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Taehyung knows he hasn’t gotten enough sleep when he adds water to acid.

 

“Do as you otter, add acid to water!” he vaguely remembers his TA singing during chem lab when he was a freshman. But four years in, Taehyung forgets the #1 Rule, and dumps the deionized water into his magnesium oxide, and watches with a blank face as his volumetric flask promptly explodes.

 

He doesn’t even have enough energy to feel guilty. Usually he knows what he’s doing in lab, but he’d been up late half-studying for his microbio midterm and half making gifs. Yeah, he has his priorities straight.

 

He makes the mistake of ordering an extra shot of espresso and double caramel in his iced coffee, and he’s so jittery that he almost knocks over a tray of DNA samples at his lab.

 

“You doing okay?” Namjoon asks, not looking up from the centrifuge he’s loading samples into. His glasses are sliding off his nose, and there’s an odd green stain on his lab coat, but Taehyung decides to ignore it. It’s probably not radioactive.

 

Probably.

 

“Huh? Yeah. I’m fine. Why do you ask?”

 

Namjoon looks up, using two fingers to push at the corner of his glasses frames so they sit better. “You’re trying to pipet empty tubes.”

 

Taehyung looks down, and the container he’s holding between his first finger and thumb is, in fact, empty.

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah. You just grabbed them out of the bag of new ones and started pipeting. Aren’t you supposed to be down in the vivarium right now? Running tests?”

 

“Oh shit. Oh shit, yeah. Fuck.”

 

Taehyung’s lucky that he has such a chill post doc like Namjoon supervising him. His friend Junhong works with Daehyun, the other post doc, who had, at one point, come into the lab one day, set down his bag, and just screamed. (Now they keep bubble wrap on top of one of the cabinets, just for this purpose. Post graduate work is no joke.)

 

And soon enough (he’s talking five, six years maybe) he’ll be one of those post docs. If his research paper doesn’t completely obliterate him first, of course. That, and Jeon Jeongguk.

 

--

 

“You’ve been watching that vine for the last five minutes,” Jimin says, unceremoniously shoving three french fries into his mouth.

 

Taehyung looks up from his phone, away from the repeated six-second loop of Jeon fucking Jeongguk on stage, thrusting his hips to some hip hop song Taehyung doesn’t know the name of.

 

“You’ve been eating french fries for the last five minutes. Aren’t you premed? Shouldn't you be more worried about your health?” he shoots back. Jimin’s eyes widen.

 

“I ordered a veggie burger! And these are sweet potato fries, okay?”

 

“Still deep fried in oil! Do you know how much that kind of heat messes up protein structure? You’re literally eating denatured protein, and you’re gonna die because of it.”

 

“Literally shut the fuck up you evaporated bottle of acetone.”

 

“Listen here, you half-fossilized trilobite--”

 

“Both of you need to take a nap,” Hoseok says, suddenly appearing at their table before sliding in next to Taehyung. They both forget their argument for a moment to greet him.

 

“What were you two even arguing about?” he asks. Jimin opens his mouth to respond, but he holds out a hand. “You know what? Never mind. I shouldn’t ask.”

 

“Taehyung’s gone all Jeongguk oppa again,” Jimin says, eyeing Taehyung’s phone, which is still looping the vine. “Ever since he went on hiatus Taehyung’s been moping.”

 

Hoseok snorts. “Are you still on that, Tae?”

 

Taehyung makes an offended noise. “I will have you know that jeongguksthighs dot tumblr dot com has just reached ten thousand followers. So yes, I’m still on that.”

 

“Whoa, that many? Really?” Hoseok leans back, as though physically moved by the number. “You’re a bigger fanboy than I thought.”

 

Jimin snorts. “Please. He’s literally been to every concert. He has all the albums, and he can tell what era a fantaken picture is from by the state of Jeongguk’s eyebrows,” Jimin rubs his own eyebrows for emphasis.

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “It’s not that hard. I’m just an observant and dedicated fan.”

 

“Observant meaning you have a folder specifically for the birthmark on Jeongguk’s abs.”

 

“It’s shaped like a heart, okay? It’s cute!” Taehyung huffs, and Jimin cackles.

 

“It’s okay kid. I used to feel the same way about BoA,” Hoseok pats Taehyung’s back and hums thoughtfully. “Now that I think about it, I still do.”

 

“Wow, hyung. This is a side of you I never wanted to know about,” Jimin says, looking disoriented.

 

“Anyway, I just wanted to come by and tell you the news, since you’re such a fan,” Hoseok says, and Taehyung looks up, eyes wide. “Your Jeon Jeongguk is transferring to our uni.”

 

“What?!” Taehyung screeches, dropping his phone on the table with a thud. Hoseok nods solemnly.

 

“Yup. He’s gonna be in a couple of the dance classes I'm teaching.”

 

“Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit!” Taehyung repeats, and Jimin reaches over the table to pat his hand. “Hyung, hyung, you have to introduce me. Oh my god, hyung please?”

 

“Chill, Taehyung. I don’t even know the guy yet,” Hoseok starts, but he scrambles when he sees Taehyung’s face fall. “But I’ll see what I can do, alright?”

 

Taehyung grins, flinging himself at Hoseok, and holds on tight. His heart feels like it’s going to burst out of his chest, because it's, Jeon Jeongguk, who Taehyung had been following since his debut four years ago up until now, having established himself as one of the most successful solo kpop acts of all time.

 

“You’re the best hyung!”

 

--

 

Taehyung always knew he wanted to go into research. And when he’d started at the neurobio lab his sophomore year, it had been Fate. Not even grumpy, sad PhD students could phase him. But it looks like sleepless nights could be.

 

He grabs his keycard and binder and salutes Namjoon before heading out to the vivarium building. On his way, his phone buzzes in his back pocket.

 

hey bro when r u getting home today

 

It’s Jimin, of course.

 

idk bro. im just trying to take it an hour at a time bro. why?

 

And it’s true. Taehyung doesn’t know when he’ll get home. Sometimes lab work takes an hour, and sometimes he has to stay so late that the only living beings on campus on his walk back to his apartment are the raccoons playing in the grass (and he stays the fuck away from them, bye).

 

k bro. just wanted to ask bc ur my bro.

 

Taehyung holds his key to the sensor by the elevator and it flashes green, before the doors slide open.

 

ur the best bro. my best bro.

 

Jimin’s response is almost instantaneous.

 

im just looking out for you bro. also hoseok hyung is coming over.

 

Taehyung acknowledges the text while digging out his headphones. He plugs them in, picking out his hustle all day playlist, and tucks his phone into his back pocket, because there’s no signal in the basement of the vivarium building, so there’s no point using it except for the music.

 

When the elevator slides open on his floor, he puts on his scrubs from the shelf, gloves, and a filtration mask labelled taehyungie <3 <3 with a metallic gold sharpie.

 

He presses his entire chest to the sensor on the second door (because his key card is hanging from his neck underneath his scrubs he’s not digging it out for this, thanks), and waits for the click sound before shoving the door open, into his workspace.

 

“Hello, friends!” he says, greeting the racks upon racks of mice cages. His voice is muffled by the mask, but the animals can discern his voice by this point. And with Apink playing in the background, he sets to work, forgetting about the time and the day, because Taehyung nromally has the attention span of a goldfish, but he’s never had trouble concentrating when it came to his experiments.

 

And he doesn’t get the other messages Jimin sends him after he’d lost signal. He doesn’t even think to check his phone, and he doesn’t realize until it’s Too Late.

 

--

 

The walk from the lab back to his apartment is a short one, but by the time he reaches his front door, he looks like he’d got caught in a tornado. And not a small one either.

 

It’s just his luck, of course, that the moment he’d stepped out of the vivarium it had started pouring, and he’d forgotten to take off his lab coat in his hurry to save his notes. His hair is soaking and sticking up at odd angles, there’s droplets of water on his glasses, which are barely hanging off the bridge of his nose, and he’s got his papers clutched haphazardly to his chest. He looks like a mad scientist (which Taehyung actually thinks would be a pretty cool aesthetic except that he also looks like a Hot Mess).

 

All he wants to do is eat and go to sleep. It’s the only thing he can ask for in this moment.

 

“Jimin, I hope you didn’t eat my vegan jerky because I’ve been slicing brains all afternoon and I don’t--”

 

Taehyung pauses.

 

He stands there, by the door, backpack sliding slowly off his shoulders, and he counts the bodies in the living room.

 

Three.

 

Only two of them belong to Jimin and Hoseok.

 

Jimin approaches Taehyung carefully, slowly, in the same manner that his own brain seems to be working right now, because he’s so tired, he might just be delusional.

 

“Hey, Taehyung,” Jimin says, voice wary. Taehyung blinks at him, and suddenly he’s painfully aware of his current physical state, looking like a cat who got dragged through the rain.

 

“Hi,” Taehyung finds himself saying. He hears his backpack make a loud thump on the ground.

 

“Did you get my texts?” Jimin asks. Because you wouldn’t be in this situation if you had read my texts, his eyes are saying. Taehyung gulps.

 

“Nope.”

 

Taehyung can’t take his eyes off of the guy currently glaring at him while standing behind Jimin.

 

“I could introduce myself, but you probably know who I am, so I won’t waste my time. Who are you?” the guy says, stepping forward.

 

And Taehyung can’t believe his eyes, because standing there, right in front of him is--

 

“Jeon Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, voice barely above a whisper.

 

“Obviously,” Jeongguk says disdainfully, looking down at his phone as though whatever’s on the screen is far more important than Taehyung. “And you are?”

 

Something about Jeongguk’s voice is off. He sounds stiff, arrogant, like he has better places to be.

 

Because Jeon Jeongguk, who Taehyung runs a fucking tumblr about, is right there, and he just looks plain hostile. Taehyung didn’t know whether he should have anticipated someone bubbly and open, considering Jeongguk’s long-standing ‘cold city guy’ persona, but it feels awkward and gross. The reality of it makes Taehyung jolt.

 

“I asked you a question,” Jeongguk prompts, looking up from his phone to eye Taehyung up and down. Taehyung can feel the judgement.

 

Taehyung gulps, because suddenly the glamour of meeting a celebrity has worn off. Yes, Taehyung is a fanboy, but he’s not an idiot, and no amount of wins on Music Bank can discount the fact that Jeon Jeongguk is being a total prick.

 

He finds his voice surprisingly quickly, despite the embarrassment and shock currently running it’s course through his body.

 

“I’m Kim Taehyung, and you’re a lot shorter than I thought you would be.”

 

The surprise that colors Jeongguk’s face vanishes as quickly as Taehyung’s respect for him, replaced by bitter cold.

 

“Excuse me? Do you know who I am?”

 

Jeongguk is shorter than Taehyung imagined, but he’s still fucking tall-- something that’s starting to bug Taehyung a lot, for some reason. Maybe it's because Jeongguk’s looking down his nose at him, and it makes Taehyung want to kick his shins. Yes, he’d spent the last two nights thirsting over Jeongguk’s ass in a fancam but he also has some self-respect, and one thing Taehyung hates more than anything is being talked down to.

 

Even by someone he had made at least three hundred NSFW drunk text posts about in the course of the last few months.

 

Taehyung squints his eyes, now thoroughly done by Jeon ‘cold city guy’ Jeongguk. So. Totally. Over it.

 

“I’m honestly… so unimpressed? Like so unimpressed it’s almost impressive.”

 

With great effort, and trying to ignore the speed at which his heart is racing as well as Jimin’s bad attempt at muffling his laughter, Taehyung picks up his bag, and walks all the way to his room, not looking back.

 

--

 

“TaeTae…” Jimin knocks softly on Taehyung’s door. Taehyung groans, unable to lift his head from where he’d put it down on his desk. Jimin only uses that nickname when he knows Taehyung’s on edge. Is he that obvious?

 

“You haven’t come out of your room all day,” Jimin tries. Taehyung is silent. “What about Algernon? You need to go see Algernon today, right?”

 

Taehyung manages to sit up at that. “You realize I use like two hundred mice in my experiments, right? And naming them would be masochistic? You just call them all Algernon because you want to see me suffer, don’t you.”

 

Jimin opens the door, smiling faintly. “A little bit, yeah.”

 

Taehyung sighs, and puts his head down again.

 

“How are you feeling?” Taehyung can feel Jimin behind him.

 

“I’m going to deactivate my blog,” Taehyung says simply.

 

Jimin is silent for a moment. “Isn’t that a bit… extreme?”

 

“I don’t want to stan an asshole, Jimin,” Taehyung says, voice a bit muffled. And it’s true. He should have expected this, probably, but it doesn’t make it hurt less when someone you idolize ends up being the complete opposite of what you expected, and not in a good way. It makes Taehyung feel gross, and just seeing the name ‘Jeongguk’ drags him back to that moment, when he’d felt really small.

 

“He’s not that bad,” Jimin tries. Taehyung gives him The Look. “Okay, he’s kinda bad. But he’s a good guy, underneath all the I’m-a-star aesthetic.”

 

Taehyung makes an annoyed noise at the back of his throat. “How would you know? You literally met him yesterday.”

 

“I can read people,” Jimin says solemnly. “Just like I read you when we first met. I knew you’d be weird as fuck but also pretty nice when you're not acting jaded.”

 

“We met when we were five.”

 

“So? I still knew. And I was right.”

 

“You’re not helping, Jimin,” Taehyung sighs into his arms.

 

“I’m just saying, maybe just give yourself time to chill out about this? Don’t do anything drastic. You only met the guy once.”

 

“Once is all I need, Jimin! Don’t you understand? He’s not even a decent guy. He’s just an ass. He’s a cute ass, but still an ass. He’s dead to me.”

 

“Wow, Taehyung.”

 

“My entire meme career is over.”

 

“Well, figure yourself out quick, because he’s gonna be over a lot more from now on.”

 

Taehyung’s head shoots up. “What?” he screeches, eyes wide with horror. Jimin only raises an unamused eyebrow.

 

“Yeah. He needs someone reliable on campus, and I am the Chosen One.”

 

Taehyung scrunches his face. “Why you?” I mean--” Taehyung looks Jimin up and down. “--you’re… you? Who wants to hang out with you?”

 

Jimin socks Taehyung on the shoulder. “I’m a reliable person, okay? And I’m literally the only person on campus not thirsting after his dick.”

 

Taehyung gives him a pointed look. Jimin sighs. “Okay, the smut I wrote was a one time thing, okay? I was horny and desperate.”

 

“Besides, seeing how he talked to you made me want to slap him around a little. But you handled it better than I expected. Considering you literally worship his thighs.”

 

“Yes well,” Taehyung looks at his computer screen and the familiar tumblr logo at the top corner. He sighs. “Maybe I should turn into a G-Dragon blog? He’s significantly less trash baby.”

 

Jimin makes an exasperated noise. “You’re hopeless.”

 

--

 

Jeongguk's fingers absolutely ache-- he'd been working on this song all afternoon, and it's already midnight. Lately, he can’t find any sort of inspiration. It’s like he’s run himself dry, and the thought of it scares him.

 

Right now, the bars of his composition sheets are melting into each other, and his eyes burn every time he blinks.

 

"How's the writing going?" Yoongi asks, plopping down in the well-worn couch in the recording studio, and sets down a cup of coffee on the table.

 

"It goes," Jeongguk grunts, not looking up. He can practically smell the caffeine in the air, and he knows once he sets his guitar down, he's probably not going to pick it up again.

 

"You realize you're on hiatus, right? As in, not supposed to be working?"

 

Jeongguk sighs, and he finally gives up for the night, setting the guitar down into its stand. He reaches out for the cup, and the bitter, dark liquid has never felt more welcome on his tongue.

 

"This isn't work."

 

Yoongi snorts. "It's late. You should be in bed, considering you have class in the morning. But you're in the studio, working on an acoustic album that you shouldn't even be thinking about for at least another two months."

 

Jeongguk fixes Yoongi with a sharp glare. But Yoongi has been his manager long enough that he's used to Jeongguk's attitude, and knows he usually doesn’t mean it. Usually.

 

"If I don't want to disappear into the void of forgotten kpop acts, I have to work. Even on hiatus."

 

"If you want to be miserable for the rest of your life, yeah, keep working. But you're young, Jeongguk. This is supposed to be your chance to, like, relax, for the first time since you were a trainee," Yoongi says. “Go to a party! Hook up with someone hot! Sleep in for once.”

 

“Yeah and then my image will be shattered. You know, the one we worked so hard to create?” Yoongi narrows his eyes, but Jeongguk just narrows his in return. Sometime he wishes Jeongguk would act his age and throw a tantrum, or yell, or do something childish. But it’s always cold hard facts. Always working. Always thinking about image.

 

“Just... “ Yoongi sighs, getting up from his seat. “Don’t stay up much later, alright? You have class, and your image will be ruined if people find out you’re a truant.”

 

The corner of Jeongguk’s lips twitch up at that, and he nods once, before turning to pick up his guitar again. Yoongi sighs, knowing the conversation is over. His other manager friends have to drag their idols out of bed. But Jeongguk was never like that. The kid had a drive that Yoongi had never seen before, and it was almost frightening, if it wasn’t so rewarding to see him succeed.

 

“Hey hyung?” Jeongguk asks as Yoongi stands at the doorway. Yoongi turns around and raises an eyebrow in question. Jeongguk looks oddly hesitant.

 

“Can I ask you a question?”

 

“You just did.”

 

Jeongguk makes a noise of exasperation. “You know what I mean.”

 

Yoongi grins. “Ask away.”

 

“Do you… Am I… Do you think I’m short? Like,” Jeongguk scrambles to explain himself at Yoongi’s amused expression. “Am I shorter in real life than I seem on like, TV or something?”

 

“Listen, kid. You’re already at least a solid foot taller than me. How much more do you need?”

 

Jeongguk’s ears are tinted pink. “I was just asking,” He even looks mildly embarrassed.

 

“Kid, you’re fine. Don’t go getting all insecure on me now, of all the times--”

 

“It was just a question, hyung. Chill out.”

 

“If anyone needs to chill out, it’s you,” Jeongguk rolls his eyes as Yoongi opens the door, one foot already in the hallway. “If I find you here in the morning, I’m going to whoop your ass.”

 

--

 

It had taken Jeongguk about a week to get over the state of Jimin’s couch.

 

“It looks like it’s been through a nuclear war,” Jeongguk states plainly the second time he’s over. He’s got his eye out for the other guy, who had looked like a drowned cat the last time they’d met, and called him short.

 

What was his name again? Kim Tae-something. Taehyung? Taeyang?

 

“So, about Taehyung,” Jimin starts slowly, after they’d settled down on the couch of doom with their papers strewn out in front of them on the coffee table.

 

So that’s his name. “Who?” he asks blankly. Jimin rolls his eyes.

 

“My roommate, who you’re obviously trying to act like you don’t remember but you clearly do since you just snapped your pencil.”

 

Jeongguk looks down, and he has, in fact, broken his pencil cleanly in two. He drops the pieces onto the table.

 

“He’s an irritating pest,” he says coolly. “He should really invest in a comb too.”

 

Jimin snorts. “You met him when he got stuck in the rain. I’m sorry he doesn’t look Music Core ready? That he didn’t dress up because he was going to be in the great Jeon Jeongguk’s presence?”

 

Jeongguk huffs, leaning back. “I’m guessing he’s not a fan.”

 

Jimin opens his mouth, then closes it after reconsidering his words. “Is that what has you so salty? Because he didn’t worship the ground you walk on? Because he called you short?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk says too quickly. “He obviously has no taste. Or perception of height.”

 

“Can you like, not act like an ass for two seconds?”

 

“I’m not an ass,” Jeongguk says through gritted teeth. “I just have standards.”

 

“Oh my god, Jeon Jeongguk, I’m really going to punch you in the--”

 

The door slams open just then, and Taehyung barges through. He has a hair net on and a face mask hanging haphazardly off one ear.

 

“I’m home-- Oh,” Taehyung pauses at the threshold unable to keep the surprised and mildly betrayed look off his face as he stares at Jeongguk.

 

“Hey, TaeTae,” Jimin says softly. Taehyung musters all of his strength and turns his head to look at Jimin.

 

“Hello, Jimothy. How was your day?” he asks, in a clipped tone as he toes off his shoes. He yanks at the face mask and the hair net. Jeongguk thinks it would have been in his best interest to leave it on.

 

“Fine. Jeongguk and I are--”

 

“I’m glad to hear that. I’ll be in my room then, if you need me,” Taehyung keeps his eyes trained ahead, not acknowledging Jeongguk since the first moment, and it’s irritating, to say the least.

 

Taehyung’s half down the hall before he backtracks and peaks his head out. “Oh, Jimin. Don’t forget to pick up the trash on the couch and dispose of it properly before bed,” he says, winking, before disappearing again.

 

Jeongguk can vaguely hear Jimin cackling over the irritation pounding into his head.

 

--

 

Taehyung is relatively good at avoiding things he doesn’t want to get involved in. Like his sophomore year, when Jimin had amassed the most inhumane crush on Hoseok and had followed him around everywhere, even going so far as to minor in dance on top of a bio major just to be near him.

 

Jimin had tried dragging Taehyung along with him, and after about three times of cafeteria-stalking Hoseok, Taehyung was Done With It, and had taken on more work at the lab just to get away while still managing to be efficient.

 

Avoiding Jeongguk isn’t too hard. In Taehyung’s books anyway. His schedule is already jam-packed, since he works about thirty hours in the lab on top of the classes he takes for his major requirements. He’s out the door at eight in the morning and back at ten at night. Jeongguk generally times his “visits” somewhere between those hours.

 

Of course, there are days when Taehyung doesn’t go into the lab. They’re rare and much appreciated, but today, Taehyung isn’t feeling too grateful.

 

“Huh,” he says smartly, as he approaches his apartment door, to see none other than the Devil himself, standing in the middle of the hall, looking rather out of place in a pressed sweater and collared shirt amidst the dingy walls and flickering hall lights.

 

He would look better in a magazine.

 

Jeongguk looks up when hears Taehyung approaching, and his shoulders go rigid, lips pursed. He eyes Taehyung up and down, and yeah, Taehyung’s wearing old sweatpants from high school, and maybe his shirt has a stain from when Jimin tried to make pomegranate juice one time. He doesn’t remember brushing his hair either. He's not naked, though. And that must count for something.

 

“Where’s Jimin?” Jeongguk asks in a clipped tone, like speaking to Taehyung is a waste of breath.

 

Taehyung shrugs, stepping up to the door and pulls the lanyard off from around his neck before selecting the right key. “I may be Jimin's best bro, but I don’t keep tabs on him. I’m not his mom.”

 

Taehyung can feel the tension in the air. He feels like he’d have to slow-motion Matrix around by how thick it is. He decides to be the bigger man, despite his initial reaction being to act petty.

 

“Why? Were you supposed to meet him here right now?” Taehyung asks, a little more pleasantly this time, and opens the door. Jeongguk walks in after him, apparently comfortable enough now to come in uninvited.

 

“Obviously. I’m not going to stand around some shitty apartment complex for no reason. I have better things to do with my time,” Jeongguk says, making himself comfortable on the couch. Taehyung takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. He counts to ten, before walking into the kitchen.

 

“Well you’re welcome to wait,” he calls out through gritted teeth. “Not that you need the welcome,” he mumbles to himself. Right now, he needs a smoothie. Something to ease his nerves. It almost seems ridiculous, because two weeks ago, he would have leaped at the chance to have Jeon Jeongguk in his apartment. But right now, he just wants the guy out, so he doesn’t have to think about all the years wasted, stanning an asshole, buying his albums, making edits when he should have been studying.

 

He proceeds to bustle about the kitchen, chopping up fruit and blending them all together, trying (with great difficulty) to forget that Jeon Jeongguk is, in fact, sitting on his couch not ten feet away.

 

Taehyung realizes, as he pours the bright pink liquid into a glass, that he’s going to have to cross the living room to get to his room, and the idea of it makes him groan. But he’s a Big Boy, he can handle himself.

 

He keeps his eyes ahead, deciding to ignore Jeongguk’s very existence, but then he hears a muffled curse, and he stops.

 

Fuck, what the fuck?” Jeongguk hisses under his breath. Taehyung turns, only to see Jeongugk hunched over a general chemistry textbook, staring at his calculator like he wants it to catch on fire.

 

Interest thoroughly piqued (Taehyung is weak for anything chemistry-related), he makes his way over to the couch.

 

“What’re you doing?” he asks, bending over to look more closely and Jeongguk’s head whips up quickly.

 

Nothing, just--”

 

“You have the wrong units,” Taehyung says, doing a quick scan of Jeongguk’s paper, numbers written with a precision and neatness that Taehyung wouldn’t have associated with him. It’s almost annoying how neat it is, considering Taehyung’s own handwriting is completely indecipherable.

 

“I didn’t ask,” Jeongguk bites out. Taehyung rolls his eyes and straightens up, taking a sip of his drink.

 

“Well yeah, I’m telling you now, you mixed up the units. You can’t subtract joules from kilojoules, since kilojoules are literally a thousand times bigger. Convert one of them to the other unit and you’ll get the right answer.”

 

Jeongguk glares at Taehyung, and it looks like he’s warring with himself, whether to let go of his pride and actually try it, or ignore Taehyun altogether. Jeongguk is a smart man, Taehyung thinks smugly when Jeongguk finally sighs and punches in a couple numbers into his calculator.

 

“Oh,” is Jeongguk’s quiet response.

 

“I was right, wasn’t I?” Taehyung asks.

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Please, I could have figured it out on my own. I don’t need your help,” He narrows his eyes. “How do I even know you’re legit and not just spouting bullshit?”

 

Taehyung chuckles, taking another amused sip from his smoothie. “I’m a fourth year chemistry major.”

 

“Oh,” is Jeongguk’s response, once again. Taehyung shrugs, but on the inside he’s gloating.

 

“Yeah so, I’m not spouting bullshit. Unless my entire tertiary education has been a lie. In which case, I’d be screwed, so.”

 

Jeongguk looks mildly uncomfortable, and Taehyung is feeling a bit merciful since his smoothie is delicious.

 

“Why are you taking an intro to chem course?”

 

“GE’s? Obviously?” Jeongguk says, like Taehyung is daft.

 

“Oh right. I forgot about those. You’re just a teeny tiny underclassman, aren’t you?”

 

Taehyung’s not usually this vindictive or mean. But something about taking passes at Jeongguk kind of makes him feel better about the whole situation.

 

“I’m a third year,” Jeongguk corrects. Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “But some of my credits didn’t transfer over from my other uni so I-- wait why am I even telling you this?”

 

Taehyung shrugs elaborately. “Who knows? I didn’t ask.”

 

Jeongguk makes a disgusted noise at the back of his throat, and Taehyung makes to leave, but he pauses.

 

“You should at least thank me for saving your ass, dude.”

 

Jeongguk snorts, rolling his eyes. “As if.”

 

Taehyung just stands there, with an eyebrow raised. Jeongguk huffs in disbelief. “Are you really going to stand there until I thank you?” Taehyung shrugs again and taps his foot. “You are so--” He exhales sharply, before gathering his things and shoving them unceremoniously into his bag.

 

Thank you,” he says, bitterness rolling off of every word as he gets up and makes for the door. “Tell Jimin something came up.”

 

“I’m not your messenger!” Taehyung calls after him, but his words are received by the sound of the door slamming shut.

 

--

 

“So, I have some news,” Namjoon says, plopping down into his office chair and sliding himself next to Taehyung’s table-- they’d all mastered the art of maneuvering around the office space in them, and Taehyung’s currently the most skilled at it, although he’d crashed into a cabinet two days ago.

 

He turns away from a very riveting article about enzyme inhibitor controls to acknowledge Namjoon’s words.

 

“I just got an email from the chem faculty.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes widen. “Really? What did they say?”

 

Namjoon’s face is blank, and Taehyung’s never hated his hyung’s ability to do that more than in this moment.

 

“You’re approved.”

 

It takes a minute for Taehyung to process the words, but once he does, he’s leaping out of his chair so fast it topples over.

 

“Oh my god! Bless everything. Bless you hyung, thank you!” Taehyung flings himself at Namjoon, wrapping his arms around his neck, and Namjoon stays very still, patting Taehyung’s back awkwardly.

 

“You realize you have even more work to do now, right?” Namjoon asks seriously once Taehyung pulls away. “You’re going to have to put more hours in at the lab if you want to get enough data for the paper.”

 

“Like I don’t practically live here already,” Taehyung shoots back. And it’s true. Especially considering how often Jeon douche-canoe Jeongguk has been over at his apartment. He’d rather form violent allergies to rodents than be near him right now.

 

“Can’t argue with that,” Namjoon concedes, using the balls of his feet to propel himself back to his desk. “Let me know when you want me to look over your draft.”

 

Taehyung beams, skin tingling with excitement at the news. It's not a new thing, getting to present his project to the bio faculty and getting his paper published in a scientific journal, since he'd done it countless times in his undergrad career so far. But every time he gets to do this, it feels like all his hard work is boiling down to that moment.

 

“I’ll have it done by next week, hyung!” Taehyung beams, starting to gather his stuff from his desk.

 

brooooooooooo they approved my proposal. Taehyung shoots the text to Jimin, and then a similar one to Hoseok.

 

broooooooooooooooOOOOooooOOo im so proud of you. im wiping my bro tears rn bless buddha

 

Taehyung grins at the response. His phone vibrates with a message from Hoseok.

 

yes!!!!! we should celebrate!!!! party at yongguk's at 10!!

 

And Taehyung, of course, cannot refuse, because he is a Hardworking College Student, but he’s also a college student, and he’s not above cheap beer in red SOLO cups and dancing to obnoxious EDM music. And last time he went to a party at Yongguk's, he'd drank something neon blue and ended up reciting the entire periodic table in some guy named Jongup's lap.

 

ill be there!

 

--

 

Jeongguk likes to think he’s adjusting fairly well to college. He knew he was going to get stared at and whispered about behind his back, but that’s easy enough to ignore. College students tend to be more mature fans, calmly approaching him if they want autographs or pictures. He gets confession letters on his lecture seats regularly, sometimes flowers or chocolates. It’s easy to deal with.

 

Jeongguk, however, will never get used to high school fans. Not that he doesn’t appreciate them, but some really seem to have excessive amounts of time on their hands. He doesn’t know how they found him this time, but he doesn’t have time to ponder, as he ducks into an empty classroom and waits, pressed against the door, as he waits for the sound of footsteps fade.

 

His phone vibrates with a text. It’s from Yoongi:

 

sorry kid, they found the van

 

“Fuck,” Jeongguk curses under his breath.

 

can you hang out on campus for a while until i lose them?

 

This, along with the countless sleepless nights, is in Jeongguk’s top 10 moments when he hates being an idol.

 

sure.

 

After sending the text, he immediately calls Jimin, who picks up on the third ring.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Uhm, hyung…” Jeongguk starts.

 

“Whoa, kid, what trouble did you get yourself into?” Jimin asks. Jeongguk rolls his eyes extra hard, knowing Jimin can’t see him.

 

“I kind of… have a problem. Can I hang out at your apartment for a while?” he asks.

 

“Yeah sure of course.”

 

Jeongguk lets out a breath of relief. “Thanks Jimin,” He goes to cut the call, but the words find their way out of his mouth without even thinking.

 

“Is Tae-whatever-his-name-is there too?” Because Jeongguk would rather face twenty high school fangirls head on than be in the same vicinity as that guy.

 

Jimin laughs knowingly. “Nah. He’s at a party. He might come home, might not.”

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says, surprised. He doesn’t know why he’s feeling bothered all of a sudden. Maybe it’s the idea of the Nerd Supreme at a party or the fact that the phrase “he might come home, might not” directly translates to sex. The idea of anyone wanting to have sex with Taehyung confounds him.

 

“Yeah. You’re in the clear.”

 

“Right, yeah,” Jeongguk says quickly, still too thrown off to respond defensively. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Jeongguk, with some great effort, and feeling a bit like a secret agent, manages to get to the on campus apartments within twenty minutes. He wonders, as he peeks his head out of a corner, whether this is a bit ridiculous, but an Idol’s Gotta Do What an Idol’s Gotta Do.

 

He knocks on Jimin’s door three times swiftly, clearing his throat and adjusting his dress shirt.

 

“You’re alive!” Jimin exclaims with a shit-eating grin as he opens the door. Jeongguk rolls his eyes and brushes past him and plops himself down unceremoniously on the couch.

 

“Rough day?” Jimin asks, taking a seat next to him. Jeongguk sees a textbook open on the coffee table and assumes that Jimin had been studying up until he got here. Somehow Jeongguk can’t bring himself to feel guilty for disrupting him.

 

“Rough forty minutes,” Jeongguk corrects, leaning his head back against the cushion and closing his eyes.

 

“If you fall asleep I’m going to dump a bucket of ice water on you,” Jimin threatens.

 

Jeongguk opens an eye. “Just you try it.”

 

Jimin scoffs, puffing his chest out, and opens his mouth to respond, but the door burst open just then.

 

Jeongguk concludes that this is must be the way Taehyung always enters the apartment.

 

He half wants to keep his eyes closed and ignore The Pest, but Jimin wolf-whistles, and he can’t contain his curiosity.

 

What he sees floors him, because there’s Taehyung, looking absolutely wrecked. His heart drops to his stomach as he takes in Taehyung’s deep v neck shirt, half sliding off one shoulder, and the tightest black leather pants on earth.

 

He doesn’t know what throws him off the most-- Taehyung looking like some sort of sex god right now, or the fact that the total slob who corrected his chem homework is capable of looking like a sex god.

 

“Heyo Jimothy!” Taehyung slurs, stumbling across the living room. He pauses right in front of the couch, and narrows his eyes at Jeongguk. No matter how hard Jeongguk tries, he can’t find anything to say.

 

Maybe because his tongue feels like sandpaper. Taehyung’s oversized glasses are gone, and Jeongguk can finally see the high cheekbones, the sharp slope of his nose. His eyes-- slightly glazed with alcohol-- are rimmed with smudged eyeliner, and his hair looks mussed, but not in a sloppy way like it usually is. More like… it looks like someone had been pulling at it all night.

 

“Oh, trash baby, you’re here too! Nice!” Taehyung beams, giving him two thumbs up, before tripping into the kitchen. Jeongguk hears the faucet running, and he watches, with wide eyes, as Taehyung comes back into the living room and chugs down a glass of water. Some of it drips down his collar bones (which are completely exposed, and Jeongguk curses whoever thought designing a shirt like that).

 

Jeongguk can’t stop staring. Because Taehyung looks so gorgeous like this, lips red and swollen, loose-limbed, and practically glowing. He doesn’t know how Taehyung can manage to look so insanely hot, considering Jeongguk is an idol, and the entire industry is full of people who make a living off their face.

 

Suddenly, they all pale in comparison. Jeongguk can’t think of a single person he’d fucked that looked this pretty after, and he knows if he keeps going down this train of thought he’s going to have a problem.

 

When Taehyung realizes Jeongguk’s just been gaping at him the whole time, he pauses and smiles smugly. “Yeah that’s right, I got laid, I look pretty, don’t I?”

 

Jeongguk tries to form a word but decides to hold his tongue. He wants to say no to spite Taehyung but he knows if he opens his mouth he’s going to say yes. Yes, you look so fucking gorgeous right now.

 

Jimin snickers. “Scale of one to ten, how much does your ass hurt right now?”

 

Jeongguk whips his head to look at Jimin in disbelief because why the hell would you ask someone something like that? But Taehyung just winks, making finger guns and fires them at Jimin while walking backwards towards the hall.

 

“Enough for me to remember it in the morning!” Taehyung laughs, before turning his back to them. He throws up a peace sign. “I’m gonna go to bed. Later losers!”

 

Jeongguk is still staring at the spot where Taehyung was standing last, a minute later, and only jolts out of his haze once Jimin socks him on the arm.

 

“Do you need a glass of water?” Jimin asks, eyes furrowed in concern. Jeongguk can’t brush the tingling feeling under his skin.

 

“No, why?” he snaps.

 

Jimin’s face breaks out into a grin. “Cuz you look hella thirsty right now.”

 

Jeongguk’s face flushes hot, and he tries not to imagine the way Taehyung’s ass looked in the pants because then he’s really really going to be in massive trouble.

 

Jimin puts his hand behind his ear. “Oh what’s that? What were you saying the other day about standards? Cuz it looks like suddenly Tae is pretty high up there.”

 

“Shut the fuck up,” Jeongguk growls, shoving Jimin away. He hates the way Jimin’s cackling, the way he’s teasing, but mostly Jeongguk hates the fact that Jimin is probably right.

 

--

 

Taehyung’s been holed up in his room all weekend, working on his data blitz for the competition on Monday morning. He silently (but also loudly) curses the gods for creating such a thing.

 

“It’s inherently sadistic. Why would they want us to present all of our fucking data in five minutes? And no animations on our powerpoints! I hate this!” Taehyung had yelled to Jimin in the morning. Jimin had just nodded, sipping his coffee and checking his phone.

 

He knows he’s going to win, though. He’d been practicing for the last three hours, and he’s confident first place is his, because his data is, as Namjoon had put, “totally groovy”.

 

Once he’d submitted his final PDF to the coordinator, he goes to take a shower, because Jimin had threatened to quarantine him otherwise. He’s wiping the fog from the mirror and sweeping his hair back when he hears Jimin yelling his name.

 

“What?” Taehyung asks, just barely managing to wrap a towel around his waist before he walks into the living room, and suddenly he’s glad, because there’s Jeongguk, standing there, looking like he got hit by a truck.

 

And it’s Jeongguk’s own fault, because he’d left his snapback in the apartment on Friday, and he’d chosen to come pick it up now of all times. He knows Taehyung is home today, but he didn’t come because of that. Definitely not.

 

But now he’s really regretting the decision, because he is, once again, caught completely off guard as Taehyung stands there, dripping wet, in a low slung towel, skin looking warm from a shower.

 

End me, Jeongguk thinks to himself. End me now. I’ve had a good run.

 

“Have you seen Jeongguk’s snapback?” Jimin asks.

 

“The red one?” Taehyung asks. Jimin nods. “Oh, I put it in one of the pantries in the kitchen.”

 

Jeongguk narrows his eyes. “Why the hell would you put a hat in a pantry?”

 

“Why not?” Taehyung shoots back. “It’s completely safe!”

 

Jeongguk makes a noise of disbelief at the back of his throat while Jimin pats his back. “Sometimes it’s best not to ask questions.”

 

“Is that all you need?” Taehyung asks. “Because I’d like to put some clothes on now it’s getting cold.”

 

Jimin nods. “You’re free to go, peasant.”

 

Taehyung bows in exaggeration, before disappearing again, and Jeongguk honestly feels like he’s been slapped in the face. But he seems to feel that way a lot when Kim Taehyung is involved.

 

“Still want that glass of water?” Jimin asks jokingly, and Jeongguk looks at him. There must be something in his eyes, because Jimin immediately sobers. “Wait… are you really…”

 

Jeongguk gulps, because he’d been thinking about this for the last week. And well… he’s a guy. And it’d been a while since the last time. Quick fucks were common enough behind the scenes at music shows, and finding someone willing was easy. But he had to be careful who he said what to in college.

 

He hadn’t really thought much about sex since starting at the university, since he’d been so busy. But seeing Taehyung that night had hit him full force, and now he can’t stop thinking about it, thinking about it with Taehyung, despite them constantly going at each other like some sort of boxing match, and Taehyung’s penchant for calling him a trash baby.

 

But Jeongguk knows better than anyone that you don’t have to have feelings for someone to want to have sex with them. And Taehyung had looked so damn irresistible that Jeongguk can’t quite help his mind from wandering.

 

“Of all the people, why him?” Jimin asks, and it’s what Jeongguk’s been wondering this whole damn time.

 

Why Taehyung?

 

When Jeongguk doesn’t respond, Jimin just shakes his head solemnly. “He’s too good for you. Too good for this world, that sweet cinnamon roll. Too pure.”

 

“Really, Jimin?”

 

Jimin clicks his tongue in annoyance. “I’m just saying, if you want to get into Taehyung’s pants, you’re gonna have to get your act together,” Jimin pauses, considering. “Many brave men have tried and failed.”

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Please hyung. I’m an idol.”

 

“So?” Jimin looks aghast. “That doesn’t mean shit. You know Taehyung runs a tumblr about you?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk frowns, his mind trying to wrap around the idea of Kim Taehyung, the guy who can’t seem to stand him, running a blog about him.

 

“I shit you not.”

 

“Then… why?” Why why why?

 

Jimin gives him a dirty look. “Because he’s not shallow. He can like your music but not like you, since you are an asshole. Idol or not, you’re gonna have to work. And especially you, since right now you’re on his blacklist.”

 

“Fuck,” Jeongguk curses, running a hand through his hair in frustration. Of all the people on this earth, why Kim Taehyung? “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

 

Jimin is silent for a moment, before laughing in disbelief. “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. I can’t believe I’m going to try and help you hook up with my best friend.”

 

Jeongguk eyes him warily. “What are you thinking?”

 

Jimin shrugs. “Don’t know yet. I’ll figure out something,” He shoves Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Hold up I’ll go get your snapback.” Jeongguk nods, and Jimin disappears into the kitchen for a moment.

 

“If you do end up hooking up with him, though,” Jimin says, face very serious as he comes out, handing over Jeongguk’s hat. “He’s not gonna rat you out. He’s not that kind of guy.”

 

And Jeongguk realizes, with surprise, that this was never a doubt in his mind. Despite everything, he’d never thought Taehyung was a bad guy. Annoying, maybe. Loud, yes. But a bad guy? Definitely not.

 

“I… appreciate that,” Jeongguk says.

 

“And, if by some divine miracle, this works, then you better not hurt him, or you’ll personally taste these hands, got it?”

 

And Jeongguk just nods, because he’s not even sure if Jimin is kidding or not, but it’s probably best not to question.

 

--

 

“You could ask him to tutor you,” Jimin suggests one day, as they step into a coffee shop.

 

Jeongguk snorts. “Over my dead body.”

 

Jimin throws him a look. “Over your dead, horny, sex-deprived body. Yeah, sounds good.”

 

Jeongguk makes a face and scans over the menu. Luckily, the place is mostly empty, since it’s the late afternoon. The only people in here are them, an old couple drinking tea, and a barista who looks like she just had the shock of her life (this is a look Jeongguk is used to getting, since he is, of course, a star).

 

“Seriously, Jeongguk. If you want really this, you’re gonna have to play nice.”

 

The thought of playing nice doesn’t sit well with Jeongguk. But neither does the idea of a sexed-up Taehyung.

 

“What makes you think he’d even agree? He hates my guts,” And Jeongguk hates how ridiculously whiny he sounds in that moment.

 

“He’ll say yes, trust me. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Taehyung is a really sweet guy.”

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Yeah well I’ve yet to see any of that.”

 

“You…” Jimin sounds like he’s choosing his words very carefully. “You bring out… the worst in him.”

 

“Wow. Okay then.”

 

Jimin sighs. “You know what I mean. You’re nasty, he’s nasty back. It’s a defense mechanism.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t look convinced, so Jimin tries again. “Here’s what you do-- buy Taehyung a coffee. Right now, since we’re here. He’s at home today so you can give it to him then. Like a peace offering. And ask him nicely. Key word being nicely.”

 

“Jesus fucking christ I can’t believe I’m actually listening to you,” Jeongguk says in disbelief.

 

“I know right? I’m just as surprised as you are, kid.”

 

--

 

“So… uh… Taehyung,” Jeongguk starts. Taehyung blinks at him. Taehyung’s glasses are sitting a bit crooked on the bridge of his nose, but somehow he manages to pull off the look. Jeongguk curses Jimin for beelining for his room when they got back to the apartment and leaving him alone, defenseless.

 

“Oh wow you know my name. That’s nice.”

 

The tips of Jeongguk’s ears feel very hot all of a sudden. He wants to say something sarcastic back, but he realizes he has to play nice, otherwise this will never work.

 

“Yeah… I guess…” Jeongguk scrambles for words as Taehyung continues to stare at him. Suddenly he remembers the coffee cup in his hands. “Oh, uh. I bought you this.”

 

He holds the drink out, and Taehyung eyes it warily. “Is it poison?”

 

“What? No, what the hell?” Jeongguk can’t believe he’s doing this right now. “Jimin said it was your favorite. So I…”

 

He watches as Taehyung takes it gingerly and sniff at it, before taking a small sip. “Hm…” he says, narrowing his eyes as he considers. “Tastes like foul play.”

 

“It’s not-- I’m not--” Jeongguk splutters.

 

“What do you want, Jeon Jeongguk?” Taehyung interjects. Jeongguk lets out a long-suffering sigh, because he can feel the migraine already starting to form.

 

“I was… wondering… if you--” Jeongguk pauses, because the words are physically painful to say, “--if you would… tutor me. In chemistry,” Taehyung just stares at him over the rim of the coffee cup. “Please,” he bites out.

 

Taehyung tilts his head from side to side, considering. “Hm… since you said please.”

 

Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “Really?”

 

Taehyung takes a sip of the coffee. “I never could resist a damsel in distress with a cappuccino. Chemistry is the most important and holy subject that could ever be taught, and it would be a waste to see someone fail. Because you would, without me. So yeah, I’ll tutor you.”

 

Jeongguk takes a deep breath, trying to keep himself from snapping, because I can fucking ace chemistry without you, you two-faced sexy asshole--

 

“Oh, and you can drop the whole nice act. It doesn’t suit you.”

 

Jeongguk looks at Taehyung, bewildered for a moment, because it’s like he can read my mind, and he promptly lets out a sigh of relief, shoulders slumping.

 

“Oh thank god. This whole being nice thing is harder than it looks,” Jeongguk admits, shaking his head, and Taehyung grins.

 

“The condescending ass aesthetic looks much better on you,” Taehyung agrees.

 

And Jeongguk doesn’t know if that’s supposed to be a compliment or an insult, but he doesn’t dwell on it, because for the first time (even if it was just for a couple seconds), they aren’t at each other’s throats, and it’s… nice.

 

“Thanks… I think.”

 

Taehyung chuckles. He looks nice when he smiles, Jeongguk notes. Why he notices that suddenly, he has no idea. “If you want to think that was a compliment, that’s fine too.”

 

Jeongguk gapes. “What is that supposed to mean?”

 

Taehyung just winks. “Whatever you want it to mean, captain.”

 

--

 

Taehyung does, in fact, keep his word, and tutors Jeongguk. It’s been a few weeks of their arrangement, and Taehyung really is good at chemistry (Jeongguk doesn’t know why he’s surprised, considering Taehyung is a chemistry major), and really good at explaining everything too.

 

Their sessions always ends up being at odd hours though, because Taehyung has a hectic schedule, and Jeongguk half-wonders how and why Taehyung’s making time to teach him about chemical equilibrium when he could be taking a nap-- which he really looks like he needs right now.

 

“So you look at the concentration of sodium--”

 

“There’s no sodium in this reaction,” Jeongguk corrects sharply. Taehyung squints down at the paper in front of them, adjusting his glasses with his knuckle. His oversized “EARTH SCIENCE RULES!” pajama shirt is sliding off one shoulder, and Jeongguk keeps getting distracted by the skin, to the point of supreme irritation.

 

“Huh. You’re right.”

 

Taehyung blinks rapidly, and he looks like he’s going to tip over. Jeongguk suddenly feels bad for being so unpleasant, but he can’t really help it.

 

“You okay?” he asks warily, not really sure if he wants to hear the answer.

 

Taehyung smiles up at him, eyes turning into crescents. He looks so tired, but there’s still a bright smile on his face. Something lodges in Jeongguk’s throat. “I’m fine!”

 

“Are you sure?” And Jeongguk isn’t sure why he keeps asking, since he could just accept Taehyung’s answer and keep going. He’s had his fair share of sleepless nights and exhaustion that he feels down to his bones.

 

“Yeah, I just-- I’ve been putting in a lot of hours at the lab.”

 

“Lab?” Jeongguk asks, surprising himself. Taehyung rubs his eyes with the palm of his hand.

 

“Yeah. I work in a neurobio lab,” Taehyung says.

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says stupidly, because he does feel rather stupid now.

 

“It’s a lot of fun, actually. I’m doing research in the amygdala, looking at memory and behavior in that region of the brain. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to apply it to humans. But right now, I’m working with mice.”

 

Taehyung’s voice sounds less tired all of a sudden, and there’s a light in his eyes. Jeongguk blinks, because he probably only understood half of what was said.

 

“Is that what you want to do?” Jeongguk clears his throat. “Research? I mean.”

 

Taehyung smiles softly and nods. “I want to be able to help people. And this way I get to do what I’m good at too.”

 

Jeongguk feels a pang of guilt. He’d always considered himself a good person-- he was able to make good music for people, and he always got messages from fans telling him how much his music changed their lives.

 

But… somehow this seems different.

 

“That’s… cool,” Jeongguk says, and the words feel kind of odd to say. Taehyung gives him an amused-- albeit tired-- smile.

 

“Wow, the great Jeon Jeongguk thinks I’m cool. My entire life’s been made,” Taehyung laughs, adjusting the sleeve of his shirt so that it covers his shoulder, and Jeongguk’s face scrunches up in annoyance. At what, he’s not quite sure.

 

“Chill dude,” Taehyung says, shoving at Jeongguk’s arm playfully. “I’m just teasing you. Can’t you take a joke?”

 

Jeongguk scowls, and Taehyung laughs again, before turning back to their work. “Okay, so ammonia-- AKA not sodium-- is one of the reactants…”

 

They call it quits after another thirty minutes, when Jeongguk insists that he understands chemical equilibrium as well as humanely possible. Mostly, Taehyung looks like he’s going to pass out, and Jeongguk would rather not have Jimin yell his ear off for making his best friend black out just because Jeongguk’s trying to get laid.

 

That’s what he tells himself, at least. He’d rather not deal with the odd feeling creeping under his skin, that feels something like concern.

 

--

 

Jimin finds Taehyung laying spread-eagle on the living room floor at two AM.

 

“Whoa, bro what are you doing?” Jimin asks, dumping his dance bag down and walking up to Taehyung.

 

“I’ve relapsed,” Taehyung says in a clipped tone. “It’s like my mice. If I don’t give them the vector to turn off memory expression they relearn the behavior I’m trying to make them forget. Their preferences shoot up and they never ever unlearn anything.”

 

Jimin blinks down at him.

 

“Jimin, I’m a mouse!”

 

“Right,” Jimin says, stepping over Taehyung’s body to get to the kitchen. “So basically you started thirst blogging didn’t you?”

 

He hears Taehyung padding after him, and lets Taehyung wind his arms around him and bury his face into his neck.

 

“I’m trash, Jimin. If Jeongguk is a trash baby, I am the trash godfather.”

 

Jimin snorts at that, rummaging the fridge for a water bottle, Taehyung still attached to him. It’s no easy feat.

 

“I thought you were going to become a G-Dragon blog?” Jimin makes a noise of victory as he finds a bottle of Aquafina at the very bottom shelf.

 

“I know. But I’m weak. I’m only mortal, and cannot resist Jeon Jeongguk’s heavenly thighs.”

 

“First of all, that’s weird.”

 

They manage to waddle back to the living room, and Jimin plops down on the couch. Taehyung manages to maneuver himself just in time so he doesn’t get squashed, and curls himself into Jimin’s side.

 

“I can still like the music, right? You can appreciate someone’s talent and aesthetic without liking their personality?”

 

“Sure you can, Tae,” Jimin assures, petting Taehyung’s hair and taking a sip from the bottle.

 

“Like… honestly… I just want to bang him once!”

 

Jimin chokes on his water. Taehyung pats his back until his face goes back to it’s normal.

 

“Are you serious, Taehyung?”

 

“Yeah, duh. Like… I’d just want him to fuck me like, once. So I can get everything out of my system and end my misery.”

 

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek, not knowing what to tell Taehyung, considering everything. “But you said he was trash? What happened to morally upstanding Kim Taehyung?”

 

“Jeongguk is trash, but he’s really really hot trash. Morally upstanding doesn’t mean blind, Jimin. Obviously. And I’ve slept with worse,” Taehyung shrugs, like they’re discussing the weather.

 

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Right, of course. Obviously.”

 

“Just one hook up. That’s all I want. One really steamy fuck, and then I’ll get over it. I will.”

 

“Right, sure Taehyung.”

 

--

 

Their arrangement works well, as much as Jeongguk hates to admit it. He isn’t getting The Sex yet, but his grade in chemistry has never looked better.

 

And Taehyung is-- as Jimin had told Jeongguk multiple times-- really nice to be around. Jeongguk wishes his professor could explain these concepts the way Taehyung does, using hand gestures and obscure metaphors and sometimes getting carried away.

 

It’s almost… cute. But Jeongguk would never ever say that out loud. For a couple hours a week, they’re able to put aside the tension, and Jeongguk listens to Taehyung the best he can despite his knee-jerk reaction to want to make his life harder. And after a while, it’s not so hard. And Jeongguk can’t really complain. Being mean is exhausting too.

 

For a while (and by a while, he only means about a month), Jeongguk forgets that the original intention of this whole thing was, in fact, to get laid.

 

But it comes hitting full force, when Jeongguk least expects it.

 

Taehyung enters with a crash, as usual. Jeongguk and Jimin are sitting on the couch, drinking soju (because Jeongguk’s not allowed to go to actual parties and Jimin is nice enough to indulge him), and look up in surprise.

 

Heyyyyyyy friends!” Taehyung slurs. He’s in a half-unbuttoned dress shirt this time, and the exposed skin knocks the wind out of Jeongguk. (Once, he was a man who wasn’t turned on by collarbones. Once, he was a man with dignity. Now, he is a man with unbearable heat pooling in his stomach.)

 

“Jeonggukie!”

 

Jeongguk’s eyes widen as Taehyung stumbles towards him. He reaches forward and pinches Jeongguk’s cheeks. “Aw, look at you, cutie! So squishy!” Taehyung tugs at Jeongguk’s skin and smooshes his face, and Jeongguk is too drunk, too shocked to even respond.

 

“Like a little bitty baby. My little baby Jeonggukie! Baby Kookie! I wanna wrap you in a blanket and give you a pacifier.”

 

Jeongguk’s face flushes with mortification, because not only is he half-turned on, now he’s being fucking babied by the guy he wants to bone. Jimin snickers from next to him on the couch, too drunk to hide his amusement.

 

Jeongguk’s entire body stays rigid, and he tries not to notice the bite marks under Taehyung’s lower lip, or the hickeys splattered against his neck. Eventually, Taehyung satisfies his amusement, and nods, before stepping back.

 

“That’s fun. You should let me do that more often.”

 

Not in two million fucking years, Jeongguk thinks to himself, as he watches Taehyung stumble down the hall.

 

Once he’s sure Taehyung’s gone, Jeongguk turns to Jimin for help, but immediately regrets it, because all Jimin does is burst into laughter.

 

“Baby…. b-baby Kookie…” he chokes out, curling into himself on the couch.

 

“Shut the fuck up,” Jeongguk growls, and the alcohol is only making it worse.

 

“Oh my god,” Jimin pants, uncurling and wiping the corner of his eyes. “You’re never going to get laid. You’re literally never going to get laid.”

 

Jeongguk shoves Jimin roughly, and Jimin lets his body tilt with it, before straightening up again.

 

“What the hell am I supposed to do now?” Jeongguk hisses, tugging at his hair in frustration. The first time this had happened, he hadn’t been drunk, but now he is, and he doesn’t seem to have very good control of his body or his thoughts.

 

“You should write a song about it,” Jimin says, face straight. But two seconds later, he just bursts out laughing again. Jeongguk socks him on the arm. “Something about being kid-zoned, oh my god that would be such a tune.”

 

“I’m fucking serious, Jimin.”

 

There’s something akin to fury swirling in his gut, and he’s never felt so fucking bothered before.

 

“Dude…” Jimin says, before breaking out into giggles again. Jeongguk gives him a dirty look until the laughter dies away, and Jimin finally sobers up and pats Jeongguk on the shoulder.

 

“What the fuck was that? I’m not a fucking baby,” Jeongguk growls. He’d never been babied before in his life. What the hell is this?

 

“Are you mad?” Jimin asks, amused.

 

Jeongguk makes a vague gesture towards his body. “I’m not-- Look at me!” He follows a vigorous workout routine, his biceps and abs are spectacular, and he has the smoulder down pat. What is so baby about him?

 

Jimin smirks. “And you’re surprised he’s not actively thirsting after your dick, oh sex god supreme?”

 

Look at me!” Jeongguk repeats, half hysterical, and he hopes Jimin won’t remember his meltdown in the morning considering how drunk they both are. “I’m hot! I’m hot, right?”

 

“Oh, of course,” Jimin soothes. “And trust me, Tae’s not blind.”

 

Jeongguk looks up from trying to strangle himself with a couch pillow. “What are you talking about?”

 

“I told you how he has a tumblr, right?”

 

Jeongguk nods warily, and watches as Jimin digs his phone out and opens the tumblr app. He types in ‘jeongguksthighs’ into the search bar, and clicks on the blog, before handing the phone to Jeongguk.

 

“What the…” Jeongguk says as he scrolls past gif after gif of him performing, in interviews, at photoshoots. There’s a string of posts centered on Jeongguk’s most recent music video, the one where he’d had to stand in front of a burning car shirtless, in the rain.

 

“Behold, Kim Taehyung’s Jeon Jeongguk thirst.”

 

It’s oddly… satisfying. But then-- “Why is there G-Dragon stuff on here?”

 

Jeongguk tries not to sound as offended as he is. Jimin snorts.

 

“I’m just saying--” Jeongguk scrambles to say, “-- I thought this was a Jeongguk blog.”

 

Jimin shakes his head in awe. “Sometimes I forget about your Titanic-sized ego.”

 

Jeongguk shoots him another dirty look. “Can we not do this right now?”

 

Jimin sighs. “Listen, dude. Have you even tried anything? Like flirting? How is Tae supposed to know you want to fuck him two ways to Sunday?”

 

Jeongguk winces at the word choice but he’s a bit too tipsy to call Jimin out on it since technically true. “No,” he grumbles. “I mean, what the hell am I supposed to say? Wow that borate ion is hot so are you? Let’s fuck maybe?”

 

Jimin blinks at him. “Oh my god you’re starting to sound like him. What has he done to you?”

 

Jeongguk’s face flushes. “Shut up. I’m just saying--”

 

“Yeah yeah I know what you’re saying, chill out,” Jimin concedes. He’s quiet for a moment, like he’s considering his next words carefully (as carefully as one can when drunk).

 

“Hypothetically speaking… What if Taehyung isn’t doing anything because he’s… under the impression that you’re not… interested…”

 

“What the hell does that mean?”

 

Jimin sighs. “You could like… I don’t know… try to get his attention… in a positive way, not like normal when you’re at each other’s throats. Like… if you don’t him to think you’re a kid, show him.”

 

“How?”

 

The smile that Jimin gives Jeongguk makes him almost reconsider everything.

 

Almost.

 

--

 

It starts out simply enough. By simply, Jeongguk means in the most elaborate and mildly uncomfortable way possible. Because it’s Jimin. And Jimin goes all out.

 

“You should try writing lyrics at the apartment,” is Jimin’s first suggestion (out of many). “Anyone looks sexy with a guitar.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t know whether that’s a compliment or an insult, but he agrees, because he can also feel the impending deadline for his acoustic album hanging over his head. He hadn’t been in the studio much, after being swamped with school work and tutoring.

 

It feels like home when he opens his case and takes the guitar out, running his fingers over the strings. He tests out a few chords, tuning as he deems necessary, before strumming one of his oldest songs. The note progression is familiar and welcome, and he almost doesn’t notice Jimin conveniently disappear as Taehyung walks out of his room and stares at Jeongguk in surprise.

 

“Oh, what’re you doing here?” Taehyung asks.

 

“Needed a change of scenery to write,” Jeongguk says.

 

Taehyung snorts. “This isn’t exactly a change of scenery, considering you like, practically live here anyway.”

 

Jeongguk shrugs and goes back to picking at the strings.

 

“That’s quite the guitar pick,” Taehyung says, and Jeongguk looks up, the corner of his lip tugging up as he fiddles the bright red pick around his fingers. He can still remember the day his dad had bought it for him, when he was twelve and had just become a trainee.

 

“It’s my lucky pick,” he explains. Taehyung frowns, as though considering that new piece of information.

 

“Interesting. Do you ever use it during performances?” Jeongguk blinks in surprise at the specificity of the question.

 

“No, I’d probably lose it. I use this to record and when I’m trying to write. That’s it.”

 

“Hm,” is all Jeongguk gets from Taehyung. He suddenly feels like he’s being interrogated, under Taehyung’s gaze. “That’s pretty cool.”

 

“Thanks,” Jeongguk replies warily, and Taehyung nods. He feels like he might be getting somewhere with this. Jimin just might be right.

 

“Just… try to keep it down, yeah? I’m working on a paper right now.”

 

Jeongguk deflates so quickly he can’t remember what it feels like to have a spine.

 

“Yeah whatever,” he mumbles, ducking his head down and cursing Jimin to the fiery depths of hell.

 

--

 

“Yeah okay, so that didn’t work,” Jimin admits, chest still heaving a bit from their run. Jeongguk hadn’t had a problem keeping up with his usual workout routine, considering how body conscious Jimin was. They kept each other motivated.

 

It’s still too early for any normal human being to be awake, so they do their cool down stretches at the park across the street from the apartment complex without having to be afraid of being stampeded by fan girls.

 

“There’s other ways to Taehyung’s heart though,” Jimin says sagely.

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I’m not fucking proposing to the guy.”

 

“Okay, his ass, then. There are other ways to Taehyung’s ass.”

 

“Jimin, this is--”

 

And then suddenly, Jimin whacks Jeongguk square in the chest, eyes wide. Jeongguk’s about to punch him back, but Jimin interrupts him.

 

“Holy shit, Jeongguk take off your shirt.”

 

Jeongguk balks. “The fuck? Are you--”

 

“Jeon Jeongguk take your shirt off right now. Like really slow, doing a commercial for Nike in the rain kind of slow. Do it, do it right now, hoe.”

 

And Jeongguk’s too shocked to even question Jimin, so he reaches for the hem of his tank top, still sticking to his skin with sweat, and starts pulling it off-- slowly as per Jimin’s instructions.

 

“Hey Taehyung!” Jimin bellows, and oh. Okay, now Jeongguk gets it.

 

Jeongguk tries to ignore the heat curling under his skin, and now that he knows what Jimin’s doing, he can play it up. He’s been in enough dramas to have this down pat.

 

So he takes his sweet time pulling the tank top off, and flexes his arms as he takes it off completely. He turns to face the direction he assumes Taehyung is coming from, and sucks in his stomach, making his abs go taut.

 

“Hey Jimin!” Taehyung calls out, waving furiously, but when his eyes land on Jeongguk, his hand drops down. “Jeon Jeongguk, put on a shirt, please, before I take a picture and upload it onto a fansite. Thanks!” he hollers, before adjusting his backpack on his shoulders and continuing walking down the sidewalk.

 

“Okay, before you say anything--”

 

“Jimin, I’m going to kill you, honestly. Truly. With all my heart.”

 

--

 

“Hey hyung?” Taehyung asks Hoseok while sipping at his milkshake solemnly.

 

Hoseok looks up from his phone. “Yeah?”

 

“Can we talk hypothetically for a second?”

 

Hoseok blinks in surprise, but nods hesitantly.

 

“What if you totally had the hots for someone?”

 

“What does that mean?” Hoseok asks, rather warily.

 

“Like, hypothetically you want to get on your knees and give them the grade A suck.”

 

Hoseok tries not to be too phased by this. “Like… hooking up? Taehyung, you of all people don’t need help with this.”

 

“I’m just saying hypothetically, okay? It’s not me. Hypothetically, what if they were total assholes? Like, trash baby status. I have receipts.”

 

“Uhm…” Hoseok frowns, staring at Taehyung as though it might help him gauge what’s going on in his head (although at this point Hoseok knows it’s totally pointless). “Why would you like someone who’s an asshole?”

 

Taehyung sighs in exasperation. “It’s not like, okay? It’s the hots for him. Like, you’re thirsty and water isn’t gonna cut it, kind of thing. Come on, hyung get with the program.”

 

“I’m… sorry?” Hoseok apologizes hesitantly.

 

“So hypothetically, what do you do?” Taehyung looks at him, wide-eyed, and Hoseok squirms, because he doesn’t want to give the wrong advice, but it’s hard with Taehyung throwing all these hypotheticals around. He could be talking about himself, or the breeding mice he has in his lab, and Hoseok would never know.

 

“You could… hook up? I guess,” Hoseok says slowly, trying to keep his advice as general as he can. “But! Be really careful. If they’re assholes then you don’t know what they might try on you.”

 

Taehyung scoffs. “Hyung, he wouldn’t do that. You should know that by now.”

 

Hoseok opens his mouth to say something along the lines of but you never said who it was! But Taehyung looks so distressed, he censors himself. “Sorry. Of course. You’re right, he’d never do that.”

 

“I mean, how do I even ask? He’s Supremely Unavailable.”

 

“Like, he’s already dating someone else?”

 

“No, hyung oh my god, are we even having the same conversation?”

 

Hoseok rolls his eyes. “Maybe it would help if you told me who it was? I might be able to give you more specific advice.”

 

Taehyung frowns in surprise. “I didn’t tell you?”

 

“No, Taehyung, you didn’t,” Hoseok says, exasperated. He has a class to teach in thirty minutes and he needs to finish his pasta and dole out life advice and book it to the other side of campus in that space of time.

 

“Oh,” Taehyung sounds thoroughly surprised. “Uhm… it’s Jeongguk.”

 

Hoseok is more surprised at how reluctant Taehyung sounds, than anything else.

 

“I thought that was already established. I mean, you have a thirst blog.”

 

“That’s different, though. That’s not real life. I can thirst over something on a computer screen but it’s different in person.”

 

And Taehyung looks so downtrodden, Hoseok doesn’t have the heart to tell him anything bad.

 

“Maybe… you’ll get over it? Like there are lots of hot guys on campus. You already know this, but I’m just reminding you.”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung says, but he’s still pouting.

 

“You’ll get over it, Tae, don’t worry.”

 

“Yeah. I’ll get over it.”

 

--

 

“You’re totally horny, aren’t you?” Yoongi asks, appearing almost like magic behind Jeongguk, who yelps and scrambles to cover up the very explicit lyrics he’d been writing. It isn’t particularly suited for an acoustic album, but it’s better than nothing, which was what Jeongguk had up until now.

 

“No! What are you talking about?” Jeongguk huffs, shuffling his papers around on the table. “Also how did you get into my place?”

 

“You gave me a key, kid.”

 

Jeongguk scowls, because he did, in fact, give Yoongi a key to his penthouse. He hardly ever needed it, since Jeongguk was never there in the first place, but right now, he regrets the decision.

 

“What are you doing here, hyung?”

 

Yoongi shrugs, settling himself down on the massive black leather couch. “Wanted to check up on you. You’ve been spending more time at that Jimin kid’s place than the studio. I was half worried, half relieved.”

 

“Oh, yeah. I guess,” Jeongguk frowns down at the table and his scattered papers. “Sorry.”

 

Yoongi snorts. “Why’re you sorry kid? I’m glad. You’re finally making friends. It’s all my cold little heart could want.”

 

“I’m perfectly capable of making friends, hyung,” Jeongguk gathers all his papers into a neat stack. He’s going to promptly burn them.

 

“Have you banged anyone yet?” Yoongi asks.

 

Jeongguk gives him a scandalized look. “No, what the fuck? Why would you ask me that?”

 

Yoongi just shrugs, digging his phone out of his pocket. “You write rated lyrics when you haven’t been getting laid.”

 

Jeongguk flushes, because it’s true, and he can’t even bring himself to be ashamed, since they were some of his most successful songs.

 

“Yeah well, I’m a bit busy. College isn’t like backstage at a music show.”

 

Yoongi nods his head in concession, because that’s true. The kpop world was fast-paced, and most times, there’s no time for words. Only looks, quick nods of the head. Everyone knew the drill, and Jeongguk was an expert.

 

But this, this whole college thing, he’s a complete stranger to. He knows he’s attractive. But he doesn’t know how to play any sort of game or flirt, since he’d never needed too.

 

“Also, the CEO’s getting antsy, he doesn’t like you off the grid like this, so he's putting you in next month’s Ceci spread.”

 

Jeongguk sighs. Obligations. “Yeah sure, whatever.”

 

“You’re shooting with Seokjin.”

 

At the mention of that, Jeongguk perks up. “Seokjin hyung’s coming back?” he asks, voice colored with an unusual excitement.

 

Yoongi’s lip quirks up. “He is. Try not to start a scandal this time, yeah?”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. Yes, they’d gotten a bit Instagram and Twitter happy that one time, posting maybe too many pictures to the point that a lot of the media had speculated that they were dating. It was one of those long-standing rumors in the fandom, and Jeongguk isn't planning to clarify.

 

"Sure, whatever."

 

--

 

Jeongguk prides himself on his excellent composure, especially in high pressure situations. It seems, though, that right now, with Taehyung sprawled in his lap in nothing but neon pink boxers, Jeongguk’s lost it.

 

Taehyung had come home drunk again, and Jeongguk considers not coming to the apartment ever again, because all he seems to do is suffer.

 

This time, Jeongguk thinks the gods are really testing him, since Taehyung had decided to strip in the middle of the living room instead of going to bed like usual and ending Jeongguk’s misery. He’s squirming around, mumbling nonsense about gene sequencing, and Jeongguk’s glad he has a highlighter in his hand, because if it had been a pencil, he would have snapped it clean in half again, and Jimin would never let him hear the end of it.

 

Jimin seems to sense Jeongguk’s agitation, because he gets up from his spot from the other side of the couch (why Taehyung had decided to sit in Jeongguk’s lap instead of Jimin’s, Jeongguk’ll never know). Jeongguk shoots him a look akin to save me, but Jimin just snickers and excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

 

Ass,” Jeongguk hisses under his breath, and trying his best not to touch Taehyung. He’s got his arms up now, while Taehyung curls into his chest, and his logic is that the less contact he has with Taehyung, the better.

 

“Mine is quite nice, thanks,” Taehyung murmurs, and Jeongguk gulps, because he knows, thank you very much, and the fact that Taehyung is currently rubbing his nice ass into Jeongguk’s crotch isn’t helping.

 

“Want to touch it?” Taehyung tilts his head up to ask. Jeongguk just stares back, not really knowing how to answer that.

 

“I--”

 

“I bet you do,” Taehyung taunts, and Jeongguk feels his patience fraying. He wants to kick Taehyung off of him and just leave, because this is utterly ridiculous, but the part of him that’s a complete masochist makes him stay still.

 

“Yours is nice too. So are your thighs,” Taehyung hums in satisfaction, and Jeongguk splutters. “But mine is still better,” he giggles.

 

Honestly fuck me,” Jeongguk mutters under his breath. He can feel himself starting to sweat now. His thighs are tingling from the weight of Taehyung being in his lap for the last five minutes too.

 

“Why don’t you fuck me instead?” Taehyung asks, and Jeongguk almost chokes.

 

“What the hell--

 

Taehyung pouts, blinking innocently. “You don’t want to? Too good for me, pop star?”

 

“What? No, that’s not-- I’m not--”

 

Taehyung leans in, and Jeongguk can smell an odd mix of alcohol and strawberry shampoo “Kiss me, then?”

 

Jeongguk’s heart hammers in his chest, and he wants to say no, because Taehyung is drunk, but he doesn’t have time to respond, because Taehyung’s leaning in, pressing a sloppy, wet kiss to Jeongguk’s lips.

 

He pulls back, smacking his lips, and nods his head in satisfaction. Jeongguk remains frozen in his spot. At the back of his mind, he wonders how he can shoot music videos with half naked models all over him and not even bat an eye, but one drunk kiss from Taehyung and he’s ready to call it quits on Life in General.

 

“Wouldn’t mind doing that again,” Taehyung says, mostly to himself. He loops his arms lazily around Jeongguk’s neck and grins at him.

 

And maybe Jeongguk, in that moment, is possessed by the holy spirit, because he’s mumbling out a quick, “Alright,” and leaning in for another kiss. Taehyung makes a noise of surprise when their lips meet roughly, but he responds rather quickly, pressing close and opening his mouth, perfectly pliant.

 

Jeongguk tries to keep some semblance of self control, because Taehyung is still drunk, and he doesn’t want anything to happen while either of them are inebriated. It takes all of his iron willpower to pull away, and even then, Taehyung whines and leans in again.

 

Jeongguk has to put a finger to Taehyung’s lips to stop him, and Taehyung pouts. “But--”

 

“You have no idea how long I wanted to do that,” Jeongguk admits, still a little dazed from the taste of Taehyung on his tongue. Taehyung leans back a little in surprise.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk huffs. “Jimin had this weird idea for me to seduce you or something. It didn’t really… work.”

 

Taehyung scrunches his face in distaste. “Is that why you’ve been loitering around shirtless all the time? Because you’re low key thirsty for me?”

 

Jeongguk’s body flushes with embarrassment, and he wishes Taehyung didn’t sound so smug.

 

“You should have just asked,” Taehyung states plainly, and Jeongguk looks up in disbelief. “If you wanted to fuck, you could have just asked, instead of coming up with these elaborate schemes, you loser.”

 

“I’m not--” Jeongguk stops, because he really does feel stupid. “I can’t believe I’m doing this right now.”

 

Taehyung giggles. “I can’t either.” He leans in and presses a kiss to Jeongguk’s nose, before stumbling out of his lap. “Well, that was fun, Jeonggukie. We should do it again sometime.”

 

And Jeongguk watches, speechless, as Taehyung walks down the hall. Jimin walks back a minute later (conveniently), looking unbelievably smug.

 

“So, what’s up, Jeon Jeongguk?” he asks, and only laughs when Jeongguk flings his highlighter at him.

 

--

 

Jeongguk feels like he’s sitting on hot coals all through the tutoring session. He’s not sure how much Taehyung remembers, considering Taehyung had been drunk when they’d had The Talk, and he’s not sure if he wants Taehyung to, in all honesty.

 

All he can do is stare, eyes burning, shoulders tense, and hopes that Taehyung will somehow pick up on whatever cue he’s giving. He really doesn’t know how to do this flirting thing.

 

“If you stare any harder I’m going to catch on fire,” Taehyung says suddenly. Jeongguk jumps a bit, and he realizes they haven’t actually been doing any work. He’s just been staring, and Taehyung’s just… let him.

 

Oh.

 

“I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want that, right?” he asks, resting his chin on his hand, and stares expectantly at Jeongguk. There’s a secret smile tugging at his lips, and Jeongguk gulps, because he just wants to kiss him.

 

“I--”

 

And they just stare at each other for a moment, before Taehyung huffs a laugh. “Do you know how many fan fics I’ve read about this exact situation?”

 

Jeongguk scowls. “What does that mean?”

 

Taehyung bites his lip and winks. “It means that Jimin isn’t home tonight.”

 

And that’s an invitation, if Jeongguk’s ever heard one. It hangs in the air between them, and Taehyung is waiting. Waiting for him.

 

"We're in the bloom of our youth, Jeongguk. It's gonna disappear real fast."

 

Jeongguk doesn’t give himself time to second-guess this, and leans forward, tugging Taehyung closer by his arm, and presses his mouth impatiently against Taehyung’s.

 

And it really has been a long time, Jeongguk realizes, because it only takes a muffled gasp from Taehyung, lips parting so perfectly, for the familiar heat to coil in his stomach. The initial shock wears away pretty quickly, and soon Taehyung is cupping Jeongguk’s face and pressing closer.

 

Somehow, Jeongguk manages to pull Taehyung into his lap, hands hot under his shirt, while Taehyung winds his arms around Jeongguk’s neck, tugging at his hair. And he lets out these little half-moans, soft and low, and Jeongguk wonders what they’d sound like full-fledged.

 

“As much as I love lap sex, I think Jimin would be kind of traumatized if he found out we banged on the dining table,” Taehyung murmurs against Jeongguk’s lips. Jeongguk fights a shiver, because he’s never been so insanely turned on. Taehyung fits so nicely against him, his thin frame practically molding into his arms.

 

“Room?” Jeongguk suggests, and Taehyung’s eyes crinkle at the corners in amusement as he stares down at Jeongguk.

 

“You’re smarter than you look,” Taehyung chuckles.

 

“Shut up,” Jeongguk growls, pressing their mouths into another rough kiss, before securing his hands against Taehyung’s legs and lifting them both off the chair.

 

“H-holy shit,” Taehyung stutters, teasing making way for surprise, arms tightening around Jeongguk’s neck as he carries Taehyung into his room. “This is honestly so fucking hot.”

 

The praise sends another rush of heat through Jeongguk, and he pushes Taehyung back against the bedroom door, more motivated than ever, going back for a demanding kiss.

 

He keeps one arm around Taehyung to keep him up as he tugs at his shirt. Taehyung laughs, but raises his arms to let Jeongguk pull it completely off. And then Jeongguk’s going for his sweatpants. He really doesn’t have time to waste.

 

“Whoa there, speed racer,” Taehyung pants, putting his hand over Jeongguk’s own. Jeongguk looks up in lust-hazed confusion. “You realize we have like, all night, right?”

 

Jeongguk blinks, because he didn’t consider that. Had he ever done anything beyond a quickie in a bathroom stall?

 

“Were you planning on fucking me against a wall when there’s a nice, soft bed right behind you?”

 

Right. Bed. People have sex on beds a lot.

 

“No,” Jeongguk bites, before pulling Taehyung away from the wall, and practically flinging him onto the bed. He’s too impatient and too damn horny for this right now.

 

“Jesus, that’s probably world record,” Taehyung says, noting how quickly Jeongguk strips down and straddles him.

 

“Do you ever just stop talking?” Jeongguk asks gruffly, as Taehyung pushes himself up to meet him in a kiss.

 

“I’m a delight, okay?” Taehyung corrects, and lifts his hips to let Jeongguk pull his his sweatpants off.

 

Jeongguk pushes Taehyung down into the pillows, and makes to lean in again.

 

"Wait!" Taehyung yelps, pressing a hand to Jeongguk's chest. Jeongguk pitches back immediately.

 

"What? What's wrong?"

 

Taehyung looks Jeongguk in the eye for a moment, trying to catch his breath, and licks his lips. "I just... I want to..." He doesn't finish whatever he wanted so say, and just runs his gaze down Jeongguk's form, eyes hooded. He runs his hand down Jeongguk's chest, thumbing at the birthmark on the left of Jeonguk's abdomen, before nodding.

 

"Yeah. Okay, Jeongguk--"

 

He doesn't really have to say anything else, because Jeongguk is swooping down again to kiss Taehyung, settling himself between Taehyung's spread legs.

 

The rest of it is blurry. Taehyung scrambles for the lube and condoms in his drawer, and Jeongguk flips him around onto his hands and knees, prepping him with such practiced efficiency, Taehyung doesn’t even realize he’s ready until Jeongguk’s three fingers in.

 

Taehyung doesn't know what he expected, when Jeongguk finally slides himself in, but not even his wildest imagination could quantify the heat crackling underneath his skin, or the way he shakes apart at Jeongguk's quiet groans.

 

Jeongguk, while initially impatient, waits quietly for Taehyung to adjust, before moving slowly. But when he grazes Taehyung's prostate, and Taehyung lets out a high whine, he lets go, snapping his hips quickly and sloppily. Taehyung doesn't mind so much, because Jeongguk feels so good inside him, everything just feels good.

 

Jeongguk sets the pace too quickly for either of them to last long. He comes first, into the condom, and jerks Taehyung off roughly until he shakes through his orgasm.

 

And Taehyung can't support himself on his elbows anymore, and just collapses on his stomach. Jeongguk, takdn by surprise, and still inside him, goes down with him, and for a minute, neither of them make to move.

 

"Hey Jeongguk?" Taehyung's voice is muffled by the pillow. Jeongguk just grunts in response.

 

"I... can't breathe."

 

"Oh shit, fuck, sorry," Jeongguk scrambles off of Taehyung's body, pulling himself out, and Taehyung bites his lip to keep from whining. He stays still for a little while more, watching as Jeongguk tosses out the condom and scrambles around the room for his clothes.

 

Once he's dressed, Jeongguk hesitates, standing awkwardly at the side of the bed in front of Taehyung while carding a hand through his hair.

 

“Uhm…” Jeongguk doesn’t really know what to say. A thank you sounds too crass.

 

Taehyung props himself up on his elbows. “That was nice, Jeon Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk flushes. “Thanks.” Can we do that again some time?

 

“I’ll see you on Thursday, yeah?" Jeongguk's eyes widen, and hope stabs at his chest. "There’s still a lot of material we need to cover before your midterm.”

 

Right, Jeongguk realizes, flushing with an odd sense of disappointment. Taehyung looks so good right now, still naked and sprawled out on the bed. He gulps and tries not to let his mind wander.

 

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” he mumbles. He pauses for just a moment longer, suddenly not sure what to do with himself.

 

“Good night, Jeongguk,” And it sounds like Taehyung’s kicking him out.

 

“Night,” he says, in a clipped voice, and turns around. He knows this is supposed to be it. The end. But somehow, this feelings like the beginning. Or maybe he just wishes it was.

 

--

 

“So…” Jimin scoots closer to Taehyung where he’s lying in Jimin’s bed.

 

“So what?

 

Jimin rolls his eyes. “How was it? How good is Jeon Jeongguk at The Sex?”

 

Taehyung blushes furiously, rolling over so his face is buried into the blankets.

“Wow, that good?”

 

Taehyung lets out a whine, which Jimin takes for a hell yes.

 

“Did you get it out of your system then?”

 

At this, Taehyung is quiet. Jimin blinks in surprise. “...Taehyung?” He pokes at Taehyung’s side. “Taehyungie.”

 

“No,” Taehyung mumbles, and he could technically be referring to anything, but Jimin knows exactly what he’s talking about.

 

“Wow, okay.”

 

Taehyung lets out a groan and flips over to stare at the ceiling. Jimin turns too, so they’re in the same position, side by side.

 

“I thought I’d get over it. Like, I’d always imagined it happening but I never thought it’d actually happen. Like, who gets to bang their bias, right? And then I did and I thought I’d be able to like… I don’t know, close the book. But…”

 

“You liked it.”

 

“I liked it!” Taehyung whines, and flails around.

 

“And you wouldn’t mind doing it again.”

 

Taehyung makes a gurgling sound and rolls over. He miscalculates the size of the bed, and promptly falls off the edge.

 

Jimin doesn’t even attempt to hide his snickering as he peers over the edge. Taehyung remains motionless on the floor, and he doesn’t particularly feel the need to get up any time soon.

 

“Why don’t you just ask if he wants to hook up again?”

 

At this, Taehyung lifts up his head. “What? Why would I do that?”

 

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Because you want to hook up again?”

 

Taehyung puts his head down, considering. “I do.”

 

“So ask him,” Jimin wonders how Taehyung, a chemistry major, who’s professionally published research papers and probably knows more about the brain than most of the neurobio professors on campus combined, can be such a Supreme Idiot.

 

“What if he says no? I mean, I’m Kim Taehyung. He’s… Jeon Jeongguk.”

 

Jimin scrunches up his face in distaste. “Since when did you start ranking yourself below Jeon trash baby Jeongguk, huh? Need me to punch some sense into you?”

 

Taehyung pouts.

 

“Listen, bro. My sweet mango flavored jelly bean. Do you know how hard that guy worked to try and get you to notice him? I’m pretty sure Jeongguk’s in the same boat right now.”

 

--

 

Jeongguk is, of course, in the same boat. But his method of coping is a bit different than Taehyung’s.

 

The walls of the dance studio are practically shaking with the volume of the music, and if Jeongguk didn’t know better, the mirrored wall might just shatter. It seems like a good analogy for his sanity right now.

 

It’s just one hook up, Jeongguk reminds himself, as he dives headfirst into the choreography of his last comeback. It’d been a dark hip hop concept, and the music video had involved an abandoned train station terminal and various home furniture items set on fire.

 

He’s only got a pair of sweatpants and a tank top on, but he feels too warm. It’s probably because he can’t stop thinking about Taehyung, on his hands and knees in front of him, whimpering his na--

 

Fuck,” Jeongguk hisses, the lust hitting him square in the stomach, to the point where he has to stop and rest his hands on his knees for a minute. There’s sweat dripping off his nose, and everything just burns. He’d never felt so unbelievably needy before, and definitely not for a specific person.

 

And yet here he is, at midnight, in his practice studio at his company’s building, trying to dance the sexual frustration off. But he can’t even manage to do that. He tears his snapback off and throws it against the wall, before picking up his phone from where he’d put it on the floor.

 

He collapses on the floor and unlocks his phone, before scrolling through his contact list. Taehyung had put his name as Dr. Kim, PhD with a mouse emoji (it still freaks Jeongguk out that Taehyung works with mice. Who is this guy?), and he hovers a finger over the green call button.

 

He knows he really shouldn’t call. Taehyung had made it pretty clear (at least to Jeongguk) that this was a one time thing. Jeongguk had figured it would only be a one time thing. That’s what he wanted.

 

As in, past tense.

 

Now, he just wants. He really wants Taehyung again, and it’s absolutely ridiculous, but doesn’t really have enough energy to try and analyze his feelings, not when he wakes up in the morning with a raging boner and the lingering image of Taehyung’s kiss-swollen lips on his mind.

 

Just then, his phone buzzes with a text, and his phone slips out of his hands in surprise.

 

Dr. Kim, PhD, is the contact name, and Jeongguk almost drops his phone again.

 

hey, you awake?

 

Jeongguk gulps and his fingers fly over the keyboard.

 

yeah.

 

He pauses for a second, and then sends a whats up? as well, just for safety.

 

im bored.

 

Jeongguk frowns. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

 

and jimin’s not home

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says aloud, and almost freaks himself out when he hears the sound of his own voice.

 

so?

 

He wants to take it back the moment he sends it, because he just sounds like an ass, but he can’t let Taehyung get the best of him, or let him know how desperate he really is.

 

so you should come over

 

Jeongguk can feel the all-too familiar heat creeping back up. He goes to text back something snarky, like should i bring my textbook? but his phone vibrates again.

 

don’t bring your chem book, btw

 

“Holy shit,” Jeongguk breathes, almost irritated, but he’s already on his feet, packing up his stuff, and is out the door and into his car within two minutes.

 

Jeongguk rarely drives, since he doesn’t really need to, but suddenly it seems like him pestering Yoongi when he was eighteen about getting his license finally paid off.

 

He gets to the apartment in record time, and he’s almost panting by the time he gets to the door. He knocks three times, and tries to compose himself, because hell if he’s going to look that needy in front of Taehyung.

 

But that train of thought evaporates when Taehyung opens the door, in an oversized shirt and those ridiculous pink shorts, skin flushed and eyes slightly glazed. He looks positively angelic and Jeongguk just wants to ruin him. Taehyung looks him up and down, eyes darkening a fraction, before his lips twitch up into a smirk.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t wait for an invitation before he’s stepping inside, and shoving Taehyung against the door.

 

Things happen a bit less awkwardly than the first time. It’s just as desperate, just as hot, when Jeongguk tosses Taehyung on the couch and sucks him off right there, where he’d sat and studied all semester.

 

Taehyung is perfect like this, Jeongguk thinks, with his legs flung over Jeongguk’s shoulders, head thrown back, and lips pink and wet as he moans Jeongguk’s name.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t let him come, holding back the orgasm as he pulls Taehyung off the couch and pulls them both into Taehyung’s room, where the lube is.

 

Taehyung rides Jeongguk that time, whining obscenely as he takes Jeongguk in, hands splayed against Jeongguk’s abs. He leans down while he’s adjusting, and licks at Jeongguk’s sweat-slick neck.

 

Jeongguk barely claws the through the haze of lust to tug Taehyung away. “No… marks,” he pants out, and for a moment Taehyung looks mildly offended, but then he’s smiling again, pressing a kiss to Jeongguk’s lips.

 

“You got it, pop star,” he murmurs, before rolling his hips, and Jeongguk groans, hands going down to grip Taehyung’s waist. Their pace is still fast, but it’s better than last time, more coordinated, and by the time they’ve both climaxed, they’re loose-limbed and panting.

 

Jeongguk feels pride rush through him, as Taehyung blinks down at him sleepily, looking absolutely fucked out. There are bruises on his hips from where Jeongguk had gripped too hard, and his hair is sticking up at odd angles.

 

“How was that, speed racer?” Taehyung asks, voice soft at the edges, as he lifts himself off with Jeongguk’s help.

 

“Good,” Jeongguk mumbles, cheeks tinged pink at the admittance.

 

“What got you all sweaty and bothered? Did you run here?” Taehyung asks, settling himself down next to Jeongguk on the bed. It’s not large, so they’re pressed close together, and Jeongguk feels every point of contact between his skin and Taehyung’s.

 

“I was in the studio,” he says vaguely.

 

“Dancing?”

 

Jeongguk makes a noise of affirmation, still too lethargic to respond properly.

 

“You should let me come watch you rehearse some time.”

 

Jeongguk turns his head in surprise, and looks at Taehyung closely, trying to detect some sort of lie.

 

“Why?”

 

Taehyung turns on his side, propping his head on his hand, and shrugs. “Why not?” When Jeongguk still doesn’t respond, he continues. “I’ve always wanted to have sex against one of those mirror walls.”

 

--

 

They do, in fact, have sex in Jeongguk’s dance studio. It’s late and no mortal with common sense would be up this at that hour, but Jeongguk keeps three fingers in Taehyung’s mouth anyway, muffling his cries, and watches the mirror as Taehyung’s limbs turn to jelly when Jeongguk slides inside him, and his skin flushes a pretty pink.

 

And they find other vastly creative places to fuck, quick and fast, always a tangle of limbs and too much heat between them, but it’s so so good, and Taehyung can’t complain. Jeongguk becomes fixated with marking Taehyung anywhere his mouth can reach, biting and sucking until Taehyung’s skin is purple and pink.

 

Taehyung can’t do the same, but he knows why and he’s okay with that. He’s mostly happy with the fact that Jeon Jeongguk is incredible in bed, and that he’s the one who gets to share it with him, for however long they do this.

 

Whatever this is.

 

Taehyung still tutors Jeongguk (he can’t have anyone failing the Greatest Subject on Earth), but they almost always end up hooking up right after. And somewhere between the kisses and the heated touches, they actually get to know each other.

 

Taehyung is very much into pillow talk, as Jeongguk finds out. He isn’t surprised that Taehyung can chat his ear off. What does surprise him is the fact that he doesn’t really mind. He lays in bed with Taehyung pressed against his side, listening to him talk about his experiments, how his post doc Namjoon managed to break the ten thousand dollar centrifuge the other day, how Taehyung sometimes wants to run away and join the circus, and anything else that pops up into his head.

 

Taehyung is also good at getting Jeongguk to talk too. He’s used to being asked questions. He’d memorized company-approved answers to pre-screened questions on variety show after variety show. But when Taehyung asks him what animal he’d want to turn into during a zombie apocalypse, or whether telepathy is better than invisibility, Jeongguk is at a loss. Taehyung has an uncanny way of asking questions Jeongguk had never really thought about, and it’s… refreshing.

 

“Approximately how many strawberries are appropriate to put into a smoothie?” Taehyung asks. Jeongguk had managed to take him three ways against his desk, and once they’d cleaned up, Taehyung had promptly settled himself on Jeongguk’s chest.

 

Jeongguk pauses, not particularly taken aback now by Taehyung’s never-ending list of seemingly random questions (they’re probably not random in Taehyung’s mind, every word measured and calculated, but Jeongguk has given up trying to figure that out). He takes a moment to consider the question. “Well, it depends on what else is in there. And how strong you want the strawberry taste to be.”

 

Taehyung hums. “Like, a strawberry banana smoothie. What would be the correct banana to strawberry ratio?”

 

“I’d go with like… four. The medium sized ones. Not too much, just enough for the pink color.”

 

Taehyung nods, like Jeongguk had just given him the answer to all of life’s questions. “What if it also had peaches in it?”

 

And Jeongguk talks about himself. What his life was like back in Busan before moving to Seoul when he was twelve. Horror stories of being a trainee. All the backstage idol gossip and industry rumors, and Taehyung drinks in every bit.

 

It’s strange. Jeongguk had never talked to anyone about things like that. No one ever listened like Taehyung, either. Somehow, with Taehyung pressed against him, carding his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, he feels calm, settled, for the first time in a long while.

 

--

 

Taehyung does things for Jeongguk that fall well outside the range of FWB/tutor. Like letting Jeongguk work on his songs in his room while he’s writing a paper.

 

“Doesn’t this bother you?” Jeongguk had asked once. He’d managed to finish most of one song that day. Something about the sun lighting up Taehyung’s hair had made the words come so easily.

 

Taehyung just shakes his head. “I love the sound of your voice. It makes me calm.”

 

So Jeongguk abandons his studio for Taehyung’s room from then on, and with the muffled noise of Taehyung typing rapidly at his laptop and his muffled cursing, Jeongguk manages to crank out enough songs for a solid acoustic EP.

 

Taehyung sneaks Jeongguk food when he’s having fast food cravings and can’t go out because he’d probably get mobbed at the burger place across the street if he tried to walk in. Sometimes after sex Taehyung will go out and bring them back food that Jeongguk really shouldn’t go near, for fear of his carefully maintained diet.

 

But too-greasy french fries sound perfect when Taehyung’s kissing him between bites, eyes crinkling and lips turning up into a smile that uncannily resembles a box.

 

Jimin walks in on them that time, trying to get a water bottle, and just stares at them for a moment. Taehyung had just smeared Jeongguk’s nose with ketchup and promptly kissed it off. Jeongguk had scrunched his nose, but he wasn’t really complaining.

 

“Am I in an alternate universe?” Jimin asks, more thinking out loud than posing a question, but his voice makes Jeongguk jump, and he turns to face Jimin, more embarrassed at being caught in this situation than actually being in this situation.

 

“Has Jeon Jeongguk been replaced by an alien?”

 

“Don’t be silly,” Taehyung says, laughing, and Jeongguk is grateful for him interjecting, because he can’t quite find his voice. “He’s just seen the light of a double bacon cheeseburger.”

 

Jimin makes a face akin to having accidentally sipped sour milk. “Right. Yeah, okay. Just… keep your business off the couch. I sit there sometimes.”

 

“Too late for that!” Taehyung calls after Jimin as he heads back to his room.

 

Aw man. Bro come on!” Jeongguk hears Jimin yelling, and he knows he’s going to hear it when they go running tomorrow morning.

 

--

 

When Jeongguk walks into the Ceci studio, everyone stops what they’re doing to bow. He does the same, and his shoulders straighten by habit. It’d been a while since he’d been in this environment, where everyone was hyper focused on him, and he had an image to keep.

 

“Good morning, Jeongguk ssi!” the photographer, Himchan, says, smiling. Jeongguk had shot with him a few times before, so he greets him pleasantly as he’s led through the concept for today.

 

One word-- shirtless.

 

Jeongguk fights the urge to roll his eyes at the overused sexy concept, but he doesn’t really have a choice. He just tries to find solace in the fact that he’ll look good, at the very least.

 

“Jeon Jeongguk, is that you I see from the reflection of my mirror?” a voice calls out, and Jeongguk immediately perks up, and making a beeline for the makeup and hair area to see one of his most favorite people in the whole world-- Kim Seokjin.

 

“Hyung!” Jeongguk exclaims, practically bouncing up to Seokjin’s chair to wrap his arms around the older man’s neck.

 

“Hey kiddo,” Seokjin says, patting Jeongguk’s arm. They smile at each other through the reflection, and are quiet for a moment as they bask in the feeling of their reunion.

 

“I missed you hyung,” Jeongguk says quietly, pressing his nose against Seokjin’s cheek, feeling slightly vulnerable under the older man’s tender gaze. Seokjin smells like Calvin Klein cologne and foundation, and Jeongguk didn’t realize how much he missed it until now.

 

“I missed you too Kookie. I had my manager book our restaurant for lunch because we have a lot to catch up on.”

 

Jeongguk beams. “Of course.”

 

They make small talk as the hairdresser ushers Jeongguk into the other chair. Seokjin had been in France for the last three months, walking the runway and endorsing some fancy Parisian lotion that Jeongguk doesn’t care to remember the name of.

 

Seokjin tells Jeongguk about his escapades with some of the other models in Paris, skipping after parties to wander the streets instead. Jeongguk drinks them up, because he could never live life the way Seokjin could.

 

Soon, they get taken to the shoot, and fall into a very easy, well-established rhythm. Jeongguk had met Seokjin during one of his first photoshoots when he was fifteen, and, sleep-deprived and feeling the strictly vegan diet that had been suddenly pushed on him, had managed to have an epic meltdown and lock himself in the bathroom.

 

Seokjin had talked to Jeongguk for an hour, soothing him through the other side of the door, until he’d come out, sniffling, head hung low, and shoulders slumped lower, only to have Seokjin run his hand through his hair and bring him into a hug.

 

Jeongguk would never forget that day, when he’d finally, finally, felt like he had someone in this scary world, who was really listening to him, not as an idol, but as Jeongguk. Needless to say, he and Seokjin were closer than close, but the media didn’t quite understand the word platonic.

 

Seokjin’s got a white dress shirt on, unbuttoned halfway, with a tie knotted loosely around his neck. Jeongguk’s in something similar, except his chest is completely exposed, the fabric sliding off one shoulder.

 

They pose for the camera, shifting positions every so often, and Jeongguk glares, because that’s what he does and he’s damn good at it. He’d been told he had a look that both said “come hither” and “don’t touch me”. He doesn’t quite understand that, but he likes the idea of being intimidating.

 

“Since when are you as tall as me?” Seokjin murmurs as a stylist re-smudges his eyeliner.

 

Jeongguk grins. “Hyung, I’m taller than you. I have been for the past, like, year.”

 

Seokjin huffs (at least, he tries to, with an eyeliner pencil dangerously close to his eye). “I remember the good old days, when you didn’t go past my shoulders, and I could pat your head and you’d stay still enough for me to do it,” He sniffs dramatically. “Where did the time go?”

 

“Hyung, you’re only five years older than me. Oh wait. Shouldn’t you be using wrinkle creams now?”

 

Seokjin, now free from the stylist’s clutches, swats at Jeongguk’s arm. “Watch your mouth, brat. I’m feeding you today.”

 

Jeongguk lets out a laugh. He missed this-- being able to let go and be a kid. He’d never quite had that chance. But with Seokjin, he feels like he doesn’t have to put up any of those pretenses.

 

“Of course, grandpa,” Jeongguk mocks, and Seokjin raises his hand threateningly, but Himchan clears his throat, and they’re back to business.

 

The shoot wraps up quickly, with minimal costume changes, just low lighting and ridiculous angsty poses, and then Jeongguk is in the van with Seokjin, being driven to their restaurant.

 

He doesn’t know when it became their restaurant, but it had become something like a tradition to visit The Min’s for lunch whenever they were both in town. There are photographers stationed outside the door, as usual, because it’s a common place for celebrities to come, and when Seokjin and Jeongguk step out, the cameras are flashing, and they’re immediately surrounded.

 

Jeongguk slides on his Ray Bans, and lets Seokjin’s manager part the crowd and help them through. Once they’re in the safety of the building, they’re taken to their seats.

 

“Ah, I missed this place,” Seokin says wistfully, and Jeongguk just grins, sliding off his sunglasses to look over the menu.

 

“I’m in the mood for something with tomatoes,” Seokjin says, mostly to himself.

 

Jeongguk chuckles. “Taehyung hates tomatoes.” He remembers how Taehyung had picked his tomato slice out of his burger like it was going to burst into flames at any moment.

 

Seokjin raises an eyebrow in surprise. “Who’s Taehyung?”

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk’s eyes widen, suddenly feeling like he’d been caught doing something bad. “He’s… a friend,” he decides to say.

 

“Friend? Wow Jeongguk, college is really doing you some good.”

 

Jeongguk’s ears feel hot, and he clears his throat. “Yeah, I guess.”

 

Luckily, the waiter comes just then, and the conversation is put on pause so they can order. But once that's settled, Seokjin fixes his attention back on Jeongguk, chin resting on his interlaced fingers.

 

“How are classes?”

 

Jeongguk sighs in relief at the change in topic. “They’re a lot of fun! One of the instructors in my dance class, Hoseok hyung, he’s really cool. And I’m taking a music theory class. Chem is kicking my ass, but Taehyung’s been helping me a lot, so it’s not that bad.”

 

“That’s good then,” Seokjin says, nodding his head.

 

“Taehyung says chemistry is the most important subject every created, and that no one should be failing it,” Jeongguk laughs again.

 

“Chemistry is very important,” Seokjin concedes. He pauses for a moment. “Have you been composing at all?”

 

Jeongguk nods. “I just started recording for a new album. It’s just an acoustic one so I’m not promoting, but it’s going well. Taehyung studies while I write and the songs came to me really quickly.”

 

Seokjin looks like he’s biting his tongue. “I can only imagine. It looks like you have a good support system.”

 

Jeongguk nods, pausing what he was going to say when the food comes. Once they’re settled, he speaks up. “Taehyung and Jimin are the best.”

 

“Who’s Jimin?”

 

Jeongguk shrugs. “Taehyung’s roommate. They’re like, best friends or something. Anyway, yeah Taehyung’s been really amazing. We didn’t really get off to a good start, but…” Jeongguk stops to consider his words. “... we’re good. We’re really good now.”

 

“I’m glad to hear that,” Seokjin says. “They seem like people you can trust.”

 

“I trust Taehyung,” Jeongguk agrees, picking up his chopsticks. It doesn’t even surprise him when he says it out loud. He wouldn’t be sleeping with the guy if he didn’t trust him, after all. But he’s not going to tell that to Seokjin.

 

Seokjin narrows his eyes, and he opens his mouth to say something, but seems to reconsider.

 

“Jeongguk, are you happy right now?” he asks suddenly. Jeongguk chews on his rice and thinks for a moment. For once in his life, nothing seems rushed or hectic.

 

“Yeah, hyung,” Jeongguk says slowly. “Yeah, I am.”

 

Seokjin nods, but his eyes are still narrowed. Jeongguk doesn’t notice.

 

“Oh! There was this one time Taehyung was trying to make the perfect strawberry banana smoothie and he kept making me taste test everything. Honestly, hyung, I never want to see another strawberry as long as I live.”

 

“That’s quite... interesting,” Seokjin picks up his own chopsticks and digs in. “Any other wild college escapades?”

 

Jeongguk laughs. “I mean, I don’t, but I could tell you like a million stories about Taehyung getting in trouble with the chem faculty.”

 

Seokjin sighs. “I would love to hear about that,” And he braces himself for another hour about Jeongguk relaying back some rather wild anecdotes, some of them involving live mice.

 

“Well, it sounds like you’re having quite the time,” Seokjin concludes, after the bill has been paid. Jeongguk nods enthusiastically. There’s a light in his eyes that Seokjin’s never seen before.

 

“College is fun, hyung.”

 

“I can see that,” Seokjin leans forward. “But… I have to ask. Who is Taehyung, really?”

 

Jeongguk leans back in his chair, looking a bit offended. “What--” He sighs in frustration. “I told you, hyung. He’s a friend.”

 

“Jeon Jeongguk, I just spent the last hour listening to you talk about Taehyung, and only Taehyung. The last time you talked this much about someone was when you got to MC with G-Dragon during an Inkigayo interview last year.”

 

Jeongguk scrambles for something to say, but Seokjin beats him to it.

 

“You don’t talk about friends like that, Jeongguk.”

 

“Hyung, he’s a friend, okay? Just a friend.”

 

“A friend with benefits? Are you sleeping with him?”

 

Jeongguk looks at him, scandalized. “Hyung,

 

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “Jeongguk, I’ve got a whole five years of life experience over you. Don’t think I don’t know what an FWB is. I’m not a grandpa yet.”

 

“Yeah but--” Jeongguk looks down at his lap, and it’s an admission, if nothing else. Seokjin doesn’t need a concrete yes or no to be able to read Jeongguk.

 

He sighs. “Jeongguk, I’m not going to go around and tell you not to have sex. You’re twenty years old, you can figure that out for yourself. I will tell you this-- nothing can happen between you and Taehyung, got it? Don’t start crushing on him, don’t make any promises, because you know you won’t be able to keep them. You’re an idol first, you made that decision all those years ago when you signed that contract with your label.”

 

“I don’t have a crush, hyung,” Jeongguk’s shoulders are tense, squared defensively, and he’s scowling. “It’s just… a fling. Or whatever. I know what I’m doing.”

 

Seokjin leans back, not convinced in the slightest. But he also knows that some things, Jeongguk will just have to figure out on his own, even though they may be obvious to everyone else.

 

“I know what I’m doing, hyung,” Jeongguk repeats, but it sounds more like he’s trying to convince himself than Seokjin.

 

“I hope, for your sake, that you do.”

 

--

 

where are you? Jeongguk texts Taehyung. He’d been in a foul mood all of yesterday and today, ever since his conversation with Seokjin.

 

I don’t like Taehyung. I don’t like Taehyung. I don’t. There are no feelings. None.

 

That’s what Jeongguk repeats as he unlocks and locks his phone nervously, waiting for Taehyung’s response. He’s sitting in the cafeteria, and he just wants to leave, because everyone is staring at him and whispering, but he’d agreed to meet Taehyung here.

 

23 seconds!!!!! Taehyung messages back, and knowing him, he’ll actually take approximately that long.

 

“Twenty five seconds,” Jeongguk deadpans when Taehyung slides into the seat opposite him. He goes to say something else sharp, but he stops. Because Taehyung is sitting there in front of him, in a crisp white dress shirt, black suspenders, and a bowtie. Not to mention his he’s wearing his big black framed glasses, and his hair’s been brushed down neatly.

 

He looks… so damn cute.

 

“Do I have something on my face?” Taehyung asks, when Jeongguk keeps staring owlishly at him. He reaches up for his cheek and swipes at his skin. “Huh…” he says, looking at his clean hand. “I guess not.” He shrugs. “Anyway, you hollered?”

 

“Uh…” With his bad mood he had forgotten he was the one who had called Taehyung, more demanding than usual. But Taehyung was always quick to indulge. “Yeah.”

 

“Can’t go back to the apartment, though. Jimin’s sexiled me and I owe him like fifty of those so,” Taehyung shrugs, and smiles again, that funny box smile. Jeongguk gulps.

 

“We can… go back to my place. If you want,” Jeongguk surprises himself at the suggestion. He surprises Taehyung too, who puts a shocked hand to his chest.

 

“Really? Does this mean I get to see your evil lair?”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes and makes to get up. “Yeah, whatever. Lets go.”

 

“But,” Taehyung starts, trailing after Jeongguk. “How are we getting there? I mean.. where is it? How far is it from campus? Do you keep rare white Siberian tigers inside for aesthetic purposes?”

 

Jeongguk shoots Taehyung a wary glare. “First of all, I’m pretty sure the tiger thing is a massive animal rights violation. Second, I drove. I’ll drive you back. Don’t worry about it.”

 

“But this is important information! I need to be well-informed about my whereabouts!”

 

Jeongguk sighs. “Sure, Taehyung,” He’s more than relieved when they finally get to the back student parking lot. There aren’t many people there at this time of night, so Jeongguk isn’t too worried about reporters.

 

“Nice ride,” Taehyung comments appreciatively. Jeongguk shrugs. It’s a nice black Lexus, and Jeongguk only really started using it in the last couple of months.

 

Once they’re buckled up, Jeongguk starts heading back to his place, and lets Taehyung chatter on about his day.

 

“So tell me again why you’re wearing a bowtie?” Jeongguk asks when there's a pause in the conversation.

 

“Oh,” Taehyung looks down at his attire. “I gave a presentation to the faculty a little while ago. Something along the lines of please accept me into your grad school and the like.”

 

Jeongguk hums.

 

“I mean, I know I’ll get in. I’ll get in somewhere. But, I’d like to stay here, if I can help it.”

 

“Why’s that?” Jeongguk merges onto the freeway.

 

Taehyung makes a noise of consideration. “My work is at this lab. If I leave, I’d be starting with a new group of people, on new experiments. I’m really close to getting somewhere with my mice, Jeongguk. I don’t want to just abandon that work.”

 

Jeongguk nods, because that much he can understand. “How’s the paper coming along?”

 

“Oh, right. That. The paper.” Taehyung laughs nervously. Jeongguk side-eyes him.

 

“Don’t tell me you didn’t start it.”

 

“I did! I did I promise. I have like, half of it done. I just need more data so I’m in a time crunch for the next two weeks.”

 

“And the deadline’s at the end of the month?”

 

“Yep,” Taehyung says, popping the ‘p’. “How’s the album going?”

 

Jeongguk shrugs. “It’s going.”

 

He can feel Taehyung giving him The Look. “I don’t know what else to tell you! It’s just… going. We’re still recording everything and playing around with things. Nothing’s finalized yet.”

 

That answer seems to satisfy Taehyung enough. “Just promise me, when the album comes out, you’ll autograph it for me.”

 

This time Jeongguk actually turns to stare at Taehyung. “Why?”

 

“So I can sell it on eBay of course! Do you know how much money I could make off of that?” 

 

Jeongguk scoffs in disbelief, as he drives past the automated gate system surrounding his building.

 

“Holy wow,” Taehyung says, eyes wide as he takes in everything. Jeongguk’s building is tall and well-lit, with a garden and pathways at the front, with a water fountain in the middle of it all. “Is this where all the celebrities live?”

 

Jeongguk turns into the parking lot. “Basically.”

 

He actually really likes the idea of this place-- it had tight security, and everyone is very private. He scans his keycard in the elevator, and it immediately starting moving up, towards the top floor. It should be heaven on earth, except--

 

“No offense, but it looks like no one lives here,” Taehyung says, taking in the foyer as he toes off his shoes. The space is large, and he estimates that the entire square footage of his apartment would fit in the living room.

 

But it’s so… bare. There are decorations placed tastefully here and there, but it lacks any sort of personality or warmth. Suddenly, Taehyung doesn’t blame Jeongguk for spending so much time at his and Jimin’s apartment.

 

“That’s because technically no one does,” Jeongguk explains, using his foot to shove Taehyung’s shoes more neatly to the side from where they’d been kicked off. “I’m hardly ever here.”

 

Taehyung makes a noise of acknowledgement as he continues to take in the space, before breathing out a soft, “Holy shit.”

 

Jeongguk looks at him expectantly, and then follows his line of sight, and he immediately regrets everything.

 

“Oh, that, uhm--”

 

“You have like a twelve foot long portrait of yourself in your living room. Nice.”

 

“It wasn’t my idea,” Jeongguk growls, tugging Taehyung towards him and away from the very large and obnoxious picture of him standing in front of a cherry blossom tree.

 

“It’s cool though,” Taehyung says, trying to assure Jeongguk, but his eyes are crinkled at the corners. Jeongguk makes a noncommittal noise and attempts to kiss Taehyung, but Taehyung just turns his head to look at the picture again, and Jeongguk’s lips land on Taehyung’s cheek instead.

 

“Come on, Taehyung,” Jeongguk tries, tugging at Taehyung’s suspenders. He uses his free hand to turn Taehyung’s head to kiss him properly, and Taehyung, as always, presses into it. It never ceases to amaze (and turn on) Jeongguk when he gets like this-- soft and and almost melting in his arms.

 

“I’m gonna do that too,” Taehyung murmurs as he lets Jeongguk pull him through the halls.

 

“What?” Jeongguk asks against Taehyung’s mouth, working at the buttons of his dress shirt.

 

“I’m gonna hang a portrait up in my living room too.”

 

He loses his breath a bit when Jeongguk pushes him roughly against the door, scrambling for the handle, before maneuvering them both inside.

 

“Except--” Taehyung pauses as Jeongguk kisses him roughly again, working his way down the column of his neck, biting and sucking as he goes.

 

“Except. It’s gonna be of my PhD instead.”

 

Jeongguk can’t help the rough chuckle that makes its way up his throat.

 

“Is that so?” He presses the words onto Taehyung’s collarbones, and suddenly, Taehyung’s having a hard time finding his train of thought, since he’s just trying to keep his knees from shaking. He gulps.

 

“And… and--” Taehyung shivers as Jeongguk’s fingers, always so warm against his skin, skim over the exposed skin of his chest.

 

Jeongguk lifts his head, and his eyes are dark and fierce.

 

“Tell me about it later,” he suggests, and Taehyung can only nod his head in compliance. “Right now, just let me make you feel good, alright?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah that sounds--” Taehyung doesn’t finish, and he doesn’t need to. Jeongguk presses Taehyung down into the bed and kisses him silly. Jeongguk knows exactly what Taehyung wants.

 

--

 

The thing about having a new place to fuck is that there are so many unexplored surfaces to test. Taehyung doesn’t know how many times they’d banged on the living room carpet, but he doesn’t really mind now, curled up against Jeongguk’s side in the bed as Jeongguk runs his fingers through his hair lazily.

 

“Are you gonna drive me back? Taehyung murmurs, fighting the wave of exhaustion that rushes through him. Jeongguk grunts, obviously just as fucked out.

 

“Why don’t you just stay the night?” Jeongguk asks sleepily, after a minute of consideration.

 

“Hm…” Somehow, they’d kept the lines between FWB and everything else pretty clear. They slept together, but they didn’t actually sleep together, because it had always felt like that would toe at some unspoken boundary.

 

But Taehyung’s not thinking about that, when Jeongguk feels so warm, and smells so nice. And this bed is too comfortable to resist.

 

“Okay…” Taehyung agrees easily, the word punctuated by a huge yawn. Jeongguk chuckles, turning his face to press a kiss onto Taehyung’s forehead.

 

“You’re too cute for your own good.”

 

Taehyung manages to mumble out a thank you, before he knocks out.

 

--

 

When Taehyung wakes up, he feels like he’s engulfed in warmth. And technically, he is, but he’s in Jeongguk’s arms, with his cheek pressed against Jeongguk’s chest, instead of by a space heater. His heart leaps into his throat, because he doesn’t know how he got there, or why he would have agreed to it in the first place, considering there are rules to these things, these hook ups.

 

HIs body tenses, and it makes Jeongguk stir. He opens his eyes, blinking away the sleep and peers down at Taehyung. They stare at each other for a long time, both of them trying to figure out what to say or do to make this situation less awkward.

 

“Uhm,” Jeongguk clears his throat. “Do you want breakfast? I can… make you something. And drop you back off. Or whatever. Whatever you want.”

 

Taehyung drops his gaze down to stare at Jeongguk’s collarbones. “Yeah. Breakfast. Sounds good.”

 

But neither of them make to move for another minute, because it almost seems like whoever gives up first is losing some absurd, abstract competition.

 

Jeongguk finally makes a move, uncurling his hands from where they’d held Taehyung close, and Taehyung is quick to slide away after that.

 

“You can, like, take a shower, or whatever you want. If you want.” Jeongguk clears his throat after tugging on his boxers. Taehyung sits up, pulling the covers up to his chest, and watching as Jeongguk hesitates to step out of the room. Eventually, he does, and as soon as he’s gone, Taehyung plops himself forward, face covered by the comforter.

 

I am such an idiot.

 

That’s the only thing he tells himself, over and over again, and he repeats it while he showers, drawing circles on his arms in the same place for a full minute until the skin is almost raw.

 

Once he steps out of the room, he follows the smell of food all the way to the kitchen. And then he feels like an even bigger idiot as he stands there and watches Jeongguk bustle around the space, still just in his boxers, hair soft and unstyled and hanging over his forehead.

 

Jeongguk was made for this, Taehyung thinks. He was made for the look he gives Taehyung when he finally spots him standing there, immobile, and the way he smiles, softly, hesitantly, because neither of them really know what they’re doing right now.

 

“I made pancakes.”

 

Taehyung forces himself to smile and step forward. “I love pancakes.” And he ignores the way his voice gets stuck when he uses the word love.

 

--

 

Taehyung scoffs at his laptop screen, and it makes Jimin look up from the textbook he’s been reading. Taehyung scoffs again, this time louder, more dramatic, and Jimin rolls his eyes.

 

“What is it?” he asks, leaning over to peer at whatever’s on the screen. It’s Jeongguk’s new spread for Ceci. “Oh hey, he looks good.”

 

Taehyung scoffs for the third time. “Yeah right.”

 

Jimin side-eyes Taehyung. “Aren’t you the one banging him? Shouldn’t you, like, be all over this?”

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I would be, except--” he pauses to click on the next picture, and motions to the screen, “--this.”

 

Jimin takes in the picture of Jeongguk, shirtless, with an older man, equally as shirt-deficient, hanging off his shoulder. They look… good.

 

Jimin narrows his eyes, looking closer. “Isn’t he that Kim Seokjin guy? He’s a model, right?”

 

“Of course he’s a model, Jimin! Look at him!” And Jimin does, in fact, look.

 

“I think I read a pwp about him once.”

 

Taehyung makes a strangled noise at the back of his throat. “Don’t you get it, Jimin? This is Kim Seokjin, as in, the guy everyone thinks is dating Jeongguk.”

 

Jimin frowns. “No offense, but he looks way too old for Jeongguk. Unless he has some sugar daddy thing going on. Wait… I think I read a pwp about that too.”

 

“Jimin!” Taehyung says in exasperation.

 

“What? What do you want from me?” Jimin asks defensively.

 

“Look at them, Jimin? They look good! They look good together! What if they really are dating?”

 

“Bro…” Jimin shakes his head, not knowing where to start. “Jeongguk’s banging you. If they were really dating he wouldn’t be messing around with you like that.”

 

Taehyung’s bottom lip quivers. “Yeah but… What if… what if Jeongguk realizes he’d rather be with Seokjin than me. What if he dumps me or something?”

 

Jimin opens his mouth to respond, but then it clicks. He chooses his words carefully. “You know… you’re not actually dating him, right?”

 

That makes Taehyung freeze up. “What? I never said that.”

 

But you just-- Jimin sighs. Never mind.

 

“Like, I wish I could tell you otherwise, but… you don’t really… it’s not your place to be jealous or anything. That’s how hookups and FWB’s work, remember?”

 

Taehyung gulps, turning back to the screen. “I’m not…” His voice falters. “I’m not jealous. I’m not.”

 

“Sure you’re not, TaeTae.”

 

“I’m not! Honestly this is just annoying. Why can’t Jeongguk just put on a goddamn shirt? How hard is that, really. He should really have a shirt on.”

 

Jimin looks at Taehyung, disbelieving. “Yeah. Sure. If that’s what you’re worried about.”

 

--

 

“That’s a wrap,” the producer says from the other side of the glass. Jeongguk nods, taking his headphones off, before walking out of the recording booth.

 

“You did good, kid,” Yoongi says, patting him on the back as everyone begins packing up.

 

“Thanks hyung.” Jeongguk had been in the studio a lot in the last week, putting final touches on everything. The CEO had decided, last minute, to promote the title track on music shows, so Jeongguk had been spending more time in the practice rooms too.

 

He knows this means he won’t be at school much anymore, if at all, in the following months. And there are talks in the company of doing an Asia tour. The idea of it is both thrilling and also disappointing, because Jeongguk had finally gotten used to college, the atmosphere, the people. Taehyung.

 

Which reminds him that he needs to call Taehyung to tell him the news. They hadn’t been able to talk much in the last week, with everything being so busy for both of them.

 

He digs out his phone and steps out into the hallway. Taehyung picks up after the first ring.

 

“Jeonggukie!” Taehyung’s voice is breathless over the phone, and Jeongguk suppresses his urge to roll his eyes at the pet name. Once, Jimin had overheard Taehyung call him that, and tried to call Jeongguk that too, but had gotten punched in the arm for his efforts. “I was just going to call you!”

 

“Oh really?” Jeongguk asks, more than pleased.

 

“Yeah! I have really good news!”

 

Jeongguk grins, leaning back against the wall. “Yeah? I do too. We should meet up and share.”

 

He’s almost surprised by his own forwardness, but he’d learned over time that Taehyung preferred the straightforward approach best. It saves him a lot of grief.

 

“You want to?” Surprise colors Taehyung’s voice, and Jeongguk furrows his brows.

 

“Yeah, of course. We haven’t hung out in a while. Why wouldn’t I?”

 

“No I mean. I just--” Taehyung sighs, and Jeongguk can just imagine him forcing a smile onto his face, even knowing Jeongguk can’t see him. “Yeah, lets hang out.”

 

“Great. Want to meet up at mine?”

 

“Sure.”

 

Jeongguk can’t stop smiling the whole ride back, even with Yoongi shooting him odd looks from the rearview mirror. When he gets up to his penthouse, he spends more time than usual adjusting his hair, straightening his shirt. Had he remembered to wear cologne today?

 

His phone buzzes on the bathroom counter.

 

“Hey, Tae.”

 

“I’m in the garden,” Taehyung says over the line. Taehyung had started coming over enough that the security guards always just let him in.

 

“Are you coming up?”

 

“No, it’s nice outside. Meet me there.”

 

Jeongguk frowns in confusion, but agrees and takes the elevator down.

 

Taehyung’s standing in the middle of the grass, eyes closed and face tilted back, like he’s soaking up the sun. He opens one eye when he hears Jeongguk approaching.

 

“I know humans don’t photosynthesize, but sometimes I feel like I really could if I wanted to.”

 

Jeongguk cracks a smile, as much as he tries to hold it back, because it’s only been a few days but he missed Taehyung.

 

“You’re not a plant, Tae.”

 

Taehyung clicks his tongue in annoyance. “You never know, alright?”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, but there’s nothing in it. “Sure. Of course. Whatever you say,” Jeongguk concedes indulgently. Mostly he’s too busy drinking Taehyung in, always so incredibly pretty, even when he’s not trying. Especially when he’s not trying. Somehow, Jeongguk had become partial to Taehyung in baggy sweatpants and oversized shirts. It fit perfectly. Perfectly Taehyung.

 

Perfect Taehyung.

 

“You said you had good news, right?” Taehyung asks.

 

“Oh, yeah.” Jeongguk had almost forgotten about that. “I finished recording.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes widen with elation. “Oh my god! Jeongguk, that’s amazing!” He throws himself at Jeongguk, and Jeongguk catches him, like he always seems to be able to. Taehyung presses his nose to Jeongguk’s neck. “I’m so proud of you! I’m sure it’ll be great.”

 

Jeongguk scoffs, hoping Taehyung doesn’t feel how fast his heart is racing. “Of course it will be. I wrote it.”

 

Taehyung lets out a laugh, and it sounds so nice against Jeongguk’s skin. “Of course. How silly of me.”

 

Taehyung pulls away, practically beaming, and Jeongguk suddenly feels like there’s something lodged in his throat.

 

“You… you had news too, right?” Jeongguk manages to say.

 

“Oh! Yeah, I do, but it doesn’t even compare to yours.”

 

“Please, Taehyung,” Jeongguk gives him a look, and Taehyung smiles again, sheepishly this time.

 

“I… got into the grad program I wanted,” he says quietly. And that’s the thing about Taehyung, Jeongguk figures out. He’s dramatic and loud and always ready to talk, but he’s much more reserved when it comes to talking about his academic achievements (which, he finds out from Jimin, are extensive).

 

“That’s..” Jeongguk is at a loss for words. “I’m…”

 

Taehyung lets out a cute laugh. “Thanks.”

 

Jeongguk can only pull Taehyung close again, because he doesn’t know this feeling-- of wanting success for someone else, being proud of someone else’s accomplishments. And yet, here he is, more excited for Taehyung than he is for his own album release, and he doesn’t really even care. He just hugs Taehyung to him, and for a moment, everything seems right.

 

And then it starts raining. Jeongguk jumps in surprise as the first drops land on his face. “Shit!” he groans, and grabs Taehyung’s wrist to make a run for the building, but Taehyung tugs his hand away.

 

“Taehyung, come on,” Jeongguk urges, but Taehyung just shakes his head, a soft smile still lingering on his lips.

 

“Haven’t you ever wanted to play around in the rain?” Taehyung asks, and Jeongguk blinks the water out of his eyes.

 

“What?”

 

Instead of answering, Taehyung just kicks off his shoes, and and spins around in a circle with his arms wide open. “I got into grad school!” he yells into the air, and Jeongguk turns his head to make sure no one is around.

 

He watches, bewildered, as Taehyung finds a puddle forming, and runs to jump right into it. Taehyung’s face is glowing, even with the storm clouds keeping the sun from shining, and Jeongguk forgets where they are for a moment, just glad to be by Taehyung’s side as he runs around the garden.

 

“Come on, Jeonggukie!” Taehyung says, running up to him. He’s panting, and his eyes have a mischievous sparkle to them. “We’re in the bloom of youth, right? ”

 

And Jeongguk thinks Taehyung is right. He’s never felt any younger than in this moment, feeling a little wild and reckless with this intensity crackling underneath his skin. He doesn’t know what it is, but standing there, in front of Taehyung, everything feels right.

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes. Taehyung grins, and steps back to run around again, but Jeongguk pulls him in by the waist.

 

“Jeongguk--”

 

“We’re only young once, right?” Jeongguk asks, and he scan’s Taehyung’s face, the way the raindrops roll down his cheek and nose, how, even with the water matting his hair down, Taehyung looks like some sort of angel.

 

“Yeah I mean--”

 

“We only feel this way once?”

 

Taehyung opens his mouth, then closes it promptly, because he doesn’t know what Jeongguk’s talking about. All he knows is that there’s a catch in Jeongguk’s voice, intent in his eyes, and he curls his hands into Jeongguk’s shirt, suddenly a little scared. Of what, he has no idea.

 

“Jeongguk, I--”

 

“It’s okay, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says quietly, bringing a hand up to cup Taehyung’s cheek. Taehyung entire body convulses in a shiver, and he doesn’t know if it’s because he’s drenched, or because Jeongguk’s touching him. “You don’t… you don’t have to say anything, alright?”

 

Jeongguk leans in, and presses an open-mouthed kiss to Taehyung’s parted lips. It’s different than the way he usually kisses, hot and fast and needy. This time, it feels like Jeongguk is trying to breath Taehyung in, take in all of him, and freeze this exact moment in time. There’s something in it, the way Jeongguk holds him close, the tenderness with which he touches Taehyung, that makes him think that things might have changed.

 

He shivers again, and Jeongguk pulls back. “Let’s get you warm, okay?” His voice is soft. Taehyung’s never heard it like this-- almost timid, careful, like Taehyung’s made of glass. He nods, and lets Jeongguk lead him back into the building.

 

Jeongguk’s idea of getting warm isn’t what Taehyung expected, but he can’t complain when Jeongguk pushes him into the shower and strips them both down, pressing him into the tile wall as hot water splatters their skin.

 

Taehyung is almost purring, the way Jeongguk touches him, slowly, gently, running his hands down Taehyung’s body and kissing the trail his fingers leave on his flushed skin. He doesn’t remember how, but then Jeongguk has him up against the wall, thrusting in slow and deep, and it’s all Taehyung can do not to practically weep, because they’d never done it like this-- intimate and close-- but it feels so mind-numbingly good that Taehyung doesn’t have to think about why.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t let him come, staving off the orgasm and pulling out right as Taehyung is about to fall apart, and shuts off the water. He dries Taehyung slowly, eyes dark and focused as Taehyung shakes in front of him. They hadn’t said a single word, but they’d gotten so good at reading each other in the silence, that Taehyung doesn’t need to say anything for Jeongguk to know what he wants.

 

But what Taehyung wants and what he gets are two very different things, as Jeongguk carries him to the bed and sets him down slowly, stretching his body over Taehyung’s and nuzzling at his neck.

 

Taehyung isn’t sure if he misheard, but he swears Jeongguk murmurs “Baby,” into his skin, and whether it actually happened or not, Taehyung completely melts, wrapping his arms tightly around Jeongguk’s neck, and letting him pull them both up until Taehyung’s settled in his lap.

 

Taehyung takes Jeongguk back in slowly, hands coming up to cup Jeongguk’s face, and he stares down at him, helpless. It’s frightening, the feeling, because all he wants to do is give Jeongguk everything he has, hand his heart over and let Jeongguk do whatever he wants with it, whether he gets anything in return or not, but he keeps quiet.

 

“I got you,” Jeongguk murmurs, tilting his head up to mouth at Taehyung’s jaw, and Taehyung tilts his head back to give him free reign. Jeongguk rolls his hips up once, testing him, and Taehyung whimpers, arching his back so they’re chest to chest. Jeongguk’s broad hands slide up Taehyung’s torso and down his back soothingly. The contact burns, but Taehyung feels like he’s been on fire for a while now.

 

They fuck like that, Taehyung riding Jeongguk maddeningly slowly, keeping eye contact, because Taehyung had tried to shut his eyes, overwhelmed, but Jeongguk had just growled, “Eyes on me,” and now Taehyung can’t bring himself to look away.

 

When Jeongguk feels Taehyung finishing, he pitches them forward, so Taehyung’s head is rest on the pillows, and runs his hands up Taehyung’s arms, unwinding them carefully from around his neck to intertwine their fingers.

 

He brings their hands up above Taehyung’s head and keeps the pace slow, watching intently as Taehyung cries out and shakes through his orgasm. He rides out his own soon after, and he settles his weight carefully on Taehyung as they both attempt to recover, kissing all over Taehyung’s face gently.

 

Taehyung can’t stop shivering, but it’s not because of the cold. He’s completely overwhelmed by the feeling of Jeongguk’s lips on his skin, the way his gaze sears right through him, and his heart is pounding painfully against his chest.

 

He can feel the sleep tugging at him, and he realizes, with a start, that he wants nothing more than to curl up next to Jeongguk again, have him run his hands through Taehyung’s hair and kiss him as he falls asleep. He wants to wake up to the smell of Jeongguk’s skin, the rough edge to Jeongguk’s voice, still thick with sleep. He wants it so badly he feels like every nerve in his body is suddenly working in overdrive.

 

Jeongguk gets out of bed after a while, bringing a towel back to clean Taehyung off, and then lays back down, settling Taehyung on top of him, and smiles languidly as Taehyung kisses at his neck, carding his fingers through Taehyung’s mussed up hair. He pauses, though, when Taehyung spends to long on one spot.

 

“No marks, Taehyung,” Jeongguk reminds gently, but the words feel like a slap in the face. Taehyung’s entire body freezes for a split second, and he feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

 

Right. No marks.

 

Suddenly every bruise, every splotch of pink and purple that Jeongguk’s left on his body absolutely aches.

 

He can mark me but I can never ever mark him.

 

Taehyung feels like he’s going to be sick, the reality of the situation making knots in his stomach. His eyes sting, the familiar feeling of despair lodging itself in his throat. He scrambles off of Jeongguk’s body.

 

“What’s wrong?” Jeongguk asks, pushing himself up on the bed and watching, confused, as Taehyung scrambles wildly for his clothes. His hands tremble in an attempt to button up his shirt, and he curses himself for his choice in wardrobe because the longer it takes for him to get dressed, the longer he has to stay with Jeongguk.

 

“N-nothing I just--” Taehyung swallows thickly, because he’s trying so hard not to fall apart. “I just realized I have a deadline for an assignment.”

 

Jeongguk frowns. “When’s it due?”

 

“Midnight,” Taehyung lies.

 

“You could always just do it here, if you wanted,” Jeongguk offers, eyes hopeful, but Taehyung shakes his head.

 

“It’s gonna take a while. It’s f-fine.”

 

Jeongguk almost looks disappointed, but Taehyung doesn’t give himself room to hope. Taehyung steps towards the door, and forces himself to smile, however weak of a smile it is.

 

“Thank you. For today.” For the last time, because it’s never going to happen again.

 

--

 

“Jimin…” Taehyung murmurs, opening the door to Jimin’s room carefully. Jimin looks up from where he’s lying in bed, playing Candy Crush on his phone, to see a very weak looking Taehyung standing at the doorway.

“Oh my god, what happened?” Jimin asks, pushing himself up. Taehyung drags himself inside and plops himself down, curling into Jimin’s lap.

 

“I f-fucked up, Jimin. I fucked u-up so bad,” Taehyung manages to say between sobs.

 

“Are you okay? Are you hurt? What’s--”

 

“I fucked up, Jimin. I fucked up.” And Taehyung just keeps repeating this, over and over again, until he’s cried everything out, and Jimin just waits, rubbing his back and discretely trying to assess for any physical damage.

 

“TaeTae…” Jimin says quietly. Taehyung sniffles, rubbing his nose against Jimin’s thigh. “Can you tell me what happened?”

 

Taehyung is silent for a while, and Jimin lets him be. He waits until the hiccups subside to try again. “Tae?”

 

“He’s an idol,” Taehyung says after a pause. “He’s an idol, Jimin. I’m so stupid, I just keep fucking up, I can’t believe I--” He cuts himself off, pursing his lips like it’ll keep everything from spilling out.

 

Jimin connects the dots easily. “Taehyung… we talked about this. Right at the beginning, remember?”

 

“I know.” Taehyung turns to press his face into Jimin’s stomach. “I’m stupid. I know. I just… I let him mark me, Jimin. I let him do so much, I dropped so much so I could be with him. I almost missed a deadline because I was trying to tutor him.”

 

“Taehyung, that’s all on you,” Jimin says after a moment of deliberation. He’s trying to be objective, and he has no reason to be angry, but right now, he really wants Jeon Jeongguk to taste his hands, for making Taehyung cry like this.

 

“And… crazily enough, I thought he’d do the same. But I’m just… a booty call, Jimin. That’s all I ever was. I let him mark me, but he never lets me do the same. I don’t mean anything to him.”

 

Jimin sighs. “If this is what it’s come to… then you need to take a step back, Tae. Focus on you. You’re the most important person in your life, remember that.”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung mumbles. “I just… I can’t have feelings for him, Jimin. I really just can’t.”

 

They’re both silent for a while, and Jimin doesn’t know what to say, except you’re right. The idea of dating an idol is laughable at best, and Taehyung deserves better.

 

“I won’t let him come over anymore,” Jimin says after while.

 

“No, don’t!” Taehyung yelps. “Don’t… do that.”

 

“Why not? I don’t want him near you.”

 

But Taehyung just shakes his head vehemently. “He didn’t… he never did anything wrong. I’m the one who fucked up. I’ll just… stay out of his way.”

 

“This is your apartment too, Taehyung.”

 

“Don’t worry about me, okay?”

 

Jimin rolls his eyes. “You punk, you can’t come in here and cry a river and then tell me not to worry.”

 

That makes Taehyung smile a bit. It’s not much, but it’s enough for now.

 

“I’ll be fine, Jimin. I’m fine.”

 

And Taehyung falls asleep like that, with Jimin rubbing his back. Jimin tucks him in carefully, and moves to the living room area, because right now, he needs to plot bloody murder.

 

--

 

Jeongguk hasn’t seen Taehyung in two weeks. Every time he calls, all he gets is a clipped, “Sorry, I’m busy. I can’t talk right now,” or an equally detached text message. Taehyung miraculously manages to never be home when Jeongguk is there, and he suspects Jimin might be in on it. Even when he’s at the apartment, Jimin is completely hostile, and after a while, Jeongguk just stops coming around entirely.

 

He knows when he’s being pushed away. He knows when he’s being rejected. What he doesn’t know is why.

 

“Don’t fucking ask me, Jeongguk,” Jimin snaps, when Jeongguk manages to get him alone after a dance class. Jeongguk blinks at him in surprise, because Jeongguk had gotten away with a lot of shit on him in the last few months, but he’d never, not once, lost his temper. But right now, he looks angry.

 

“I didn’t mean it like--”

 

“Yeah, you didn’t mean it. Like you don’t mean anything. Is there anything about you that’s genuine?”

 

Jeongguk leans back a little, because that was completely uncalled for, and Jimin seems to realize this.

 

“I’m just saying. If you’re having drama with Taehyung, sort it out yourself. I’m not getting involved anymore.” Because the last time I got involved, my best friend got hurt.

 

Jeongguk frowns in confusion. “But I don’t even know if there’s drama? Like, he just cut me off and I don’t know what’s going on.”

 

Jimin snorts derisively. “Oh poor you. Not getting laid regularly. Sucks to suck.”

 

“What the fuck, Jimin? You know that’s not what I meant!”

 

Jimin gives him a sharp look. “Say what you mean, then. For once. Tell me the truth, tell yourself at least. You’ve been dragging Taehyung along in your little fucking game this whole time, admit it.”

 

“What? That’s not--”

 

“Open your goddamn eyes, Jeongguk!”

 

Jeongguk actually takes a step back, because suddenly Jimin seems a lot bigger than he actually is.

 

“The world doesn’t revolve around you. Not everything is about you, okay?” Jimin takes off his snapback to run his hand through his hair angrily. “I’m just…” He takes a deep breath. “I’m not going to deal with this bull shit anymore. You figure out your own shit, and don’t come crying to me because suddenly you’re not getting what you want.”

 

Jeongguk stands in the middle of the practice room, long after Jimin leaves, trying to process the words. He feels like he’s been punched in the gut, and he’s so confused. He doesn’t know what he did wrong to make Taehyung ignore him, to make Jimin so mad.

 

Fucking hell,” Jeongguk hisses. And it feels like a pretty accurate description of where he feels like he is right now.

 

--

 

Taehyung’s on his way to the vivarium when his phone rings. His anxiety spikes when he reads the contact name-- Trash Baby Supreme <3 <3 <3

 

He bites his lip, because the last thing he wants to do is talk to Jeongguk. He’d spent the last two weeks trying to avoid him without being too much of an asshole. He doesn’t want to be angry. It’s not Jeongguk’s fault, but the more he thinks about it, the more bitter he becomes, because he feels so used. And with the paper deadline hanging over his head, and his mice repeatedly failing the conditioning tests, Taehyung is Absolutely Done with Jeon Jeongguk’s Shit.

 

“Hello?” he answers in a clipped tone.

 

“Taehyung, are you--”

 

“If you’re asking me if I’m free, the answer is no, I’m not. I’m busy.”

 

There’s a pause over the line, before Jeongguk speaks. “I know you’re avoiding me, and I want to talk.” Taehyung bites back a scoff, because Jeongguk actually has the nerve to sound demanding.

 

Taehyung knows that if he’s put in front of Jeongguk right now, he might end up doing something he’s going to regret.

 

“I said I was busy, Jeongguk. I have experiments I need to run.”

 

Taehyung hears Jeongguk click his tongue in annoyance over the line. “This is more important.”

 

And Taehyung considers flinging his phone across the pavement, but it had been an expensive model.

 

"You've been ignoring me for two weeks. You can make time for me. You always do."

 

Taehyung opens his mouth to respond, then closes it. But after a moment of consideration, he relents.

 

“You know what? Fine,” Taehyung runs his tongue over his teeth in irritation, because Jeon Jeongguk is going to get it. “Meet me in front of the vivarium in five minutes.”

 

“I’ll be there,” Jeongguk agrees, and cuts the call. Taehyung pulls his phone away from his ear and stares at it, as though he’d be able to roast Jeongguk that way. His mind is absolutely reeling, and suddenly there’s too much he wants to say. He’d never been good at confrontation, and by the time he sees Jeongguk standing in front of the steps of the vivarium building, his hands are shaking.

 

“I’m glad you were finally able to make time for me,” is the first thing out of Jeongguk’s mouth. Taehyung’s anger spikes.

 

“Yeah, right. Sorry I couldn’t answer all your booty calls because I prioritized my career over a quick and meaningless fuck.”

 

The color in Jeongguk’s face drains, and he purses his lips into a thin line. “Right. Quick and meaningless. And here I was under the impression I was actually important to you.”

 

You're more important to me than I am to you, Taehyung wants to yell. Instead, he laughs derisively. “Sorry to break this to you, pop star, but not everyone is thinking about you twenty four seven! I have my own life. Just because you’re already making millions, living in some pretty penthouse, doesn’t mean all us fucking peasants don’t have to try and make something of themselves too.”

 

“That’s not what I’m saying, what the fuck?” Jeongguk hisses, and Taehyung takes a step towards him, now completely inflamed. He’d always lacked a filter, and it usually isn’t an issue in everyday life. But right now, Taehyung knows this is going to be a disaster.

 

“What are you saying then? Oh Taehyung, why aren’t you paying attention to me?” Taehyung raises his voice mockingly. “I feel butthurt when people aren’t paying attention to me! I don’t understand anything about people, I just expect them to be able to do things for me, blah blah blah.

 

Jeongguk looks absolutely aghast, but Taehyung’s too deep into himself and he can’t stop. “Guess fucking what, Jeon Jeongguk? I’m not yours. I don’t belong to you. I never did, and I never will. I’m my own person, living my own life, with my own career and hopes and dreams, and I’ve had those way longer than I’ve known you. If you think you’re gonna get me to drop all that for sex, you’re going to be disappointed.

 

“Either you deal with it and shut the hell up, or go find someone else to fuck. Someone who’s blind enough to not notice the fact that you’re a selfish asshole, and they’re never gonna get anything from you, no matter how much they give.”

 

Taehyung takes a deep breath, because his vision is swimming, but he’s not going to cry in front of Jeon Jeongguk. He straightens his back, and lets his face go blank.

 

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have brains I need to go slice.” And with that, he brushes past Jeongguk, into the building, and pretends he doesn’t spend the next thirty minutes crying with his mice.

 

--

 

When Jeongguk calls Yoongi at two in the morning, he just wants to cut the call. He’d figured Jeongguk’s hiatus would mean more regular sleeping hours, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

 

“Hyung?”

 

Yoongi’s about to snap at him, tell him to go to bed, but there’s an uncharacteristic wobble to Jeongguk’s voice that makes him pause.

 

“What’s up, Kook?”

 

“Can you bring me and Seokjin hyung some soju?”

 

In any other situation, Yoongi would have cussed Jeongguk out, first for waking him up, then for wanting alcohol before a comeback. But the fact that Seokjin is also there with him makes Yoongi pause. It’s not an emergency unless Seokjin is there.

 

“I’m on my way.”

 

Yoongi makes it to Jeongguk’s penthouse in record time, and when he opens the door, Jeongguk’s curled up on the floor, absolutely still, and Seokjin is kneeling down next to him, patting his hair.

 

Yoongi is silent as he puts the soju bottles on the kitchen counter, and juts his chin at Jeongguk. Seokjin just shakes his head in response.

 

Honestly, it’s too damn late for this, but here Yoongi is, squatting down next to a twenty year old man who’d obviously just had a meltdown, and talking to him like he’d talk to an fickle cat.

 

“Jeongguk, love, you need to tell us what’s wrong,” Seokjin says softly. They’d been trying to coax something from Jeongguk for the last thirty minutes, and Yoongi’s patience is wearing thin. He’s lucky it lasted even that long. He sighs.

 

“Kid, you obviously called us here because you wanted to tell us something. So quit the theatrics and just tell us what’s wrong, yeah?”

 

At that, Jeongguk turns his head to face Yoongi, and his eyes look so blank it throws Yoongi off.

 

“Taehyung said his career is more important than me,” Jeongguk says robotically, like he’d said it to himself enough times that it’s ingrained into him.

 

Yoongi feels Seokjin tense.

 

“That’s what made you upset?” Seokjin asks softly.

 

“He said he couldn’t waste his time on a meaningless fuck. I'm just a meaningless fuck.”

 

“That’s a little… extreme, don’t you think? I thought you two were friends?”

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Well that’s what he said, word for word, so I’ll leave that to your interpretation, hyung,” he says sharply.

 

Seokjin pinches Jeongguk’s arm, and he yelps in surprise, more than pain. “You watch your tone, Jeon Jeongguk,” Seokjin warns, and Jeongguk scrunches up his face, mumbling an apology, before curling back into himself.

 

Yoongi and Seokjin exchange a look, and let out a collective sigh.

 

You tell him, Yoongi mouths, and Seokjin rolls his eyes.

 

“Jeongguk, do you remember what I told you, when we went to lunch that one time?”

 

Jeongguk lets out a noncommittal grunt.

 

“You’re an idol first. That’s what I told you, right? Everything else comes second.”

 

Jeongguk is unresponsive, so Seokjin presses forward. “Would you give up everything you’ve done, all your hard work, for anything?” Taking the silence for an answer, he continues. “No, right? You wouldn’t trade this for anything. Not if your life depended on it. Don’t you think Taehyung is entitled to feel the same?”

 

The question hangs in the air for a moment. “I’m not saying everything he said was right, but… you can’t expect him to just be around all the time. You can’t take him for granted like that. He can’t make concessions for you, the same way you couldn’t for him.”

 

“I could! I could if I needed to,” Jeongguk says defensively.

 

Seokjin sighs. “Do you like him that much?”

 

If it’s even physiologically possible, Jeongguk curls even further into himself. “Maybe.”

 

“Enough to drag him into your life?” Yoongi interjects. “Because you can play the boy in love all you want, but you’re not really in a position to be dating anyone right now.”

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Like he’d even want to date me.”

 

“Do you know that for sure?” Seokjin asks.

 

“Oh I don’t know, hyung. As you may recall, I fall somewhere in the category of meaningless fuck,” he snaps. Seokjin gives him a sharp look, and Jeongguk turns his face away. “Sorry.”

 

“I think that’s a bunch of bull shit,” Yoongi snorts. “I’ve never seen anyone so fucking enamored with you, Jeongguk. I only met him a handful of times, but I know what pining looks like, okay? And he’s pining after you.”

 

“So what the fuck do I do?” Jeongguk snaps. “I’m probably never going to see him again, so.”

 

And it’s true, because Jeongguk starts music show promotions in two days, and by the time those are over, he’d be in Japan for two months, and Taehyung would have graduated by then.

 

“It’s fucking stupid anyway. I’m stupid,” Jeongguk mumbles.

 

“It’s not stupid, Kook,” Seokjin soothes. “You like him a lot, don’t you?”

 

“Doesn’t matter. He hates me. And even if he didn’t, we couldn’t, like, miraculously get together anyway. It’d never work out.”

 

Yoongi snorts, smacking Jeongguk on the back. “Just think about it this way, kid. Now you have like, a ton of material for songs.”

 

Seokjin glares at Yoongi, and mouths not helping. Yoongi just shrugs. “Life is what it is, Jeongguk. You either keep moving forward alone, or you do it with someone who can move forward with you.”

 

Jeongguk mutters something incoherent into the rug.

 

“What?” Yoongi prompts, and Jeongguk sighs, turning his head to speak more clearly.

 

“I wish… I wish I didn’t have to do it alone.”

 

--

 

Taehyung attempts to forget Jeongguk. He tries to push every memory of him away and focus solely on his paper, his research, and graduation, because otherwise he might have another breakdown. This is more difficult than he thought it would be, considering he runs a blog. It’s hard, in the most ridiculous way, to press the deactivate button, and he tells himself that he’s doing what’s best for him right now, which is to try and push everything away.

 

It works for a while.

 

“Hyung, I’m actually going to die,” Taheyung groans, sinking into his chair, and letting it slide back with the momentum his body provides. He’d just spent the last two hours doing his Excellence in Research talk, and his suit is threatening to suffocate him.

 

“Honestly, what is death anyway? Detachment from the mortal world? Permanent suffering? Whatever it is, it’s not this,” Namjoon replies, sorting through the chemical cabinets. He opens one of the bottles and takes a sniff, before cringing and closing it back up.

 

“Hyung,” Taehyung whines. “You’re supposed to say you’re proud of me! That I did a good job and that you’re really going to miss me when I’m gone.”

 

Namjoon fixes Taehyung with a look. “I hope you didn’t forget you’re starting your grad program here too. You’re not actually leaving.” But then Taehyung drops his face into a pout. “Yeah, fine, sure. I’m proud of you Taehyung. You did a great job.”

 

“Thanks!” Taehyung smiles. Then the door of the lab opens, and both of them turn to face it, and watch with wide eyes as a man, dressed in a light pink peacoat and oversized sunglasses steps inside.

 

The entire lab space starts smelling like expensive cologne and hair product immediately, and when the man slides his sunglasses off, Namjoon spills an open bottle of saline in his lap.

 

Taehyung’s heart leaps into his throat, because he recognizes this guy-- how could he not recognize this guy?-- and he wonders if he can book it to the exit in time so he doesn’t have to deal with this. Today was supposed to be his day, when all his work the last three years finally meant something. But now all the memories are coming back, all the awful things he’d said, words he didn’t chose carefully. Taehyung hates getting angry because he knows he’s going to hurt people when they don’t deserve it.

 

The man looks around the space, brushing his uninterested eyes over Namjoon (who’s gaping like a fish), before settling on Taehyung.

 

“You’re Kim Taehyung, right?” he asks, and Taehyung nods slowly. Seokjin doesn’t smile, but he does hold out his hand. “I’m Kim Seokjin, in case you didn’t already know.”

 

Taehyung fights the urge to scrunch his face, because do all celebrities really introduce themselves like that?

 

Taehyung shakes his hand anyway, and mumbles a “Nice to meet you,” but it doesn’t feel nice. It feels rather horrific, actually.

 

“Can we talk?” Seokjin asks, and Taehyung wants to politely decline, but he’s already in hell, so he figures he might as well finish this off. He’s going to get yelled at by international runway model Kim Seokjin, and then he’s going to go home and cry in Jimin’s lap. It’s a solid plan.

 

Seokjin glances at Namjoon. “In private?”

 

“Uhm… uh, Taehyung, I’m going to go get some… dry ice or something. Yeah. For brains and stuff,” Namjoon scrambles out of his seat. “I mean like, not my brain or anything. But like, mouse brains,” He stammers as Seokjin continues to glare at him, and he backs out. “It’s… it’s science. Yeah. Brains!” He laughs nervously, before hightailing it out the door, leaving Taehyung alone in the room.

 

When the door slams shut, Seokjin’s entire demeanor changes. His full pink lips pull up into a soft smile, and he pulls out one of the the other chairs to sit down across from Taehyung. He spends a moment just staring at Taehyung closely, and Taehyung squirms under his careful eyes.

 

“I always did wonder what you looked like,” Seokjin says, mostly to himself. Taehyung’s heart splutters in surprise.

 

“Y-you know who I am?”

 

Seokjin smiles. “Jeongguk could never stop talking about you. Always Taehyung this and Taehyung that. I probably know your entire life story by now, by how much time Jeongguk spent telling me about you.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t quite want to believe it. He doesn’t want to get the idea in his head that Jeongguk talked about him, because then he’ll start wondering about everything else.

 

Seokjin sighs at Taehyung’s silence. “I didn’t come here to make excuses or mediate or anything. That’s on you two to figure out. But… I just want to give you some insight, you know? Context.”

 

When Taehyung doesn’t respond, Seokjin takes it as a sign to continue talking. “Jeongguk’s never had to think about anyone but himself for a very long time. In his world, you have to be selfish, you have to grab what you want and hold it close before someone else takes it from you. Jeongguk’s used to doing that. He probably wanted you so badly that he figured that was the right way to keep you near him.” Seokjin lets out a humorless laugh. “I don’t think he realized that you can’t do that with people. Or feelings.”

 

“Don’t say those things if you don’t mean them,” Taehyung says helplessly. Seokjin shakes his head.

 

“Did you ever find out what Jeongguk’s album was called?” Taehyung shakes his head, because he’d tried to stay as far away from Jeongguk-related things as possible. “It’s called The Bloom of Youth. I don’t know why, but I feel like it has something to do with you.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t know if he wants to hear anymore. Mostly because he’s a coward, and he knows he might hear what he already knows, but had attempted to run away from, all those weeks ago.

 

Because if he and Jeongguk have feelings for each other, what would happen to them? Could anything even happen?

 

“I don’t commend his approach. He probably put you in a corner, didn’t he?”

 

Taehyung just shrugs, because he can’t bring himself to talk properly.

 

“You two should talk,” Seokjin urges softly, after a moment of silence.


“That’s impossible,” Taehyung says immediately. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, to respond negatively to everything right now. This time, he knows it’s true though. Jeongguk had told him a bit about his schedule before they’d stopped talking (before Taehyung started avoiding him). He’d all but left without a trace.

 

Seokjin shrugs. “Not if you really want to.” Taehyung ducks his head down. “Listen, Taehyung. Jeongguk’s having a concert in the city tomorrow, one last one before he leaves for Japan. You should talk to him then.”

 

“That’s a really bad idea,” Taehyung warns, misery dripping from his voice. “Things would never work out anyway.”

 

Seokjin sighs. “You both are idiots, honestly. You two seem to have it stuck in your heads that nothing could ever happen between you two, but you haven’t even tried.”

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “It wouldn’t work out. It’s a bad idea.”

 

“I’ve had a lot of idol friends who have tried this and failed,” Seokjin says in acknowledgement. “But… I also have idol friends who made it work. And now, they’re happier than you could know. Could Jeongguk make you happy, Taehyung?”

 

--

 

The answer, of course, is yes. Jeongguk could make him happy. Jeongguk did make him happy. It was in the way Jeongguk would lie there and listen to Taehyung talk for hours on end, and actually listen to him. It was in the way Jeongguk would smile at him, the kind that no one else gets to see but Taehyung, and the way he’d held Taehyung close, touched him like he was the most precious person in his life.

 

So Taehyung agrees to come to the concert. He can’t bring himself to sit through the whole show, so he comes just in time for Jeongguk’s encore stage, and he stands in the dressing room with Seokjin, the backstage pass hanging around his neck practically burning a hole through his chest.

 

He watches the TV screen with wide eyes as Jeongguk sits down on a stool in the middle of the stage with his guitar. The camera pans around him, and Taehyung can see how absurdly large the venue is. Jeongguk is sitting in the middle of a sea of thousands of fans, but somehow, he outshines them all.

 

“Y’all already know what it is,” Jeongguk says, his voice echoing across the arena. “This is ‘I Need U'.”

 

The first notes of the song hit Taehyung squarely in the chest, the soft lull of the piano, and Jeongguk’s casual strumming, the way he hums into his mic. Taehyung had almost forgotten how good Jeongguk was at this-- melting hearts and burning holes in peoples’ wallets with his golden vocals.

 

The song is achingly pretty, something about a toxic love, and needing to cut things off, but not being able to. The lyrics resound with Taehyung, and he stands absolutely still while he watches Jeongguk perform the song all the way through. He only remembers to breathe when Jeongguk finally stops singing, and the audience lets out a roar of applause.

 

He watches Jeongguk’s platform lower down, underneath the stage, until he’s completely hidden from the audience, and he doesn’t really register that the show is over, or that Jeongguk leaving the stage means that he’s coming here. Where Taehyung is standing right now.

 

“Hyung, how was--” Jeongguk walks in, chest heaving like he’d been running, but stops in his tracks once he sees Taehyung. He gulps visibly, and Taehyung can see the sweat dotting his forehead and matting his hair down. His face is caked with foundation, and his eyes are rimmed with thick black eyeliner, but Taehyung still thinks he looks amazing.

 

They stare at each other for what seems like a long time, rooted in their spots. Seokjin clears his throat.

 

“Kook, you did great,” Seokjin affirms, stepping up to pat Jeongguk on the shoulder lightly. And more pressure and Jeongguk might just tip over, so Seokjin decides to stay on the safe side. “I’m going to head home, though. Have a good night.”

 

And then the door closes behind them, trapping them in the silence and the tension, and neither of them making to move.

 

Jeongguk speaks up first. “How was the show?” he asks blankly, walking over to the mirrored table and pulling out the makeup wipes.

 

Taehyung swallows thickly, watching as Jeongguk wipes off layers and layers of foundation, and it seems almost like some grand metaphor for the situation.

 

“It--” He loses his voice for a second, and he looks down. “It was good.”

 

“Did you like the last song?”

 

Taehyung looks up, because there’s a catch in Jeongguk’s voice. When he does lift his head, Jeongguk’s staring at him intently, like he’s trying to read Taehyung, but they both have their walls up.

 

“Honestly? It was amazing,” Taehyung says truthfully, and the praise seems to do something for Jeongguk, because his lip twitches up, and he ducks his head down.

 

“Thanks.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

They’re silent for a minute, not really sure how to approach this.

 

“Jeongguk I--”

 

“Taehyung, I wanted to--”

 

They both start at the same time, and they look up at each other, wide eyed. Jeongguk lets out a disbelieving laugh, and Taehyung bites his lip to keep from smiling.

 

“You first,” Taehyung urges, and Jeongguk nods, running his hands through his gelled hair nervously.

 

“I’m… really sorry, Taehyung. I’m sorry I was selfish, that I took you for granted. I just--” Jeongguk pauses, taking a breath. “I don’t know how to care about someone like this. I don’t know what to do. My life is complicated enough as it is, and I can’t try to drag you into it.”

 

Taehyung lets his himself stare at Jeongguk, trying to process the apology. He can feel the tightness in his chest start to loosen a bit, for the first time in weeks.

 

“I’m sorry too,” Taehyung says quietly. He’s hardly ever quiet, but right now, he can’t bring himself to talk louder than this. Jeongguk steps closer, trying to hear him properly.

 

“I… freaked out, I know. But I was…” Taehyung bites his lip, because he can feel his eyes starting to sting. “I was really scared. About everything. I didn’t want to get hurt, Jeongguk.” He looks at Jeongguk, pleading. “You’re not some meaningless fuck, Jeongguk, you have to know that. You have to know how important you are to me.”

 

Jeongguk exhales shakily, and somehow, they end up chest to chest, almost touching. "I'm just... I was so scared, because I felt like you'd always be more important to me than I would be to you. I couldn't... I didn't want to put myself through that."

 

“Taehyung…” Jeongguk murmurs… bringing his hand up to brush his fingers across Taehyung’s cheek, as though make sure he’s real. “Taehyung, I like you. So much. You don't know..." He pauses, the words catching in his throat. "You don't know how important you are to me. And I don't think you ever will. I'm not... good at this whole feelings thing."

 

Taehyung laughs weakly. Jeongguk runs his thumb across Taehyung's skin again. "But... I want to get better." And Jeongguk's asking the silent question. He doesn't have to say anything for it to be tangible in the air between. 

 

"Okay," Taehyung whispers, and Jeongguk exhales sharply in relief, before pressing his forehead against Taehyung's.

 

"Thank you," he murmurs. Taehyung's heart is pounding so loud against his chest, and his skin feels electric. "I want to kiss you. I want to touch you everywhere and take care of you." The words spill out of Jeongguk's mouth, taking them both by surprise. Taehyung gulps, his toes curling, and he just nods. 

 

Jeongguk keeps his word that night, when he presses Taehyung into his bed, and strips him slowly, mouthing at the exposed skin as he goes. He whispers soft words of praise against his neck, his lips, his hair, hands roaming wherever he can reach, and neither of them can get enough. They'd missed each other, in more ways than one, and being together like this is almost frightening, because neither of them can believe that they're there with each other. 

 

Jeongguk has Taehyung curled up in his arms when he speaks up. "Taehyung, will you be my boyfriend?" 

 

Taehyung peers up at him, surprised, and Jeongguk can feel his face turning hot. "You want me to?" Jeongguk just nods and slides carefully out of bed. He rummages through a drawer of the nightstand, before finding what he's looking for. Taehyung sits himself up, and Jeongguk crawls back to him, kneeling on the bed in front of him. 

 

"Here," Jeongguk says, holding out a familiar bright red pick. Taehyung gapes at it. 

 

"Jeongguk, that's your--"

 

"I know. My lucky pick. I want you to have it." 

 

Taehyung's eyes are wide as he gently takes it from Jeongguk's hand, running his fingers along the red plastic. 

 

"It's stupid, I know, but I guess... It's kind of like a promise ring? Sort of? I don't know. I just... it's a promise," Jeongguk rambles, tugging at his fringe nervously. "I... I know I shouldn’t, but I want to be selfish and ask you to be by my side. I don't have the best track record with this, and it's going to be a hot mess most of the time and we wouldn't be able to tell anyone for a long time but--" 

 

"Yes, Jeongguk," Taehyung says softly. He feels like his heart is going to burst from his chest, and he fights the stupid grin threatening to take over his face. 

 

Jeongguk stares at him, bewildered. "What?" 

 

Taehyung laughs. "Yes, Jeon Jeongguk, I'll be your boyfriend." 

 

"You will?" 

 

Taehyung scoffs. "Did you expect me to say no?" 

 

Jeongguk scowls. "No I mean, I just, I hoped--"

 

Taehyung leans forward to press an indulgent kiss on Jeongguk's lips. "We'll be fine, right?" Jeongguk breathes out shakily, but he nods. 

 

"Of course we will. We'll figure it out together." 

 

And for now, that's more than enough. It's never quite easy, dating an idol, but they make it work the best they can. Sometimes it feels ridiculous, a little silly, and Taehyung can't believe it's even real half the time, but it's theirs. No matter where either of them are, anywhere in the world, they have each other. That's all that matters anyway.