To say the midday sun was beating down on Taehyung was a understatement. It striking down on his face so hard, he was dripping sweat even before the match began.
It didn’t help that Jungkook was taking his sweet time either, Taehyung shoots his opponent a glare. Jungkook was carefully using his pre-match break to slouch on his bench, head bent down and draped with a towel.
And it really didn’t help that Taehyung wasn’t exactly looking forward to this match either.
Of course there was the actual competitive tennis reason why, like the fact that Jungkook was both highly athletic and a brilliant player with the ability to match Taehyung shot for shot. Taehyung had barely scraped the win at the final of the last tournament, pulling through a 3-set, 5 hour match and finishing it with a decisive down-the line volley that skirted the line and just out of Jungkook’s reach. The match before that Jungkook had bested him when a (beautiful, as Hoseok described it) overhead that was slammed sharply just beyond the net and bounced high enough to fly over Taehyung’s extended racket and over the fence behind him.
And then there was the other part of it, the part less related to tennis and a little more with Taehyung’s feelings, and with the fact that they had been rivals since they were eleven, when Jungkook had first shown up on the tennis scene, chubby and bespectacled, and quickly rose to the top of the rankings with heavy, top-spin laden shots.
All Taehyung had regarded Jungkook as was friendly competition, until, well, last year, when Jungkook destroyed the puberty lottery with no regard for human life, round features chipping away to angled ones, height exploding to a healthy 177 cm, and, oh, for Yoongi’s sake, don’t even get Taehyung started on the muscles.
(They're damn scary, okay?)
And of course that’s when everyone everyone else and their mothers began noticing Jungkook too, most notably the girls, who began to crowd around Jungkook in clusters of three to seven in between matches, giggles floating through the air.
It had really gotten to Taehyung yesterday, apparently.
“Fuck,” Taehyung had sworn as he sat on a brick ledge next to Yoongi just outside of court 22. In his peripherals he could see Jungkook surrounded by another group of girls. He was slightly irritated about the setup, though exactly what part of it he wasn’t so sure. “Some guys have it all.”
“Nah. If you’re talking about Jungkook,” Yoongi absentmindedly pulled his racket out of his bag. “He still can’t get you to notice him.”
“What are you even talking about?”
“Well,” Yoongi had dryly remarked, fiddling with his strings. “I’d say that Jungkook was really into you.”
What. Taehyung’s heart skipped a beat (or two).
“I mean he stares at you all the time.”
“Uh. That’s not even funny.” Taehyung shook his head though spared a glance at Jungkook out of the corner of his eye. Indeed, Jungkook was unsubtly staring in his direction, eyes only diverting away when they met his own.
Just a coincidence. Probably.
“Yeah you’re right, since it’s you we’re talking about. How anyone could be into you is beyond me.”
“Oh shut up.”
“Especially Jungkook, he’s like A+ level material now man. You’re like a…B-minus, with a curve.”
“W o w.”
“Like if you got together, your average would be like a B+. So close to quality it hurts.”
“I don’t even know where you’re going with this.”
“Me neither. But oh look,” Yoongi nods in Jungkook’s direction. “He’s staring again.”
And of course all of that had been a convenient contextual setup for The Thing™ that went down at yesterday night’s party, and happened after Jungkook, with a low voice laced with uncharacteristic nervousness detectable through the drunken slur, had asked Taehyung if he wanted to go on “a walk.” Of which it was quite a pleasant one for the roughly forty-five seconds until they rounded a corner just out of view, and Jungkook grabbed Taehyung's arm and muttered something along the lines of, "stop me if you don't want this."
All Taehyung managed to think before Jungkook shoved him up against a wall and kissed the living daylights out of him, was, ah, Yoongi had been right. Also, about the fact that Taehyung didn’t mind it nearly a fifth as much as he would think he would.
And so yeah, that and the One Other Thing are the reasons Taehyung has moderate trepidation about this match. It was a lot. And so Taehyung would really appreciate it if Jungkook could get off his ass ASAP so they could just finish this match and Taehyung could retreat to some corner with Yoongi and get his thoughts in order. Or something.
“Just take your time,” Taehyung calls out, listlessly bouncing a ball against the service line. “It’s like we have all day."
"Your sarcasm was noted and unappreciated,” Jungkook slowly slides the towel off his head, throwing it into a cooler before popping a hat on his head and pulling the bill backwards. “Sheesh, can’t a man get a break around here.”
“We haven’t even started the match yet,” Taehyung scowls, bouncing the ball against the ground with his racket. “What do you need a break for?"
"It is like 98 degrees. The heat makes existing tiring,” Jungkook slides off the bench, lazily stooping first to pick his racket off of his bag, shifting his strings as he stands up straight and swaggers to his side, the snap of polyester against polyester faintly audible all the way from the service line.
And Taehyung hates at that moment how he does find Jungkook just really slightly fucking attractive, how he kinda likes how Jungkook’s arms are framed by his sleeveless shirt, how Jungkook can really pull off that ankle sock-shorts combo, how it’s cute how that tiny tuft of bangs sticks up through that hole in his snapback.
“Like what you see?” Jungkook grins as he turns around and spots Taehyung, lifting his eyebrows as he adjusts the sweatband on his left arm. He squints up at the sun, “And whoa, that’s bright.”
“No,” Taehyung half-lies, okay, fine, completely lies, narrowing his eyes for dramatic effect. “I’m just wondering why you’re even bothering to wear a hat, since it’s blocking sun from the back of your head, instead of, you know, your eyes.”
"Style,” Jungkook says simply, as if that explained anything and everything, as he shields his face from the glare with a lifted hand.
“That is on so many levels of stupid I can’t even—”
“I dunno,” Jungkook squints at Taehyung, “Call me crazy but I thought you kinda liked that look last night.”
And of course that conjures up last night’s memories of the One Other Thing that happened after getting pulled away from the path and behind a series of condos and behind a bush. Of midnight crickets, of being pinned against a wall, That started with Jungkook’s hands slipping under his shirt, Jungkook’s lips seemingly everywhere. Of memories of his own fingers pulling the bill of Jungkook’s snapback backwards, of a hushed drunken gasp that seemed to originate from his vocal cords that went something like, “i like this look better,” of his fingers eventually knocking Jungkook’s hat askew as they raked through his hair.
Oh and of gliding lips, tracing tongues, of running rough fingers. Of the subtle scent of cologne. Of stumbling back to the hotel, to Jungkook’s room, to Jungkook’s bed, and of, well you know, the fun that followed. Of waking up in the morning to birdsong and the sight of daylight beaming down on the way Jungkook was sprawled in the sheets, and of the sensation of catching a lot of feelings Taehyung could really do without right now.
Oh yeah, and of hightailing it straight out of there once he got his pants on and his bearings straight.
“Though I guess you eventually liked me better without a hat,” Jungkook looks up at the sky, smirk growing wider. “Or really anything at all--”
“Yeah--no,” Taehyung interrupts as he feels his cheeks begin to flair. It’s a sunburn, he swears, “You’re crazy."
"Mhm,” Jungkook hooks an index finger on his collar, tugging down and revealing a telltale purple mark on his collarbone. “Sure."
“Put that away,” Taehyung hisses, hiding his blush behind a concealing forearm.
Jungkook grins and sticks his tongue out, pulling his collar down further.
“I said put that away,” Taehyung smacks a ball at Jungkook’s head.
Jungkook easily dodges with a quick crouch and a carefree snicker, “You know you liked it.”
Well yeah, but Taehyung wasn’t going to admit that. He rolls his eyes instead, “Could we, you know, start already?”
“Sure, sure,” Jungkook ambles towards his side, squats down in ready position, “Let’s do this.”
Taehyung tosses the ball in the air, and swings his racket back in an arc for the serve.
And Taehyung goes on to win (game, set, and match).
Yoongi, of course, gets the privilege of hearing about everything in an animated rant the minute Taehyung turns his score in, and after Taehyung drags him to some patch of shady courtside grass somewhere near center court.
He, maybe predictably, doesn’t have much response other that a slow thumbs up, and an apathetic, “Nice.”
“You’re not helping.”
“I’m your friend, not your love-life counselor. Pointing out the obvious I’ll do for free, analysis, well I charge for that,” Yoongi rips a blade of grass out of the ground and begins to shred it down the middle. “We can start discussing rates if that’s what you want. I think my time is worth about $30 an hour--”
And of course that’s the moment a Jungkook-shaped shadow falls over the two of them, and Taehyung squints up at a Jungkook-shaped silhouette standing tall against the sun. Oh no, it can’t be.
“Hey, Jungkook,” Yoongi waves.
“What’s up Yoongi?” Jungkook nods, slightly slouching from the weight of his tennis bag slung across his shoulders, hands jammed firmly into pockets, hat still on backwards.
“Nothing much,” Yoongi stands with a groan and dusts the seat of his shorts off. “I was just about to leave.”
“Where are you going?” Taehyung chokes as a zing of some feeling (fear? elation? indigestion? all three?) shoots straight from his gut, to his heart, to his throat.
“Uhhh,” Yoongi drawls, scanning for something before jabbing a thumb somewhere to his right. “Over there?”
“For what?” Taehyung grabs Yoongi’s wrist and contorts his eyes into what he hopes is a nonverbal expression of don’t leave me here alone with him.
Yoongi either isn't able or doesn't want to understand, “Checking in for my match.”
“Your match is in two hours.”
Yoongi shakes Taehyung’s hand off, “I walk slowly.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“Don’t have to. Be safe and have fun, friends,” Yoongi waves before shuffling away.
Jungkook plops himself down on the grass with a huff, reclining backwards and propping himself up with elbows. They watch the match in front of them for a bit in silence, and Taehyung manages to engross himself in the game, partly because Namjoon was kind of a god of a player, but mostly because he needed to park his eyes inconspicuously as far as possible from the problem laying down next to him.
And of course, it’s at set point, and at the moment Taehyung decides to take a swig of water that Jungkook springs The Question.
“So,” Jungkook asks oddly casually. “What are we now?”
“What?” Taehyung spits out some of his water.
“I mean like, I’m okay with being fuck buddies or whatever,” Jungkook fiddles with his earring. “But if I’m being honest, I’m more of a commitment type of guy. If it was a one night stand type of deal, then that’s cool too. I’d just like to, you know, put a label on things. Keep my life organized, you know.”
“Um,” Taehyung wipes his mouth off with his wrist and wonders dimly how and when did this kid become this forward, “I mean, it’s not up to me.”
“It kind of is.”
“Um,” Taehyung stalls. He really doesn’t know what he wants. No, scratch that, that’s a lie. He knows what he wants, but he doesn’t know how to ask for it in a non-awkward way, “What do you think we are?”
“Friends, at least,” Jungkook’s not looking at him, and Taehyung thinks he’s imagining how pink Jungkook’s ears are turning.
“Becoming something more, I’d be down, yeah,” Jungkook shrugs. “But I thought that was clear already.”
“You’d be down, yeah,” Taehyung echoes and lets out a laugh. “This is probably the lamest confession I’ve ever received.”
“Hey!” Jungkook twists around, face a bright shade of red. “I’m trying here.”
“Do you want me to give you a gold star for effort?”
“Here, I’ll make it cooler,” Jungkook grabs Taehyung’s arm and begins to profess dramatically. “Taehyung, my sun, my stars, my...uh...meteor? I don’t fucking know astrology.”
“Whatever,” Jungkook waves dismissively. “Okay, what I’m trying to ask is: want to go out with me? I like you a lot.”
Taehyung sighs, “Fine.”
“Fine?” Jungkook wrinkles his nose. “I guess it’s only fair a lame response only matches a lame confession.”
“Damn we’re a mess,” Taehyung throws a pile of grass on Jungkook’s blindingly white shirt.
Jungkook frowns down at it, but doesn’t make a move to brush it off, “At least we’re a mess together.”
“True,” Taehyung gets up. “Wanna get lunch?”
“I don’t know,” Taehyung extends a helping hand. “I’m feeling fries though.”
“Sounds good,” Jungkook takes it in his own and pulls himself up and as they make their way towards somewhere that sells fries, neither of them let go.
And so this time Jungkook wins (Taehyung’s heart, that is).