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come take it (if you want a piece of me)

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Jungkook is really, really bored.

A bored Jungkook is never a good thing, as all two of his friends will attest to without hesitation. Bored Jungkook is eating six pints of ice cream to see how many it’ll take for him to throw up. Bored Jungkook is painting his nails to look like stained glass and then forgetting to let them dry so nail polish gets all over his clothes and hair. Bored Jungkook is making six-tier card houses and crying into his roommates’ arms like a child when it falls because he sneezed on it right at the end, wailing about how he’s going to stitch his nostrils closed so he never sneezes again and wailing harder when Taehyung logically points out that that won’t actually work.

In essence, it fucking sucks. 0/10, do not ever recommend, unless you want to be subjected to a twenty year old baby giant knocking on your door to make your bed inordinately pristine enough to bounce hundred won coins off it until he passes out from exhaustion.

“Jimin,” Jungkook calls out, face stoic as he sits across his roommate at their meager dining table. Taehyung bought it off Craigslist a few months ago but refuses to tell them where. “You love me, don’t you?”

“We’re playing this game?” Jimin doesn’t even look up from the textbook he’s bent over. Neuroscience, the overachieving fuck. He finishes jotting down a sentence into his notebook and flips his pencil to erase a mistake at the end of it. Jungkook pouts, and like Jimin has eyes over every inch of his big head, he says, “oh, so we are playing this game.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines, pouting harder, as if him playing the respectful dongsaeng will somehow summon Jimin to entertain him.

“Absolutely not,” Jimin says. He flips the textbook onto the next page mindlessly.

“I didn’t even say anything.”

“You don’t have to.”

Belatedly, Jungkook realizes that the signs of his boredom are obvious: he reeks of six different perfumes. His fingers are covered in Crayola washable markers. His phone is programmed into simplified Mandarin. Of course Jimin had easily identified his current state of mind. Rookie mistake, Jeon, he chastises himself. Somewhere, James Bond is crying over his inaptitude to complete covert operations in even the most simplest of scenarios. He’d vow to avenge him, but this problem is practically unsolvable.

“But—”

“I was trying to be nice, but please don’t talk. Your voice haunts my dreams enough already.” Jimin finally looks Jungkook in the eye with a steely gaze. He looks tired, no doubt from the constant studying for exams this time of year. Jimin works hard under pressure. Jungkook just short circuits. “I do love you, but I’m busy. Go annotate a Starbucks cup or something.”

Well. It appears that Jungkook’s reputation precedes him.

It’s not necessarily Jungkook’s fault that he gets like this sometimes. There isn’t anybody to blame. His restlessness worsens during exam season, when expectations are high and unforgiving thanks to his disappointing grade point average. One week proves to be not nearly enough time to correct all of the academic mistakes he’s made over the course of a semester.

Don’t get Jungkook wrong; he loves being a creative writing major, but sometimes the pressure to create something good and impactful on command is too overwhelming. He blanches, shockingly avoidant as all his determination to succeed withers, the world slowing down until it stops.

It’s Taehyung and Jimin’s final year, though, and their study schedule is a fucking circle. Jungkook usually wouldn’t complain, considering his affinity for going out by himself just to facilitate the location of his introversion, but he’s become lonely without the presence of his roommates around their cramped apartment. Coming home to empty rooms creates a pit in his stomach that only gets wider and wider, and he needs more.

His friends’ affection has been nonexistent, and Jungkook has unintentionally become touch-starved. Taehyung gives the most amazing hugs. Jimin likes to kiss his nose. Sometimes they both come at him at once if he’s been really good, tickling his sides until tears spring to the corners of his eyes and he’s squirming underneath them. The decline in this type of behavior has resulted in an increase in Jungkook’s boredom, from basic whining to flat out staying up for forty-three hours to see what happens.

And God, desperation is ugly on him.

Taehyung comes back from the library at a little past eleven at night. Jungkook diligently stays in his room while his older two roommates chat quietly in the living room over reheated leftovers. He counts the slats on the blinds covering the window without abandon while listening to Rap Monster’s Voice on repeat. His mind is utterly empty as he catches their murmurs, Taehyung’s low voice a soothing timbre paired with Jimin’s tenor. Sweet laughter like honey, a comforting sound he’ll never be able to disassociate from home. He gets comfortable under his bedsheets and counts the slats like sheep, 34, 35, 36, 37.

Jungkook has moved onto the other window by the time Taehyung knocks on his door. The light from the other room cuts through the darkness, shrouding the older in a silhouette for a few moments as he turns off the music humming from Jungkook’s speaker before he shuts it behind him. Bathed in darkness, as quick as it started.

Taehyung slinks onto the bed easily and digs underneath Jungkook’s covers. At the prospect of cuddling, Jungkook hums contentedly, too warm and too excited to help the other slip under the sheets smoothly. He knows that Taehyung is too tired to really have a conversation right now, thoughts all muddled with whatever archaic nonsense he’d been studying due to neglecting his required courses so late, but it’s okay. Taehyung is warm, his body hugging Jungkook’s larger frame, hand draped over torso. It can wait.

It strikes Jungkook how tired he is all of a sudden. It’s a selfish exhaustion, misplaced without progress from earlier in the day to justify it, but one that blooms from the tips of his fingers and settles in between his ribs to get to his heart.

“You’ve been lonely, haven’t you?” Taehyung asks, mumbling the words into the back of Jungkook’s neck. Taehyung’s breathing seems to slow right as Jungkook’s gets quicker. “Minnie said you were bored all night.”

He is lonely, but he won’t be the one to tell Taehyung that. Jungkook is no good at expressing himself. He deals in stilted actions and gestures, shy at the idea of exposing himself to another person that’s more than willing to listen to him even after all this time.

“I’m fine,” Jungkook murmurs back, because he is. Jungkook is simple and the feeling of at least one of his best friends giving him some needed attention is like fucking uncut cocaine.

“You’re good at being fine,” Taehyung replies, and shifts to hold Jungkook a bit tighter. “I’ll paint your nails next time.”

A small laugh escapes Jungkook’s mouth before sleep overtakes him.

“Deal.”

 


 

Jungkook cautiously picks up his iced americano with both of his palms, his fingers fanned outward so as not to disrupt his drying nail polish. Come on, Jungkook, he encourages himself, awkwardly tilting his head forward to capture the straw poking out from the cup. He’s wholeheartedly determined to have at least half of the small drink without ruining his nails.

His lips touch the straw. That’s it, his mind says. He takes a tentative sip, even though the joints of his wrists aggressively want him to hurry up. Holding things by the palms is not a practical, every day option for carrying objects, Jungkook realizes. He gulps down a bigger swig and sets the plastic cup down, blowing on his wet nails while Jimin laughs at him from across the sticky café table.

“What’s so funny?” Jungkook asks, eyes narrowed.

Jimin sips at his vanilla latte wordlessly in response. He is very good at pretending that Jungkook is not one of the most important people in his life. It’s reverse psychology, Jungkook thinks. Refusing to give his attention in order to coax Jungkook to give up his own. Studying the human brain is the worst thing to have ever happened to Park Jimin.

“You, doing your best to drink that. You could have dried your nails properly before we left.”

Jungkook’s gaze is empty. “I’m vulnerable, Jimin. I make mistakes.”

“Of course.” Jimin snorts, nods at Jungkook’s hands. “Did you let Taehyung pick out the color? It’s cute on you.”

Jungkook smiles at the small compliment and nods, dips his head forward to reach the straw without his hands. It successfully hides his blush. Jungkook has always been shy at the slightest of praise. It’s a little embarrassing.

Taehyung woke Jungkook up at eight to paint his nails before his morning classes started. With two dry throats and nasty bedhead between them, he painted Jungkook’s nails a pale pink, their hands laid out atop old newspapers draped over the coffee table to prevent a mess. Taehyung chatted about the progress of his thesis collection in a low voice, showing off the pricks in his fingers from folding and pinning fabric together in a rush while Jungkook basked in the early morning light and chemical smell of acetone.

By the time Taehyung finished, Jimin took over. Ruffled Jungkook’s hair, said he’d treat him to coffee at that one café he likes going to to write because it has fluffy cushions with lace trims on the chairs. It was damage control from last night, most likely, but considering how much Jimin loves to spoil him, Jungkook didn’t mind. He likes spending time with his friends, likes being doted on.

“Tae told me he thinks you’re lonely,” Jimin starts conversationally, pushing the coffee sleeve adorning his cup downwards then upwards. Jungkook watches his fingers move and swallows down his defense. “I don’t want to sound like your mom, so tell me if I am, but—Tae and I are graduating at the end of the year, you know? We want you to have more than just us.”

“But I’m bad at making friends,” Jungkook argues, trying to tone down his vitriolic stink-eye. “Besides, you guys aren’t even really leaving me. You wouldn’t dare.”

Jungkook is, unfortunately, notorious for being socially awkward when it comes to interactions with others. Ordering at a restaurant is impossible. Buying groceries for the apartment is like completing a heist. The dialogue in his short stories requires him to disassociate and reassociate several times in order to completely grasp the wildly complex minds of his pedantic characters.

Yet bizarrely, according to Taehyung and Jimin, finding a boyfriend will somehow fix this.

Jungkook promptly shoves his face into his drink straw in avoidance, humming at the taste. Mixing milk and espresso shots together to make an americano sounds like a consolation prize in theory rather than something enjoyable and popular, but fuck if Jungkook isn’t entirely bought into the notion of stylish caffeine consumption. Paying for aesthetics. He’s into it.

“What do you want me to do?” Jungkook asks, feeling cornered from the set gaze of Jimin’s eyes. He wears colored contacts lately, deep hazel with big circle lenses. Jungkook thinks he looks kind of like an alien in them.“Write my KakaoTalk ID on the side of a bathroom stall in Hongdae and see what happens?”

“No, Kookie, that’s not what I meant.” Jimin runs a hand through his messily styled blonde hair in thought and fastidiously tugs at the strands until he finds them acceptable. “And to be honest, you’ll have better luck in Itaewon considering your tastes.”

“My tastes? You and I have the same exact tastes. Your gayness is practically contagious at this point.”

Jungkook may have said that a little too loudly for a private conversation. A woman sitting in the booth to the right of them turns to look at him, scandalized.

“You’re an idiot. Being gay isn’t contagious,” Jimin says, and struggles for a few moments before settling on, “it’s like, congenital.”

“Ugh,” Jungkook groans, severely pained, “This sucks. My nails are wet, I can’t hit you for being annoying.”

“Right,” Jimin cedes. “Because you’re vulnerable.”

Jungkook nods. Finally, Jimin is beginning to understand him. Angels are singing. The clouds part, revealing pure, undulated sunlight—

“That’s why I’m making you a Tinder.”

—Wait, what.

“Excuse me?” Jungkook stammers out. Did Jimin just say what he think he said?

“Tinder, Jungkook. The dating app.” At Jungkook’s blank expression, Jimin sighs and tries again. “The one people use to meet new people and go out with?”

“I know what Tinder is,” Jungkook says, still a bit confused, “I’m just not sure what possessed you to think that I want anything to do with it.”

It’s not exactly true. Objectively, Jungkook understands that his dependence on his two friends can’t be a long term thing; fully acknowledging that fact is another story, though, and ignoring that reality about himself is far more desirable than practicing any typical social interaction. Jungkook isn’t a recluse—he enjoys doing things on his own for a change of pace outside of their apartment, and finds walking around in nature to be almost excessively motivational for his writing—but he’s not good at branching out. Jimin would probably say that his obsession with Rap Monster’s RM album is the only interest he’s had in other people since birth.

But Tinder? Really? Two years of dedicated friendship and this is what Jimin and Taehyung have come up with? Sure, Jungkook is lonely and bored and frankly a little unusual due to isolation, but come on. He doesn’t need somebody demeaning his lack of interpersonal prowess. He can do all of that by himself.

But Jimin’s face is uncharacteristically serious. His lips are pulled into a tight-lipped frown, fingers pressing hard enough into his empty disposable coffee cup to create small divots against the plastic. Eyes not glowing; no, they’re much more expressive, emphatically genuine.

“You’re actually serious about this,” Jungkook realizes.

Jungkook thinks of Taehyung saying you’re good at being fine, and understands what exactly that means.

Jungkook can’t say no to Jimin whenever he’s serious about something. It’s his greatest weakness. His body is programmed to prove that he can do the things that he’s been asked to do, and by now, his blood is 6.2% praise.

“Just make the account, okay, Kookie?” Oh, fuck. There it is. The soft, encouraging tone that makes him melt. The endearing sound of his nickname on Jimin’s tongue. “Break it out if you’re bored. I don’t care if you’re using it just to message random people or if you wanna fuck around, but have it. I hate seeing you so listless all the time.”

“I just can’t believe my intervention is a dating app,” Jungkook grumbles.

It’s as close to a yes as Jimin will get, and the older seems to notice this too. He jumps up unexpectedly from his chair with a smile on his face and grips onto Jungkook’s hands in a deathlock, almost dancing in place as he shakes the horrified younger. They speak at the same time:

“I’m so proud of you, Kookie! Thank you, thank you, thank you—”

“Jimin, get your grubby little fingers off my nails; they’re still wet oh my god—”

 


 

It turns out that making a dating profile is way harder than it looks. After several hours of struggling with the limits of the Korean language to convey Jungkook’s entire personality in five-hundred characters, he ends up with something vaguely good enough.

Jungkook, 20

Writer, broke college student, nail polish enthusiast

Looking for someone to keep up with the demands of my non existent social life. Will 100% make you into a character in my upcoming novel. I know what the word “accolade” means and will give the answer to you two ways if you treat me to an expensive meal.

Not interested in making an effort to actually scroll through other profiles, Jungkook casts his phone to the other side of his bed and sinks into the warmth of his thick blankets. It’s a little past ten by now, and a day full of classes combined with supplementary studying with Taehyung has left him stretched thin from stress. He considers how to spend his night, surveying his options:

  1. Write poetry in iambic pentameter about the cognitive dissonance one experiences when they want to turn into a full-blown gym rat but lack the funds to possess a gym membership
  2. Online shop for throwing knives to understand the feeling of exhilaration one of Jungkook’s characters experiences when they themselves throw knives
  3. Watch season 6 of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix
  4. Masturbate and then watch season 6 of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix

It really is astonishing how interesting Jungkook’s life is.

He shops for the knives before he forgets, Amazon Prime’ing the fuck out of a stainless steel set with red-corded handles along with a self-indulgent pack of 0.38mm pens to arrive tomorrow. The poetry is going to have to wait for the nice pens to arrive, so he discards that option. Jimin is home, and his room is right next to Jungkook’s—while Jungkook very much could try to stay quiet while fisting his dick like an insatiable teenager until he reaches dissatisfying orgasm, he knows that it’s not realistic. He likes things drawn out, likes to be loud.

Option 3 it is, then.

He’s going to need snacks for this. Habit states that Jungkook rifles between the folds of his blanket to snatch his phone on the way out of his bedroom so that he has something to do while waiting for his popcorn to cook in the microwave. This is because otherwise Jungkook will organize the food in the fridge by color and weight and spend upwards of twenty minutes finishing the singular task alone if he doesn’t have it. It’s a lesson in preventative measures and safety precautions. He’s a genius.

There’s four packs of popcorn left in the pantry, so Jungkook doesn’t feel bad about taking two of them for himself. He puts the first one in the microwave and presses the conveniently labelled button on the surface of the machine titled POPCORN. He pours himself a tall glass of water, then sits on the counter adjacent to the sink with his phone in hand.

The Tinder app stares Jungkook in the face the second he unlocks his phone, deceptively close to the Naver Webtoons app that he was interested in opening in the first place. I’m watching you, Jungkook threatens the small icon, as if it can hear him. He waits several seconds for it to do something, but when nothing inevitably happens, he clicks on the app with the pad of his thumb dejectedly and waits for it to start up.

A sequence of profiles appear on the screen, categorized by people in Jungkook’s general vicinity that share similar interests to him. There are rules to this, Jungkook has learned. Swiping left means no, and swiping right means yes.

He pictures the production meeting in which a pig-faced business man in a suit a size too small proposes this simplistic, key feature to the team, saying something overtly cliché like even a chimpanzee could figure it out! The businessmen around the table clap for this innovative idea and stop for a coffee break. This motivates Jungkook to fuck around with this rule, as it is entirely dictated by personal preference. The businessmen screech like banshees in response.

Because Jungkook doesn’t have an ulterior motive or goal for using Tinder, he decides to make a game out of it. He switches rules as they begin to prove less interesting while sticking to a few basic ones: Every person must be around Jungkook’s age and male. Swipe left if the person’s profile has the letter E in it. Swipe right if the profile looks like an obvious catfish. Super like anybody with a pet in their profile that isn’t a cat or a dog.

Sometimes, Jungkook connects with other people, and an odd animation sequence appears on the screen to tell him It’s a match! Uninterested in these users as anything other than objects for passing time, Jungkook recklessly messages them first.

Jungkook’s favorite profile, by far, is one claiming to be Kim Namjoon, otherwise known by his stage name Rap Monster. He’s a notorious rapper in the underground scene that manages to break the Naver Top 100 chart whenever he releases a new track, and Jungkook has been a fan of him for years now. The notion that anybody would be fooled by the high quality photos of Namjoon rapping and experiencing nature on his profile is hilarious to Jungkook. He reads the bio:

Namjoon, 23
Seoul, South Korea
9.8 km away

If I’m not rapping, I’m writing. I’ll take you out if you teach me how to work Tinder. #accidentalrightswipes #wtfisasuperlike

Jungkook swipes right, per his personal rules, and is surprised when the It’s a match! animation shows up on his screen.

The microwave beeps, signalling that Jungkook’s second bag of popcorn is finished. He decides to send a quick message before retrieving the bag and pouring both of them into a bigger bowl.

Jungkook
lol obvious catfish but i’ll still bite...what’s up?

Back on his bed, Jungkook gets under the blankets with the popcorn nestled underneath his left arm. He scoops a handful of the buttery snack with his free hand and shoves it in his mouth, pressing play with the back of his palm.

It’s not until after the first episode is over that Jungkook decides to check his phone. Alleged Kim Namjoon replied to his message seven minutes ago.

Namjoon
not sure what you mean, but thanks for biting anyway
i dropped this mug my friend gave me so i’m trying to fix it. me + gorilla glue is a dangerous combination i think 3 of my fingers are stuck together
you?

Jungkook snorts. He paws at the bottom of his bowl for the kernels laying there and crunches them in his mouth for no other reason than the fact that they’re the only thing available. He mulls over the pros and cons of talking to this person. Catfishers are dangerous, he knows, but impersonating someone as well-known as Kim Namjoon seems more like parody than manipulation.

That, and Jungkook said he’d bite.

Jungkook
watching the new season of oitnb before my hyungs spoil it for me...basic, i know
idk if having all ur fingers glued together lowers the chances, but try not to cut urself on the glass!!

This is okay, right? Jungkook’s knowledge of Tinder etiquette only extends so far. His other conversations have both started and ended with abysmal pickup lines and responseless greetings. For some reason, Jungkook didn’t really think that he’d...get this far, even given the circumstances.

He hits play on the show and keeps the chat log open, praying that his ability to multitask has evolved enough to handle low to moderate stimulation.

It’s ten minutes into the episode when Namjoon sends another message. Jungkook debates on either ignoring it to continue the episode or just forgetting about his show entirely, the odd excitement at talking to a complete stranger too ubiquitous for him not to. The scene is just beginning on his laptop screen, and it’s already almost eleven; his online conversationalist might be going to sleep soon. It’s best not to miss this chance. Jungkook closes his laptop and places it on the nightstand next to his bed along with the empty popcorn bowl, rolling onto his side to get more comfortable.

Namjoon
i may have cut my fingers on the glass

Jungkook
my expectations were honestly not that high in the first place


Namjoon
i’m older than you. don’t push it

Jungkook
fine
my apologies, hyung-nim. how may i repay u for my insolence

Namjoon
stop being insolent
cmon, jungkook, this isn’t rocket science

Jungkook laughs aloud before he can stop himself.

Jungkook
rocket science might be easier than keeping up w witty convo, but who am i to judge

Namjoon
i believe that the highest judge of our character is ourselves

Jungkook
deep

Namjoon
thanks

Jungkook
well, how bout we meet up for coffee sometime if ur into that?
and if concerned about my potential serial killer status, allow me to suggest platonic bro coffee. it’s the same thing but more no homo

Namjoon doesn’t reply after that message. Jungkook worries pathetically that he’s exposed the catfish too soon and scared the poor guy off, caught between intrigue of the mystique behind this complete stranger and the unexpected enjoyment of their conversation. Jungkook doesn’t want to admit it, but he would be disappointed if their interaction was cut off this early; his innately competitive personality hates the idea of losing to his own lack of skills, and paired with his naggingly self-conscious brain, he’s easily upset.

Jungkook has resigned to go to bed by the time his phone finally buzzes, toothbrush shoved in his mouth as he stands in front of his bathroom mirror to get to bed at a reasonable time. He brightens at the notification, humming as he finishes cleaning his teeth and washing his face. Jungkook opens the message, not knowing what to expect.

Namjoon
i’m into coffee...but i kind of wanna take everything slow, platonic bro version of meeting or not. u seem cool but i’m new to all this lol
not how tinder works ik so it’s cool if you aren’t interested

Jungkook understands. Maybe the reason why this person is impersonating Kim Namjoon is because they’re lonely or insecure about themselves and don’t know how to reach out. Keeping the façade is an important part of talking to Jungkook, then, by this logic. He gets it. Some shit is harder than other shit, and meeting new people is a prime example of this. Sometimes, it’s easier to be somebody else.

Jungkook
u asking me to go steady w u on tinder?

Namjoon
i think so lmao

Jungkook thinks about it for a few moments. Why the fuck not?

Jungkook
count me in