“Whoa, dude! Everything’s so beautiful! Look at that!”
Mark Lee was excitedly taking photos of everything on his camera phone, arching this way and that in the backseat of the taxi to capture the best angles. Indeed, everything was beautiful, and just as Jaemin remembered.
Jaemin and Mark had gotten off the plane together hours ago, dressed in impeccable outfits that weren’t necessarily the most practical for their destination but were nonetheless stylish as hell, complete with fancy sunglasses, shoes and accessories. Now after a decent amount of time spent in the taxi, all that was surrounding them were long, sprawling fields of green and yellow farmland amidst clusters of luscious greenery. The sun was out and blazing above them, casting its generous glow on the sparse lands beneath. There were crop fields and even rice fields, spread out all around them in the perfect image of agricultural beauty.
Indeed, this was what Jaemin once called home. Yet it all felt so foreign now.
For years now, Jaemin had been practicing as a general surgeon overseas in a big metropolitan city. Every day, he would be dealing with the pressures and expectations of his job, as well as the society which he had been so well amalgamated into for so long now. He’d forgotten what it was like to live without feeling stressed every day, without feeling like he was constantly racing against time, always trying to outdo himself, constantly trying to distract himself by working even harder.
And just when he felt like he’d reached his limit, he’d received some news from his family—a neighbour Granny whom he had been very close to when he was younger had suddenly fallen ill. Apparently, in the midst of her delirium, she had somehow remembered his name, and asked if he was still doing well after he'd left so many years ago to pursue his studies.
Though at first reluctant to return to a place he’d neglected for so long, Jaemin decided it must’ve been a sign. He would be doing a good deed, and it would be a break anyway. And so he promptly called up his close friend Mark Lee (a relatively well-known writer who could always use new sights and experiences for inspiration, and luckily happened to be free for a few weeks), and decided he would set out on a journey.
Now that he was getting closer and closer to his destination, Jaemin was feeling that regretful feeling surge up more and more.
He felt Mark poke him in the arm. “Yo, why you look so glum, man?” he said. “We’re about to go on the rustic vacation of our dreams! Everything is so nice!”
Jaemin scoffed. “You get to do that. You’re not the one who has history here.”
“Ghosts of the past, huh?” Mark said in interest, scooching closer to Jaemin. “Break a few hearts in your teenage years or something? As expected, Dr. Na.”
“Not...exactly...?” Jaemin said. “But when you leave the place you lived for all your life in the middle of the night without telling anyone it’s bound to…upset a few people.”
Mark’s eyes widened. “You did that? You never told me that!”
Jaemin shrugged. “I wanted to be a surgeon. I'd gotten into the program and I had better chances overseas, and out of this place.”
“But not telling anyone? ”
“Just a few very close adults here and there, to get their blessings. But yeah, none of my similar-aged friends knew.”
Mark blinked at Jaemin. “Dang…if I had been your friend I’d probably hate you for life. Not to mention the trust issues.”
Jaemin glared at him. “Thanks for the reassurance,” he said sarcastically.
Mark slumped back into his seat. “But seriously, not even one friend? There wasn’t a single person special enough for you to even consider telling them?”
“Well…” Jaemin hesitated. “...no.” He finally concluded. “No, I guess there wasn’t. Because in the end I didn’t tell anyone.”
But even as the words escaped his lips, he knew that it wasn't entirely the truth.
For there had been one person who had been very special to him a long time ago.
The one person who was subconsciously and probably the true reason why he’d dreaded coming back for so long.
~ the past ~
The rain was pouring hard that day.
It was the season after all, and it had been very plentiful this year, showering their crops and blessing them with a fruitful harvest.
On that torrential afternoon, two youths ran through the muddy roads, jackets held over their heads in a futile attempt to shield themselves from the relentless downpour.
"Over here!" one of the boys yelled at the other, before dragging him underneath a large tree that provided decent cover for the time being.
"We're going to get sick at this rate," a young Na Jaemin nagged worriedly, reaching out towards the other boy who teasingly dodged his touch. "YAH, LEE JENO!" Jaemin raised his voice, upper teeth grazing his lips. "Stay still!"
"What? What are you gonna do?" the other boy taunted. He promptly curled up his body and let out a cry of pain when Jaemin's fingers latched onto his arm and twisted.
"I said stay still!" Jaemin repeated, reaching up towards Jeno’s face. “Your face is dripping wet, it’s so unsightly!”
“Yours is too!” Jeno protested. But still, he obediently let Jaemin dab away gently as his face, the back of his palms brushing against his cheeks and forehead. Gradually, Jeno’s face softened, into that gentle and comforting expression that Jaemin had grown so accustomed to for so long.
Lee Jeno and Na Jaemin had been together for as long as they could remember. Born only a few months apart in the same small village, they’d grown up together, went to school together and even spent their free time together. And yet somehow they never grew tired of each other, and their personalities alone seemed to be a match made in heaven. In fact, they were so attached at the hip that the villagers often dubbed them “figure and shadow”, as you would rarely see one boy without seeing the other. They were together so often that some villagers even mixed up their names sometimes.
The moment Jaemin took his hand away from Jeno’s face for a second, he suddenly let out a sneeze and a shudder.
“I knew it! You’re already cold!” Jaemin said in concern. “We shouldn’t have stayed late today...” He let out a sign as he raised his hand again.
To his surprise, Jeno’s face melted into a soft smile. Jeno suddenly grabbed the wrist of his raised hand and pressed the palm fully into his now warmed cheeks.
“You’re so caring to everyone,” he said softly. “You really are the mom friend.”
Jaemin was stunned for a second, but quickly recovered. “Tch, who would want a son like you?” he spoke as he snatched his wrist back. He yelped when he suddenly felt a pair of strong arms wrap around his waist and pull him into a back hug.
“Let go!” Jaemin nagged, playfully slapping the arms around him. “You’re all wet!”
Jeno nuzzled his hair and face under Jaemin’s jaw, completely neglecting his protests.
"Why?!” Jaemin complained.
“Cause I like you, Na Jaemin,” Jeno pouted. “I like you a lot. Let’s always be like this.”
Jaemin sighed, finally settling down as he rolled his eyes. “I like you too, stupid,” Jaemin said. “And it’s not like I have anywhere to go. So if you’re here, I’ll be here, and it’ll always be like this.”
Jeno laughed, his eyes forming into those pleasant little crescents that everyone loved so much. “That’s true, so don’t leave me, ok?”
Jaemin smiled in response. He didn’t know anything at the time, but there had been such a warm, comfortable feeling in his chest. Even despite the downpour and humid weather, it remained one of the most pleasant feeling memories he retained from his late childhood.
“Don’t worry,” Jaemin had said, ruffling Jeno’s wet hair like a dog. “I won’t leave you alone. Ever. I promise.”
Jaemin sighed at the memory. They’d been so young back then, so innocent, saying things like children were able to, without thinking about any consequences. Overwhelmed by the surge of nostalgia, he realized the freedom and easiness of life back then was a stark contrast to how his life had been in the recent years.
He hadn’t seen or heard from Lee Jeno at all since he’d left. For all he knew, Jeno might not even be here anymore, or had long moved on in one way or another.
But there wasn’t any more time for contemplation. The taxi had reached the furthest point it could go as there were no direct vehicular roads leading to the village—they would have to trek the rest of the way.
“You know, it would’ve been nice for you to warn me about this,” Mark griped slightly, as he lugged along two bags and a suitcase that wasn't meant for rolling on the dirt paths that were barely paths in the first place
Jaemin shrugged, one hand in his pocket, the other nonchalantly swiping around his phone to see if he could get a roaming signal.
“I did tell you to pack light,” Jaemin said simply.
He missed the devastating glare Mark threw at him. "That means nothing when you say it,” he said. Jaemin, by habit, never liked to bring much with him when he traveled. Even when he knew he was going to a small, overseas, rural farming town without many extravagant amenities, all he brought was his phone, his passport, headphones and the sunglasses on his face.
“You like good challenges, and you’re strong,” said Jaemin. “It’s like I already planned this vacation for you. Don’t say I never think of you.”
They walked a while longer. The dirt path gradually widened and the surrounding trees eventually opened up into the sprawling fields they’d seen when they drove by. In the distance, the small and comfy looking farmhouses were few and sparsely placed. There was no one to be seen—it was one of the hottest hours of the day after all. All the farmers would’ve gotten their work done during the cooler hours of the morning.
Something ached within Jaemin’s chest, as he gazed about the open landscape. What had once been his home, the place he’d left his youth behind…it was almost exactly as he remembered it.
Mark surged up beside Jaemin with a sudden burst of energy despite his heavy luggage.
“All right, people! Where the village cuties at?!” he yelled excitedly in English, shielding his eyes with his hand and pretending to eagerly look around.
Jaemin gave his friend an unpleasant look. “Did the heat get to your head or something? Since when did you care about stuff like that? Don’t tell me…” The look turned suspicious. “Is that why you came with me?”
“What? No!” Mark retorted. “But…a guy can dream.”
Jaemin raised an eyebrow. “Mark Lee secretly wants a small town romance? Now that’s new.”
Mark waved his head dismissively. “I was just joking around,” he said. “I mean, come on. Who are you going to find in a farming village like this? A bunch of cute aunties and uncles and grannies. Maybe some cuter animals. But I know this isn’t exactly a Saturday night downtown. I just…couldn’t help painting a nice little story in my head.”
“How dare you underestimate the people of this village? I’m from this village!” Jaemin snapped back at once.
Mark grinned. “Fair point, Dr. Heartthrob."
Jaemin tsked. "No work talk here." He snapped as they continued walking. "Anyways, we should be getting to our accommodation soon…”
They trudged on for a bit longer, before reaching a smaller cluster of houses beneath a decent shade of trees. It was the first sign that people were actually around: there were small pets running around, and even a few little faces of children popping out here and there, shyly curious at the sight of the flashy strangers. The heartache was getting harder and harder for Jaemin to ignore—this was his home, and it was so familiar. Yet he had abandoned it for so long.
“Where are all the adults?” Mark said, looking this way and that.
“Probably resting, or doing chores inside,” Jaemin said. “Let’s keep going. If anything, we can just ask someone.”
“Are they even gonna recognize you?” Mark asked pointedly.
Jaemin shrugged. “Probably not. And that’s for the better. But I think some of them do know I’m coming.” He walked on, completely unbothered.
Mark scrunched his nose. “You can really be so carefree when it comes to things like this…”
They made it to another clearing, this time spread with open fields waiting to be tilled and tended over to. At that moment, Mark suddenly tugged on the sleeve of Jaemin’s expensive blazer.
“Hey, look! There’s someone over there in the distance!” he said suddenly, pointing to a lone figure in the distance. Despite the extreme heat, this person appeared to be hunched over and working diligently.
Jaemin’s eyes widened. “Wait, Mark. Don’t just—!”
But it was too late. Mark had abandoned his bags and started running. He was already several metres ahead. In shoes that weren’t exactly meant for this terrain, Jaemin hurriedly stumbled after his friend, doing his best to catch up.
“Stop! Mark!” he called desperately.
But then, when Mark had gotten decently close to the lone farmer, he abruptly froze in his steps. At that point, Jaemin finally caught up to him, breathing heavily as he grabbed him by the shoulder.
“What the hell, man?” he said. “Are you seriously malfunctioning from the heat? You can’t just bother people who are trying to do their work!"
“Well, that’s…” Mark mumbled slowly, his tone impressed as his eyes remained fixated on the figure in the distance. “If things weren't hot enough before…”
Jaemin was about to chastise Mark again when he decided to follow his gaze towards the direction of Mark’s nod.
He practically tore the sunglasses off his own face.
The farmer was a male around their age, head facing downwards as he worked diligently on tilling the fields. It was all repetitive and extremely hard work. But it wasn’t his ardent efforts that were scintillating. Whether it was due to the relentless heat or simply because of his personal habits, the farmer wasn’t wearing a shirt.It was simply impossible not to stare. He had a body that looked as if it had been carved by the gods itself. His narrow waist and defined back were the nearest thing to perfection. Rippling, firm muscles moved beneath the perfect, unblemished skin that was slightly sun-kissed due to the nature of his life. Sweat dripped from the strands of black hair framing his face, as well as glistened on every inch of his exposed body as a result of his arduous work. And his face…
As if Na Jaemin could ever forget that face.
Jaemin felt that uncomfortable lurch in his chest. The face might be a bit older now, but it was still as eye-catchingly handsome as it had always been. If anything, it had become more handsome.
The delicate eyes, the firm jaw line, the gentle mouth…
It was Lee Jeno.
He hadn’t left. He was still here.
“Damn. If that doesn't make you ache for home I don't know what would,” Mark said with a grin.
Jaemin immediately snapped out of his reluctant memories and glared at Mark. “Yah, what’s with your priorities, all of a sudden, Mark Lee?”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not into him or anything. Not like that at least,” Mark clarified, holding his hands out. “But, I must say, he’s certainly someone a person would describe as ‘objectively and unarguably attractive, by any standards’, if you know what I’m saying...”
But Jaemin hadn’t registered a single convoluted thing Mark had said. His eyes had gone back to Jeno’s figure working in the distance, a turmoil of confused thoughts and mixed emotions whirling through his brain.
But wow…he’s really… Jaemin couldn’t help gulp at the thought, as he grazed his eyes over Jeno. He’s really grown up very well…too well…
“Bro, you okay?” Mark said suddenly. He glanced back at the farmer boy, then back at Jaemin. A sly grin gradually cracked onto his face, upon seeing Jaemin’s fixated expression. “...don’t tell me you’re—”
“It’s not like that,” Jaemin interjected, squeezing his eyes shut in annoyance. “It’s…I know him. Or at least I used to know him.”
Mark’s attention was fully captured. “So like one of the friends you next-level ghosted and went no contact on for like the past decade?”
Jaemin grimaced. “Yeah…”
“Oh man, that’s gotta be awkward,” Mark lamented. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone running over…”
Jaemin shot him a glare. “Ya think?”
Mark raised his hands defensively. “I’m sorry! How was I supposed to know? I really hope you guys weren’t that close or anyth—oh shit, Jaemin, I think he noticed us. He’s coming over!”
Mark grabbed Jaemin’s shoulder and spun him in the direction he was facing, and sure enough, Lee Jeno was staring straight at them. Dabbing at the sweat on his chiseled chin, he was headed straight towards them, still clutching his farming tools.
“Quick, Mark Lee! Hide me!” Jaemin whispered harshly, putting his sunglasses back on and ducking uselessly behind his companion.
“What the heck do you want me to do?!” Mark replied in panic.
But the hot farmer was already upon them. He was less than a few metres away, quickly approaching the Mark and Jaemin who, not only looked extremely out of place in their designer airport fits, were also acting extremely questionable.
"Hey! Did you guys need help?" asked the shirtless young man. His tone was kind and accommodating, and matched perfectly with his gentle, handsome face. In fact, his entire aura was quite calm and approachable.
"Uhhh, yes? Kind of?" Mark answered awkwardly, arms brandished to try and cover the not-very-subtle Jaemin.
The farmer gave the crouched over figure a quizzical look. "What's with your friend? Is he allergic to the sun or something?"
"Um, yes?" Mark was no longer trying at this point. "We’re visiting, and we just need to find the place we're going to be staying at…which he knows and I don't." Mark concluded tiredly.
"Huh?" Jeno blinked in confusion.
"You know what, I'm done," Mark said suddenly. "It's way too hot for this." Mark abruptly moved away from Jaemin before practically shoving him towards Jeno.
Jaemin, who was stumbling towards Jeno, was about to unleash everything he had onto Mark. "Mark Lee, you absolute motherf—"
"Na Jaemin?! Is that you?"
Jaemin froze up, his entire body stiffening as he slowly turned towards Jeno. Through his now tilted sunglasses, he could very clearly see Jeno’s face.
The eyes, the nose, the lips, even the beauty mark under his right eye. They were all so handsome and pleasant to look at up close, even with a stricken expression of disbelief laden on it.
It was Jeno. It was really Lee Jeno. The same boy who had been so important in his past.
Whom he had abandoned without a second thought.
He felt that pain in his chest again. Guess Mark Lee was right on about that heartache…
“Jaemin? That’s really you, right?” Jeno said again, stepping closer. Subconsciously, Jaemin shrunk away. “Have you really come back after all this time?” Jaemin sensed that perhaps Jeno was trying to look somewhat angry, but instead it came out more like a wounded puppy.
“Uhh…” Jaemin faltered. Never in his life had been at such a complete loss for words. Don’t look into his eyes. Jaemin told himself. Whatever you do, don’t look into his eyes.
At that moment, Mark Lee, who had finally realized something was off again, stepped forward next to Jaemin, exuding a slightly protective aura for his friend.
Jeno noticed it at once. “Who’s this guy?” he asked, gesturing to the person he’d never seen before in his life.
“I’m…er…” Mark frantically turned to Jaemin and dropped his voice to a whisper. “What do you want me to be? Say the word and I’ll do it.”
“Uh…” Jaemin repeated, deeply considering his options.
“Na Jaemin, answer me!” Jeno demanded in a firm tone that was still so familiar despite all this time.
“He’s my boytoy!” Jaemin replied instinctively, flustered.
“WHAT?!” Mark and Jeno said at once.
“Bro, you could’ve just said best friend or boyfriend but you went with that?!” Mark chided, flabbergasted.
“You said anything!” Jaemin retorted, his voice becoming twisted. "I was under pressure!"
“Fine! But you’re explaining this one on your own!”
“What—what are you guys saying?!” Jeno interjected, stepping much closer to the both of them.
“Hey, put a shirt on man, you’re so distracting!” Mark complained out of nowhere, holding his hands up.
“Be quiet, boytoy!” Jaemin snapped.
“Don’t call me that!” Mark wailed.
“Would the both of you just calm down and tell me what’s going on—”
“ Jeno-yahhhhhhhH~ !” a high-pitched, whiny voice suddenly resonated from a distance, catching the attention of all three men.
Then it sounded again, almost like a siren. “Jeno-yahhhhhhh!”
A boyish young man suddenly burst out from over the hill, hair bouncing and expression blazing as he barreled straight towards them, arms outstretched. He was dressed in a loose baggy t-shirt and shorts that he’d rolled tight all the way up onto his thighs. He had a gorgeous head of brown, silky hair which bounced as ran, framing his small and pretty face. His long, tan legs stretched out to his bare feet, which gracefully traversed over the grass and dirt of the land as he ran.
“Jenoooo~!” he called again. “It’s time to head back! We need the veggies, we’re getting ready for lunch!”
As he got closer to the person he was looking for, he realized that Jeno was not alone.
“Oh? New people?” he asked as he approached them, his lips forming into a cute, plump O-shape.
For some reason, Mark Lee, of all people, was the one who stepped up.
“Oh hey, are you from here?” Mark asked, with a strange glimmer in his eyes.
He promptly received a smack on the chest from Jaemin. “He's obviously from here, you idiot. Where else would he be from?”
“I’m a little busy right now, Donghyuck,” Jeno said, his voice unusually cold. “Turns out we have some newcomers…or should I say an old friend.”
The boy called Donghyuck squinted his eyes briefly at the group, before widening in shock.
“Na Jaemin?! Is that you?!!!” he screeched. “Oh my god, I thought you were dead!”
Jaemin glared at him. “Shut up, Donghyuck. You're literally one of the people who knew I was coming."
"True, but anybody who gives me the silent treatment for that long is considered dead to me,” Donghyuck replied snarkily.
Jaemin sneered, crossing his arms. “I see you’re still a bitch after all this time.”
Donghyuck returned the provocative look. “And I see you still exude that selfish, cold wench-like energy no matter what you do.”
Jeno interrupted as he shoved in between them. “You knew he was coming?” he addressed Donghyuck. “Why didn’t you say anything to me?”
The snide look immediately disappeared from Donghyuck’s face.
“I…well…” he stuttered, at a sudden loss for words. He took a glance at Jaemin. Then he dropped his voice a little as he leaned towards Jeno.
But soon enough, Jeno and Donghyuck both straightened up again, as they turned to address their visitors.
Donghyuck cleared his throat, and spoke on behalf of both of them. “Um…we should probably get going then?” he said. “You guys are staying with us by the way. We’re actually getting lunch ready right now too so if you want to join…”
“Are you good at cooking?” Mark blurted out of nowhere, his question directed at Donghyuck. Jaemin narrowed his eyes in confusion—since when was Mark standing next to Donghyuck?
Donghyuck looked at Mark with interest. “Oh, I don’t believe we’ve introduced ourselves to each other?” Donghyuck said, with a pure smile that Jaemin thought was awfully misleading. “My name is Donghyuck, Lee Donghyuck. I’m one of Jeno’s friends in the village here. I assume you’re Jaemin Na’s friend?”
“Yeah,” Mark said, with a grin, eyes completely fixated on Donghyuck. “My name’s Mark Lee...or I guess, Lee Mark. I’m a writer from overseas. Jaemin’s my best buddy.”
“Oh, so you’re a foreigner…” Donghyuck said, his tone mysterious. Jaemin watched as he grazed over Mark from head to toe with his large doe-like eyes.
“So you’re just his friend, after all,” Jeno interjected out of nowhere, directing his question as Mark.
“Yes,” Mark said immediately, still staring at Donghyuck even though he was talking to Jeno.
“So much for maintaining a cover for me,” Jaemin mumbled under his breath.
“Your name is Mark Lee?” Donghyuck was saying. “That’s such a cute name! It really rolls off the tongue.”
“It sounds really good coming off of your tongue,” Mark mumbled quietly. At the time, Jaemin thought he misheard it.
But Donghyuck was too busy talking to notice. “You have an interesting job. What do you write by the way?”
“Books… and stuff,” Mark replied dumbly.
“Do you ever write about people?”
“Yes, of course.”
“What kind of people?”
“Um…this is all a bit abrupt…”
Donghyuck’s eyes glinted playfully. “Oh, you’re hesitating. Does this mean you write about naughty things you can’t talk about in public?”
Mark blushed. “What? No! I—”
“Relax, I'm just kidding,” Donghyuck said, his smile melting into an easy laugh.
Mark turned redder. Again, at the time, Jaemin attributed it to him being under the sun too long.
Donghyuck suddenly latched onto Mark’s arm, his bright eyes blazing happily. “Come with me! I’ll show you how we do things here in the village.”
“O-ok,” Mark replied at once, his feet already moving to follow Donghyuck.
Jaemin moved faster than he had in his entire life.“Oh no, you don’t!” he yelped all of a sudden, as he sprang out and clutched onto Mark’s other arm. Upon realizing that he’d done something relatively strange, he promptly said: “I need you to help, uh, carry the stuff, Mark! Stay with me. Donghyuck, we’ll meet up with you later!”
Before Mark could protest, Donghyuck had already let go of his arm. “Um…okay, whatever. It’s the house on the left underneath the little grove. Across the river! You’ll see us there!” He nodded at Jeno. “Let’s go, Jeno. Bring all the food!”
And then Donghyuck was already running back the way he came, leaving the three of them behind. Jaemin waited for Jeno to follow Donghyuck, but he wouldn’t. In fact, it seemed as if he was trying to get Jaemin’s attention again.
“Hey, Jaemin,” he called.
“You better get going,” Jaemin replied without looking at him. “Donghyuck needs your help.”
“Jaemin,” Jeno called again. “Did you…did you want to…say anything? Before we go?”
Jaemin turned his head away. He knew that if he looked up now, it would only make things more difficult. Later. I’ll deal with it later.
“Not particularly, right now,” Jaemin said weakly. In the corner of his eyes, he thought he saw Jeno’s shoulder deflate a little.
“Fine, I’ll get going then,” Jeno replied. His tone felt so forlorn.
And then he was gone, leaving the two outsider friends behind.
“Dude, what the hell was that?” Mark said suddenly, shaking his arm free.
“What do you mean?” Jaemin retorted saltily. “You were about to leave me alone with the one person I cannot be alone with!”
“Yeah, but why?!” Mark retorted. “He didn’t seem like a particularly bad guy. Of course I don’t know what happened in your past but that whole exchange was…uncomfortable as hell.”
Jaemin exhaled in annoyance. “You’re uncomfortable? Imagine how I feel.”
Mark gave his friend a look. “Jaemin, it’s obvious you’re trying to avoid him. Something big must’ve happened for you to act like this.”
Jaemin let out another sigh. “I knew coming back was a bad idea.”
“So, you gonna tell me or what?”
“It’s…it’s very complicated,” Jaemin answered. “I was holding onto the hope that he’d completely forgotten about me or that he was in another place by now. Who would’ve thought he also stayed here all this time…”
And seems to still remember me so vividly as well…
Jaemin heard some rustling beside him. When he looked back up, Mark was sitting underneath the shade of a tree nearby. He gestured to the space on the grass beside him.
“We’ve got some time,” Mark said calmly. “Let’s hear it.”
Jaemin hesitated. But then he saw the expression of his close friend, ever so earnest and so eager to listen. Just like always.
He made his way over to Mark.
~ the past ~
It would’ve been more unnatural if feelings hadn’t developed.
Like a fire too close to a haystack, it was only a matter of time before everything was lit aflame. And that’s exactly how it was for Jeno and Jaemin. They grew up together through middle school and high school. They were just too comfortable, too good to one another. Gradually, the mutual fondness and overwhelming chemistry translated into a different kind of affection, bringing forth numerous questions that plagued Jaemin’s early high school years.
It started off as a crush at first. Jaemin, and his best friend Jeno, who was handsome and looked after him well, and who had a smile that was comforting and warm. He reciprocated the kindness as much as he could, and it was his way of keeping Jeno next to him, without confessing to anything at all. And for a long time, Jaemin had been quite content with it being this way. Just him standing comfortably next to Jeno, exchanging sweet smiles and soft words which may or may not have suggested something more.
It wasn’t long before other people started noticing Jeno’s many attractive qualities. He would always help the neighbour with their chores, he would work harder than anyone else their age in the village, and he had a shy yet gentle personality that everyone in their small village adored. And then, as Jeno gradually started spending more time helping out the others, he would have a little less time now and then to spend with Jaemin.
It wasn’t until their last year of high school that Jaemin was feeling somewhat irritable about it. Jeno likely had no indication that anything was the matter, other than that Jaemin was unusually moody at times. Jaemin had never explicitly said anything, except for a few passive-aggressive comments here and there once in a while. They were merely teenagers after all, and communication and sensible thinking wasn’t exactly their strong suit.
Jaemin still remembered the exact day that triggered everything else, that led to their lives being the way it was now.
He remembered seeing the letter on his desk. It was a letter of acceptance to a prestigious program on full scholarship for an overseas university. He’d applied on a whim, but somehow had gotten it. At the time, he was convinced that he would simply turn it down, and it was something he’d done just for fun, to see his capabilities.
They didn’t have classes that day, so Jaemin went to find Jeno in the late afternoon when he knew he would be done with his work. As he approached the steps to Jeno’s house, he abruptly heard the sound of Jeno’s mother and aunt speaking from within.
“Oh, they were so classy! And look at the quality of these gifts!” one of them was saying.
“Just imagine how good it would be for the family if the marriage actually goes through!” the other was cooing,
Jaemin swallowed, frozen from where he was standing. Marriage? With…?
“Jeno actually looks very good with her as well! They make such a picturesque couple! Ugh, and can you imagine how beautiful their children would be?!”
“Yes, yes! We have to talk with Jeno more about it! I'm sure he'd agree! He seems so fond of her already!”
Jaemin found that he was slumped against the outer wall of the house. For reasons he couldn’t understand, his heart felt like it was sinking all the way down his chest, and he felt uncomfortable all over. He clenched and unclenched his hands nervously, trying to keep his breath calm.
Jeno…married? Married to…to…
Somehow, he realized he always knew this day would come. But now that it was finally here, it was so much worse than he thought it would be.
“Hmm? Jaemin? Are you okay? What are you doing out here?”
Jaemin looked up. Jeno was suddenly standing right in front of him. His tools were slung over his shoulder, and he’d just returned from the fields. He had the most concerned look in his eyes, after seeing Jaemin who was completely pale in the face.
“Jaemin, what’s wrong?” Jeno repeated. He immediately dropped his stuff and rushed over to his side.
“Nothing,” Jaemin breathed, turning away from Jeno. He didn’t want to look at him, knowing that it would stir up his emotions even more.
But at the time, Jeno had much more sway over Jaemin. He immediately grabbed Jaemin’s hand.
“Come on, let’s get out of here for a bit,” Jeno said softly. Obediently, Jaemin was dragged to his feet before he followed Jeno out away from the cluster of houses. They walked quickly until they reached a few large trees on top of a hill on the outskirts of the fields. It was only the two of them out there, sitting underneath the shade.
Jeno offered Jaemin his flask of water as he sat down next to him. “Here, do you need this?”
“I’m good,” Jaemin declined, arms wrapping around his knees as he curled in on himself. He gazed out onto the horizon, doing his best to find peace in the beautiful scenery of his home. The sun was about to set, casting a now gentle hue on everything around them.
He suddenly felt Jeno nudge him with his foot. He looked up to see Jeno looking at him, his expression so soft and kind like always.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Jeno asked softly, as he moved closer to Jaemin. “You gonna tell me or what?”
Jaemin sighed, trying to collect himself. “It’s…fine. It’s nothing. I was just…overreacting.”
“It might help to speak your feelings sometimes, you know,” Jeno said pointedly. “Instead of bottling everything up and taking it out on your friends without little quips here and there.”
Jaemin was stunned. “You…noticed that?”
Jeno grinned. “Of course I did, I’m your best friend.”
Jaemin was silent at that. He turned away again, the pessimistic thoughts murking his mind once again.
“Best friends, huh?” he murmured. “Is that what we are?”
Jeno was quiet for a second, before he burst out into a little laugh. “What’s with you today, Na Jaemin? You’re being all strange. Of course we’re best friends. Isn’t that obvious? Did you need a verbal confession or something?"
Jaemin flinched when he suddenly felt Jeno grab his hand. He turned to be hit with the full impact of that eye smile that had become so famous within their village recently.
"We've been together for so long," Jeno said brightly. "And that's not gonna change anytime soon."
Jaemin faltered. "Together…" he said quietly. "But these days…we're not."
"Huh, what do you mean?"
"I mean…you say I'm your best friend, but these are things you do for everybody recently, aren't they?"
Jeno's smile disappeared, replaced with a look of genuine concern. "I'm…not sure what you're talking about…"
Jaemin sighed. "I get it, Jeno. It's not like I have to be special or anything. You should also see other people…"
Jeno was silent for a moment, trying to process what Jaemin was saying. At last, he seemed to understand.
"Jaeminnie…I don't do this for anybody," he said softly. "Do you see me trying to comfort anyone else right now?"
"How would I know?" Jaemin grumbled. "It's not like it's my business."
Jeno chuckled softly. "You've always made it your business. I've always been your business."
"How dare you accuse me of such things?" Jaemin scowled at once. "There are huge things that I keep to myself precisely because I don't want to get into your business!"
"What things?" Jeno asked suddenly.
The full brunt of Jeno's earnest, captivating eyes were too much for Jaemin to handle. He turned away flustered. "N-nothing! I already said–"
His breath hitched in his throat when he finally looked back, feeling that Jeno had moved even closer to him.
When did he get so close? Jaemin thought. And Lee Jeno, why did you always have to look so..like that?
"Jaemin," Jeno said, his voice firm yet somehow still soft. "Is there something you've been hiding from me?"
Jaemin was stunned. "N-no. I—"
"If it makes you feel any better, I've been guilty of keeping things from you as well."
Jeno leaned even closer, his hair falling nicely onto his eyes. Jaemin's best friend was so handsome, people always said, and it was so true.
The tiniest smile crept onto Jeno's lips.
"Do you think, perhaps…" He spoke slowly, patiently. "The things we're hiding from each other could be similar?"
Jaemin's heart skipped a bit. At that moment, another cool late afternoon breeze floated by, changing the mood into something ever so sentimental and delicate. He found he could not look away from Jeno, and his body was reacting wildly to the possible implication.
Could it be…?
"Jeno…" Jaemin's voice had gotten even softer, timid almost, which was quite unlike him. "I don't think I can…"
"Can't what?" Jeno's eyes were so encouraging, as if there truly could be no consequences.
"I…you're my best friend—"
"—and I can't just get in the way of your life."
Jaemin felt Jeno's grip on his hand tightened.
"Na Jaemin," Jeno spoke firmly. "You are a part of my life. And you always will be."
The kind and precious words were too much for a young Jaemin with so many naive and turbulent emotions to handle. He let his impulses take over.
Without thinking too much, Jaemin surged forward and closed the small distance between them, grabbing Jeno's jaw before capturing Jeno's lips with his own. He saw his best friend's eyes widened at first from the shock, but then they melted into a close simultaneously as his lips softened into Jaemin's.
For a moment, it felt so right, so sweet, so perfect, as if they should've done this a long time ago.
But then Jaemin started hearing other people's voices in his head. Voices that told him he should stop. Voices that said he wasn't good enough. Voices that said Jeno deserved better.
"I'm sorry!" Jaemin yelped as he suddenly pushed Jeno away with a gasp.
Jeno tried to calm him down. "What's wrong, Jaemin? It's not—"
"I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have done that!" Jaemin was practically gasping, scrambling to his feet. "I don't know what came over me!"
"Jaemin, calm down, it's fine!" Jeno said, trying to grab ahold of him again. But Jaemin was flailing around too much.
"This is wrong, this is all wrong," Jaemin said suddenly. "I regret it completely."
Jeno's expression faltered. "What? What are you saying?"
Jaemin finally met eye contact with Jeno again.
"I hated it!" he blurted, and Jeno's expression was distraught at once. "I didn't mean to do it!"
Jeno blinked. "Well, what's that supposed to mean?"
"I…I…" Jaemin hesitated. "I don't have feelings for you like that! You're just supposed to be my best friend. I don't know why I did that, that was weird!"
Jeno was speechless. Jaemin finally managed to calm his breathing down
"Look, I'm really, really sorry," Jaemin tried. "Let's just pretend it didn't happen, if that's ok?"
"Na Jaemin," Jeno called suddenly.
"Hm?" Jaemin looked up. That was yet another mistake.
"Do you…do you really feel nothing for me?" Jeno asked, his eyes blazing.
"Because…because I certainly have feelings for you," Jeno finished.
Jaemin felt his heart lurch uncontrollably. Everything was right and wrong all at once. But for some reason, his mind was telling him to run, run far away so that he would never have to truly decide.
And so he did.
"Jeno…" he said weakly. "I'm sorry…"
And then he turned his back and did exactly as he wanted to. He ran away. He ran and ran and never once looked back. Even if his little teenage heart felt like it was going to be torn apart.
It's for the best. He deserves happiness. And that's not what I can do for him.
A few weeks of continuously avoiding Lee Jeno later, Na Jaemin left town in the middle of the night and never looked back.
"That's…so dramatic," Mark concluded after hearing the story.
Jaemin let out a sigh, fanning himself with his hand as he squatted under the shade of the tree. "I know, right?" he agreed. "It's been long enough that I can cringe at it now but at the time I was so young and got overwhelmed by everything that somehow I decided that was the way to go. By the time I'd somewhat realized it was a bit much, years had gone by of me getting caught up in school and life overseas, and at that point I thought it would be easier and less awkward just to leave it all in the past, and not reach out."
Mark nodded slowly. "That makes sense…I guess."
"Do you understand why I'm very reluctant to be here now?" Jaemin asked.
"Yes…and no," Mark replied. "I can't blame you for your past actions but that being said…you can't stay there forever."
Jaemin blinked. "Haven't I been doing the complete opposite?"
Mark stood up, brushing off his pants. "I don't think so, my friend," he said. "There's the fact that you still can't even look him in the eye. You don’t even know what’s changed and what hasn’t. Who knows? Maybe he already has a wife and kids or something even.”
Jaemin was quiet. If that was true, he wasn’t sure how he would feel about it.
“Anyways, you should probably figure it out for yourself. I shouldn't talk too much."
Jaemin rolled his eyes as he brought himself up next to Mark. "Now you decide that."
Mark laughed softly as they finally gradually started making their way back to the village houses.
"Sometimes it can be nice just to listen," he surmised. He clapped Jaemin twice on the back. "C'mon now. Let's at least try to enjoy your break."
"You always say that for someone who talks so much," Jaemin jabbed.
They walked on in silence for a bit. Mark looked like he had something to say but stopped himself several times. Finally, he gave in.
“Jaemin…” Mark said, his voice sounding a mile away. “How do you know that other guy by the way?”
“Who, Donghyuck?” Jaemin said. “Childhood…friend, I guess? Him, Jeno and I used to be in the same classes together.”
“He was…he’s so freaking cute,” Mark uttered dumbly.
Jaemin’s expression was absolutely devastating. “ What?! Him?! DONGHYUCK? ! You?! A-and… Lee Donghyuck?!” Jaemin was at a loss for words.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were friends with the cutest little village fairy in the world?” Mark re-emphasized, his eyes getting all glossed over.
Now Jaemin was genuinely offended. “Wow, I’m way cuter than him and you’ve never reacted this way to me. And he’s not even that little!”
But Mark Lee was barely registering a single thing Jaemin was saying as he started gesturing weirdly with his hands. “I’ve never seen such a pretty person. Just so cute! Not to mention his feisty personality . Jaemin... there's like a billion poetic words I could use to describe him right now but I can't articulate any…”
Jaemin gave him a look. "How many of these words are appropriate to say in public?"
Jaemin continued to watch in pure judgment as Mark’s entire being started curling up at the thought of the pretty village boy Donghyuck, from his fingers to his body to the adoring scrunch in his nose and eyes.
“Okay, I get it,” Jaemin sighed, giving his friend a shove to snap him out of it. “I honestly had no idea that someone like Lee Donghyuck would be your type of all people and I don’t know whether to laugh at you or feel sorry for you...maybe I’ll do both.”
Mark grabbed Jaemin’s arm. “Can you like…put in a good word for me?”
Jaemin rolled his eyes, vividly recalling the way Donghyuck’s eyes had shamelessly grazed over his friend, as well as the way he’d already started to tease the guy upon just meeting him. Evidently, some things simply never changed—and apparently this included the way Lee Donghyuck flirted with people all these years.
“I don’t think I need to,” Jaemin answered honestly, pulling his arm back. “But seriously, what’s gotten into you? Are you sure you want to put up with that ? If Donghyuck is still the Donghyuck I remember—which I’m like ninety-nine percent sure he is—you’re bound to be in for it. Like, the guy is simultaneously high-maintenance yet also highly-maintaining all at once. If that makes any sense.”
“...I think I get it? But I can be into that. Especially if it’s him.” Mark said. Upon seeing Jaemin’s concerned expression, he slightly reiterated. “Come on! He can’t possibly nag more than you.”
Jaemin threw his friend a deadpanned look. “We used to have long arguments about this within our friend group back then—whether I was the more naggy one or him. There was never a clear winner.”
“O-oh…” Mark faltered.
Hopefully that should do it. Mark Lee usually doesn’t like to be told what to do. Jaemin suddenly started increasing the speed of his steps. “Let’s go faster,” he said tiredly. “No point in roasting alive out here in the sun. I don't think you should pursue him by the way.”
“What? Why?!” Mark lamented, stumbling along after Jaemin.
“It would just be too…” Jaemin searched for the right words. “Volatile? Dangerous?” He shook his head. “For sure though, it would be very loud. ”
Mark blinked. “I’m…not sure I get that."
“Good, let’s hope you don’t find out for the rest of the trip,” Jaemin sighed. “Or ever…” He added under his breath.
After all, Donghyuck was from Jaemin’s past, and Mark was from his present. The idea of those two worlds colliding in any way whatsoever was somehow deeply troubling to him.
The house they were to stay at was small and cozy. It was inhabited by the granny that Jaemin had come to visit, as well as an auntie and Donghyuck who took care of her. Jaemin immediately went to her bedside, and surprisingly, she recognized him after all these years, even in her state. She went on and on about how handsome and successful he’d become and how proud she was that he came from their small village.
Her condition wasn’t great—the closest doctor was a while away due to their obscure location. Not everyone always had the time or proper transportation to take her. And thus, Jaemin stayed by her side for most of the rest of the day (and the days after), doing what he could, using whatever little thing he’d snuck into Mark’s bags to take care of her.
“Oh, Jaemin, you’re still as kind as ever,” she gushed, when he did his best to feed her some porridge that Donghyuck had made. “I still remember it was just yesterday when you and Jeno were still running around bare feet, teasing and making fun of each other.”
“Y-you do?” Jaemin asked in interest.
She nodded as best as she could. “He really missed you by the way. Have you had a chance to speak to him since you came back?”
“N-no, I haven’t,” Jaemin lied. “But…” He couldn’t resist asking. “Is it true that he missed me?”
Granny was silent for a second. “Perhaps you should ask him yourself,” she said. “He usually comes back everyday to take care of me as well, and should be here for dinner. The both of you have always been so kind…”
Jaemin didn’t know how he felt about that. He spent a while longer taking care of granny, before leaving to clean everything up.
When he turned into the small kitchen, he caught sight of something unexpected.
“Whoa , what’s going on here?” he said at once.
Two heads turned to look at him, and sure enough, it was Mark and Donghyuck standing side by side, their shoulders pressed tightly against each other without an inch between them. Mark had this stupid smile on his face, while Donghyuck seemed to be utterly pleased with himself about something.
“Mark Lee, what the hell are you doing in the kitchen?” Jaemin asked, fully in panic with his arms brandished.
“Donghyuckie—I mean, Donghyuck here was just showing me how to make a local recipe,” Mark said simply. “I’m helping him chop the vegetables.”
Jaemin glowered. “Mark,” he said firmly. “You don’t cook. You can’t cook.”
Mark gestured beside him with the knife. “Donghyuck said I did good.”
“Is that why the vegetables in the porridge were all different sizes?” The accusing glare transferred to Donghyuck. “Why are you lying to him?”
Donghyuck shrugged. Briefly, a sly glint appeared in Donghyuck’s eyes, a glint Jaemin understood too well from his high school years—the same years when Lee Donghyuck was known to be a notorious flirt with a rather high success rate.
“Hmm, I wonder?” Donghyuck said in an obviously fake innocent tone. He promptly turned back to Mark, who was too focused on the vegetables to notice. Donghyuck promptly said something only they could hear, which caused Mark to burst out laughing a bit too hard. They promptly sidled up against each other again, looking all comfy and cozy.
Jaemin narrowed his eyes. I see your battle tactics haven’t changed, Lee Donghyuck…
“Donghyuck,” Jaemin called suddenly. “Can I have a talk with you for a second?”
“Why?” Donghyuck replied without even looking back. “I’m busy if you hadn’t noticed.”
“It’s…urgent,” Jaemin insisted.
“Are you sure?” Donghyuck asked plainly. “You’ve been spending all this time asking unnecessary questions.”
Jaemin gritted his teeth. “Lee Donghyuck, I swear—”
“What’s the problem? I can help,” a new voice suddenly appeared.
Jaemin jumped, and turned around to see a Lee Jeno standing directly behind him, glowing with a subtle sweaty sheen. He was now dressed in loose pants and a slightly baggy T-shirt, and was carrying a bag of something in his hand.
“I brought the fish you wanted, Donghyuck,” Jeno said, holding up the bag.
“Thanks! Just leave it there!” Donghyuck called without a glance back.
After which Jeno diverted his attention to Jaemin. “Now what’s this about an urgent issue?”
“Nothing,” Jaemin said at once, still slightly flustered at his situation. “It’s between me and Donghyuck.”
To Jaemin’s surprise, Jeno’s face softened into a smile. Jaemin’s heart skipped a beat despite himself—he's always had a weakness for that smile.
Jeno started speaking. “I’ll have you know, anything Donghyuck can do I can probably do better—”
“I heard that!” came Donghyuck’s voice.
“—so if it’s about the village or Granny, I’m sure I can be useful. Just tell me what you’re worried about.”
Jaemin contemplated his choices. On one hand, he didn’t want to talk to Jeno because he didn’t want to revisit the past which he’d been so desperately trying to avoid. On the other, it didn’t seem like Jeno was talking about the past right now, and he could still use a familiar face that had once been very comforting to him.
What’s more, Jeno’s presence and demeanour was so calming and inviting (just as it has always been) that it was almost impossible to keep pushing him away.
Besides, now that he’d met Granny and gotten everything sorted out...perhaps he should take Mark’s advice and at least try to enjoy himself. Also, he could really use someone to vent to—and if his memory served and things hadn’t changed too much, Jeno used to be really good for that.
Jaemin relaxed a little, letting his guard down for now. He could tell that Jeno could sense it.
“Donghyuck!” Jaemin called suddenly. “Jeno’s taking me out real quick!”
Donghyuck looked up. “Again? He just came back.”
“I…just had a craving for some of the fruits outside.”
A momentarily confused look appeared on Donghyuck’s face. At that moment, Mark let out some estranged struggling noises prompting Donghyuck's attention to be taken away once again, and thus Jaemin was easily dismissed.
“You’re gonna go out in that, though?” Jeno asked Jaemin, out of genuine concern, gesturing to his expensive fit with long sleeves and full pants, complete with a pair of slides on his feet that were clearly meant more for fashion than walking. “It is a little bit more than just an easy stroll, if you still remember.”
“It’s fine, just go!” Jaemin nagged, shoving Jeno towards the door. Jeno couldn’t help but let out a small smile at Jaemin’s tone that hadn’t changed all these years.
They stumbled outside into the lingering traces of sun, with Jaemin looking this way and that awkwardly, trying to see how much he remembered. When he caught sight of Jeno’s accommodating guise, he suddenly realized that he could just depend on him again.
Just like before.
“This way,” Jeno said, with a nod of his head before leading the way. Jaemin obediently followed. The outside had gotten a lot more pleasant now that the sun was mostly gone. Though the smell of the smouldering heat lingered, everything had started to cool down, and the entirety of the fields were cast in an orange glow, making it all the more ethereal and heart-warming. It would’ve been quite peaceful and nice for Jaemin, if it weren’t for the fact that he was fumbling around in his choice of footwear just as Jeno had warned.
“So why’d you really drag me out here?” came Jeno’s voice all of a sudden, from a respectful distance ahead of Jaemin.
Jaemin blinked, slightly shocked. “How’d you know I had something else to say?”
Jeno shrugged. “Call it a hunch.” When Jaemin said nothing, he continued. “I guess I was just placing hopes on the idea that parts of you were still…the same.”
Jaemin scoffed at that. “Hope, huh? What a nice word to use…” He wanted to ask more, but decided to drop it for now.
“So? What’s wrong?”
Jaemin scurried as best as he could next to Jeno to match his footsteps. “Well, uh, I could…I could use your advice on…something.”
Jeno’s attention was piqued at this. “Already? Even though you couldn’t even talk to me earlier?”
Jaemin ignored the quip. “I-it’s Mark and Donghyuck.”
“What about them?” Jeno asked with pursed lips.
Jaemin’s eyes widened in that way it always did when he needed more attention when he spoke. “Haven’t you noticed? They’re being all… squishy with each other?”
Jeno raised his eyebrow. “Why does that matter?”
“It’s weird!” Jaemin crowed. “They don’t even know each other and Mark’s gonna get teased to death by that sly Donghyuck and he doesn’t even know!”
Jeno snorted. “Again, I don’t see why this is your problem.”
“It is my problem! Mark’s my friend.”
“Ah, so it’s jealousy?”
“No! It’s more like…they’re getting caught up in things that they have no idea about and it’s never going to work out!"
“You don’t know that. Maybe Mark’s one of those guys who likes being nagged in return for some doting attention." Jeno said this with a smile.
“It doesn’t matter. It won’t work!”
“Because we both have to leave and go home eventually. ”
The one sentence made Jeno’s expression falter, and Jaemin also felt like he’d said something wrong, even though it was simply the truth. Jeno turned away and kept walking, leaving them in silence. They remained that way until they reached the fruit trees, after which Jeno calmly picked some and tossed them at Jaemin.
“So,” Jeno said finally, his tone somewhat softened still. He took a bite of the fruit as he looked at Jaemin. “What do you want me to do about it?”
Jaemin’s eyes glimmered evilly. “Let’s break them up.”
Jeno narrowed his eyes mockingly. “You’re such a good friend.” His voice was dripping in sarcasm.
“I am THE bestest friend. Anyways, I was kidding,” Jaemin reassured. “But…let’s still keep an eye on them.”
“And then keep them relatively sheltered from each other so that when I inevitably whisk Mark Lee onto a plane that will fly us a whole ocean away, no one’s heart will be broken.”
In his excitement, Jaemin had been somewhat floundering around the dirt ground. At that moment, he lost his balance due to his worthless shoes. He let out a string of curse words as he flailed about uselessly, with nothing to grab onto.
He suddenly felt his back hit something firm. When he saw the arms wrap around him, bringing him back to balance, he realized that Jeno had rushed over to him and prevented him from falling. When Jaemin turned his head, he found that Jeno’s face was right next to his, less than a few inches away. They were so close, Jaemin could see the eyes peeking out from Jeno’s slightly sweat-matted bangs, with their soothing glimmer that he had such a yearning for back then.
Oh yeah, he’s definitely even better looking than I remembered...Jaemin thought, his heart—and now also his stomach—aching deeply once again.
And just like that, Jaemin’s couldn’t stop himself from staring. His heart started to flutter just like it had in high school. It made him feel so childish yet…he felt like he deserved it somehow.
Jaemin suddenly felt Jeno’s arms tighten a little, as he spun him in his hold so that they were chest-to-chest.
“I think…” Jeno said slowly. When did his voice get so low? Jaemin thought.
“I think you should be more worried about yourself,” Jeno finished.
The arm around his waist gripped tighter, and Jaemin felt it for sure this time. It was just like it was last time, so many years ago. The loss of control, the hearts pounding wildly. Before he knew it, he was leaning in and—
“JENOOOO, HELP!!!!!!” came a screeching noise from the distance.
Jaemin pushed Jeno away as he heard the sound of hurried footsteps, before seeing the guise of none other than Donghyuck appearing hurriedly in the distance,
“What’s wrong?!” Jeno yelled back.
“MARK CUT HIS FINGER OFF,” Donghyuck yelled with his hands cupped around his mouth.
“ WHAT?!! ” Both Jeno and Jaemin yelped at the same time in panic.
“He did not cut his finger off,” Jaemin complained.
The four of them were sitting around a fire that Jeno had stoked, munching on some snacks that they had scrounged up around the place. Jaemin had finally changed into more comfortable clothes that he stole from Mark’s suitcase. The sun had completely gone down by then, they had just finished dinner and everyone else was more or less in bed. Meanwghile, Donghyuck was being all fussy over a single bandaged fingertip of Mark Lee, that apparently had been injured when he was “helping” with dinner.
“You don’t get it, it was actually a lot of blood at the time!” Donghyuck was saying.
“It barely looked like more than a pinprick!” Jeno argued.
“Whatever, you guys weren’t there!” Donghyuck pouted, clenching his fists and shaking his head.
“Cute…” Mark Lee muttered, gazing dazedly at the Donghyuck right in front of him.
Jaemin groaned. “You know what, I believe you about the blood loss.”
“Mark~” Donghyuck called, his voice a partial whine as he patted his new “friend” on the neck. “Are you okay? Do you think you can still play music for us?”
“You have a guitar?” Mark and Jaemin asked simultaneously.
Donghyuck nodded. “One of our uncles plays and has one stowed in the back. Stay here, let me get it!”
And then he was off, running away with his bare feet plopping about as he disappeared back into the house again. Jaemin could only groan when Jeno took the small wooden makeshift seat next to him.
“What’s wrong now?” Jeno asked with a teasing grin, so that only Jaemin could hear.
“It’s Mark Lee’s signature wooing move,” Jaemin said, with an eye roll. “When he finds somebody he really likes he finds a guitar and…lo and behold, a loving serenade to captivate all the hearts.”
“Does it work?” Jeno asked, genuinely curious.
Another sigh and eye roll as Jaemin pressed his face into his hand. “Surprisingly, yes. Because if it didn’t he wouldn’t keep doing it.”
Jeno laughed. “I wish I had a signature move.”
“I think you do,” Jaemin said easily.
Jeno gave him a look. “Really? What is it?”
Jaemin paused for a moment.
“It’s your eye smile,” he answered. “Literally everyone in our classes used to be smitten about it back then. Don’t you know?”
“Huh,” Jeno uttered as he contemplated it. “I guess that’s a lot easier than playing the guitar.”
Jaemin shrugged, taking a bite out of his roasted squid snack. “Different people simply have different talents.”
“I have other good qualities than just my face, thank you very much.”
Jaemin felt the corner of his lips move up. “I didn’t suggest otherwise.”
Suddenly, the sound of a guitar strumming filled the air. They looked over, and sure enough Mark Lee had started doing his thing, and there was a very smitten-looking Donghyuck right next him, with hearts practically pouring out of his eyes.
“See, it’s working already,” Jaemin scoffed, mid-chew. “He’s melting like a puddle.”
As Jaemin continued, he was shocked to see that Donghyuck had started singing next to Mark.
“Whoa, that’s new,” Jaemin gaped. He glanced at Jeno. “Since when did he have that move?”
Jeno shrugged. “Since now, I guess…and it’s definitely working.”
They both watched quietly as Mark and Donghyuck continued singing and playing music together by the fire, clearly forgetting the world around them in the middle of the country fields in the evening breeze. The subtle yet tender gazes were undeniable, and whatever had been up in the air between them before had become quite solidified and obvious.
“Hul…would you look at that?” Jaemin observed keenly, putting his face in his hands.
“Weren’t you gonna stop them?” Jeno teased, looking over.
“I can’t possibly stop whatever’s going on over there now. They probably won’t even know I’m there.” He watched as Donghyuck let out a soft, charming giggle at Mark briefly playing the wrong note, while Mark gazed back with the most smitten look.
Jeno nodded as he followed Jaemin’s gaze. “Maybe I need to play the guitar more…”
Jaemin waved his hand dismissively. “Not with that body you don't."
"What's with you objectifying me ever since you got back?" Jeno fought back. "Besides, are you trying to say that Mark doesn't have a good face and body? I talked to him and he seems like a very nice guy too. We seem to get along pretty well."
"Mark is just…different."
"He's just a friend."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"He's handsome too but not like that. To me."
"I was your friend too."
The sentence caught Jaemin off guard, bringing back a rush of memories that he'd been trying to suppress. He tried to shake it out of his head but then suddenly Jeno's hand was on his thigh and he looked up to see Jeno staring at him intensely with those gorgeous eyes, silently demanding for answers. And it wasn't as if Jaemin didn't have his own plethora of questions too—he just thought he didn't deserve to ask them.
"Jaemin…" Jeno called his name. "Should we…” He nodded to the side. “Should we give them some privacy?”
But Jaemin wasn't even sure what to say. All he knew was that the back-and-forth conversation they'd been having was way too easy and natural, almost just like old times in the best way possible. By addressing certain things, he might ruin it, and he didn't want to.
But before his mind could decide, Jaemin realized that he was already being dragged away by the wrist, following Jeno away from the fire, moving into some trails off the main path that weren’t particularly well lit. As expected, Mark and Donghyuck were too caught up to notice.
“Yah, yah, Lee Jeno, where are you taking me?” Jaemin started nagging at some point. “It’s getting dark out, we shouldn’t go too far.”
“It's fine. I've been here all this time, I know what I'm doing," Jeno replied with a smile in a voice.
Jaemin couldn't help taking note of the casual comment. "So you've never left? Not even once?"
"Unlike a certain ambitious person, some of us never had a real reason to leave," he answered coolly.
"Really. There's no reason why I would leave personally. It's a beautiful place filled with people who I like. Why would I leave?"
“But Lee Donghyuck has also been here the whole time,” Jaemin spat out before he could help himself, as a jab to the person who wasn’t there.
Jeno frowned. “Okay. He’s kind of bad but—”
Jeno laughed at the reaction. “—I’m kidding. I meant it though. This is my home. I like it. No questions about it.”
Jaemin went silent again, deep in thought.
"And honestly…” Jeno continued talking. “Speaking of questions, the only thing I've really wanted to know from you earlier was why you did what you did years ago…"
Jaemin averted his eyes. Not now.
"...but I can sense that you haven't been wanting to answer that all this time, so you can tell me when you want. If ever. It happened so long ago that it really doesn't matter anymore anyway. The only thing that matters now is…"
Jaemin turned his gaze back to see Jeno shaking his head.
"Nevermind," Jeno concluded haphazardly.
Despite the subtle awkwardness of it all, Jaemin was somehow very calm. Above all, he appreciated Jeno's respect for his own comfort levels. That really hadn't changed. It was intensely heartwarming for him.
Casually, Jaemin took a few steps closer next to Jeno.
“So…this place hasn’t changed much, has it?” Jaemin asked, not entirely sure what else to say that didn’t address his abrupt appearance so many years ago.
“In some ways it has, and others it hasn’t,” Jeno replied, picking at a large leaf that was hanging above them. “It looks the same but…people come and go. Everyone’s only getting older, like Granny. When you live in such a small village you can’t help but notice and see everything. I’m sure that’s very different from where you…ended up.”
“Yeah, I guess so…” Jaemin said, thinking back to his life in the city, where lives arrived and left on the daily and he was expected not to even blink an eye. “And you never got tired of it?”
Jeno shrugged again. “Who knows? I guess I was just complacent.”
Jaemin watched as he hesitated to say something. When he turned towards Jaemin he decided to say it after all.
“And I guess…I was waiting for…something. Something important,” he said slowly. “It was a feeling like…if I ever left I might miss it forever, you know?”
Jaemin’s breath hitched in his throat. “Wh–what do you mean?”
Jeno opened his mouth and closed it again. At that moment, they suddenly felt wet drops plop on their shoulders. Once. Twice. Then suddenly, the whole dark sky broke into a downpour.
“Aw shoot, I forgot it's the rainy season again,” Jeno sighed.
Jaemin uselessly tried to duck under a tree that was nowhere near enough cover. “Let’s go back!” he yelled through the loud noise of the tumultuous rain.
He felt Jeno’s hand grab his through the dark, as naturally as ever, as they ran back to find the nearest shelter. As his feet splashed through the now soaked ground, Jaemin felt his heart beat wildly, and for some reason he couldn’t keep himself from smiling.
It just felt so nice.
At last, Jeno managed to pull them both into the covers of someone’s house. They stood there for a moment, catching their breath. When Jaemin suddenly caught Jeno’s eyes, they both burst into laughter.
“You look like a wet rabbit,” Jeno said. “So different from the expensive fellow who got here.”
Jaemin punched him in the arm. “You’re one to talk! You look no better than me!”
Instinctively, Jaemin reached up to Jeno’s face, just as he’d done once upon a time. They both flinched, realizing what was happening.
Jaemin felt his heart skip a beat again. Even though it was dark out, he could barely see Jeno’s eyes, and they shone ever so beautifully and gently even at a time like this. Sudden impulses washed over him, and it was taking everything he could to resist.
Jaemin moved closer. “Jeno, I—”
“GUYS!!! WHERE ARE YOU?!”
Jeno and Jaemin both jumped at the familiar voice, and they turned to see a Mark Lee splashing through the water. He was holding an open umbrella in one hand, and two more closed ones in his other. Upon catching sight of them, he breathed a sigh of relief and ran over.
“Mark? What are you doing here?” Jeno asked, blinking in disbelief.
“What do you mean what I am doing here?” Mark said, catching his breath. “You guys were caught in the rain and I came to find you.”
Jaemin narrowed his eyes. “Shouldn’t you be busy screwi—”
“Where’s Donghyuck?” Jeno cut in smoothly.
“Oh, he sent me actually,” Mark replied cleanly, holding out the umbrellas. “He said it’s getting late so I should come find you guys just in case. Anyways, let’s go back! We should get our sleeping arrangements together!”
“He sent someone to babysit me ?” Jeno asked incredulously. “What a weird guy…”
Jaemin poked his cheek with his tongue. “Weird, indeed…”
The next morning, Jaemin was seated under the shade of a large tree next to fields, witnessing a sight that was getting more and more distasteful the longer he looked at it.
“You can’t catch me~!” Donghyuck cried gleefully, running around the fields with his arms spread.
Mark was chasing after him a few metres behind, a blazing grin on his face. “When I catch you, you’re gonna get it!”
A high-pitched giggle rang through the air. “Catch me if you can~ Mark~!”
“Donghyuck-ah, wait for me!”
"What I am watching right after breakfast," Jaemin mumbled to himself like a crazy person. "I think I’m going to throw up." Jaemin put his sunglasses back on and chose to stare at the ground instead, unable to tolerate whatever the hell was going on between his current friend and old friend.
The previous night, Mark and Jaemin had peacefully tucked themselves into bed in the same room next to Granny, while Donghyuck was in his own room across the hall. By the time Jaemin had gotten up, Mark Lee was nowhere to be seen.
I have never… seen Mark Lee act like this in my life. Jaemin thought to himself, as he watched Mark finally manage to tackle Donghyuck to the ground. They went down in fits of laughter. Whatever cursed thing they did next was (thankfully) hidden by the tall, billowing crops. Maybe it’s the heat getting to his head. Or the lack of inhibitions because he’s in a foreign place.
His speculations were interrupted by a shadow appearing next to him, and he looked up to see Lee Jeno standing with some farmer tools slung over his shoulders. Today, he was dressed plainly in some wide shorts and a loose T-shirt.
“Good morning,” he greeted with a kind smile.
“Oh, hi,” Jaemin replied sweetly. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” They’d parted ways without saying much more last night, so to see him now in the bright sunlight was indeed a genuinely refreshing sight.
“How’s Granny?” Jeno asked.
“She’s fine, I checked on her earlier,” Jaemin replied. “Though I might need to get some stuff for her later.”
Jeno nodded. “I can take you after we finish our work on the fields. Mark said he’d help me work today by the way.”
“Oh, he’s definitely ready,” Jaemin said, his tone flat. “So eager and ready.”
Jeno glanced at the field in front them, cringed, and then looked back at Jaemin. “That bad, huh?”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into him,” Jaemin said, rubbing his temples.
Jeno snorted. “Which one?
“I swear Mark Lee is normally a very… stable person.”
“Not when smart-mouthed farm boys are involved apparently…”
Jaemin grimaced. “Who would’ve thought? I never should’ve brought him if I’d known this would happen.’
“I blame Donghyuck. He’s been rolling up his shorts way too high recently.”
Jaemin gave Jeno a look. “Okay, grandpa. Deciding how people should dress.”
“You know that’s not what I meant!” Jeno argued. “Besides, I get hot too and you don’t see me doing it!”
“Yeah, you just walk around without your shirt instead.”
Jaemin grinned. “Exactly.”
He paused for a second before talking again. “No, but I do agree Donghyuck’s legs are unreasonably sexy—”
The two of them abruptly stopped their shit-talking as they saw their targets rushing back towards them, evidently done with whatever they’d been doing.
“Morning, guys!” Donghyuck said gleefully, still casually holding onto Mark’s hand that he’d been dragging along. “Are you ready to work?"
"He is," Jaemin nodded at Jeno. "I'm just going to relax and take my much needed break."
"Don't do that, you should help me today!" Donghyuck suggested. "Mark's helping Jeno after all."
Jaemin scowled. "Don't put me on the same level as those workaholics."
"Yeah sure you're not, Doctor Na," Mark quipped.
"I SAID NO WORK TALK!" Jaemin burst, unable to keep his frustrations contained
"You should do it Jaemin," Jeno said encouragingly. "Maybe it'll help you relax like it did before."
"Oh? So you're speaking for me now?" Jaemin whipped back.
"What do you want me to do?" Jeno said, his lower lip sticking out slightly.
"Yah, yah, stop flirting. Let's get to work so we can all go to the market later," Donghyuck said.
"YOU'RE SAYING THIS?!" Jeno and Jaemin said at once, looking at him incredulously.
"I can't wait to do some farmer things with Jeno!" Mark said happily. "I wanna look all cool like him!" Mark and Jeno exchanged satisfied grins.
"Aw, Mark, you're already way cooler than him," Donghyuck cooed, placing his free hand in Mark's chest.
"I'm right here," Jeno grimaced.
"Y'all make me sick," Jaemin cringed. "Honestly, get a room. Or a bush. I don't care, just get out of my face."
“Okay, enough,” Jeno announced suddenly. “We gotta get to the fields. Mark, go get a farming hoe."
“But he’s holding my hand right now,” Mark replied at once, completely serious.
Jaemin’s mouth dropped open. Jeno stared at Mark blankly. Donghyuck, who was indeed holding on to Mark’s hand, wasn’t entirely sure whether to be offended or amused.
It was Jaemin who burst out into explosive cackling first.
When Mark and Jeno finally left to the fields, Jaemin and Donghyuck hung back for a little bit, watching them work.
Needless to say, the atmosphere was…tense.
"So," Jaemin uttered suddenly, breaking the silence. "You're still being a little schemer these days, aren't you?"
"Me?" Donghyuck replied innocently, his pouty lips extra pouty. "I have no idea what you're talking about?"
"You know I'm not stupid," Jaemin said. "It seems that everytime I'm alone with Jeno for a bit too long something gets in the way. And every single time, that something is connected to you."
"Oh? How observant. As expected of Na Jaemin."
"Why are you being annoying?" Jaemin scowled.
"Why do you care? It's not like you genuinely intend to pursue Jeno anyways."
Jaemin was taken aback. "That's—"
"Besides, I could say the same about you," Donghyuck pushed on. "Mark told me about how you said it wouldn't work out between me and him."
Jaemin's eyes went dark. "That snitching little bastard…"
"It's not just from him. I can tell you've been trying to sabotage us too."
"And why would I do that?"
"Cause you're projecting?" Donghyuck answered simply. "I know you don't actually intend to stay here, and same with Mark. But that doesn't mean he thinks the same way you do. It doesn't all have to end in the same dramatic nightmare."
Jaemin was flustered for the second time. "What are you trying to say?"
Donghyuck sighed, completely turning towards Jaemin. "Do you want to know the real reason why I don't want you getting to Jeno? It's precisely cause you've still got a hold on him that I don't want him getting hurt again."
Jaemin was stunned. "I do?"
Another exasperated sigh. "I mean, it's not my place to say but it should be fairly obvious that all these years…he's still been secretly waiting for you to come back. Why do you think I didn't tell him in the first place? It's because I didn't want him to get his hopes up if you decided to not show up again."
Jaemin was speechless. "Why…why would he do that?"
Donghyuck tilted his head. "Well, only he really knows why. And I'm only telling you this so you can see it from a different perspective. Stop toying around with everything and just address it properly already."
"Even if you still have to leave, it's not the end. And you can still be honest. Just give everything a chance. Whether it be Jeno or this place in general."
Donghyuck was about to turn and leave when something caught the corner of his eyes. With a slight smile on his face, he nudged a contemplating Na Jaemin who was still reflecting his heavy words.
"Speaking of giving this place a chance," Donghyuck said slowly. "Perhaps there are a few breath-taking sights that might just convince you to stay."
Jaemin followed Donghyuck's gaze, and sure enough, there was both Jeno and Mark, still doing their job under the blazing sun. Apparently, Jeno had taken his shirt off to deal with the heat, and had convinced Mark to do the same. The two of them were in plain sight, creating quite the image next to each other, laughing and enjoying each other's company, wiping sweat from their brows as their well-structured bodies worked hard on the sprawling field.
Donghyuck sighed shamelessly, leaning back into the tree behind him.
"Ugh, the camaraderie between diligent, attractive men…” he said happily, fanning himself. “My whole entire body's aching for some reason…" He sighed again, wistfully, staring ahead with eyes that were glazed over.
Jaemin, who normally would've taken the chance to mock him, promptly squatted down next to Donghyck and casually took off his sunglasses to see better.
"For once…I think you have a point, Lee Donghyuck," Jaemin said.
The two of them remained there, contently watching for quite awhile.
“So…are we sure this is safe?”
“There’s the Mark Lee I know so well.”
“I’m serious! Aren’t there rules and regulations for this?”
“That’s how it’s always been around here, Mark. Just trust the process.”
“Mark. Just climb on top and wrap yourself around me already.”
Mark fumbled around as Jaemin gave him another shove towards the moped that Donghyuck was currently sitting on. The four of them were getting ready to go to the market to pick up some ingredients as well as stuff for Granny on the way. His naive eyes blinked rapidly as he questioned the stability of it all.
“C’mon Mark, don’t you trust me?” Donghyuck teased happily.
“JUST GET ON ALREADY,” Jaemin roared, resorting to using his brute strength to practically shove Mark onto the seat.
Donghyuck smirked at the scene. “Tch, Mark Lee, you’re such a city boy at the end of the day.”
“What? No I’m not! I can do this!” Mark argued uselessly, scrunching his nose up in annoyance as he wrapped his arms around Donghyuck’s small waist.
“Why are you getting competitive over something like this?” Jaemin scowled. “It’s just a motorcycle ride! Get on with it already, we don’t have all day!”
“What about you ? You’re just standing there!” Mark argued back.
“Oh, I’m gonna be driving it.”
“What?!” Mark, Jeno and Donghyuck all gaped at once.
Jaemin looked wronged. “What? I did it all the time back in high school. And I’ve been wanting to try it again since.”
Donghyuck stared at him in disbelief. “That was like 50 years ago!”
Jeno placed a concerned hand on Jaemin’s shoulder. “Have you driven one of these since you left?”
Jaemin shook his shoulder free. “No, but who cares? I’m sure muscle memory is there.”
Before anyone could stop him, Jaemin had already rushed over to the other moped and climbed on, wrapping his hands around the handlebar.
“LET’S GO!” Jaemin yelled in excitement.
Jeno sighed, dragging his feet as he walked over. “Honestly, where did all this energy come from all of a sudden?”
Donghyuck stared at the both of them in disbelief. “Yah, Lee Jeno, you’re actually gonna let him do this?”
Jeno gave Donghyuck a tired look. “Do I have a choice?”
“You could die.”
Mark Lee tensed up on the back of Donghyuck’s seat. “We could?”
“It’s fine,” Jeno grumbled, saddling up behind Jaemin and grabbing the back of the seat. “There’s not a lot of traffic on the way over anyway. And it’s true that he’s done it before.”
“Alright, do what you want, " Donghyuck said. "But having a doctor in the group isn’t gonna be so useful when it’s his body's the one sprawled on the pavement.”
“Donghyuck, you’re scaring Mark.”
Donghyuck turned to the passenger behind him. “Aw, cutie. Don’t worry. I’m great at this stuff, so you can sit comfy.” He gave Mark a reassuring stroke down the side of the head, before turning back and abruptly starting the engine, giving him a jolt. Jaemin did the same, much to a Jeno who’s concern was starting to run deeper and deeper.
Jeno reached forwards one more time. “Jaemin, are you sure you can—”
“DONGHYUCK, LEAD THE WAY ALREADY!” Jaemin screamed.
“Okay, nevermi— whoa!”
The two mopeds started accelerating as they left their spots, with Donghyuck’s in front. The initial path was not easy, for it was not a road meant for regular transportation but instead just…dirt, mostly. It wasn’t long before Mark started screaming and holding onto Donghyuck’s waist for dear life from the speed they were going over the bumps and holes. Jaemin, on the other hand, had a permanently plastered excitement on his face, maneuvering as best as he could from memory while Jeno did his best not to panic.
Eventually, they somehow made it onto the main road, and Jaemin was doing a pretty good job of maintaining his balance, even if he swerved a little bit from time to time. They cruised through the peaceful landscape of trees and fields, though Mark couldn’t enjoy any of it as his face was buried deep into Donghyuck’s back. Eventually, even Jeno relaxed after Jaemin let out several whoops and cheers of excitement from the feeling of the freeing wind coursing through them as they rode.
Finally, they made it to their destination, in one piece. Mostly—Mark looked like he was gonna fall over at any second while Jeno’s face was completely blanched, the both of them breathing heavily.
“I did great, didn’t I?” Jaemin said gleefully, removing his helmet. “Tell me I did great.”
“I’m taking us back,” Jeno affirmed steadfastly, snatching the keys from Jaemin's hands.
Donghyuck, on the other hand, was concerned over the city boy who was stumbling over to a corner somewhere else, his gait unstable as if he was drunk.
“Mark, are you okay?” he called. “Mark! Oh my god, I think he’s gonna throw up. Mark, wait for me!” The two of them promptly disappeared around the corner, leaving Jeno and Jaemin alone.
“Don’t forget to get the proper ingredients!” Jeno called one last time after Donghyuck. He turned back to Jaemin. “So what do you wanna do now?”
Jaemin nodded. “Let’s get some stuff for Granny first?”
Morning turned into afternoon as the four boys did their market duties, gathering supplies, ingredients, medication and whatever else they needed for back at the village. It was somehow nice, despite the hustle and bustle and overall loudness of the market, but somehow Jaemin couldn’t help but enjoy the familiarity of it all. Once in a while, he would glance up and see Jeno’s comforting presence right next to him, with those crescent eyes and gentle smile of his as he pointed out this and that to Jaemin. All in all, Jaemin’s heart felt extremely soft. And most importantly, his mind felt free, for the first time in a long time.
Just like the old times.
When they were done, Jeno and Jaemin carried their accumulated bags back to where they’d left their bikes, only to discover that Mark and Donghyuck still hadn’t returned.
“Now what?” Jaemin asked, looking to Jeno for guidance.
Jeno shrugged. “Wanna ditch them? We can take care of Granny first and then get on with our day. Donghyuck’s more than capable of doing his own thing.”
“Sounds good to me.”
They promptly headed back, with Jeno driving this time, and Jaemin holding on behind him. The drive was certainly a lot more steady, and now Jaemin had plenty of time to bask in his feelings and take in the sights of the country lands around him. For some reason, the words “my home” kept resonating in his head.
When they got back, Jeno left Jaemin who went to Granny’s room, to give her the medication and stuff they’d gotten her. Somehow, he believed that she was slowly getting better already, even if it’d only been a few days. He thought it was a good thing she was always surrounded by great company, if not the aunties, then Donghyuck or Jeno—it was one of the best things about having a tight-knit community.
When Jaemin was done, he cleaned up again and walked outside. Mark and Donghyuck were still nowhere to be seen, but Jeno was waiting, leaning up against the post outside the house.
“How’s she doing?” Jeno asked, straightening up when he saw Jaemin.
“A lot better, if I do say so myself,” Jaemin smiled, brushing his hands off. “All she needs is little extra care and attention is all.”
Jeno patted Jaemin on the shoulder. “You did good. I’m glad you came back to take care of her.”
“Yeah,” Jaemin replied thoughtfully, softly. “I am too.”
It was probably the most honest thing he’d said since he’d arrived. He wondered if Jeno could sense this change too, from the thoughtful way he was watching him.
“Come with me for a bit?” Jeno said suddenly. “There’s somewhere I want to take you.”
Jaemin blinked in interest. “Hmm? Somewhere I haven’t been before?”
Jeno gave him an odd look with a smile.
“You could say that.”
It was indeed a sight that Jaemin had never seen before and it was the most breathtaking thing.
The area that they’d walked to had only been a pond of empty water when they were younger, but over the years had grown into the loveliest, most enchanting lotus pond. The calm surface of the clear water was covered in pads of green and blooming pink flowers. Jaemin wasn’t even aware there was anything like this near his home.
And when Jeno guided him over to a little rowboat, got in and extended a hand to help him on, it felt like something out of his most vivid dreams.
Before long, Jeno was rowing them out into the middle of the pond, neither of them saying a thing as Jeno sensibly allowed Jaemin to take in the ethereal sight in the most peaceful silence. The air was starting to cool down, and a gentle breeze caught onto Jaemin’s hair as he looked around. It was an awfully romantic mood, and before long Jaemin couldn’t help certain thoughts that crossed his mind.
“It’s…really beautiful,” he said at last. “So calming and peaceful. I never knew a place like this existed.”
Jeno nodded. “You’d be surprised at the amount of things in this place that you’ve yet to discover.”
Jaemin nodded in silent agreement. Feeling comforting, he tucked himself into his knees and arms, eyes still lingering around the captivating sights as Jeno rowed them around the pond.
It was quite a while before he spoke again.
“I know what I did wasn’t right back then,” Jaemin said suddenly.
Jeno’s eyes opened wide. “Oh? Are we finally ready to speak about it now?”
Jaemin exhaled through his nose. “I was just…young…and overwhelmed by everything all at once,” he said. “By the time I realized what had happened it was…it felt too late. When you suddenly switch gears so swiftly to a place where you’re always racing against time, everything that's already passed feels like it should be better left untouched.”
“...do you still feel that way?” Jeno asked slowly.
“Who knows?” Jaemin shrugged weakly, still wrapped up in his knees and arms. “It’s a lot easier to think about the better life and the what ifs and the freedom and all when you have vacation brain.”
Jeno leaned forward, fully captivated. “Is that really what this is though?”
“Again…I don’t know,” Jaemin sighed. “But why do I have a feeling that when I go back to the city, I’ll just start getting caught up in that stressful way of life again?”
“So, don’t go back,” Jeno said simply, as if it was as easy as breathing.
Jaemin looked up. To see Jeno in front of him like this, in such a dream-like scenario, it really seemed like it would be that easy.
But his sensibilities took the better of him in the end.
Jaemin scoffed. “Lee Jeno, since when were you spontaneous like this?”
“I don’t know a thing about spontaneity. I’m not the one who got up and left in the middle of the night and disappeared for years,” Jeno replied teasingly.
“I…” Jaemin stuttered. “I guess I haven’t properly apologized for that.”
Jeno shook his head. “There’s nothing to apologize for. It happened so long ago, and technically we didn’t owe each other anything.”
“But you still…” Jaemin’s voice trailed off. You still confessed your feelings for me and I responded by running away without giving you an explanation.
“Like I said, there’s really no need to say sorry about that. I had choices too, and I made mine, which included staying here,” Jeno answered easily. “I long accepted the fact that you may never have come back. The only thing that really matters now is that you’re here. Now. And it's up to you what you want to do about it.”
Jaemin looked up in earnest. “Did you…were you really waiting for me all this time?”
Jeno gave him a taunting look. “That’s a loaded question.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to—”
“Honestly…I wasn’t thinking about it too much after a while. Because life goes on and all…but subconsciously…”
Jeno took a deep breath, and Jaemin held his own.
“I think yes,” Jeno answered at least. “I think a part of me always secretly hoped I would see you again.”
The fluttering in his heart was more obvious than ever, as Jeno met Jaemin’s eyes.
And in that very moment, Jaemin knew that this was what was right.
Jaemin smirked a little. “Hey, Lee Jeno, can I…” He faltered, almost as if asking for permission.
And even after so many years apart, somehow Jeno could tell exactly what Jaemin was thinking.
Jeno pulled the oars back in so he could move closer to Jaemin. “You can…so as long as you promise not to run away again this time.”
“I promise,” he said as he leaned in.
Their lips were barely a breath away, and Jaemin could just feel the softness when a devastating scream pierced through the air.
“What the hell?!” Jeno exclaimed, falling backwards in shock.
“Someone else is out here?!” Jaemin gaped, as he scanned his eyes briefly around the pond. Suddenly, in the distance, he could make out some darker shadows in the very far distance that didn’t look like it belonged.
“Oh my god, I think someone just fell in,” Jaemin exclaimed, teeth clenching as he grabbed the oars and tossed them to Jeno. “Quick! Paddle!”
“You have arms too!” Jeno argued.
“JENO! HURRY! PEOPLE COULD BE DYING!” Jaemin screeched.
Jeno obediently paddled as quickly he could towards the dark spot. As they got closer and closer, Jaemin narrowed his eyes and realized indeed it was an overturned boat, and in fact it wasn’t one but two people splashing about in the water.
And the closer he got, the more disturbingly familiar those two floundering silhouettes looked.
Jeno realized it around the same time. “You’re kidding me,” he said.
“Why are they out here?” Jaemin asked.
“It’s actually a pretty common date spot these days," Jeno explained.
“You took me to a basic place? Come on, Lee Jeno.”
“You like basic things.”
“Anyways, let’s turn around. Nothing important out here. It’s not that deep anyways, they can tread back.”
“I was kidding.”
And sure enough, the screeching Lee Donghyuck who was dragging a splashing Mark Lee by the neck caught sight of them, after which he only started screaming louder.
“YAHHH, LEE JENO! NA JAEMIN! SAVE ME!!!” Donghyuck yelled.
“What the hell were you guys doing?” Jeno asked as he pulled the boat next to them.
“Does it matter at this point?!” Donghyuck screamed. “Just get us out already!”
“Ugh, so demanding even when he’s on the verge of drowning…” Jaemin scowled as he did his best to pull Donghyuck in, while Jeno grabbed hold of Mark.
“Can this thing even carry four people?” Mark asked, as he climbed in shivering, dripping wet and soaked to the skin.
“Why do you always ask so many questions? Just get in! If it can’t, it can’t! What can we do now?” Jaemin rambled.
Mark gave him a look, despite his sorry state. “Something’s got Dr. Na in a grouchy state,” Mark mumbled.
Jaemin shoved an oar into his face. “So what if I’m grouchy? Maybe I didn’t want to paddle all the way out here so I could drag your dripping wet ass out of a pond! Have you ever thought of that?”
“Yah, yah, stop moving so much! The boat is leaning,” Jeno tried warning, holding out his hands.
“Why are you yelling at us?! It’s not like we wanted to fall in!” Donghyuck yelped suddenly, lips protruding as he argued back.
“Maybe you wouldn’t have fallen in if you took your eyes off of each other for two seconds to pay attention to your surroundings!” Jaemin retorted.
“What gives you the right to tell us what to do?!” Donghyuck screeched.
“I saved you just now, you asshole!”
“I could’ve gotten out by myself, thank you very much!”
“Then why didn’t you?!”
“Why are we yelling?!” Mark cried, covering his hands over his ears.
“Guys, the boat is leaning way too much–!” Jeno tried again.
“Fine, let’s settle this, once and for all. I’ve been wanting to do this since high school, Lee Donghyuck,” Jaemin said through gritted teeth, as he braced himself against the wooden frame. “Bring it on, if you dare. Come at me now!”
“You think I’m scared?!” Donghyuck retaliated.
“WE’RE ON A GODDAMN BOAT—!” Jeno screamed, trying to grab onto Jaemin.
But it was too late, Donghyuck had already lunged forward on a tiny little boat that was not meant for such audacious movements.
Mark let out a string of curse words as the boat tilted past its safe angle.
The four of them tumbled theatrically back into the water with a gargantuan splash.
“I can’t believe four grown adults just did that.”
Mark Lee sat next to Jaemin as he dabbed himself with a towel. The two of them were sitting out in the middle of the yard, under what was left of the blazing sun, trying to dry themselves out as best as they could.
“That’s my line,” Jaemin complained. “You’ve been acting real weird since you got here.”
“Says the guy who tried to use my body as a shield to hide from his old friend as soon as we got here,” Mark retorted.
“I had deep, personal reasons,” Jaemin defended himself.
“Well, so do I,” Mark blurted.
Jaemin scoffed. “What? You consider whatever this fling is that you’re having with that notorious flirt of a farm boy a deep, personal reason? You should probably think with your head instead.”
“It’s not like that!” Mark insisted. “I—He’s—I actually think he’s a one in a lifetime kind of person.”
Jaemin’s eyes were wide. “Oh my gosh, you’re serious?”
Mark nodded earnestly. “I’ve been meaning to tell you something actually…” Mark spoke slowly and carefully. “I just haven’t really found the right opportunity—”
“Because you’ve spent every waking moment since you were here with Donghyuck,” Jaemin interjected.
“—but you know…I was thinking: well I’m technically well-established enough in my career that I could still maintain contact with my company and write from anywhere…”
Jaemin’s eyes widened. “Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”
“...and I’ve had such a great time here. The people are so nice, and I haven’t been this inspired in a while…”
“Inspired or horny?” Jaemin said jeeringly.
Mark glared at his friend. “So,” he emphasized. “I was thinking…maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I...if I just stayed…”
“WHAT?!” Jaemin gaped, standing up in shock even though he saw it coming. “YOU?! Mark Lee, the born and bred city boy, who doesn’t even know how to chop up green onions, wants to move and permanently in a small farming village?!”
Mark stared back defiantly. “Is that so hard to believe?”
Jaemin facepalmed. “What disgraceful things did Donghyuck promise you to lure you into this?”
“Nothing!” Mark said defensively. “Okay, well, maybe he…anyways, nevermind! That is not the point! That was never the point! And I know there’s one thing that you’re not actually gonna disagree with me on and that it’s actually really nice here and you know it. What’s the last time you felt this much welcomeness and homeliness in the city?”
Jaemin gave him another look. “You know just because you manage to get some action in a new place doesn’t automatically make it homier—”
“Jaemin,” Mark sighed. “I’m being serious. And I seriously don’t know why you’re so against it.”
“Who’s gonna fly back with me? What the hell?” Jaemin retorted. “Who’s gonna get lemonade at the coffee shop with me on my caffeine runs before my night shifts? Unlike you, my job doesn’t allow me to just up and leave out of nowhere without warning.”
Mark raised an eyebrow. “Is that your main concern? That your job prevents it?” he noted. He adopted a more provvocative tone. “Besides, even if you did up and leave…it wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Ugh, why are we even arguing about this? It’s ridiculous,” Jaemin said. “You’ve known Donghyuck for like three days.”
Mark shrugged. “You’ve known Jeno for like eighteen years.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, despite all that time you still ran away from him. So three days, eighteen years…it all means nothing anyway if you don’t act on it properly.”
Jaemin sighed. “Okay, Mr. Writer and your fancy words.”
Mark reached out and put a hand on Jaemin’s shoulder. “Stop fighting me, Jaemin. Stop fighting yourself. Just stop running away already.”
“Who says I’m still running away?” Jaemin retorted all of a sudden. “If you and Donghyuck hadn’t fallen into the pond…”
“If we hadn’t…?”
“Nevermind,” Jaemin said. “Maybe…maybe I should just go find Jeno.” He glanced at Mark. “You go find Donghyuck and keep him busy. I don’t want anyone sabotaging us again.”
Mark nodded. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep him busy.”
After asking around, Jaemin found Jeno sitting under a tree on a hilltop, taking a break as he gazed into the sunset. There was something about it that was awfully familiar about it all, as he ran up towards his old friend.
Is this the same place where I…
“Jeno!” Jaemin called.
Jeno looked up at Jaemin who barreled straight towards him, before collapsing down and catching his breath.
“Hi,” Jaemin said with a grin.
Jeno smiled back at Jaemin’s antics. “Hi. What are you up to right now?”
Jaemin shrugged casually. “Just wanted to see you.”
“All of a sudden?” Jeno replied, his smile widening. “That’s not like you at all.”
“I like you, Jeno,” Jaemin blurted all of a sudden, before he could stop himself.
Jeno’s eyes widened. “Now that’s definitely out of the blue.”
“I don’t care if you don’t feel the same way anymore,” Jaemin blabbered out nonstop. “But I just need to get it off my chest. I know I don’t deserve to say anything but I guess even though it’s been a long time now I realized that coming back here that out of everyone you’ve been the nicest and sweetest to me all this time and again I know I don’t deserve to say all this considering I did the most terrible thing but I want to say I’m really sorry and I don’t even want anything to come from this I just— mmprgh! ”
Jaemin’s rant was stopped in its entirety when he felt something on his mouth. Eyes widening, he realized that Jeno was kissing him, full on the lips to stop his rambling.
After all this time.
It didn’t take long for Jaemin to fully melt into the kiss. Jeno’s kiss was just like his appearance—gentle, soft, yet somehow irresistible and searing to all the senses. It was overwhelming, it was euphoric, and somehow it made Jaemin realize all that he’d been yearning for all these years, and why he’d felt so empty for so long.
The answer was that he was simply homesick.
At last Jeno pulled apart, and pushed his forehead firmly against Jaemin’s, with the brightest smile on his face.
“I already told you,” Jeno said. “There’s no need to apologize between us. We don’t owe each other anything.”
Jaemin exhaled steadily. “You…you’re really too good to me, Lee Jeno. Like, you’re a really good guy.”
Jeno grinned. “I know,” he replied, pulling away as patted Jaemin on the head. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
Jaemin’s eyes shifted. “Well…”
“You’ve always been real bad at allowing yourself to just be happy,” Jeno said. “Just let it be. Enjoy it for once. And do what feels right.”
Jaemin hesitated. “You know I have to leave again soon, right?”
“So? It’s not like you’re going to run away again this time.”
“I’ve been here all this time…you think I’m gonna go anywhere anytime soon?”
“You never know…”
As a nonverbal response, Jeno pulled Jaemin in for another kiss. This one was more like a sealed promise.
“I’ll be here. Waiting. Me and this entire village will always be here. For the day you come back again. I promise.”
And as Jaemin stared into Jeno’s beautiful eyes, surrounded by the gorgeous landscape surrounding them and the gentle breeze, he felt that warm swelling in his heart, and suddenly, it felt like he had all the answers at once.
“I promise as well.”
~ one year later ~
“Yah, Mark Lee! Did you get the wrong cut of meat again? I told you I needed the flank!”
“What does it matter?! It’s still meat anyways!”
“It’s not the same! How do you still not get that after a year of being here!”
“Cause you’re always so good at doing everything for me…”
Mark Lee said the last sentence in a pout as he wrapped his arms around Donghyuck’s waist, who was standing in the kitchen, preparing dinner for the household. Donghyuck softened at once, just like he did every time this kind of thing ensued (which was a lot).
It’d been over a year since Mark decided to stay with them. He’d moved in with Donghyuck and Granny (who had recovered magnificently ever since Jaemin’s visit) and diligently took on his new roles. In the morning, he would join Jeno and work on the fields, and in the afternoon and evening, he would work on his writing whenever he had time. It was quite a peaceful time in the village.
As Mark nuzzled into Donghyuck’s neck, they heard noises coming from the front of the house.
“Oh, that must be Jeno,” Mark said, pulling away. “He’s early.”
“Tell him to go get meat for me!" Donghyuck demanded, brandishing his knife.
"Stop ordering people around! I literally just came back!"
"What'a the problem, he always did it for me when you weren't around."
"Well, I'm around now…" Mark pouted.
"Okay, baby, I know~" Donghyuck cooed, moving over to pinch Mark's cheek. "And you're doing so great."
"Hey guys, how's it going!" Jeno entered with a bright smile on his face.
"Well, don't you look chipper today," Donghyuck noted.
Mark threw an arm around Jeno and dragged him in. "Jeno, my bro…what a sight for sore eyes."
"You literally just saw him an hour ago," Donghyuck scoffed.
"Doesn't mean I have to love him any less," Mark grinned, petting Jeno's head.
Jeno pushed away from Mark. "Save some for Donghyuck!"
"That's fine," Donghyuck said. "Last night he already—"
"I don't need to know!" Jeno interrupted.
"Speaking of which," Mark said suddenly. "How has it been going for you? We haven't talked about your love life in a while."
Jeno shrugged, as he took a seat at the table. "It's the same as always. Nothing new. Nothing to complain about."
"Aren't you guys on like opposite schedules still?" Mark said.
"You're literally the most patient guy ever," Donghyuck mentioned. "I mean I've known that but if it was me and Mark…"
"That's only because you two make it a cringy habit to do everything together though," Jeno noted. "Don't you two ever get tired of each other?"
Donghyuck shrugged. "You and him used to be the exact same."
"It's really not that bad," Jeno said. "I don't have to be with him 24/7."
"Can't relate," Mark and Dongyuck said at once.
Jeno scoffed. "You two need to get some hobbies… besides each other."
"Mad cause alone," Donghyuck fake-whispered, which caused Mark to explode in unnecessary laughter.
"Hey, who's picking on Jeno?!"
The three of them looked up and sure enough, there was Na Jaemin standing in the hallway, eyebrows furrowed, lips pouted and legs crooked in his comfy shorts.
Mark's eyes widened. "Oh wow! Jaemin got off work early today too!"
"Give this to Granny later," Jaemin said, thrusting a bag into Jeno's hands.
"How was the clinic today?" Donghyuck asked genially. "Not too bad?"
"It was fine. The usual. A lot of kids today though," Jaemin noted.
"Honestly, you setting up a practice in that abandoned house was the best idea ever in hindsight," Mark said. "This place really needed a good doctor too.".
Jaemin shrugged, sitting down next to Jeno. "I do what I can."
Jeno wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close. "And you're so good at it." He leaned close and quickly nuzzled Jaemin on the nose.
Almost as soon as Jaemin had returned from his vacation a year ago, he had submitted his letter of resignation, packed whatever necessity he thought he needed, and plopped himself back onto Jeno's doorstep a few months later. Naturally, everyone was elated to see him again. The whole setting up office thing had somehow become a natural extension of Jaemin's caretaking of Granny. And it was true—the village was in dire need of a good doctor.
And so, Jaemin finally found himself in the middle of the peaceful life he's always wanted.
Right at home.
"Hey, are you three just gonna sit there while I do everything alone?" Donghyuck snapped all of a sudden. "I'm juggling like ten dishes by myself!"
Mark and Jeno made no hint to move. "There's such things as too many chefs in the kitchen, you know," Jeno remarked.
"Why are you cooking so much anyway?" Jaemin asked, moving next to Donghyuck.
"It's our one year anniversary, you know?" Donghyuck remarked. "It's an important event."
"What? It’s only been a year since you and Mark got together?" Jaemin wondered out loud. “Why does it feel like it’s already been a whole decade of you two causing misery to my life?”
"No, not that! Of us falling into the lotus pond and also later that day...Mark caught his first fish!"
"...that's…such a normal anniversary…"
"Thank you! I really need your opinion!" Donghyuck said brightly.
"Aish, you're as intolerable as ever…" Jaemin sneered.
"Don't fight him Jaeminnie, it's not even worth it," Jeno mumbled from where he was sitting.
"Hey, why don't you two make yourself useful?!" Jaemin raised his voice suddenly, brandishing a knife. "We're doing everything!"
"What do you want me to do?" Jeno retorted, eyes wide. "You want to switch places then? Mark and I will cook and then you can set the table when it's ready!"
"No thanks, I don't want raw eggs and toast again," Donghyuck said.
"To be fair, that is a perfectly valid North American breakfast," Mark tried to rationalize.
"Whatever! Go set up the grill! I'm bringing this out!" Jaemin said, carrying out a platter of various cuts of raw meat.
"Yes, sir!" Jeno agreed at once. They did a bit more prep before they finished it off with Mark helping Donghyuck inside where he could and Jaemin grilling meat outside with Jeno's assistance.
After making sure Granny got her fill of the food, the four boys set up outside by the side of the house to eat. They lit a small lantern to give them light, before setting up their homey but delicious spread.
"Oh my, this really hits differently with the freshly harvested vegetables Mark and Jeno brought in earlier," Jaemin gushed, sitting down and brandishing his chopsticks.
"Everything is so delicious!" Mark complimented, eyes bright.
"Baby, open up~!" Donghyuck drawled suddenly, holding up a piece of food to Mark with his chopsticks, who happily obliged at once.
Jeno frowned deeply. "Ugh, have some class. Why do you still have to act like this in public?"
Jaemin was also frowning, looking a lot like Jeno at that moment. "It's been a year, act normal already."
"This is normal to them, I think," Jeno noted. "It's like they were severely repressed in another life or something."
"Maybe we just have to outdo them," Jaemin suggested suddenly. "Give them a taste of their own poison.”
Jeno's eyes glinted mischievously. "As expected, Na Jaemin. You always think of the devious things. But hey, if it means I get to…do more things with you I'm happy to oblige."
Jaemin returned a smile before they returned to eating, with Jaemin saying they should dig in before Mark and Donghyuck take all the food first. The four of them spent the evening completely relaxed bantering, bickering and talking until the light had completely disappeared from the sky.
The exhaustion and food coma finally kicked in a few hours later. Donghyuck was leaning on Mark’s shoulder and Mark on his head, both of them with their eyes closed. Jaemin was also dozing off next to Jeno, who, on the other hand, was staring out into the village.
“Hey,” Jaemin said quietly, not opening his eyes. “What are you thinking about?”
Jeno glanced over. “Nothing. Just how…peaceful things have been recently. Here.”
“Because of me, right?” Jaemin teased, opening his eyes slightly with a nose scrunch directed at Jeno.
Jeno laughed softly. He reached out to grab Jaemin’s hand, instinctively. “Yeah, I guess so.”
A retching noise came from the other side of the table.
“I’m throwing up...” Donghyuck mumbled sleepily, burying his head deeper into Mark’s shoulder.
“Go back to sleep,” Jaemin scowled.
But none of them would be getting much nap time in after that, as suddenly, raucous noises filled the village. They all stood up tiredly, exchanging glances at one another and wondering who could possibly be so loud at this hour.
The voices gradually became more and more distinct.
“Look what happened! I told you to listen to me but you didn’t! Now we’re gonna get eaten by cannibals!”
“Stop screeching, you always start screeching and it never helps. Just let me think for two seconds.”
“What is there to think about?! We already stumbled on this place!”
“Aish, you’re both stressing me out! Be quiet for two minutes!”
“Hey! We're older than you! Don’t talk to me that way!”
The four guys moved forward into the clearing to see an unexpected sight—there were three boys clearly not belonging to the village, finely dressed in business casual and dragging suitcases with them. They were so caught up in arguing with each other that they didn’t notice the villagers approaching.
“Um…hi,” Mark greeted first. The three of them yelped at the sight of new people. “Do you…do you guys need help? How’d you guys end up here?”
The three of them stared in horror, unable to speak now that they had finally encountered the sign of civilization they had surely been searching for.
The tallest one of the group was shoved out first.
“Go ahead, Jisung, talk to them,” one of the other ones ordered.
“Why me?!” came the protest.
“Yeah, why are you bullying my friend, Renjun?”
“Zhong Chenle, you pushed him out!”
“Okay, enough!” Jaemin stepped up, brandishing a wooden spoon. All three of them flinched. “We’re not gonna eat you so tell us what’s going on so we can help you figure things out already!”
“You guys should talk. This one’s scary when he gets impatient,” said Donghyuck.
“He is,” Jeno nodded in agreement.
The three boys exchanged nervous glances with one another. At last, one of them sighed, stepped up, and started talking:
“So…we were on the same flight heading to an international business conference…”
THE END (?) 🌾
When characters respond or give you an answer in a dream, it is usually because you are not acknowledging something important. You can see it as "you" saying something to yourself. Some side of you is questioning what you are doing and the answer should be explored as a type of direction that you are not considering.What does it mean when you dream of someone you love? ›
This means that you are seeking a connection with this person in real life and subconsciously wish to see them in your dream. This is a good sign that you feel very close to this person and that you have a strong connection with you two. You want to connect on all levels, even the dream world!What does it mean when you dream about someone liking you back? ›
05/7Dreams about your crush liking you back
If you are dreaming that your crush has proposed to you or likes you back, then it signifies your personality traits of being confident. You may be sure and optimistic that things will work out between you both.
You can interpret your dreams by learning more about common symbols, keeping a dream diary, and trying to identify personal associations. Dream analysis may be better achieved by working with a psychotherapist.What does it mean when you dream of someone not answering you? ›
A dream where someone ignores you can be a sign that you have repressed feelings towards them, whether anger, love, or jealousy, for example. The dream is a prompt to acknowledge these feelings and express them if appropriate.Do dreams have a message? ›
Although the messages are communicated to you via symbols, your dreams are ultimately trying to help you. Dreams offer you important messages and guidance at critical turning points of your life.Is it true that if you dream of someone they dream of you? ›
So, “if you're dreaming about [someone], it's not likely they're dreaming about you as well.” As dreams are all about the self—your feelings and behaviors—if you're dreaming about a specific person in your life, then it's likely there's some aspect of them that is currently at work in your life, Loewenberg explains.Does dreaming of someone mean they are thinking of you? ›
While dreaming about someone usually means they are thinking of you, dreaming of the same person over and over again could also mean that they have thought of you so much that when you dream about them, it's just another instance where that thought enters your head.What does it mean when your partner appears in your dream? ›
“One of the biggest reasons for these sort of dreams is that your partner is your current romantic interest, so it's only natural that your dreams may carry out an element of desire and lust for your partner,” says Dr. Sommerfeldt.What are the signs that he likes you? ›
- He leans toward you during conversation.
- He angles his body toward you in the room.
- He finds small ways to compliment you.
- He makes eye contact.
- He steals a glance at you.
- He singles you out in a group.
- He seems drawn to you in the room.
Someone who is super interested in you will want to talk to you all the time. If you and your crush have lengthy conversations often, or even just send a few short texts throughout the day, it's likely that they have strong feelings for you. This could also be a sign that your crush thinks of you as a very good friend.What does it mean when you dream of someone you don t talk to anymore? ›
The most common reason you dream of someone you don't talk to anymore is that you miss them. Certain friends, exes, relatives and people we meet in life leave a deep imprint on our psyche for better or for worse. Sometimes dreaming of them can be as simple as really missing them.What are the three types of dreams? ›
It's important to know that dreams can come in many different types and to understand these different types of dreams that you can have. Some of the most common types of dreams you might be familiar with like nightmares, daydreams, and lucid dreams.What is the most common negative dream in the world? ›
Nightmares about falling were followed closely by dreams about being chased (more than 63 percent). Other distressing nightmares included death (roughly 55 percent), feeling lost (almost 54 percent), feeling trapped (52 percent), and being attacked (nearly 50 percent).What does it mean when you dream about someone trying to hurt you? ›
Dreams about being attacked often relate to feelings of your own vulnerability. While they may be disturbing to experience, attack dreams are often exploring sources of pain or control in order to be released from it. Attack dreams can often represent the way we symbolically attack ourselves.What does it mean when someone you love ignores you in a dream? ›
It's Time to Give Yourself Attention
If you've dreamed of them ignoring you, it could mean you've been ignoring yourself lately. Your self-negligence is manifesting in your dreams as the person you like is ignoring you. Give yourself the attention you deserve!
This dream could indicate that you feel a strong connection with this person, or it may be an indication of the spiritual bond between you two. It often highlights the desire to have a deep relationship, be it romantic or platonic, and share intimate moments together.What does it mean when you can t find your partner in your dream? ›
For example, a really common dream we'll have surrounding our significant other is that we can't find them … That can indicate one of two things. It could mean that you miss them and that you're not spending enough time with them, because maybe they're always working or maybe it's a long-distance relationship.Should you pay attention to your dreams? ›
Paying attention to your dreams can provide rich insights into the issues that are playing on your mind. Dreams are the brain's way of working on important issues, problems or emotions that are leftover from when we're awake.Why do some dreams feel so real? ›
Sometimes the dreams we have seem so real. Most of the emotions, sensations, and images we feel and visualize are those that we can say we have seen or experienced in real life. This is because the same parts of the brain that are active when we are awake are also active when we are in certain stages of our sleep.
But talking about dreams, particularly when you first wake up, can make them easier to remember. It's those initial moments as you're waking up where the dream still feels accessible, lingering in the synapses waiting to be solidified into your conscious mind. Talking about your dreams—or writing them down—helps.What does it mean when you can t stop thinking about someone? ›
If you are unable to stop thinking about someone, you most likely have 'anxious attachment'. You might push and pull in relationships to get a break from the anxiety they cause you. But if the other person leaves, you panic.When someone is always on your mind what does it mean? ›
What Does It Mean When A Person Is Always On Your Mind? When you fall in love with someone, the person always stays in your mind. However, you can also have someone you really hate on your mind. When someone is always on your mind in ways you can't stop, then it means you care for the person.When you think about someone all the time are they thinking about you? ›
It's normal to think about someone a lot if you find them special. It can mean that you are in love with them, infatuated, or you simply like them. However, as of now, scientifically speaking, it does not mean that they are thinking about you, too.Why do I keep dreaming about him? ›
It's no secret, dreams and our emotions have a unique connection or attachment. Dreaming about someone frequently could mean that they're emotionally connected to you. You care for them deeply and you fervently wish to see them and ease your heart. You constantly think of them, whether consciously or subconsciously.What does it mean when you dream of an old lover? ›
Dreams of this nature may indicate a need for closure with an ex. They might also reflect concerns you have about infidelity in a new relationship. In other cases, these types of dreams may represent parallels in your waking life.What does it mean when you dream about someone cheating on you? ›
Cheating dreams may be symptomatic of underlying unmet needs in your relationship. According to experts, cheating dreams can often be traced back to emotional dissatisfaction, sexual dissatisfaction, or unresolved feelings about a past infidelity.What does it mean when you dream about your partner with another woman? ›
If you see a dream of your beloved partner being with another girl that you explicitly know, you likely have some negative emotions towards that girl. These emotions are most usually envy and jealousy.How do you know if a guy is serious about you? ›
- He Listens to You. If a guy is serious about you, he will really listen and he won't take anything you say for granted. ...
- He Makes Future Plans. ...
- He Checks Up on You. ...
- He Helps You with Any Problem. ...
- He Makes You a Priority. ...
- He Does Thoughtful Things. ...
- He Introduces You to His Friends.
- Your compliments brighten up his day.
- Signs you're special to someone – It's always in the eyes.
- He tries to establish a deeper connection with you.
- Your presence makes him a little nervous.
- When a guy sighs when he sees you with someone else, you are special to him.
The short answer: yes. It is absolutely possible to get a sense of whether or not someone is in love with you based on physical and non-physical signs. “Usually, we sense this through their microexpressions or the others' behavior,” says relationship expert Parisa Bady.How do you know if someone thinks of you romantically? ›
- They lean in.
- They tilt their head as you speak (a sign of engagement).
- They smile at you.
- They make eye contact with you.
- They reach out and touch your arm, hand, back, or leg.
- They may act a bit awkward around you. Who doesn't get a bit tongue-tied around a crush? ...
- They compliment you often. ...
- They get a little jealous. ...
- They ask questions. ...
- They remember the details. ...
- They want to spend time with you. ...
- They listen. ...
- They lean in when you talk.
According to relationship expert Terri Orbuch, who spoke to Women's Health, dreaming about an ex could mean that you're looking for closure. Maybe you're unsettled with the way things ended between the two of you, or maybe you're still trying to work past the way your relationship ended in your mind.What does it mean if you dream about someone repeatedly? ›
Dreaming of someone repeatedly may represent your love for them. Whether this special someone is your friend, parent, or crush, interpret your recurring dreams as a sign that you care about them deeply.What does it mean to dream about someone you hardly know? ›
Dreams about someone you don't know are often an indication that you are not being honest with yourself. In dreams, we even experience things that we have been trying hard to avoid in real life.What is the rarest dream to have? ›
Most experts believe that lucid dreams are the rarest type of dreams. While dreaming, you are conscious that you are dreaming but you keep on dreaming. According to researchers, 55 percent of people experience these types of dreams at least one time in their life.Why do we forget dreams? ›
“Since dreams are thought to primarily occur during REM sleep, the sleep stage when the MCH cells turn on, activation of these cells may prevent the content of a dream from being stored in the hippocampus – consequently, the dream is quickly forgotten.”What happens if you have the same dream 3 times? ›
Experiencing recurring dreams may point at underlying issues regardless of the dream's content. Adults who experience frequent recurring dreams tend to have worse psychological health than those who do not, and many experts theorize that these dreams may be a way to work through unmet needs or process trauma.Can a dream be a warning? ›
None of the theories about dreaming point to our dreams (or nightmares) as being warnings of potential or impending doom. However, there's one thing that nightmares may actually “warn” us about: our physical and mental health. According to research, nightmares are more common in people who have mental health diagnoses.
1. Falling. The most frequent in the common dream family, researchers say that the average human will dream about falling to his or her death more than five times in their lives (yikes).What are the signs of bad dreams? ›
You feel scared, anxious, angry, sad or disgusted as a result of your dream. You feel sweaty or have a pounding heartbeat while in bed. You can think clearly upon awakening and can recall details of your dream. Your dream causes distress that keeps you from falling back to sleep easily.What does it mean when you dream about someone wanting to fight you? ›
Times Now News has suggested that if you have a dream about fighting, this may be an indication that you are harboring some pent-up resentment within yourself. If you tend to bottle up your feelings and stay out of confrontations in real life, you may find that you are more likely to have these dreams.Why do things hurt in dreams? ›
The results indicate that although pain is rare in dreams, it is nevertheless compatible with the representational code of dreaming. Further, the association of pain with dream content may implicate brainstem and limbic centers in the regulation of painful stimuli during REM sleep.What does it mean when you get scared in your dream? ›
“Fear dreams are almost always about real issues that are threatening you. Whether they're behaviors you have, situations, or your environment at work or home, your dreams can help you understand and own up to them.”What does it mean when you dream about speaking? ›
When you speak publicly in a dream this is a good omen for your waking world when your words are well-received in a dream. If you captivate your audience and get them on board with your speech it shows that you have made good decisions and you are in a place of control and peace in your life.Why do you talk in your dreams? ›
When it happens during REM sleep — the stage during which we dream — it's caused by "motor breakthrough" of dream speech: One's mouth and vocal cords, usually inactive when we're sleeping, briefly get switched on, and words spoken by one's character in a dream are spoken out loud.Is it normal to talk in your dreams? ›
Talking in your sleep (or somniloquy, as it's known in the medical world), is a common type of parasomnia, or abnormal behavior during sleep. An estimated two in three people talk in their sleep at some point in their lives – and it's especially common in children.What does a dream within a dream talk about? ›
"A Dream Within a Dream" explores the significance and reality of life. The speaker watches as the things that are important to him are taken away and struggles to hold on to them. Realizing, that no matter how hard he tries to hold on, he lacks control, and questions if life is just "a dream within a dream".What does it mean when you dream about someone you ve never spoken to? ›
"When we dream about people we've never met, they could be a placeholder for someone we do not want to see, for whatever reason," Jeffrey notes. But these strangers could also be a manifestation of a part of ourselves that's not yet known or familiar.
But talking about dreams, particularly when you first wake up, can make them easier to remember. It's those initial moments as you're waking up where the dream still feels accessible, lingering in the synapses waiting to be solidified into your conscious mind. Talking about your dreams—or writing them down—helps.What is it called when you can't speak in a dream? ›
Sleep paralysis: the waking nightmare where you can't move or speak.When you talk in your sleep are you telling the truth? ›
This usually occurs in the lighter stages of Non-REM sleep (Stages 1 and 2) and usually sleepers have no memory of these vocalizations. The actual words or phrases have little to no truth, and usually occur when they are stressed, during times of fever, as a medication side effect or during disrupted sleep. 'What does it mean when you sleep talk spiritually? ›
If you've been repressing any emotions, then you might sleep talk as a way to express yourself in an unfiltered way. You might use sleep talking to announce your intentions and manifest what you desire. Sleep talking might revolve around a certain theme, like love or a fear of heights.Why you should never stop dreaming speech? ›
Dreaming is all about finding yourself, finding your goals and live a life that you don't regret. If you stop dreaming you won't truly live and when you get old you will regret the dreams you don't persuade. If you have a dream, you must fight for it, that dream chooses you so have the courage to grab it.Do dreams have voices? ›
The researchers discovered that sounds featured often, being reported in 80% to 100% of each participant's dreams. Most often, the sounds consisted of other people speaking. (There were even five instances described as speech in a foreign language that the dreamer did not understand.)What happens when you say your dreams out loud? ›
Once you say them out loud, you'll become evermore convinced and committed to what you want. You'll find support, affirmation, learning, and connections to help you along your way. You'll start envisioning yourself achieving what you want, and head down the path to turning that tiny little wondering into your reality.What does it mean when you dream of someone? ›
Your dream may be a way of dealing with loss and grief, especially if someone close has passed away. If you have nightmares about someone, it may signify that you are trying to keep them safe (such as a child) Dreaming of someone from your past may be a sign that you want them back in your life.What is the hidden content of dreams? ›
According to Freud, the latent content of a dream is the hidden psychological meaning of the dream. This content appears in disguise symbolically and contains things that are hidden from conscious awareness, often because it may be upsetting or traumatic.What is the difference between dream about and dream of? ›
italki - what is the difference between dream of and dream about. We use "dream about" for actual dreams that we have when we're asleep, and "dream of" for ambitions. I dreamt about my old schoolfriends last night. I dream of having my own little house by the sea.
Manifest content is the actual content, or storyline, of a dream. Latent content , on the other hand, refers to the hidden meaning of a dream.