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Fated To You

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The wind whipped through his hair and stung his face for the split second that he remained in the air — it was only him and the clouds at that time, the world temporarily put on hold from spinning on its axis, and the light of the sun's rays peeking through the almost translucent clouds. And he always savoured that moment, captured the thrill in his bones to engrave it into his memory, before there was a rush of breath, and he came crashing down, the unstoppable force of gravity pulling him back to earth.

Taeyong stumbled as he landed, unbalanced, and fell back unto the grass with a soft thud. He squeezed the emerald blades between his fingers, unearthing them, and let out a wound up breath of frustration. He knew the end of this routine off by heart, familiarised himself with each and every move so much it was like second nature — pike, toe-touch, hurdler into a backspring — and yet he couldn't land properly on his feet lately. It was letting down his team — it was letting himself down, and it was so. damn. embarrassing.

Taeyong felt a gentle touch on his back, coaxing his eyes open and allowing him to now fall lax. It was Doyoung, he knew, simply by the familiarity of his touch, the lack of scent, and the stark, almost commanding presence behind him. Taeyong huffed then, pausing to take in the sun, before he stood up, brushed the grass and mud off his exposed knees, and glanced around. There were only a few girls on his team, spread out as they practiced their own moves like wound up, toy dolls left on repeat, and on the opposite side of the field, further down, the football team was still practicing.

Taeyong flit his eyes away from that area quickly before he could catch eyes with a certain someone who he wanted to pin for his mistakes — but knew with all rationality that he couldn't — and focused on the figure of his cousin seated in the stands. Taeyong wasn't sure if Donghyuck had been paying attention to him at all, too busy failing to be inconspicuous about oogling the Alpha at the other end of the field, whereas Mark, on the other hand, had paid him no mind.

"You okay?" Doyoung asked carefully. "That looked like a bad fall. Did you twist your ankle at the end?"

Taeyong shifted to Doyoung, pouting. "Sort of. I can't get my landing right and it's just—" Taeyong's sentence broke halfway to allow a frustrated noise to fall from his lips. "I have to get down this routine before the end of next week," he sighed as they walked towards the stand where Donghyuck was seated — it was a bit too close to where the Alphas were playing in Taeyong's humble yet nervous opinion, but even then, Donghyuck had chosen not to sit right in front of them if only for Taeyong's sake. Doyoung handed him some of his water as they walked, and Taeyong thanked him with a tired huff of breath.

As they approached, Donghyuck turned, mildly interested, somewhat concerned, but wholly distracted. "You okay, Yongie? Shit looked bad," he said, looking Taeyong up and down. A reassurance had barely left Taeyong's lips when Donghyuck interrupted it, turning back to watch the Alphas on the field, "Okay, great! Now sit down and rest while you watch with me."

Doyoung laughed lightly before taking a seat in a row in front of him, but Taeyong stayed put standing, hands on his hips, lips pursed, and his back turned to the field. For all intents and purposes, he didn't want to have to stay on the field a second longer than he needed to, not with the feeling of hair standing upright on the back of his neck ever since he stepped out to practice earlier — it was like that now, too, a direct reaction caused from the feeling of being watched. That's all it ever was, and it would have been flattering in any other case but this. Jaehyun instead had made it frustrating.

Taeyong rolled his shoulders back and let out a deep breath. He didn't know how to stress to Donghyuck that he didn't want to be there without giving out the reason away. Donghyuck didn't know because Taeyong hadn't told him, and he preferred that he wouldn't somehow taint the way his cousin saw him. Taeyong forced himself to come up with a threat on the spot, becoming restless by just simply being in the Alpha's vicinity. "Let's go home now or else I'll kick you out."

"Oh wow," Doyoung muttered to himself, half listening to the forceful conversation being exchanged as he leaned forward to get a better look at the play. Taeyong hadn't taken him to like sports, but he'd been wrong in his thinking — his constant and endless assumptions.

Donghyuck turned to Taeyong, frowned, and then smirked. "No way, you said I could stay, remember? I made you promise."

"You forced me into it!" Taeyong stressed, throwing up his hands, "I literally didn't have a choice."

And it was true, Taeyong's words, because Donghyuck had showed up two days before at his and Johnny's doorstep with a luggage bag in his hand, without warning —and it wad a sight that was awfully familiar, except that Taeyong had been the one in his position, not on the other side with his jaw on the floor. And there was never any possibility of him saying no — not with Donghyuck pushing his way in easily, and once inside, refusing to step back out again. And somehow, Donghyuck had managed to pin his sudden appearance on him.

"I told you before, like, a whole month ago if you would've listened to me properly on the phone. It's your fault, I think," Donghyuck said, shrugging simply.

"You can't just—" Taeyong paused to wipe a hand down his face in exasperation. He was happy for Donghyuck's presence, truly, he was — to have a tangible piece of home next to you was a wonderful thing, but wow... he would have appreciated a heads up, for Johnny at the very least. "You know I have a roommate, right?" Taeyong sighed, shutting the door as he watched Donghyuck kick off his shoes and survey the living with something akin to impressed in his features.

And as if on cue, Johnny stepped out of his room, phone in hand. "Tae, who was— oh. Hey Donghyuck."

Donghyuck grinned. "Hey, haven't seen you in awhile." Taeyong furrowed his brows at the interaction. Had Johnny not noticed the bags yet? But, Johnny made his way into the kitchen, walking past them as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The Alpha paused as he drew a glass of water to his lips, eyes flickering over to the bags waiting to be noticed by Taeyong's feet. Donghyuck had already made himself comfortable on the living room couch.

"You're staying over?"

"Yeah," Donghyuck answered languidly, not bothering to ask if he could.

There was another moment of silence then, and for some reason, Taeyong had found himself holding his breath, awaiting Johnny kicking him out like any sane person would. Johnny was a samaritan; good natured, good-willed, but even then, how much could one person take? The Lee's were storms that had showed up in his home and in his life unannounced, and if Donghyuck felt no remorse about it, Taeyong alone could bear the brunt of the burden.

And just as Taeyong had opened his mouth to let out an awfully sewn string of apologies, Johnny tilted his head, settled his eyes over on the bags once more, before muttering, "Cool, cool."

And then, he was off.

"See," Donghyuck said as soon as Johnny left to amble back into his room, half high with the way he seemed so out of it, "he doesn't even mind."

Taeyong would have been lying if he said he still wasn't slightly bitter about it. Johnny hadn't welcomed him with open arms like that, he had even wanted to kick him out at one point not too long ago, and despite him being acutely aware of the reason, it was still a bit irking to think about. But, Taeyong truly wasn't any better, Donghyuck had him just as wrapped around his finger, or why else would he have taken a seat beside the Omega when his body was screaming at him to leave?

Taeyong grumbled, crossing his arms as Donghyuck leaned forward and squealed, enraptured by Mark seemingly making another touchdown. Taeyong doubted Donghyuck really knew the play, granted, he hadn't known too much either, and they had both been content to watch in high school even without such knowledge. If Jaehyun had won a game back then, it meant that he was happy, and in turn, Taeyong was too — satisfied to watch as Jaehyun was lifted into the air as the crowd chanted and cheered on the field. All of his life, he had been on the sidelines, never in the forefront of the Alpha's life, and he had been content with that for a long time.

Until he wasn't. It wasn't enough.

And with that passing thought of the Alpha, Taeyong was reminded of his presence once again — or his body was, at least; instincts itching at his being to divert his eyes away from the field and to the stands directly opposite him. He forced himself to stay seated and eyes rooted on Mark instead, not choosing to up and leave if only for Donghyuck's sake. His only temporary relief was that Jaehyun wasn't on the field playing with them — and Taeyong felt bad about it, truly, because what else did the Alpha have for him now but sport? But, he was the own cause of his own month-long suspension, so who was there to blame but himself?

He had chosen the path of getting physical with Johnny. Taeyong could rationalise his behaviour, but he couldn't bring himself to accept it. Not until he received an apology — or until they both exchanged them, because the slap, to him, was some form of poetic justice, but such violence had left a sour taste in his mouth, one he couldn't get rid of no matter how much he purged and purified his mind with painting, cheer, and school work. In the end, it was all useless. They needed to talk.

The Alpha seemed unwilling, and Taeyong wasn't going to swallow his pride, go over there, and beg no matter how much he occasionally felt the overwhelming urge to.

Though, sometimes it was a case of physical over psychological, because his eyes had unknowingly floated towards that direction. It was for a split second, one or two at best, but it was enough to catch Jaehyun's eyes — Jaehyun who even when forbidden from practice, would sit back and watch his team play, always on the edge of his seat. That half a second was enough time for Taeyong to be hit with a flood of emotion at the indistinguishable look in Jaehyun's eyes — yearning, despondency, loneliness, and regret.

But if there was one thing lacking in them, if there was any sole emotion Taeyong was unable to pinpoint from that sea, it was anger. He wasn't angry at Taeyong. Taeyong wasn't angry at him either — he couldn't pull out such an emotion other than longing after a month had now passed, and February's warmth had brought a reminder of the new season. Things in life were seasonal, and this, too, would pass — though, the outcome of its passing was unclear, blurry and fuzzed around the edges. Taeyong didn't know anymore.

He was brought back to reality after Donghyuck jumped up, squealing. Doyoung was, too, as his head shot up from where he had been texting someone on his phone instead, and he turned to give Taeyong an amused raise of a brow. Taeyong shrugged, smiling at the Omega softly. Donghyuck always seemed to draw attention to himself, and now was of no exception, because for the first time since they had been on the field, Mark had actually looked over at them, obvious surprise coating his features.

The Alpha paused for a moment, and so did Donghyuck, and Taeyong had begun to wonder what exactly was going on and silently being exchanged, before Mark turned right back around to his teammates.

"I just embarrassed myself," Donghyuck murmured as he sunk back down into his chair somewhat defeatedly. "I was just happy that he made a goal." Donghyuck's heart shaped lips pulled themselves into a pout.

"Touchdown," Taeyong corrected softly as he patted the Omega's back, to which Donghyuck pulled a face, irked at the correction.

"Let's go now," Donghyuck announced with a huff, eyebrows furrowed. Taeyong felt bad — he didn't know what expectations Donghyuck had set by coming over here for his two week break instead of studying back at home, but they were clearly not being met, that was if his reaction to the turn of current events was anything to go by.

"You're not going to wait to talk to him?" Taeyong asked, stunned at the way he had abruptly stood up. Donghyuck was still pouting, and his limbs had slumped now from his lack of previous enthusiasm. Doyoung beside them chuckled lightly, and Donghyuck's face soured impossibly more, not enjoying subtly being made fun on, even if he was on the other end of it the majority of the time.

Donghyuck chose to sulk instead of answer, slipping past Taeyong to walk down the steps of the bleachers. Doyoung pocketed his phone and followed, and Taeyong went next, following after Donghyuck in tandem with Doyoung. As much as Donghyuck could whine, pester, or annoy him, he still felt for him. That wouldn't stop anytime soon. And so, he felt like he should say something to the Omega to ease his worries, and also simply because it was in Taeyong's nature to do so.

"Don't worry, Hyuck, Mark will come around," Taeyong reassured. He couldn't guarantee such a thing knowing how Alphas like Mark and Jaehyun behaved — he knew he could never guarantee such a thing. But, Mark and Jaehyun were two different people. Mark was nice. Mark wouldn't ignore Donghyuck knowing that he knew he was here, would he? Taeyong hoped not for the Omega's sake.

Donghyuck hadn't turned around to answer, feet facing forward as he muttered his next words. "That's easy for you to say, Jaehyun practically jumped out of his chair when all you did was land wrongly."

Donghyuck stalked off past him and Doyoung followed after him with a chuckle. And Taeyong couldn't find it in him to tell Donghyuck to slow down, that he was going the entirely wrong way home. He had stumbled in his steps, taking a moment to reel back from Donghyuck's words and the implication of them. He hadn't noticed that, and if Doyoung had, he hadn't told him. There was something flickering in his chest, low and warm, reminding him that despite everything, there was still hope. But — he stopped himself — that meant nothing. If Jaehyun hadn't directly come over, if he hadn't said nor done anything, those actions meant nothing.

Taeyong had to remind himself that all the way back home with a sulking Donghyuck beside him, then as he got ready for bed, and even as he slipped into his cotton sheets and closed his eyes. At the end of the day, and come morning, it should and would mean nothing. Except for the fact that it didn’t.

Taeyong always had the crushing habit of holding unto those small slivers of hope.

 

 

 

Valentine's week at SNU wasn't at all what Taeyong had expected, though, he had never had any expectations for the week at all really. It was a celebration of sorts, and SNU seemed to take it to heart with the amount of time and goddamn money they must have invested into it. Taeyong was genuinely surprised at the number of decorations they had managed to stick around the place — streamers, love heart balloons, and ballot boxes where you could write down somebody's name, year, and course down, and members of the chess club would deliver a mini box of chocolates on your behalf as a confession.

And to top it all off, there was a festival that would take place the day before Valentines on Friday, February the 13th, in which all clubs would get together and host booths around the campus. The cheerleading team was taking part, too, because the University's funds couldn't cover everything they needed. It was something Taeyong hadn't even known was going on until the day before when their Coach had discussed how it was going to run this year with them before practice. Taeyong had been lightyears out of the loop.

But, it was a tradition, and everyone had to take part — Taeyong, new or not, was of no exception.

Now, though, he was at lunch with Doyoung by his side, and the floor to ceiling decorations left him in so much awe that his food was beginning to grow cold. There was love in the air; lovely, big, bold and bright reminders of the fickle emotion wherever he went. He could feel it permeate through his skin and tingle in his bones, a reminder that relationships were blossoming all around him, though his remained stagnant. There was nothing for him to look forward to doing this year, and if it were any other time before, he'd be on the search for a birthday present. February 14th was Jaehyun's birthday, after all.

"I don't see the big deal," Doyoung said casually, though there was a hint of cynicism in his voice as he spoke, and his fork stabbed the chicken on his plate with a tad bit too much force to be considered a reasonable accident.

Taeyong looked away from the pink, purple, and white streamers by the window of their cafeteria to the Beta who had just spoken, and smiled to himself. It was funny really to see Doyoung so vexed about a simple celebration, but Taeyong guessed that it was more than that at its core. Doyoung was brilliant at masking his emotions, but there was only so much he could do before his true feelings began to ooze through the cracks.

"I like it," Taeyong said simply, fondly, and tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. Love, the intangible thing that caused emotions so stark that they could often feel physical, was a beautiful thing in his opinion. It didn't always work out for people — in fact, it currently wasn't even working for him, and even this wasn't enough to take away from its beauty. "Stop being such a grinch."

Doyoung wore a pinched expression, eyes zeroing in on Taeyong as if to assess the truth behind his words. Taeyong supposed Doyoung wanted him to mope along with him, or maybe that Doyoung expected him to be sad about the reminder that this Valentines week brought along with it — and he was, to an extent, but Doyoung must have rubbed off on him because he had become better at hiding it. The arm that had worn his heart on its sleeve was tucked away now, put away for the time being.

"You're so sweet, it makes me sick," Doyoung replied, nose scrunched, but even Doyoung could see that he was being unnecessarily negative.

Doyoung sighed, "It's actually just sort of sad." Taeyong tilted his head, intrigued at his words. "I believe in love. Or, I believe in getting so used to and comfortable with a person that you say you'd like to stay with them forever. But, and I know it sounds bad, you'll probably just think I'm being bitter — that's what everyone else thinks — but, if you think about it, half of the couples formed this week are going to break up at some point. Over half."

Taeyong winced. There was a truth to that that he didn't want to acknowledge, but perhaps the reality of it would do him so good. There was no guarantee that if he had dated anybody — if he had dated Jaehyun back then — that it would've worked out. He liked to think it would. He liked to think that it was possible to be with that one person and be committed to that one person forever the very first time around. He was sort of... happy they hadn't gotten together, even with as much as it hurt, because Jaehyun was immature, and Taeyong would have expected too much when the Alpha could only offer so little.

It hadn't been their time then. He didn't know if it was their time now.

Doyoung had a distant, contemplative look on his face as if gathering his thoughts. Doyoung normally knew what to say, what seemed like years before he said it — quick to question, quick to reply. This only showed Taeyong that such a topic could be complicated for even someone like Doyoung to dissect.

"I think," Doyoung had started up again after their pause, Taeyong listening to him intently, "I just think that people date for the thrill of it, the experience, being well aware, somewhere in the back of their mind, that they're going to break up. They know they're going to break up, and yet they throw themselves in one anyway. I don't know whether to call it stupid or brave." Taeyong pulled a face — the words weren't even directed towards him, but they had hurt to hear. Doyoung was too much of a realist, and Taeyong was an idealist.

"What's that quote I learned in my philosophy elective? By Florian? Pierre? His name was french, I think. He said the pleasure of love lasts but a moment, but the pain of love lasts a lifetime."

Oh wow, Taeyong thought, reeling. Doyoung's haphazard words had hit close to him. He'd given so much love and loved so wholly, and yet, sometimes the pain in his heart felt never ending on his worst days. To love a lifetime, to hurt a lifetime, or to regret never loving at all? There may have been some truth to Doyoung's words, but Taeyong still believed it was gamble worth trying.

"You're right, I think..." Taeyong trailed off. And then, he smiled, genuine. "But that wouldn't stop me."

Doyoung chucked lightly, "I didn't think it would."

Taeyong's phone buzzed, and he looked down to see a text from Donghyuck. He felt a little bad leaving the Omega at home, especially with Donghyuck becoming so restless when there was nothing else to do. It was evident now, too, in the way he texted Taeyong to come home to take him shopping in the city, knowing fully well that it'd be a couple of hours till all of Taeyong's lectures were over, and then one or two more for a meeting to organise the booth the cheer team would be hosting at the festival. Taeyong texted him back those details but only to be met with a flurry of angry emojis.

Taeyong sighed then looked up as the scent of cinnamon wafted towards him. Doyoung, with his brilliant Beta senses, was already looking at Johnny who was approaching their table, tray of food in hand, as if he didn't have a million and one other Alpha friends to sit with. Taeyong guessed his original plan was to sit himself beside Doyoung, but the look the Beta wore must have been some sort of heavy deterrent as he side stepped almost too quickly, instead making a bee-line for the seat next to Taeyong, despite it having slightly less space. It was funny almost. Taeyong couldn't help but laugh.

"Hey Tae, Doie," Johnny greeted, nodding at the both of them respectively.

Taeyong chirped his own reply, but Doyoung simply scrunched his nose, choosing not to comment on the name. It seemed to be a win, in Johnny's books at least, because his smile had grown impossibly wide immediately afterwards. He then picked up a pack of mints from his tray — those extra strong ones that Taeyong hated and vehemently declined whenever Doyoung offered — and reached over the table to place them in front of the Beta he had clearly been trying to court. Taeyong smiled warmly at the exchange.

"Thanks," Doyoung said wryly, unwrapping the pack and popping in a mint regardless of whatever he was feeling.

And then, there was silence, Taeyong waiting for Johnny to speak up first, Johnny most likely waiting for Taeyong to somehow help him bridge the gap between the two, and Doyoung now reserved to making no conversation at all since the Alpha had arrived. Or, at least that's what Taeyong had initially thought, because Doyoung was the one who had actually chosen to speak up first, unbothered by the palpable yet muted tension at the table.

"Why on the field?" Doyoung asked casually, swirling a mint in his mouth. He leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms and raising his eyebrows at Johnny who appeared almost... almost nervous in front of him. "You realise how that made you both look?"

Like a pair of neanderthals, like cavemen, like stupid Alpha men who couldn't use their brains nor words to dispel an argument was omitted but implied. And honestly, Taeyong had been curious about it, too. It would have ended much differently if it didn't happen there — it would have been much simpler if they fought somewhere else off the University grounds so Jaehyun wasn't put on probation for a month. Taeyong pursed his lips, looking at Johnny expectantly.

They shouldn't have fought at all, but even so, Johnny shouldn't have put Jaehyun in such a position to get in trouble. It irked Taeyong more than it should've now when he looked at his roommate. Johnny scratched the back of his head. "I knew he was going to hit me, and wanted it to be on even ground?" Johnny offered as if his explanation had made much sense. "He didn't even hit me the first time, surprisingly enough," Johnny continued.

Taeyong snuck a glance at the Beta beside him who had a brow raised in the slightest — so slight that he wouldn't have noticed it at all if he wasn't so used to Doyoung's usual, resting facial expression. And it occurred to him then that Doyoung wasn't aware that it had happened between him and Johnny twice, and despite it, he made no other outwardly expressions, only paid attention, with nothing in his aura indicating anger or discomfort — he was either truly over it or he was a damn good actor. And at that point, Taeyong couldn't make any more of such guesses, it could have been both or either.

"So, I think that's it now. I think now that he's gotten it out of his system, he won't be mad at me anymore. That's how Jae is, just punches shit to make himself feel better sometimes, and then he'll be over it." Johnny's voice was soft despite his words, and he ran a hand through his hair and breathed out a laugh. "So many holes in the damn wall."

Taeyong furrowed his brows, confused. He knew Jaehyun could get.. angry sometimes, but not to the extent of punching holes in the wall like some sort of reincarnated barbarian. "What do you mean? There weren't any holes in his bedroom wall when I went over."

Johnny's laughter faded, and he smiled at him then, looking at him but not truly — a sort of distant look in his eye as if he was reminiscing. "Yeah, but there were in mine. After the second one, my parents threatened to stop letting him come over or they'd kick him out at the door. Had to blame the third hole on me getting drunk."

"Three?" Taeyong reeled, and there was a snort of laughter from beside him — Doyoung no doubt. Taeyong blinked. "Jesus Christ."

Doyoung smiled coyly. "He roughed you up pretty bad." He then paused, tilting his head tauntingly, mockingly, or maybe just out of plain interest. "You didn't fight back."

It wasn't a question, more of a statement of sorts — a recollection of how Johnny had laid there almost waiting for the punches to come, a weak line of defence between his face and hands. Doyoung was right, the three of them knew it; Johnny had let Jaehyun beat him up like that because he felt like he deserved it. And Taeyong knew that Jaehyun had quick reflexes, so fast that it could be unnerving, so the fact that Taeyong had slapped him... It was because Jaehyun had let him. Taeyong wondered if Jaehyun felt the same way — if Jaehyun, too, felt like he deserved it.

Johnny chortled genuinely, "He did rough me up pretty bad." The Alpha waved a hand around his face, and Taeyong made a noncommittal noise from beside him in agreement. The image of watching Jaehyun put Johnny in that position that day... it made him feel odd. A good type of weird, that is. Taeyong believed he may have had a strength kink. "I'll hit him up on or after his birthday maybe, so that the both of us will hopefully use our words."

Johnny had said it with his eyes locked with Doyoung who looked back dryly. Taeyong watched, feeling like some sort of intruder, before he shot up from the chair suddenly, deciding to leave the two to stew in the own moment, playing an awful, first time role at wingman. He had only made it halfway up when a hand held unto his thigh, pulled him back down, and squeezed — the looking in the Beta's eyes conveying the storm of words Doyoung chose not to speak if only to keep up appearances; Don't you dare leave.

Taeyong pouted and made his eyes doe. "That hurts," Taeyong whined, faking just so Doyoung could let go of him and he could bolt again, faster this time. Doyoung must have seen through him, Taeyong had always been a terrible liar, and that was of no secret to anyone — and yet, he let go. Taeyong had an inkling that he'd done it on purpose, maybe his subconscious wanting to stay alone with him when his rationalised mind didn't. Doyoung was only human.

"Sorry, I have a class now." Taeyong tilted his head with a smile so fake that even Johnny could probably see through.

Johnny would never have any complaints, though, because Taeyong was doing him a favour, after all. It was a half lie — he had another ten minutes before his next lecture, but he supposed he could stall or take a trip to the bathroom in the meantime. His love life, or lack thereof, was on pause, an error found in communication that had put it on hold, but that didn't mean he couldn't give Doyoung's a push in what he felt like was the right direction. Taeyong had always been too nosy for his own good.

Taeyong stood up again with no sudden interruptions this time, but as he took one step away from them, Johnny's voice had called him back softly and apologetic. "I'm sorry, Yong, I should have told you before I did that." What he meant was implied — he should have told Taeyong before confronting Jaehyun like that, for God's sake, he should have told him. But he didn't. Johnny wasn't any different from other Alpha's who thought they could make decisions for any helpless Omega in their vicinity.

Taeyong nodded silently. He couldn't change how things went down no matter how much he wanted or wished to.

 

 

 

Taeyong had chosen to go to the bathroom to stall before getting to class. That lecturer didn't seem to like him, and Taeyong attributed it to him having some sort of secondary gender bias because all the Omega's had gotten C's whereas the Beta's and Alpha's had received A's and B's, and it was work he had even spent extra time on after having heard whispered rumours about the woman. He churned over the thought bitterly, how that big and bold letter represented the steady, miserable decline in his life.

God, he threw his head back. He knew he shouldn't let one grade get to him out of a sea of others, but with everything that had been happening to him recently, it was just so... frustrating.

Taeyong breathed out a sigh as he washed and dried his hands, mentally preparing himself to get ready to again visit that same lecture hall. What he hadn't prepared himself at all for, however, was the powerful scent of peach that hit him before the door to the bathroom had even opened. Taeyong stilled, breath catching in his throat and solidifying there as the door to the bathroom swung open to reveal Jaehyun who too had halted his movements at the sight of Taeyong. Taeyong's heart ricocheted in his chest, slamming itself from corner to corner at the sight of the Alpha before him.

Jaehyun hadn't looked much different from a month ago. Or maybe he did. His eyes were sunken in, his hair had been run through one too many times to be considered a deliberate styling choice, and he didn't stand as proud and upright as he always had — but his clothes were pristine and intact, as if any other way, he'd lose whatever semblance of sanity he had left completely. Jaehyun was standing at the door of the bathroom, blocking any and every exit Taeyong had in mind. And the sight was striking, because that was exactly how Taeyong had met him the first two times — in the school and at that first party — but things had changed. The tables had turned.

"Hey," Taeyong said quietly and softly. He wished for his voice to have more strength, but it was the fact that he took initiative that counted.

"Tae," Jaehyun answered, breathing out as his eyes scanned over the Omega.

Taeyong was reciprocating, his gaze landing upon the cheeks that had been painted red in a time that seemed so long ago now compared to the present and where they were. Jaehyun's cheek was unblemished, no sign of faded bruise, or perhaps he had never bruised in the first place — but the slap was harsh, the slap was powerful, and Taeyong's palms had buzzed into his veins and his fingertips for the coming days after.

There was silence between them, like a thick, heavy fog had settled over them, making it hard to breathe. Taeyong, or his instincts — or both — yearned to be closer, and yet, he stood rooted in place. He wanted to touch — he wanted to be touched, he wanted to run his hands over the calluses on Jaehyun's hands and the expanse of his back to pull him closer. It was an urge that his body was trained to do, and Jaehyun had the same thought, seemingly, as he reached out a hand. Taeyong took a shaky step back. Words first.

"We need to talk. I know that now we should... I want.." Jaehyun shut his eyes, words getting lost without a sense of clear direction. Taeyong knew what he was trying to say, but he wanted to hear it from Jaehyun directly. Actions were said to speak louder than words, but without words, those actions meant nothing.

Jaehyun looked him in the eye. "I'm not giving up on you. I won't." There was a power in his words now despite how his body seemed wholly unsure — he knew what he was saying, and it was as if he'd been waiting to say it, those exact words in that exact tone in that exact pace, like a mantra he had practiced over and over, a broken record with no end. Taeyong's heart squeezed painfully. "I'm sorry... But can you..." The aim of his apology was unclear, but they were running out of time. This wasn't the place for it.

"Can you wait for me? Can you give me time, Tae? Just a little bit more of it even when you know I've been fucking selfish with it. Can you...” he trailed off, uncertain. “Will you wait for me?" Jaehyun had asked, but his tone gave off more of a plea, a beg, a cry of help and of desperation.

Taeyong bit his bottom lip. How much time? How much time would he spend waiting? It had taken a month before Jaehyun had spoken these few simple words to him, so how much longer would it take for them to sit down and have that much needed conversation? Taeyong was patient. Taeyong was good at waiting — he had done it all these years. But... but he had done it because there was hope. A younger him was certain of the fact that no matter what happened, they were meant to be. He had never minded the wait because he was so certain of the end result.

Now, at twenty, Taeyong was unsure. He was unsure, and it broke his heart for him to even think that way.

He just wanted his own happy ending.

As an answer danced on the tip of his tongue, fate would have it that the door swung open just in time to cut him off. It was another Alpha at the door, that fact was easily recognisable by their scent — woody and heady — and it was Mark. He hadn't noticed Taeyong at first, just pushed through and focused on Jaehyun as if he'd been looking for him. Whatever was accumulating between Taeyong and Jaehyun was broken, and the overwhelming urge to cry died down, squashed into a container he controlled by putting on a tightly-fit lid. Taeyong put his hand to his chest and let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.

"Yo, Jae, about what you said about my offense, I— oh. What's up, Taeyong?" Mark gave him a respectful nod once he realised the Omega's presence, and the Alpha's body stiffened, most likely having caught whiff of the pheromones doused in the far too small bathroom. Or, at least, it felt far too small for the three of them — like the walls were closing in and locking, making it hard to breathe. Mark hesitated, "Where's Donghyuck?"

Taeyong swallowed down nothing. "At home. He's on school break, so he decided to come visit."

He truly didn't know what Mark sought to gain by asking that question because objectively, it was useless. Donghyuck obviously couldn't stay in the University with him. He'd do nothing but disturb. But maybe Mark had his own reasons, reasons that would only make sense to Mark or other Alphas. It was impossible to figure out how they thought, and yet Taeyong had believed he'd beat that impossibility. It was silly, or funny even, looking back at it — such innocence.

"Oh. Yeah, right," Mark responded before shifting foot to foot awkwardly. Jaehyun remained silent, and Taeyong was reminded from the increased shuffling in the halls that he needed to get to class. His and Jaehyun's conversation could wait for another day — hopefully a day in the foreseeable future so he could mark the date in his heart's calendar and prepare for it for days to come. He wouldn't cry that day. Or maybe that was another lie he told himself. But, he would try.

Silently, Taeyong made his way past them, leaving the Alpha's to their own devices. He could feel Jaehyun's heavy gaze on him as he left, even as he walked through the filled corridors, and as he sat down in class alone. He knew what those eyes meant; expectation.

Taeyong hadn't answered his question.

 

 

 

Bright, white, fairy lights glowed all around them, hung around the trees and on the booths, warming the evening air. Taeyong shifted, adjusting the straps of his wings and sticking out his tongue as he smoothed down his outfit. It was Friday the 13th, the day of the Valentines fair, and he was dressed like an angel courtesy of goddamn Ten. But, it was his fault for not seeing such a thing coming, he should've know Ten was behind it when the last modest cupid's costume had somehow disappeared.

The booth the cheer team was responsible for was a game of archery with love heart targets and cupid decorations. It was Taeyong's break time, so he decided to step out for a bit. Ten was at another separately run kissing booth, Donghyuck had wandered off earlier in the evening, leaving Taeyong alone, to nobody's goddamn surprise, and Doyoung was somewhere around him, he was sure. He was cordial with the girls on his team, but he didn't necessarily want to sit down and talk to them, never one to start conversation with his introversion, and it was just his luck that his phone had died about an hour ago.

Taeyong sighed, walking around aimlessly. It wasn't like he could go home, charge his phone, and come back — the gap in his break was far too small, and the journey to his shared apartment was far too wide. And so, he observed the other stalls as he walked by — the chess club were now selling handmade trinkets, the art club were making caricatures of couples, and the dance club were holding their own display of artistic movement. Taeyong's heart warmed at the sight of all the couples arm in arm with wide smiles and unabashed love swimming in their eyes.

Out of the bountiful couples, one of two female Omegas waved at him, and he waved back shyly — he sat beside her in one of his classes, a chinese transfer called Ningning if he could recall correctly. As the pair walked by him, he felt something tug at his heart sharply — not jealousy, he was sure of it, but something more genuine; perhaps longing, yearning, wanting what they both had for himself. They looked like a happy couple, and they deserved to be.

Didn't he deserve to be?

As Taeyong walked, he came to another stall with water pistols and heart shaped targets, so he slowed down his footsteps. He stopped and bit his lips — there wasn't really anybody at it, and it wouldn't hurt to try. At least, if he lost, he lost to and by himself, so there wouldn't be much disappointment or embarrassment. He took one last glance around before approaching the lone stall worker who was busy scrolling through her phone, a wonky headband with spring hearts attached to her head.

"Um," Taeyong said in an effort to grab her attention. He had nearly chickened out last minute due to her scent — dark and heavy, almost tangy citrus, indicative of a female Alpha, ones often just as intimidating as their male counterparts. But, those were prejudices, and most definitely untrue, so he forced himself to forgo them. "Can I play?" he asked with a voice as nice as he could muster.

Her eyes shot up, and she scanned him for a moment, alerted that she'd practically been snuck up on, before quickly relaxing at the sight of just him. Taeyong didn't know whether to be offended or not. "Sure," she said flatly, not giving Taeyong any more thought as she briefly glanced down at her phone, seemingly occupied. At least she wasn't intimidating, he noted subconsciously, more so bored and impassive than anything. He paid her the amount listed by the side of the stall before picking up the water pistol to play.

"You need to hit five targets to win a small prize.Six for a medium, and seven for a large," she told him before stalking off. He could've run off with the gun, and she wouldn't have cared nor known because she hadn't been there to watch him.

Taeyong drew in a breath, relaxing his shoulders and straightening his back. He pointed the gun at the first heart-shaped target before frowning — were his fingers always this shaky? It must've been the cold. Or the perpetual anxiety. Or both. Whichever came first really because his gut was starting to twist with a bad feeling, and nothing had even happened yet. Perhaps it was the fear or losing, but Taeyong had never really been very competitive in the first place.

Clearing away his thoughts, he furrowed his brows and blinked into focus, aiming for the first one. A stream of water gushed out and... and he missed. He really missed on a child's game, and God was it embarrassing. He snuck a glance at the Alpha in charge of the stall to see if she had noticed his defeat, but she was busy typing furiously on her phone. Huffing a breath, he tried again, successfully hitting the second target. He smiled to himself, proud — he shouldn't have been as satisfied as he was, after all, this was child's play.

He attributed missing the third shot to a phone conveniently ringing just as he pulled the plastic trigger. To nobody's surprise, it was the stall worker again, and she picked it up, anger etched into each corner of her sharp features and tainting them red. Her citrus scent soured, and she gave Taeyong a disinterested glance before going off to shout at whoever on the phone. Taeyong presumed it was a lover's quarrel; a petty fight, a meagre dispute.

Maybe Doyoung was right, as awfully and annoyingly pragmatic as he was, and even if Taeyong didn't like to believe it... maybe half of these couples were meant to break up. It was bad timing for them just as it was for his gun aim, and those were terribly compared parallels. In spite of that one possibly failing relationship, Taeyong still wholeheartedly believed there was love in the air — he could feel it, he could breathe it, he could practically taste it on the tip of his tongue that he had put out in concentration. He pulled back;

Bullseye.

Superstition told him that that was a positive omen. Doyoung was a pessimist, and true love did exist.

"Careful there, miss this one and you lose the prize completely," came a voice as he aimed for the next target. He was thankful that he didn't choose to shoot just then because he had startled back in response, and there was no doubt in his mind that he would have missed. It was by pure luck he had delayed it to be a second later. "What would that have been? Your third one? Three strikes and you're out," they told him, and Taeyong whipped his head around to the voice and the awfully smoky scent, like that of an Alpha, because that was all he seemed to run into these days.

The man's voice was not exactly condescending, but it felt that way. In fact, the man himself made Taeyong feel out of place by his mere presence, like a jigsaw that had been forced into a piece of the puzzle it didn't fit — body tight and forcefully rigid. "Let me help you, doll," he offered with a dazzling smile.

Taeyong was cognizant that in a normal world he should have been jumping at the opportunity; whoever this was seemed friendly — or at least, they were forcing themselves to be — they had somewhat good looks, and they had come to offer him help. It was like a picture perfect scene in a romcom — Taeyong was alone, so was he, and they had happened to meet at a Valentine's fair by chance.

The voice of rationality knew told him that he could perfectly well use this man as some sort of rebound if he wanted to, that he could use this man, who despite initially and currently rubbing him the wrong way, as a rebound if he wanted to get over Jaehyun once and for all — he really could. But, that was the thing, that nagging reminder he had made to himself on New Years day that had made him come this far in the first place and the knowledge that really, he couldn't. Not yet. But, he had that chance — that chance was right in front of him, human and tangible, and yet, he had made no move to seize it.

"It's fine," Taeyong contended, "I don't want help."

The Alpha smiled — no dimples. "Ah, but you need it."

He whistled, looking past Taeyong to the game sitting behind them miserably — it was almost starting to mirror Taeyong's feelings. "Watch," he insisted, taking the water pistol from Taeyong without second thought. Something in Taeyong's chest griped in vexation — this was the problem with Alphas, their insistence that they knew everything, what was best for him, what wasn't. Johnny and Jaehyun had done it too, they all did, and it was beginning to grow utterly infuriating.

Taeyong watched, ticked at the sight of the Alpha getting the next target with one swift, simple shot, boastful in the way he turned back to Taeyong with squared shoulders. Taeyong just wished he would go away. He retrieved his pistol back, eyes hard, and turned away from the Alpha, aiming to shoot precisely before he stilled — there was a body behind him. There was a body behind him touching him — his arm, to mask as helping his aim, and his crotch against Taeyong's ass in a blatant display of harassment.

Taeyong whipped around and pushed him away. The Alpha barely stumbled. "What the hell!"

The Omega's voice was steady in tone but drenched in rising rage. He'd never been touched like that in his life. Not even willingly. There were perverts back im high school that would make passing comments about his body, but they were never so bold, never so brave as to approach him. Taeyong realised it now looking at the smirking Alpha before him — it wasn't because they had respected him, it was because there was an unspoken threat about what would happen if they did. Taeyong didn't have such back up now — not here, not anymore.

"Oh, I'm sorry," the Alpha said, voice dripping with sardonicism as he tilted his head, "did I do something wrong?"

Taeyong narrowed his eyes — the Alpha was openly mocking him. He glanced around, but the area that he was in was empty, and the stall owner had went off a long time ago. Whoever this was must have known it — that he would be alone now. Call it paranoia, but Taeyong had a feeling he was being targeted. Focusing his gaze back on the Alpha who had an exaggerated sorry pout, he breathed in deeply, dousing the heat sparking within him. He could walk away from this, but not without so much as a sincere apology.

"Apologise, and we can both just walk away from this," Taeyong said finally, restraining himself from gritting his teeth — he had a feeling that if he gave the Alpha such a reaction, it'd only egg him on further.

"And if I don't?" he asked, smile wide, the hint of fangs threatening to be unleashed. "What will you do?" The Alpha's eyes flickered down to Taeyong's clenched fists, and he smiled knowingly. "Will you slap me, Taeyong?" Taeyong didn't even register that the stranger knew his name, not when all he could feel was fury itching at his being, waiting to be unleashed. The Alpha stepped forward again tauntingly with his chest puffed out and cricking his neck. He leaned forward to Taeyong with a smile, baring his cheek in an almost submissive display.

"Go ahead."

Taeyong couldn't take it, fingers twitching as he took unsteady breaths. In one, out two — but that was hard to remember when he was being jeered at. Taeyong shut his eyes for a mere moment, but they were shocked open when a hand gripped his jaw and forced him to look forward into the man's eyes — there was something dark swirling in them, thirsting for something Taeyong could never have been able to possibly figure out, and it was as startling as it was unnerving. "Go ahead and do it," he sneered.

Taeyong jerked back out of his iron grip hold and raised his hand, only to be stopped by the call out of a voice; "Chanyeol!"

The Alpha — Chanyeol — swivelled around, and his smile grew impossibly wide, grinning from ear to ear like some cheshire cat that had been gifted a treat. There was still anger pumping in Taeyong's veins undoubtedly, but it was overtaken by confusion, correlation, before it clicked. They must have known each other — he and Jaehyun — and despite him having zero ideas of who it was, he must have known who he was. He had come to Taeyong with a purpose, Taeyong had been right to guess that he was targeting him. Jaehyun knew him, although the look on his face told Taeyong it wasn't a relationship he'd wish to have gotten involved in the first place.

"Step back from him," Jaehyun ordered, approaching them, scent heavy and commanding — so much so that Taeyong himself had almost dropped to his knees and did something as ridiculous as bare his neck. He grounded himself, hands clenched.

"Ah, so I wasn't mistaken," Chanyeol said with the raise of a brow and his lips curled upwards. He glanced at Taeyong. "That's the one isn't it? Your Omega was about to hit me, you know? Feisty thing. I happened to come by and hear the good news and had to pay a visit to the man himself." He moved forward to Jaehyun who had his jaw set hard. Chanyeol clamped a hand on his shoulder and inspected Jaehyun's face in amusement. "It doesn't still sting, does it?" He sucked in a breath between his teeth, whistling, "Looks bad."

Jaehyun shrugged him off, rolling his shoulders back and standing straighter, his eyes flickering between Taeyong and the other Alpha, but settling on Taeyong mainly as if to ask if he was okay before going back to the man who was almost begging for attention with their display. Taeyong went to take a step forward, but the look in Jaehyun's eyes had kept him in place — perhaps Chanyeol was dangerous, perhaps he was a manic bomb waiting to be set off, or perhaps Jaehyun simply didn't want him in harms way. But that would be the Alpha deciding for him, and so Taeyong took the step forward regardless.

"Fuck off, Yeol," Jaehyun said voice calm, but his body language made what he was truthfully feeling all too obvious. His instincts were begging him to punch the man. "You know you're not wanted here."

"Oh, but I didn't come to visit you." Chanyeol tipped his head back and breathed out a laugh. Suddenly, his eyes were back on Taeyong again. "I came to visit him." Chanyeol turned then, completely disregarding Jaehyun who looked like he was mere seconds away from sinking his teeth into his jugular. Chanyeol held out a hand to Taeyong to shake. "Hello, Bubu."

That seemed to have done it — that seemed to have been enough for Jaehyun to lunge at him whilst Taeyong reeled from the use of the name from a mouth so foreign and unfamiliar. Chanyeol knew who he was, he had known this entire time. But, Taeyong snapped to attention at the sight of Jaehyun holding Chanyeol tightly by the collar. The other Alpha had a couple of inches of him, but Jaehyun was thicker, broader, wider, and most importantly; enraged. And there was a small crowd gathering around them now, wondering who would have had such guts to face him.

"Careful there daddy's boy," Chanyeol said but there was an edge to his voice as if it were a secret shared between them — a direct hit to Jaehyun's being.

Whatever it had meant, it must have done something to Jaehyun, because his hand raised and stopped dangerously close to his face, inches away from causing damage, and Taeyong knew Chanyeol wasn't going to stop — the Alpha wasn't trembling, he wasn't afraid, and unlike Johnny, if worse came to worst, it'd be a fair fight. They were evenly matched, and Taeyong wouldn't be able to stand the sight of Jaehyun bloodied even if he won.

Taeyong was two steps away from them, heart pounding in his ears and mind racing in waiting for that inevitable blow. It was the angriest he'd ever seen the Alpha in his life. Jaehyun was going to hit him, and Chanyeol wanted him to... Chanyeol wanted him to. "Jaehyun, don't!" Taeyong was no bystander, and he wouldn't sit back and watch. But, Chanyeol had aims, the Alpha had motives — for Taeyong, it had clicked. "If you hit him you'll get thrown off the team."

The word permanently needn't have been said, and Taeyong hoped Jaehyun understood and realised the implications of those words. If Jaehyun got into trouble, he'd have nothing. Taeyong wasn't with him, his family had never been, and his best friend had betrayed him a long time ago — Jaehyun didn't have anything for him but sport. Jaehyun, even in his bout of anger, seemed to have understood this, but it wasn't enough. The bad blood broiling between them was too thick and too bitter, too ready to erupt, and the mention of repercussions had only made it simmer. It wasn't enough.

"Jaehyun, don't you dare hit him," Taeyong warned, watching as Jaehyun's fist trembled with barely controlled rage, only fueled by the growing smirk on Chanyeol's lips. "I swear to God, if you place your hands on him, I'll leave you here and never spare you another glance in my life." Where the words had come from, Taeyong didn't know. But there was so much firmness in his voice, so much fire, and so much genuine conviction that it had even surprised him. And though his words had slapped him, Taeyong didn't slip from his resolve.

And it was only by God's own miracle that his words had worked.

Jaehyun let go of him, white fist drawn back to his side, and Chanyeol barely stumbled, grounding himself on his feet. There was a countenance akin to disappointment in his features, though masked by mocking amusement. Taeyong stepped in front of Jaehyun before Chanyeol could even have another chance of saying or doing something to set him off, because Taeyong wasn't sure if his words would suffice a second time. It had worked once, but the fact that it had worked at all in the first place... Did he really mean that much to Jaehyun?

"Fuck off," Taeyong spat at him angrily, and Chanyeol stepped back, hands raised in faux surrender.

"Sorry about that, doll," he told Taeyong apologetically. Chanyeol's lips curled upwards then, and his eyes went past Taeyong entirely and zeroed in on Jaehyun behind him. Taeyong had been foolish to think he'd let it go with no last words. "It's a shame you had to get your Omega to defend you. But you've done well for yourself," His eyes momentarily fell back to Taeyong, and a shiver of disgust ran through his spine at the way the Alpha gave him a slow, yet appreciative, once over, "he's cute."

As Chanyeol retreated, so did the few people who had stopped to watch the display. Taeyong breathed out, joints relaxing at his disappearing figure, but not fully — not completely — because Jaehyun's scent was still hot and riled up. Taeyong instinctively released soothing pheromones of his own to dim its power and hopefully settle his spirit.

He shakily turned to Jaehyun then, and his heart clenched at the sight of him — each crevice and crack of his features had hardened, marring it in a way that was unlike him. And so, Taeyong put out a hand to smooth out such terse, blemishing lines. Jaehyun shut his eyes and breathed out as the pads of Taeyong's fingers traced the lines of his eyes and the wisps of his lashes — that exhale had taken out most of what was left inside him, melting the anger away from his skin in small, smooth waves. Taeyong watched, heart warm at the sight of Jaehyun falling pliant beneath his fingertips.

Jaehyun opened his eyes. "Thank you."

Taeyong retracted his hand back, but Jaehyun caught it and kept it in his own, intertwining their fingers. Taeyong's eyes fell on it for a moment, heart bursting from happiness, from pain — it couldn't be deciphered — before asking, "Who was he?"

Jaehyun sighed and used his free hand to run a hand through his hair with his free hand. Taeyong gave the one encasing his palm a reassuring and soft squeeze. "We know each other," Jaehyun began, stating the obvious, "we were on the same team at my last University."

Taeyong frowned, sensing a long winded story behind it, one he purposefully hadn't asked of — now, at least — because they didn't have the time, and the sounds of laughing couples around them and stall games reminded him that it wasn't the place. It was always like that — wrong time, wrong place, things never aligning in his life in a way that they should've.

"He obviously doesn't go here, but I remember his boyfriend does." Taeyong didn't know it was possible to be even more disgusted with someone in his life. Chanyeol had done... he had done that when he already had a boyfriend. If he truly wanted to antagonize Jaehyun through him, there were better or worse ways to go about it. "I didn't expect he'd show up, but then I came and saw him here with you and... I couldn't fucking believe it."

Taeyong had a feeling that that wouldn't have been the extent of Jaehyun's complete anger if he had known what Chanyeol had done to set Taeyong off. Jaehyun looked down at him, sincerity and worry swimming in his eyes. "He didn't touch you, did he?" Taeyong bit his lips but shook his head, no. He'd rather keep the details of the harassment to himself — it would only bring him shame, he knew, if he said it aloud.

"Good." Jaehyun's chest deflated.

Taeyong had started to become acutely aware of having to get back to his job — time had been lost, and he didn't know how long they'd spent there, but it was more than he could find excuses to be accountable for. He could get in trouble for this, but a part of him — a strong, disappointing, yet right part of him didn't want to go yet. Not quite yet. A moment or second more, because time had slithered, slipped, and snaked right through his fingers once again. The wrong time — it was always the wrong time.

"Let's talk now," Jaehyun whispered as if they were the only ones in his world and in his bubble. Taeyong hated to be the one to burst it, because he had been in his for so long.

Taeyong shook his head sadly and rubbed his thumb over the back of Jaehyun's hand, heart fluttering despite himself. Jaehyun had only approached him because of Chanyeol, not because he had sought Taeyong out tonight himself. "I can't, Jae, not now," Taeyong said firmly, and perhaps the firmness in his voice had been too much, because the Alpha has almost winced. Jaehyun held his hand tighter in a silent plea.

Taeyong's voice faded to soft then, meaningful, and slightly pleading. He just wished the Alpha would do the right thing for once. "Listen, Jaehyun, I want to work it out with you — I do — but you keep.. you keep it approaching it wrong, all out of order. First, moving in with you, then this," His last sentence had hit a sore spot, it was clear in the way an indecipherable emotion passed over Jaehyun's eyes — too quick and fleeting for Taeyong to ever catch it. "I just want you to ask me these things when it's not fueled by something else. Because you want to, not because your pride or jealousy wants you to."

Jaehyun looked restless at his words. "Bubu, I do." He put the spare hand to his chest as if to emphasise that he had came looking for Taeyong on his own. Maybe it was true, maybe he had, but Taeyong couldn't be sure of it. All he wanted, first, was to be absolutely sure of it.

Taeyong shook his head sadly. He could no longer meet the Alpha's eyes. "I... I don't believe that. I can't. You haven't given me enough reason to."

Silence loomed over them, stark and weighted, and Taeyong felt tears like pinpricks in his eyes. It had been such a long night, and truly, all he wanted to do was fall into the arms of Jaehyun and sleep away his problems for another night. He wanted to be touched by him, cared for, held. But, they needed words first.

Jaehyun pulled him in, and Taeyong breathed his scent in, savouring it as Jaehyun carded a hand through his hair gently. He could hear the Alpha's heartbeat in his chest falling into an almost erratic rhythm in spite of his calm composure — it was reassuring, somehow, to know that Jaehyun's heart beat for him just as his did.

Suddenly, Taeyong was torn away by his arm. It was Donghyuck angrily holding on and Mark standing almost awkwardly by his side. "Break it up." He turned to Taeyong, annoyance and slight disbelief coating his features. "I leave you alone for one minute and you fucking go— Jesus!" Taeyong blinked at him, regaining himself. He knew Donghyuck was only reacting so strongly because he knew what happened now — vaguely. Donghyuck whipped around to Jaehyun then, pointing an accusatory finger at him. "Stay away from him."

"Er, yeah, man. Not cool," came Mark's voice from beside him. He didn't know what or how much Donghyuck had spilled from his mouth and told him, but it was embarrassing for Taeyong to know that a practical stranger was privy of his secrets.

"Let's go," Donghyuck ordered without letting Taeyong, nor Jaehyun himself, get a word in. It felt like their world had been ripped apart by Donghyuck and Mark's intrusion. Donghyuck only cared for him, in his own volatile, non-affectionate, Donghyuck way, but he didn't want such care — not now, at least. Taeyong ripped his arm away from him before Donghyuck could drag him away completely with an out-of-place Mark by his side.

Jaehyun hadn't seen his actions coming, Taeyong hadn't either, and yet, when Taeyong ran to him, cradled the Alpha's face in his hands, and placed a chaste kiss to the corner of his lips — a secret told in the dark — it was as if it was bound to happen. It was something that was meant to occur in the course of their lives — that exact moment, that exact exchanged, lingering, longing, and yearning look in the dark of the night and the glow of fairy lights. It was in the course of destiny that Taeyong had whispered on the edge of his lips, a soft and early happy birthday.

Jaehyun had grabbed his hand then before he could fully get away — before that could be the end of something that had barely even begun. His words were velvet;

"Will you wait for me?"

Taeyong nodded at him before his departure, mouthing a silent, honest, and faithfully true I will.