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Promises to Keep (and Miles to Go Before We Sleep)

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Thunking sounds emanate from the shed as Taehyung’s parents search for their sled, the three of them bundled up against the winter chill, their child ignored for the moment, assuming the prospect of sledding will hold him there. And it would, if there wasn’t another sound on the breeze, twice as interesting as his parents’ noises.

No; underneath the bangs and colorful cries of pain from his parents, Taehyung hears a whining cry, hurt and cajoling like a hungry baby or a lonely toddler, carrying on the snowy, winter breeze.

He glances back toward his shed once and then strides toward the woods, the giant trees chalky with the season’s weather, his personal favorite at the point in his life, his little legs straining with effort to carry him away from his parents before they would notice. Don’t get him wrong; his parents are the best, but they’re also cautious and never let him touch dead birds, so he compromises by checking them out himself when they’re not around—like now, when he disappears into the tree line, determined to discover the source of the crying before they scoop him up and make him hold one of their hands for the rest of the day.

So, he stumbles through the woods, feet catching tree roots concealed by the pounds of snow, following his ears until suddenly he’s tumbling, falling through the air, and he hits the ground with an undignified “oomph!”

Grumbling under his breath, he sits up and rubs his arm, feeling as if he definitely scraped it through all his layers, not noticing for a second that the whimpering has stopped.

Glancing around, Taehyung freezes when he spies a puppy, its pelt fluffed up against the chill, curled into a little ball, its sweet eyes wide as it stares at him.

“Puppy!” Taehyung squeals, forgetting his search as he stumbles to his feet.

Hunching in, the puppy growls at him, the sound weak, almost frightened, if Taehyung could read animal body language, and the child pouts at it. “Don’t growl! Were you what was whining? I heard you!”

The growling doesn’t stop, but the pup chances a lick to its front forepaw, and a light clicks on for Taehyung. “You’re hurt, aren’t you?” He glances behind them to the drop that he tumbled down. “I bet you fell, too.”

He approaches the puppy slower now, curling in on himself as he offers the puppy a clothed hand. “It’s okay, puppy. I’m gonna help you.”

Eyeing him with suspicion, the puppy’s nose pokes out and it sniffs him, the breath on his hand causing Taehyung to giggle, feeling it through his glove. After a moment, he chances touching the dog’s snout, patting it with a kind touch. The puppy’s eyes close and Taehyung coos, before shaking himself, drawing away so he can yell for his parents.

“Mom! Dad!” He calls, driving the air out of his lungs in a big burst, like he’d learned how to do when he’d lose them at the park. Taehyung really wandered away too much.

The puppy recoils, whimpering, and Taehyung is immediately repentant, reaching forward with a sad frown. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!” By no means should this work, should the animal understand him, but it relaxes as Taehyung’s hands find either side of its head and he scratches behind its dark ears. Its eyes slide closed, comfortable as Taehyung pets him, stroking from the dusky black top of his head to the softer, wet-mud color of his chest, and before long, the unmistakable sound of boots crunching through snow register to both of them.

“Taehyung?” His mother calls, voice cracking with worry.

“Down here!” He replies, murmuring another apology when the puppy jolts.

His mother almost stumbles down the slope, but unlike the two before her, she grabs for the nearest tree, her longer arms saving her, and she peers down at her son with a panicked glaze to her eyes. “Are you okay, Taetae? Are you hurt?”

“I’m not, but the puppy is!” He waves at his dad as he appears next, both walking around the drop, to reach where their son landed. “He’s hurt!”

“Poor thing,” his dad grunts, helping his mother down the incline. “If he’ll let us pick him up, we’ll take him to get some help, okay?”

“Okay!” He turns to the puppy with a victorious grin. “Did you hear that, boy? We’re gonna help you.”

Its little tail wags and Taehyung pets the soft, downy fur of his back, the dog’s big, wet eyes never leaving Taehyung, even as his father takes careful steps toward the pup.

“He seems friendly,” his father says, voice optimistic. Like Taehyung, he offers a hand for the puppy to sniff first, but it’s perfunctory at best, as the animal settled the moment Taehyung began to pet him.

“Alright boy,” his father hums, speaking to the creature like his son, “we’re going to lift you up out of here, so no biting.”

The puppy whimpers, licking his injured paw again, and Taehyung watches his parents melt, his father shrugging and bowing down to scoop the dog up into his arms. It freezes as Taehyung’s father settles him against his body, but he’s a good boy as they climb the hillside, Taehyung’s mother resting one hand on her husband’s back, while her other is a vice on Taehyung’s wrist in case he takes another tumble.

Their day of sledding forgotten, they pile into their car and drive to a local animal shelter, his father rationalizing that a vet would refuse to help if the puppy wasn’t registered. Taehyung, not understanding, focuses instead on petting the puppy, who stares around the car in horror as if it made a horrible mistake.

His father drives carefully when Taehyung’s with him, but he’s picture perfect with a frightened dog in his car, half out of fear of him piddling on the seat, and they arrive at the nearest shelter within twenty minutes. The puppy collapses into Taehyung’s father’s arms with relief, squirming until it jostles its paw, and it begins whimpering anew.

“Big baby,” Taehyung’s dad chides the dog, a fond smile tugging at his lips.

“Can we keep him?” Taehyung whispers to his mom, and she considers it.

“Perhaps. He might be someone else’s doggy, Tae. We don’t want to steal a cute little baby from someone else.”

“True,” he agrees, voice solemn, and he misses the grin she bites back.

They take him in, explain how they found him to the helpers, and after a search that uncovers no chip or collar, they offer to treat and wrap his paw.

“He’s a big boy,” the girl at the desk hums, “possibly half malamute or Newfoundlander.” She scratches him under his chin and he whines. “He appears quite docile. We can put up a flyer here, if you guys want.”

“Once we make them.” Taehyung’s mother nods. “Thank you so much for your help.”

The puppy behaves well as she finishes binding his injured paw, the doctor on call smiling first at the humans, then at the dog. “It’s my pleasure; this is why I went to veterinary school.”

They finish up, Taehyung bored, as his parents refused to let him wander the kennels, but every time he catches the puppy’s attention, he makes faces at him, giggling when it produces the animal’s first bark—an adorable yap that melts all of the adults in the room. Despite his parents’ best intentions, Taehyung is utterly smitten with the puppy by the time they journey home, the fluffy baby settled on his lap to help brace against the giant, fast creature the humans trap them in.

Arriving back at their house, the puppy squirms something fierce in Taehyung’s father’s arms, but he manages to contain the pup, knowing that letting him run off into the woods would likely result in him injuring himself again. They set him down once the front door shuts behind Taehyung, and the puppy circles them, pawing at the door with a sad whine.

“Do you think he has to pee?” Taehyung wonders, and Taehyung’s parents panic, calling friends with dogs to see if anyone could loan them a spare leash.

After about twenty minutes of this, Taehyung’s mother groans and announces she’s heading to the store to buy the puppy food and a leash. “Lay down newspaper in case I don’t get back in time,” she mutters to her husband, who scrambles to retrieve Taehyung’s baby gate, assembles it in the archway into the kitchen, and then fetches last week’s newspapers.

Taehyung grins when his father begins explaining the paper to the puppy, who cocks his head to the side, as if he can’t understand why this human would explain such a thing to him.

The day is fun, despite Taehyung’s parents frantic running everywhere, the child distracts himself by playing with the puppy, attempting to chase and catch him, tackling him once before his father yanks him up by the back of his shirt.

“We don’t want to hurt the puppy!” He scolds, hair sticking up in the back, like it always does when his father gets overwhelmed.

“Okay, papa,” Taehyung pouts, squealing when he apologizes to the puppy, and the puppy reciprocates by pouncing and licking his face.

“Stop!” He giggles, worming his way out from under the animal, smiling at the puppy when he obeys, circling nimbly, until he trips himself and lands on his chin.

“Aw,” Taehyung coos and bends over, exposing himself to more licks, the puppy uninjured.

His father keeps an eye on the two of them until his wife returns, a cheap pet bed in hand, as she couldn’t rationalize ruining one of their pillows (they weren’t a multiple throw-pillow family) for the dog to sleep on, and a leash wound around her other wrist. To her credit, she bought a harness instead of a collar, assuming the puppy slipped out of his collar to end up in the woods in the first place, and the puppy didn’t understand his own captivity until she clipped the leash on and opened the door.

Taehyung begs to take the puppy out to pee, but when they compromise, Taehyung’s mother almost face-plants on the entryway, the puppy racing out the open door and jolting to a stop when it reaches the end of the tether. Her husband steadies her, takes the leash from her hand, and informs their son that he can accompany him, but wouldn’t be able to handle the leash. For the first time, he wonders how a puppy could be so strong, but chalks it up to his own lacking understanding of dogs. As a bigger breed, perhaps the strength is natural.

The puppy strains against the leash for a minute or so before tiring and circling to do his business. As soon as he finishes, he races forward again, hoping to catch Taehyung’s father unaware, but he weathers the yanking with nothing more than a grunt, tugging the puppy back inside with a sad whine.

However, as soon as he re-enters, Taehyung rubs his head, chubby fingers scratching behind his ears, and he coos about what a good boy he is.

This routine continues for a week as Taehyung’s parents plaster posters of the puppy around town, and Taehyung dubs the dog “Soonshim,” though the bratty puppy refuses to respond to it most days. Each day, Taehyung begs his parents to let Soonshim share the bed with him, and when they decline, he attempts to figure out how to open the baby gate to no avail. Soonshim licks his fingers as he attempts, ousting him when he giggles, the sensation of his rough tongue tickling the boy.

They’re heavily contemplating adopting the dog when a man arrives at the door, a poster crinkled in his grasp.

“It says here that you found my dog?” He asks with no preamble.

A yap is heard from the kitchen, little nails clicking on the floor, and Taehyung peeks his head from around the corner, over the baby gate, from where he’d stayed with Soonshim when his mother settled the baby gate.

“Depends,” Taehyung’s father glances over his shoulder, “do you have proof of ownership? He wasn’t wearing a collar.”

“Yeah,” the man laughs and Taehyung stares harder, the air surrounding the man feeling off, “he’s new. We were waiting until he was old enough to chip him.” He whistles, a shrill sound, and calls, “Jungkook?”

Taehyung watches the puppy, already hyperactive, go nuts and throw his body at the baby gate, whining when he collides with it, the gate not budging.

“Mom!” Taehyung squeaks, “He’s gonna hurt himself!”

Flustered, his mother unsticks the gate and warns them to close the door behind the stranger, though there is no need: When Jungkook reaches the man, he ignores the outside and twines through his legs like he liked to do with Taehyung and his parents.

“Well,” his father says weakly, “it does appear he knows you.”

Nodding, the stranger offers them a smile. “Thank you so much for finding him. I hope he wasn’t any trouble?”

“None at all. He’s a good dog.” Taehyung’s father frowns. “Are you putting him up for sale? I don’t mean to be rude, but my son’s gotten rather attached to him.”

The man’s eyes flicker to Taehyung, and the boy fights not to retreat, the shine in the man’s eyes almost feverish. “I’m sorry, son. We’re not looking to sell Jungkookie.”

Following the adults with a sense of helpless non-understanding, Taehyung asks after a long pause, “Wait. You’re taking Soonshimie away?”

The puppy whines and the man corrects, “His name is Jungkook.”

“Jungkook,” Taehyung repeats, the name leaden on his tongue. He meets the puppy’s eyes and tears choke him, the boy desiring to repeat his question, though the sadness doesn’t allow the words to meet air.

Whining, the puppy approaches him, his belly fur skimming the floor and ears pressing flush to his head, Jungkook peering up at him as if he understands that he caused the human boy’s sadness.

Flinging himself at the dog, Taehyung’s little arms wind around his neck, and the boy bawls into his neck fur, heartbroken at the thought of losing his new friend. The adults watch, his parents veiled in awkward silence, as the man already refuted their plan to buy the pup for their son, and the stranger picks at his nails, unmoved. Taehyung misses this, thankfully, but it sets his father off, and he rants later that night to his wife about the man’s rudeness.

However, despite his indifference, the man allows Taehyung to cling and sob over his dog until the fight leaves him, the child crying himself out quickly and then patting Jungkook’s head one last time.

“You be a good boy, alright?” He croaks, suddenly aware of the adults looming over him. “I’m going to miss you.”

The puppy barks, a sweet sound, and then mimics Taehyung’s crying, which sets him off again, though his parents take his hand this time, scooping him up so the man could leave.

“We’re glad to be able to reunite you two,” his mother says, putting on a brave face for a stranger who didn’t sign up for a five-year-old’s anguish. “Best of luck. He really is the sweetest dog.”

Bowing to them, the man thanks them for their involvement and departs, Taehyung’s parents opting not to ensure he reaches his car, as it might set their son off again.

“Puppy…” he whimpers one last time, before his mother assembles him a hot bath and puts him to bed early. For the remainder of the week, he mopes around, even when his mother takes him to the cinema and his father plays piggyback with him for a half an hour. Until they visit his maternal grandparents, and his halmoni finger-paints with him, he mourns the removal of Jungkook from his life.

By the New Year, as is wont to happen at so young an age, the memories are fuzzy, and then overlaid as he receives a new, squirmy puppy from his parents with a peal of delight. He names this one Soonshim too, his parents not interceding due to their fear how he would react if they remind him of the “original” Soonshim. Taehyung’s deep emotional intelligence worries his parents at his current age, as he often would cry over things he found “sad” or “unfair” or “cool.” However, despite this callback, Taehyung adores current-Soonshim and plays with the big, white dog every day after school and even during “study breaks,” as he liked to call his forays away from homework.

A year passes and Taehyung spends his months not in school “helping” around his grandparents’ farm, playing tee ball, and attending special schools after “normal” school to learn English. His parents push for the best, concerned that he might want for more than a life on the family farm, and he complies happily, always worming in time for his Soonshim.

Eventually, when winter returns, the episode with Jungkook feels like a dream, and Taehyung is six now, no longer a baby. He can carry half a pail of food for the pigs with only three pauses: A real impressive feat according to his grandfather, who would refer to his father as his “beanpole.”

Wrapped up in his family dynamics, Taehyung no longer cast longing glances at the woods and would traverse the well-worn path from the barn to the house, his hands dirty from feeding the animals his grandparents allow him to help with. On one such trip, he pauses a few steps from the door to the tack room, goosebumps skittering down his neck, and glances around.

He calls for the male members of his family before spying the eyes in the bushes.

Breath dies in Taehyung’s throat, fascination blooming in his chest, the child ignorant enough to the evils of the world to not fear for his life. Within the dead brambles, a pair of large brown eyes stare at him, the emotion recognizable enough that Taehyung steps from the path to the frost-crusted grass.

“Hello?” He calls. “Who’s there?”

Taking another step, the figure in the bushes creeps forward, and he recognizes the fluffy pelt, even if he can no longer recall the dog’s name.

“Puppy!” Taehyung cries, before connecting that this puppy looked like his puppy—his first puppy.

Its ears flick forward and Taehyung pays no mind to its size, darting forward, arms outstretched, scaring the dog into retreating. When the boy attempts to follow, he tangles himself in bushes and tugs himself free three times, before the brambles rip his coat.

Seeing this, he begins to cry, afraid his mother will punish him, and a cold nose presses to the exposed skin between his glove and coat.

Blinking to clear his vision, Taehyung stares down at the animal, its intelligent gaze on him, and he hiccups. “Why did you run?”

The dog whines, shuffling in place, and Taehyung pouts, fighting his way back until he stands once more in the trimmed, deadened grass of his yard.

Only slightly irritated at the ease of which the puppy follows him, he pats his thighs, like he does for Soonshim, and he uses his commanding voice to say, “Come.”

Creeping closer, the enormous puppy eyes him with a shrewdness that would unnerve anyone older, though Taehyung sees nothing but the pets that the big, fluffy boy will soon receive.

“What were you looking at? Are you going to eat our pigs?” He leans over to rub the top of the dog’s head between his ears, and the animal’s eyes close as he luxuriates in the touch.

Unselfish, Taehyung pets the dog long after his grandfather begins calling for him, his name torn away by the breeze, focus locked onto the animal who rolled onto its side, flanks rising and falling with the speed of one asleep. However, if Taehyung slowed, he too quickly saw how wrong that assumption was.

“Taehyung!” His grandfather’s frantic voice finally snaps him from his stupor and he spins around, hands leaving the puppy’s stomach.

Disturbed, the puppy leaps to his feet, shaking himself as if to rid himself of the stupor the human put him under, only to launch himself back toward the forest when a rock spins through the air, striking the ground beside him.

Taehyung waves frantically for the man to desist as his grandfather hefts another rock, ignoring his grandson as he shrieks, “You’re going to hurt him! Stop it!”

His grandfather heaves one last rock into the underbrush and then latches onto Taehyung’s wrist and yanks him back toward the house, guiding them so fast that his grandson stumbles more than once, arm aching as the man lifts him using his arm when he begins to fall.

“That was a wolf, Taehyung!” He hisses, when they reach the porch unhindered. “A wild animal.”

“It was a puppy!” He protests, “We found him last year!”

The man grumbles under his breath, something about an “idiot son,” and he locks the front door for good measure, as if a quadrupedal animal could turn a doorknob. He picks up the house phone and places an angry call first with his son, then his daughter-in-law, before returning his attention to his little grandson.

Scooping him up, plunking him on his lap, his grandfather exhales, most of the tension leaving his body as he explains, “That wasn’t any old dog, Taehyung. That was a wolf: A wild beast that would just as soon eat one of our pigs as a rabbit. Just as soon eat you, if they’re desperate enough. You should never go near one.”

“But—”

“I know you took him in last year,” his grandfather concedes, “but he’s bigger now. Animals like that only care about food. Stay away from him, alright?”

Shamed, despite the sadness in his chest that argued the “wolf” isn’t any different than Soonshim, he agrees.

--

Dinner that night is a tense affair; his parents swallow with the defensive set to their jaws that indicate two people who hate being corrected, even when wrong. Taehyung misses the expressions, too melancholic over the wolf to even sneak Soonshim bits of food, like he normally would.

Most nights Soonshim sleeps beneath his desk as he works until it’s bedtime, then he returns to his bed in the living room, but that night, Taehyung falls into bed early, a deep frustration gripping him, driving him away from his work. Tempted to scream into his pillow, he drifts off into a light sleep, waking first when his mother urges him into the bathroom to brush his teeth and change into his sleep clothes, and then a second time when he hears a tapping at his window.

Stirring, groaning under his breath, he reminds his mother in a sleep-clogged voice that he doesn’t need to wake up yet, eyes remaining closed.

The tapping continues nevertheless, and he finally awakens enough to wonder why his mother would knock at his window.

Curiosity overwhelming him, Taehyung slips out from under his covers, bare feet padding over the heated floor, a happy sigh escaping him at the sensation, and squints at the slivers of moonlight peaking from between the blinds. Taehyung pulls the cord, unable to see anything through the small slats, and blinks in surprise when a boy about his age, perhaps a little younger, stares back at him.

Pursing his lips, Taehyung cocks his head to the side, and the boy mimics him, his eyes bright as they scan over the contents of his room. His cheeks puff up when he smiles, and Taehyung finds himself wanting to talk to the boy.

Pressing a finger to his lips, warning the boy to stay quiet, he lifts his desk chair, arms wobbling, and he carries it over to his window, planting it, before he climbs up onto it, pleased by his discretion. Grasping the edge of the window, he slides the pane up past their heads. Cold air pours into the room and Taehyung wraps his arms around his torso, his coarse pajamas not enough to combat the winter wind. Meanwhile, the boy stands there, bare-chested, and doesn’t flinch.

“Who are you?” He whispers to the boy through the screen.

“Jungkook,” he answers, nose wrinkling when Taehyung laughs. “What?”

“That was the puppy’s name! Jungkook!”

“That’s my name,” he insists, but Taehyung shakes his head.

“You’re not a dog. Wolf.” He scowls as he corrects himself. “If you were, I couldn’t talk to you. I’m not supposed to talk to wolves.”

The boy slumps, his lower lip jutting out. “Why not?”

“Because you’ll eat our pigs! Or me!” Suddenly afraid again, Taehyung frowns at the stranger and asks, “Why are you at my window?”

“I wasn’t allowed to see you for long,” the boy pouts, and Taehyung’s fears are wiped away again. “You give such nice belly rubs.”

“Soonshimie thinks so, too.” Taehyung tacks on a non-sequitur, “Why aren’t you wearing clothes? Aren’t you cold?”

“Nope.” Jungkook puffs his chest out. “I’m super warm. Don’t need your weird furs.”

Taehyung huffs, “My pjs are not weird! They have dogs and firetrucks on them!”

The strange boy squints, examining his clothes, then concedes, “Those are pretty cool…”

They chat for a bit, Taehyung interrogating him and exclaiming when Jungkook admits he doesn’t own any cool pjs—or any pjs at all, really. He promises to leave him a pair in the bushes, so he can take them without his grandfather seeing, and Taehyung, exhausted from raising and lowering himself onto the chair, from showing Jungkook his toys, begins yawning so hard his body shudders with them.

“Are you sleepy?” The boy murmurs. When Taehyung gives a hum of assent, he urges, “Go to sleep.”

“Can’t. You’ll go away.”

“But my pack runs by every year.” Jungkook’s little face presses against the screen of the window, his expression open and earnest. “I’ll see you then.”

“In a whole year?” Taehyung pouts, “That’s so long! You don’t live close by?”

“No.” Jungkook sighs, “We travel in winter when there’s not enough food back where we usually run.”

Taehyung’s head lolls, exhaustion tugging at him like a fishing lure, inescapable as it hooks into his lip. “You can stay here. We have plenty of food.”

“I thought you said we couldn’t eat the pigs!”

He tries to protest, explaining that they kill the pigs for money and sell the meat, but the words slur, Taehyung’s mind dropping out from under him.

His mother finds him asleep with his head propped up on the window sill, shivering so hard that neither of them know how it didn’t wake him. She scolds him, especially as his temperature spikes for the next few days, preventing him from going to school, but that doesn’t stop him from taking his second-favorite pair of pjs—ones adorned with Iron Man’s mask—and leaving them in the bushes.

--

Again, months pass as time is wont to do, but this time, Taehyung’s memories of his night with the human boy that shared a name with his first dog are muddled, stretched and distorted by the sickness that befell him the day after sleeping exposed to the cold. He recalls the wolf, as his grandfather harps about strange animals after that, but the boy floats in his mind, unconnected and unproven until his mother asks where he hid his Iron Man pjs.

Clinging to that, Taehyung again resumes his life, Jungkook slipping from his mind until the next winter, when the wolf creeps out of the woods, larger than the years prior and monstrous despite his human eyes. Thoroughly conditioned by his grandfather, Taehyung freezes, the horses he was watching fleeing back toward the barn, the whites of their eyes visible.

“Go away,” he whispers, hands clenching the wood of the fence pressed into his back. “Go away! You can’t eat the animals!”

The animal blinks, drops onto its belly, and its ears press flat to his head, countenance almost apologetic, if Taehyung pretends he can read animals’ expressions.

“Go away!” His vision flickers with memories of the boy, and his lower lip trembles. “You’re gonna be in big trouble if my grandfather or dad see you!”

It crawls backward, a ridiculous sight that elicits an unwanted giggle from Taehyung, the boy watching until he disappears into the bushes. That night, much like the year prior, hidden within his sickness, a boy stands at his window, his dark, wild hair lit from behind, a misleading, mischievous angel.

As if in a dream, Taehyung repeats his actions, lugging his chair over with less difficulty than the last time, though this time he wraps a blanket around his shoulders as he raises the window.

“You’re real.”

“Of course,” the boy says, offended. “Why don’t you ever want to give me pets anymore?”

Taehyung pauses. “What?”

“I came to see you earlier, but you told me to go away.” Jungkook sniffs.

“Yeah, because the last time you visited, grandfather threw rocks at you!”

“I thought you would have talked to him by now,” he pouts. “I wanted to see you.”

Taehyung waves his arms, feeling increasingly underprepared for the visit. “What am I supposed to have told him?”

“That I’m the wolf.”

The words hang in the air for a minute before Taehyung bursts into loud, unhindered laughter, Jungkook’s gaze sharp with injury. He should worry about waking his family members, but he cuts himself off, too curious to prolong his mirth. “You? The wolf? But you’re a boy. You can’t be both.”

“Says you.” Jungkook squares his shoulders. “I am.”

“Prove it.”

“Fine.” Jungkook climbs down from the stool he used to reach the height of the window and backs up, through the bushes, until he stands in the yard. Taehyung can no longer distinguish specific facial features, but his eyes glow in the bright light of the moon, his nudity only slightly strange until thick crops of fur begin to spread across his chest and arms.

Taehyung gapes, wondering at first how he missed the boy being so furry, before Jungkook collapses onto all fours, the human features morphing and disappearing into the canine ones that fooled him and his parents two years prior.

Emotions churn in Taehyung’s stomach, the boy caught between excitement and fear, the looming unknown present in this creature, this boy-wolf, though of course his excitement wins out. His love of animals thrusts him through centuries of bred instincts and he leaves his room, climbs down from the chair, and picks his way to the front door, dodging the squeaky floor boards.

Exiting, not letting the screen door slam, Soonshim dead asleep and oblivious behind the couch, Taehyung steps out onto the frozen dirt of their path toward the fields, the wolf stationary as he approaches.

“Is it really you?” He whisper-yells, the cold piercing, though he doesn’t feel it.

The wolf nods—nods—and Taehyung crouches next to him. “Change back. I have so many questions.”

After letting out a quiet whine, Taehyung watches Jungkook repeat the process in reverse, the bone structure shifting, dappled brown-black hair receding, until a boy shifts onto his knees, shaking his head like a dog might.

“That hurts to do too much,” he complains, though a smugness coats every word.

He frowns when Taehyung stares at him, the world silent albeit for the whistle of the occasional breeze, even the animals quiet in sleep. In the icy glaze of the moon, the unreal seems even less believable, and Taehyung asks, “How do you do that?”

“I’ve always been able to do it.” Jungkook folds his hands in his lap, covering his privates, and despite not caring about things like that, Taehyung wonders if he feels more cold than he lets on.

“Oh. So, you couldn’t bite me and turn me into a werewolf?”

Jungkook laughs. “Dunno. Never tried.”

Taehyung offers him arm and after a pained exclamation, they both wait around to see if he might start sprouting hair, too.

He doesn’t, but that launches them into a conversation that lasts an hour, two, until Taehyung begins shivering so hard that he forces himself up from the ground.

“I g-got sick last year,” his teeth chatter,” I don’t w-want to again.”

Jungkook pouts. “I can’t come inside?”

“I’d get in big trouble if they see you.” Taehyung wiggles where he stands, attempting to create more heat.

“So, this is it until next year.” Sadness darkens the werewolf’s features as he stands, too, though it fades when Taehyung crowds into his space, hugging him fiercely.

“Yup! You better not forget to come see me.” He beams at him, already retreating back toward his house.

“I won’t.” Jungkook promises, and when Taehyung peeps out his bedroom window, he spies the werewolf dragging the stool back from where he grabbed it.

They wave once, and that’s that for a year.

--

Of course, befriending a human might be nothing to a magical creature, but Taehyung’s excitement drives him to regale his family and friends with tales of his werewolf friend for weeks on end, to first their bewilderment, and then irritation.

“Werewolves aren’t real; you realize that, right?”

“You should write stories; that’s pretty good, Tae.”

“Give it a rest already.”

“You want scary, you should see geese. They’ll bite your face off!”

It doesn’t matter who said what—they all eventually arrived at the same point: Taehyung is lying, Taehyung has an active imagination. He vows to reveal Jungkook’s secret the next year, his impatience compounding when kids at school begin teasing him, spurred on by the say-how of boys he thought were his friends. Jungkook is younger than him, but in some frustrated daydreams, he’s his knight in shining armor and comes leaping through the window to make stupid Sungwon and Taejin eat their words. And pee themselves.

When December arrives, Taehyung sleeps late every night, unsure when exactly Jungkook’s pack would run by, and his parents question him, concerned about the dark circles under his eyes their son sports. Anticipating that they would keep a closer eye on him, he lies about nerves and bullies at school not allowing him to sleep easy.

Jungkook alerts him to his presence on a Sunday afternoon, his eyes wide and welcoming. Having completely disregarded his grandfather’s advice, Taehyung flings himself into the shrubbery, embracing the wolf with a cry of pleasure.

“You’re here!” Drawing back, his eyes shining with determination, he demands, “Can you transform for my parents? Or come with me to school and transform there?”

Jungkook blinks, and before Taehyung can ply him with pets, he transforms, the spectacle just as miraculous as he recalls, though in broad daylight, the magic appears less mystic and more troubling. As if designed to paint the recipients as beasts with the moral codes to match.

“I can bring you some of my clothes.” Taehyung realizes as he speaks. “My parents wouldn’t like it if you were naked.”

“Wait,” Jungkook’s lips purse, “I never agreed to that.”

Indignation at being refused flares in him, but he attempts to explain, “I was telling my parents and friends about you, but no one believes me. They all said I was making it up, and then they called me a liar.” He shuffles closer to Jungkook, eyes burning with retribution. “You’re the only one that can tell them that they’re wrong.”

“I can’t,” the werewolf growls, “I wasn’t even supposed to show you that I could turn. If Jiyong-hyung finds out, I won’t be able to visit you again at all. He’s not happy I come anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because, if the wrong people find out, then the humans will hunt us.” His nose quivers with displeasure. “They hunted us for hundreds of years, and now that they have more science-y stuff, they’ll experiment on us.”

“No one would turn you in! I swear!”

“But if you have adults and tons of people who know werewolves are real, someone will.” He insists, “One wrong person, and that’s it.”

Taehyung stands, uncaring if anyone spots him. “I thought you were my friend.”

“I am!”

“A friend wouldn’t show me the coolest thing ever and then tell me I have to keep it a secret.” Eyes beginning to water, Taehyung rubs them viciously. “Bohyungie and Junho won’t even talk to me anymore because of you!”

“That’s not my fault!”

Taehyung screws his face up and bellows, “It is so! I wish I’d never met you!”

Jungkook recoils, and Taehyung turns, marching back to his house, tears streaming down his face in twin rivulets, not stopping even as his mother catches sight of him and his grandmother attempts to give him a pep-talk.

After that day, Taehyung never tells another soul about the werewolves.

--

A year passes, and while Taehyung pretends he’s not checking for Jungkook once December comes around, his attention wanders so badly while he’s mucking out a stall that he nearly face-plants into manure, the experience still only shaking him for a minute or so. He doesn’t want to see Jungkook; he spent the last year wheedling and worming his way back into his friends’ good graces, and thoughts of Jungkook only remind him of his isolated period.

Yet, when he spies the familiar set of brown eyes peering at him from behind a bush, his heart skips a painful beat—Taehyung trying to tell himself that he was just stunned by the cruelty of others. They stare at each other, the moment hovering so delicate in the air, and Taehyung is saved by his father, who strolls up to him, clapping him on the should as he asks if they’re still due to ride that day.

When he glances back, nothing remains—and when Jungkook taps at his window that night, he meets his gaze through the open blinds, then rolls over.

--

More years pass this way, the first two a marker of stubbornness and pain. Perhaps if Jungkook approached him as a human during the day, he might have listened to his apology, but their mutual stubbornness held out, and Taehyung reaches his teens without speaking to Jungkook again.

The year of his sixteenth birthday, he’s convinced himself that it was all an elaborate dream by his younger self—that the wolf that just so happens to come around every year in December was so fascinating to his younger self, that he invented a whole mythos around him. He could see it; he still liked fantasies and telling stories, though he steered away from anything with wolves.

His parents surprise him this December with a trip—they’re going to visit his maternal grandparents on the other side of Daegu, and they will stay with them for a whole week!—and he thinks nothing of it, never bothered to plot the exact times the wolf visited in the past.

Never thinks twice about the mournful howls he hears on the breeze, his fourth night away.

--

His seventeenth year things begin to change, as the cold drops around him like a curtain, chasing away the residual warmth of seasons past, driving him deep into winter-coat Hell. Older now, his parents and grandparents care less about disrupting his beauty sleep and they often drag him out of bed either with their banging around or the delectable scent of his grandmother’s cooking. Not that Taehyung minds; it’s due to their early rising that his body mimics the habit as well, and his early-morning chores guide him to discovering the wolf anew.

Unlike the times before, Taehyung senses the visit before it happens, as the animals start hooting and hollering—those that aren’t within cover retreating to the barn like they could sense the butcher coming. Frowning, debating calling the house to drag his grandfather out from counting his inventory, Taehyung can barely gasp before an enormous, shaggy creature launches itself at him.

Screaming once, feeling its hot breath on his face, Taehyung inhales to scream again, prepared for his own death, when he feels the creature licking his face, tongue nearly slipping into his mouth during Taehyung’s desperate gasp for air.

Coughing at the sensation, Taehyung shoves at the creature’s chest with a frustrated, “Are you trying to give me a heart attack? What the hell was that?”

Jungkook whines, the wolf full-grown (if Taehyung has to guess), and withdraws reluctantly, blinking at him as he settles upwind of Taehyung’s manure-filled wheelbarrow.

They hadn’t spoken in years, much less touched, and Taehyung rubs his arms, settling more firmly into his scarf as he weighs the reappearance of the werewolf.

“What do you want?”

Astounding him, the wolf begins to change in broad daylight, Taehyung hissing a warning to him that goes unheard, leaving a naked Jungkook kneeling on the ground. Taehyung shields his eyes and in lieu of his carting a literal wheelbarrow of shit around, sheds a jacket, tossing it at Jungkook. If they keep whatever this is quick, he can retrieve it and bundle back up before he cools down.

“Put that on. Tie it around your waist or something.” Taehyung shakes his head. “Are you nuts?”

“You weren’t here last year.” Jungkook rises to his feet, glances down at the jacket, then attempts to shrug it on over his shoulders, freezing when Taehyung corrects him. “I wanted to look for you, but the hyungs wouldn’t let me.” He bristles as he stares down at the coat, anger transporting him elsewhere.

Taehyung sighs, contemplating showing him how to tie a jacket around his waist, but Jungkook deigns to hold it in front of his genitals instead, sparing Taehyung. Thank God they were on the far side of the property.

“Why weren’t you here?” The boy slumps, eyes shining with sadness, as if they had some arrangement to meet once a year that Taehyung broke.

“I was visiting my aunt.” He frowns at Jungkook, crosses his arms as a harsh wind cuts through them. “Why does it matter?”

“I only get to see you once a year,” Jungkook pouts, “and you weren’t here.”

Taehyung attempts to maintain his irritated indifference, but the werewolf’s earnestness elicits a blush, and he coughs, flustered. “We didn’t talk for a couple years, though?”

“I could still see you, though.” Jungkook hangs his head and Taehyung’s heart throbs in response. He tries to remind himself that it should sound creepy.

“I mean, it’s cool to see you, but we haven’t exactly been friends in a long time.”

And, despite not being in his furry form, Taehyung swore he could see Jungkook’s ears droop, as he protests, voice weak, “I thought we were friends? I mean, you’re stationary and not a wolf, but I wouldn’t have come to see you if I knew you didn’t want to see me.”

Unsure what else to do, Taehyung grasps the handles for the wheelbarrow and continues toward the compost pile, mind racing as he argues against his own actions: At any point, he could have confronted the werewolf and told him to never come by again, but he hadn’t.

“You missed the big argument we had the last time we spoke?”

“I was hoping you’d forgive me eventually.” Jungkook trails him down the path, feet silent on the dirt. “Even if you’re angry, at least I’m alive to feel your anger. If the wrong people found out about my pack, they would experiment on me until I died. Then, what’s the point of having reached out, if I couldn’t have you in my life then, either?”

“You—” But, the thoughts planted, Taehyung’s frown slips from his features, boots scuffing along the hard ground, arms flexing as the slope of the land increases. “How many are there of you?”

“In my pack?”

“Sure. And in the world.”

Jungkook hums, a long buzz before answering, “There’s eight of us, and Jisoo will be having her pups soon. In the whole world, I couldn’t tell you. Supposedly we’re on every continent, though.”

“Every?” He grunts as he sets the wheelbarrow down, shifting to lift the lid off the compost bin. “Even Antarctica?”

“I’m just telling you what I heard!”

Biting back a laugh, Taehyung snags the pitchfork pinned to the side of the bin and returns to pile the manure and dirty hay into the opening. “Have you ever been out of Korea?”

“Nope.” Jungkook watches him work, gaze steady and curious. “We don’t have passports to fly or use a boat.”

Pity wells up in him, and he clears his throat. “Well, why me? I’d think you’d be spending your time trying to buy fake passports. I know you pass this area once a year, but I assume you don’t stick around much, since you were never here more than two days.”

“We have to travel to get enough food in the winter,” Jungkook posits, “and the first time I came back was because I remembered your smell, that second time we ran up this way. After hurting myself, they didn’t want to let me run off by myself, so Seokjin-hyung was with me. He argued against me coming to see you.” He smiles, body language shy. “But, I snuck off while they were sleeping to come visit in my human form.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted to talk to you.”

Taehyung rests his arms, and suddenly Jungkook is there, beside him, standing in his space, close enough to feel his body heat and the brush of the coat used to shield his nudity.

“I’d never had a human friend. I was confused what ‘pets’ were, but I knew I liked them. I knew we were close in age, because I was about the same size as you as a human.” He smiles, leans in so that his nose brushes Taehyung’s hoodie, nearly touches his bare throat beneath.

His body locks up, unable to move even as Jungkook murmurs, “You smell good.”

“I smell like horse shit,” he rebuts without thinking about it.

“No; it hasn’t touched your skin.” Jungkook grins, the expression not fading even as Taehyung eliminates their proximity and begins shoveling again. “You smell like sweat and your soap.”

“Tasty. Wait,” his eyes widen, “do werewolves eat people?”

A laugh. “Of course not.”

Taehyung grunts and finishes his work, not speaking again until he returns his pitchfork to its position, eyes casting over to the werewolf, nude and uncaring, still where he’d left him.

“Any reason why you’re hanging around?”

“I want to spend time with you!” He could imagine his tail wagging. “Once you’re done, maybe you could show me your action figure collection again?”

Despite himself, Taehyung’s heart sinks. “I…don’t have most of those, anymore. I got rid of them when I stopped playing with them.”

“Oh.” Sadness flickers across the wolf’s face, before he rebounds, bounding up the hill after Taehyung, as the human pushes the wheelbarrow up the much-harder incline. “Well, you can show me what you like to do for fun now?”

“That might be hard, seeing as you have no clothes.”

“I can change back?”

Taehyung grits his teeth, sweat beginning to drip down his back, though he couldn’t place why his emotions jumped around so much with the wolf. “Then that defeats the purpose of us being able to talk. Plus, grandmother would have a heart attack if she just found a giant wolf on her grandson’s floor.”

Jungkook begs clothes off of him, the werewolf undeterrable, to the point where Taehyung would prefer conjuring excuses when his mother inevitably asks him why his friend is wearing his clothes.

He drags him into his house, introduces him to the latest first-person shooter, and then a few others, when the concept of guns keeps drawing unconscious growls from his guest. They wind up cackling as they play Spore—a stupid game that always bored Taehyung after too long by himself—and it becomes a million times more fun with Jungkook and his absurd body morphs.

When his mother peeks her head in to investigate, it’s child’s play to ask if Jungkook can stay the night, their video-gaming and easy banter giving way to dinner, Jungkook the ideal, polite child and houseguest. Taehyung’s grandmother falls first, her heart melting at each little bow Jungkook gives her every time he speaks to her, and his father and grandfather next as Jungkook lies, describing a farm back toward Busan that he claims his family originates from.

Lastly, his poor mother succumbs, smiling too warm at him when he devours two servings of her food, a bottomless pit, though he more than praises her in his feedback.

“Why haven’t you invited him over before?” His mother scolds him after dinner. “He’s such a nice boy! Is he in your class?”

“He’s younger than me,” Taehyung omits. “We met kind of randomly and just started talking.”

And as nonsensical as it sounds aloud, when night falls and exhaustion tempers their gameplay, they click Taehyung’s television off and lay side-by-side on the pallet his mother rolled out for Jungkook to sleep on. Taehyung knows he should move to his bed, but his leaden limbs pin him to the floor—his sleepy mind too fixated on Jungkook’s warmth brushing along his side and the heat emanating from the floor.

It is in that space that Taehyung finds his lips loosening.

“So, how old are you?”

Jungkook stirs, the energy that emanates from him flaring to life again, the boy waking as his host’s attention returns to him. “I’m fifteen. Turned in September.”

“Ew, you do the Western style?” His nose wrinkled. “So, you’d be fifteen in January?”

“No; I’d be sixteen in January.” Jungkook huffs, lightly punching his side.

“Well, that’s better.” Taehyung’s eyes slip closed for a beat. “You’re only a year younger than me.”

“Why does that matter? I’m not a human, and you’re not a werewolf. Why can’t we just be friends?”

Ingrained protests form at the tip of his tongue, but as he prepares to deliver them, Jungkook rolls onto his side, robbing Taehyung of his warmth as he crowds over him.

“Do you honestly think you have any authority over me?” Jungkook’s voice rumbles, an animalistic growl hidden in its timbre. “You hated me for years because I wouldn’t die for you.”

“When you put it like that…” Taehyung mimics his position, so they can see eye-to-eye. “Maybe I was just angry that I had this friend that everyone else kept telling me was fake. Sure; I knew that was real, but people thought I had a mental illness. People stopped talking to me, and it’s not like you even were a hallucination I could talk to when people ignored me during sports, or walk past me after school. That’s the point: You weren’t here.”

Embarrassed by his string of babbling, Taehyung mutters a final, “It’s not like I want you to call me hyung or anything.”

Jungkook shuffles closer, wriggling his hips so he can remain on his side, and he nudges at Taehyung’s calve with his toes. “I’d call you hyung if you wanted. I’d buy you food and stay at the table until you were done, if that would make you happy.”

“Why?”

“Because those might be markers of respect in both our worlds, but I’d do it for you because I want you to be happy.” Jungkook brushes his bangs out of his eyes, squinting where they poked him. “It’s not like I’d have to mean them.”

“Brat,” Taehyung repeats after his own family, cackling into his hand when Jungkook kicks him.

“But it’s true, right? That kind of stuff doesn’t stop children from treating parents badly, or younger boyfriends from hurting their girlfriends.” He goads Taehyung on when the human flees to his bed, crouched on top of the covers with an unimpressed frown.

“I guess you’re right.” Taehyung blows air out, making a raspberry noise. “Still, I don’t care if you call me hyung or not. I’d prefer you sticking around, to that.”

“I can’t.” Jungkook folds his arms across the covers, chin resting on them, knees planted on the floor as he stares up at Taehyung. “I have to go where the pack leads me until I present.”

“Present?”

“Uh, yeah?” Jungkook’s nose wrinkles. “When a wolf’s biological features finish adapting and they become able to breed?”

Trying and failing not to blush, Taehyung sputters, “What about that makes you able to leave?”

“Well, if I’m an alpha, I’ll be kicked out,” he shakes his head, “and betas are given a chance to search for mates outside of the pack. The only time I don’t get to leave is if I’m an omega.”

“That’s unfair.” Taehyung frowns. “What if the omega doesn’t want to stay?”

Jungkook shakes his head. “Bad things. They’ll fight with them, but if they insist, they usually get as far as the next pack’s territory, and then they’re either taken as a prisoner or killed.”

“That’s horrible.” Stomach swimming, Taehyung croaks out, “So, if you’re an omega, I’ll never see you again, will I?”

A growl rips from Jungkook’s throat, so animal-like that Taehyung’s terror coagulates in his throat, allowing him to swallow the thoughts that plagued him. “I won’t be an omega. It’s not in my genes.”

“That’s…good?”

“There’s nothing wrong with omegas,” Jungkook’s lips twitch, a knowing smile playing at the corners, “but for me, I think that’s good.”

Unsure what else to do, Taehyung sits up, staring blankly at his One Piece poster as he asks, “Where will you go when you go off on your own?”

“Here, probably.” Jungkook follows after him, as if he can’t help mimicking him. “And there.”

Taehyung snorts. “When do you present?”

“Sometime my eighteenth year.”

“Well,” Taehyung steps onto the floor, back cracking, tugging his shirt back over his stomach, missing how Jungkook’s eyes follow the motion, “if I go to university, I might not be here-here.”

A desperate whine leaves Jungkook’s throat and Taehyung stifles a grin in the back of his hand, it only fading when Jungkook tackles him, bouncing them both off the side of the bed.

“How am I supposed to find you if you do that!?”

Taehyung blinks up at him, though his smug laughter overrules the strangeness of having another body pinning him to his bed. “Guess you’ll just have to track me~”

“I can’t smell where you went if you go in a car!”

They squabble a little longer before Taehyung concedes, reaching up to bop Jungkook’s nose, “I’ll leave you the address somewhere, okay?”

Jungkook pouts, his cheeks puffing out, and Taehyung resists the urge to coo, instead settling on a place for the plastic bag—in the woods, away from the animals, and hopefully weather- and animal-proofed.

Only when these things are established does Jungkook release him and return to his sleeping arrangement on the floor, the werewolf relieved as he curls up and Taehyung slips under his covers.

--

Breakfast the next morning features Jungkook shoveling more food into his mouth than everyone else collectively at the table, praising Taehyung’s mother and grandmother between bites, after the second time Taehyung kicks him under the table for talking with his mouth full.

In the morning light, Jungkook’s messy, fluffy hair resembles his pelt even more—a soft, chocolate brown with hints of ash, though the majority is dark. The ash brown hints at the lighter underbelly Taehyung often scratched as a child, though the colors apparently adapt to his human form. He wishes he could ask him more about it, returning to his childhood longing for the wolf to stick around. Two or three years until they could spend more than a day or two at a time with each other.

It felt like an eternity away.

--

The next year, Taehyung begs his mother to buy bags of chips, boxes of sweets, including choco-pies, curious to see if his friend ever tried them. Jungkook ate the things his mother prepared the prior year, so he assumed the werewolf’s stomach functions the same as a normal human’s. He torrents movie after movie that he thinks Jungkook might enjoy, including the first few episodes of a Korean-subbed American show called Teen Wolf.

He’s narrowed the specific two-week period down, and he vibrates with excitement when the first day of them rolls around, like a package you order online finally warning that it shipped. Taehyung finishes his year at school, relieved that Jungkook’s pack never arrives mid-finals and waits two more days until a pair of warm, brown eyes meet his on his journey to the barn mid-morning.

“Jungkook!” He leaps into a run, racing for the bushes, uncaring if his parents catch a glimpse of him, delighted as Jungkook matches his enthusiasm, leaping toward him and bowling him over.

A warm tongue meets his cheek and his exclamations twist to groans of disgust, his hands digging into the wolf’s warm stomach, trying to push the load off. Jungkook refuses to budge, body trembling overtop his as he continues to lick his face and neck, Taehyung groaning as dramatically as he can muster to try to dislodge him.

Finally, Jungkook morphs, but without moving, so Taehyung sees the bones shift beneath skin, a sight that would have been sickening if it wasn’t so fascinating, the canine’s features retreating and giving way to the second most-familiar face, a wide grin splitting the features.

“Hi, Tae,” he rumbles, pressing his nose into Taehyung’s neck. And with his head off to the side, Taehyung has a clear view all the way south.

“Jungkook, get off! You’re naked!” His own voice rings scandalized, and Jungkook laughs, as if he knew, as if it were intentional.

“Sorry.”

“You don’t sound very sorry,” Taehyung’s cheeks puff out as the werewolf slinks back, his arms and chest strong—a veritable new person, compared to the tall, skinny boy of last year. He almost looks older than Taehyung despite the contrary being the truth, but his soft features remain, as does the bright sparkle in his eyes of a boy not crushed by the South Korean school system.

Clasping his hands together, Jungkook dropped into a full bow, announcing, “I am so very sorry! That will never happen again!” The position shows the divot of his broad shoulders, culminating in a toned butt that had Taehyung choking on his own saliva.

“That’s it: Clothes are a first priority.”

Taehyung marches to his house, fetching another set of clothes, despairing a bit when he presents them to Jungkook and his sweatpants end mid-calf.

“You grew too much,” Taehyung pouts as Jungkook unfolds a sleeve of his sweater—overlarge on Taehyung—that hugs his chest a little too well.

Smiling, Jungkook slings an arm around Taehyung’s neck, nearly knocking their heads together as he directs them toward his house. “You don’t like it?”

“No!”

“Are you sure?”

He shoves him away, but Jungkook’s happiness never budges, it visible like a veil of light around him. It flusters Taehyung to an extent, as he sees his friends almost every day with school, and thus there is no cause for that kind of reunion enthusiasm.

Rubbing his arm and clearing his throat, Taehyung says, “I wish you brought your own clothes. My family’s definitely going to notice that those aren’t yours.”

“Will they remember that we did this last year?”

“Dunno.” Taehyung pulls the screen door open for him, able to see from his vantage point when Jungkook steps into his home, eyes fluttering closed as he inhales, tasting dinner on the confined air. “Do you like cooked meat?”

“I think you already asked me that, once.” Jungkook laughs and veers unerringly toward Taehyung’s room. “I don’t mind it. When I’m in my wolf form, my taste buds are different, so I probably couldn’t eat raw meat now, but I’ve scavenged before, and human food tastes fine to me.”

Taehyung bites his tongue to prevent sharing about the spoils he hoarded for him. After wracking his brain for half a year, he finally settled on the most convincing explanation for Jungkook’s once-a-year appearances, telling them that his family is in the military, so he travels a lot. It served its purpose, but he worries how well Jungkook can lie about it. He tells him such, but the wolf says, “Well, did you invent me a full story? You can just tell me about it.”

Nonsensical, Taehyung recounts the tales of Jungkook’s fake father and mother in the Korean military and the conflicts they oversaw, firing details at the werewolf with the detail born of years of loneliness and no other way to entertain himself. Finally, toward the end, he slows his spiel, racing thoughts and quiet contemplation meeting where one lapped the other.

“But wait. I’ve never heard you mention your parents before?”

Jungkook blinks at him, clearly a little blown away by the sheer quantity of stories about his “parents,” but his countenance neither tightens nor lightens. “Because I don’t know them. I was the runt of a litter, and my current pack found me when they were looking for food.” At Taehyung’s horrified gaping, Jungkook catching sight of it as they reach the human’s bedroom he turns around and supplies, “Obviously, they wouldn’t eat a werewolf puppy. They didn’t want to waste the one nursing omega’s milk on me, but Seokjin-hyung took a liking to me.”

Now the warm, curling smile of familial love blooms across his face. “He bottle-fed me. Some human technique.”

“Oh.” Taehyung thinks to the baby animals they had to bottle feed over the years, fondness meshing with sadness as he thinks of abandoned Jungkook. “So, you guys can go into supermarkets and stuff?”

“We’re not supposed to.” Jungkook’s attention follows him as he holds up two different games for him to choose between. Gaze glittering, he asks, “Are these both co-op?”

“This one is,” he waved it, “but this one is only one-player.” Taehyung would watch him if it came down to that, as Jungkook would only have one night to play as far as he could.

As Jungkook read the backs of the cases (“you can read?” “how else would we stop ourselves from stealing from the wrong places?”), Taehyung follows up his questions with “If you can go into stores, you have to have clothing and be willing to wear it in public. So, why do you never wear clothes here?”

“We ditch the clothes afterward. We have no use for them and no way to carry them easily from place to place.”

Plunking himself down on the carpet in front of Taehyujng’s gaming television, Jungkook proffers the second, one-player game to his human companion.

“Meanwhile, you don’t care when I show up nude, so I don’t have to waste clothes.”

“I care,” he fires back as he boots up the system, “it’s weird, showing up here naked.”

“That’s like getting mad that your pigs don’t wear clothes!”

Taehyung tosses the controller to his company, biting back his awe when he catches it effortlessly with no warning. “You can talk to me and look like a human; my pigs can’t!”

A wicked gleam enters Jungkook’s eyes. “You’re telling me you’ve never seen another naked human?”

“I have!” Taehyung shuffles in place as the game’s opening scenes play out for them, pretending to watch so Jungkook can’t try to read him. “Online and in games and stuff. Sometimes in movies.”

“So, why does it matter when it’s me?”

“Because my parents can see you and that’s embarrassing!” Goaded into it, he scowls at Jungkook, glare intensifying when Jungkook only smirks, sitting with his shoulders back, so they strain against the sweater. “What?”

“We should switch roles for next year.” The air tightens, the space between them too little. “I’ll come clothed, but only if you’re naked.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen. “First of all, no, creep—second, I have no way to know when you’re coming and I refuse to wander around in this cold naked, if I would even do it, which I won’t.”

Jungkook pouts, but before he can beg, Taehyung stops his teasing with a stern, “If you don’t start a new game, I’m going to play and make you watch instead.”

The werewolf whines, shoots him one last, pouting look, but Taehyujng is immovable.

They game for a while before dinner, until Taehyung can smell the food cooking and urges Jungkook to attempt to find another pair of pants that might chance fitting him.

Yanking open his drawers, Taehyung tosses pair after pair of pants onto his bed, ordering Jungkook to try them on, and while he knows better than to turn around, his ears still burn red from his stupid imagination. Legs are nothing; everyone has legs, and muscles in legs are a given if you aren’t a lazy shrub, so even if he did see Jungkook’s, it would be no big deal. Really.

But, the werewolf asks, “How do these look?” and he falls for it, reeling around to check, only to snort at the absurd tightness of a pair of his oldest, most-stretchy jeans.

“You look like you’re about to ruin my jeans.” He quips, and before he can contemplate the error of his ways, Jungkook nods and kicks the jeans off, unveiling a distinct lack of underwear beneath his clothes.

Yelping, Taehyung’s hands fly up to shield his gaze, but the damage is done and he sputters, head swimming from seeing his friend’s dick.

“Jungkook,” he whisper-yells, “why wouldn’t you turn around before doing that?”

“Hm?” The man’s poised to pull on another pair of sweats, legs flexed and extended, one partially in the pair of pants, though he didn’t move to conceal himself. “I’m naked in front of the other wolves all the time. It’s no big deal.”

“It’s a big deal for humans!” He hisses, but Jungkook only examines himself in the mirror, this pair of sweats long enough on him to mimic normalcy. His mother might think his once-a-year friend is a slob, but at least no one would be staring at his calves over dinner.

Jungkook lies about his fake parents with ease, reassuring Taehyung’s own, and even laughs about being an idiot and leaving his coat at home, to explain why Taehyung loaned him clothing. Taehyung listens with dull, unfocused eyes, pinching his own elbow the second time his grandfather repeats a question to him, the man swatting his grandson.

“I know it’s exciting to have your friend here, but that’s no excuse to be rude!”

He apologizes in a distracted tone, and when dinner comes to an end, he’s both unhappy and relieved to escape back to his room, Jungkook trailing after him with a natural ease that pisses Taehyung off, not to mince words.

When the door closes, he wheels around to confront the werewolf again, but Jungkook is there, barely any space between them, one hand resting on Taehyung’s forehead.

“Are you feeling alright?” His forehead scrunches up. “You were off all dinner.”

Taehyung recoils from his touch, cheeks flaming, and he spits, “Maybe I wouldn’t be off if you hadn’t stripped in front of me!”

Jungkook stills, gaze calculating, before he says, “Did you like seeing me naked?”

“What!?”

He shrugs, showing off his arms as he folds them across his chest. “It’s a natural reaction for omegas when an alpha shows off.”

“I’m not an omega!” Resentment bursts out of him, subsiding when Jungkook leases a dreamy sigh.

“Oh; I know.”

Taehyung squints at him, mistrusting and not understanding, but Jungkook smiles, and he says, “Why would you be showing off, anyway? There are few things I want to look at less than your dick, Jungkook.”

The werewolf pouts, but Taehyung breezes past him, control returning as Jungkook’s whole face softens, the plushness to his cheeks contrasting the muscles that he seems so proud of. Without thinking about it, Taehyung reaches to pinch his cheek, cackling when the werewolf whines and dodges back.

“What? You’re cute when you pout.”

Jungkook grumbles with no bite and they return to the game, the werewolf passing him the controller more than once, when he would die or fail missions, so they could take turns. The evening lapsed into easy companionship, their friendship comfortable, even as the threat of something more buzzes beneath Taehyung’s skin, increasing every time their arms or thighs brush. Despite his own protests, the strength he feels in Jungkook intrigues him. He attempts to convince himself that it’s jealousy and half succeeds.

But, when his head begins to bob a few times a minute and they both agree on retiring for the night, Jungkook ignores his pallet on the floor and follows Taehyung into bed, whining about the floor being too hot for him to sleep.

“And it’s not like we can open a window; I don’t want you getting sick.”

“Won’t it be worse, sharing body heat?” Taehyung grumbles, his exhausted body unable to send his heart racing for more than a second or two.

Jungkook’s arm encircles his waist, the large hand pressing flush to his stomach, and he cannot repress a shiver when the werewolf breathes, “I don’t mind this. The bed’s too comfy, and I don’t need the blanket.”

Swallowing, Taehyung clings to the blanket, announcing, “Well, I need it, so.” He attempts to roll himself into a burrito, succeeding to an extent, though even the cover can’t prevent him from feeling the solidity of Jungkook’s body against his back, the werewolf’s hand large on his stomach, burning a spot that all his focus reroutes to.

Taehyung falls asleep with Jungkook’s warm breath fanning across the back of his neck, body cradled in the werewolf’s grasp, and wakes to their legs laced together, the boys having slept like logs the entire night. Part of him wants to linger and enjoy the delicious warmth, the sensation of Jungkook’s muscular chest against his back, but a louder, more panicked side of him declares that he needs a cold, cold shower to punish him for his transgressions.

He’d never lusted after a boy before, not like this—and he wasn’t sure he liked it. Despite the societal taboo, a werewolf was never going to be the best choice, and Taehyung wasn’t out to make his life more complicated than it already was.

But, when he returns to his room, skin soft from the heat he broke down and turned the faucet to, and Jungkook slings an arm around his waist, it takes the majority of his willpower not to still and let the werewolf touch. His features stay consternated, the only emotion he can maintain that isn’t shy or grudging in its acceptance.

Jungkook’s departure reveals nothing, so he doesn’t know how much the werewolf identified, but he still promises, “Next year, we have as much time as we need.” It sounds like a threat, like a promise much heavier than one between friends, and the words to rebut Jungkook die in his throat.

Taehyung can only say: “Can’t wait.”

--

Except, when “next year” comes around, the standard two-week period marked on the calendar his mother insisted on upkeeping, nothing happens. From the tail end of his final exam period, his university entrance exams completed, Taehyung wants to sleep for years, but perseveres with his chores, impressing his parents—as they don’t know the nature of his and Jungkook’s meetings. Yet, as his break begins and the cold descends in swirls of frost, nothing comes.

With two days left in their designated time, sick with worry and anger, Taehyung’s closest friend from high school, a Park Jimin whom he’d known since middle school, invites him on a road trip to his hometown of Busan. Taehyung can’t rationalize why anyone would want to visit the seaside city in the winter, but after a little prodding, Jimin admits that he’s worried they’ll grow apart once they go their separate ways for university.

 “Think about it, Tae: We’ve never gone on vacation together, never snuck into clubs together—”

“—we live in the middle of farmland, Jimin—”

His hands cover Taehyung’s mouth, the tiny fingers just muffling him enough to allow him to continue, “We’ve never had any crazy adventures! Never snuck off to drink in alleyways!”

Taehyung wrenches away from him. “Those things don’t happen in real life!”

“So, I want you to come to Busan with me! I live in the city proper, and there’s plenty to do.” He clasps his hands in front of him, eyes shining with his pleas. “Come on, Tae, I thought we were best friends?”

“We are—”

“Then why is it you never want to go to Busan with me? Why do you stop answering texts around final exams?” His eyes narrow. “It very much feels like I’m your school-only friend.”

“That’s not true,” Taehyung swallows, regret surpassing his concern over Jungkook. “You’ve been a great friend. I don’t think I’d have any friends, if you didn’t talk to me in middle school.”

Jimin’s ferocity fades a bit, and he wraps an arm around Taehyung’s waist, his go-to action when his protective nature kicks in. “I still don’t understand, though. It’s like you’re hiding some crazy relative who hibernates in the spring and summer.”

Repressing laughter at the thought of Jungkook hibernating, he promises, “I want to go with you. Let me ask my parents, and I would be happy to go with you.”

They leave that Saturday, the end of Jungkook’s grace period, and melancholy threatens to swallow Taehyung as he rides with Jimin to Busan, forcing himself into their conversations with just enough pep for the occasional side-eye. Time spent with Jimin involves active, crazy adventures, and often new skills that Taehyung never dared consider, so the more he ignores the dark thoughts looming over him, the faster they disperse.

His friend senses this and chatters to him nonstop, asking him about schools, if he toured any of them, if he heard back from anywhere yet, even though they last saw each other a week ago, and Taehyung would wager if Jimin hadn’t heard anything, he shouldn’t expect him to have either.

Eventually he lays back like he wants to sleep and Jimin cuts off, the clap of silence slapping him, as if his friend could project his hurt, and Taehyung swallows his apology, vowing that he will leave his less-than-favorable mood aboard the train. He deserves a vacation as much as Jimin, and it takes a shitty person to abandon their oldest friend for a mythical creature that stood him up.

Taehyung “sleeps” until they arrive, when Jimin’s hand rests on his shoulder and shakes him awake. He attempts to treat the unhappiness like a bad dream or a stiff neck and slings his arm over Jimin’s shoulders as they lug their bags with them off the train.

“So, what’s first?” Taehyung asks, voice too loud on purpose.

It elicits a smile from Jimin just like he thought it would. “Home, first. My grandparents want to see us, and I don’t want to carry these clubbing.” He hefts his bag, arm bulging through his jacket, and Taehyung ‘ahh’s appropriately, the duo sliding into their regular banter, swaying against each other as they walk.

Jimin babbles about the bus they’re waiting for, recounting a tale of boarding it when he was small and having to tearfully call his parents from the help desk within, as he had been too excited and then scared to leave until the end of the line.

Cooing at the adorable mental image of Jimin, Taehyung inquires about baby pictures they might unearth at his childhood home, and they argue until Jimin talks him into starting a new television show with him while they ride.

From there, the shackles of his black mood break, warmth beginning to pool where disappointment took up residence as Jimin leans into him, chest and shoulder nudging him, brushing over his arm. His laugh lightens the sadness that held him in his talons, and by the time they reach Jimin’s childhood home, Taehyung doesn’t have to force the wide, happy smile for his friend’s grandparents.

The week, despite the cold and flurries, passes in a wave of delicious, homecooked food, unhealthy restaurants, a plethora of alcohol, and visiting Jimin’s old haunts. While they hung out plenty during the school year, and even swung around each other’s houses during breaks every now and again, it is the unbroken week together that soothes Taehyung and cements their friendship to a level he never expected.

More than anything, he hopes they end up at the same university. Or at least close enough to study, and possibly room together.

At Jimin’s insistence, they trek to the beach on their last morning to catch the sunrise, it bursting in a full spectrum of blushing pinks and buttery yellows, a cornucopia of nature’s love for itself. Taehyung loves the sight of a clear day’s sunrise, but never considered that Jimin might drag them to an early-winter, sea-side view.

Especially after a night out clubbing.

Alcohol still coursing through his veins, they stumble along the sand, Taehyung giddy enough to not think about the sand in his loafers. Jimin’s arm is an anchor around his waist, muscles taunt as he attempts to prevent Taehyung from wandering. His touch radiates warmth despite the fleece-lined jacket insulating him, and their hips bump together as the sun bursts over the horizon, ablaze and defiant from its long trip around the world.

They stop, their swaying ceasing as awe overpowers intoxication, and as the yellow star bleeds into the murky sea, breathing life into the ever-flowing tide, neither hear the repetitive shush of sand flying into the air from desperate running.

“I’m gonna miss Busan,” Jimin sighs, the vowels loose, curling with the dialect of home.

“Maybe we could—” Taehyung chokes on the rest of his sentence, strong hands on his arm and shoulder, ripping him away from Jimin, shoving him down into the sand.

A growl pierces the morning dusk and a glint of red, too murderous to be the sun, shines above him, before it’s gone, the body of his assailant is gone, striding toward Jimin. Taehyung almost doesn’t recognize him in regular clothes.

Jimin balls his hands into fists and falls into a fighting stance, his eyes dark as he prepares to swing, though Jungkook pauses with a good distance still between them.

“Who are you?” Jungkook growls, and Taehyung scrambles to his feet, the familiar tenor to his voice snapping him back to reality.

“Who are you?” Jimin snaps back, “Tae, call the cops. This fucker clearly has issues.”

“He smells like you.”

Taehyung pushes into the no-man’s-land, one hand hovering over each of their chests, his gaze resting on the flushed defiance of Jimin, up to the tense, brutal features of the werewolf.

“What the hell are you doing here?” He snaps, anger compounding, words slurred with exhaustion or alcohol, or both, the buried loneliness rearing its ugly head. “You don’t even bother to visit on time, and then you crash my vacation?” Danger pulses around them, but Taehyung turns his back to Jimin, hands pushing against Jungkook’s chest, the human uncaring even as he doesn’t budge.

Jungkook’s eyes float past his left ear, still locked onto Jimin, and Taehyung slaps his chest, teeth gritting when it draws the werewolf’s attention.

“Look at me, you bastard!” Taehyung hits his chest again. “Answer me!”

He brings his other fist up, but when he swings this time, Jungkook catches his arm with little effort, the glint Taehyung caught in his eyes when Jungkook tackled him fading.

“I told you I present this year,” Jungkook mutters, the fight leaving his body, though he doesn’t release his hold on Taehyung. “I thought it would be a quick thing, then I could come see you, but it wasn’t.”

Taehyung stares up at him, their slight height difference obvious in such proximity, and he despairs for a moment, unable to spy his friend in this muscular bully, the antithesis of anything he would ever fight for. He draws back from him, relieved when Jungkook lets him go with no fight.

Curiosity overwhelming his disgust, his Jimin-senses warning him that too much silence would conjure a slew of questions from his friend, Taehyung reigns in his pride and asks, “So, why weren’t you able to come?”

“I left three days ago, ran straight there,” he glances over Taehyung’s shoulder again, the only warning the human gets before Jimin steps up beside him, a hand resting on his elbow in a silent show of solidarity. “But when I got there, your parents told me you’d gone on vacation to Busan of all places. They apologized, assuming I would be gone before you’d get back.” Jungkook huffs out a laugh, “Well, your parents did. Your grandmother was the only one who seemed to guess it was my fault. How she knew that, though, I couldn’t tell you.”

Shaking his head, he says the first thing he can think of: “Why Busan ‘of all places’?”

“Because he’s from here,” Jimin cuts off whatever Jungkook would say. “Right?”

Jungkook snorts. “Yes.”

And, having successfully cut in, Jimin pounces, “Who are you?” His tone warns against lies, expression like granite as he considers them both. “Taehyung’s never mentioned anyone like you before.”

Expecting hostility, Taehyung’s jaw drops with Jungkook’s shoulders, the tallest of the three swallowing, voice timid as he asks, “Really? Never?”

He’s swimming in sympathy despite his better instincts and Taehyung sighs, “What do you expect? I see you two days out of the year. I didn’t even know you were from Busan.” He fails to suppress the bitterness. “I waited for you for two weeks, but you never showed.”

Jungkook curls in on himself, a hysterical sight from such a muscular man—but as the sun gathers itself higher and higher, it casts a shadow over the still-soft cheeks of the werewolf. Strong and tall or not, Taehyung can see the kid he befriended, then lost, then found anew, and it makes all the difference.

“I couldn’t leave,” his voice, so gruff, catches worse over the words, “the presentation…” Jungkook stops, and Taehyung understand, but he won’t send Jimin away.

“Later,” he vows to Jungkook. “Unless this is the only time you have?”

“No.” Jungkook rolls his shoulders back, drawing attention to his heavy, denim jacket. “I have as much time as I need before I decide what to do about my life.”

“Then come find me back home in a few days.” Taehyung says, “Today’s my last day on vacation.”

Then, to incense the werewolf, Jimin links their arms together, and Taehyung imagines the rage broiling over his friend’s features, already plotting what to tell him.

Jungkook’s eyes lock to where they touch, his nostrils flaring, but he nods, the motion unwilling. “I’ll find you tomorrow.”

“If I let you in.” Taehyung’s eyes flash, waiting to see if Jungkook will attempt to take the last word.

But he doesn’t; he nods and slinks away, Jimin and Taehyung not moving until he blends into the streets of the city.

Only then does Jimin begin firing questions at him: “Who was that? Why was he here? How do you know him?”

Sober from the adrenaline and panic, Taehyung feels out the yawning hole of disappointment, so well covered by his week of fun with Jimin, wishing for sleep and a good cry more than anything. With their walk back, he can’t wave Jimin off until they hail a taxi, so as they venture back toward the paths to the city proper, he throws all caution to the wind. Let Jimin think he’s crazy, too.

“I met him when I was a kid. He would come by once a year, and we would—” talk? Play? “Spend a day together.”

“Okay?”

“He missed our usual time this year.” Taehyung closes his eyes, only to immediately open them again when he nearly falls on his face, saved by Jimin’s hold on him. “That’s why I was so mopey when we left. He found us because he can follow my scent.”

Then, cementing their friendship, Jimin leans over to sniff his neck, wrinkling his nose, “Booze and sweat. Not the best, but not pungent enough to follow from one city to another.”

Taehyung’s laughter dies as he clarifies, “He can find my scent because he’s a werewolf.” And, because he’s a glutton for punishment, he adds, voice sharp, “If you ever heard rumors of me being crazy, that’s where they come from. I told people about him back when I started school, and I was mad no one believed me. So, they thought I was crazy.”

Jimin doesn’t reply and his anguish is a living fist within his chest, twisting his heart into a shriveled mass, vowing to him that he has no room for truth and friends in his life.

“You swear you didn’t text him where we were?”

Wordlessly, Taehyung grapples for his phone and unlocks it, holding it out for Jimin, who takes it and fiddles around with it for a long minute, before handing it back.

“Do you think I’m crazy?”

Jimin exhales, “I know you, and I feel like I would have seen some other weird stuff by now if you were delusional. Plus, there was something off about that guy. So, no; I don’t think you’re crazy.”

Not allowing himself to feel relief yet, Taehyung nods and promises, “I’ll ask him about showing you. Supposedly he’ll be around for a while, this time.”

Humming to reassure that he heard, Jimin then ventures, “Either way, if things get weird at any point, you can always hide out at my house. I can drown you in cologne so the weirdo can’t track you.”

Taehyung wants to defend Jungkook, but bites his tongue, frustrated and still confused about the werewolf’s strange behavior, so he would have no chance at explaining it to another, and lets the topic die for the moment.

--

Things slide into an uneasy normal for the packing and trip to the train station, Jimin halting his scrutiny of Taehyung once his grandparents enter the picture again, Taehyung not having to fake his thankful words when he bids them goodbye.

On the train, he expects more rapid questioning, but Jimin sets up a drama on his phone instead, offering Taehyung an earbud as an olive branch. It lets him breathe for their remaining hours together, so that when he returns home, he doesn’t have to fake the post-vacation ease for his family. They cook him a delicious meal, his grandparents especially happy to see him after a week of no Taehyung, and he falls into bed with a content smile.

--

The next day, he awakens to a text from Jimin, asking when he can see the werewolf, and said creature’s head big in his window.

Taehyung screams, a shrill noise that he muffles in his hand almost as soon as the sound escapes. Jungkook’s head disappears below the sill seconds before his father bursts into the room, his grandfather behind him, both men dressed.

“What was that?” His father growls, when he spies no threat.

“Erm, a ringtone Jimin recorded,” Taehyung lies, flushing under the unamused frowns of his patriarchs. “He set it to be an alarm to mess with me. I’ll delete it now.”

“Brat giving us heart attacks,” his grandfather grumbles, as they retreat.

Slumping back against his pillows, he shoots a venomous glare at the window, but Jungkook doesn’t reappear—his entreaty plain.

Taehyung dresses for the weather, refusing to don his favorite pair of jeans, that make his ass look amazing, or shed a layer so he looks less puffy. After scaring him (both down in Busan and that morning), he feels no desire to dress up for the werewolf—even as he wonders where that thought stems from.

Scarfing down breakfast, his parents scold him even as he explains that he wants to visit the horses. “The horses will be there in twenty minutes, if you eat at the speed of a normal person.” His father grumbles, but Taehyung doesn’t mind him.

His grandparents finish shortly after him, and he bows to them, before scrambling to the door to slide his boots on, trying to convince himself that his speed stems from a desire to scold, rather than a desperate need to know why Jungkook stood him up, for lack of a better term.

Yanking his beanie out of his pocket, he tugs it low over his forehead as he rounds the house, angled for his bedroom window, when a hand catches his arm, the strength in the touch apparent, though Taehyung can feel the care and restraint.

Like before, Jungkook’s dressed, a miracle if his parents discover him on their property, but it dissociates him from the Jungkook Taehyung met as a child. This Jungkook is the one from the beach, with the red eyes and steel muscles—the one that could and would hurt Jimin because Taehyung smelled like him. Yet, the gentleness of Jungkook’s touch keeps him from breaking the hold, the human instead examining first his hand, then his face.

“You still smell like him,” Jungkook grumbles, but without an immediate threat, he pouts instead of simmers.

“I took this coat down to Busan,” he quips. “You don’t wash coats unless they get dirty.”

Jungkook doesn’t reply, his hand slipping from its hold, and both push into the pockets of his jacket, a motion so human and fluid that Taehyung blurts out, “What happened to you? You’re in human clothes. You’re behaving like a human.” But you seem less human than before. “Did you present as a beta?”

Jungkook snorts out a laugh first, and Taehyung knows. “You’re an alpha. You got kicked out.” Protectiveness flares in his chest. “When?”

“Last month.” Jungkook’s gaze stays pinned on Taehyung’s chest, like he would burn the offending fabric off him, if he could manage it. “I had to figure a lot out on my own.”

“You should have come up here.” Taehyung puffs out his cheeks. “I could have helped you.”

He shakes his head. “Instinct takes over when we present. I had to learn about clothes and money, and that was hard enough. Being around you, without being able to control my instincts,” his eyes seem to bleed red for a heartbeat, before the soft brown meets Taehyung’s gaze, “I wouldn’t want to scare you. Or hurt you.”

“Why would you scare me?” Taehyung wraps his arms around himself, but refuses to break eye contact. “Here; it’s cold out. Come with me to the barn.”

Starting down the path, Jungkook trails him at first, catching up as he begins speaking, “Alphas have really possessive, violent instincts. It’s how they—” he swallows, “we survive. We govern packs, protect those weaker than us, lead. But in the same vein, we’re territorial.” His gaze burns where it rests on Taehyung. “I know friends aren’t supposed to feel like this for humans, so I was worried you’d get angry with me and turn me out.”

Empathy swells in Taehyung’s chest, bursting into flustered, scattered distraction as he wonders if Jungkook intended to confess to him. As much as he tries to convince himself, Jungkook won’t stop looking at him like he wants to take him apart to see what makes him tick, and his protests quiet one by one.

“I wouldn’t have turned you out.” He takes Jungkook’s hand, lacing their fingers together as the werewolf’s hangs there, pliable as a marionette. “I might have yelled at you once or twice, but friends don’t give up on friends. Do you have anywhere to stay?”

Jungkook shrugs, Taehyung’s hand following as the motion shifts his arm. “I’ve been sleeping in the woods in my wolf form, for the most part. It’s not uncomfortable—I have my winter coat.”

“No more of that.” Taehyung thinks for a second, declaring, “You can sleep in the barn. It’s warm, at least, and the hay shouldn’t bother you in wolf form.”

Of course, he said that before they arrived and the animals begin baying and fleeing, the horses not out in the field kicking their stalls, establishing themselves as threats. Taehyung frowns, thinking of the years that Soonshim would allow human-Jungkook to pet him, and asks, “Does presenting as an alpha change your scent?”

“It does,” Jungkook stares at him, amazed. “Can you smell it?”

“No,” he laughs, guiding them out of the barn, afraid of the animals hurting themselves in their panic, “they just never reacted like this before during your visits. I guess Soonshim won’t want you near him, either?”

Taehyung watches him slump at the thought, reaching up to rub his back, touch careful, so as not to startle the werewolf, his mind still whirring with plans.

“If you can get in and out of my window, you could sleep in my room.” He purses his lips with displeasure. “But, I won’t be able to feed you. I swear my grandmother inventories everything in our kitchen like twice a day.”

Jungkook speaks distantly, as if his mind wanders far from their conversation: “That’s okay. I catch my food.”

Annoyed at beginning half-ignored, Taehyung shifts to hook their elbows together, announcing, “But, if my parents know you’re staying for a while, they’ll allow normal sleepovers until I start university.”

They chat for a bit about school, Jungkook frowning over and over at the talk of “exams” and scores to rank people.

“You’re perfect, so you can go anywhere you want, right?” He asks after a longwinded explanation, causing Taehyung to flush and stutter out a negative.

By the time they reach his house, Taehyung regretting that he hadn’t fed the animals, though he didn’t want to give the piggies heart attacks, he finally remembers another tidbit about alphas, lowering his voice as he asks, “So wait, since you’re an alpha, you have to make your own pack, right?” It hits him then that, while before Jungkook could stay as long as he liked, he would still have to leave. “You can’t put that off forever.”

“Don’t worry about that for now.” Jungkook’s other hand crosses his body to rest on Taehyung’s elbow, a stable promise, eyes bright. “I’ll make as much time for you as you can stand first.”

“The last time you made me a promise, you broke it.” Taehyung pauses before his front door, tugging the screen open.

“I won’t break it this time, I swear,” he murmurs.

Taehyung doesn’t answer—maintaining his silence until he announces Jungkook’s presence and allows his family to swamp them, halting any and all questions of that sort.

When the flow is stemmed and they are able to retreat to Taehyung’s room, he expects more pleading words, or at least, more stilted conversation, but Jungkook inquires if he bought any new video games in the last year, and they settle down, Jungkook and Taehyung taking turns like they did the last time. It’s easy to fall back into the routine, and soon they loosen up around each other, laughing and nudging each other, friendship predestined and final.

Jungkook, whining for a turn after a half an hour without one, begins to tickle Taehyung and causes him to die. The human whips his controller onto his bed and pounces on Jungkook, determined to find a weak spot or two on him, until the werewolf rolls them over, pinning Taehyung beneath him, a smug glint to his eyes.

His hands scramble for Jungkook’s stomach, his sides, even his armpits, Taehyung scowling as he feels the man’s muscles, resenting that his younger friend, who happened to be a werewolf, could probably lure anyone in he desired. At least he didn’t eat humans.

Finally, Taehyung demands, “Where are you ticklish?”

“I’m not.” Jungkook grins, the wolf visible for a second in his broad, bright smile as Taehyung shoves at his chest, attempting to remove him.

“Well, get off then!”

“No.”

Taehyung continues to struggle, and Jungkook leans over, burying his nose in the crook of the human’s neck. It’s warm against his skin, but Taehyung still shivers, the breath ghosting down the collar of his shirt, raising little hairs along the back of his neck. A predator lurks above him, his body warns, the parting of his lips foretelling a dinner that winds up with only one of them full.

Yet, despite this paranoia, nothing prepares him for Jungkook’s lips to descend, brushing soft over where his breath just fanned. Taehyung’s poor heart gives a nervous thump in his chest, and he demands to know, “What are you doing?”

“You smell like you, here.” Jungkook’s voice is laced with satisfaction. “Some wolves hate the smell of human soap, but it always made me think of you.”

Whole body shivering, Taehyung’s hands find Jungkook’s chest, his traitorous thoughts fixating on the firmness, the way Jungkook crushed him to the carpet, and how he would be completely at his mercy if he didn’t trust that Jungkook would never do such a thing.

He doesn’t understand why his pulse jumps, what he wants.

“Jungkook?”

Said man draws back, reintroducing space between their heated bodies, and Taehyung curses himself when he sees Jungkook’s dark gaze, his pupils blown out, the match to the flush he could feel across his own chest.

“Yes?”

“Do you want another turn?” Taehyung blurts out the first thing he can think of, and it douses the mood, the werewolf blinking down at him, before he sits back on his calves.

But, where Taehyung might wish for him to discard the transparent distraction, Jungkook nods and retrieves the controller, a stilted air solidifying between them as they attempt to pretend that the game holds their full attentions.

That lie is substantiated for the first ten minutes, and then an invisible force compels Taehyung to crowd into his space again, correcting Jungkook first when he plays poorly with a clipped tone, only to dissolve into groans and insults when the werewolf struggles with the inverted controls. He hangs over the werewolf, informing him that he’s not a true gamer, and Jungkook growls at him, swatting him off until he dies.

When Taehyung’s mother intrudes hours later, imploring them to keep their voices down, now that everyone is going to sleep, the quiet that follows feels sleepy on their ends, unstoppable smiles tugging at the corners of their mouths.

“We should set up your bed,” Taehyung sighs, hoping that saying it will make him more likely to rise from the comfy nest on his bed.

Jungkook stretches, back arching against the covers, and disagrees, “I like your bed. The floor-bed should be your bed.”

“This is my bed,” Taehyung kicks him off the bed, the werewolf yelping as he falls to the floor, unprepared for the assault.

The loud “thunk” sounds like a heavy body hitting the floor, and they freeze, waiting for someone to come scold them, before bursting into surprised giggles.

“I didn’t think you’d fall,” Taehyung gasps into the back of his hand. “You’re such an idiot.”

“You knock me off the bed and call me an idiot.” Jungkook launches himself back onto the covers, bouncing Taehyung before tackling him, hands finding Taehyung’s wrists. The mood changes in an instant, when Jungkook’s teeth graze his throat in a show of dominance. “You’re so mean to me.”

Freezing, his little bunny-rabbit heart floundering, Taehyung wiggles beneath him, ignoring how his body bumps against the hard planes of Jungkook’s, and complains, “Get off me! You’re going to crush me and I’m going to die and then you’ll have to tell my family that you killed me.”

“So mean,” Jungkook nips the side of his neck, Taehyung’s stomach swooping. “You should be nicer to me.”

Taehyung stills, then thrashes, attempting to bust through the hold on his wrists, but Jungkook doesn’t budge. He shifts to sling his legs over either side of Taehyung’s, their chests flush, bodies hot with mirth. Unlike earlier, fear ebbs at the edges of his thoughts, instead of encompassing him, and Taehyung stares up at the werewolf.

“What do I get, if I am?”

“Depends.” And Taehyung wonders if he imagines how Jungkook’s eyes seem to dip and examine his lips. “What do you want?”

Then he’s tracing the shape of Jungkook’s lips, the pretty, thin bow of pink, and his teeth find his own lower lip, wondering how he could want what he thinks he wants. How a practical stranger could become the representation of his own dreams, delayed again and again until adulthood.

“I—”

Jungkook releases him, leaps back onto the bed, as his bedroom door opens, his father standing there, unimpressed. He asks if everyone’s okay, that he heard a loud thump, and they lie about Taehyung falling, so he won’t yell. They promise to be more careful.

When he departs, Jungkook offers to shut the lights off, and in the ensuing darkness, Taehyung invites him to share his bed for the night.

“If your hearing is that good, anyone coming in should wake you up.”

Neither point out the obvious: That no force in the universe could propel Jungkook onto the floor from a blanket cocoon before anyone could walk in.

Still, with the omission holding strong, Taehyung offers Jungkook one of his pillows and lays down on his side, hoping the layers of padding would disguise his racing heart, the fear that someone would read his thoughts and point out one of the many doubts he held.

Jungkook slips under the blanket, a beautiful sigh escaping, his eyes shutting with bliss, and Taehyung knows what he will say before the werewolf admits, “It’s been so long since I’ve slept on something so comfy…”

Taehyung hums with sympathy, tries to close his eyes and go to sleep, but his treacherous body tugs his eyelids up so he can examine his guest. He hears Jungkook’s voice in his head, asking him what he wants, and he shuffles closer, until the skinny lines of his body frame Jungkook’s.

Their body heats mingle, and Jungkook’s head turns, his eyes glowing in the dark, and Taehyung thinks of Soonshim, thinks of that wolf puppy that he inadvertently rescued so long ago, and he murmurs, “I want you to make it up to me.”

“Hm?”

“I don’t want you to leave.”

Jungkook’s arm slings around his waist, only not surprising him because he moves so slow, and his hand presses into Taehyung’s lower back, a comforting weight. “I won’t leave. I don’t have anything to go back to, and I don’t have anything I want to get away from.”

“I’m not sure if I can believe that.” Taehyung gulps when Jungkook’s head shifts next to his, and runs a fingernail down his own palm when he feels the werewolf’s breath against his lips.

“Trust me,” he huffs, “the last thing I want to do is go anywhere.”

Then, impossibly, the distance between their lips disappears, and Jungkook is kissing him, his lips soft and slightly chapped, the hand on his lower back burning.

It lasts a few seconds; it lasts hours, then Jungkook’s pulling back and licking over his lower lip, the expression in his gaze ruthless, leaving no room for argument.

Taehyung stares, knows his galloping, fearful heart couldn’t possibly guide him the right way in this moment, and instead whispers, “Is this why you found me in Busan? The part of being an alpha that kept you away?”

Pleasure morphs to horror and Jungkook shakes his head, the whimpering puppy eclipsing the hunter, and he argues with himself, “I would never claim you like that without talking to you—and you’re not my property, we haven’t had nearly enough time together.” But, but, but, they both hear, unspoken.

“Then why?”

Jungkook’s hand slides up his back, a soothing touch, the fingers curled as if to reassure him that the motion isn’t possessive.

“Because I was scared I’d lose track of my instincts. I was scared I’d take you without thinking about it or asking you.” He exhales, “Then I smelled you on the breeze and I needed to see you. For a stupid moment, I thought you could track like I can, and I thought you were looking for me.” Taehyung can imagine his ears drooping. “I wish you could track me.”

“So,” Taehyung melts into his mattress as Jungkook begins running his nails up and down his back, “you wanting to spend time with me has nothing to do with your alpha stuff?”

Jungkook pauses too long. “Of course not.”

--

When Taehyung awakens the next morning, they are intertwined, Jungkook curled against his back, one of his thighs fitted between his, and the arm across his waist is still there. The sheet fell to their waists, the heat from the werewolf unreal, but despite his intense need to pee, and the sweat clinging to him under his sleep shirt, Taehyung doesn’t want to move. Yet, after one fantasy of his family barging in to discover them, he worms his way out of Jungkook’s hold and flees to the bathroom.

Deciding he would rather take advantage of Jungkook’s presence while he’s still around, he retraces his steps to his room, biting back a smile when he sees Jungkook’s hair, fluffed up and messy, as the werewolf scowls at him from his position in bed.

“Yes?” He whisper-shouts.

“You left.”

“I had to pee.” Taehyung climbs back into bed, repressing a yelp when Jungkook grabs for him and yanks him back into place, then shifting to lay on him.

He mutters something into his collarbones, and through his sudden rush of embarrassment combating with his plans from moments ago and his haze of sleep, Taehyung freezes.

Jungkook nuzzles him with the tip of his nose, before yawning, and the horrible scent of his morning breath snaps Taehyung out of it as he shoves his face away.

“What did you just say?”

“I said, it’s nice having someone to sleep with.” Jungkook replies, voice distorted by the hand pressing into his face. Taehyung gives him credit for his unperturbed tone despite the fact. “I haven’t been able to share body heat since I left my pack.”

Sympathy tingles in his chest, and Taehyung relaxes back against the covers, asking, “So you really can’t go home? Just because you’re an alpha?”

“Yeah,” he sighs, voice heavy with defeat, “even mated, I’ll want to challenge the other alpha too much.”

Taehyung huffs. “That’s unfair. How are you supposed to make your own family?”

“Well, I have to either kick an old alpha out of another pack, or I have to find other wolves to join mine, somehow.”

Afraid to voice it, yet unable to leave the topic lie, Taehyung murmurs, “You won’t find any wolves by staying here with me.”

He thinks Jungkook’s fallen back asleep for a moment, before he finally hears, “You’re right.”

Then there’s nothing.

--

When they awaken again, it’s like someone pressed restart for their morning. It lacks the domesticity of waking in each other’s arms, as Taehyung wakes pressed to Jungkook’s armpit, and he retches accordingly. They split to shower, and as they pass each other, Taehyung garbed only in a towel, he feels Jungkook’s gaze rake down his form.  A blush breaks across his cheeks, and as he slips around him, eyes on his toothbrush, Jungkook leans in, trapping him against the sink’s counter.

Against his will, his eyes slip up to meet Jungkook’s, and he sees the red he glimpsed in Busan there, alight overtop of his natural brown.

“Is it because I look like an omega?” He asks, a shot in the dark to save himself as Jungkook’s attention dips to his lips.

“No!” And his voice is so forceful in that little space that Taehyung wheels back with nowhere to go. “No.” Jungkook touches his shoulder, then clears the path. “I’m sorry. Please don’t think that.”

“Then what?” Taehyung scurries over to his toothbrush.

“It’s never been about wolf dynamics.” Taehyung meets his gaze in the mirror. “It’s about you looking out for me when I was a pup, you being something to look forward to, even with those years in the middle.”

“Friends.”

“Hope.” Jungkook smiles, the expression fragile and a bit awestruck as he disappears into the shower cubicle.

--

Over breakfast, Taehyung introduces his plan to show Jungkook around the city, though he tacks on a silly referendum about dragging him to childhood haunts, as Jungkook supposedly lived in the city himself, even if for a short time. In reality, he plans to help Jungkook purchase clothing, so his parents won’t see him in the same shirts the days he’ll be around, and he vows to accompany him to a movie, as Jungkook never dared attempt to see one before.

At first, the journey is a cautionary one, as the sheer amassment of scents and sights overwhelm Jungkook, guiding him across the street whilly-nilly, to the point where Taehyung hooks his elbow through the werewolf’s in a desperate attempt to control his wanderings. His eyes widen at every examination of some new contraption, as he’d been taught to steer away from human things and never to linger too long.

Taehyung encourages it, rubs little circles on his wrist when the cosmetics section of the department store he drags him to stuns him in place. Their chatter is banal, focused on their surroundings, but after a few purchases are made, and their stomachs began rumbling, Taehyung finds himself smiling through the hunger—unnoticed with his enjoyment of their time together.

He drags him to a little restaurant that specializes in chicken katsu, both moaning through their mouthfuls until other patrons shoot them looks, and the boys giggle into their rice.

They chat about what movie they want to see, Taehyung attempting to ignore how their knees brush beneath the little table, neither moving to shift their chair back despite the fact. Taehyung convinces himself it’s because the room is so little that he doesn’t want to cause any trip hazards, but when he buys them tickets to see the latest, coolest action movie, and Jungkook leans across the armrest into his space, he cannot use the same excuse.

Explosions paint their faces first in shades of orange, and by the time the hero leaps into the water, splashing their faces a rich blue, Taehyung turns to Jungkook, determined to voice his concerns, only to find Jungkook anticipating him, eyes on his.

“Am I too close?” He leans in, whispering.

Taehyung’s heart flutters and he swallows, the words sticking, but as much as he tries to unstop them, he finds different words clearing the vice in his throat: “Of course not.”

Satisfied, Jungkook wiggles closer, their arms bumping, and Taehyung compares the sizes helplessly, thoughts a million miles away from the theater. The remainder of the movie escapes him and he swallows his nerves as they rise, Jungkook’s hand falling to his elbow when he stumbles, one of his legs asleep from sitting on it.

“That was so cool!” Jungkook gushes as they return to the lobby, arms flailing as he pretends to fight an enemy. “I know that’s how humans fight, but I’ve never seen it like that!”

Considering correcting him, the words die again, the man unwilling to suppress Jungkook’s excitement, and he lets him talk, savoring the companionship, so like Jimin’s, yet more generalized—Jimin always has plans for them, a goal in mind, where Jungkook wants to taste the rain with Taehyung at his side.

The neon lights flicker over them, illuminating the shine in Jungkook’s eyes, reflecting from the soft curves of his smile, and Taehyung pushes him into an alleyway, cutting him off mid-word with his lips.

His fingers curl possessively around Jungkook’s biceps, pressing the werewolf’s body to the wall, neither minding the smell of garbage as Taehyung’s tongue slips over his lower lip.

A possessive growl builds in Jungkook’s throat, but even as his hands tighten against Taehyung’s back, he doesn’t relent, their tongues meeting in a wild tangle, unexpected by either, yet welcomed by both as they kiss, withdraw for breath, and then kiss anew. Taehyung relies upon their less-than-stellar choice of make-out spot to protect their genders, but even he recognizes when it’s time to check the time.

Reaching for his phone, rebuffing Jungkook’s hands as he grabs for him, Taehyung hums as he notes the hour, saying, “If you’re still hungry, we could grab something from a dessert café. Or maybe we could take a pizza home?” Something about their ephemeral time together makes him want to dry up years of birthday funds.

“Pizza?” He could hear the drool in that one word, and Taehyung nearly pouts that Jungkook could be distracted like that from kisses they still hadn’t discussed, but he argues that perhaps the werewolf is following his lead, which he can’t really fault.

“Sure. There’s a Pizza School across the road, if I’m remembering correctly. We can take it home.”

They chatter about flavors of pizza, angling away from their play and how their pinky fingers brush as they walk, a fire burning through Taehyung every time skin meets skin. In the back of his mind, he chides himself for plunging them further in, his hormones straining toward Jungkook, hungry for him, taking full advantage of the heart focused on him. He worries that his connection guides him in a direction he doesn’t really want, but doesn’t have the tenacity to yank himself back.

As they take the bus home, standing amongst the slew of university-aged people either venturing out for the night or slinking home before the buses stop running, the high-velocity bumps send them closer and closer, until Jungkook’s arms sling around Taehyung, pinning him to the pole. With his pizza in both hands, he doesn’t have any other choice, but the gazes of those around them still burn into him and he swallows thickly. He loves it and hates it in the same breath, for different reasons. He cannot hate Jungkook for the happy emotions he elicits.

The quiet house they reenter soothes him, so when they can seat themselves at the kitchen table, talking quietly about the day—all the everything and nothing they encountered—Taehyung dreams of wrapping them both up in his blankets. Awake, yet already dreaming of coiling himself around Jungkook until their hearts figure out how to beat in tandem.

After consuming most of the pizza, Taehyung packs the rest of it up and slinks off to wash his face for the night, putting face masks on both of them for the hell of it, cackling when Jungkook yelps at the cold.

As they wait to remove the masks, they shed their clothes, Taehyung pretending not to ogle Jungkook in his mirror, and then yank their sleep clothes on, settling in bed to watch the pilot episode of a television show he thought Jungkook might enjoy. Companionable and warm, Taehyung barely reminds them to peel their masks off before they pass out into one of the best nights of sleep he’s ever had.

Of course, he wakes up to an entirely new scenario—something hard poking into his ass from behind.

In the fog of sleep, he wonders if it’s a dream, a perverted wish enabled by a drowsing mind, but when he tenses up and attempts to shift away, Jungkook whines in his throat and his arms tighten around Taehyung.

His morals collide and he reaches behind him to pinch Jungkook’s arm, fingers sharp and not holding back, the human refusing to take advantage of a situation he couldn’t admit to wanting while awake.

Stirring, the werewolf groans into his neck, hips canting forward to chase the slight friction, following an instinct that wolves and humans share, even as Taehyung hisses his name.

Refusing to moan, he starts swatting at Jungkook’s arm, scratching at him until the werewolf groans, a sound of unfolding wakefulness, and Taehyung sighs in relief, until Jungkook mutters a “good morning,” yet doesn’t withdraw.

“Jungkook,” he snaps, voice slightly hysterical, “can you go get rid of that? Or at least roll over?”

“Get rid of what?” But, to contradict himself immediately, he rolls his hips against the cleft of Taehyung’s ass, emphasizing his boner.

Part of Taehyung wants to reach behind and touch, another yet desires to still and allow Jungkook to rut against him until he’s done, but the dominant, smallest part, yanks free of the werewolf’s hold, the grip no longer impenetrable with him awake.

“That’s not okay,” he bites out, once he scrambles into a sitting position, away from Jungkook. “You can’t just touch me if I don’t want it.”

Sitting up as well, the blanket draped over his lap, Jungkook’s head cocks to the side, hair fluffy and sweet-looking, as if the universe is conspiring to make Taehyung think he imagined his erection.

“But you fell asleep cuddling me? And now you’re saying you don’t want cuddles?”

“I’m saying you have no right to rub against my butt!” Taehyung feels his cheeks flush. “Not when we haven’t even talked about the kisses.”

“Alright,” Jungkook shifts toward him, pouting when Taehyung stands up, “let’s talk about the kisses.”

“Before breakfast?” Taehyung scrambles for the door, but Jungkook intercepts him with a low groan, arms circling his waist and lifting him from the ground without so much as a grunt.

“Nope. No running, Tae.” He nuzzles the human’s back, only setting him down when Taehyung attempts to kick him. “You kissed me a lot last night and we are going to talk about it.”

“Okay, so let’s talk.” Already overwhelmed, Taehyung babbles, “I mean, I might like boys. Possibly. Still, you can’t just—”

A knowing glint shone in Jungkook’s eyes and he comments, “I won’t again, hyung, until you admit you like the feeling.”

Flustered, unsure of a specific rebuttal, he flees into the bathroom, unaware of the chain of events he set into action.

It begins when Jungkook takes his turn in the shower and returns to the bedroom, dropping the towel as soon as the door shuts behind him.

“Oops,” he muses, bending over to retrieve it, ignoring the incoherent screaming from his host, Taehyung stopping only when his mother knocks at the door and scolds him.

He apologizes, shooting the most venomous glare he can muster at the werewolf, ready to berate him the moment his mother leaves, but he catches another eyeful of the naked werewolf, as he only conceals his dick with the towel once he picks it up. When he strides over to his newly purchased clothes, his bare butt comes to light. Damn him.

That day, when Taehyung notices his parents asking if it’s Jungkook’s last night in town, and he replies that he came for a longer visit, they begin attempting to wheedle a location out of him, for the first time.

“Before school starts back up, you can show Taehyungie your house,” his father comments, and despite his annoyance at their transparency, Taehyung thanks them. If he spent one more night in bed with Jungkook, he would probably wake up with a boner of his own.

“Definitely!” Jungkook plays along, though Taehyung can’t fathom why he would. “And he can stay over for a night or two, if you guys are okay with it?”

His parents hemmed and hawed over it, as they never met Jungkook’s parents, but the thought intrigued them—and all the adults didn’t mind experimenting how they would take their boy moving out for university.

Taehyung debates bowing out when Jungkook wheedles at him to see the beach. He couldn’t return home so soon after, but if he could duck the werewolf, he could loiter or visit Jimin until a suitable time passed, then lie about not wanting to sleep over.

The bed wasn’t comfy, he practices his lies internally as Jungkook and he layer themselves in their winter garb, Taehyung’s traitorous eyes drifting twice for the entire process. He had a really dirty pet cat.

When they exit his house and prepare to trek to the bus stop, Jungkook attempts to hook their elbows together even as Taehyung dodges.

“I thought yesterday you liked our arms hooked together.”

“Yesterday, when you weren’t being a pain.” Taehyung replies, voice cool.

Jungkook matches his brutal pace with ease, and he folds his hands into his pockets, letting silence reign between them before the stop comes into view. According to Taehyung’s schedule, they should only have about a five-minute wait before it would come around. However, if it was late, they could be standing in the cold for up to an additional half an hour.

“Tell me something about you that I don’t know.”

He considers dodging Jungkook for asking such an impossible thing, but instead, he thinks, then says, “If my parents wouldn’t scold me, I’d paint my nails. I just think it looks really nice. I wouldn’t get those long nails or anything, but I think like a coral or soft pink would just…” Glancing up at Jungkook and finding no judgement, he finishes, “look nice.”

Humming, Jungkook glances up at the storm clouds, and he says, “Pinks are nice. They make me think of summer sunsets at the beach.”

Taehyung smiles at the thought, wishing for warmth. “Jimin’s told me it’s impossible for a Busan kid to hate the beach.”

Jungkook growls, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it noise, but it cuts off as Taehyung frowns at him. “I guess that’s true.”

Without thinking about it, Taehyung reaches over to flick the tip of Jungkook’s nose, a grin spreading across his features when the werewolf swears and swipes at him.

“Quit it. You have no right to be jealous of him.”

Jungkook’s hands fall from their protective positioning around his nose, and he pouts again. “But you like him more than me.”

“That’s unfair.” Taehyung rocks up onto his tiptoes, the bus visible in the distance, to his relief. “I’ve known him since middle school, and we’re in the same class.”

“If it’s all about familiarity, why does it matter so much that we’ve only seen each other once a year?” Jungkook draws his metro card from his pocket, well versed at this point. Taehyung bites back the sensation of pride that threatens to arise. “I could track you by scent in my sleep. Sure, those few days don’t mean much to you, but when that was my whole life—moving, new things, new people—those few days made you more familiar as a whole than just about everything else.”

The bus stops, allowing Taehyung a chance to consider Jungkook’s words as they ascend and pay for their ride, the boys settling into a paired seat in the very back. The heaters coat the windows with a thick fog, and within seconds of taking his seat by the window, Jungkook is unzipping his jacket.

Taehyung smiles and chooses not to reply, instead asking, “I’m guessing you’ve never been to a hospital, since your body temperature runs so high?”

Jungkook shakes his head. “I went, once. I had to get my tonsils out. Jiyong-hyung just blamed my temperature on a cold.”

They chatted a bit more, mostly on where he would stay since Taehyung’s house could no longer be an option, and he shrugged, assuming he could sneak into other people’s houses during the days for showers.

“And I’ll sleep in the woods in my wolf form at night.” At Taehyung’s concerned frown, he waves him off, “Remember, I’m equipped for that.”

Without considering the weight of consequences, Taehyung protests, “But how am I supposed to stay over if there’s no place to stay?”

He considers backpedaling, but instead waits to see what Jungkook will do. And, when he casts an incredulous look his way, Taehyung owns it: “No more sleepovers for a while then, I guess.”

“That sucks,” Jungkook sighs, after thinking it over and reaching no favorable conclusion of his own. “No cuddles until next week, when I can stay over again.”

“You’re really sticking around for a while, then?” Taehyung asks, hating how his heart thunders in his chest with hope.

“I want to, yes.” Guessing at his limits, Jungkook lays a hand on Taehyung’s knee, his eyes darting up for just a breath to meet his. “Just because those few days meant a lot to me, doesn’t mean that’s all I want from you.”

“Well then,” Taehyung’s hand rests overtop of Jungkook’s, squeezing when the werewolf doesn’t make a move even at the touch, “I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.”

--

And if Taehyung thought taunting, tempting Jungkook was hard to rebuff, the Jungkook that drags him to dinner and karaoke—the Jungkook that asks him if he likes to feed the ducks and if he wants to split a dessert cake—is a million times more seductive. Jungkook might be new to the perks of humans, but he treads with a testing wonder and eagerness to experience that slips under every one of Taehyung’s defenses.

The week bleeds into the next, and when Jungkook visits with a promise of only spending the night, as he and his parents have plans early the next morning, his parents even greet him warmly.

Taehyung thinks only of when the games end and how their bodies will touch after a week of knowing each other.

Likewise, the time spent watching television and video games only builds to a horrible, tense peak, when they strip for bed and watch each other, refusing to pretend otherwise. Jungkook told him all about alphas, but the way he follows Taehyung’s movements aches with tenderness and yearning—not the emotions of a creature built for taking and dominating.

They curl against each other, and Taehyung finds himself speaking, hating that his own future has a specific, set path that he doesn’t dare deviate from, while Jungkook’s is cast in shadow. “When I go to university, I’m going to stay in the dorms, but I could get an apartment. I don’t know how I’d pay for that on my own, but I could get a job, take out a loan, and you could stay with me there. Have an actual place to rest your head.”

“Taehyung…” He exhales, “I don’t want it to all be on you. It’s not fair, that I can’t help you.”

“You can’t get a job without papers.” Taehyung exhales, the sound violent. “And I can’t afford sharing a dorm with a roommate that might see another man sharing my bed.” He wonders for a bleak moment why he can only think of the future, can barely feel Jungkook beside him for thoughts of their next moments. “I feel like a child when I try to plan for the future.”

A hand finds his cheek, the fingers calloused and gentle. “You don’t have to. I’ll make it work. Stay in a dorm if that’s easier. We can spend our time together like we’ve been.”

Realization smacks Taehyung and he hisses, “But I don’t want to just be friends with you!” He hears Jungkook’s intake of breath and hurries on, “I want to be able to do this with you.” Groping blind in the dark, he finds Jungkook’s hand and laces their fingers together with more than a little help. “I know what I said. And I might stop feeling this way someday, but right now, I want a future where this is possible.”

“Good thing every future of mine I see is with you.” Jungkook wiggles closer, nuzzles the cleft between Taehyung’s shoulder and neck.

“Jungkook…”

“We’ll make this work. Whatever you want, I promise.” Taehyung could hear the determination interlocked in his words, along with longing.

He lays there until Jungkook lifts his head, questions in a whisper if he fell asleep, and Taehyung takes the opportunity to kiss him again, their lips falling together over and over until sleep breaks the touches, tugging Taehyung back into its soft arms.

--

The next few weeks are a dream; as Taehyung prepares for university, quitting cram school, he fills his days with Jungkook as soon as he finishes his chores. They wander all over the city, Taehyung too paranoid to bring Jungkook home on the off chance his parents still want him going to cram school (for some reason).

But, in their long days together, they steal more kisses, and Jungkook touches him more and more boldly as the days pass, Taehyung often the one to slip away from the werewolf’s grabby hands, too afraid of being found out. Without either voicing it, the anticipation of an apartment hangs over both of them. Taehyung loves his grandparents, but living with four adult figures meant he is never home alone, and thus he never trusts his privacy.

He works Jimin into his schedule, refuses to cut him out, and while Taehyung pretends that he never confessed about Jungkook, when he finally begins his first term in university and his thoughts are consumed by Jungkook in lighter clothes, Jimin makes his demand known:

“Are you going to introduce me?”

Taehyung doesn’t ask how Jimin knows Jungkook is still around, or how he knows it’s still relevant, and instead offers his own question in return:

“When?”

They agree on a date and time, Jimin buying him a coffee for the journey home, his friend’s gaze concerned, though the rest of his mannerisms contradict his care: He vibrates with excitement, but Taehyung doesn’t care. If Jimin anticipates it so much, it’s because he believes him.

He ventures into his woods that night to gain approval from the third party on the date and time, hands bundled into his pockets, as the late winter wind bites at any exposed flesh with a vengeance.

“Jungkook?” He calls, voice lowered in case the wind carries it to the farm.

Taehyung’s gaze swings from barren tree to tree, the dead branches of bushes scrabbling at his pants desperately, as if begging him to return the warmth of summer. He ignores their plaintive cries for help, searching for the enormous beast he assumes his friend would be cloaked in. Part of him wonders if Jungkook’s hunting for a meal and he refrains from calling out anymore, hoping Jungkook might smell him instead.

Minutes pass, and Taehyung’s nose begins to run with the cold and he sighs, stopping after he rounds another tree, planning on retreating to his warm home. It was rare to go more than a day or two without seeing Jungkook at that point, so he would surely see the werewolf the next day, if he didn’t stop by at all that night.

When he turns, a hulking figure looms in his path, the enormous wolf drawing a smile to his lips, as Taehyung recognizes the dappled browns of the creature’s pelt.

“Jungkookie!” He calls, breaking into a large grin unconsciously. “I was looking for you.”

He starts toward him, but the wolf presses heavily on his front paws. Taehyung thinks he looks like he’ll pounce, but the thought barely slips into words before Jungkook launches himself at the human, tackling him breathless onto the winter-hard ground.

The overwhelming heat pouring from his furry form counters his weight in the initial moments, before the pain of slamming against the ground hits him, and he groans, voice soft, as Jungkook sniffs him, his nose cold and wet under the collar of his jacket.

“Get off!” He finally locates the mindset to protest. “You could have killed me!”

Jungkook growls at the thought, but instead of removing himself, he morphs, Taehyung half fascinated as always at the bones he feels snapping into new alignments over top of him.

Then a naked body presses to his own, the skin heated as the fur had been, but before Taehyung can thrash and toss him off, Jungkook’s hands have his wrists, pin them beside his head, and his body is heavy on top of his own, legs pinned around one of his legs.

“Jungkook—”

“You smell like him again,” Jungkook snarls into his neck, and Taehyung freezes. “I hate when you smell like him.”

“I come home smelling like tons of different people,” he tries to snap, but his voice comes out meek, Taehyung never having heard this tone from the werewolf before. “Why does Jimin matter?”

“Because!” He whines, “You were so…angry. That people thought you were a liar and you were mad at me for never sticking up for you. But he never stuck up for you, either!”

“Why would he have? I met him in middle school.”

Jungkook frowns at him, as if he was asking a confusing question. “Because he’s also a werewolf?”

Taehyung waits for him to crack and laugh it off. He stares up at him, prepared for the corners of Jungkook’s lips to quiver, laughter bursting out of him like fireworks.

But that didn’t happen.

“Wait. You seriously,” Taehyung lays his head back against the frozen ground, “think Jimin’s a werewolf, too?”

“He is!” Jungkook protests, “I can smell him on you! I know what other wolves smell like! And I thought you knew!”

“Well, obviously not!” Taehyung struggles, eyes going wide when Jungkook snaps at his neck. “You stop that! That is not appropriate behavior!”

Jungkook grumbles, drawing back enough to encourage Taehyung to take a deep breath, gathering his thoughts.

“Would he know you’re a werewolf?”

“Definitely.” Jungkook’s gaze picked over Taehyung’s chest, one hand gathering both of his wrists, so he could drag the zipper on the coat down. “Alphas have the second strongest scents.”

Waving off the need to protest the touches, knowing Jungkook likely only did that to try to distract him, Taehyung asks, “So, why would he want to meet with you? He wanted ‘proof’ that you were a werewolf.”

Jungkook growls and wrenches his jacket open, Taehyung gasping at the cold, nearly giving up his goal to plea with the werewolf to stop, when he speaks, “Probably because he wants to reveal himself to you. It would be easier if we were both wolves. And he’d probably start spouting some nonsense about dating betas being a better path for humans.”

“Jungkook—” he shudders as the wolf bunches his shirt up below his armpits, exposing his nipples to the cold air. “Is that true? Would it be better to date a beta?” Taehyung blushes at the thought, though they should both know the answer doesn’t matter; he wants to date Jungkook. Not Jimin.

He leans down, tongue dragging over one of Taehyung’s nipples, and the shocked moan that pierces the air freezes them both, forces the human to face the situation he somehow got himself into.

“Probably,” Jungkook admits, the warm breath a contrast to the icy air on Taehyung’s now-wet chest. “Betas aren’t as possessive, aren’t as sex driven—”

“You’ve never pushed me for sex before.”

They both sense the irony of their current position, and Jungkook only says, “I didn’t want to push you.”

“Then what is this?”

Seeing Taehyung shiver, his tongue curls over the hardened bud, flicking it and rolling it like he has all the time in the world. Heat pulses south, despite the exposure, and Taehyung bites back a whimper.

“This is me saying I’ll meet him.” He gives the nipple a gentle tug with his teeth, unmoved even when Taehyung thrashes at the sensation. “I’ll meet him if you smell like me.”

“J-Jungkook—”

“I’ll do it even if you don’t, actually.” He presses his lips to Taehyung’s chest, glances up at him through his eyelashes, abashed. “But I want you to, more than anything. I want to hear you say you want to, most of all.”

His free hand circles Taehyung’s other nipple, his lips suckling at the same one, mouth a vacuum of warm wetness. Taehyung’s legs might have kicked in alarm earlier, but now they squirm, no power in them, unable to handle the sensation, whimpers leaking out where he can’t contain them.

Part of him separates from the situation, stuck on the inappropriateness of their surroundings. They never went beyond kisses before, and while he would be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about it, he doubted either of them carried lube, or anything to assist penetration.

“Kook—I don’t know how we could have sex out here…if that’s what—you intend.”

Instead of responding, Jungkook licks a line down Taehyung’s chest to his soft stomach, and then his hands are fumbling with his fly, so much more assured than when he dressed himself for the first time in Taehyung’s room.

As he pulls the button from the hole and yanks the little zipper down, he promises, “If I promise you it won’t hurt, can I?”

“Um? Putting anything in my ass will hurt?”

Deliberately, his hand slips into Taehyung’s boxers, the warmth knocking a gasp from Taehyung’s lips, and he smirks, tongue tracing his lips to emphasize. “Not everything.”

The pause is pregnant. “Fine. But if it hurts, you stop.”

Jungkook nods, and his pants are dragged down before Taehyung can blink, the cold air assaulting him there, and the werewolf coos a little noise of reassurance, backtracking to remove Taehyung’s boots, leaving his thick socks.

“You practically prepared for this,” Jungkook teased, setting his boots off to the side, then unceremoniously yanking his pants off next.

“You won’t be saying that when I get frostbite on my balls.”

“Erotic.” Jungkook rolls his eyes and spreads Taehyung’s legs, moving to settle between them. “You know I’m too warm for that to happen.”

And as his heat presses down on Taehyung, he feels his joints loosen up, his legs curling up around Jungkook languidly. They kiss again, lips locking together in slow, wet glides that break into several gasps as his cock bumps against Jungkook’s. The friction on its own is almost painful, so Jungkook shifts himself so their cocks no longer brush and swipes into his mouth, hot and demanding as they kiss, the werewolf not stopping him when he begins to rut up against his thigh. Taehyung vaguely thinks he hears a strange noise, but he ignores it as Jungkook nips sharply at his upper lip, breaking their kiss at a gasp from the human.

He gives the hurt spot a gentle lick, then kisses over Taehyung’s cheek, down his jaw, peppering him with kisses so sweet that Taehyung reels from the tone whiplash, his own insistent pushing of his hips against Jungkook slowing.

Jungkook sucks at a spot along his jawline, cackling against the skin when Taehyung warns that his parents will kill him if he comes home with such an obvious mark.

“Fine. Lower, then.” He drifts, kisses a spot below his ear, then shifts forward. “But you better promise to leave the scarf at home when I meet Jimin.”

Distracted, Taehyung scowls at him, hands digging into his shoulders, nails not piercing past the coat, and he comments, breath hitching as Jungkook sucks a mark onto his neck, “Can’t you take some of your clothes off?”

Chuckling, Jungkook draws back after he finishes his mark, tongue slipping over the bruise with apology.

“Sure.”

Withdrawing from him after one last kiss to his neck, Jungkook sits back on his calves, unveiling more nudity than Taehyung expected, his cock in his right hand, where he pumps himself in sure, steady strokes.

“What are you doing?” Taehyung squeaks, eyes zeroed in on him, finally in the right situation to look and appreciate him. It’s a cock like any other: Aroused and red and dewed with precum, so it’s not it that that draws Taehyung’s hunger to the surface, but the glint in Jungkook’s eyes as he catches him looking.

“Do you like what you see?”

Taehyung’s expression glazes with longing as Jungkook tosses back his coat and hoodie, the undershirt wrenching up over his head, exposing his chest, and he says, “Yes.”

Jungkook huffs out a pleased laugh, but instead of closing the distance between them again, his hand sinks back to his cock, tugging at himself, sliding the foreskin back and forth over his erection, the head wet and gleaming with precum. That, Taehyung observes with fascination, the man licking his lips, before complaining, “If you cum way before me, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”

Part of him can’t believe they’re doing this, but a greedy, hidden part of him rears its head, and he demands, “Stop touching yourself and come here.”

Obeying halfway, Jungkook fills the empty space on top of a rapidly cooling Taehyung and kisses him again, stealing the breath from his lips, though only one hand plants itself beside the human’s head, the other still south.

He groans a noise of protest into their lip-lock, but Jungkook uses the opportunity to press his tongue into the man’s mouth, kissing him breathless, so that he can grasp at the werewolf, but not form enough collective desire to smack him for jerking himself off.

The next time Jungkook breaks the kiss, instead of diverting to Taehyung’s neck, he sits up and shuffles forward, his breathing ragged, and Taehyung understands in an instant what’s about to happen, when the wolf positions himself over his bare chest, body quivering with pent-up arousal. It would take a second to ward him off, but Taehyung finds that the words won’t come.

Gasping, his breathing ragged and steaming in the air, Jungkook pumps himself to completion, his cum painting Taehyung’s upper chest, sending a shuddering pulse of want through the man.

“Never expected you to be done so early,” he quips, assuming Jungkook would finish him off, too. Taehyung wonders why he rushed things, but chalks it up to their lack of lube, thoughts not meeting reality as Jungkook relocates south once more.

Even when he positions himself between Taehyung’s legs, shifting him, it doesn’t click until he reaches up, gathering as much of his own cum in his hands as he can.

“What are you doing?”

In reply, Jungkook’s head bows as if in prayer, the tip of his sinful tongue flicking over the head of Taehyung’s cock, eliciting a shocked gasp, distracting Taehyung as the werewolf’s hand descends further, past his balls, to his entrance. One slick finger presses to the tensed muscles, and Taehyung’s cheeks redden as he cries, “You can’t fuck me with just your cum!” right as Jungkook presses his first finger in with relative ease.

He whimpers, the sensation and the knowledge of Jungkook’s cum inside him shaking him, his own cock insistent and hard against his abdomen, begging for attention, but the shock of everything freezes him. It feels dirty; slick and wet, and Taehyung trembles, feeling light-headed as he realizes he wants more.

Jungkook’s finger curls within him, shifting in gentle undulations that coax Taehyung to relax—the goal aided by Jungkook lapping at the head of his cock, the werewolf’s tongue hot and agonizing over his sensitive member.

“Jungkook,” he stutters over the first syllable, hands tensing as he comes to the conclusion that Jungkook’s hair is the only safe, warm place to cling onto. Taehyung’s voice peaks in a whimper when Jungkook bows and catches the head against his lower lip, planting a wet kiss that has Taehyung bucking his hips up, only to roll them down when Jungkook begins stroking him internally.

Unable to choose which pleasure to chase, he whimpers and lets Jungkook play his body like an instrument: The werewolf sucking the head into his mouth, tongue laving over the head, working over the frenulum as his finger does within.

Another moan crests over Taehyung, and Jungkook takes the opportunity to slip a second finger into him, wet with his cum, his hand smearing the remaining over Taehyung’s entrance, the two digits working it in and out of him before it can fully dry.

Taehyung watches him with a detached awe, his pleasure its own creature within him, growing and peaking and demanding more, his cock throbbing at the smugness to Jungkook’s expression as he pleasures him. He can’t fathom having sex with just cum as lube, but his thoughts wander far from that idea, concentrated on how Jungkook hollows out his cheeks, sucking with vigor, as if to milk him dry.

Moaning at the thought, his hands tighten in Jungkook’s hair, the suction on his cock a beautiful agony, compounding with the image, playing out in front of him over and over, of Jungkook pushing his cum into Taehyung’s body, marking him in the best way possible when they don’t dare have sex without lube.

Panting Jungkook’s name out between little whimpers, Taehyung feels the flush spread down his body, moaning in little whimpers as Jungkook’s head bobs over him, his fingers webbing inside him, the slide still slick and naughty. And, on top of those things, his chest has the faintest stickiness to it, still.

Taehyung yearns for Jungkook to fill him, the virgin blushing at his internal audacity that the fingers, while a stretch, aren’t nearly enough. With Jungkook’s mouth, he can accept something less than sex this time, but he already dreams of the future, Taehyung’s back bowing with mounting pleasure.

Grabbing far too hard as Jungkook sinks down further than before and then chokes—the cruelty of his compounding pleasure not lost on him—Taehyung feels the ecstasy sparkling on the horizon, taunting him, and he begs, “Please” with a litany of Jungkook’s name pouring out alongside it.

Jungkook’s fingers fixate on a spot inside him, his lips close around the crown of his cock, and the pressure, just right on both points, has Taehyung wailing with pleasure, his back taunt as a bowstring pulled tight, then released.

He cums down Jungkook’s throat with a final gasp, like air can situate in his lungs once more, trailed by a last whimper as he feels the werewolf swallow around him.

Ascending into the stratosphere, Taehyung feels the cold first, nipping at his exposed, sweaty body, but even that disappears as a giant, furry body presses against his own.

Blinking, turning his head, he frowns at the wolf even as the creature snuffles up to his warm stomach, sheltering him from the wind on three sides, as Taehyung begins to dress himself again, groaning at the spunk dripping from his abused entrance.

“Am I supposed to clean up with leaves?” He shot an accusing glare at Jungkook, who admittedly rebuffed it with his large, sweet eyes with little effort.

After a terrible internal debate, he wipes his chest and attempts to clean his butt, but one swipe of the rough-spun material of his gloves and his eyes well up with tears. Sacrificing his underwear appears to be the only option, so he dresses, motions languid post-orgasm, then curls up against wolf-Jungkook, sleepy and unwilling to trek back to his house without a little rest first.

When he comes to, after dosing for no more than twenty minutes, Jungkook’s back in human form, his arms slung around Taehyung, arms tense despite the light hold.

“I’ll meet with him.” Jungkook says, as if they never stopped their conversation.

“Generous of you,” Taehyung snorts, cheeks flushing when Jungkook shuffles him closer.

“Tomorrow?”

“I’ll text him.” He moves to grab his phone, repressing a laugh when Jungkook attempts to shift with him, resulting in an odd, joined contortion. “We’re going to have to go back.”

“You seem comfortable.”

“I am.” Taehyung exhales. “I can’t believe we did that.”

“I can.” The grin in Jungkook’s words is unreal, elicits a suspicious scowl from the human. “You’re mine.”

That provides adequate reasoning to launch himself into a sitting position alongside his protests, “That’s so stupid. People can’t belong to each other, and just because you put your fingers and—other stuff—in my butt doesn’t mean—”

He rants about Jungkook’s wording for another minute, and the werewolf accepts it with an adoring, gracious smile and not a word in his own defense.

--

Jimin texts back within the hour, so the next morning, Taehyung alerts his parents to his whereabouts, winds a scarf around his neck, and ventures out to catch the bus.

Jungkook peels out of the woods as he walks, matching pace as they go, saying, “You’re wearing a scarf” before “good morning,” not that Taehyung expects one, at the petulant huff that begets his words.

“I am.”

“Why?” He reaches up to tug at it, and Taehyung lets him, biting back a laugh that builds until he can’t, when Jungkook uncovers a turtleneck beneath and lets out an affronted growl. “I spent all that time marking you up!”

“To be a possessive jerk.” Taehyung texts Jimin that he’s waiting for the bus, a sense of unease curling in his stomach as he thinks over Jungkook’s confession the day prior. “If he really is a werewolf, you’re basically claiming your meat.”

He is unprepared for Jungkook to grab his ass and declare, “You’re damn right I am.”

Jumping about a meter, Taehyung swats him away, and snaps, “If you’re going to play this game, we’re going to talk about this. Got it?” The angry wind sustaining him disperses when Jungkook nods, appropriate in the somberness he displays.

A decent bus ride awaits them, so as they wait at the stop, Taehyung’s hands bunch up in his armpits so he doesn’t feel tempted to try to hold Jungkook’s hand.

“What…do you want with me?” Taehyung clears his throat as the wind snatches strands of his bangs out of place. His heart throbs when Jungkook tucks the piece back up into his beanie. “I mean, do werewolves have casual sex? What happens when you want a pack? I can’t exactly run around the woods all the time.”

Jungkook lets him babble his concerns about their worlds, devolving from boys sharing a dorm room, to his future job, to Jungkook not having the room to run around if he settles in a city. There’s a million options for his future that he dares not consider on a normal day, but with Jungkook thrown into the mix, everything sort of explodes. He doesn’t want to say it, but “winging it” at that point would be akin to admitting they couldn’t make anything long term work.

“I want whatever makes you happy.” Jungkook reaches up, as if to fix his hair again, but instead smooths out a wrinkle in Taehyung’s forehead. “I really want to touch you more, like yesterday.” He curls in on himself as he speaks, eyes glowing with hope. “I think the human term is ‘boyfriends.’ I would like that.”

“Really?”

“It’s a bit early to mate,” Jungkook rationalizes, ignoring how Taehyung chokes at the word, “and ‘boyfriend’ implies that you’re still loyal to me.”

“You say that like I’m some cheater,” Taehyung protests.

Shocking him, Jungkook leans in, planting a gentle kiss against his cheek. “I didn’t mean that.” He draws away as the bus appears clanking down the road. “Wolves, though. We’re different than humans. Werewolves, anyway. We mate for life, usually.” His eyes cut toward Taehyung.

They climb up the stairs, and despite the driver, Taehyung chokes out, “How long?”

Jungkook doesn’t play dumb. “Probably since you found me, but I didn’t…think of that until we made up.” Taehyung takes a private paired seat in the back, silent so he can continue. “Normally wolves start sniffing around each other at that age, fight with other wolves for play-dominance, and while I did the second thing, there was no interest in people that were ‘probably’ going to be omegas.”

He sinks down into the seat beside Taehyung, their thighs pressing together. “I didn’t care.”

“But you care about Jimin.”

“I do,” he glances out the window, past Taehyung. “You can still choose him.” His lips tighten. “It’s not like I would lurk around and threaten you both if you chose him. I know it doesn’t work that way for humans.”

Taehyung thinks about reminding him that he could choose neither, but the words seize in his throat, and instead, he says, “But if you want to live in my world, you need a birth certificate. You need to have gone to school, and you need to have a job. And I can’t roam around in the woods like a wolf.”

Silence falls in the wake of his words, but as anxiety tears through him, Jungkook thinks, his lips pursed tightly as he attempts to problem-solve. Knowing he should leave him to it, Taehyung still wishes he would speak aloud, at least to distract him from his own tumultuous thoughts. He can’t offer Jungkook much, but the strain that haunts him as he thinks of their future tells him that he wants to date Jungkook and see where their future could take them.

The future looms, barreling toward him like his next birthday, and as the air tightens around him, Jungkook’s hand slips into his, the grip simple, yet firm.

He breathes and holds on, savoring the natural warmth Jungkook exudes, and begins to think of a future where they bridge both worlds, never letting go of the other.

“I have an idea.” Jungkook says when the city comes into view. “But even if it doesn’t work, I’m not giving up just like that. Not unless you do.”

“I won’t.” Taehyung swallows, unsure how he can live up to the promise, despite feeling it in his bones. “We have to be careful, but I want to try this.”

“Me, too, hyung.” The human formality drips from his lips and Taehyung blushes, can’t look at him, even when Jungkook lays his head against his shoulder. They ride in silence until they reach their stop, bodies curled together even with the devastating bumps of the bus that seemed determined to drive them apart.

--

Jimin agreed to meet them at a café, nice and homey, with nooks perfect for concealing conversation in, reminiscent of every k-drama ever. Taehyung, in a perpetual moment of weakness with Jungkook, buys them both a coffee and cookie, as they join Jimin at the booth he chose, speakers playing the latest girl-group single over them, an extra layer of protection.

Taehyung sits next to Jungkook, eyes slipping down to meet the surface of the table when Jimin purses his lips, gaze calculating, then horrified in the space of a heartbeat.

“Oh my god. You’re a fucking animal.” He tugs his scarf up over his nose, eyes wide, before they narrow into a dark glare as he stares Jungkook down.

Glancing between the two, Taehyung chokes on nothing, mind starting and stopping with raw, unfiltered embarrassment, as it hits him why, of all things, Jungkook specifically came on his chest and pressed it into him. Part of him wants to decry this discovery with his own: Jimin lied to him, never told him what he really is. If he can smell Jungkook on him, it must be true.

“I’ve showered!” He hisses first, shooting a panicked look at Jungkook, who is reclined, too at ease for the fate he just sealed for himself.

“Doesn’t matter.” Jimin lifts his mug of coffee to his lips, inhaling. “That stuff’s meant to mark. It’s almost as bad as if he peed on you.”

Nose wrinkling at the thought, Taehyung dodges his shame and asks, “So it’s true? You’re a wolf?”

“Werewolf,” he corrects, just like Jungkook when Taehyung teases him.

Uncoiling from his hunched position over the table, Taehyung stretches and cracks his back, hiding his frown in a bite of his cookie, the dark cloud hovering over him nearly dispersing when Jungkook inhales his in two bites. Nearly.

“Why did you never tell me? You…had to have heard about the rumors.”

“Kids say stupid shit,” Jimin shrugs, “I had no way of knowing if you really met a werewolf or not. Especially since everyone around our age in my pack didn’t report meeting a small farm boy when they were young.”

“Our pack would pass through in the winter.” Jungkook plays with the tab of his coffee, eyes focused on the table, as if mimicking dogs that would fight at the meeting of eyes. “I would only see him two days a year.”

Taehyung, in contrast, stares at his old friend, whose brow is furrowed with gentle concern, as he returns the human’s gaze. “You’re in society, though. We went to school together.”

“We’re a city pack,” he explains, “not a wild pack. We integrated into human society long before I was born, so our births are registered at hospitals and we have the identification.” Jimin smiles, takes a sip of his coffee. “We also have domain over the bits of wilderness around Seoul, so we run through them when we need to let loose.”

“That’s a lot of territory,” Taehyung thinks about the pattern that Jungkook’s pack took, “I’m guessing that’s how they run through the city every year?”

“Pretty much.” Jimin shrugs. “If we find them, we run alongside them to make sure they all pass out with no problems, so we don’t have to fight during such a hard period of time to find food.”

“Wait. You hunt your food, too?”

“Not exactly,” Jimin clears his throat. “It’s more for their benefit.”

“Plus, their pack has a lot of in-fighting,” Jungkook cuts in, nose wrinkled defensively, “they don’t chase out their alphas, so their big pack is very divided. If we assembled and attacked, odds are we would win before the other subdivisions could assemble.”

Sensing a fight coming, Taehyung cuts them off, “So. This was more of your confession to me, than a demand to see Jungkook as a wolf?”

“Yeah.” Jimin ducks his head, biting his lower lip. “I’m sorry, Tae. I wanted to tell you, but how exactly do you just bring that up? And what if you thought I was a monster?”

Without thinking about it, Taehyung reaches for his hand across the table, taking it with a gentle touch. “Then you don’t know me very well. I would never think that, Chim.”

Before Jimin can reply, a growl rips through the air, too bestial to conceal from anyone nearby, though the above speaker did its job. They both whip to stare at Jungkook, whose eyes are fixated on their hands, the alpha pouting, despite the threatening sound.

Not letting go of Jimin’s hand, Taehyung flicks Jungkook’s ear with an unimpressed frown. “Quit that.”

“But—”

“No.”

Jimin squeezes his hand, sticks his tongue out at the alpha, then doubles back, amazed, when Jungkook hunches in on himself, listening to Taehyung instead of acting on his possessive tendencies.

“I really wanted to meet with you.” Jungkook begins, once Taehyung kicks him under the table, hissing to stop pouting. “Not just because you and Tae are close, but because I want to stay here with him.”

“So you want permission—” Jimin starts to smirk.

“No! I want,” Jungkook scowls, “okay, maybe. But it’s more than just that.” He stares at him with expectation, “I was wondering if you could get me papers, so I could work.”

“You want to work? Wild wolves normally look down on that.”

“Well, I’m not making Taehyung live his life in the woods.” Jungkook echoes what the human told him earlier. “I wouldn’t want him there. Someone might try to hurt him to get at me. As his friend, I assumed we have similar wants.”

“We don’t.” Jimin states, “I don’t want him with you.”

“Why?” Taehyung finally speaks up, voice quivering.

“Because he’s an idiot.” Jimin blinks, as if surprised Taehyung can’t see that.

“Not because you have feelings for me?” Taehyung bridges, voice choked.

Jimin pauses, considers, then begins laughing so hard that an awkward silence falls over the other two at the table. He finally stops, wipes an eye, and professes, “Tae, if I had any feelings for you, don’t you think I would have said something before getting to meet your muscle pig?”

“Wolf,” Jungkook mutters under his breath.

“That’s…true,” Taehyung sighs, the exhalation dramatic, and instead says, “Well, do you have any advice?” He nudges Jimin’s foot beneath the table, letting his thigh brush against Jungkook’s. “It seems like a long shot, but I would like a life where I get to see him more than a few times a year, because he can’t live in the city.”

“Well, he could, but he would have to submit to one of our packs.” Jimin waves off Jungkook’s quiet growl. “I know, I know, but it is an option. Unless you want to try to lead a pack while dating a human? You think anyone would accept that?”

Jungkook doesn’t answer, and Jimin continues, “We have people in one of the hospitals, but papers don’t give you an education that you never received.”

“Is there any way you can fake that?” Jungkook asks. “It’s not like I want to go to university. I just want to work.”

“You can pass the high school equivalency test,” Jimin muses, and they talk about that for a while, before settling on a favor from Jimin’s pack, so Jungkook could have a tutor for the equivalency exam. It seemed far-fetched even to Jungkook, who swore he would make it happen somehow, but when Taehyung’s faith dipped, Jungkook would take his hand and swear that he wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t what he wanted for his future.

So, instead of fussing over Jungkook while in school, Taehyung, Jimin, Jungkook, and the tutor Jimin commandeered, an omega named Namjoon, all study together, with the first two attending university together while the latter two studied somewhere public, just in case. Taehyung didn’t grasp the significance of it until the day Jimin took him aside and grudgingly gave his approval: If Jungkook wasn’t committed to Taehyung, being around an unmated omega, even one as big as Namjoon, should have proved an impossible distraction. Taehyung wants to be angry at Jimin when he hears this, but he is mostly relieved.

As he finishes up his first term of university, he and Jungkook begin learning how to touch, first through much softer actions, up into renting out cheap motel rooms, so Jungkook can take all night on him. It’s hard to find time, even harder to withhold the touches for most of the days and nights, but in the whispered conversations when Jungkook sneaks in through his window, they cement their wants, and oh; do they want this.

Taehyung searches for a job so he might rent an apartment in the city, not wanting to move far, comfortable with his friendships that are budding within the pack, Namjoon a stable presence that’s more than willing to help him when he gets stuck on a subject in addition to Jungkook, who drowns in his studies some nights. But, his enthusiasm for a future in both of their worlds wakes him early and even keeps him away from Taehyung, when the weeks before his test approach.

Supportive in his silence, Taehyung worries away both thumbnails, knowing it would crush Jungkook if he fails, despite never receiving a formal education before the prior year, and though he could never admit it to anyone, even drunk, he fears Jungkook giving up on them if their future appears too impossible to achieve.

When the morning comes, Taehyung wakes earlier than even his grandmother, determined to cook Jungkook breakfast before he catches the bus to his high school. They eat in silence, having agreed to a joint morning ritual days prior, and while nerves choke both of them, Taehyung musters up his own well of courage to kiss him, hands on either cheek, like he could support Jungkook just through that.

Jungkook leans into him, like Taehyung’s body heat is the one that’s self-sustaining, and they break apart as a door back in the house scrapes open. Taehyung stares at him, teeth worrying his lower lip, and they split across the kitchen, Taehyung rinsing pots and pans while Jungkook scrapes the remaining bits of food into the garbage.

They greet his grandmother with cheerful voices, Jungkook’s anxious pinch to his lips fading a bit when the old woman pats him on the head, sure that he’ll do well on his test. As much as Taehyung hates lying to his family, to uphold the farce about Jungkook, they told them that Jungkook’s grades didn’t transfer. So while they know what he’s doing, that’s as far as their knowledge stretches.

As before, they ride the bus together, parting at different stops, and while Taehyung’s daring ends at public kisses, the look Jungkook sends him, hopeful and glowing despite his own concerns of insufficiency, warms his insides like a kiss would. Like, despite the endeavor being all Jungkook’s, that Taehyung is the one that needs comforting.

It burns through him. He hopes it works. It has to work.

Taehyung waits for him at their usual coffee shop, the study room procured by a strange chance of luck that he’d had for the majority of the semester. He dares not buy a cup of coffee as he awaits the results, his miniscule savings protesting, along with the current jittering of his leg.

However, despite shunning coffee, the study room was the best choice, as Jungkook slams into it, exclaiming, “I really think I passed!” before kissing him breathless, their chairs screeching their protests against the floor. Jungkook even leaves the door to the rest of the shop open, but Taehyung can’t care, can only kiss him back.

His hands grab the lapels of Jungkook’s jacket and he lets Jungkook pin him, the wobbling of the thin, divisive wall a threat that neither of them acknowledge. They kiss until Jungkook discovers that he can’t lift Taehyung against the shaky divisor, and he spins them, laying him back against the table, chest to chest. Taehyung is fully willing to prolong the kiss, when he feels something hard pressing against his hip and yanks away.

“Kook, not here,” he breathes, despite wanting him so badly he can taste it.

“But this is it.” His pupils are blown, the dark wildness to his eyes more animal than Taehyung had been allowed to see in a while. “I can work. Or, I can go to school. I told you I’d do this—” They hear an “and” and a “but” that hang from his last word, but it doesn’t matter what they feared or which direction he’ll take. Now that both know Jungkook has the capacity and the want, it’s there, solid, and affection blindsides Taehyung, sweeping him up from the table into Jungkook’s arms.

“Not yet.”

“What?” Jungkook draws back, blinks.

“This is it for me,” Taehyung blushes despite his conviction. “Not for you.”

“But—”

“I know it might not be the same,” Taehyung cuts him off, “but I want you to mark me.” At Jungkook’s stunned gaping, he continues, the words gushing out of him, “I don’t know if it would last, and I know we’re kind of young for the ‘life-bond’ thing, but it seems unfair that you’re committing to this whole new world and you’re alone, and I can’t—”

Jungkook shuts him up with another kiss, a hand on his jaw, stroking with a trembling touch. There’s no franticness from the moments prior—it feels more like an earthquake hit, and Jungkook’s the only support beam.

“You don’t have to do that now.” He smiles, a vulnerability in his eyes that Taehyung never witnessed before. “I know it’s a big deal, lifetime commitment. We can wait.”

And Taehyung, the coward, doesn’t bring it up again for a long while.

--

University, a pipe-dream when Jungkook presented as an alpha, becomes a reality a little over a year later. He attends, focusing on environmental studies, as the nature of creating to preserve ecosystems and developing so things are cleaner, strikes a chord with him. Too many of his old pack members fell sick due to unknown substances they encountered in the wild.

He attends the same school as Taehyung, two years behind him, and while the public stuff still frightens Taehyung, more and more parties arise that find them all over each other behind easily opened, closed doors. Not long after their initial encounter, they started having sex when the weather suited the woods or Taehyung’s barn, pitching in for a motel room when they really needed a place where Taehyung could be loud with no possible repercussions.

Jungkook still leaves a kaleidoscope of hickeys on him whenever they have nights together, Taehyung brushing it off to his parents, who think he has game and scold him for not focusing on his studies. Yet, because they never meet any girls or see his grades suffering, they mostly huff, but don’t move to limit him or spy. He’s planning on moving out soon, renting his own space once he has a job, perhaps sharing it with Jimin, who he knows would play nice enough to let the lone wolf stay with them.

It’s on a night, close to graduation, when Taehyung stays up late to double-check his resumé, bemoaning the spelling error he discovered after his last interview, Jungkook studiously working beside him on his homework, that things finally take shape. The werewolf arrived about an hour before with takeout, and despite being too stuffed to focus properly, they both attempt to work.

Through idle scratchings of pencil on paper, the sound of Jungkook’s breathing soothes him. More and more these days, he yearns to share a bed with him and sulks over his low-paying job at a nearby coffee shop, already dreaming of his future, “adult” job.

Lost in these thoughts, he jolts when Jungkook lays a hand on his arm, the fond smile erupting across his face enough to enflame Taehyung’s cheeks.

“What?”

“I love you.” He tells him, as if it’s nothing, and while they whispered the taboo phrase to each other in the post-coital bliss, it never snuck into their daily life, too dangerous with those around them that wouldn’t support it. Hearing it then, Taehyung could do nothing but bite his lower lip and repeat it, voice husky.

Jungkook strokes up and down his arm, gaze molten in the light, and the air tightens between them, like someone tied a chord to their ribcages and is slowly cranking the line tighter.

“I know I said I wouldn’t pressure you,” Jungkook murmurs, “but I’ve been thinking a lot about marking you lately. I just want you to know I don’t feel any differently about it than three years ago.”

Taehyung swallows, the pressure still a crushing warning, but unlike the Taehyung leaving high school, it thrills him to think about the mark. Any heterosexual couple would be thinking about engagement at that point—a fact his school friends love to tease him about when he talks about his “girlfriend.”

Hangouts with Namjoon still function as two wolves of equal caliber, even on a day Namjoon stumbles into a heat and the pheromones are so strong and familiar that Jungkook nearly drags him off before either of them realized what was happening. Once Jungkook snapped out of the headspace, he called Namjoon a cab and reported to Taehyung, who became a ragdoll after the crazy rounds of sex the alpha put him through, moaning his name with wanton desperation.

One drunken period, Jungkook confessed he would want pups with Taehyung, if he was born an omega. Half of it sits on Taehyung’s conscience, dragging his thoughts toward self-doubt, wondering if limiting an alpha to a life with a human was fair, while the other dreams of a future where they could have a family, adopt some children, or perhaps even purchase a surrogate.

Like always, Taehyung thought too far ahead. Unlike before, though, he voices it to Jungkook as they sit there, the same linoleum under their feet from the decades prior, the furniture silent, wise ancients to oversee this new romance.

“I’m afraid. It’s permanent.”

“You wouldn’t want forever with me?” Jungkook asks, voice not accusatory, but not unaffected.

“It’s not that. What if…what if things go bad between us? What if we fight every day and start to hate each other?”

Jungkook rises from the table then, movement silken from years of similar placement, and he approaches Taehyung, crouching when he would tower over him. “Listen.” He meets Taehyung’s gaze, and said man takes a moment to appreciate how far they’d come, how he could trace the soft lines of the child Jungkook used to be in his face, could recognize every scar and freckle. “Mated wolves can leave. They can find love again.” He closes his eyes, a moment of cowardice. “The only thing that changes is that you can never mate again. Which means you can’t breed or feel your mate, which I don’t know if we could even do.”

The hard part over, Jungkook rushes out, “And since you’re a human, you can’t mate with anyone. I don’t even know if you’d be able to feel me. There would be nothing for you to lose; nothing to stop you from trying again with someone else.”

Taehyung almost doesn’t fathom how someone could want to give up their shot at a perfect lover for the chance with a human, but when he looks at himself, he finds the answer is the same despite Jungkook’s words. It’s the conviction Jungkook speaks with, the pain, that has Taehyung blurting out, “I do want to be your mate, though. I just don’t want to ruin your chance to have that with another wolf.”

He finishes the first sentence, and Jungkook laughs, a bell-clear note of music that precedes a pair of warm arms slinging around him, roping him into a tight hug and a frantic kiss. Pliant in his arms, Taehyung follows his lead, kissing and kissing until oxygen feels like a stranger to him.

“There is no other wolf,” Jungkook groans against his lips, kissing the corner of his mouth, his chin, in between his words, as if he can’t stomach stopping long enough to speak. “I think you’re misunderstanding how we work. It’s you, Tae. It’s always been you. Even when I’m with other people, even when people flirt with me, even when it’s people I find attractive, if they’re not you, then I don’t care.”

Trembling, the words sinking through him with tangible promise, he kisses Jungkook again, follows him when he guides Taehyung toward the door outside, breaking their touches with a muffled laugh.

“Where are you going?” Taehyung whines.

“If I don’t leave, your family will get to witness me mounting you.” Jungkook’s eyes shine with dark promise, Taehyung shivering with reminder of the amazing sex that follows a mating. “I feel like you saying you want to be my mate doesn’t mean to fuck you on your kitchen table.”

“Good observation.” Taehyung agrees weakly, drawing back to let his boyfriend gather up his supplies. “Soon, though.”

“Soon.” Jungkook agrees.

--

“Soon” arrives two nights after Taehyung’s graduation, when Jungkook can justify stealing him for a whole night, guiding them to a more-expensive hotel than they usually frequent when they can’t rationalize fucking in the barn and scaring the animals. Taehyung’s still overwhelmed and tipsy from the endless drinks his elders poured him, but when Jungkook excuses them, Jimin covering and lying that they would spend another night in Itaewon, reality renews him.

Everything falls together, a blanket of reassurance for Taehyung as Jungkook unveils the plush king-sized bed of the room he reserved for the evening, a cardboard container of chicken cheapening the brocade and velvet accents. The beers snuggled into the fridge are the cheapest you can buy, a staple from his high school years, and it feels like hints of them in this fairytale.

Taehyung wonders about a fairytale—a desired one—that ends with him mating and fucking his werewolf lover. He always preferred Jacob in Twilight, so perhaps he should have seen this coming, and when he shares this with Jungkook, he has to hide his face in shame when Jungkook professes that “Taylor Lautner could fuck me any day, no shame.”

“So much shame,” he corrects, and they strip before anything, before eating. Taehyung feels his spine straighten, his gestures fluid as he sheds his dress shirt and hangs it up, Jungkook not bothering to mock him after years of knowing that Taehyung loves and appreciates his clothing. He folds his pants next, accepting an overlarge, cheap t-shirt to eat in, Jungkook stripping down to his tight boxer-briefs and cracking a beer within a span of twenty seconds.

They take a picture from the waist up, professing chicken to each other, and they drink and eat, laughing at some drama that will come to represent this night forever to Taehyung in his memories. Unlike the night where they last talked about mating, this time, they eat until fullness without stuffing themselves, setting the chicken aside, the scent of the sweet sauce overlaying Taehyung’s cologne to his own nose.

Jungkook rolls over top of him, hands planted on either side of Taehyung’s head, and they’d done this so many times over the years that the broiling anticipation now derives from thoughts of the future.

He reached up to cup the side of Jungkook’s face, a hapless smile breaking across his face when the werewolf nuzzles his hand, eyes never leaving him.

“Just think,” Taehyung murmurs, spreading his legs for Jungkook to settle between, “we’ll have our own place, soon. This could be our bed in a few months. Our bed, that smells like us.”

“Smells like sex.” Jungkook corrects, stealing the laugh that leaves Taehyung’s lips with a kiss. “Sweat and semen stick.”

“Romantic.” And despite his blasé words, the thought of Jungkook marking him slicks his palms with nervous sweat. He draws Jungkook in for another kiss, hoping to quell his fears with the slide of his boyfriend’s lips, the sensation of his hands gliding up and down his chest.

Indeed, as if he could hear his thoughts, when Taehyung reaches for him, Jungkook plants himself between his spread legs, bodies nearly flush, with one hand slipping up the human’s shirt to trace over his thin chest. He gives his soft stomach a pinch, cackling when Taehyung makes an offended noise.

“What?” He tries to say, the words nearly lost in his kisses.

Bunching the shirt up, Jungkook breathes, “You’re just so perfect. Every bit of you. I can’t believe it.”

Flushing, Taehyung mutters, “Well, we’re gonna be mates, so you better get used to it.”

“Never.” Jungkook shimmies down him, nipping at his chest, tongue curling over his nipple in greeting before he begins planting kisses over him. “But, speaking of, where should I leave the mark?” They’d discussed tradition prior to that, but as much as Taehyung wishes he could have the usual spot on his neck, he knows that would reflect poorly on him.

“My hip.” He answers, voice ragged as Jungkook nips at his ticklish stomach. “Or my shoulder.”

“Well, I can’t fuck you while I bite down on your hip,” Jungkook says, “not unless we’re blowing each other and I’m fingering you at the same time, or something.”

“So, shoulder?”

“Shoulder.”

Taehyung swallows as Jungkook kisses along the line of his underwear, the touch tantalizing, a barely there brush of his lips, and he feels himself reacting despite the fear attributed to a serious union. Yet, the longer he watches Jungkook, as he cards his hands through the werewolf’s hair, he can do nothing but reassure himself that he wants this. Each little smile blossoms as Jungkook glides along his body, as if discovering him all over again.

“I love you,” he chokes out, the words almost a sob.

Hearing the undertone of fear, Jungkook moves back up his body, hands removing themselves from him, and his eyes shine with concern. “At any point, Tae. Any point. If you so much as burp ‘I want to stop,’ I’ll stop. It won’t hurt my feelings, because I don’t want this if you’re not completely set on it, too. You know?” When Taehyung can’t find his words immediately, he murmurs, “We don’t have to do this.”

Yet, the more Taehyung thinks, the more he wants. “Do you bite me first?”

“Not before the foreplay.” Jungkook plants a sweet kiss on his brow. “But before the sex if you still want to take the knot, yes.”

Humming, Taehyung reaches for him, his hands unerring as the rub up and down Jungkook’s chest, fingers curling over his muscles and nipples, grinning with victory when Jungkook lets out a sweet noise. Taehyung’s hands tease his chest more, until Jungkook jolts him into stillness with his lips and hand, snuck south to pump Taehyung’s cock leisurely.

His rough fingers pick over the sensitive skin, tease the foreskin back, and Jungkook laughs into their kiss when Taehyung mewls, sensitive and overwhelmed with promise. Relinquishing him, his hand slips down to stroke over Taehyung’s balls, so careful and reverent that Taehyung opens up to him, tongue lazily curling against Jungkook’s when his presses in.

Imagining drowning in his kisses, Taehyung arches his back, relaxed and aroused, when Jungkook’s hand returns to his cock after a bit and his lips trail down to his shoulder, leaving breadcrumbs of searing kisses along the way. Taehyung wishes he would leave hickeys, despite how hard they are to hide or explain away, when Jungkook kisses a spot on his shoulder.

It feels final. “Is this it?” The breathy quality of his voice throws him off.

“If you’re ready.”

“I am.” He forces his eyes open, gaze trailing down Jungkook’s naked back, forcing himself to trace the contours of his shoulder blades to the dip of his skinny waist, and then there’s a light touch to his jaw, a kiss to his shoulder, and then he’s biting down.

It hurts: It would be a lie to say it’s anything beyond pain, and Taehyung cries out involuntarily, his nails digging into Jungkook’s back as the pain twists, then fades as a warm tongue laps over the injury. That slight bit of supernatural painkiller stills him, hope broiling beneath his stunned visage.

Jungkook’s hands rub up over uninjured sections of his shoulders, and when he draws back, he is glowing. The brilliant smile belays the words: “It worked.”

“How do you know?” Taehyung attempts to glance down at the mark, astounded when he sees the brown of a fresh bruise, the lines of blood already scabbed. Despite dating someone who can transform into a wolf, the memory of the pain is too fresh. Astonishment wells up in his chest and Jungkook closes his eyes.

“I can feel you. It’s not like I can read your mind, but I feel—stable. Like everything’s right in the world.” His eyes slide open, the red glint there, though for the first time, it doesn’t feel like an intimidation factor. “Because you’re beneath me.”

Taehyung swallows, thinking of the knot. “Then—”

“We still don’t have to have sex now,” Jungkook says, kissing beside his mark, body wiggling with excitement. “This is so much.” He sounds half-drunk, and it draws a laugh out of Taehyung.

“I wish I could feel it.” He sighs.

“Well…” Jungkook smirks, an eager, naughty thing, and leans down to nip at the shell of his ear. “There’s certainly something you can still feel.”

“Pervert.” But as Jungkook says it, Taehyung swallows, shifting his hips, and with the worst of his promise done, he still wants to feel his boyfriend’s mouth on him, still wants the full gravity of this night. Instead of shying back, or continuing to plant sweet kisses over his face, he pushes his hands up into the werewolf’s hair, gripping with just the right amount of pressure to draw a growl out of him, and says, “Kiss me.”

Obliging, shifting to realign their lips, Jungkook’s body descends, their hips meeting, and what starts as a question morphs into want, heady and determined, as Jungkook’s hands slip beneath him to palm his ass, groping him and encouraging his legs to wrap up around his waist.

Hooking his ankles behind him, Taehyung moans as Jungkook gropes for his discarded pants, snagging the lube he tucked away before coming. After one strange experience with scented lube someone left in the motel room (that turned out to be shampoo), they always dragged their own stuff along, even if it was cooking oil. This time, Jungkook sprung for the best—genuine lube—and he reaches between them, his hand dipping past Taehyung’s erection, still hard and wanting from the light attention it received earlier, to pick over his waiting entrance.

Taehyung’s lips draw back from his teeth, like he would growl at Jungkook for playing gentle when they ran through this dance at least once a week, but Jungkook’s fingers press into him before he can say anything, the werewolf surging forward to reclaim his lips with a little smirk.

He fingers him open with eager flicks of his wrist: First one, then two, fluid inside of him, stretching him open, and though he doesn’t handle Taehyung delicately, he spends just a little longer opening him up, the human a moaning mess by the time his hand frees itself, grabbing for the lube one last time.

Slicking himself up, Jungkook smiles at him, a wide expression almost not fitting the mood they set, the messy, no-nonsense desire that drives them like imperfect machines, and he whispers, “I think it’ll happen.”

“I hope so,” Taehyung says. “You haven’t stopped talking about your knot since you presented.”

Jungkook pouts and Taehyung moves to kiss it away, allowing an opening for Jungkook to position himself at his entrance, the cock head teasing the muscles before he pushes in, the stretch familiar and wonderful, Taehyung moaning as he fills him. The first time they had sex, a rushed experience on his new blankets, he thought men weren’t meant to handle the size. Then the pain faded, replaced with kisses and an unstoppable force of pleasure, better than sneaky thoughts in the shower or late at night. This was a real, solid force pulling him apart and reassembling him, and he loved the stretch.

Bottoming out, Jungkook kisses his chin, down his jawline, only to have his head jerked up by Taehyung’s firm hand, his own hunger reflected in Jungkook’s eyes.

“When will it start?”

“Dunno.” Jungkook strains to kiss him again, whining when Taehyung won’t allow it. “I think I have to fuck you a little first.”

Taehyung releases him, rolls his hips downward, and grins when his boyfriend whines, the pleasured sound catching in his throat. “Well, better get on with it.”

Jungkook snaps his hips forward, grinning when Taehyung gasps. “Don’t sound so eager, babe.”

His hands tug on Jungkook’s hair, and he demands, “Fuck me,” punctuating it by working himself down on Jungkook’s cock, heat rolling in his stomach, his own erection throbbing with demand.

Jungkook’s hips begin to move, drawing back and snapping forward, the expended energy not even a fraction of what he still has to give, the force of his thrusts jolting Taehyung up the bed—only not pushing him away by the hands on his ass and shoulder.

Lube drips from his entrance and from Jungkook’s enthusiastic strokes over his own length down onto his balls and Taehyung’s ass, creating a sinful squelching noise as his balls slap against his thighs. An arrested moan slips from his lips, caught between heavy pants of breath, and then he feels it.

As Jungkook thrusts, the pleasure building between them, his cock starts to catch on his rim as he moves in and out, feeling like the time Jungkook pressed a finger in alongside his erection, and he moans.

“Is that?”

“Yes.” Jungkook leans forward, head falling against his shoulder, and his hips snap faster, the motion emphasizing the subtle growth of the knot at the base of his cock. The thought of his arousal locking them together, sealing his cum within him until the knot would shrink, sends Taehyung’s thoughts spiraling, cheeks flushed with disbelieved arousal.

“So we’re really?”

“Yes.”

Taehyung keens as Jungkook’s hips snap mercilessly forward, until he can no longer pull out, the strain a shock of skin refusing to shift, though Jungkook slows to rolls of his hips at that point, anticipating the size of his knot. He’s never felt so full in his life, and despite only being sexually active for the last few years of his life, he knows he could never experience a natural size so big. Unlike his first time, this cock could split him open and will fill him so much more with his knot swollen.

“Kookie,” he moans, as his lover ruts forward into him, the motions stilted, feeling more animal than anything else they’d done so far. His hands slide down his shoulders, nails catching at his broad back, marking him in a way as wild as their fucking.

Limited though Jungkook is, his hips still snap forward, the knot rubbing Taehyung from within so well, that it only takes Jungkook leaving another love bite on his neck for him to cum, untouched, up over both of their chests.

Jungkook gasps along with him, the blissful, fucked-out haze settling over him, as he ruts harder, feet braced against the bed, and the overstimulation turns almost painful as he follows Taehyung over the edge, cumming in hot spurts within him.

And cumming; when Jungkook would normally slump over him, or roll away, boneless, his body stays coiled tight and the warmth fills him up to space Taehyung swore he’d never felt anything touch before.

They both gasp at the sensation, the oversensitivity hurting Taehyung, though he can feel the arousal lurking beneath his own recovery period. Knowing Jungkook will probably be asleep within minutes, unable to knot him again after having no experience with the intensity prior to that, Taehyung attempts to calm himself. He can’t fuck himself on his poor boyfriend’s spent cock while he’s sleeping.

“I might be able to go again,” he warns, and Jungkook groans, the sound guttural from the noises he made while fucking him.

“Maybe…not tonight.”

Taehyung contemplates calling him a baby, but when Jungkook snuffles against his shoulder and murmurs, “mate,” he melts and decides they can work on his stamina another time.

They’re sticky; the cum on his chest feels disgusting, but there’s no helping it while they can’t move, so Taehyung distracts himself by carding his hands through Jungkook’s sex-ruffled hair. Soon after, he’s breathing regularly against his chest, and Taehyung represses a laugh, unsure how he managed to sleep with his cock inside Taehyung.

It seems unlikely, but then again, he finds when he wakes, clean and covered by the blankets, Jungkook’s sturdy arm around his midsection, that despite how strange things get, he doesn’t have to go at it alone.

When he shares this with Jungkook the next morning, grumpy and despondent that they still have to wait for their apartment, the werewolf slings a possessive arm around him and noses at his mark, murmuring, “It doesn’t matter how long we have to wait. This is a promise, you know?”

“A promise of a good dicking?” Taehyung yelps when he nips at his neck.

“No.” He feels lips pouting against his neck. “My promise to you. No matter what comes, I’ll do my best for you and me.”

It might not have been everything, but seated on that bed, visions of their winter meetings clashing with this warm bed and touch, the future seemed laid out at their feet.

Even when he rose to stand and the pain lanced up his spine.

(“Sorry!” Jungkook yelps, catching him, and Taehyung will give him that. So much about their relationship wouldn’t have worked without quick reflexes.)