where she isn’t wearing a polo shirt and an apron with a scoop in one hand and a cone in the other. Instead, Chaeryeong is wearing a cheerleading uniform, adorned with DIYed stickers of pom-poms and the school’s mascot.
“I didn’t know you were…” Jaemin trails off while she raises her eyebrows. “I didn’t know you were a cheerleader?”
“Maybe you would’ve if you actually came to a football game,” she shrugs innocently. She’s been trying to convince him to go to one upon finding out he’s not a big sports fan. She isn’t one either, but Chaeryeong likes to lecture anyone who’ll listen about how the experience of high school sports is more important than the game itself.
He scrunches his nose. “Ha. Very funny. Two sugar cookies please.”
“You’re a loser,” Chaeryeong retorts lightheartedly before carefully placing two sugar cookies onto a napkin. “Oh, by the way, do you work tomorrow? I was wondering if you could take my shift.”
“I can,” Jaemin responds without hesitation. It’s not like he has any plans for tomorrow, anyway, so he might as well make some money. “This is the third time you’ve asked for someone to take your shift, though. Are you okay?”
“What? Oh, yeah,” Chaeryeong waves her hand in the air with dismissal. “There’s just been a lot of cheer practice recently because of homecoming—you know how coach is—” Jaemin actually doesn’t, but he nods along nevertheless. “—and I can’t miss these practices. I still have to talk to your uncle about it, but I’m terrified.”
“He’ll understand,” Jaemin says. “Jerry never shuts up about how important homecoming was to him back when he went to school.”
“It is important. I don’t understand why you won’t go.”
“I just won’t,” he answers. “And I have to go over my lines for the musical.”
Chaeryeong groans. “Oh, come on, that isn’t for a few more months.”
Jaemin makes a face, mockingly repeats her words, before she laughs and pushes him towards the boy collecting money. Jeno is standing to the side, having already paid, and is taking a bite from his lemon bar.
“Excuse me!” Jaemin halts, almost dropping his handful of sugar cookies, before he turns to huff at the person who startled him. Except his expression melts upon spotting your smile. “Hi! Sorry, I was just wondering if you wanted a muffin?”
“Um, I only have two dollars and I’m using them to buy sugar cookies,” Jaemin tries to say monotonously, but it sounds like his throat has been clogged.
Your smile turns pleading and it startles Jaemin more than your voice, because he’s sure he has never seen you beg before. “Come on, please? You don’t have to pay for it, just tell Hyunjin that I gave it to you for free, he’ll understand. Chanhee baked these and he’s gonna feel bad if they don’t sell,” you explain. “I don’t even know what he was thinking. Carrot muffins? Makes me feel sick.”
Jaemin shakes his head. “I really don’t—”
“You don’t even have to eat them! Just dump it in the trash, but make sure you cover it up before you do, so he doesn’t see. Please?” When he doesn’t reply, only blinking while he wraps his head around the situation, you sigh before digging into your pocket and placing a coupon into his empty palm. “Here, it’s a coupon. Free vanilla ice cream from Nova Crunch. Their stuff is good. Can you take the muffin now?”
This coupon means nothing to Jaemin. He’s the nephew of the owner, he doesn’t have to pay for ice cream—he still does, though, because it sort of eats away at his consciousness if he doesn’t.
Still, he nods begrudgingly and accepts the muffin you place in his hands. “Thank you so much!” you say before talking to the next customer and Jaemin is forced to move up the line.
When he makes it back to Jeno, his friend stares at him with a judgemental look on his face. “You talked to them,” he murmurs. “You talked to Y/N.”
“Yeah, I know, I was there.”
“You talked and you didn’t cause an argument.”
“Who do you take me for, Jeno?”
“This is just surprising, okay?” he says, his head quivering with laughter. “You looked so surprised when they started to talk to you. What did I tell you—they’re nice, right?”
It’s less than a week until the wedding, and Jaemin thinks he understands why everyone seems to be at your feet.
He’s been spending every waking moment of his Saturday turning his kitchen into a Food Network set. Honey sticks to his fingers and flour is smeared on his cheeks because he promised his Aunt Eunbin—hesitantly, and as if he had a choice—that he would bake desserts for the wedding, and he’d been putting it off until his Uncle Jerry reminded him about it during his shift last night.
He’s been spending every waking moment of his Saturday baking until he’s knee deep in sugar while you’ve spent every waking moment of yours fulfilling your promise and taking things off his plate.
Jaemin doesn’t know how to make food look pretty, but you clearly do. You’ve never been much of a baker, but you can make cakes look like masterpieces, and he thinks a weight had been lifted off his chest when he realized that you could do the thing for him he’s never been good at.
“Taste this,” he says, tossing a small piece of a freshly baked cookie towards you moments after you’ve finished icing a cupcake.
“What the hell?” you hiss after swatting the cookie away. It lands on the floor, and Jaemin supposes he’ll deal with that later when his parents come home and tell him to clean up. “If you threw that one second earlier, I would’ve ruined my work!”
“It’s a decoy cupcake, Y/N.”
You pout. “It still needs to look pretty.”
Jaemin rolls his eyes and throws the other half of the cookie. “Taste it and tell me it’s good.”
Dropping the cookie by your side and picking up your piping bag instead, you grin at him. “It’s good!” then you gesture towards the display of cupcakes you’ve been meticulously decorating for the past half an hour. “Now compliment me—seriously, this belongs in the Louvre.”
“You didn’t even try the cookie!”
“Chanhee says you’re a good baker and I believe him,” you reply. “Besides, what if you poisoned it? Don’t look at me like that.”
“Why would I poison you?”
“Because you hate me? Hello?”
There’s a sliver of hesitance. It’s quick, fast, disappears in the blink of an eye, and you wouldn’t catch it even if you were paying attention, because you aren’t an observant person. Jaemin pauses before he retorts, and he can’t think of a reason why other than what Yangyang told him during opening night when Jeno ran off because the nerves were eating him up.
Jeno had a crush on someone he created in his head, like how Jaemin hated somebody he thought he understood. And while Jeno tried to get to know you before realizing all he’ll ever really see you as is as a friend, Jaemin didn’t. Because who has ever tried to get to know the person they hate?
Nobody has ever done that. But maybe he should try.
“Can I ask you a question?” he reaches over to grab the melted strawberry ice cream he scooped into a cup nearly an hour ago, and listens to the noise of acknowledgement you make while you start to ice the other cupcakes. “You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to.”
You barely blink while saying, “Should I be concerned?”
“No,” he responds, although he’s sure you probably should be. He waits a few beats, trying to gather the courage to ask you a question he shouldn’t be asking, before he licks his lips and clears his throat. “Why’d you act weird when Jisung brought up your parents?”
You freeze, hands clenching around the piping bag, accidentally squeezing more icing on one side of the cupcake than you intended. Jaemin grimaces when you look up at him. “Where is this coming from?”
“Nowhere,” he says softly, and you almost scowl at the pity on his face because he looks at you like he already knows where this story goes. And he does, for the most part, but that doesn’t mean you hate it any less. “I was just curious, but you don’t have to…”
“Right,” you say, then plop yourself onto a stool with your legs facing the other way so you don’t have to meet his eye. Sarcastically, you begin, “Well, once upon a time—”
“Y/N,” Jaemin murmurs, tilting his head so he can try to match your gaze. “You don’t have to answer.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“Because I want to know,” he says, and after you throw him a skeptical glance, he quickly adds, “and I think it’s important for this whole... arrangement. But it’s not mandatory for you to tell me, honestly...”
You gulp before carefully placing the piping bag down. “Okay.”
“I’ll tell you. But it’s nothing much,” you sigh, shrugging a shoulder like you’re shrugging the situation off. Like it’s not a big deal, and Jaemin feels guilt blooming in the pit of his stomach. “Uh, Mom and Dad fought a lot. They weren’t happy, fallen out of love, or whatever. One time Cal was going to ask them to get a divorce because he was tired of coming home everyday to them shouting, but I convinced him not to. Divorces tear families apart, and I didn’t—I was scared.”
You clear your throat after it dries up. Jaemin wants to move closer, but it’s like his body has rooted him on the floor.
“During the divorce, though, they fought more. Custody. They yelled at each other a lot for that one. Dad was hellbent on getting me and Cal to move with him across the country but Mom always argued that she didn’t want her kids near a liar,” you click your tongue. “Dad was a liar. He made empty promises all the time. But he came close to winning. Tenth grade and my room was packed into boxes and Cal was looking at colleges he didn’t even want to go to.
And then Dad met someone. Love at first sight, or some other bullshit that only happens in movies. It was stupid. But he saw this opportunity, I guess, to start anew. Clean slate; new city, new house, new soulmate, new life. He calls sometimes, and Cal tries to get me to talk to him every other Sunday, but…”
Jaemin’s lips part. “Jeno told me you were supposed to move last year.”
Your teeth dig into your lips. “Because of Dad. Yeah,” you sigh, and your voice shakes and wavers and Jaemin is disobeying his body before he knows it. He moves to sit beside you. He doesn’t hug you—he’s never known how to properly comfort people—but his presence is peaceful. It calms. “I’m glad I didn’t move, though. I like it here.”
I’m glad you didn’t move either doesn’t seem like the right thing to say. It feels insincere, if it came from him, so he reaches over and squeezes your shoulder.
“Your cupcakes look nice,” he says. You look up at him but he’s only staring at you.
“Did you even look at them?”
He smiles. “They’re pretty, Y/N. Take the compliment.”
You snort before reaching over and playfully shoving him.
Perhaps Yangyang was right, to some extent. But Jaemin will never say that out loud. It feeds Yangyang’s ego and destroys Jaemin’s.
Give them a chance.
Maybe you aren’t so bad after all.
yn nation!!! (derogatory)
you sent an image!
[3:37 p.m] you: aren’t these so pretty
[3:40 p.m] yn superfan: they look like they could go on pinterest
[3:45 p.m] yn superfan: wait did you make those?
[3:45 p.m] yn superfan: THEY’RE HIDEOUS 🗣🗣
[3:46 p.m] you: thanks hyuck 💞💞
[3:46 p.m] yn superfan: I SAID THEY’RE UGLY
[3:48 p.m] pr manager: you’re BAKING?
[3:48 p.m] pr manager: holy shit did you burn something? i’m having a heart attack are you safe
[3:49 p.m] pr manager: CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT
[3:49 p.m] you: NO???
[3:49 p.m] you: why do u have no faith in me chaewon.
[3:49 p.m] pr manager: because you cant bake
[3:50 p.m] you: 😒 well i didn’t bake these it was jaemin i only iced them
[3:50 p.m] yn superfan: UR AT JAEMINS???
[3:50 p.m] you: omg no need to be jealous hyuck 😣
[3:51 p.m] yn superfan: im literally sick to my stomach
[3:51 p.m] yn superfan: HE’S DANGEROUS STAY AWAY FROM HIM!!!
you sent an image!
[3:52 p.m] you: aaahh teen boy covered in flour i’m so scared!!!
[3:54 p.m] yn superfan: they’re being domestic
[3:54 p.m] yn superfan: i think today might be the worst day of my life
[3:58 p.m] pr manager: you’re so annoying
[4:01 p.m] pr manager: give me some cupcakes tho
[4:01 p.m] yn superfan: me too
[4:01 p.m] yn superfan: oh btw im gonna tell chaeryeong and rue about this
[4:10 p.m] you: NO THEY’LL NEVER SHUT UP ABOUT IT
[4:10 p.m] you: DONGHYUCK
★ author’s note: hi 🤓 jaemin is slowly coming to his senses and you know what!!! good for him!!!! it was long overdue and his grudge lasted 3 years but still!! proud of him <3
★ tags: @lanadreamie @sunflowerhae @juyeo-on @t-toodumbtocare
© all rights reserved dkfile, 2021.
4 notes · View notes