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East of the Sun

Chapter Text

Seokjin presented as an omega at eighteen years old.

The first time he brought an alpha home for a heat, Jeongguk punched a hole in the wall.

He was thirteen.

But that was not where their story began.

It began with a memory.

 

The truth was this:

Jeongguk had always loved Seokjin.

 

Jeongguk’s first unofficial memory was of his mother. He did not want to disillusion her, did not want to take away from her this fabricated tale, his first memory of her smiling face.

But he had a memory even clearer than that one, earlier than that one, of Seokjin, angel-faced even as a child, pink pouty lips and curious eyes. He squinted at Jeongguk, head tilting, no more than seven years old, and said, “He’s not much to look at, is he?”

Later, Seokjin aggressively denied that this had ever happened. “I would never,” he gasped, hand on heart, but Jeongguk remembered.

He would have been a baby still, just two years old, but he remembered.

And that was sort of the thing. Jeongguk remembered everything when it came to Seokjin.

 

Despite Seokjin’s early, critical appraisal, Jeongguk was an adorable child. Angelic, even, some might say, when he wasn’t causing trouble. Causing trouble, however, was something that Jeongguk seemed to like to do. He had an early disregard for authority, which only worsened with age, not helped at all by the fact that, contrary to what adults told him, Jeongguk was usually right about things.

He grew up in Seokjin’s shadow, always just on the wrong side of too little and too young for Seokjin to play with. Their mothers met twice a week for English Tea, but Seokjin managed to escape each time, darting off, and Jeongguk, unable to keep up, was left behind.

He remembered thinking that he would be old enough to play with Seokjin one day. But as a child he had no concept of time, no idea that as he got older, so did Seokjin, the gap between them always, completely, unequivocally the same. It was maddening, that gap, because Jeongguk could not figure out how to cross it.

Seokjin was always on the other side.

 

“The baby is following you again,” Yoongi mumbled, hopping up on the fence to sit beside Seokjin and Namjoon.

Seokjin turned, looking over his shoulder. He spotted Jeongguk, small and wobbly, ambling slowly toward them.

“He’s not a baby,” he countered, though Yoongi just shrugged his thin shoulders.

Namjoon leaned around Seokjin, staring Yoongi down. “I’m only three years older than Jeongguk. What does that make me, huh?”

But Yoongi just smirked. “A genius,” he said, and Namjoon blushed, grumbling to himself, even though it was true.

Namjoon was only friends with them because he had been bumped up to Seokjin’s grade, and Seokjin had taken him in, so to speak. Yoongi lived in a different school district. But his mother was in the same social circle as Seokjin’s mother.

Still, the three of them got along. Surprisingly well. Seokjin thought it was because they all balanced each other out.

But even he could tell that Yoongi’s patience was wearing thin with their five-year-old shadow.

“I’ll take Jeongguk back home,” said Seokjin, jumping down from the fence, brushing off his clothes and sighing heavily.

“You’re not responsible for him,” Yoongi drawled.

But Seokjin shook his head. “Someone has to be.”

He waved, and Yoongi and Namjoon returned the gesture.

Jeongguk stopped walking as Seokjin approached him, and Seokjin came to a halt with a sigh, holding out his hand for Jeongguk to take.

“You can’t keep following me, Gukie,” he said, gently chastising.

It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, rejecting Jeongguk. He was a cute kid. Small and compact, but round and soft with big eyes. He was cute. It made Seokjin sad, to see his chin tremble when he got in trouble.

Jeongguk lifted his small shoulders, trying to hide between them. “I want to,” he said, voice small and hesitant.

Seokjin knelt down and wrapped both of his hands around Jeongguk’s tiny fingers. “I want to, ‘hyung,’” he corrected, and Jeongguk smiled at him. He had his first loose tooth, and Seokjin could see him wiggling it with his tongue.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk mumbled.

Seokjin stood up, still holding onto one of Jeongguk’s hands.

“Come on,” he said, and started walking back toward the house. “I’ll teach you Mario.”

Jeongguk stumbled trying to keep pace with him, even though Seokjin slowed his gait.

“The first thing you need to know about Mario,” said Seokjin seriously, once they made it back to the house, and he was trying to fit Jeongguk’s hands around the Nintendo controller. “Is that it isn’t just a game. Okay? Mario is everything.”

Jeongguk blinked slowly at him, but nodded all the same.

“Also, I’m not going to let you win,” Seokjin told him. “I don’t care that you’re younger than me. I don’t joke around about Mario.”

Jeongguk nodded again. “Okay, hyung.”

Seokjin sniffed, lifting his chin a little. “Alright. Good. Here’s how you play. We’ll start with Rainbow Road.”

Seokjin didn’t know it at the time, but his mother snuck out of the English Tea gathering in the kitchen and snapped a photo of the two of them, Seokjin cross-legged on the floor, Jeongguk sitting up on two pillows, deeply invested in beating each other. Her camera caught the moment that Jeongguk won for the first time, a wide, joyful smile on his face, Seokjin looking utterly shocked and slightly betrayed.

Years later, Seokjin found that photo in a dusty box hidden away in his old, childhood room. He framed it, but not before printing more copies, one of which went to Jeongguk.

In a way, Seokjin thought it portrayed their relationship perfectly:

Jeongguk, wild, carefree, always wearing a smile as he crushed his competition. Seokjin, shocked, baffled, and always surprised at how easily Jeongguk upended his world.

 

The truth was this:

Jeongguk had always loved Seokjin.

But eventually, they both grew up, and, as a factor of that growth, drifted apart. Not too far apart. Their mothers were still friends. And, in a way, Jeongguk and Seokjin were still friends too.

But at ten years old, Jeongguk found his own circle of peers, friends his own age, who he could play with and have adventures with and explore the world with, when, at fifteen, Seokjin considered himself too old for those things.

Seokjin was more interested in destroying his mother’s kitchen by trying out new recipes than he was in being outside. He and Yoongi and Namjoon were all in high school now, though Namjoon was soon going to outpace his elders, and Yoongi spent all of his time, both in the classroom and out of it, with headphones looped loosely around his neck, one earpad up over an ear, always halfway in the music, leaving the other ear to catch what might be happening in the real world.

Seokjin made Namjoon and Yoongi taste-test his new recipes. This worked out well for him, and, he knew, for them too. Seokjin was a good cook, and even though his creations sometimes made Namjoon raise an eyebrow, for the most part he came up with pretty good stuff.

Sometimes, Jeongguk ended up trying his food.

Seokjin was never really sure how it happened, but occasionally he was coerced into babysitting. Neither Jeongguk or Seokjin thought that Jeongguk needed a babysitter, but their opinions hardly mattered.

So Jeongguk sulked, looking grumpy and cute, while Seokjin hastily threw together a bowl of ramyun for him to eat one afternoon when they ended up stuck with each other.

Jeongguk played with his food, dragging his chopsticks through the noodles as Seokjin tried to get his new kitchen torch to work.

“Are you allowed to use that?” asked Jeongguk, eyes wide as a jet of fire finally escaped the torch.

“Eat your noodles,” snapped Seokjin, without even looking at him.

Jeongguk pushed his bowl away and stood up. “What is that?” he asked, inching closer to the counter, head tilting curiously.

Seokjin sighed. “It’s supposed to be crème brûlée. It’s French.” He glanced at Jeongguk consideringly. “Want to try it?”

Jeongguk bit his lip, staring at the little dish that Seokjin had just torched. Then he shrugged.

“Sure.”

A minute later, Seokjin folded his hands nervously and watched Jeongguk dip a spoon into the dessert. He chewed for a minute, seeming adorably bunny-ish, and then looked up at Seokjin with wide eyes.

“Hyung!” he said. “This is so good!”

Seokjin beamed.

Neither of them minded much, after that, when Seokjin was tasked with babysitting Jeongguk. He generally just let Jeongguk do whatever he wanted, and then made him taste-test.

Jeongguk loved everything Seokjin made, and he wasn’t sure if it was because Jeongguk had the appetite of a young, growing boy, or if it was because he was just too nice to tell Seokjin when something didn’t taste good.

“It’s because he likes you,” said Yoongi bluntly, when Seokjin told him later.

Namjoon nodded, agreeing.

Seokjin’s face scrunched up. “No, he doesn’t.” He waved his hands, stopping the protests he could see forming in the mouths of his friends. “He doesn’t. He’s too young to even know what that means.”

Namjoon made a face. “You don’t give him enough credit.”

“He’s liked you for years, hyung,” said Yoongi, exasperation bleeding into a voice that had finally deepened and roughened a little. “Forever.”

Seokjin bit his lip. “I don’t know,” he denied, though with more hesitance in his voice. “Maybe.”

 

The problem was, Seokjin wasn’t very good at noticing things, at least, right up until they were pointed out to him. After that, he couldn’t stop noticing.

In the following weeks, he didn’t spend any more time with Jeongguk than was normal. They saw each other once, maybe twice a week. But Seokjin devoted extra attention to watching Jeongguk’s face, his body language, even the way he talked.

Oh, no, he thought. Yoongi was right.

It was all there, in Jeongguk’s eyes. He was too young to have learned to build a façade, and so there was none. His face shone with a sort of innocent adoration, directed entirely at Seokjin. He didn’t even seem to be aware of it.

Seokjin’s mind raced, reaching back through memory after memory, across the years that he had known Jeongguk. But in every memory it was the same. Jeongguk, bright, alive, open, staring at Seokjin like he was the sun.

Had there ever been a time, thought Seokjin, when Jeongguk had not looked at him like that?

 

When Jeongguk turned twelve, he had to read Romeo and Juliet for school.

He didn’t particularly care for Shakespeare, didn’t particularly care for reading at all, but the play settled into him softly, and he kept thinking about it long after finishing it, kept recalling moments, kept remembering star-crossed lovers.

“But, soft!” he murmured, leaning against his bedroom window, imagining that he could see Seokjin’s apartment despite the distance between them. “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

Jeongguk did not necessarily consider himself a romantic soul.

It was simple, really. He had always loved Seokjin. That wasn’t romantic. It was just true. It was woven into every aspect of his life, every fiber of his being, every breath he took.

In science class, they had begun learning about matter, about atoms and particles and cells, and the elements that made up everything.

Jeongguk thought that if he were to be pulled apart, if his body was separated into the trillions of cells that composed him, each and every one of them would love Seokjin.

The most confusing part about it, was that Jeongguk wasn’t always even sure why he loved Seokjin. Sure, Seokjin had the face of an angel. He was the most beautiful person Jeongguk had ever seen. He was funny, and friendly, and most of all, kind. He had a contagious, squeaky laugh, and the tips of his fingers never quite straightened out. It drove Seokjin crazy, but Jeongguk, even at twelve, had imagined what it would be like to kiss each of his fingertips.

But Seokjin wasn’t always perfect. He had a mean streak that didn’t come out often, but when it did, it was better not to be in the vicinity. He was going to be a great chef one day, but Jeongguk had seen him stuff ungodly amounts of food into his mouth. He could be a little controlling, a little bossy.

But Jeongguk loved him.

It was nearly a part of his identity, now.

He watched his friends experience their first crushes, and the jitters and the butterflies that went along with it. He watched them pass notes, feel heartbreak for the first time, and joy for the first time.

Jeongguk had only ever felt any of that for Seokjin.

Sometimes he wondered, was he missing out? Was he skipping some important part of his childhood by not finding a first love his own age?

But loving someone who wasn’t Seokjin didn’t make sense to him. It was a fleeting thought, entertained only for one second, dismissed in the next.

He would not be Jeongguk if he did not love Seokjin.

Romeo and Juliet died for their love.

Was it always tragic, contemplated Jeongguk, breath fogging on the window pane, when it was true?

 

“Hyung,” Jeongguk gasped, pushing his dripping hair back off his forehead. “Hyung, what does it mean, to fall in love?”

Seokjin stared at him. He was soaking wet and shivering, his clothes clinging to his skinny frame. Seokjin opened his apartment door wider, grasped the front of Jeongguk’s rain-drenched shirt, and yanked him inside.

“Are you crazy?” asked Seokjin, steering him toward the bathroom. “It’s pouring outside. Jeongguk, did you walk here? You’re going to get sick!”

“But, hyung—” Jeongguk began, before Seokjin pushed him into the bathroom.

“Dry off!” Seokjin commanded through the closed door. “I’ll find you some clothes.”

Seokjin pushed the smallest pair of sweats he owned and a plain white shirt through a crack in the door a moment later, Jeongguk’s hand darting out to take them.

“What were you thinking?” asked Seokjin, leaning against the wall, speaking to the crack that Jeongguk left by not bothering to close the door all the way again. “Does your eomma know you’re here?”

Inside the bathroom, Jeongguk rolled his eyes.

“Are you hungry?” asked Seokjin, without waiting for his answer. “Cold? I can make soup.”

“I’m not hungry,” said Jeongguk, pulling on the shirt and coming out of the bathroom. “I just want to talk to someone.”

Seokjin eyed him carefully. He had grown a little taller in the last year, but his face was still soft. His eyes, though. They were sharp. Always discerning. It made Seokjin nervous, that sheen in Jeongguk’s eyes. His eyes always looked so much older than the rest of him.

“Why do you want to talk to me?” asked Seokjin slowly.

Jeongguk shrugged. “I don’t know, hyung,” he said. “I trust you. You talk to me like a person. Not like a kid.”

Seokjin sighed. “Fine,” he said, giving in. “Sit down. I’m at least making you tea.”

Jeongguk knew better than to argue with that.

Seokjin didn’t really know how to not feed people, and Jeongguk knew enough about Seokjin to know that he cooked when he was stressed, or nervous, or angry. So he wasn’t entirely surprised to hear Seokjin making more than just tea in the kitchen, and because Seokjin hadn’t appeared stressed or angry, he must have been feeling anxious.

Jeongguk’s stomach tightened a little at the thought that he was making Seokjin nervous.

“Why do you want to talk about love?” asked Seokjin, leaving the kitchen a few minutes later with a pot of tea and a plate of street-style egg sandwiches.

Jeongguk wasn’t really hungry, but he picked up a sandwich anyway.

He decided that the best thing to do was to be completely honest.

“Because I’m almost a teenager,” said Jeongguk openly. “And I think about this stuff a lot and I have no one to talk to.”

“Well I don’t know why you’re asking me,” said Seokjin. He poured tea into a dainty, china teacup. His hands shook just the tiniest bit. He hoped Jeongguk didn’t notice. “I’ve never been in love.”

Jeongguk almost choked on his sandwich. His eyes went wide.

Seokjin laughed at his expression, but there was a touch of defensiveness in the sound. “Is that so hard to believe?”

“Yes,” said Jeongguk, and then immediately amended his response. “Well, no. I guess not.” He paused, and a light that Seokjin did not like at all came into his eyes. “Are you waiting until you present?”

Seokjin licked his lips, ignoring the way that Jeongguk’s eyes followed the movement. “Not on purpose,” he finally said. “It’s just sort of worked out that way.” He looked at Jeongguk for a long moment, searching for something. “I know I seem dramatic most of the time, and I know I dream big, but it’s never seemed practical to be too interested in anyone before I present. So much could change, depending on my subgender.”

“But you’ll still be you, hyung,” said Jeongguk softly. “Your subgender won’t change you.”

“Easy for you to say,” Seokjin returned, a little waspish. “Everyone knows you’ll be an alpha.” He rubbed his temples. “I don’t want to get attached to anyone,” he admitted, “not when that attachment could so easily fall apart after I present.”

Privately, Jeongguk thought that was no way to live, even though he understood what Seokjin meant. Seokjin was probably going to present as an omega, and even though omegas enjoyed much more freedom now than they ever had historically, there was still a fear among many that heats destroyed true consent between the omega and their chosen partner, and as a result, also destroyed any chance at true, unconditional love.

I could be your alpha, hyung, thought Jeongguk. I could be the greatest alpha, if you choose me.

Jeongguk had learned not to resent the space between them, the gap in ages. But in that moment, seeing Seokjin’s downtrodden expression, Jeongguk hated that he was so much younger.

The idea that Seokjin had chosen not to love, simply out of fear… It made Jeongguk’s heart ache. Suddenly he felt as if he had experienced much more of life than Seokjin had, despite Seokjin already being seventeen.

Also privately, and in a way that made him feel quietly ashamed, Jeongguk felt a strange, possessive twist of pleasure that Seokjin had loved no one. That he had not yet given his heart away.

“Are we talking about me or you?” asked Seokjin, slightly more aggressively than he meant to, interrupting Jeongguk’s inner ramblings.

But Jeongguk just smirked. “You,” he answered. “Are you nervous about presenting?”

Seokjin stared at him. “No.”

Jeongguk raised an eyebrow. A smile curled his lips upward. “You’re lying. I can tell.” He tilted his head. “Why are you nervous?”

“I’m not nervous,” Seokjin lied. “And I’m not having this conversation. Didn’t you want to talk about falling in love?”

Jeongguk held his hands up, peacefully, conceding. “Yeah,” he said. “What does it mean, hyung? When you fall in love?”

Finally, Seokjin smiled a little. “Well, I obviously wouldn’t know.” He sighed, a tad forlornly. “But I’ve always imagined that it would be easy. That you would find someone you would do anything for, give anything for, and that you would wake up one day realizing that you weren’t totally your own person anymore.” He blushed prettily, tucked some loose hair behind his ear. Jeongguk stared at him, marveling at his beauty. “I guess that’s what I think. When you fall in love you give half of yourself away to someone else.”

Jeongguk daydreamed of poison kisses and daggers and thought, I don’t know how to tell you this, hyung, but you’re wrong. Love wasn’t half. It was never half. Love was everything, whole, all the time.

Jeongguk knew that better than anyone. He had given himself away a long time ago.

 

The truth was, Seokjin was scared.

He was scared of presenting.

He refused to talk about it with Yoongi and Namjoon, refused to talk about it with his mom when she called to check in on him. But he was scared, and it frightened him how easily Jeongguk noticed.

In a perfect world, Seokjin would be a beta. He hated that he wanted it so much, when he knew it wasn’t going to happen.

To Seokjin, being a beta meant freedom. It meant that he would have more liberty with his choices, that he wouldn’t be so reliant on alphas for his heats. He knew he was going to be an omega. He could already feel it, though his presentation was still a year or more off.

“Omegas aren’t weak,” Seokjin often repeated out loud to himself.

He knew they weren’t. And he knew he wouldn’t be.

But he was afraid. And he didn’t know how to tell anyone why, not when he could barely stand to talk about it.

He wanted a happily ever after. He wanted true love.

But as an omega, would he ever truly have it?

Seokjin wanted to give his heart to the right person. He didn’t want his subgender to have anything to do with it.

In a way, he envied Jeongguk, who loved so openly.

It hurt Seokjin to see him, to be around him, to know that that love was directed toward himself, when he had done nothing at all to deserve it.

It was not a love he could return, and that hurt most of all.

In a perfect world, Jeongguk would have been older, or Seokjin younger, still years away from presenting.

There was an old adage. Tennyson, Seokjin thought. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

It didn’t seem right to Seokjin. Wasn’t it better to never love, than to risk giving yourself away to the wrong person?

 

There was a different truth, and it was this:

Seokjin had not always loved Jeongguk.

Years later, he did not like to think about this truth, even though Jeongguk didn’t seem to care.

Seokjin fell in love slowly, one creeping day at a time. He did not love Jeongguk, until one day, unexpectedly, he did.

And by then, it was all so complicated.

Chapter Text

Presenting was not something that Seokjin thought about while growing up.

There was a certain level of freedom that childhood afforded, and one of those freedoms was from the constrictions of having a subgender. Of course, everyone already had a subgender, but they remained dormant and unseen until adulthood, only emerging when the individual was both physically and mentally mature enough to handle a new set of sexual characteristics.

So, as a child, Seokjin was altogether unconcerned about one day presenting.

But once he turned seventeen, it settled over him like a cloud, dark and ominous, threatening chaos in a life that he had ordered and organized to his liking.

Seokjin had a plan.

He was going to graduate from high school with Namjoon and go to university, where he would receive a business degree before embarking on the adventure he truly wanted—culinary school. He already had his own apartment close to the university, ready with an extra room for Namjoon as soon as he was able to move out of his parent’s house.

Seokjin had a plan, and it was only after his seventeenth birthday had come and gone did he realize, for all of his planning, he left out perhaps the most important part.

Presenting.

“It’s going to be okay, hyung,” Namjoon often told him. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.”

Objectively, Seokjin knew that this was true. It was going to be okay.

Subjectively, when he thought about presenting, he couldn’t breathe properly. He had to sit down. Nothing felt okay.

“I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal about this,” Yoongi would grumble. “Alpha, beta, omega, it doesn’t matter. It’s a subgender. It’s going to give you a new set of sexual characteristics that won’t in any way bar you from succeeding in life.”

Namjoon would nod eagerly. “He’s right, hyung.”

They were both right, and Seokjin knew it.

He couldn’t even fully articulate to himself why he was so dreading his presentation. He knew that, as an omega, his presentation would be relatively painless. First heats usually happened months after presentation, giving the omega plenty of time to adjust and prepare. Alphas, on the other hand, almost always presented in a rage—an instinctual, animalistic, almost fugue state, during which the rage controlled the awakening of the alpha, for a brief time annulling the personality of the individual presenting.

At least he wouldn’t have to deal with that.

The problem, as Seokjin saw it, was twofold.

He had so far avoided forming personal romantic attachments. He had done it out of a sense of self-preservation. If he didn’t fall in love with anyone before he presented, then there would be no chance for his presentation to ruin the relationship. Seokjin knew that as an omega, unless he was lucky enough to find his mate right away, he would be initiating and breaking bonds during each heat. Pre-presentation relationships, especially if the partners presented at different times, did not often survive the intensity of an omega’s heat, and the necessity of finding an alpha to help.

But by denying himself, Seokjin had also, inevitably, maintained a level of inexperience that he was now regretting.

Because his first heat—unless he went out and seduced someone now—would literally be his first time.

And Seokjin wasn’t so sure he liked the idea of that.

 

“I have to find someone to have sex with me!”

Namjoon dropped his pencil just as Jeongguk spit out his water, spraying it across the piles of math books spread on the table between himself and Namjoon. Jeongguk’s face burned bright red, and Namjoon stared at Seokjin, mouth half open, speechless.

In hindsight, Seokjin probably should have checked to make sure that no one else was in the study room with Namjoon before he barreled in unannounced. Had he been thinking straight, he would have remembered that Namjoon was tutoring Jeongguk.

“I’m sorry,” said Namjoon, picking up his pencil and fiddling with it awkwardly. “What?”

Seokjin cleared his throat nervously. He dragged the toe of his right shoe along the floor, bashful.

“Please don’t make me say it again,” he implored, turning wide eyes on Namjoon and Jeongguk.

“Um,” said Namjoon eloquently, eyes darting between Seokjin and Jeongguk.

Jeongguk, perhaps realizing that he was about to be asked to leave the room, hunched down in his seat and crossed his arms defiantly. He raised his chin and stared pointedly at Seokjin.

Seokjin blushed. “Okay, so,” he began, looking straight up at the ceiling. “I have to find someone to have sex with. You know. So that my first heat isn’t my first time.”

Seokjin could feel the heat rising off of his face. He resolutely avoided making eye contact with either of the two other occupants of the room.

“Hyung,” said Namjoon, his voice mixing between exasperation and embarrassment, unable to settle on either. “You haven’t even presented yet. You don’t even know if you’re going to be an omega.”

“I know,” snapped Seokjin, and then immediately pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sorry. Look, I just know, okay? So, can you help me? Can you think of anyone who might want to… you know. With me?”

But Namjoon just shook his head. “I know all the same people you do, hyung.” He bit his lip. “I’m pretty sure anyone would be really happy to do… that with you.”

Seokjin crossed his arms. “So you’re saying I should just go proposition some random stranger?”

“No,” said Namjoon firmly, just as Jeongguk started insistently shaking his head.

“Don’t do that, hyung,” said Jeongguk. “You shouldn’t proposition anyone. You just need to find someone who you’re comfortable with, and who wants to be with you.”

Seokjin blinked at him. “I don’t know anyone like that,” he said. His eyes slid to Namjoon, who started waving his hands urgently.

“Not me!” he yelped.

Seokjin made a face. “Ew, no, of course not you.” He paused. “No offense.”

Namjoon smiled, eyes crinkling. “Honestly, hyung, no offense taken.”

Seokjin tapped his lip. “But maybe the next best thing?”

“Huh?” asked Namjoon.

Jeongguk sat up straight in his chair, realization coming into his eyes. “Or, you know, a stranger! A stranger is fine. You’ll never have to see them again. That’s perfect. Or even better, you could just wait! I don’t know, you could wait. For like, ever. Yeah, you should do that hyung.”

Seokjin stared at him. “But you just said I should find someone I know who I’m comfortable with.”

“Well I don’t know why you’re listening to me!” Jeongguk half shouted, hands fisting on top of the table. “I’m just a kid!”

“I, for one,” Namjoon interjected soothingly, looking curiously between Jeongguk and Seokjin, “would like to pretend this conversation never happened. So maybe we can talk later, hyung?”

Seokjin sighed and nodded. “Right. Of course.” He turned to leave. “Later,” he threw over his shoulder, looking for Namjoon’s nod before finally leaving.

He pulled out his phone as he walked away, dialed a number, and waited impatiently while it rang.

“Hey, we need to talk,” he said, when the person on the other end of the line picked up.

“Oh, no,” drawled Yoongi. “Are you breaking up with me?”

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “Be serious.” He bit his lip. “I need a favor.”

 

Seokjin presented as an omega five months after he turned eighteen.

He went to bed one night feeling drunk, even though he hadn’t been drinking. It was hard to fall asleep. The world spun even with his eyes closed, and he could see shadows and light blending together behind the thin skin of his eyelids.

He went to bed feeling drunk, and when he woke up, he was an omega.

He called Namjoon.

“I just presented,” he said, without preamble.

“Hyung,” Namjoon whispered. “Are you sure?”

Seokjin sighed. “I woke up covered in slick, had to throw away my sheets, I’m hungry enough to eat an entire cow, and I kind of want to punch you in the throat just for asking me that question.”

“Right,” said Namjoon. “I’m coming over.”

“Bring pizza,” said Seokjin, and hung up.

When Namjoon arrived thirty minutes later, Seokjin had wrapped himself in his fluffiest bathrobe (the pink one), had put on the matching slippers, and was actively fighting back tears.

“Hi, hyung!” said Namjoon brightly, holding up two pizza boxes. At the sight of his dimpled smile, Seokjin’s control crumbled, and he burst into tears.

“Jin,” Namjoon mumbled, setting down the pizza boxes and a grocery bag and shuffling his way in.

Seokjin dropped his head onto Namjoon’s breastbone, grateful for once that the younger was already taller than him, and cried quietly as Namjoon’s long arms came around him.

“Jin,” Namjoon breathed, running his hands up through Seokjin’s hair. “It’s okay.”

“I know,” Seokjin said, voice muffled.

He wasn’t really sure how Namjoon managed it, but within moments Seokjin was on the couch, leaning against Namjoon as he arranged the pizza and two pints of ice cream on the table in front of them.

“You brought ice cream?” asked Seokjin, sniffing, head lolling on Namjoon’s shoulder.

He could feel Namjoon’s laugh move up through his shoulder and into his own body.

“Of course I did.”

Seokjin leaned more heavily on him, sighing. “You’re the best.”

Namjoon gently dropped his head on top of Seokjin’s. “I know.”

It was not one of Seokjin’s finest moments, eating pizza and ice cream as he cried miserably, but Namjoon just ate with him, tried to make him laugh, and then just let him cry when he couldn’t.

“It really is going to be okay, hyung,” said Namjoon later, after they had finished all of the food. “You’re an omega now, but you’re still you. You can still go to college and culinary school. You can still open the best damn restaurant in Seoul. There’s nothing stopping you.”

Seokjin nodded. “I know that,” he said. “I do. But you can’t deny that there’s a social bias, Joon-ah. I’ll always be viewed as weaker. There will always be those who think I can’t, or shouldn’t. And I don’t want to, Namjoon, but,” he looked up, blinking wetly, “I care what others think of me.”

Namjoon smiled sadly. “People who decide to hate you for who and what you are would probably hate you no matter what, hyung,” Namjoon told him. “No matter how you presented.” He brought his hands up to cup Seokjin’s face. “It says a lot more about them than it does about you, hyung.”

Seokjin’s chin trembled, so Namjoon squished his cheeks together, making his lips pop out, fish-like.

Finally, Seokjin laughed. “You giant goofball. What would I do without you?”

Namjoon shrugged, blushing. “I’m sure you’d be fine, hyung.”

But Seokjin just pulled Namjoon in, hugging him close. “I wouldn’t be,” he said, quietly and honestly. “Don’t ever leave me, okay?”

“Okay,” promised Namjoon, holding his pinky finger up.

Seokjin linked his pinky with Namjoon’s, smiling. “Best friends for life,” he said seriously.

Namjoon nodded. “Best friends for life.”

 

Seokjin’s presentation was normal in almost every way.

He was a little emotional the first few days, but otherwise fine. He was much more aware of the way that people smelled now, though he quickly got tired of telling Namjoon that, because he had not presented yet, the younger still had no smell at all.

But otherwise, Seokjin felt pretty much like himself.

In fact, the one unusual thing about his presentation actually had nothing to do with him at all.

Yoongi, who should not have presented until he was eighteen, presented a mere week after Seokjin did.

The alpha burst out of him, uncontrollable, the rage stronger than it should have been, so that Yoongi practically demolished everything in his sight. Namjoon was with him at the time, working on music, and was only saved because he was smart enough to realize what was happening and left the second Yoongi started acting strangely.

It was a good thing, too, the doctors later said. Yoongi’s presentation rage was so powerful that he might have killed Namjoon on accident, had Namjoon stayed. This made Namjoon go a little green at the edges, and it upset Yoongi to such an extent that he locked himself in his room for days.

But Seokjin and Namjoon were used to Yoongi’s moods, which had always been unpredictable, and they pestered him until he was annoyed enough to come out.

It was rare to present before turning eighteen, but not altogether unheard of. An early presentation could be a result of extreme stress, or a reaction to environmental or other external factors. It could also just be a result of early maturity, of reaching adulthood before the age of eighteen. The doctors weren’t entirely sure why Yoongi presented early, but because he seemed to have decent control over the alpha, they weren’t very worried about it.

Yoongi himself seemed almost no different at all. He was still moody, still a little angrier than most. He said that his sense of smell was stronger now, which was why his face was always scrunching up. He could pick out all three subgenders by scent alone, and had so far never been wrong. Not even Seokjin could do that.

It was in thanks to Yoongi’s nose that Seokjin realized he was going into heat for the first time, just two months after his presentation.

The three of them—Seokjin, Namjoon, and Yoongi—had taken Jeongguk out for successfully completing his first year of middle school.

In the middle of desert, Yoongi’s head snapped up, eyes zeroing in on Seokjin, nostrils flaring. “What’s happening to you?” he asked, his voice low and urgent.

Seokjin looked up, mouth full of tiramisu, and blinked. “Wha—?”

“You smell different,” said Yoongi, and actually leaned forward and across the table a little bit. “Strange.”

Seokjin sat back, taking stock, ignoring the way that Namjoon and Jeongguk were now looking at him too.

He didn’t feel different. He shrugged, looking up at Yoongi. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I feel fine—”

Seokjin shifted, and then he felt it, causing his words to die in his throat.

Slick. He was slick.

He gulped, eyes darting around nervously.

He was slick in the middle of a restaurant. He froze, holding as still as he could, but he imagined that he could see eyes turning in his direction, eyes of alphas, suddenly aware of him, appraising him, looking him over.

“Yoongi,” he breathed, face pale, afraid to move at all.

Yoongi’s nostrils flared once more before realization broke over his face. He pushed his chair away from the table, standing up.

“I’m taking Jin hyung home,” he said, throwing some Won in Namjoon’s direction. “I’ll call you later.”

“Hyung,” said Jeongguk, staring at both of them as Yoongi helped Seokjin stand up. “What’s going on?”

“Later,” said Yoongi firmly, and led Seokjin out of the restaurant with a hand on his back.

“Oh, my god,” said Seokjin, hanging his head as he and Yoongi walked quickly down the sidewalk outside. “Why me?”

He was beginning to shake a little bit, and he did feel a tad warm, though he had no idea if it was because of his heat or due to embarrassment. He could feel his body growing taut, vibrating like a live wire.

“Relax,” said Yoongi, threading an Alpha Order through his deep voice.

Seokjin’s shoulders slumped, the tension bleeding out of him, but he shot a sideways glance at Yoongi.

“Don’t Order me,” he said quietly.

Yoongi responded by pressing firmly against his back, urging him to walk faster.

“You need to let me be an alpha right now,” said Yoongi, his voice a low growl. “I don’t know how to control everything yet, and I’m just trying to get you home in one piece.”

Seokjin pressed his lips firmly together, unhappy, but nodded. “I just don’t understand,” he said, his voice a little high. “I thought I was supposed to have some sort of pre-heat.”

“You probably did,” responded Yoongi quietly. “But it’s your first time. Maybe you didn’t notice.”

An alpha approaching from the opposite direction caught Seokjin’s scent as he was passing them and paused, leering. “Hey, baby,” he purred, and Yoongi yanked Seokjin behind him by the wrist.

“Back off,” Yoongi barked, snarling, and Seokjin shivered as the other alpha held up his hands and walked away with a quick snap of his teeth.

“Yoongi,” Seokjin whimpered, suddenly overwhelmed by pheromones, feeling uncomfortable and not at all enjoying the looks that he and Yoongi were getting.

“I know,” said Yoongi, pulling him along even more quickly. “We’re almost there.”

Seokjin was shivering for real by the time they made it to his apartment. He had his arms wrapped around himself, teeth clenched together.

Yoongi looked him over carefully. “I need to run home and grab my overnight bag, and then I’ll come back,” he said. He made Seokjin look at him, hand soft but firm on his chin. “This is still what you want, right?” he asked. “For me to help you through your first heat? That was our agreement.”

Seokjin nodded, but his stomach twisted. “Yeah, it’s still what I want.”

Yoongi pulled his hand away. “It’s lucky I presented early,” he said. “Now I can help you as an alpha, and not just as a friend.”

“Yeah,” said Seokjin. “Lucky.”

“Jin,” said Yoongi, dropping the honorific, making his voice all alpha. “It’s going to be okay. Trust me.”

Seokjin straightened. “Go. But hurry back. I feel… not right.”

 

“Trust me,” Yoongi said later, once he had returned, and the heat fever had taken hold of Seokjin, making him scream and cry out, making him want to rip off his own skin.

“Calm down,” Yoongi Ordered. “Trust me.”

Seokjin closed his eyes.

“Trust me,” Yoongi said, when the fever got so bad that Seokjin leaned over the side of the bed and vomited.

“Trust me,” Yoongi breathed, when his alpha touch transformed the fire inside Seokjin into something else, a burning that worked through him slowly, insatiable, needy.

“Do you trust me?” Yoongi asked, pausing in his preparations, refusing to give Seokjin what he needed most until he had absolute confirmation.

“Alpha!” Seokjin whined, trying to pull him down, trying to pull him in. “Yoongi,” he gasped, when the young alpha refused to budge, mind clearing just enough to give Yoongi what he needed. “Yoongi, I trust you. Please!”

He did trust Yoongi. He trusted him fully. It was why he had asked, all those months ago, for this favor.

Seokjin trusted him.

He closed his eyes, let the heat consume him, and trusted Yoongi to take care of him.

 

Seokjin’s first heat broke after five days.

He stared at himself in the mirror after his shower, grumpy, as he let Yoongi towel dry his hair.

“Don’t take this personally,” said Seokjin finally, and Yoongi looked at him in the mirror. “But I think maybe I don’t want to speak to you for at least a week.”

Yoongi laughed, the sound gruff and gravelly. He stood up on tiptoe and kissed Seokjin on the cheek.

“And don’t take this personally, hyung,” he said, flipping the towel over Seokjin’s eyes, making the older huff and wiggle in his bathrobe. “But can we sever the bond now? It feels weird.”

He was right. It did feel weird. Seokjin wasn’t entirely sure why. Yoongi had been brilliant all through his heat. Something about fulfilling his duty as alpha seemed to settle him in a way that little else did. But he was right. The mating bond that Seokjin had initiated itched under his skin. They were not meant for each other, he and Yoongi.

“Yeah, let’s sever it,” said Seokjin.

He wasn’t exactly sure how to do so. Everything he had read, everything he had been taught in subgender health classes, told him that it would be instinctual. So, he linked hands with Yoongi, pressed their foreheads together, and closed his eyes. It actually wasn’t that hard to find the thread linking them, nor was it difficult to cut that thread, separating them once more.

“Done?” asked Yoongi, and Seokjin nodded, pulling away from him.

“Done.”

They stared at each other for a minute, Seokjin feeling more and more awkward, until Yoongi finally cracked a rare, gummy smile and shoved him playfully.

“Don’t make it weird, hyung,” he said.

“Wise advice, as always, Yoongi,” said Seokjin, rolling his eyes. “Now get out. I’m going to watch an entire drama and probably cry.”

Yoongi pulled a face.

“Call me if you need me,” he tossed over his shoulder, before finally leaving Seokjin in peace.

“Thank you, Yoongi,” Seokjin whispered, after the door had closed and Yoongi was long gone.

“Thank you.”

 

That night, Jeongguk showed up at Yoongi’s small, studio apartment.

Yoongi opened the door and stared at him. Jeongguk was red-faced and quivering, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

Yoongi sighed, but stepped aside so that Jeongguk could come in.

“There’s no point being mad at me,” said Yoongi, as patiently as he could. “It’s done. It happened. You need to get over it.”

Jeongguk sucked in a sharp breath through his nose. “You… you… how could you?... why did you…?”

“What would you have had me do, Jeongguk?” asked Yoongi tiredly, the exhaustion of the last several days finally sinking into him, into his bones, making him slump a little. “Just leave him? Let him go through his first heat with a strange alpha? Let him go through it alone?”

“No!” snapped Jeongguk, angry, taking several steps forward. “Of course not. That’s not what this is about. I… I confided in you.”

“That was your first mistake,” said Yoongi, and then immediately flinched. “Jeongguk—”

But Jeongguk had confided in him. He had shared secrets where he couldn’t, wouldn’t, with Seokjin. Yoongi wasn’t good with feelings. But he was good with his friends, he was loyal, and he knew how to keep his mouth shut. He never laughed at Jeongguk. Never questioned him. Never dismissed him as being too young.

“I trusted you,” said Jeongguk quietly, and that made Yoongi flinch back even harder, Jeongguk’s words a harsh reflection of what he and Seokjin had been whispering to each other for the past week.

“I’m sorry, Jeongguk,” said Yoongi truthfully. He held up his hands helplessly. “I had to do it. Jin asked me to. I had to do this for him.” He took a step forward, for the first time paying attention to how much Jeongguk was shaking, how angry he looked. “I’m sorry that time isn’t on your side, Gukie, I really am. But you have to let this one go.”

Jeongguk shook his head. He knew that Yoongi was right. He knew it. It would have been awful, knowing that Seokjin was going through his first heat, his first time, with an alpha that he didn’t know, that none of them knew.

But now Jeongguk would have to look at Yoongi and know that they had been together.

And it hurt. It tore at his stomach, shredding, until he wanted to double over from the pain.

Jeongguk had once thought about what it might be like to not love Seokjin. He had briefly thought that everything would be easier if he could just force himself to not be in love anymore. Their age difference was always working against him. He thought, if he could just fall in love with someone his own age… But that was impossible.

Jeongguk had always, and would always, love Seokjin.

It was who he was.

And he was sure, he was convinced, that somehow, he and Seokjin were meant for each other. It was overwhelming, knowing that Seokjin had been with someone who wasn’t him. It made him see red, made him feel anger the likes of which he had never experienced before, made his hands shake.

“You need to calm down,” said Yoongi, watching him carefully, seeing the shake in his hands, the veins standing out on his arms and on his neck. “Take a deep breath.”

Jeongguk tried. He pulled air in through his mouth, but it rattled in his chest and came out of him again as a growl.

“You have no idea what this feels like,” said Jeongguk, and even he was startled by how low and intense his voice was.

He felt almost crazy, his vision blurring, Yoongi going in and out of focus in front of him.

“Jeongguk,” said Yoongi, his voice a warning, but Jeongguk felt out of control, like if he didn’t do something, he might attack Yoongi.

It burst out of him all at once. A scream tore from his throat, and he turned, hand curling into a fist, and punched the wall as hard as he could, drywall dust fluffing out around his knuckles as his hand went right through.

“Woah,” said Yoongi, taking a step back. “Calm down! Jeongguk, calm down right now!”

It was an Alpha Order, and Jeongguk turned to him, teeth bared.

“Don’t Order me!” he snarled, yanking his hand out of the wall, but Yoongi just rushed forward, wrapped his strong arms around Jeongguk so that he had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. Jeongguk twisted, but Yoongi’s arms caged him in.

“Calm down,” Yoongi chanted, breathing it into Jeongguk’s hair. “Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.”

Jeongguk felt like he was going to shake right out of his skin. But Yoongi held him tightly, and eventually Jeongguk’s breathing synced with Yoongi’s, his heart rate slowing, until he went nearly limp in Yoongi’s arms, blinking sluggishly.

“What?” asked Jeongguk dazedly, after several long minutes of breathing with Yoongi.

“Are you with me?” asked Yoongi, without letting go of him.

“Yeah,” said Jeongguk. “Hyung, what was that?”

At first Yoongi said nothing, just stared at him shrewdly, making sure he really was calm.

“A rage,” answered Yoongi after several long moments, finally pulling away from him. “An alpha rage.”

Jeongguk swallowed. He opened and closed his mouth several times. “But I’m not an alpha.”

“Not yet,” said Yoongi, taking a deep breath. “For a second there I thought you might actually present.”

Jeongguk swayed on his feet. “But that’s impossible,” he said. “I’m only thirteen.”

“It’s improbable,” Yoongi corrected. “Not impossible. And you didn’t, so it doesn’t matter.”

“But I could have?” wondered Jeongguk, turning wide eyes on Yoongi.

“Yeah,” said the older. “I think you could have.”

“I need to sit down,” breathed Jeongguk, and Yoongi caught him under the arms before he fell, pulling him easily to the small, moth-eaten couch.

“I’m sorry, hyung,” said Jeongguk eventually, after the world had regained some focus in his eyes.

Yoongi ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t apologize. Just be careful. You have to control yourself. Okay? All the time, Jeongguk. Complete control.” He waited for Jeongguk’s nod. “That’s what it takes, Gukie, to be an alpha.”

Jeongguk looked at him. “Please don’t tell anyone, hyung.”

Yoongi’s stomach twisted. “I won’t.”

 

It got easier to deal with Seokjin’s heats, after that first time.

But each time, without fail, Jeongguk felt the rage creeping up on him, threatening to tear him open, to bring the alpha to life, years before he was ready for it.

Sometimes, when he felt it happening, Jeongguk fled to Yoongi’s. He had begun to sing for Yoongi, for some of the demos that he was starting to send out to producers. Singing calmed him down. And Yoongi was good at grounding him, at keeping him steady, solid enough to not fly apart into pieces.

Other times he locked himself in his room, ignoring his parents, and breathed through the anger, breathed through the pain, held it at bay through mere willpower.

He told no one.

At least, he thought, when he finally did present, he would already have practice at controlling the rage.

Chapter Text

“Don’t waste it, Jeongguk,” Yoongi used to say.

Jeongguk remembered looking at him, confused, until Yoongi saw fit to clarify.

“Youth,” he said. “Don’t waste it. It’s as fleeting as a butterfly’s lifespan. And it’s going to be gone before you know it.” He gestured to his small, dingy apartment. “Adulthood is not glamorous, Jeongguk. It’s hard, and gritty, and it hurts. What you have now, childhood, is precious. Don’t spend it wishing you were older.”

Yoongi was a man of few words. When he spoke, he chose his words carefully. When he spoke, Jeongguk listened.

So, for every moment he spent wishing that he could just grow up, he spent two more enjoying being young. He joined school clubs. He started learning martial arts, and dancing.

High school, once he got there, was good. His parents let him enroll in a school in Seoul, so that he could be closer to his friends. He traveled there from home every day, though often his hyungs let him sleep over. Namjoon helped him with his homework when he needed it, and he sang for Yoongi sometimes and never went hungry, not with Seokjin cooking as often as he did.

When Jeongguk turned fifteen he made a friend, a cherub-cheeked boy named Park Jimin, who was two years older but almost exactly Jeongguk’s size. Jimin was an incredible dancer, and he and Jeongguk started going to a studio together. Selfishly, Jeongguk tried as hard as he could to keep Jimin separate from his hyungs. He wanted a friend that was his, one that he didn’t have to share.

But it was inevitable that Jimin eventually meet one of his hyungs, and after the initial amusement of watching both Jimin and Yoongi do double-takes the one day Yoongi came to pick him up from dance practice, Jeongguk thought, darkly, this could be trouble.

“Who is that?” asked Jimin, as Jeongguk grabbed his water and his dance bag.

It would have been casual—and Jeongguk commended him for the effort—had his cheeks not been glowing red.

“Yoongi,” said Jeongguk, a little shortly. “My alpha.”

“Alpha?” asked Jimin, glancing over to Yoongi again. “Like in a pack? But you haven’t presented?”

Jeongguk shook his head. “Not yet, but I’m still in the pack. Everyone else has presented.”

He was the last one, now that Namjoon had presented. As an omega, of all things. It had been completely unexpected. But Namjoon fell right into it like he was born for it—which, really, he had been, since the omega subgender was always there—started talking about omega law, omega’s rights, omega health. He had a gleam in his eye like he wanted to change the world, and the brain to back it up, and Jeongguk found him equal parts terrifyingly ambitious and admirable.

“Don’t be like Namjoon,” Seokjin had started saying, teasingly, now that Jeongguk was in high school. “I think our group can only handle one Namjoon. Any more than that and we might spontaneously combust.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk would say. “There’s no chance of that. Don’t worry.”

Namjoon would glare for all of two seconds, snap out a hasty, “You can’t spontaneously combust. It’s impossible,” and then go right back to chewing on his pen, mumbling to himself and solving equations in his head that Jeongguk couldn’t even properly read out loud.

“Is it weird?” asked Jimin, flicking Jeongguk’s shoulder, bringing him back to the dance studio. “Being the maknae? Being the only one who hasn’t presented?”

“Nope,” said Jeongguk, without even having to think about it. “They spoil me.”

Jimin’s eyes slid back to Yoongi, and Jeongguk, wanting to avoid any situation in which they might talk to each other, might officially meet, shouted a goodbye and darted off.

“See you later, Jimin hyung!” he called, waving, just catching Jimin’s confused little return wave before he made it to Yoongi and practically yanked the older outside.

“Who was that?” Yoongi asked, without any attempt at subtlety.

“Jimin,” said Jeongguk, rolling his eyes. “My friend, hyung. My friend.”

“Alright, I get it,” said Yoongi, backing off. But it had a temporary feeling to it, like much of what Yoongi did, and Jeongguk thought there was a very good chance they would be revisiting this conversation one day.

“I’m hungry!” Jeongguk said, changing the subject. “Who’s feeding me?”

“Yah,” grumbled Yoongi, shouldering him playfully. “Do you have parents or what?”

“No,” said Jeongguk. “I was born under a bridge, like you, hyung. I’m a growing boy, please feed me!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Yoongi said, huffing. “Let’s go. Seokjin hyung’s already at the restaurant.”

Seokjin was at the restaurant, and it looked as if he had already been making some headway with a bottle of soju. Seokjin wasn’t much of a drinker. Typically, when he was drinking, it was for one of two reasons. Either he was stressed about school or he was stressed about finding an alpha for his next heat. But it almost always involved stress.

Jeongguk sat down next to him hesitantly. “Hey, hyung,” he murmured, and Seokjin peeked up from under some flyaway strands of hair.

His eyes looked a little red, which was not something Jeongguk enjoyed seeing. He curled his hands into fists under the table, where Seokjin wouldn’t see it.

“Hey, Jeonggukie,” Seokjin mumbled in response. “How was dance?”

“Hard,” said Jeongguk. “I’m still a little sweaty. Sorry.”

Seokjin gave him a once over, and without even thinking about it, Jeongguk flexed the muscles in his arms. He was still a little scrappy, still a little shorter than he wanted to be, but he figured he was stronger than all of them but Yoongi at this point, and once he presented, even Yoongi would get left behind.

He was going to have a growth spurt soon, he could feel it.

Seokjin’s eyes did linger for a moment on his arms, but then he just looked up and smiled vaguely. “You work so hard, Jeonggukie. I’m proud of you.”

Jeongguk’s stomach fluttered.

Seokjin poured a shot of soju and held it out to him. “Want some?”

“Absolutely not,” said Yoongi lowly, from the other side of the table. He was looking at the door, and Jeongguk turned his head to see that Namjoon had just stumbled his way inside.

Seokjin shrugged, downed part of the shot, and then nudged the half empty glass toward Jeongguk with a sideways wink. While Yoongi was distracted with Namjoon, Jeongguk picked up the glass and swallowed the remaining liquid before sliding it back toward Seokjin, who refilled it and then just sort of held it absently, swirling the liquid within.

Yoongi eyeballed them once Namjoon finally sat down with a huff, but a slightly drunk Seokjin had, weirdly, the best straight face that Jeongguk had ever seen, giving nothing away.

“Why do you look like you’ve been crying?” asked Yoongi bluntly, once they had ordered and Seokjin had passed the bottle of soju around.

“Hyung,” groaned Jeongguk, protesting, as Namjoon bit his lip.

Yoongi shrugged defensively, and Seokjin sighed.

“Because I have been,” Seokjin finally said, his fingers curling around his now empty shot glass. He looked at the bottle of soju longingly, but made no move to reach for it. Jeongguk wondered how much he had drunk already.

“Why?” asked Yoongi.

Namjoon squirmed in his seat. He looked like he had already heard this story. Jeongguk wanted to protest again, but he kept his mouth shut. He knew that Yoongi meant well, despite his approach. Yoongi only ever wanted to help.

“I had to switch economics classes today,” said Seokjin in answer.

Jeongguk’s whole body tightened. Yoongi looked up sharply.

“Because of that alpha?” asked Jeongguk quietly.

Seokjin nodded.

There was an alpha in Seokjin’s economics class that had been bothering him all semester. From what Jeongguk had heard of him, when Seokjin let his guard down enough to complain, he sounded like the worst sort of alpha. Egotistical and relentless, he favored his alpha status as rendering him almost god-like, superior to all other subgenders, even other alphas.

Seokjin had come home crying more than once because of this alpha.

Jeongguk had heard the stories, even when Seokjin didn’t want him to. Jeongguk knew how to get them out of Namjoon.

They made his skin crawl. They made bile inch up his throat.

“What did he do to you?” asked Yoongi.

Seokjin shook his head. Perhaps he heard the threat in Yoongi’s voice. Maybe he was just tired of talking about it.

“Nothing new,” answered Seokjin tiredly. “Nothing he hasn’t already done. And he shouldn’t be a problem anymore, now that I switched classes.”

Yoongi did not look convinced. He glanced at Namjoon, who kept his eyes resolutely on the table. Seokjin refused to say anything else, so Jeongguk changed the subject, talking excitedly but distractedly about an upcoming dance competition. It captured Yoongi’s attention at least—“Will your friend Jimin be there?”—which sparked an entirely new conversation in which Jeongguk was forced to reveal the existence of Jimin to his hyungs.

It succeeded in taking attention away from Seokjin, but Jeongguk didn’t fail to notice that, once the food came, Seokjin barely ate. This was very unlike his hyung. He had seen Seokjin eat through almost any mood. He did not pick, bird-like, at any meal. So the fact that he was doing so now worried Jeongguk.

“I’ll go with Jin hyung,” said Jeongguk, once dinner was over and Yoongi started talking about the recording studio and the track that he and Namjoon had been working on for a couple of months now.

“It’s fine,” said Seokjin, waving off Yoongi’s worried look. “I’ll take him.”

Seokjin had a remarkable talent for never appearing as if he had been drinking. He could sit and talk for hours, for all intents and purposes completely unaffected. But the second he stood up, it was obvious that he was not exactly sober.

Jeongguk never liked seeing Seokjin this way. Seokjin didn’t often drink for fun, even in social situations. He drank when something was bothering him. So while Jeongguk enjoyed the proximity of lifting one of Seokjin’s arms up over his shoulders, and then curling one of his own arms around Seokjin’s waist, he didn’t enjoy the reason for needing to do it.

“I’m sorry, Gukie,” said Seokjin quietly as they crawled into a taxi. His voice sounded small, almost non-existent.

“Hush,” said Jeongguk easily.

He gave the driver Seokjin’s address and then helped him inside once they got there. He walked Seokjin to the couch, got him some water and pain relievers from the kitchen.

“Sit with me,” Seokjin requested, patting the seat next to him, and Jeongguk could not refuse.

The moment he sat down, Seokjin curled into his side, head coming to rest on his shoulder. Jeongguk went still. He was never quite sure what to do when Seokjin got like this. So he did the only thing he could. He tried to make his shoulder as comfortable as possible.

“Do you want to talk about what really happened today?” asked Jeongguk.

“No,” mumbled Seokjin, but Jeongguk knew that wasn’t what he meant.

He could feel Seokjin crying. He was so quiet, when he was drunk and truly upset. It made the rage twist like vines around Jeongguk’s heart.

“He grabbed me,” said Seokjin finally, after a long stretch of silent crying. “He grabbed me in class and pulled me down on his lap and told me that he was my assigned seat, now. It’s mostly alphas in that class, you know. They laughed.”

Jeongguk breathed in deeply through his nose and out through his mouth, the way Yoongi had taught him. Complete control. Complete control so that the rage didn’t take him.

“I elbowed him in the stomach and jumped up and told him never to touch me again,” continued Seokjin. “But then he told the professor that I attacked him for no reason, and I was sent to the dean of the college, and was told that I had three options: switch classes, stick it out, or drop the class altogether.”

Jeongguk ran his hand slowly through Seokjin’s hair, scratching lightly behind his ears. He breathed deeply. In and out. In and out.

“I tried to tell the dean my side of the story, but the dean is an alpha,” said Seokjin. “I had to switch classes. I need this class to graduate. But it messed up my schedule and I had to drop a math class and now I’m never going to graduate and I’m going to fail.” He sat up, turned to look at Jeongguk suddenly. His face was splotchy. His eyes were puffy and red. “I’m going to fail, Jeongguk.”

There was a lot that Seokjin wasn’t saying, that Jeongguk could read in his face and behind his words. He knew that Seokjin wasn’t really afraid of failing. He was afraid of not being given a chance to succeed.

“You’re not going to fail, hyung,” said Jeongguk gently. “You’re great at everything you do. You’re amazing.”

Seokjin’s expression softened at his words, but he still shook his head. “Today I learned that an alpha has more of a right to touch me than I do to defend myself, and it’s… it’s tearing me apart, Jeonggukie.”

Jeongguk didn’t know what to do. He felt like there was nothing he could do. So he just pulled Seokjin in for a hug, rubbed his back, murmured that it was going to be okay while he silently thought of all of the ways that he could make that alpha suffer.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” Seokjin said, muffled, his voice going into Jeongguk’s shirt. “I don’t know how I always end up telling you things that I shouldn’t.”

In the midst of heartache, Jeongguk grinned.

“It’s because you trust me, hyung,” he said.

To Jeongguk, it was simple. He trusted Seokjin. Seokjin trusted him.

Seokjin laughed wetly. “Yeah. I guess I do.” He eased out of the hug and looked at Jeongguk. “You listen to me. Yoongi just tries to fix everything, and Namjoon overanalyzes everything, but you… you listen to me.”

Jeongguk shrugged modestly and blushed a little. “It’s okay, hyung,” he said, smiling. “I like listening to you. I care about you, so of course I care about what you have to say.”

Seokjin sighed and tilted his head. He gazed at Jeongguk fondly. “Don’t ever change, Jeonggukie, okay? Stop growing up so much.”

“Can’t, hyung, sorry,” said Jeongguk unapologetically. “I have to reach my goal of being taller than you.”

Seokjin laughed again. Even as sad as Seokjin was, it was a great sound. Still sort of squeaky. Completely contagious. Jeongguk wanted to spend the rest of his life making Seokjin laugh.

“Well, then at least don’t get any stronger. You’re strong enough already.”

Jeongguk just smiled, blushing, as Seokjin playfully punched him in the arm.

“Aw, hyung,” he said. “You noticed?”

“Yah,” grumbled Seokjin, but now he was the one blushing, and Jeongguk felt intensely gratified. “Of course I notice you,” Seokjin continued.

Jeongguk was sure, he was positive, that it was not something Seokjin ever would have said, had he not been drinking. It felt wrong, listening to Seokjin say it, and it felt wrong, like taking advantage, to push for more.

But Jeongguk did it anyway.

“You notice me?” he asked, flipping hair out of his eyes, watching Seokjin closely.

“Hmmm,” Seokjin said, humming. His eyes were shiny, glazed. Jeongguk felt momentarily guilty. “I notice when our little bunny maknae isn’t such a little bunny anymore. I bet all the girls at school like you,” cooed Seokjin, tapping Jeongguk’s nose.

“I don’t know,” said Jeongguk, shrugging again. “I haven’t noticed.”

Seokjin smiled. “Well if I was your age, and went to your school, I would definitely have a crush on you.”

Jeongguk’s stomach swooped. He felt like he had just jumped off a cliff. “Yeah?” he asked.

Seokjin nodded. “Yeah.”

Seokjin stretched and stood up, still a little wobbly on his feet. “Thanks for listening, Gukie,” he said, blinking sleepily. “I’m going to bed now. Are you staying?”

“Can I?”

Seokjin nodded, already walking away. “Take Namjoon’s bed, if you want. He probably won’t be back for a while.”

“Thanks, hyung,” said Jeongguk. “Goodnight.”

But Seokjin had already closed his bedroom door.

 

The thing was, Jeongguk knew what people said about Seokjin.

They tried to protect him from it, his hyungs, but Jeongguk wasn’t stupid. He knew.

He knew that when Seokjin came home crying, it was because an alpha had done something, or said something.

He knew that on their college campus, Seokjin was known as one of the prettiest omegas. All the alphas knew of him. Seokjin had been an omega for two years, and was still unbonded. He smelled sweet as candy to alphas, was alluring and irresistible and also, frustratingly, unattainable.

Seokjin, Jeongguk knew, had the type of beauty that drove people mad. Alphas wanted to possess Seokjin’s beauty, wanted to dig in and take hold and be able to say, later, that they had had him. That they had, for a short time, owned that beauty.

It was vile.

It made Jeongguk want to rip the world apart.

And it wasn’t like Seokjin was unaware. It was exceptionally difficult for him to find alphas for his heats, Jeongguk knew, because he trusted so few people, believed so few people when they said they would take care of him. It seemed ironic to Jeongguk that Seokjin, who could have any alpha he wanted, actually had so few choices, when he needed an alpha most.

Still, Seokjin very rarely complained. Jeongguk had overheard him telling Yoongi once that it seemed arrogant, arrogant and naïve, to complain about being too beautiful. So Seokjin kept his mouth shut. Even when it hurt him. Even when alphas touched him without his permission, or said crude and nasty things to him, Seokjin kept his mouth shut.

Jeongguk didn’t know how he could stand it. How he could still be so kind and friendly to everyone.

Jeongguk was still thinking about it when Namjoon finally came home, a couple of hours after Seokjin disappeared into his room. He had pulled extra sheets and pillows out of a closet and made a bed on the couch.

Namjoon blinked at the sight of him as he kicked off his shoes. “Hi, Jeongguk,” he said. He gestured down the hall. “Do you want my bed?”

Jeongguk waved him off. “No thanks, hyung,” he said. “I’ll just sleep here.”

Namjoon bit his lip. “Is Jin hyung okay?”

Jeongguk lifted his shoulders helplessly. “He’s upset,” he said honestly. “But he’ll be okay.”

Namjoon nodded. “Okay. Thanks for coming home with him.”

It seemed strange to Jeongguk, that urge to thank your loved ones for helping, for being there, for listening.

Jeongguk could not imagine any world in which he would not do anything for the people he loved.

 

Usually, after drinking, Seokjin fell asleep quickly, easily.

But that night, after talking with Jeongguk, Seokjin laid awake for a long time, restless, unable to sleep.

Why did I say that to him, he kept thinking, over and over again.

Seokjin had tried so hard, for so long, to keep Jeongguk as a friend. He never led him on. Never flirted. Even after a bad day, when Jeongguk’s admiration felt sweet and innocent and exactly like what Seokjin needed compared to what he usually got, he was always so careful.

Part of him had thought that once Jeongguk grew up, he would grow out of his crush on Seokjin. He kept waiting for it, kept waiting for Jeongguk to find a nice boy or girl to like instead. He waited and waited, and it never happened.

So, Seokjin established rules about how he should behave around Jeongguk. If Jeongguk was going to insist on liking him, then Seokjin had to be the adult, had to be the clear-headed one.

It was one of his primary rules. Never lead Jeongguk on. Never do anything to make him think that Seokjin could give more than was possible. Never give the impression that they could be anything other than friends.

Soju, apparently, made him truthful. Truthful and chatty. Chatty enough that he had told Jeongguk about a hypothetical crush.

It was a mistake, having told him that. Jeongguk would think about it now, Seokjin knew. He would be hopeful.

And the worst part was, Seokjin did notice him. Of course Seokjin noticed Jeongguk growing up. Of course he noticed when dance and martial arts and growth spurts gave Jeongguk the muscles he was always talking about. Of course Seokjin noticed the baby fat melting off of his face, his adorable smile and the cheekbones and the jawline that were beginning to peek out.

Seokjin wasn’t blind, and he wasn’t dead. He noticed.

But he was very, very good at ignoring.

He was very, very good at seeing Jeongguk as a child. He had a lifetime’s worth of practice behind him.

But sometimes, looking at Jeongguk, Seokjin felt hopeful too. He wasn’t exactly sure why. Jeongguk was already such an amazing person, and he was going to grow into an amazing man and alpha, and Seokjin sometimes caught himself thinking about how happy someone was going to be with Jeongguk one day.

Sometimes, and Seokjin really hated admitting this, he thought that had time been on their side, he could be really happy with Jeongguk someday.

It was dangerous, thinking like that, and Seokjin almost never allowed himself to do it.

Lying there in bed, knowing that Jeongguk was out on his couch, Seokjin swore to himself that he would never think that way again.

 

He did.

He did much worse than that.

 

When Jeongguk was sixteen, he and Seokjin kissed for the first time.

Seokjin’s last heat had been horrible. He refused to share the details, but Jeongguk figured out that it was because the alpha had been a little too liberal with his Orders, and Seokjin, already vulnerable due to his heat, a little too eager to please.

It made the rage curl hot in his heart, but all he did was smile and agree when Seokjin asked him to go out for ice cream.

Jeongguk had to give him credit; Seokjin was marvelous at putting up a positive front.

Sometimes, just like anyone, Seokjin cried when things went poorly.

Other times, Seokjin laughed, he laughed and smiled and joked and could convince all but his closest friends that he was fine.

“Let me buy this time, hyung,” Jeongguk pleaded, once they reached the ice cream parlor.

Seokjin was eyeing each flavor, tapping his bottom lip slowly with one finger. He titled his head toward Jeongguk without looking away from the ice cream. “What’s that?” he asked. “Don’t be silly. I’m the hyung. I’ll buy. Should I get strawberry?”

He got swirled strawberries and crème, and went adorably wide-eyed when the cone was handed to him. While he was distracted licking ice cream off of the cone—and while Jeongguk was trying not to be distracted by Seokjin licking ice cream off the cone—Jeongguk paid.

Seokjin protested half-heartedly once he realized what had happened, but Jeongguk waved him off.

“Just let me do this for you, hyung,” he said.

Seokjin blushed almost as pink as his ice cream, and bumped Jeongguk’s shoulder with his own.

“Thanks, Jeonggukie,” he murmured.

“You’re welcome, Seokjinnie hyung,” Jeongguk said in response.

It was a mild evening, so they walked around outside while they ate ice cream.

“You know, hyung,” said Jeongguk finally, after a stretch of silence and nothing but the beat of their footsteps, “you should try to find better people to help you during your heats.”

Seokjin looked up at him, big eyes and slightly parted lips, blinking.

Jeongguk swallowed, but continued bravely on. “I know you don’t like talking about it, and I get that it isn’t really my business, but it hurts me to see you so sad. So you should try to find better people. Not just alphas. But people. It doesn’t always have to be alphas, you know. That’s easiest, but it isn’t your only option.”

Seokjin’s head dipped down, exposing the long line of the back of his neck. He had colored his hair recently, to a sort of light honey blond, and was more beautiful than ever. He didn’t seem to notice, but some people were actually stopping in the street to stare at him.

“You make it sound so simple,” Seokjin murmured.

Jeongguk sighed, tugged a little on Seokjin’s arm. “It is simple, hyung.”

But Seokjin was shaking his head. “I don’t know why I keep picking crap alphas,” he admitted. “It’s some sort of crazy pattern that I’m stuck in and can’t figure out how to get out of. I think maybe I just don’t know how to read anyone.”

“You do know how to read people,” said Jeongguk firmly, waving his own ice cream cone a little. “You do know, hyung. You’re just being stubborn. You refuse to ask your friends for help.”

Seokjin glanced up at him again, startled. “Well I can’t very well ask Yoongi again, can I?”

It was true. He couldn’t ask Yoongi, not now that Jimin had presented. As far as Jeongguk knew, Yoongi had never helped him again, not after that first time.

“I’m not talking about Yoongi,” said Jeongguk quietly.

His heart was beating so quickly he almost felt like he was vibrating. He couldn’t quite believe that he was feeling brave enough to say any of this.

“Yoongi hyung,” Seokjin corrected absently, without looking at him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jeongguk.”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” said Jeongguk immediately.

Look at me, hyung, he thought, and as if by magic, Seokjin looked.

His face had gone completely pale, but for two spots of color high on his cheeks.

“You?” asked Seokjin faintly. He had finished his ice cream, and now the cone hung limp in his hand. “Jeongguk that’s… that’s impossible.”

Jeongguk wasn’t quite sure what was going on. All he knew was that he was feeling impulsive, and daring, and a little brash. He stepped in front of Seokjin quickly, cutting him off. He was tall enough now that he could look Seokjin straight in the eye.

“Why not me?” he asked.

Seokjin’s eyes darted all around, refusing to land for any length of time on Jeongguk.

“You’re a child,” said Seokjin finally, quietly.

Jeongguk laughed. He took a step back and held out his arms. “Do I look like a child, hyung?”

Finally Seokjin’s eyes landed on him, traced him head to toe before coming to rest on his face.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like,” said Seokjin, his voice just above a whisper. “You’re a child. By law you are a child.”

“I’m not a child,” said Jeongguk, bringing his tone down to match Seokjin’s. “I’m not the little kid who used to follow you around. I grew up, hyung.” He bit his lip. He had never spoken to Seokjin this way before. “You have to know how much I care about you.”

Seokjin blinked quickly. “I…”

Jeongguk took a step in, crowding into Seokjin’s space. “You have to know.”

“I,” Seokjin repeated, wetting his lips nervously. “I do know, Jeongguk. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how you feel or how I feel. You can’t help me with this.”

“So you do feel something?” asked Jeongguk, leaning in a little. “Hyung?”

Seokjin’s mouth opened and closed a few times. His eyes darted between Jeongguk’s eyes and his lips.

And so Jeongguk did something that he had so far only dreamed of doing.

He leaned in the rest of the way and kissed him.

 

In a perfect world, thought Seokjin, kissing Jeongguk would have been the silver stuff of dreams.

This was the type of scenario that Seokjin had only ever imagined. Standing in the evening air, mouth sweet from ice cream, backlit by the glow of the shops, kissing someone who actually cared about him.

The moment Jeongguk’s lips touched his, Seokjin’s mind went quiet. For one breath, he let himself feel the warmth of Jeongguk’s body so near his, the smooth brush of his lips, one hand curling up around his neck. For one breath, Seokjin closed his eyes, and something inside him fell into place.

But in the next breath his eyes flew open, he pushed Jeongguk away with a hand hard on his chest, and took a staggering step back, breathing hard.

“No,” he said, gasping. “Jeongguk this can’t happen.”

Jeongguk stared at him.

“You can’t do this,” said Seokjin. “This was a mistake.”

Jeongguk stared, still saying nothing.

“You have to understand,” continued Seokjin, though he wasn’t sure who he was talking to— himself, or Jeongguk. “This can’t happen.”

“Hyung,” whispered Jeongguk.

“I’m sorry, Jeongguk,” said Seokjin. He brought a hand to his lips. “I’m sorry. I… I should have known better.”

Before Jeongguk could protest, before he could say anything else that would root Seokjin to the spot, he turned and left, tears blurring his vision.

His empty ice cream cone lay forgotten on the sidewalk behind him.

Chapter Text

Jeongguk toed the dirt outside of Seokjin’s apartment building, looking for a rock that was big enough to make noise but small enough so that it wouldn’t crack the glass when he threw it. He finally found one that looked as if it might have traveled there from a riverbed, with the sort of smooth oval surface that was perfect for skipping across the water.

Jeongguk picked up the rock, stepped back away from the building, found Seokjin’s third-floor window, and threw.

The rock pinged off of the glass with a small sound, and Jeongguk darted forward, squinting in the darkness, to catch it before it hit the ground.

“Hyung!” he whisper-yelled, throwing the rock a second time.

It took four more tosses before Seokjin’s window opened, and then another quiet “Hyung!” from Jeongguk before Seokjin’s head came out the window. It was difficult to see in the darkness, but Jeongguk could just make out his disgruntled frown and mussed bedhead.

“What?” Seokjin hissed, rubbing his eyes. “Jeongguk? Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me, hyung,” said Jeongguk, craning his neck upwards.

“Are you crazy?” asked Seokjin, voice gravelly from sleep. “Jeongguk it’s the middle of the night. What’s going on?”

“You weren’t answering your messages,” said Jeongguk, and Seokjin huffed.

“It’s the middle of the night,” he repeated. “I was sleeping.”

“No,” said Jeongguk, a bit impatiently. “You haven’t been answering your messages for months. Months, hyung. I just want to talk.”

Seokjin stared down at him. “You couldn’t wait until morning?”

“No,” said Jeongguk. “I wanted the element of surprise.”

“Well, you got it,” grumbled Seokjin. “You’re going to wake up my neighbors.”

“Not if you let me in,” said Jeongguk.

He could see Seokjin’s hesitation.

“Hyung, please let me in,” said Jeongguk, pressing his hands together and raising them toward Seokjin. “Please?”

Still Seokjin hesitated. Jeongguk could almost picture him biting his lower lip, the plush skin turning cherry red under his teeth.

Jeongguk stepped up to the building, testing the latticework that climbed the outside wall, ripe with dripping vines in the spring and summer. It felt sturdy enough, so Jeongguk took hold and hoisted himself up, finding footholds to climb up to Seokjin’s window.

“What are you doing?” asked Seokjin urgently, as Jeongguk slowly began the ascent to his window.

“I’m coming up,” said Jeongguk. “If you won’t come to me, I’ll come to you.”

“Jeongguk, it’s dangerous!” said Seokjin. His head disappeared for a moment before popping back out. “I’ll come down! You can come in, Jeongguk, but for the love of god, use the stairs!”

“Too late,” Jeongguk called out. “I’m already halfway up.”

“Be careful!” Seokjin said, worried.

But even in the dark, Jeongguk found his way up easily, despite Seokjin’s fretful complaints, and was soon hanging off of the lattice by Seokjin’s window.

“Hi, hyung,” he said, smiling.

Seokjin blinked at him. “Hi, Gukie.”

“Can I please come in?” asked Jeongguk quietly. “My arms are starting to strain.”

Seokjin stepped back quickly, gesturing him inside, and Jeongguk pulled himself through Seokjin’s window and onto his desk with a clatter. Seokjin helped him up, muttering under his breath, as though Jeongguk hadn’t just scaled a building to see him.

Before he could protest, before he could even fully adjust to Jeongguk suddenly being in his room, Jeongguk pulled Seokjin forward and into a tight, close hug.

“Hyung,” he murmured, rubbing his face into Seokjin’s messy hair. “I missed you.”

For a moment Seokjin was perfectly stiff and straight in his arms. For the first time that Jeongguk could ever recall, Seokjin felt smaller than him, his broad shoulders not enough to overshadow what puberty had finally done for Jeongguk’s frame.

“I missed you,” Jeongguk whispered again, and finally Seokjin melted against him, head falling onto Jeongguk’s shoulder, leaning heavily on the younger.

“I missed you too, Jeonggukie,” Seokjin mumbled.

Jeongguk grinned.

“Do you think I woke Namjoon?” he asked, without letting Seokjin go.

“He’s not here. His study group is prepping tonight for their first-year exams.”

“That’s right,” said Jeongguk, remembering. “The last time I saw him he was looking kind of stressed.”

“Yeah,” Seokjin agreed. “He’s probably going to drop out.” He pushed against Jeongguk, pulling out of the hug. “But I know you aren’t here to talk about Namjoon. What’s going on? Why are you here in the middle of the night? Why did you just climb my building?”

Jeongguk shrugged. “Honestly, hyung, I just missed you. You aren’t returning any of my messages. We haven’t properly spoken in months.”

“We just went to dinner last week,” Seokjin protested.

“But you didn’t talk to me,” said Jeongguk firmly. “You think I can’t tell the difference between showing up and actually being there and showing up and being somewhere else?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jeonggukie,” said Seokjin quietly.

“You’re always somewhere else,” said Jeongguk, tapping his head. “I don’t know what to do anymore, hyung. I get it. I crossed a line when I kissed you—” Seokjin startled back, eyes going wide “—and I shouldn’t have done it. But I can’t apologize for it, hyung. I can’t. I wanted to kiss you and so I did, and I’ve wanted to kiss you every day since then, and I want to kiss you now, and I’m not sorry for that. But I am sorry that it ruined our friendship because I can’t stand it, hyung, I can’t stand it anymore. I miss talking to you and I miss hanging out with you and I miss making fun of Yoongi hyung and Namjoon hyung with you, and I miss—”

Seokjin pressed a finger to his lips, and Jeongguk cut off abruptly, dragging air into his lungs.

For a silent second they just stared at each other, Jeongguk breathing quickly, the warmth of Seokjin’s finger making his lips tingle.

“Don’t apologize,” said Seokjin, voice barely breaching a whisper. “You’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk murmured, lips opening against Seokjin’s finger.

Seokjin pulled his hand away. “I’m the one who should apologize to you. I’m the adult, and I had a responsibility to you, Jeongguk, to protect you. And I failed. And I will never, ever, be able to adequately tell you how sorry I am.”

Jeongguk shook his head, but Seokjin kept talking, as if all of the words that he had been hoarding for months were finally coming out.

“You didn’t ruin our friendship,” Seokjin said. “I’m just… I’m messed up, Gukie. I have nothing figured out. I don’t know what any of my feelings mean and I’m too cowardly to really think about them and so I pretended not to see you, for a long time I pretended not to see you, and I’m so sorry that it hurt you.”

Seokjin looked at him, watery-eyed. “You shouldn’t want me the way that you do. I don’t understand it. I’ve done nothing to deserve it.”

Jeongguk tilted his head, confused. He raised one hand and brushed Seokjin’s cheek, fingertip collecting a few of his tears.

“Love isn’t about deserving, hyung,” he said, still with a confused lilt in his voice. “It just… it just is.”

Jeongguk couldn’t quite understand why Seokjin didn’t get that.

“You need to stop punishing yourself, hyung,” he said.

“What?” asked Seokjin. “What do you mean, punishing myself?”

“I figured it out, hyung,” said Jeongguk proudly, though his eyes looked anything but. His entire face had a downwards, unhappy slope. “I’ve had a lot of time to think while you weren’t talking to me.”

Seokjin looked down, but Jeongguk reached out, tilting his chin back up.

“You’re punishing yourself, and you have been for years,” said Jeongguk. “It’s why you always pick bad alphas. It’s because you feel guilty.”

Seokjin shook his head, but his eyes stayed trained on Jeongguk’s face. “I don’t know what I would have to feel guilty about.”

“Me, of course,” Jeongguk responded, voice going a little sad. “It’s okay, hyung. I understand now. I’ve just always been too young. But I’m not too young anymore. You don’t have to punish yourself.”

Seokjin trembled, but still he looked at Jeongguk. “I,” he began, before pausing, unsure. He bit his lip.

“You don’t deserve to be in pain,” Jeongguk told him earnestly. “Feelings are scary, hyung. Trust me. I know. And I think that you’re so afraid of your feelings, of what you feel about me, that you somehow decided you deserve to be in pain. And so heat after heat after heat you pick alphas who treat you badly, because it makes you feel like you’re getting what you deserve, for having liked me when I was too young to understand what you were going through, what I was putting you through.”

Seokjin’s eyes had gone so wide Jeongguk could see the whites of them shining in the dark room.

Jeongguk held his arms out, pleading. “Hyung, please can I—please?”

Seokjin hesitated for one heartbeat, but then stepped into the circle of his arms.

“Am I wrong?” asked Jeongguk, bringing Seokjin in, settling them close to one another. “Tell me if I’m wrong, and I promise I’ll never bring it up again.”

Seokjin swallowed heavily. His voice caught. “You’re not wrong.”

Jeongguk dipped his head, breathing in and out in relief.

“Hyung,” he said, his voice quick, almost breaking. “Please don’t punish yourself anymore. There’s no need. I’m here. I’m old enough now. And I love you. I’ve always loved you. And I’m giving myself to you. Please, hyung, take me. Choose me. I’ll give you everything, I’ll give you anything, just please, please, please don’t punish yourself anymore. Not when I’m right here.”

Seokjin stared at him, marveling.

“Do I need to get on my knees and beg?” asked Jeongguk, not sure how to interpret his silence. “Because I’ll do it, hyung, I’ll get on my knees.”

He actually did start to drop down, but Seokjin’s hands darted out, holding him in place.

“Don’t be silly,” said Seokjin faintly, smiling lightly.

Jeongguk’s eyes had finally adjusted to the dark, and he gazed at Seokjin’s glossy eyes, his pouty lips, his tired but beautiful face. He wanted to make Seokjin happy, forever.

“Hyung?” he asked, probing, reaching.

“How did you turn out so good?” Seokjin wondered, bringing a hand up almost dreamily to touch Jeongguk’s face.

Jeongguk leaned into the touch. “I don’t know, hyung,” he said, lips curving up. “I had horrible role models.”

Finally, Seokjin graced him with a laugh, his smile meeting his eyes.

It felt like all of the air had been punched out of his lungs, the moment Seokjin leaned in and kissed him first. It felt like he needed Seokjin’s lips on his and the mingling of their shared breaths to continue living.

For one moment, it was chaste, innocent, mild.

But Jeongguk had been waiting his entire life for this, and one moment was all he could spare.

So, in the next moment he spun Seokjin around, pressed him back into his desk, brought both hands up to cup his face, and licked into his mouth like he needed it to survive. Seokjin quivered, gave him a small, sweet moan, and Jeongguk was lost.

 

After their first kiss, cool from ice cream, Seokjin just sort of… stopped.

He stopped, for a while, being Seokjin.

He still looked like Seokjin. He went to school, taught himself a dozen new recipes, teased Namjoon and Yoongi about their rapping skills, complained when Jimin and Jeongguk played music too loudly.

But it was clear that underneath, behind his Seokjin-esque façade, he just wasn’t, anymore.

It took Jeongguk several long, silent months, and a good deal of growing up, to figure out why.

For a week after their kiss, Seokjin disappeared. He claimed illness of some kind and then vanished inside his room, refusing to go to dinner, refusing even to speak in complete sentences to Namjoon. Yoongi looked as worried as he could look, for having just bonded with Jimin, and being preoccupied with the beginning of their relationship. And Namjoon had just started medical school. He was already frazzled and tired.

So it fell to Jeongguk to keep a watchful eye, to make sure Seokjin was okay, even though it seemed to be his fault that Seokjin wasn’t.

He knew that what he had done was wrong, but he was having a hard time understanding why Seokjin was so upset. Jeongguk loved him. And he could tell, he knew, that Seokjin felt something for him in return.

For the first time in a while, Jeongguk resented the space between them.

So, he did the only thing he could think to do. He lured Jimin away from Yoongi with promises of food and told him everything. Halfway through his American-style cheeseburger, Jimin stopped eating.

“You kissed him?” he asked, shocked.

Jeongguk blushed. “Well, yeah.” He shifted, picked up a handful of fries and stuffed them in his mouth. “And then he freaked out and now he won’t talk to me. Or anyone.”

Jimin blinked. “Well I still don’t know Seokjin hyung very well,” he hedged.

“But that’s why you’re perfect!” said Jeongguk. “You can think about this more clearly than I can.”

Jimin picked up his cheeseburger and took a large, thoughtful bite. “Honestly, Jeongguk,” he said. “It seems pretty obvious why hyung would be upset.”

Jeongguk motioned with his hands, the universal gesture for go on, hurry up.

“It’s not exactly legal,” said Jimin quietly. “You’re only sixteen.”

Jeongguk huffed impatiently. “I know but—”

“It doesn’t sound like there are any ‘buts’ for Seokjin hyung,” interrupted Jimin. “You’re sixteen. He’s twenty-one. He probably feels guilty as hell for being attracted to you at all.”

Jeongguk sat back, shoulders slumping, face going a little slack. “Oh,” he said, Jimin’s words clicking into place in his mind.

Of course. Guilt. He should have seen it sooner.

After that, it was obvious. Seokjin felt guilty. That had never been Jeongguk’s intention. The last thing he wanted was for Seokjin to be feeling guilt, and even worse, because of him. So, Jeongguk did the only thing he could think to do. He backed off. He thought, I can just be his friend. At least for the time being.

The problem, it turned out, was that Seokjin had retreated even from that.

Jeongguk was forced to spend several long months just watching him. When they were together, usually for group dinners, Seokjin’s eyes slid right by Jeongguk, as if he wasn’t even there. It made something sharp and foul twist in Jeongguk’s gut, but for the first time he understood why Seokjin was doing it.

Jeongguk was a child to him. He had always been a child. Soon, Jeongguk wouldn’t be a child anymore, and he could wait.

Seokjin picked a mean, arrogant alpha for his next heat, and Yoongi glowered while Namjoon looked on in confusion. But for the first time Jeongguk thought, I get it. He finally knew what Seokjin was doing, and why he was doing it.

He thought, somehow, that he deserved it. That he was getting what was coming to him, like karma.

Before, it would have been enough to make the rage roar so heavily inside Jeongguk that he would’ve needed to excuse himself, to go to Yoongi for help or to shut himself in his room so he could breathe through it. Now, the rage was like a whisper, moving through him softly, not enough to make him anything but a confused mixture of sadness and pain. It was a familiar friend now, the alpha rage that he should not have been able to feel.

So he waited and he watched, because he knew Seokjin wouldn’t listen to him. He was still a child to Seokjin.

His seventeenth birthday came and went, puberty finally hit him hard and fast, and he thought that Seokjin would look at him again, now that he had more presence.

But he didn’t.

Jeongguk waited and waited, but Seokjin never fully came back.

And then, one day, Jeongguk decided he couldn’t wait anymore. Seokjin had been the grown up for too long. Now it was Jeongguk’s turn.

 

Puberty had been exceptionally kind to Jeon Jeongguk, and Seokjin had never been more aware of it than he was now, pressed against his own desk, held in place by the mere promise of Jeongguk’s body, the hands on his face, the brand that Jeongguk’s lips left on his.

“Jeongguk,” he murmured, but the younger took the opportunity that his parted lips provided, and instead of answering, he curled his tongue intimately with Seokjin’s, sliding a hand around to lightly grip the nape of his neck.

It was simultaneously nothing like Seokjin had imagined and everything he had hoped for.

“No more talking,” said Jeongguk against his lips, and then suddenly there were hands under Seokjin’s thighs, urging him up onto his desk, and it was the easiest thing in the world to tighten his legs around Jeongguk’s hips.

He couldn’t quite believe that this was happening. This wasn’t the first time he and Jeongguk had kissed, but this was not a kiss like their first time. This Jeongguk was not small the way he had been that first time. This Jeongguk was older by almost a year, and Seokjin could feel it in the sinewy muscles of his arms and the strength of his body.

This Jeongguk was overwhelming.

And Seokjin was so tired of holding back. He had been in control for so long now, long enough that it had all frayed at the edges.

But Jeongguk was acting like he was in control now, and Seokjin was so tired. His body and his mind gave in all at once, and all he could think was, okay, Jeongguk. You can have me now.

He still wasn’t sure if it was the right time. Jeongguk was still a few months shy of eighteen. Seokjin was still so unsure of so many things.

But kissing Jeongguk in his dark room in the middle of the night suddenly didn’t feel like one of them. Jeongguk loved him, and Seokjin believed him when he said it. Jeongguk had not presented. Seokjin’s omega pheromones had no effect on him. Jeongguk’s feelings weren’t yet clouded by his subgender.

Jeongguk wanted him just for him.

It was crazy.

Seokjin knew he had a beautiful face. He was usually the first to remark on it upon passing any reflective surface. But it seemed like Jeongguk wanted him for more than that.

Jeongguk, after all, had his own pretty face.

And Seokjin was tired of trying to decrypt the motives of others.

So he kissed Jeongguk, and Jeongguk kissed him back. Seokjin pressed his fingertips to Jeongguk’s beautiful body and moaned into his mouth. He tilted his head sweetly to one side when Jeongguk’s lips traveled down his jaw, down his neck, along his clavicles.

He had gone to bed wearing soft sleep pants and a loose-necked shirt, and Jeongguk pulled it off of him impatiently. Seokjin had a body to match his face, so he felt no insecurity as Jeongguk looked at him. He felt only his own form of impatience. Tracing Jeongguk’s abs through his shirt was suddenly not enough, so he tugged suggestively on the fabric, and Jeongguk’s shirt joined his on the floor.

“You did grow up,” said Seokjin quietly, eyes moving like a caress across the muscles of Jeongguk’s stomach, his chest, his arms and shoulders.

Jeongguk’s mouth twisted in a half-smirk half-smile. He pulled Seokjin off the desk and led him backwards toward the bed.

“I was hoping you would notice,” he said.

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “You think I didn’t see you growing up right in front of me—”

Jeongguk fell backwards, bringing Seokjin with him to land in a tangle of limbs on the mattress.

“No more talking,” said Jeongguk, and kissed him again.

The blankets ended up in a pile on the floor.

Jeongguk’s jeans landed haphazardly over Seokjin’s desk chair.

Jeongguk’s legs were really something else, and Seokjin took a little bit of time to admire them before Jeongguk grew impatient once more, pulling at Seokjin’s sleep pants.

It was only after Seokjin’s pants hit the lamp did he realize that he and Jeongguk were now almost entirely naked, and that they were moving a little fast, and that Jeongguk was still not yet eighteen.

“No sex,” Seokjin gasped, as Jeongguk kissed down his stomach and Seokjin’s back arched.

Jeongguk lifted his head, blowing hair out of his eyes.

“Um,” said Seokjin, panting, loosening his legs from where they had curled around Jeongguk. “No sex.”

“What?” asked Jeongguk blankly. “No sex? Hyung are you serious?”

Seokjin took a deep breath. “We shouldn’t have sex until you’re legal.”

Even just saying it felt so strange. It was the first time he had acknowledged out loud that sex with Jeongguk was a possibility. And not just that, but an inevitability.

Jeongguk dropped his head, forehead coming to rest on Seokjin’s stomach. He could feel Jeongguk’s warm breath against his bellybutton. Seokjin shivered. He was extremely hard, and he could feel Jeongguk’s own hardness now against his hip, and it made everything seem that much more real.

Finally Jeongguk looked up again. He pulled himself up Seokjin’s body until he was nestled right between Seokjin’s legs, rutting against him slowly.

“Okay,” said Jeongguk quietly, bracing himself over Seokjin but leaning down to nibble at his ear. “No sex. But this is okay, right?”

This being the glorious drag of Jeongguk’s hard cock against Seokjin’s own.

“Um,” said Seokjin again, arching against him. “Yes, this is good.”

Jeongguk kissed down his neck, tongue laving in a way that should not have felt as wonderful as it did.

“How good?” asked Jeongguk, teasing, and Seokjin would have hit him playfully if he wasn’t too busy clinging to Jeongguk’s shoulders.

“Good enough—” Seokjin gasped, lifting his own head to bite Jeongguk’s earlobe, relishing in the broken moan that the younger let out “—that I’m not mad about being woken up in the middle of the night anymore.”

Jeongguk’s laugh was husky, and Seokjin felt it in his bloodstream.

He felt a lot of things after that. He was surprised at the sounds that Jeongguk was able to wring from him, was surprised that something so simple could feel so good, was surprised at how glad he was that it was Jeongguk, and no one else.

He was surprised that, for all that they didn’t do that night, what they did was enough to have Seokjin’s body singing.

 

Namjoon walked in on them the next morning while Seokjin was making breakfast. Jeongguk was sitting at the table, sucking juice out of a juice box and wearing nothing but sweats. Both he and Seokjin looked up as Namjoon came in.

Namjoon pulled his shoes off and blinked at them, mouth going a little slack.

“Morning hyung!” greeted Jeongguk cheerfully, and Seokjin decided to follow his lead.

“Namjoon, do you want breakfast?” he asked, unfazed, as if this was a normal, everyday occurrence.

“Okay,” said Namjoon slowly. He glanced between them a few more times, looking dazed and sleep-deprived. “Huh,” he finally said, shrugging. “Is there coffee?”

Seokjin pointed, but then immediately barred Namjoon from entering the kitchen. “Never mind,” he said. “I’ll get it for you. You look tired enough to accidently break our kitchen.”

Namjoon just nodded. “Good call, hyung.” He turned to the table and startled at the sight of Jeongguk, as if he hadn’t already seen him. He started to sit down, hesitated, and then headed for the hallway instead.

“I’m just going to shower,” he said over his shoulder, and then disappeared into the bathroom.

Jeongguk crossed his arms on the table and smiled at Seokjin. “Maybe he’s tired enough that he’ll think he hallucinated this.”

Seokjin lifted his shoulders. “Either way,” he said, unconcerned. “I’m not exactly ashamed to have you sitting at my table right now, Jeonggukie.”

Jeongguk’s smile widened. “Does this mean you’re choosing me, hyung?”

Seokjin looked at him. He looked so eager, in a way still so innocent. But also so, so grown up. There was a lot to that question that wasn’t being said. There was a lot neither of them had said. Seokjin could already see fifty ways this could all go wrong. In a way this still felt like a dream, still surreal, still magical.

Seokjin wanted to say yes.

He nodded. “Yes,” he said, and piled eggs and rice and meat onto a plate as Jeongguk sat back, his grin becoming entirely too self-satisfied.

“No sex until you’re legal,” Seokjin told him, setting the plate down in front of him.

Jeongguk slumped, pouting.

It really should not have made Seokjin feel so good.

But it did.

Chapter Text

“Is this going to be a thing now?” asked Namjoon, and Seokjin pulled away from Jeongguk’s lips to look at him.

Namjoon was tucked uncomfortably into one corner of the couch, staring a little too hard at the television. Seokjin and Jeongguk were tucked into the other corner, and Seokjin had been almost in Jeongguk’s lap for a little while now.

To be honest, he had sort of forgotten that Namjoon was there.

“Sorry,” Seokjin mumbled, but Jeongguk’s teeth grazed along his neck so his voice came out slightly breathier than he wanted it to.

Namjoon’s nose wrinkled.

It was movie night. It was tradition. But Jeongguk had been coming over a lot recently—almost every day—so it was only natural that he stay for movie night too.

“I’m going to have to move, aren’t I?” said Namjoon, and it wasn’t phrased like a question, but more as fact. He addressed it to no one in particular, still staring at the movie.

“Um,” said Seokjin, and again his voice was edging a moan. Jeongguk’s hands were insistent in his hair, trying to pull Seokjin’s attention back to him. “Jeongguk,” Seokjin complained, but Namjoon was already standing up.

“It’s fine,” he said, waving them off. “I’m just going to go to my room. Look at apartment listings or something.” He hesitated, biting his lip, a gleam in his eye. “Have fun you two.” He stared hard, pointing. “But not too much fun.”

“Namjoon!” Seokjin gasped, horrified, but Namjoon just laughed at his expression, and Seokjin figured he deserved it. He and Jeongguk had been making out for close to half an hour. Not to mention Namjoon and Yoongi had stepped in as reluctant—albeit completely unnecessary—chaperones. They saw it as their duty to make sure that he and Jeongguk didn’t do anything illegal.

Seokjin liked to think he had better self-control than that.

“That was rude of us,” said Seokjin, once Namjoon’s door had closed. “You’re shameless.”

Jeongguk grinned against his neck. “I’m a teenager,” he contradicted. “I’m horny all the time. I just want you.”

Well.

“Still,” grumbled Seokjin.

Jeongguk shifted, moved Seokjin fully into his lap, so that Seokjin’s legs were straddling his own. It was still a little surprising to Seokjin how easily Jeongguk did that. He could feel Jeongguk’s budding alpha strength even now, even before his presentation, and it made him a little weak-kneed. Granted, Jeongguk in general made him a little weak-kneed. He didn’t need to have a subgender to achieve that.

This thing between them was still so new. They had only really been seeing each other for a month. Seokjin was hesitant to call it a relationship, even though he thought that’s what it might be. He had never been in one before. But he knew that he wanted Jeongguk more than anyone else. Enough that no one else was even on his radar, though no one really had been to begin with.

It was strange. And it was new.

And he sort of understood where Jeongguk was coming from, about wanting him all the time. Seokjin felt that too. It was actually much harder than it should have been to resist Jeongguk enough to keep them from going all the way. And Jeongguk knew it. He tested Seokjin constantly. It was exhausting, keeping up with him, and resisting him just enough.

And the strangest part was, Seokjin had moments where he wanted to respond to Jeongguk as an omega. That should not have been happening. Jeongguk had not presented. There was no reason at all for the omega to come awake when he was near.

And yet it kept happening, a unusual reoccurrence that Seokjin couldn’t explain. It was maddening.

All of his weakest moments happened when the omega suddenly reared to life, demanding that Seokjin present his neck, or fall to his knees, or obey Jeongguk thoughtlessly. They had come closer to having sex than Seokjin wanted three times already, in the past month alone, because the omega in him wanted it so much.

It made no sense.

The first time it happened, Seokjin and Jeongguk were equally confused. Luckily they were at Seokjin’s apartment, and not out in public anywhere, when Seokjin suddenly and randomly dropped to his knees at Jeongguk’s feet, tilting his face up, baring his neck, and peering at Jeongguk through eyes that had gone filmy.

Seokjin remembered being able to feel his own heartbeat. Jeongguk had crouched in front of him, concerned, mouthing something that Seokjin couldn’t quite catch. He felt like he was hearing everything from under water.

Eventually Seokjin snapped out of it, and Jeongguk pulled him shakily to his feet, his eyes large and worried.

“Hyung are you okay?” he asked. “What was that?”

Seokjin bit his lip. He didn’t want to answer that question. The answer wasn’t logical. But he also didn’t want to keep anything from Jeongguk.

“That was instinct,” Seokjin finally responded. “Omega instinct.”

Jeongguk blinked. “What? But why?”

Seokjin shrugged. “I don’t know. That doesn’t happen outside of my heats. It never has before.”

Jeongguk went quiet at that even though he watched Seokjin closely and thoughtfully for the rest of the day.

After that first time, it kept happening.

Jeongguk’s expression each time it happened remained relatively unreadable, though Seokjin, perhaps feeling especially attuned to his moods and expressions, thought he detected the smallest hint of pride in his face. Normally, it would have driven Seokjin crazy. But because his body and his biology were already acting so strangely around Jeongguk, he found he didn’t mind too much.

It was too easy to feel lost when Jeongguk was kissing his neck. It was so, so easy to let his eyelashes flutter shut when Jeongguk nosed behind his ear in a way that was much too alpha for someone who hadn’t presented.

“Still, Jeonggukie,” Seokjin grumbled, shifting on his lap, looking over his shoulder at Namjoon’s door. “We need to be more careful.”

“We?” asked Jeongguk, leaning up and nipping at Seokjin’s lower lip. “Hyung, kiss me.”

Seokjin kissed him.

Jeongguk was a great kisser, and Seokjin wasn’t really sure how. He must have practiced, had boyfriends or girlfriends growing up. But Seokjin couldn’t remember anyone like that, and thinking about it made his stomach twist in a way that he did not want to analyze.

But the fruits of whatever adolescent practice he might have had were evident to Seokjin. Jeongguk’s kisses started slowly. He liked just brushing his lips along Seokjin’s— “hyung, you have the best lips, it’s really fu—” “Jeongguk!”—before deepening the kiss, always using his tongue and always, and perhaps more importantly, knowing exactly what to do with his hands.

He liked curling them up into Seokjin’s hair. He liked winding one warm palm along Seokjin’s jaw and wrapping the other around the nape of his neck. He had nice hands. He had nice, wandering hands.

“Jeongguk,” Seokjin moaned against his lips, reaching down to stop Jeongguk’s hands.

“Come on, hyung,” Jeongguk breathed into his mouth. “Don’t you want me too?”

Jeongguk’s hands moved around to his lower back, pulling him in even closer.

“We have to take it easy,” said Seokjin, whimpering a little as Jeongguk’s hands moved up his back. He leaned back in, kissing Jeongguk softly.

“Why?” asked Jeongguk, pulling away from Seokjin to search his face. “Hyung, I’m going to be eighteen in less than three months.”

“Exactly,” said Seokjin. “That’s not a very long time. You’ve waited this long already, so you can wait a little bit more. Please, Gukie. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Jeongguk blinked incredulously. “Hyung, there’s no way you could hurt me.”

Seokjin sighed. “Maybe not physically,” he conceded. “But if we had sex before your eighteenth birthday, it would be hurting you. I would be hurting you. Please stop asking me to do that, Jeonggukie, please.”

Jeongguk dropped his head onto Seokjin’s breastbone, breathing deeply. His hands still stroked steadily up and down Seokjin’s back. “Okay,” he finally said, looking up and smiling at Seokjin. “I know. I know that, hyung. I’m sorry I’ve been pressuring you, it’s just…”

He trailed off, biting his lip.

Seokjin leaned in again and brushed their noses together. “Just what?”

“You’re going to have a heat next month,” said Jeongguk quietly, eyes darting from Seokjin’s face to various points around the room and back again. Shifting. Nervous. “And I wanted to be the one to help you.”

Seokjin’s eyes went wide. “Oh,” he said.

Jeongguk lifted a hand, bringing one finger to trace Seokjin’s plump limps. “Yeah, oh,” he murmured. “The idea of someone else helping you, of someone who isn’t me helping you… I don’t know, hyung. It makes me a little crazy.”

Of course. Seokjin should have known, he should have anticipated that this would be a problem. How could he have forgotten that he would have a heat before Jeongguk’s birthday? Now that he was thinking about it, though, Seokjin sort of agreed with him. The idea of someone else helping—and someone else would have to help, there was no way he could go through a heat alone—almost made Seokjin feel sick to his stomach.

“Oh,” Seokjin repeated quietly. “Jeongguk I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

Jeongguk tilted his head. “Well, what are we going to do about it?”

Seokjin lifted up, starting to pull away from Jeongguk’s lap. Jeongguk’s hands shot to his waist, holding him still. Seokjin grinned a little, settled back down.

“We’ll figure it out,” he promised. “Okay? We’ll figure it out.”

Jeongguk looked skeptical and unsatisfied, so Seokjin tipped his head forward and kissed him again.

“It’ll be okay,” he whispered, and finally Jeongguk kissed him back.

Seokjin wasn’t sure he was telling the truth.

 

“So,” said Yoongi, raising an eyebrow, after Seokjin finally worked up the courage to tell him that he and Jeongguk had decided to explore the possibilities of a relationship. “You and Jeongguk, huh?” His eyes slid to Namjoon, who still looked a little frazzled after walking in on them having breakfast the morning after Jeongguk scaled his wall and… well…

“Yes, me and Jeongguk,” said Seokjin testily. “And you can take your judgmental tone and eyebrow elsewhere, Min Yoongi, because I’m still the hyung here even if you are the alpha, so you can just—”

“I’m happy for you,” interrupted Yoongi dryly, but the little lift at the corner of his lips told Seokjin he was being truthful.

“Oh,” said Seokjin, squinting at him. “You are?”

Yoongi nodded, one quick motion of his chin up and down. “Of course,” he said, smiling a little more genuinely. “He’s been in love with you forever, hyung. It’s torture watching him walk around with that heartsick puppy expression on his face.”

“I’m not pity dating him,” said Seokjin quickly. “That’s not what this is.”

“I know,” said Yoongi, even more gently. “Hyung, it’s okay. I’m happy for you.”

Inexplicably, Seokjin felt himself blushing. “Thanks, Yoongi.”

“Sure,” said Yoongi easily. “Just don’t scar Namjoon.” He paused to knock Namjoon’s shoulder playfully. The younger smiled. “And don’t do anything illegal. Jeongguk’s a child.”

Seokjin grimaced. “Can we please not call him a child anymore? It’s weird now.” He shivered. “I’m aware that he’s seventeen and I’ve already told him we can’t do anything until his birthday.”

Namjoon made a face. “Too much information, hyung.”

“Just be careful,” said Yoongi seriously. “Jeongguk, he’s…” Yoongi bit his lip. He had been doing that a lot, recently, when they talked about Jeongguk.

“Fragile?” asked Seokjin, nodding.

That startled a laugh out of Yoongi. “No,” he said, huffing. “Not fragile. Jeongguk’s a fuse, hyung. All it takes is one spark and suddenly you have something potentially dangerous on your hands.” He made a motion with his hands like something exploding.

Seokjin blinked. “What does that even mean?”

But Yoongi refused to say another word about it.

 

“So,” said Namjoon hesitantly, the evening after finding Seokjin and Jeongguk at breakfast. “Are you really okay?”

“What?” asked Seokjin, looking at him over the rim of his mug. “Yes, I’m fine.”

Namjoon raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Are you sure? Because we’ve been friends for a long time hyung, and usually when you say you’re fine, you’re not fine.”

Seokjin sighed. “Okay, yeah, that’s accurate. Not fine.” He looked at Namjoon, his eyes wide and watery. “Jeongguk loves me.”

Namjoon smiled, that stupid dimple smile that Seokjin loved. “Yeah. He does.”

“No,” said Seokjin, shaking his head. “You don’t understand. Jeongguk loves me. He just loves me. Not because I’m an omega. Not even because he’s probably going to present as an alpha. He doesn’t care about how I smell because he can’t smell me yet. He just loves me.”

Namjoon’s dimples got deeper. “You’re lucky, hyung,” he said quietly. “Do you know how rare it is to find someone who loves the way Jeongguk does?”

“I,” said Seokjin, swallowing. “Yes.”

“Then why don’t you look happier?”

“I can tell you anything, right Namjoonie?”

Namjoon pursed his lips. “Hyung. Of course.”

So Seokjin told him. He told him everything that Jeongguk had said. Everything that had been said about Seokjin punishing himself on purpose. Picking bad alphas on purpose. How guilty he had been feeling for letting Jeongguk kiss him. How guilty he felt for liking it.

Namjoon lunged forward and wrapped him in a hug mid-sentence.

“Hyung,” he said. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Namjoon pressed his face into Seokjin’s neck, offering what comfort he could. Seokjin was grateful that they were both omegas, that Namjoon’s soothing pheromones were washing over him, that Namjoon could share his pain and offer peace in return. It was a special bond that omegas shared, that ability to feel what the other felt. Seokjin appreciated it now more than ever.

“I’m here,” Namjoon said.

The great thing, Seokjin thought, about sharing an omega bond with his best friend, was that nothing else needed to be said.

 

Even though Seokjin promised Jeongguk that they would figure it out, he avoided even really thinking about his heat until the beginning of July, when he went into pre-heat.

It was early morning, not yet dawn, and he had just awoken to the feeling of Jeongguk’s lips pressing at the hollow of his throat. He moaned sleepily, shifting, and Jeongguk slid one leg between his thighs, pressing more insistently against him.

“Gukie,” he mumbled, voice a tired slur. “Early.”

Jeongguk did not seem to care. He kissed slowly, softly, along Seokjin’s neck. His hands were working just as slowly, one traveling up under Seokjin’s shirt to tease across his stomach, the other moving down, inching past the elastic waistband of his pants, fingers barely brushing against Seokjin’s hipbones.

“Is this okay?” murmured Jeongguk against his skin, and Seokjin was sleep-warm and already a little hard, so he nodded, grumbling, trying to shift closer to Jeongguk, always closer, but also away enough for Jeongguk’s hands to find more leverage.

They had decided that handjobs were okay.

Privately, Seokjin wasn’t so sure. Sometimes he thought that even a handjob was going too far.

Jeongguk wanted sex. Seokjin could hardly blame him. But they found ways to make do, and Jeongguk liked getting him off no matter how he had to do it.

So Seokjin moaned as Jeongguk’s hand moved even further down, his long fingers finally curling around Seokjin’s hard length. It felt wet and smooth already, and Seokjin wasn’t sure when Jeongguk had managed to coat his fingers with lube.

“Jeonggukie,” he gasped, already breathless, as Jeongguk’s strong thigh moved back between his legs, so that something as simple as a handjob became so much more. It was Jeongguk’s entire body, his lips, his hands, his legs, so much finely controlled muscle, all working together to make Seokjin feel good.

“Come on, hyung,” he said, licking up Seokjin’s neck. “Let go.”

Seokjin wasn’t quite sure what that meant. He felt pretty let go about things right at that moment. But he closed his eyes, breathed in deeply through his nose, and when he breathed out again he let everything else flow out too, all of his tension, all of his problems, all of his doubts.

“That’s it,” breathed Jeongguk, bringing the hand that wasn’t steadily working Seokjin’s cock around to the back of his head, tilting his face down for a kiss.

Seokjin kept his eyes closed, allowed himself to simply feel his way through it.

And Jeongguk was right. It was good.

So good, in fact, that he could already feel his stomach tightening. He gasped into Jeongguk’s mouth, moving his hips, shifting his legs.

“Jeongguk,” he moaned, tugging at Jeongguk’s lip with his teeth.

“That’s it, hyung, come on.”

It felt so good. It was so wet. The slide was incredible. He felt like he could just float away.

Seokjin’s eyes flew open.

It was wet.

He was wet.

He could feel it, now that he was paying attention. He was wet, and it wasn’t from lube. He was slick. It had coated his thighs. Jeongguk’s hands must have picked some of it up. It was pure luck that he hadn’t noticed.

“Oh, my god,” Seokjin gasped, pushing against Jeongguk.

But Jeongguk mistook his words as encouragement and sped up his ministrations, and Seokjin was already so close that he curled in a little, coming with a shudder, breathing heavily against Jeongguk’s neck.

He forced himself to go still despite the aftershocks, despite Jeongguk’s tempting words and tempting lips.

“Don’t move,” Seokjin said quietly, and Jeongguk froze.

“What’s wrong?” asked Jeongguk, panicked, and Seokjin could perfectly visualize how wide his eyes would be at that moment.

Seokjin swallowed heavily. “I’m—” he paused. How did one tell their not-yet-presented boyfriend about the miracle of omega biology?

“My pre-heat just started,” Seokjin finally decided on, and his eyes immediately sought Jeongguk’s as the younger pulled away from him.

“What?” he asked. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure,” Seokjin answered blandly. “I’m, uh. I’m slick.”

Jeongguk’s lips formed a perfect O. He inched closer to Seokjin again, his hands going back to his waistband.

“Hyung,” he said quietly, hesitantly. “Can I…?”

Seokjin blinked. What?

“Can I feel?” asked Jeongguk, a little more boldly.

“No,” said Seokjin immediately, followed by, “Don’t move.”

He clambered over Jeongguk, just barely avoiding elbowing him in the face, and grabbed a new pair of sweatpants as he bolted for the bathroom. He could hear Jeongguk following him, so he closed the door and then leaned against it, breathing deeply.

“Shit,” he muttered, pulling off his wet sweatpants.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk said through the door. “Can I come in?”

“Not yet,” said Seokjin. “Give me a minute.”

He wiped himself down before pulling on the new pair of sweatpants. Hopefully he would stop producing slick now that he and Jeongguk weren’t messing around anymore.

“I’m sorry, Jeongguk,” Seokjin called out. “It’s not personal, I promise. It’s just that if you were to touch me, I would want you too much. Pre-heats can be just as bad as heats, if you aren’t careful.”

“I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” Jeongguk mumbled.

Seokjin rolled his eyes, adjusted his pants, and sat down heavily on top of the toilet seat. “Okay, you can come in.”

The door opened instantly. Seokjin barely had time to look up before Jeongguk was crouched in front of him.

“You’re in pre-heat,” said Jeongguk seriously.

Seokjin pressed his lips together and nodded.

“What are we going to do?” asked Jeongguk. “How long until your actual heat?”

Seokjin shook his head. “A few days, probably. Maybe less than that, I’m not sure.”

Jeongguk stood up, paced the length of the small bathroom before kneeling down in front of Seokjin again.

“Well, how long does your pre-heat normally last?”

“A few days,” said Seokjin. “But Jeongguk, these are different circumstances. This is the first time that a heat is coinciding with our relationship and—” he stopped, biting his lip. “My body is responding to you. Quickly. Faster than is normal.”

Seokjin took stock. He felt a little warm. Nothing to be alarmed about yet. But he could also feel that he was still slick, and that should not have been happening. His body was responding to Jeongguk’s mere presence, which was bizarre in and of itself. His body should not be able to respond as an omega to someone who had not presented.

“I don’t know,” Seokjin repeated. “Everything feels too fast.”

Jeongguk put his hands on Seokjin’s legs. “Hyung, please let me help you. Please.”

Seokjin shook his head. “You can’t help me. It’s impossible. I’ll have to find—”

Someone else. But Seokjin couldn’t even say it out loud. His throat closed up before the words could come out.

“Maybe I should try going through this heat alone,” Seokjin whispered, and Jeongguk stood up again, pacing angrily.

“Not an option,” he said. “Hyung, you’ve been really clear about that. It’s not a good idea to try it alone.” Jeongguk crossed his arms, muscles standing out. Seokjin shifted uncomfortably. He was still so, so slick.

“What if we don’t have sex?” asked Jeongguk. “Isn’t there a way I could help you, without having sex?”

Seokjin shook his head. “There are toys,” he said quietly. “Dildos. Some of them have knots on them. We could use those. But Jeongguk, it won’t work. I already told you, I’ll want you too much. I won’t be myself during my heat. I’ll be almost mindless. It’s so painful, the only thing that helps is an alpha. If you were to try to help me, even just with toys… I would beg you, Jeongguk. I would do anything to try to get you to fuck me. Anything.” He felt almost vulgar, saying that. “Do you think you can resist me?”

“Hyung,” said Jeongguk softly, crouching down again. He put his hands on Seokjin’s knees and looked up at him. “I would never hurt you. I wouldn’t take advantage of you.”

Seokjin stared at him. How had he gotten so lucky?

“I know you mean that,” said Seokjin, cupping Jeongguk’s face between his palms. “I know you do. But you don’t understand. I’ll be begging you, Jeongguk. Can you resist giving me what I want when I’m crying for it? Screaming for it? Without an alpha to soothe the heat, I’ll be sick, Jeongguk. Can you resist giving me what I need when I’m vomiting, when the fever is eating me alive, when you could so easily fix it?”

Jeongguk grimaced, shaking his head. “No. I would do anything to help you.” He looked up, eyes going wide. “But Yoongi hyung! He helped you, your first time! He was only seventeen! I’m seventeen now. What’s the difference?”

“Yoongi had presented,” said Seokjin. “There are two ways to legally reach adulthood. You turn eighteen, or you present. That’s it. Most often the two coincide, but sometimes, for various reasons, they don’t.”

“But he was going to help you even before that,” said Jeongguk insistently. “You didn’t know he was going to present early.”

“We were going to use toys,” said Seokjin, closing his eyes. “I didn’t want Yoongi the way I want you. We would have been fine.”

Jeongguk stood up again. Seokjin opened his eyes are stared up at him.

“So,” said Jeongguk. “What you’re saying is that I either have to be eighteen, or an alpha, right?”

Seokjin sighed. “Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

Remarkably, Jeongguk smiled. Seokjin tilted his head in confusion.

“Okay,” said Jeongguk, his smile stretching. “I can do that. I can be an alpha.”

“What?” asked Seokjin. “No you can’t.”

“Yes,” said Jeongguk eagerly, already edging out of the bathroom. “Yes, I can be. Hyung, I can be an alpha. Just wait for me, okay? Wait for me.”

Seokjin felt almost as if he was in a daze as he stood up and followed Jeongguk out of the bathroom.

“What are you saying?” he asked.

Jeongguk was throwing clothes on, nearly buzzing in excitement.

“I can present!” said Jeongguk, voice muffled by the shirt was pulling on over his head.

Seokjin still didn’t understand.

Jeongguk came up to him, grasped his arms, and leaned in quickly to kiss him. “I can present, hyung, okay? Just wait a little bit. Don’t go into heat without me.”

Seokjin watched him flit about the apartment, tugging his shoes on in a rush.

“Jeongguk,” he said, finally catching on. He felt faint. He couldn’t breathe. “Don’t do this. Jeongguk, it’s dangerous.”

“I’m doing it,” said Jeongguk firmly, opening the front door. “Don’t go into heat without me.”

“Jeongguk, no!” Seokjin called out after him. “Don’t do this! It’s dangerous! You could die!”

But Jeongguk had already disappeared down the stairs.

 

Jeongguk pounded on Yoongi’s door, breathing hard. It was still very early in the morning. The sun was only just beginning to peek over the horizon, washing everything in a diaphanous pink glow.

Yoongi opened the door wearing nothing but a pair of sleep pants and a vicious frown.

“Jeongguk,” he growled. “There better be a really good reason for this.”

“Hyung,” said Jeongguk quickly. “I need your help.”

Yoongi’s frown faded. Perhaps he could see how serious Jeongguk was being. Perhaps he could hear it in his voice. He leaned on the doorframe, crossing his arms.

Jeongguk took a deep breath.

“I’m going to force my presentation.”

Chapter Text

“I’m going to force my presentation.”

 

Jeongguk wasn’t sure what he was expecting. Yelling. Arguing. Flat out refusal.

What he wasn’t expecting was for Yoongi to stare at him, silent, for long enough that Jeongguk began to twitch.

He wasn’t expecting Yoongi to sigh deeply, stand aside, and open his door wider.

He wasn’t expecting Yoongi to murmur, as Jeongguk passed by him, “It’s a bad idea.”

And he definitely wasn’t expecting Yoongi’s quick, quiet follow up, “But I guess if anyone can do it…”, with a shrug and gesture in Jeongguk’s direction.

“Wait here,” said Yoongi, and then disappeared into his bedroom.

Jeongguk hovered. He started to lower himself onto the couch but changed his mind halfway there and straightened again. He bit absently at his nails without realizing he was doing so, and then shoved his hands in his pockets once he became aware of it. His palms were sweaty.

Yoongi came back out a few minutes later, fully dressed, trailed by a sleepy but concerned Jimin, who tossed an anxious glance in Jeongguk’s direction before sliding a lazy kiss along Yoongi’s cheekbone, giving a half-hearted wave, and leaving the apartment.

Jeongguk stared at Yoongi. Yoongi stared back.

“Okay,” said Yoongi finally, and his face changed minutely, like he was steeling himself for what was to come. “We’ll do it here. It’ll make everything worse if you don’t have familiar smells around you after you present.”

Jeongguk nodded.

Now that Yoongi had agreed, now that Yoongi was standing here, helping him, Jeongguk felt himself starting to shake a little.

Yoongi noticed.

“You don’t have to do this,” he said, kindly, understanding, though his voice was still a little sleep-gruff. “But now is the time to stop, if you don’t want to. Once we start, there is no stopping. No going back.”

Jeongguk swallowed thickly, but shook his head. “I’m ready. Jin hyung needs me.” He tossed a sideways smile in Yoongi’s direction. “I’ve been ready for a long time. But that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel afraid.”

“Good,” said Yoongi, nodding. “Fear, in this case, is healthy. What do you know about alpha presentations?”

“Alphas present in a rage,” Jeongguk recited, remembering the section on alphas in his subgender health textbook. “An alpha rage is destructive, mindless, and dangerous. The presentation rage usually lasts a few hours. Unlike other rages the alpha might have, the presentation rage is the most painful episode he or she will experience.”

“It’s designed to hurt,” Yoongi said quietly, staring straight at Jeongguk. “It’s designed so that you remember, always, what it feels like to lose control. So that you remember, always, that you are stronger, but that strength comes at a price. It will hurt, Jeongguk, do you understand?”

“I understand, hyung,” said Jeongguk. He wiped his palms on his jeans. “I’m ready. What do we do?”

Yoongi hadn’t stopped staring at him. His eyes were slits, sharp and discerning. He seemed to see so much more than Jeongguk wanted him to.

“Now,” said Yoongi, shifting in place, “we trigger the rage.”

 

Seokjin made breakfast in a daze.

He had piled rice and eggs into a bowl, and was in the midst of cooking meat when Namjoon wandered in, sniffing.

“Hyung?” he asked, rubbing his eyes, still partially crusted shut with sleep. “Is something burning?”

Seokjin looked down.

Sure enough, the meat was charring. Seokjin just stared, blinking.

For the first time ever, in the entirety of their friendship, Namjoon gently steered Seokjin out of the kitchen. He took the tongs and finished the meat himself, and then carefully turned everything off and carried the breakfast dishes to the table.

He looked concerned when Seokjin proceeded to ignore the food.

“Hyung, you’re really warm,” said Namjoon quietly, back of his hand on Seokjin’s forehead. “Has your heat started already? Are you okay?”

Seokjin tried to answer, but his mouth opened and closed and no sound came out. Jeongguk kept flashing in his vision, Jeongguk leaving, walking away from him. Seokjin had grown up helping Jeongguk. But he couldn’t help Jeongguk now, not with this.

He and Jeongguk, they had always followed each other, revolving like planets in the other’s orbit.

But Jeongguk had gone somewhere Seokjin couldn’t follow.

“Jeongguk left,” Seokjin finally choked out, and it wasn’t how he wanted to say it, wasn’t meant how it sounded, because Namjoon’s eyes went wide and his breath caught, and Seokjin realized that his words had come out wrong.

“He left?” asked Namjoon, sucking in air, and Seokjin shook his head quickly.

“No, no, he,” Seokjin stammered, tonguing the roof of his mouth, which felt suddenly dry. “He, Yoongi… he went to Yoongi.”

Namjoon stared at him.

“Okay,” said the younger, leading Seokjin to the couch by the hand. “Sit down, hyung, please. You’re making me nervous. I’ll get you some…” Namjoon waved his hands anxiously and disappeared.

Seokjin sat.

Namjoon came back a moment later just as there was a knock on the door.

“It’s open!” called Namjoon, placing a cool, damp cloth on Seokjin’s forehead, pushing him lightly so that he fell back against the cushions.

“Hyung,” said Jimin, opening the door and coming in. “Hyung, Jeongguk, he’s…”

Jimin trailed off at the sight of Seokjin, and Namjoon scurried over to him once he was sure the cloth would stay on Seokjin’s head.

Seokjin could hear them talking in quick whispers, but he felt floaty and disconnected and couldn’t actually catch any distinct words. He knew they were talking about him. Him and Jeongguk. And what Jeongguk had gone to do.

The heat was coming on quickly, faster than he could ever remember. He was already starting to shake. The wet cloth was helping, but he could feel the fire just beginning to burn low in his belly. It shouldn’t have been this fast.

Even in his absence, Seokjin’s body was responding to Jeongguk.

Seokjin closed his eyes and focused on breathing. He was sure that only a few moments passed before he felt Namjoon and Jimin sit down on either side of him, but he felt as if he had been sitting there for days.

“It’s going to be okay, hyung,” said Jimin quietly. “Yoongi hyung is helping him. He won’t let Jeongguk hurt himself.”

Seokjin tried to nod, but Namjoon’s hand was back on his forehead, gentle, but with enough pressure to keep him from moving.

“Your fever is progressing really quickly,” said Namjoon. “Can I get you anything? Water?”

Seokjin reached out blindly, straightaway, until his hand met Namjoon’s leg.

“Stay with me,” he croaked, fingers squeezing. “Just, stay here.”

Namjoon’s hand landed on his. “I’m not going anywhere, hyung.”

Jimin and Namjoon stayed close, and Seokjin was grateful. Jimin did get him water, but it remained untouched on the table.

Right before sliding into sleep, in that moment just past full wakefulness, while Seokjin’s mind was fuzzy, he heard Namjoon murmur, “If Jeongguk doesn’t come back soon, I’m going to find him an alpha.”

His tongue was too heavy to protest. He fell into sleep, quiet, unable to say a single word.

 

Jeongguk opened his eyes, hands curling into fists, frustrated.

“It’s not working,” he said, shaking hair out of his eyes. “Hyung, it’s not working.”

He could feel the rage. It simmered low in his belly. But it was what he always felt. It was there with him every day. He had gotten so good at holding it down, holding it back, that now he couldn’t call it up.

“Are you angry?” asked Yoongi, from his place on the other side of the room. “Can you feel the rage?”

Yoongi had said that when Jeongguk did successfully force his presentation, it wouldn’t be safe for them to be in the same room. As soon as Jeongguk started trying, Yoongi moved far away, so that he could slip out when the time came.

Jeongguk rolled his shoulders. “Hyung, I can always feel the rage,” he admitted. “I’m thinking that might be the problem. I always feel it. It’s too familiar.”

Yoongi’s lips twitched down in a sideways, unamused smirk. He nodded. “I should have known,” he said. He brushed one finger along his lower lip, slowly, back and forth as he contemplated Jeongguk. “We need to trigger a real rage, one that you aren’t familiar with. One that you can’t ignore, and that will force the alpha out.”

“How do we do that?” asked Jeongguk.

Yoongi licked his lips. “I have an idea. But you aren’t going to like it.” He paused. “I don’t even like it.”

Jeongguk waited, but when Yoongi didn’t say anything else he rolled his shoulders again, moving his head from side to side, cracking his neck. “Well?”

Yoongi was suddenly right in front of him. Jeongguk hadn’t even seen him move. “Do you remember the first time you felt the rage?”

Jeongguk flinched back, but Yoongi’s hand had fisted in his shirt, holding tight, keeping him in place. Yoongi’s eyes were narrow but bright, burning, and Jeongguk wanted to look away but couldn’t.

“Of course I remember,” he whispered.

Yoongi moved even closer to him, so that mere centimeters were separating their faces.

“Do you remember why?”

Of course Jeongguk remembered why. How could he forget that night? Yoongi and Seokjin leaving together. Seokjin’s first heat. Jeongguk had only been thirteen. It had felt like his life was over. He had never forgotten.

“You helped him,” said Jeongguk quietly. His eyes canted downwards. Away.

Yoongi tugged on his chin, hissing a little, until Jeongguk looked at him. The older was wearing a tiny little smile, the edges curled in a way that Jeongguk had never seen before.

“I didn’t just help him,” Yoongi murmured, that smile turning vicious. “I was with him for five days. Five days we spent together. Just me and Jin.”

“Stop,” said Jeongguk, gasping, pushing on Yoongi’s chest, not wanting the reminder. It had been all he thought about at the time. He pushed again, but Yoongi was using alpha strength. He didn’t move at all when Jeongguk’s hands made contact. “Hyung, stop.”

“I know about Seokjin’s rules,” said Yoongi, whispering feverishly now, right in Jeongguk’s ear. “I know he won’t have sex with you.” He pulled back, just enough so that Jeongguk could see his face clearly. “He won’t have sex with you. But he did with me. Over and over and over again.”

“No!” gasped Jeongguk, and this time when he shoved, Yoongi moved. Not far. But far enough to be out of reach.

For a split second Yoongi looked startled, but then his gaze met Jeongguk’s and he licked his lips again.

“I could give you all the details,” said Yoongi, smiling. “Do you want to know what it’s like, to be with him? How good he is?”

Jeongguk wasn’t even aware that he had moved until Yoongi went sailing across the room, hitting a chair and crashing hard to the floor, coughing.

Jeongguk lowered his arms, blinking at his hands, and then took an urgent step forward. “Hyung,” he said, cringing, but Yoongi was already on his feet again, gripping the back of the chair.

“He’s so pretty when he begs,” Yoongi was saying, and any apology that Jeongguk had entertained vanished.

His hands had started to shake. His chest seized up. Yoongi’s eyes darted down, taking him in, and then back up again.

“Stop,” said Jeongguk. He was surprised at how quiet his voice was.

But Yoongi clearly had no intention of stopping.

“I was with him long before you were even a possibility,” he growled, dragging the chair with him as he took a few steps toward Jeongguk. “We had a bond long before he ever wanted you.”

Something sharp rose up in Jeongguk’s chest, pinning him in place. Yoongi was all alpha, hot eyes and impossible strength, and a presence that normally would have had Jeongguk, even unpresented as he was, cowering back. But this, the way he was talking about Seokjin, it was making ice trace up Jeongguk’s arms, chilling his veins. He couldn’t back down. He didn’t want to back down.

His mind was numbing from the edges inward. Some part of him knew what Yoongi was doing. He knew that Yoongi was forcing him into a rage, a true rage. But that part of Jeongguk was being overtaken by a cold, mindless emptiness, an emptiness that was steadily erasing Jeongguk’s human capacity for empathy toward Yoongi.

Alphas could be territorial. And the un-awakened alpha in Jeongguk felt challenged.

“Seokjin is mine now,” said Jeongguk. He barely recognized his own voice. “And I’m his.”

Yoongi’s tongue poked out, curled wickedly around his teeth. “You sure about that?” he asked. “He’s probably trying to find another alpha right now. You’re still too young to help him. You’ll always be too young. A child.”

Jeongguk took a step forward. He could feel something low and rumbling, like a growl, working in his chest. His vision was starting to tunnel in on Yoongi.

“I’m not a child,” said Jeongguk lowly.

“Well you’re not an alpha,” countered Yoongi, eyes glancing over Jeongguk, head to toe, judging. “I’m the alpha here.” He started edging toward the door. “In fact, maybe I’ll go help Seokjin. It’s been too long since I’ve seen him on his knees.”

Jeongguk darted forward. He was able to curl his hands around Yoongi’s throat before Yoongi could throw him off, pushing him backwards all the way into the mirror hanging on the wall. Jeongguk felt the impact on the back of his head as he heard glass crack.

Yoongi had a firm hold on his shoulders.

“Face it, Jeonggukie,” he whispered, leaning in, his gentle use of the nickname a complete contrast to his words and behavior. “No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, I will have always had him first. All of those memories, all of those experiences, they belong to me. I was his first.”

Jeongguk screamed.

It tore out of him suddenly, taking him by surprise.

Jeongguk had always thought that a true rage, one he let take him all the way, would have red bleeding into his vision. He pictured shaking hands, uncontrollable anger, and red, red everywhere.

But this rage, the presentation rage of an alpha, wasn’t red.

It was white.

It was so blinding Jeongguk had to squeeze his eyes shut, and what had begun as a scream of anger morphed into a scream of pain as the rage ripped through him, white with fury, gripping his entire body. The glass behind him shattered, and Jeongguk fell forward with the shards, hitting hands and knees hard, screaming as the rage consumed him.

His fingers dug into the floor, and he was sure that if the evolutionary gene for claws still existed, he would have grown some.

Vaguely, he heard Yoongi calling his name.

“Breathe, Jeongguk.”

But he was still screaming, and Yoongi’s voice, Yoongi’s presence, faded away. Jeongguk curled up, tucking his knees under himself, sobbing into the floor.

 

“Okay, that’s it,” said Namjoon, standing up. “I have to get him an alpha.”

Seokjin reached out weakly, trying to hold Namjoon in place. His head was on Jimin’s lap, cradled in his hands. He could barely move. The fever had completely taken hold only minutes ago. He had already been to the bathroom to vomit. He felt a brief reprieve now, but he knew it was only a matter of time before the fever came back, stronger and hotter than before.

“Jeongguk said wait,” Seokjin said, raspy, groaning.

Namjoon crouched down by Seokjin’s head and peered at him. “You can’t wait anymore, hyung,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry. I’ll be back, okay? And I’ll bring an alpha with me.”

“We can give Jeongguk a little more time,” said Jimin softly, brushing Seokjin’s sweaty hair out of his eyes. He looked up at Namjoon. “I could… I could call Hoseok hyung. He’s a beta. Maybe he could…?”

Namjoon shook his head. “No.” He smiled kindly. “Thanks for the offer, Jimin, but I know what you and Yoongi hyung have with Hoseok is still too new. It wouldn’t end well, I think, for him to help. I have to go find someone.”

He started toward the door, but stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “If Jeongguk comes back, call me, okay? The second he comes back, so that I know to stop looking.”

He left, and Jimin leaned down, brushing his lips over Seokjin’s forehead. “Just hang in there, hyung. I know it’s hard. But hold on.”

Seokjin moaned. His head rolled on Jimin’s lap. “I need… I need…”

Jimin squeezed his eyes shut. “I know.”

“Jeongguk.”

 

It was like being torn apart.

In a way, Jeongguk thought, it was exactly that. It hurt so much because he had to become someone new to be an alpha. All of the old pieces of his body, the ones that made him Jeongguk, had to be ripped open so that they could be put together again, configured in a new way, so that when it was done, he would be a different Jeongguk. Alpha.

He knew this, but knowing it didn’t stop Jeongguk from wanting to tear the world apart while it was happening.

It’s designed to hurt, Yoongi had said.

That didn’t cover the half of it.

It was so excruciating that Jeongguk couldn’t stay curled up for very long. Soon the pain had his body unfurling, until he flipped over, back arching off the floor as he screamed, hands and feet fumbling for purchase.

He didn’t have claws, but he could feel pieces of the floor coming up under his fingers. He could feel the glass that had broken earlier, tiny slivers under and around him. But the sharp pinpricks of the glass cutting him felt almost like relief compared to the rage.

The urge to stand up and rip into the nearest available surface was more than overwhelming. It was instinctual. Destruction, he knew, was a component of the rage. But Jeongguk dug his hands into the floor and stayed down, howling.

He was better than that. He was better than mindless annihilation. Better than the anger flowing through him.

Complete control, Yoongi had also said, and Jeongguk knew what that felt like.

He knew how to do that.

But control couldn’t prepare him for everything.

The smells hit him all at once.

There were thousands of them, so strong and sudden that Jeongguk had to roll back over, gagging.

He could smell Jimin, faintly, though he wasn’t sure how he knew it was the omega’s scent.

He could smell Yoongi, stronger and close, and that had Jeongguk shifting into a low, feral crouch, growling. Yoongi had an alpha smell, a challenging smell, and Jeongguk didn’t like it. But even as he crouched there that scent retreated, went further away, and he relaxed marginally through the pain.

He could smell the apartment, an accumulation of scents that he had never noticed before, couldn’t notice before, but that now told him he was in a place considered home. It was comforting, that jumble of scents, even though it couldn’t save him from what came next, from his other senses awakening.

It happened quickly, one after the other. First he could smell everything, and then he could hear everything. The white in his vision grew so bright that Jeongguk’s screams turned to whimpers as he curled in on himself, trying to cover his eyes and ears at once. The glass under him suddenly hurt in a way that it hadn’t before, and he could even feel all of the individual ruts and grains in the flooring. He nearly bit through his tongue trying to hold in his howls, and his mouth filled with the thick, coppery tang of his own blood.

It wasn’t pain, Jeongguk finally learned, that caused newly presented alphas to black out in the end. It was sensory overload, so complete and total that there was no choice.

It was black out or be consumed by sensations, so many of them that the mind would go mad trying to process each one.

Jeongguk blacked out.

 

The first thing he noticed when he regained consciousness was Yoongi. Even before Jeongguk opened his eyes he could smell the older alpha, and when he fluttered open his eyelids—a difficult feat, considering how weighted down they felt—he saw Yoongi bent over him, picking glass out of his hair and skin and cleaning each cut with a sterile cloth.

It took a moment for Yoongi to notice that he was awake, but when he saw Jeongguk’s open eyes he leapt backwards, landing in a defensive crouch several feet away, watching Jeongguk carefully.

“I’m okay,” Jeongguk groaned, trying and failing to lift himself up. “Hyung, it’s okay.”

Yoongi relaxed.

“Am I?” asked Jeongguk roughly, running his hands over his chest and down his stomach.

“Yes,” said Yoongi gruffly, inching closer. “Congratulations, Jeongguk.”

Alpha. He was an alpha.

Finally Jeongguk sat up, shaking his head slowly, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. Yoongi had cleaned up all of the glass. It was collected in a small pile nearby.

“I got blood on your floor,” said Jeongguk, noticing the stains.

“It’s fine,” said Yoongi, waving a hand. “It doesn’t matter.”

He still looked hesitant to get too close, and Jeongguk understood why. A small part of him felt territorial even though this wasn’t his apartment. Yoongi’s scent still held the slight smell of threat. He smelled like an older, more experienced alpha. But more than that he just smelled like Yoongi. He smelled like Jeongguk’s hyung, who had always taken care of him, and who was taking care of him even now.

In an instinctual move, without really knowing what he was doing, Jeongguk bared his throat. In an instant Yoongi was right next to him, pressing his face to Jeongguk’s neck and pulling him close, wrapping him in a hug that felt all human.

“You wouldn’t stop screaming,” said Yoongi quietly into his neck. “You screamed the whole time.”

Jeongguk closed his eyes. He rested his cheek on top of Yoongi’s head. “I’m okay now, hyung.”

Yoongi pulled back just far enough to search his face. “I’m sorry, Jeongguk,” he said seriously. “I’m sorry for what I said.”

Jeongguk was shaking his head. “Stop, hyung, there’s no need. You did what you had to do. Thank you.”

“How do you feel?” asked Yoongi.

He carefully pulled Jeongguk to his feet, brushing glass dust off of him and eying him carefully.

“I feel fine,” said Jeongguk honestly. “Normal.”

Yoongi raised an eyebrow, but Jeongguk didn’t know what else to say. He felt fine. Stronger. A little overwhelmed by all the smells. But he still felt like himself.

“The rage?” asked Yoongi.

“Gone,” said Jeongguk, wide-eyed. “Hyung, it’s gone.”

It was. That was the strangest feeling of all. It had been four years of living with the rage, and now it was just gone.

“You should go to a clinic,” Yoongi told him. “To make sure that your hormones are properly balanced and that you presented safely. But…”

Jeongguk looked up. “But?”

Yoongi bit his lip. “Jimin messaged me while you were unconscious. Jin hyung, he’s… Well, he’s not doing well.”

Jeongguk started immediately for the door. “He needs me.”

Yoongi grasped his elbow firmly, and Jeongguk turned with a growl before he even knew what he was doing. But Yoongi met him with a growl of his own, and Jeongguk backed down.

“You have to be careful,” said Yoongi insistently. “Much of what you’ll feel around him is instinctual, but being an alpha is more than instinct. You could hurt him. You’re so much stronger now you have to be even gentler than you think is necessary. And be careful what you say. It could come out as an Order without that being your intention. You have to be in—”

“Control,” finished Jeongguk, nodding. “I know, hyung. Complete control. Like you taught me, right?”

Yoongi let out a long breath. “Right,” he said. “You need to anticipate what he needs before he asks for it. You need to be ready to help him in any way. He’ll initiate the mating bond at some point but you can’t let it cloud your judgement.”

“Okay,” said Jeongguk. “I’ll be fine, hyung. I can do this. I can take care of him.”

Yoongi smiled a little, but also shook his head. “This is a bad idea. It’s a bad idea for you to be thrown into an omega’s heat this soon after presentation. If you feel for any moment that you can’t handle it—”

“I’ll call you,” Jeongguk promised.

Yoongi finally released his elbow. “Okay. Good luck, Jeongguk. Take care of him.”

Jeongguk smiled softly, his eyes curving into crescents. “Thanks, hyung.” He darted to the door. “Don’t worry, hyung. I’m ready.”

He barely heard Yoongi’s parting, “I know,” before he was outside, racing the sun to Seokjin.

 

“Hyung,” Jimin called through the bathroom door. “Please come out. Or let me in. Please.”

Seokjin lifted his head from his knees, but curled even tighter into one corner of the bathtub. The cool porcelain felt like water against his overheated skin, and he wasn’t willing, or even fully able at this point, to get up and unlock the door.

He thought about calling out that he was fine, but he wasn’t sure what would actually come out of his mouth if he did that.

And it wasn’t true. He wasn’t fine.

He was burning alive. His stomach was rolling so much he felt dizzy. He had already been sick twice. The cold surface of the bathtub was the only thing that was keeping him from ripping his own skin off.

He needed an alpha.

But he wanted Jeongguk.

His head spun every time he thought about it. Somehow, in his heat-addled mind, he had decided that even if Jeongguk did come back, even if he successfully forced his presentation, Seokjin couldn’t have him.

It was asking too much of him, to make him go through an omega’s heat on his first day as an alpha. It was too much. No one should have to do that. It was why omegas didn’t even have a heat until months after presenting. It wasn’t meant for someone who was newly presented.

Heats had always been distasteful to Seokjin. He found them messy and unnecessary, and, depending on the alpha, not even always that enjoyable. But he knew they were biological. Unavoidable. So he didn’t particularly like them, but he also didn’t resent them.

Until now.

For the first time ever, Seokjin hated his body. He hated that this was happening to him, that even though he felt so sick, and was in so much pain, and was beginning to feel desperate for an alpha’s—any alpha’s—touch, he was producing slick. He hated what his body was doing.

He must have been making noise, whimpering, because Jimin called out again, “Hyung! It’s going to be okay! Look who’s here!”

Seokjin’s eyes were closed. He couldn’t see anything.

But he could still smell.

And as Jimin’s peaceful scent receded, a new, strong, heady scent took its place, one Seokjin had never smelled before, but that felt like home, like everything good in life. It was a beautiful scent, and Seokjin’s eyes opened, searching, head craning toward…

“Alpha,” he gasped, his voice little more than a croak. “Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk knelt outside the bathroom door. He had tried opening it, but it was locked. So he placed his palms flat on the wood and leaned forward until his forehead touched the surface of the door. He breathed carefully. In through his nose, out through his mouth.

Seokjin smelled like every good thing that had ever happened to Jeongguk.

He smelled like kisses after ice cream. Like pre-dawn breakfast, like rain, and tea, and sunshine. He smelled like vines at night that Jeongguk had climbed just to get to him.

“I’m here,” said Jeongguk quietly, trusting that Seokjin could hear him. “Please let me help you.”

He heard rustling inside the bathroom, smelled Seokjin moving closer, but the door didn’t open.

“Jeongguk,” Seokjin murmured, and his voice sounded so hoarse, so broken, that Jeongguk almost stood up and kicked the door down.

But he held himself in place.

“Seokjin,” he said, firmly, but not an Order. “Open the door. Let me help you.”

On the other side of the door, Seokjin sobbed.

“I can’t,” he cried. “It’s… it’s too much. I-I can’t.”

Jeongguk closed his eyes. “You can smell me, right hyung?” he asked. “You can smell that I’m an alpha now. Your alpha.”

“Yes,” said Seokjin, whimpering.

“Then open the door,” said Jeongguk. “Open the door, Seokjin.”

Seokjin was crying steadily. He could hear it. It made his stomach turn.

But then the doorknob twisted, and Jeongguk rose hastily to his feet.

He held perfectly still as Seokjin peeked around the door, held perfectly still even though he wanted to scoop him up and breathe him in and never let him go again.

Alphas didn’t get to choose an omega for their heat.

Alphas had to be chosen.

So Jeongguk stood very still, even though Seokjin looked pale, even though his eyes were bright and feverish, his lips and cheeks flushed a sickly red. Jeongguk held perfectly still as Seokjin stepped forward on wobbly legs. He didn’t move at all as Seokjin lightly sniffed at his neck and then pulled back to gaze at him. His fingers came up to touch Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk let him touch, and didn’t move.

He only reached out when it became clear that Seokjin couldn’t stand on his own.

“Are you claiming me, hyung?” asked Jeongguk.

Seokjin trembled. He looked so sick Jeongguk felt like crying himself.

But finally he nodded.

“Yes,” he said, voice shaky. “I’m claiming you.”

 

Seokjin couldn’t remember getting from the bathroom to the bed.

He just knew that one moment he was failing at standing up on his own, and the next he was in his room, surrounded by the new and strange scent of Jeongguk, his alpha.

Jeongguk undressed him and curled around him in bed, and Seokjin felt a little less like he might die. Jeongguk’s capable hands stroked up and down his back, and his touch took away the pain of the heat fever.

“I’ll take care of you,” Jeongguk whispered, right before Seokjin slid into sleep.

Chapter Text

Jeongguk was awake long before Seokjin.

Truthfully, he never fell asleep. He guessed it was instinctual, the urge to stay alert, even after the exhaustion of his presentation. His job now was to protect and care for Seokjin. He couldn’t sleep.

It was late afternoon by the time Seokjin woke up, mumbling and sweaty and hot from the heat fever, and Jeongguk had spent several hours just watching him, following the path the summer sun took across his face, trailing light at different angles, each leaving him more beautiful than the last.

He didn’t look sick anymore, thanks to Jeongguk’s alpha presence, but his fever had grown steadily worse as he slept, and Jeongguk knew—both by scent and sight—that it was only a matter of moments now before his heat fully took hold.

Sure enough, Seokjin woke up gasping, a hoarse shout tearing out of him before Jeongguk brought a hand up to his face, calming him.

“I’m here,” he said.

Seokjin was trembling. “Alpha,” he murmured, and Jeongguk nodded.

“I’m here,” he repeated, fingers brushing Seokjin’s temple. “Tell me what you need.”

Seokjin’s eyes were shifting rapidly between cloudy and clear. He peered at Jeongguk even as he panted and shifted closer, trying to press the length of his body along Jeongguk’s.

“Jeongguk?” he asked, softly. “You… you’re… alpha?”

“Yes,” said Jeongguk, easing Seokjin’s hair out of his eyes. “I’m an alpha now.”

Seokjin shifted even closer to him, pressing their bodies fully together, but Jeongguk could see that he was fighting to maintain any aspect of mental clarity.

“Jeongguk,” he gasped, arching against him. “I can’t… I need… please…”

Jeongguk leaned in and kissed him and Seokjin immediately moaned into his mouth.

“I’m going to take care of you,” Jeongguk whispered against his lips. “It’s okay to let go. You can let go, hyung.”

He could see it in Seokjin’s eyes the exact moment he stopped fighting for control. Jeongguk swooped back in and kissed him again, easing one arm around him as he did so, pulling him flush and tangling their legs together. He had one brief, intense moment of anger that other people—other alphas—had seen Seokjin this vulnerable and hadn’t taken care of him like they should have. But that was all in the past.

Jeongguk was going to prove to Seokjin that he deserved to be treated well. That he deserved the world. Everything Jeongguk could give him.

Seokjin was already naked, so for the first time Jeongguk let his hand wander down Seokjin’s back, over the swell of his ass and through the slick that had gathered abundantly there, marveling that it could really be so wet and smooth. He had never spent much time—unlike his same-age peers—imagining what an omega in heat might feel like, what slick was actually like. But he had thought about Seokjin, more than he would ever feel comfortable admitting, and feeling him like this for the first time had Jeongguk’s heart beating double time, had his eyelashes fluttering and his stomach seizing. A desperate, wild sound threatened to escape his throat, but he held it in because Seokjin had let go, had given him control, had finally given Jeongguk everything.

Seokjin whined softly where his face was pressed to Jeongguk’s chest, pushed back for more of Jeongguk’s hand and then forward almost immediately, seeking friction against his hip. Jeongguk rocked with him, cradling him, stunned by how much more intense every sensation was now that he was an alpha responding to an omega, and not just Jeongguk responding to Seokjin. Everything was so much more now that he was both.

“Please, Jeongguk,” Seokjin gasped, mouthing at his collarbones. “Alpha, please.”

Jeongguk knew that omegas in heat didn’t need much prep, but he still eased one finger inside Seokjin slowly, because it was the first time he was allowed to do so, and he wanted to do it right. He had never done this with anyone else. It wasn’t that he had waited, or even that there hadn’t been offers. There had just never been anyone else that he wanted to be with in this way. But he knew what to do.

Seokjin moaned as Jeongguk’s finger worked in him, and while Jeongguk respected Seokjin’s rules, he hated that their first time doing this was coinciding with Seokjin being nearly out of his mind from the heat fever.

“Please remember this later,” he whispered into Seokjin’s hair, and then curled his finger until Seokjin was mewling, before slipping a second one in beside the first.

“I’ll try,” wailed Seokjin softly, arching into him.

Jeongguk worked with his fingers, amazed at everything he could feel, Seokjin’s warmth and softness, until the older was begging, rubbing against him, pleading for more.

Jeongguk stripped off his sweatpants and maneuvered one of Seokjin’s legs up over his hip.

“Like this, okay hyung,” he said, voice lilting up but not really asking.

Seokjin nodded frantically.

Jeongguk liked to think he had been prepared for what it would feel like when he and Seokjin finally had sex, but the truth was the opposite. He wasn’t ready. Nothing could have prepared him for what it would feel like to be inside Seokjin.

He didn’t want to be hyperbolic.

But he felt like he finally understood how this was enough to drive some people crazy.

Jeongguk didn’t want to be cheesy.

But he had always imagined that their first time would be like this, face to face on their sides. He wanted to tell Seokjin why it was so important to him, that they face each other like equals. Jeongguk didn’t want to be above him. Not this first time.

But words were getting caught in his throat with each smooth glide in and out, their bodies moving together until Jeongguk couldn’t talk, could barely make any noise aside from panting out his admiration.

He thought that Seokjin might be beyond caring anyway.

The older was clinging to him, had actually started crying a little bit, every breath leaving him in the form of a broken, “Please.”

So Jeongguk hitched Seokjin’s leg up higher, curled one hand around his hard and leaking member, leaned down to kiss him, and sped up, moving inside Seokjin like it was the first and last time he would ever get to do so, until Seokjin came apart in his arms with a sob, shaking, the fever receding in the wake of his pleasure.

 

Seokjin lay speechless and unable to move, head tucked under Jeongguk’s chin, breathing through his mouth.

Jeongguk’s knot—his first one, ever, which was leaving Seokjin equally as speechless—had begun to swell in the midst of Seokjin’s orgasm, and now Seokjin tried to keep still as Jeongguk shook, as his knot grew and pushed past Seokjin’s rim, wide and tight but then smooth and hot after that, like it was meant to fit there.

It felt so good that Seokjin’s vision started to spark again, even though he should have been experiencing a brief reprieve.

Nothing would be as expected, he guessed, when it came to Jeongguk.

He could still hardly believe that he was smelling alpha on him now, a deep and delicious scent that Seokjin never could have imagined, never would have believed could belong to Jeongguk.

Is this mine, he thought, while Jeongguk trembled in his arms.

“All yours,” Jeongguk gasped, and Seokjin realized he must have said it out loud.

Seokjin lifted his head a little to nose at Jeongguk’s neck. He licked over his pulse point, humming.

“Are you real?” he asked, and just like that Jeongguk fell apart, pulsing inside him, and Seokjin’s eyes went wide as another, completely unexpected orgasm took him, so that his lips formed an ‘O’ on Jeongguk’s neck as they crested together.

They settled together when it was over, still on their sides facing one another, and Seokjin couldn’t stop himself from dancing his fingers along as much of Jeongguk’s body as he could reach. He wasn’t sure how long Jeongguk’s knot would hold them together.

But he found he didn’t mind.

“How are you not more overwhelmed by this?” asked Seokjin, caressing Jeongguk’s finely muscled back as Jeongguk brushed soft kisses along his face.

The younger pulled back to look at him, blinking. “I am,” he admitted. His lips were bitten red and Seokjin honestly felt as if he had never seen anything so beautiful in his entire life as Jeongguk’s face in that moment. “Hyung, I’m completely overwhelmed. But,” he bit his lip again, and Seokjin watched as the cherry color grew deeper. “I’ve always felt this way about you. I’m always overwhelmed by you. I might be an alpha now, but these feelings are always with me and always have been because I’ve always, always loved you—”

Seokjin kissed him quickly, cutting him off. Not because he didn’t want to hear it, but because it was running the risk of overwhelming him even more.

Even now he felt so unworthy of Jeongguk’s love, of how eagerly and honestly he gave everything to Seokjin. How was it even possible? Seokjin felt like he was dreaming.

“I get it,” he breathed into Jeongguk’s mouth. “I get it. You love me.” He kissed Jeongguk again, curling his tongue into Jeongguk’s mouth. “I feel like I imagined you as a child because I wanted you to be real and now you’re here and—”

This time it was Jeongguk who cut him off, capturing his lips again and moving his hips simultaneously, pushing his knot even deeper into Seokjin, causing the older to grasp his shoulders and shudder, moaning as Jeongguk kissed him.

There was very little talking after that, not once the heat took hold of Seokjin again, not when the drag of Jeongguk’s knot was so good it was making him delirious. He remembered, vaguely, begging; he remembered a litany of sound coming from him as Jeongguk’s knot finally went down enough so that he could flip them over and start up a pace just edging too fast, too much, but everything Seokjin had never known he’d wanted.

He remembered gasping out, lashes wet with tears, “I love you, too, Jeonggukie,” and thinking that it was foolish to say it in the midst of a heat, but worth it for the way Jeongguk’s knees slipped and he abruptly stopped moving, gazing at Seokjin so wide-eyed that he regretted not telling him sooner. Seokjin had to curl his legs around Jeongguk and pull him in to get him to move again, and then all he could do was whine as Jeongguk started a slow drag, catching on Seokjin’s rim with each thrust, panting into the hollow at the base of Seokjin’s throat.

I should have told him the moment I felt it, thought Seokjin, but looking back he wasn’t sure exactly when that was.

He just knew that he loved Jeongguk now, fully, and now was what mattered to Seokjin.

“Jeongguk,” he cried, lifting his head. “Alpha, I need… I need…”

Jeongguk knew. He changed their positions, rocking back onto his heels and pulling Seokjin up with him so that the older was straddling his lap, and presented his neck.

Seokjin curled around him, found the spot he wanted, and bit down, initiating the mating bond.

 

Everything really was a blur for Seokjin after that.

Overwhelmed by the bond that he could feel sparking between them and overwhelmed by Jeongguk the alpha, Seokjin drifted in and out of delirium, aware only of sensations.

There was the tangle of sheets on skin until Jeongguk growled and threw everything off of the bed.

There was the mattress under Seokjin’s belly, a pillow under his hips, and Jeongguk around him and in him.

At one point there was water, a cool spray in the bathroom as Jeongguk pressed him against cold tile and took him from behind.

There was color, and sound, and Jeongguk, Jeongguk, Jeongguk, until Seokjin couldn’t breathe with it, until it was too much, too good, too everything that he had ever wanted.

 

Seokjin found himself on the couch when he regained awareness, his head on a pillow and his legs on Jeongguk’s lap. Jeongguk was awake, flipping through a takeout menu from a nearby restaurant, trying to decide what to order. He looked shower fresh and shirtless, his hair still a little damp, and Seokjin took a moment just to look at him because it was a sight that deserved to be remembered.

But after a minute Seokjin shifted sleepily, and Jeongguk’s head whipped toward him. There was a water bottle at his lips immediately, and Jeongguk helped him take small sips until he felt hydrated and refreshed.

“Hi,” said Jeongguk, when he was done with the water. “How do you feel?”

“I feel like I blacked out,” said Seokjin honestly. His mouth was dry again, despite the water. “How many days have passed?”

“Just two,” said Jeongguk, and Seokjin blanched.

“I found soup in your fridge,” Jeongguk told him. “I’ve been heating it up for you, though I’m not sure you remember.”

Seokjin shook his head.

“Well, anyway, I figure it’s time for real food. What sounds good?”

“Honestly?” said Seokjin. “Nothing. But I try to prepare meals ahead of time. You should find them in the freezer. I can have that. And you can order what you want for yourself.”

Jeongguk tossed the menu aside, gently moved Seokjin’s legs, and trotted to the kitchen, spritely and full of energy, wearing just a pair of low slung sweatpants. Seokjin admired him from the couch, thankful for this moment of clarity, a moment that usually always happened for him in the middle of his heat.

He could feel the newly initiated bond between them, pulsing lightly. Even from the couch he could see the bite mark on Jeongguk’s neck.

He didn’t have a bite mark of his own, but he touched the spot on his neck that mirrored Jeongguk’s, wondering at how strong and right it felt already. He should have known. He and Jeongguk were meant for each other.

“Is this always what you feel?” asked Seokjin absently, as Jeongguk turned on the oven to reheat Seokjin’s frozen meals.

Jeongguk glanced at him, and then fingered the bite on his neck when he saw what Seokjin meant. He smiled dopily.

“Well,” he began, sliding the trays into the oven, “I’ve never felt this before. But yes. Yes, I’ve always known. Really, hyung, it’s simple.” He skipped back over and collapsed on the couch and just sort of stared dreamily at Seokjin. “At the risk of sounding… stupid. I knew we were meant for each other.”

Seokjin blinked and shook his head. “That’s not stupid, Jeonggukie. I just. I can’t believe you waited so long for me.”

Jeongguk made a face. “Hyung,” he said. “I would have waited my whole life, even just to spend five minutes at the end of it with you.”

Seokjin shook his head again. “Dammit, Jeongguk, you say things like that and then I feel even worse—”

Jeongguk lunged, tickling his sides until Seokjin was squealing, before yanking the older into his lap and kissing him breathless.

“Just appreciate that you have a much younger—”

“Yah!”

“—much more romantic lover—”

Excuse me?!”

“—who is willing to say cheesy things and take such good care of you during your heat—”

“Well.”

“—and fuck you on every surface of your apartment—”

“Um. Yes, please.”

“—and cook you dinner—”

“Burn my dinner, more like it.”

Jeongguk leapt to his feet, darting for the kitchen as Seokjin laughed. He wondered, watching him, if it was always going to be this way with Jeongguk. If it was always going to be a cycle of stupidly romantic remarks, destined to be interrupted by stupidly romantic acts.

Seokjin couldn’t say he minded. Or that he didn’t want exactly that.

 

Jeongguk did end up fucking him on nearly every surface of his apartment.

And because of his heat, Seokjin wasn’t even preoccupied with the idea of cleaning right after.

Jeongguk had a weird thing about wanting to be in the sun. They spent the remaining days of Seokjin’s heat chasing sunlight across each room, and even Seokjin had to admit there was something magical about being with Jeongguk in the summer light, bathed in warmth and watching as the light illuminated every inch of Jeongguk’s beautiful body.

It was the type of heat that Seokjin wanted to remember.

With each passing moment their bond grew stronger. With each passing moment Seokjin fell even more in love with Jeongguk.

And he realized, suddenly, that he didn’t want to be with anyone else. He never wanted to go through a heat without Jeongguk ever again. He realized, suddenly, that he wanted this forever.

 

“Let’s not sever the bond,” Jeongguk said on the last day of Seokjin’s heat, right before his fever broke.

They were sitting up on the couch and Seokjin was riding him slowly, his face buried in Jeongguk’s neck, hips moving in tiny little undulations that had Jeongguk gasping, that had his field of vision narrowing into a golden haze.

Seokjin pulled back to look at him, but didn’t stop moving.

“Let’s keep it,” said Jeongguk, staring at Seokjin’s lips. “I… I don’t want to be dramatic. But I think I might die if we sever the bond.”

Seokjin swallowed.

Jeongguk knew there was a word for it, what he was feeling about breaking the bond. It happened to alphas sometimes, after a traumatic event. Going feral. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but he was positive that it would happen to him, were they to sever the bond.

Seokjin’s eyes cleared and he smiled. He brushed their noses together.

“Of course we’re not severing the bond, silly,” he murmured. “It took you almost eighteen years to get it.” He swirled his hips, and Jeongguk whimpered. “I have a lot of time to make up for. And I was serious, you know. I remember telling you I love you. I wasn’t just saying it because of the heat.”

Jeongguk stared at him. “Do you mean it?” he asked, reaching up and kissing along Seokjin’s cheekbone.

Seokjin nodded. “You aren’t getting rid of me now.” He blinked. “Jeongguk, are you crying?”

Jeongguk shook his head. “No,” he said, firmly.

But he was.

 

After Seokjin’s heat broke, while cleaning the apartment top to bottom, Jeongguk suddenly looked up in the middle of scrubbing the kitchen counters and exclaimed, incredulously, “Oh, my god, hyung! I’m an alpha!”

Seokjin laughed at him, but there was no stopping Jeongguk after that.

He bolted outside and started running, just to see how fast he could go—the answer was fast, he could go really, really fast—and wanted to pick up everything heavy he could get his hands on just to see what his limit was.

Seokjin let him practice an Order, because he hadn’t yet.

“Hyung, stop cleaning.”

Seokjin stopped immediately, dropping the rag and the cleaning supplies he had been holding, whining.

“Jeongguk, no! Do you even know what kinds of bodily fluids are on that counter right now I have to—”

Jeongguk was the one laughing now. “Come outside and play with me!”

It wasn’t an Order, not really, but Seokjin went, because Jeongguk looked carefree and happy, and because Seokjin didn’t want to miss these moments when Jeongguk discovered for the first time what it was like to be an alpha.

He thought he finally understood Jeongguk’s obsession with the sun, because watching him run around like a joyful little kid, leaping through patches of sunlight, was one of the most incredible things Seokjin had ever seen.

 

Two weeks after his heat, Seokjin helped Namjoon tape up the last of his moving boxes.

“You don’t have to do this,” Seokjin repeated for the fiftieth time. “You can stay here.”

Namjoon gave him a dimpled smile. “Thanks, hyung,” he said. “But it’s time for me to get my own place. I’m starting a new degree program, and I’m going to be an entirely new Namjoon, and it feels like the right time.”

Seokjin smiled, sort of watery and sad, and felt inexplicably teary-eyed. “I’m going to miss you.”

Namjoon laughed. “Hyung, I’m moving ten minutes away. I’ll see you all the time. Besides, I think you’re going to be a little busy.”

He looked out the window as he said it, and Seokjin followed his gaze out and down, where Jeongguk was scurrying around on the street with Yoongi and Jimin and Hoseok, trying to get all of his things out of the car and up the stairs.

“I can’t stay here with you and Jeongguk,” said Namjoon breezily. “No offense. You two are sort of sickeningly in love.”

Seokjin had to agree with him.

“You’ll know what it’s like soon, when you find someone to spend forever with.”

Namjoon pulled a face. “Gross,” he said, with a little shudder. But then he shrugged. “We’ll see.”

“You will,” said Seokjin, punching him lightly in the arm. “Come on. Let’s get these boxes down. Then we can help Jeongguk.”

Namjoon groaned as he hefted the box they had just taped. “Why do I have so much stuff?”

Seokjin laughed. “You don’t,” he said, easily picking up a box that was full of Ryan the Lion plushies. “It’s just that you keep picking up the heavy boxes. You have too many books.”

Namjoon scoffed. “No such thing,” he said, stumbling under the weight of the box.

Seokjin’s laughter echoed all the way down the stairs.

 

Later that night, after they had demolished a dozen boxes of takeout and Seokjin had piled all of the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, to be done later, Jeongguk looked around at their friends and politely said, “We love you all, but please leave now. We have to christen our new shared space.”

There was a chorus of disgusted sounds, mixed in with some whistles and cheers, and then chants of goodbyes and see you laters and a round of hugs, and then it was just Seokjin, leaning against a wall and watching Jeongguk through slitted eyes as the young alpha stalked toward him, a grin gracing the corners of his lips.

 

The truth was this:

Jeongguk had always loved Seokjin.

And one day, without really meaning to and without really remembering how it had happened, Seokjin loved him back.

fin