“Do you want to get coffee with me?” Namjoon asked, so easily and casually that Jungkook’s throat dried faster than a Shelstik desert under a solar flare. Namjoon leaned his chin on his arm, just barely tall enough to reach the edge of the elevated desk area meant for the rocky, three-meter locals.
“Um!” Fuck. Too squeaky. Namjoon’s eyes squished shut with a smile. Jungkook’s heart kicked into the last gear before cardiac arrest, sweat prickling at his chest. “Like a date?" Jungkook said, hoping and fearing a no, and also kicking himself for asking.
"Yeah," Namjoon said with the warmest chuckle, "Like a date.”
Namjoon’s light purple irises came back into view as his smile softened. “I was thinking now.”
“Now!” Jungkook’s fingers felt a little numb. Namjoon’s maroon freckles seemed a little darker today, skin a deeper tan. He must have flown close to a star the day before. Jungkook felt like an un-baked potato next to him. A date invitation, finally, and Jungkook’s weak little heart had him saying “Yeah! Sure! Let me just tell Seokjin I’m going on lunch,” before his brain kicked back into gear and screamed at him to punch the breaks, throw the shields back up.
"He finally asked you out?” Chief Librarian of the New Gliese Library, Seokjin, said, looking up from the open panel on his robotic arm with a sly smile. “Just don't be away for more than an hour."
Bad idea, Jungkook thought even as his heart pounded for joy. Namjoon clumsily adjusted his maroon-leather Patroller Corps jacket in a reflective hologram, smiling to himself with his perfect, plush lips and puffy cheeks. Really sucky idea. Worst thing you could possibly do to a person.
But Namjoon had a sweet Keplerian accent, deep, deep dimples, long, tan fingers, and all the charisma that usually came with Patroller captains. Jungkook's soft heart couldn't quite take it. Namjoon beamed from ear to ear and took his hand, and Jungkook felt like hot helium tethered down only by Namjoon’s touch, elation and terror swelling his chest.
"Want me to hold that for you?" Namjoon asked, pointing to the drink shaking in Jungkook's hands.
"I'm good, thanks," Jungkook said, looking away from Namjoon’s captivatingly broad shoulders just in time to tip his drink fully upright and avoid dumping it on the floor. "I'll, um...table?"
Namjoon grinned softly at himself and led the way to a little table for two in the corner. A trio of pointy Elklichian teenagers sitting next to them cleared out, tendrils waving spastically through the air behind them.
"Why'd you chase them off?" Jungkook asked.
"I didn't," Namjoon said, patting his pockets to make sure nothing had gone missing as the teenagers ran past.
Jungkook bit his lip and stepped towards the empty seat, which jumped up to his height so he could sit down. "They're Elklichian," Jungkook said. "You're wearing a Patroller coat. I know you don't work for them anymore, but you should know Elklichians will run away."
Namjoon pursed his lips. "You like Elklichians?"
Jungkook shook his head quickly. Not if Namjoon didn’t like them. "I mean, not really. I just…" He clutched his cup tighter. "They're trying, you know? We should help more instead of walling them out."
"They literally evolved with a drive to wipe out other populations. They steal everything."
Jungkook pursed his lips, wishing their first date conversation could have started with something else. The windows faced a bright canyon in the biggest major city on Gliese, buildings falling away to the wide, coral-pink plaza between the university, library, and municipal buildings, dotted and glistening with sparkling fountains. Across the tall, pale blue cafe, an adorable couple of rocky-looking locals sucked little baubles out of their tea through a double straw and Jungkook felt a familiar pulse of longing and jealousy. "There are...other species like that, that just have a drive that's...harmful..."
"Not like Elklichians. Some of the planets I visited when I was still in Patrol were completely overrun. No one left alive. We shouldn’t have let them in the co-op. It's not safe."
Jungkook stared down at his coffee, bright green with little, swirling baubles of peach. Namjoon's was a syrupy dark blue that he sipped slowly to lessen the bitter bite. Jungkook couldn't even sniff that without gagging. He felt unfamiliarly and painfully soft, but that seemed to be what Namjoon liked about him, as misguided as that impression was.
"Sorry about starting this on a sour note though," Namjoon said, leaning forward, care-free smile back on his face. "It's good that you're sympathetic. I try to be. I just get worried that the same things I saw abroad will happen here."
Jungkook had heard from other professors about Namjoon’s lectures on his experiences. As one of the few people that explored the dangerous reaches of the co-op systems, Namjoon probably knew more about the galaxy than Jungkook could learn in library books. "I get that. Just...a lot of the races we've let in turned out to be okay. Like, um, Cephs and Martians, I guess."
"Martians are okay," Namjoon said, laughing. "My grandma was a Martian, so you have me there." The magenta blush on his fingertips and maroon freckles flecking his tan skin suddenly made a lot more sense on a member of usually very purple species. "Cephs are..." Namjoon blinked distractedly at the table, eyes unnervingly distant. Jungkook waited. "Cephs are okay. The tentacle thing kinda...Well more to the point, the sex frenzy thing. The rate of attacks is negligibly low, but it doesn’t change the fact that they could lose control and…well…rape someone.”
“It doesn’t really happen though,” Jungkook said. “Not often. There aren’t very many, and…have you ever seen one?”
"I met one in a brothel once," Namjoon said, chin resting casually on his pretty hand. "The sex frenzy had already started. It was wild. I kinda just ran."
Jungkook's throat tightened up hard.
Namjoon glanced up and noticed Jungkook's alarm. "Oh. Um. I've only been to a brothel twice. Do you...like, have you ever been?"
Jungkook shook his head. "I mean, no," he said with a forced giggle, "but you were in the Patroller Corps so I get it. That's normal...I guess? Is that normal?"
"Normal would mean going to a lot more than twice," Namjoon laughed. He looked down at his hands as he talked, brash words typical of a Patroller captain, but with a maroon blush on his cheeks. Maybe Jungkook should reach out and touch it, see how warm it felt on his cold fingertips. "It's not really my thing. Would you ever want to go?" Namjoon said, eyes sly again.
Jungkook swallowed heavily. Brothels left a heavy feeling in the back of his throat, something like foreboding, maybe fear. "Hadn't really thought about it." Namjoon bit back a smile, like he thought Jungkook was the cutest thing in the world. Jungkook's chest ached.
"Sorry," Namjoon said. "Inappropriate first date question. I keep forgetting how this is supposed to be done."
"I don't mind," Jungkook said quickly.
Namjoon smiled. "You can ask me an impertinent question too, if you want."
And how good did big words sound on the tongue of a gorgeous man. Jungkook leaned forward on the table, head propped between his hands. "How many first dates have you been on?"
"That's not impertinent," Namjoon murmured with the softest smile. "I'd have to say...between ten and fifteen now. What about you?"
Jungkook blushed, but smiled. "Just one."
Namjoon came into the library off of Jungkook's shift, and Jungkook peered between the shelves and watched him pass. He didn't chat with Jimin at the desk like he always did first thing when it was Jungkook sitting there, and Jungkook hugged the Nionian scrolls tightly to his chest for a moment to stall his pounding nerves.
He crept back over to the librarian's desk and sat on the floor by Jimin's chair.
“Don't let Namjoon know I'm here, please," he said.
"Why are you here? And why are you in uniform on your day off?" Jungkook glanced ruefully at the baggy blue shirt and crumpled slacks he practically lived in. How had Namjoon ever been tempted to ask him out with only this image to go on?
"Gotta fill out these order forms so I can get in on this book sale. It ends tonight."
"You know, if you want Namjoon off your back, you have to tell him. You can't just hide and assume he’ll go away. That's rude."
Jungkook’s heart lurched a little. "No way. No. Nothing like that. I don't want him off my back. I just...can't deal with him right now."
"Why are you ordering books on Cephs?" Jimin said, crinkling his nose. "We don't need that shit in our library."
Jungkook scowled up at him. "We're a center of learning. Information on Cephs is appallingly underrepresented in the main library of a city that supposedly holds the biggest concentration of them in this wing of the galaxy."
"Yeah, I guess," Jimin said, "but they creep me out. The slimy tentacles and the sex drive. Like, I saw an antique hardcore porno once with two of them and..." he shuddered. "I don't want to think about it."
Jungkook pouted. "They're people, not sex robots. Maybe if we had more books that talked about them you wouldn't feel that way."
"If you say so," Jimin grumbled, eyebrows furrowed and cringing. "But really. I think I have a phobia. Please don't let me see those books."
Jungkook opened his mouth to launch a crafted argument on the rights of sentient and peaceable beings when Namjoon’s deep, smooth voice wafted over the desk like a warm breeze.
"Jimin, can you help me find some resources on the Elklichian invasions in the Draconian planets?"
Jungkook nearly jumped out of his skin. Jimin flicked on his dazzling smile.
"I'm so sorry, Professor Kim," he said in a sweet, darling little voice that made Jungkook's chest burn. Jimin and Namjoon would probably have been a much better match. "I'm looking up something for another customer right now, but maybe Jungkook could help you?"
Jungkook stood up slowly, trying not to look ashamed. "I stopped in to order some books. I'm sorry. I was trying to get in and get out and I didn't know you'd be here."
"Oh," Namjoon said softly, lavender eyes flicking worriedly to Jimin, who shrugged. "I'm sorry."
"No! I'm not--um...I'm sorry. I'm just really...I'm stressed. I don't mean to say I didn't want to see you. I'm just...I mean of course not. Fuck. Sorry.” Namjoon gazed earnestly up at him, irises glimmering. “Crap. I'm not supposed to swear at work." Jungkook rubbed his hands over his face and sighed as Jimin patted his thigh comfortingly. "I'm sorry. Can I help you find your books?"
The shelves of the history section had been pieced together by an artist from various building materials of significant planets, each signifying the era and location of history contained upon them. The Draconian invasions shelf, a mile above the first floor and one long, quiet walk down a nearly silent corridor, was made of a red, skeletal organic matter, the porous framework of something once alive.
"If you're uncomfortable," Namjoon said, halfway through scanning the titles, "please tell me. This is your job. I understand if flirting is, like off-limits. I don’t want to pressure you into anything."
"Please don’t be sorry for being uncomfortable,” Namjoon said, looking a little crushed.
"No, no,” Jungkook said quickly, unconsciously grabbing Namjoon’s arm. “Not uncomfortable.” Maroon flecked Namjoon's tan skin, all across his bare arms, but Jungkook could see a slight tinge of the same bright purple of his hair.
"Nervous, I guess. I don't know...what I'm supposed to do with this. Like, maybe we shouldn't date," Jungkook said. It beat its way out of his mouth and hung in the air, and Jungkook wished he could swallow it back, could clarify it, could mean something else, but he held his self-control and let it hang there. It would be better this way.
"Why not?" Namjoon said, a soft whine.
Jungkook gave in and leaned against Namjoon's shoulder. "This is hard. I’ve never dated anyone. I'm fucking twenty-two years old and I don't know what I'm doing. Crap. Shouldn't swear at work."
Namjoon chuckled softly and pulled him into his arms, warm, thick, and comforting, everything Jungkook wanted. "I told you I've been on a lot of first dates, cadet, but I rarely go on second dates. I’ve only been on a third date once. Please feel special. You're not just another person to me. You could do anything and I'd still be here."
"Anything?" Jungkook said with a shaky laugh, trying to sound sarcastic rather than hopeful.
"Within reason," Namjoon said, which didn't reassure him. He took a book down off the shelf, a smooth, blue-grey stick, the title printed on a silver tag along the edge. He slid it into his tab, and the first page slid smoothly out, glowing gently.
"Why the Draconian invasions?" Jungkook asked.
"I realized, after our conversation, that I was basing a lot of my opinion on Elklichians on a series of historical events that I don't understand very well. I don't actually know why those wars happened. I'd heard that they conquer and destroy populations as a matter of greed, but I don't actually know that. I'm going to make sure."
Jungkook hid his smile in Namjoon’s shoulder. Just the kind of thoughtful intellectual that Jimin joked was as rare as reptiles. But here he was.
"I’m not the only one following up on our conversation. You're ordering resources on Cephs," Namjoon said, gesturing to the order form in Jungkook's hand. He wiggled his eyebrows. "Interested in those sex frenzies?"
Jungkook swallowed hard and tried to laugh.
"I'm kidding. Seriously. I know you're too sensible for that," Namjoon said, sobering a little as he scowled at his tab.
"I said we didn't have enough references, didn't I?" Jungkook said.
"I love librarians," Namjoon murmured, the fondest smile on his lips as he looked back at Jungkook. "Not usually like this, of course, but still."
He leaned forward as if by instinct, stopping a couple inches from Jungkook's face to make sure, but Jungkook, heart pounding, had already leaned in, fingers gripping Namjoon's shirt. Namjoon's soft, warm lips touched Jungkook’s cooler ones, kissing him for the first time in his life.
Deep inside Jungkook, as if just lying in wait, something sick and hungry lurched forward.
Jungkook barely made it home, kiss still staining his lips, hands shaking. In a half hour, he’d seen Namjoon out, filed the messy order form, got on the quiet monorail, zipped the seven-hundred-mile stretch to home, and climbed all the way up to his apartment. All the while, the trembling and need grew. How long had it been since he last let himself go? It couldn’t have been a whole month. Just one kiss shouldn’t have stirred so much deep, primal need.
Beside his shower was a door to a little silicon room made for Ceph frenzies. The first long, navy blue tentacle broke loose before he could get his uniform off, snaking out of nine slits lined up vertically from his navel down to between his legs. He got a single glimpse in the mirror of flat, black eyes, glistening navy staining the skin of his arms like ink, veins prominent, navy blue curling up from his waist, wetness already seeping from every opening orifice, and then he slammed the door shut.
The tentacles writhed, searching, until the chamber sensed him and gave him a warm, silicon form and a hole, something for his tentacles to squeeze into as he sobbed from the pressurized need and wracking pleasure, begging and screaming and demanding to be satisfied. He lost track of himself, high with delirious want as his tentacles took what they needed. For a long time, the world was a wild, pounding delight, consciousness barely squeezed into the corner of his awareness as his tentacles pillaged the silicon. Finally, orgasm rushed through him and he lay exhausted in his slick filth until every tentacle had slithered back into his body and the last dregs of navy had faded from his fingertips.
"It had just been too long, I think," Jungkook said quietly, voice still scratchy from screaming. "And I had to hold it off for too long coming home. At least I hope that's what it was. I don’t know why it didn’t go away."
Taehyung slid the teapot across the table towards Jungkook, and it spit an orange stream right into his glass. Jungkook curled up on the bubble-seat, suspended out over the side of Taehyung's apartment building, bright and warm with trapped sunlight. A mile below, cars whipped along the city highways.
A well-known reference book on common species would tell you that Cephs tend to be angelic, slender and graceful, physical models of beauty, entrancing. Of course, that book would have been written by a human, and humans will fuck anything. Cephs look, while unrelaxed or unaroused, exactly like pretty humans. So fairly ugly in the grand scheme of things, but humans would probably argue that point. Cephs might not.
"It was just a kiss," Jungkook said. "I have better self-control than that."
"Evidently not," Tae said. Jungkook gulped and scowled at his trembling hands. "Sorry, but that's scary. What if you hadn't been able to get home?"
"There are tons of places in the library that no one ever goes. I would have gone there. I don't know what I would have done to clean up. I don’t know how I would have gotten home. I had to call in sick from work today to recover."
At home, Taehyung dressed comfortably, just a light drape around his hips, blue-black slits relaxed and visible. His eyes had blackened over lazily.
"Do you know how he feels about us?"
"He doesn't seem really interested," Jungkook grumbled. "Kinda wary. Kinda vaguely grossed out, but better than most people. He said he saw one frenzy once and ran. He's not nearly as bad as Jimin though."
Taehyung's eyebrows squeezed together for just a moment, lips twitching harshly down before they smoothed over. "Oh, Jimin," he sighed. "Phobia, huh? I'm glad I let that go."
"I’m sorry. I'm not glad you let it go," Jungkook murmured. "You really liked him."
"Mom says our romantic desperation can match our sexual desperation. I didn't want it to get far enough that dependency set in."
"He misses you."
"Please don't tell me that."
Jungkook rested his head against the thick window. Mint-green vapor floated past and dispersed in the yellow sunlight. "Joon's an ex-Patroller captain," he said. "He's seen a lot of, like, wars and shit. Got worried that I'd be offended that he'd been to a brothel or two. He thinks he's a smooth talker. It's so cute."
Taehyung smiled. "Sounds adorable."
"He is," Jungkook sighed. "He’s smart and talented. He’s tall. He’s so kind. He’s cautious and courteous. Fuck, Tae, he’s everything. I turn into a choked-up idiot around him because I’m so scared I’ll mess it up. No wonder he thinks I'm so innocent."
"You have to tell him or leave him. That's how this works."
One sun sat directly overhead, beaming down on Jungkook’s hair. Another rose in a steep diagonal through distant towers, turning the glow of the day a little more brightly peach, a pink-lemonade hour. Jungkook let his slits wink open one by one down the soft, flat plane of his lower belly. Blue snuck across his skin. He’d wound his control so tight that even to relax felt like a deliberate release.
"I think he's fucked me up already."
Taehyung sighed, lying back like the professional model he was. "You need to tell him."
"I'm so scared. I know he's going to run."
"Find a Ceph to mate. You know that's the only way."
"What if I wanted to mate you?"
Taehyung shook his head. "I'm not over Jimin."
"I'm not over Namjoon. Fuck, I'm not even ready to start getting over Namjoon. I'm still scrambling up fucking Namjoon hill, all the way up those long legs. He's so sweet, Tae. You'd never believe he was a Patroller captain. He's nothing like those slick assholes."
"Don't hurt him."
"I'm so scared."
Taehyung huffed, slid around the little table, and abruptly dipped a navy blue finger down into Jungkook's top slit. Jungkook gasped and grabbed Taehyung's wrist, pulling it deeper in. "Shh," Taehyung murmured. "You don't take care of yourself enough."
His long fingers pressed in and back, not minding the tentacle slithering up his hand and pulling him deeper in. The other seven emerged slowly, and Jungkook threw an arm over his eyes, not wanting to look. "Tae. Need the bathroom."
"No, you're going to stay here with me and practice control just like we used to."
"Tae..." He growled, arching up. The little, tickling feeling of shimmering, navy blue spread up his arms and over his hips.
"There you go," Taehyung said. "Relax." His fingers found the base of his tentacle and slid gently along it, and Jungkook groaned, louder and louder in his torn throat. Tentacles stretched out of his body, grabbing, searching, needing, wanting. Wave after wave of desire and desperation slammed through his chest, fogging his head. "Tae!" he yelled. "Please!"
"Don't let them get out of control," Taehyung moaned, right in his ear. "Move deliberately."
Jungkook sobbed. At the suggestion, they grabbed at Tae's body, tentacles yanking them closer, jostling Jungkook painfully like he was just a doll for them to toss around.
"Move them to my hand," Taehyung said. Jungkook yanked them away, fighting their need, forcing them away from the promising, wet warmth of Taehyung's stomach and lacing each one of them smoothly through the circle of Taehyung's fingers. The need slammed through his temples, choking and shaking him. "You really don't do this enough," Taehyung said, squeezing his tentacles and watching him pant frantically as he wrapped mercilessly around Taehyung's hand, dripping slick. "It shouldn't be this bad."
Jungkook wailed harshly, throat burning.
Taehyung stood, hoisting Jungkook up by the thighs to cling to his front. Jungkook's tentacles scrabbled frantically against Taehyung's slits, trying to find a way in. "Stop," Taehyung said dangerously, and Jungkook cried with strain, fighting to keep them under control.
"We'll do this again tomorrow," Taehyung said, sitting him on the floor of the chamber and tugging his soaked pants off. Jungkook frantically searched the rippling silicon walls for any kind of help, until his tentacles found a hole on the floor and pinned him down against. He lay there on his stomach and sobbed till the intense pleasure shattered through his limbs and he came back to himself, exhausted, soaked, sore, and terrified for Namjoon.
“’Scuse me, cadet,” Namjoon said, leaning on the low side of the desk as usual, chin propped on the ledge and looking imploringly up. Jungkook giggled, always a little thrilled at the Patroller trainee title. “Could you help me find a book, please?”
“Ah, yes. I think I could do that,” Jungkook said. “What can I help you find?”
“Novel by a barbarian trader about Shelstik sand people. Only I don’t know the title, or the author.”
“Sounds like a challenge, but I think I can—”
“Or the year, or the planet…”
Jungkook quirked his head to the side a little. “…okay. Let’s see if I can…”
Namjoon vaulted over the side of the smooth library desk like it was nothing. Jungkook’s fingers stalled on the keys.
“Patroller training,” Namjoon said, smirking and flexing.
Jungkook raised one arm from the keyboard. “Feel that.”
Namjoon raised an eyebrow and grabbed the bicep. Jungkook flexed.
“Yeah,” Jungkook said, silently smug about his Ceph genetics. “It might take more than you think to impress me.”
Namjoon leaned back against the edge of the desk, arms crossed over his chest. Jungkook flushed and giggled before he could stop himself.
Namjoon got on his knees beside the desk and watched him paw through the database, smiling with his deep dimples.
“You haven’t given me a lot to go on. Do you at least know the quadrant?”
“That narrows it down a lot. That’s good. Can I touch your dimples?”
Namjoon’s purple irises slid over to Jungkook’s. Jungkook felt a blush race across his face. “Ugh. Forget I asked.”
“No, please,” Namjoon said, leaning closer.
“I’m at work,” Jungkook whined, glancing around. Jimin slid, smirking, back behind a bookshelf. “I’m a professional.”
“Too professional to touch my dimples?”
“Can you tell me more about your adventures as a captain in the Patroller Corps?”
“Oh, man,” Namjoon said, leaning back. “Bringing out the big guns, tempting me to talk for hours and hours about the moons over Jupiter or the wormhole past the major Canis asteroid belt.”
“I was thinking more about people you’ve met, adventurers you’ve worked with, rare books you’ve uncovered.”
“Is that why you’re after me, cadet? My rare books?”
“You know I love those rare books,” Jungkook said.
“Kook, Jimin’s not looking. Touch my dimples.”
Jungkook, giggling, took Namjoon’s cheeks in his hands and pressed his thumbs to the soft dips as Namjoon smiled peacefully up at him. Jungkook felt a needy, desperate noise rising up in his throat, and against all judgement, tried to smother it against Namjoon’s lips. It squeaked out anyway. Jungkook jerked back to the front, heart thumping wildly, fingers shaking, waiting for the need and hunger to sink deep in his core and rip open his libido from the inside out.
It didn’t. Namjoon sat there watching Jungkook breath heavily and tremble with fear. Eventually, Jungkook calmed down enough to glance at Namjoon’s expression. He looked soft, a little cautious. Maybe he’d mistaken Jungkook’s panic for shyness.
“Sorry,” Jungkook breathed. “I’m really sorry. I know I’m being really weird about this. I’m sorry.”
“You’re adorable. It’s okay.”
Slimy, long, dark tentacles were adorable by no one’s definition. He swallowed down a lump in his throat.
“I’m not human,” he blurted, and then clenched his lips together and froze. “Oh fuck, why’d I just tell you that?” He backed up from the computer and put his head in his hands. Namjoon stayed still, watching him quietly, until he picked his head back up. “This is hard for me. I’m sorry.”
Namjoon snuggled around his legs. “You’re not human? I’m not either, you know. It’s fine.”
Jungkook shook his head. “Just trust me. It complicates…sex, I guess.”
Namjoon snorted softly. “I’ve seen a hell of a lot. Nothing you’ve got can scare me off.” He cocked his head to the side, eyes soft and trusting. “And we don’t have to worry about sex until you want to. I didn’t expect that for a while yet.”
Even as he said that, his hand rubbed gently just above Jungkook’s knee, and something deep, dark, and demanding stirred in Jungkook’s stomach. Without thinking, he scooted backwards in his chair, shoving Namjoon off.
“Jungkook, if you’re just going to flirt, just—Oh jeez. Sorry.” Seokjin laughed, both he and Namjoon mistaking Jungkook’s violent reaction as a response to Seokjin’s arrival. “Just go to lunch, guys. I’ll see you in an hour.”
Namjoon’s hair gleamed brightly in the open, glass walkways of the city block, brilliant sunlight lighting his eyes up tangerine on lavender. Jungkook walked with his arms around himself, forcibly tamping down the stirring need in his shivering body. The crowds of people helped. It faded faster, getting under control quicker, and Jungkook would have to send Taehyung a thank you note for getting it out of him the day before.
“Do you miss going on Patroller missions?” Jungkook asked as Namjoon led him into a little rooftop garden.
“Not really,” Namjoon said. “I turned out to be more of a homebody than I thought.” He scratched the back of head nervously as he said so, and Jungkook wondered how much teasing he’d gotten for being a soft intellectual when he left to pursue a faculty position at a university instead of hunting raiders at the edge of their arm of the galaxy. “The only thing I miss is being able to explore places that are unsafe for civilians, but I can live without that if it means not getting shot at.”
“Why do you call me ‘cadet’?”
Namjoon smiled. “Cadets are always these sweet, young people, always ready to go and eager to impress.”
“So, I’m a sweet, young thing that’s eager to impress you?” he asked, a little sharp.
Namjoon chuckled. “You’re certainly sweet. I was thinking more about what a hard worker you are. And how nervous you get.”
Fuck. He noticed. Jungkook tried not to get suspiciously nervous and didn’t know how to hide it, but Namjoon just smiled, mistaking his panic for bashfulness. It turned into guilt. Namjoon didn’t notice, humming quietly to himself and watching the blue sky. They rounded a corner and ran right into a little café full of books and flower pots. “Oh!”
“It’s a bookstore too,” Namjoon said, watching him hopefully. “Thought you’d like it.”
“Wow,” Jungkook breathed. A silver waterfall tumbled through a trough. Blue, green, and red plants covered the walls, every color and kind of flower bobbing in the light breeze. Some women with deep purple skin and purple hair sat at one of the spindly, glassy tables, side-eyeing the two of them. “It’s really romantic,” Jungkook said with a giggle.
“I really don’t believe no one’s ever wanted to take you somewhere romantic before,” Namjoon said.
“I got invites. I never said yes,” Jungkook said. Everyone else was average enough to pass up. Namjoon just had the bad luck of being an incredible bundle of smiles and concentrated peace, a delicious aura, the face of a hero.
“So you’re not human and it’s gonna make sex difficult,” Namjoon said carefully, tugging on the shapeless fabric of Jungkook’s uniform shirt. "I feel like I’m missing pieces of your story that I should know. You know, for this.” He gestured at the lack of distance between them.
Jungkook, sandwich halfway to his mouth, suddenly lost his appetite. It drifted back to the plate.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t pry,” Namjoon said softly, “if you’re not comfortable being with me, just say something and I’ll leave you alone. I’d rather you do it sooner than later.”
Another easy out. He could say something now, keep playing the innocent virgin, keep playing the good boy smitten with the rough man and wanting to say no but not knowing how. He could say no now. He could save Namjoon.
“I’ve had a crush on you since the first time I saw you in the library,” Jungkook admitted.
Namjoon’s bashful grin flashed quickly across his face. “Still though,” Namjoon said. “I know we’re pretty different. If I’m not what you want, I get it.”
“Oh god no. You’re perfect,” Jungkook said, and then felt the swooping adrenaline rush of confession turning his stomach in knots, alongside the guilt of selfishness. He should be chasing Namjoon away. “Sorry,” he murmured from behind his hand, yet again. Namjoon shook with laughter beside him on the bench. His dimples were probably out, maroon freckles sparkling. Jungkook wanted to look.
“I’m perfect?” Namjoon said hopefully.
“Don’t make me say it again.”
“What’s so perfect about me? I’m a clumsy, rough, loud, ex-captain teaching minor classes at an old-fashioned university.”
“You’re not…okay well maybe,” Jungkook snorted, “but the first book you asked me to help you find was an anthology of the universe’s cutest baby creatures.”
“I was having a pretty bad day,” Namjoon murmured.
Jungkook tipped against Namjoon’s shoulder, hands scrambling to hold Namjoon’s like his heart was as desperate as his tentacles to possess him. Warmth warred with guilt. Namjoon was always so hot against Jungkook’s cool skin, so firm. His leather jacket stuck to Jungkook’s cheek and he just gripped tighter.
“Please be careful,” Jungkook said.
Jungkook’s bravery shriveled up in his chest. “Just be slow. I’m kinda spooked by, like, physical stuff. Maybe you’ve noticed.” Even now his hands clenched and fidgeted around Namjoon’s, ready to yank away at the smallest hint of navy blue across the tips of his fingers.
And Namjoon agreed and held Jungkook’s hands till he could bear to let go, even when his own food got cold. They walked back to the library hand in hand, Jungkook bumping against his shoulder as he cuddled close. They found Namjoon’s book, and Namjoon pulled him close behind the bookshelf to lay several sweet kisses on his lips, arms tight, vacuuming up out of him a hunger and pleasure, dangerously delicious and growling to be fed.
As soon as Namjoon left, Jungkook called off sick again and barely made it to Taehyung’s house before the need to love someone till they screamed burst out and had him pinning Taehyung to his own floor, warm breath and sweet words in Jungkook’s ear, arms soothing over his back.
“Your books came in,” Jimin said when Jungkook arrived on Monday after a long weekend of staring at his tab and waiting for Namjoon to get out of classes and send him messages.
“Do you need me to put them in the database?”
“I already did it, actually,” Jimin said. “Read through some of it too. There’s a lot of violence in these.” He had one book plugged into his tab, tag glinting silver and new in the harsh library light. “I feel kind of bad. There were pretty common mass killings of Cephs, like, in this city, until only about fifty sun cycles ago. It stopped when they were forced by law to go into hiding, and now we have different problems so people don’t tend to care.”
“I thought they went into hiding willingly,” Jungkook lied, already gathering the books to take them to their new shelves. He waited for Jimin to hand the last one over.
“Nah. That seems…wrong though. I guess if they were that dangerous…But then just telling them to hide wouldn’t have done anything and they’re supposedly not that dangerous at all unless forcefully, like, provoked. That seems like a really unethical decision. What if they didn’t want to go into hiding?”
“You can go put these away. I actually checked this one out for the day. I think I’ll put it away before I leave, but I was curious.”
“Doing your duty as a knowledgeable librarian. I get it. Maybe I’ll grab one too.”
He helped a few visitors, drank a whole cup of tea laced with THC honey, and got a good hour and a half of work done in a comfortable haze.
“Namjoon’s here,” Jimin said.
Jungkook saw him grinning like a mini star while a nine-foot reptilian wearing a sheer pantsuit crouched to talk to him. “Oh, that’s another professor,” Jungkook said. “I helped them with their intro to terraforming class. They’re both here for work.”
“Shame,” Jimin said. “Hey, how’s your friend doing?”
“Taehyung?” Jungkook said distractedly. Namjoon caught his eye and waved, and Jungkook waved dreamily back, loving the way the yellow light of the reference book section caught on Namjoon’s purple hair and made it more of a human-tone brown. “He’s fine. I told you he got work with a big modelling company, right?”
“Yeah,” Jimin said, frowning. “I keep seeing him in magazines. Why doesn’t he come here anymore?”
“Too busy,” Jungkook said, shrugging. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. There was a picture of a Ceph in the book that I’m reading and she reminded me of Taehyung. I think it was the face shape.”
“Cephs look like humans, right?”
“Supposedly they look like pretty humans in a Plutonian kind of way.”
Jimin giggled. “That’s an adorably outdated way of putting it, but yeah.”
“So even you could be a Ceph then?”
Jimin made a panicked, disgusted noise that dissolved into embarrassed giggles. “Thanks, I guess. But ugh, no.” He faked a huge shudder. “I just read the part about reproductive anatomy and it’s even worse than I thought.”
Jungkook nodded emphatically. “Yeah. Really gross.”
Seokjin came by with mail. A short, slim box had come for Jungkook with two tiny, crystalline hoops in deep maroon. Jungkook put his head down on his desk and squealed quietly. He unhooked two small, silver hoops from his left ear and slid the new ones in, still grinning and ready to curl up under his desk and daydream for the rest of the afternoon.
“He can see you, you know,” Jimin said, pointing up. Namjoon leaned on the second story balcony, dimples visible even from this distance. Jungkook hid his face in his hands and turned his back, trying not to squeal loud enough for visitors to hear.
“You’re in a library,” Jimin laughed. “Quiet down.”
“He’s too perfect. Tell me when he goes away.”
“He’s already gone,” Jimin laughed, rubbing Jungkook’s shoulders. “Those earrings are gorgeous. He should see you in full party attire though.”
“No way. I don’t want to start anything,” Jungkook said.
“Don’t you want to have sex with him?” Jimin said, sliding back into his seat. A terrifying tendril of need curled around Jungkook’s spine. He gazed wordlessly up at the empty balcony. “You’re not a virgin are you?” Jimin asked.
Jungkook shook his head, hating how much his body seemed to beg at even the suggestion of getting purple hair and maroon freckles under him, those long legs against his. How would Namjoon look with tentacles sliding over his plush lips, the dip of his dimpl—
“Bathroom,” Jungkook said, and felt Jimin gaze after him until he slammed the door and stuck his face right under the spray of the sink.
Jungkook called off the date early, shortly after Namjoon’s hand accidentally brushed Jungkook’s stomach and Jungkook nearly grabbed him and devoured him right there. He rushed to Taehyung’s place, choking on panic. “It never used to be this bad, not even when you were a teenager,” Taehyung murmured quietly. Jungkook panted, collapsed naked against the wall of Taehyung’s chamber, shuddering as waves of pleasure crashed through him. His tentacles gripped a warm form on the floor, rubbing and sliding, gripping, searching, reaching deeper into the squeezing crevice.
“Please,” he groaned. Taehyung slid two fingers into his lowest slit, the one without a tentacle, and pet gently deeper. Jungkook whimpered.
“Does it even feel good?”
“’s…started to feel…better.”
The fingers twisted deep in him, pressing and prodding. Jungkook’s spine arched and threw him against the back wall, stretching closer.
“You’re so pretty,” Taehyung purred.
“Ha,” Jungkook said, staring forlornly down at the navy blue staining his waist and turning his body into a patchwork of skin and what looked more like evening sky. The tentacles squirmed over the silicon floor and Taehyung’s hands. Jungkook swallowed down a lump of disgust so he could close his eyes and just feel Taehyung’s fingers.
“These have gotten so long,” Taehyung said, pulling gently at the tentacles wrapped around his hand, nearly as long as his arm. Jungkook gasped and groaned. “Not at long as mine, but…”
“Shut up,” Jungkook grunted, trying to soften it with a smile. He opened his eyes and saw Taehyung’s pupils growing solid, deep blue curling up his fingers. “Like what you see?” Jungkook gasped.
“Mm,” Taehyung said, tentacles slipping calmly from his stomach and curling gently over the floor. Jungkook watched enviously.
“How do you do that?”
“I do this every day. Takes the edge off. I can’t afford to be undersexed with stylists and designers touching me all day.”
Jungkook thumped back against the silicon wall, trembling with unrelenting sensation. The tentacles tugged inside him as they searched frantically deeper into the silicon, hard enough to jostle him where he sat and burn with strain. He tried to draw out a little and whined at the pull. The silicon contracted around them and he lurched forward with a harsh wine, body shaking with tremors. Drool pooled on the floor beneath his mouth, mingling with slime. He wondered if a heart attack felt similar.
“Shit,” Taehyung murmured, brushing his hair back from his forehead. “Don’t forget to breathe. “Think of it like pressure in a hose,” he said. “If you just let it go, it’ll come steady and you can direct it where you want. If you kink it and hold it back, the pressure builds and builds and just explodes out and you have no control at all.”
Jungkook couldn’t think enough to properly remember to breath. “Namjoon,” he groaned. “Oh no. Oh fuck.”
“Don’t think about it now,” Taehyung said.
The fear came anyway, the image of Namjoon backing away, loathing on his face. Imaginary Namjoon yelling in shock, maybe just taking one look and running away. Namjoon with his face cold and voice sharp, asking why Jungkook hadn’t told him what he was. And horribly, the image of Namjoon under him, pushing and yelling, and Jungkook trying to run, tentacles tying them together, grabbing and demanding, wanting, squirming, reaching into Namjoon until he screamed and Jungkook could do nothing but sit there and feel it.
A sob wound, rough and choking, up his throat.
“You okay?” Taehyung asked.
“I feel sick.”
“Stop thinking. You’re just trying to get off. Don’t let them take what they want. Give them what they’re allowed to have.”
Jungkook smashed his face up against Taehyung’s thigh and started again, deliberately moving each soft, wet tentacle against the silicon crevice. The floor heated up as he lay down flat, forming a mold that he could hold as his tentacles plundered and rubbed, shocking delightful pleasure through his body.
“There you go,” Taehyung said, tipping his head forward, blue darkness like smoky gloves rippling along his biceps. Jungkook didn’t dare to look down, but he knew he’d see the same thing on his own hands.
“Good Kookie,” Taehyung purred, thrusting his fingers into his own lowest slit to squirm and press and fill. “Good for you.”
Formal dinner date number one, the first time they’d be meeting with Jungkook out of work attire. Jungkook stood in front of the bathroom mirror in only low, skin-tight, matte black pants. He scowled at his chest, ran a hand over his smooth abs and sighed. Pretty and perfect. Namjoon should like that. He let his slits open just enough to be visible and yanked his eyes away from the mirror.
“Fuck this,” he growled, tossing aside the sheer, sleeveless shirt and picking up the more the floaty white one with a wide collar. Even out of work, he seemed to dress in a uniform. Little silver circles clipped right onto the skin along his neck and over his arms. He’d hardly deviated from his work make-up. Had anyone ever looked so plain on a first date? Better to be ugly. Maybe Namjoon would give up and leave, take away the chance for Jungkook to hurt him. He badly wanted Namjoon to see him on a weekend when he went out with friends, but also couldn’t stand to think about it. Was is disrespectful to go on a date dressed for the grocery store?
Fuck it. He meant to break up with him tonight anyway. Best to look like something Namjoon wouldn’t miss.
“This is Yoongi,” Namjoon said nervously when they met, barely glancing at Jungkook’s outfit in the half-light of the evening street. A small, blond man with green eyes and slit pupils stood beside him, pale blue veins tracking under his pale skin. He also wore the maroon Patroller Corps jacket. Another guy? So much for bad first dinner date manners. Jungkook reached out for a handshake and Yoongi’s grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back in lean in and nose along his throat. “Yeah. Stygian,” Namjoon said, politely giving them room. Jungkook held still while Yoongi breathed deeply under his jaw. Stygians at the library would drag librarians over the desk and nearly onto the floor to get their scent. Just a little cultural tick.
Yoongi leaned back with the edge of a smirk, long tongue slipping over his lips. “Nice to meet you, cutie.”
Jungkook shifted nervously. He shouldn’t be able to smell anything. Did he smell something?
“He’s unexpectedly in town for the weekend,” Namjoon said regretfully, “so we have a plus one tonight. Sorry, cadet. Yoongi, please be nice.”
Instead of a nice café, Namjoon led them down to a bar in the floor of the city, furnished with deep red wood and black stone. Yoongi sat in the back corner of the booth and lit up a pipe.
“Those earrings look nice,” Namjoon said.
Jungkook smiled and touched his ear. “It’s a good color.”
Yoongi breathed a thin cloud of teal smoke with a little grunt. “Have you two fucked yet?” Jungkook stomach churned. “No?” Yoongi said, smirking at their faces.
“Have you fucked Hoseok yet?” Namjoon returned.
Yoongi’s cheeks turned a slightly darker blue. He pursed his lips. “Touché.”
“Hoseok’s this cute little Argonaut from the corps. He’s wild, but he’s not easy,” Namjoon told Jungkook, voice careful, trying to tone down the colloquial corps sex talk for his supposed delicacy.
“I don’t care if he’s easy,” Yoongi grumbled. “I just want him to think I’m worth his time.”
Jungkook tapped at the red table uneasily.
“Sorry,” Namjoon murmured. “What’s been going on with you since the last time I saw you?”
There wasn’t much to say, not with Yoongi leaning back against the other side of the booth with his pipe between his thin lips and his narrow eyes fixed on them. “Done anyone interesting lately?” Yoongi said when the conversation stalled as Jungkook got to his last evening with Taehyung.
Jungkook shook his head, and then realized the question was for Namjoon, who had his forehead in one hand. “Really, Yoongi? I don’t sabotage your dates like this.”
“Would have thought sex would be a fun topic for him,” Yoongi said, nodding at Jungkook.
Jungkook’s heart leapt in his throat. Namjoon was saying something that he couldn’t hear over the fear slamming against the inside of his ribcage. He shook his head as subtly as possible, and Yoongi’s eyes narrowed, staring Jungkook down with the most condemnation and judgement he’d been levelled with in a long time.
Namjoon snapped his fingers in front of Yoongi’s face. “Lay off, okay? He’s shy. Let it go.”
Yoongi took a deep breath, honest worry in his eyes.
Yoongi would tell him. Jungkook should have told Namjoon immediately anyway. He reached blindly for Namjoon’s hand under the table and found it, always so warm.
“Okay,” Yoongi grumbled. “Not by business.”
And then it passed, leaving Jungkook shaky and ashamed in his seat, trying to maintain conversation with a very concerned Namjoon, and a balefully disdainful Yoongi.
Namjoon eventually walked off the find the bathroom, tripping over himself on the way, as usual. “He’s cute as fuck,” Yoongi said. Jungkook hummed in agreement, watching him nearly walk into the bathroom for Trollites. “You’re not as cute as you pretend though, are you?”
Jungkook stared at his lap, feeling like his very skin was soiled, no part of him left untouched. Yoongi slid into the booth beside him and he cringed away, but Yoongi rubbed the back of his neck harshly, threatening yet strangely consoling.
“Fuck,” Jungkook muttered. “Ugh. I’m going home. Tell Namjoon I left. Tell him whatever you want—” His voice broke. They sat in awkward silence for a moment, Jungkook blinking hard at the ceiling. Yoongi picked Jungkook’s hand up and pressed his nose to the inside of his wrist, breathing deeply. Jungkook let him, no emotions to hide from Yoongi’s Stygian sense of smell.
“Okay,” Yoongi said finally, fingers sliding along the back of Jungkook’s hand and through the gaps of his fingers. He took another deep whiff of Jungkook’s wrist and sighed sadly. “But I’ll come after you if you hurt him.”
“If I hurt him, I’ll come find you and ask for it.”
Yoongi nodded approvingly. “Kinky.”
Namjoon returned to find that Yoongi had settled into his spot with an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders. “I like him. I’m taking this seat.” Namjoon sighed in defeat and took a seat across from them. He looked magenta in the red light. He’d dressed up a little bit more than Jungkook, a deep dip in the collar of his shirt, earrings dangling, a soft blazer the same color as his usual jacket.
He seemed unbothered by the distance, bumping Jungkook’s legs under the table and smiling whenever he met Jungkook’s eyes like he couldn’t help it. He lit up when he talked about his students, half with love and half with exasperation. “Kids are idiots,” he muttered more than once. “No offense, Jungkook.”
“I’m offended,” Yoongi said.
They clambered back up a long, steep staircase to the main street level. Yoongi went behind him. As they navigated one steep section, Jungkook slipped in his nice date shoes, and Yoongi caught him around the stomach to save him. Screaming, ringing need burst through Jungkook with a shock of pleasure. His vision darkened briefly. He hadn’t even noticed how on-edge he was. Yoongi yanked his hand away, staring Jungkook up and down like he expected an explosive reaction. Jungkook clamped down, reigned it in, blinked innocently and acted like nothing was wrong.
“Sorry,” Yoongi mumbled, eyes flicking nervously to Jungkook’s abdomen.
“All good. No problem,” Jungkook said as his body boiled with shrieking want and adrenaline spiked through his veins. Yoongi blinked in surprise, impressed.
On the surface, Namjoon unhopefully proposed bar hopping. “I should go home,” Jungkook said automatically, and no one looked surprised.
“Sorry for being an ass,” Yoongi said. “I’m a bitter, overprotective shit-head.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Namjoon muttered.
“We should hang out again soon,” Jungkook said graciously, thinking he’d be blessed if he never saw Yoongi again. Yoongi smiled thinly.
“Goodnight, cadet,” Namjoon said, pulling Jungkook in with a touch so heady and wonderful that Jungkook’s knees almost gave with the strength it took to lock down on his demanding libido, the tentacles getting painfully restless. He felt sweat break out on his forehead and hoped the dark hid it.
Yoongi watched carefully, but seemed unbothered, giving Jungkook one last nod. Jungkook teetered to the nearest train station and travelled home in a daze of pain and want, every person too close, every light too bright.
“Why didn’t you break up with him?” Taehyung said when he showed up an hour later to find Jungkook in his soaked date clothes, panting shallowly on the floor of his silicon chamber.
“Break up with him?” Jungkook laughed weakly, “Maybe I should live the rest of my life in an isolation chamber.”
“I don’t want to hurt someone,” Jungkook wailed.
“You won’t. Kook, please don’t give up. At least tell him. You have to tell him.”
“He’ll ditch me,” Jungkook whimpered. “We’ve only been on, like, four dates. We barely know each other. I’m not worth nearly enough to him yet that he can’t just end it but he’s the only person I’ve ever wanted and if he lets me go I won’t know what to do.”
“You’ll find someone else, of course,” Taehyung said.
Taehyung stammered and cut off, then bit his lip and stared down at his hands.
“Jimin’s reading books on Cephs, by the way. I think he’s learning.”
“Don’t tell me that,” Taehyung whispered.
Jungkook curled up tighter, apologetic. “If either of us have the self-control to date outside the species, it’s you.”
Taehyung shook his head. Tears distorted Jungkook’s vision. He sighed and sat up, his tentacles retreating the last few inches and sealing themselves back inside his body. “I’ll break up with him this weekend.”
“You should tell him why first. Let him make that choice.”
Early on his day off, Jungkook woke to Namjoon calling in. Jungkook hesitated, holding his tab and debating, and then answered with his face swollen and hair mussed, chest bare. Even off-screen, his bare slits clenched shut a little tighter. “Hm?” he said. Namjoon stared blankly back at him, mouth hanging open. No one spoke for a few seconds. Jungkook realized he was smiling and couldn’t stop.
“O-oh I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”
Jungkook giggled. “Mm-hm.”
“S-sorry,” Namjoon said, glancing nervously away from the screen as if trying to give Jungkook his privacy. Maroon colored his cheeks. “It’s your day off, right?”
“Yeah. ‘S why I’m in bed.” Break up with him. Do it now while you’re brave enough.
“Come flying with me,” Namjoon said.
Flying with the Patroller captain. Jungkook blinked awake further. “Hm? Like in your ship?”
“Yeah. I’ll come pick you up. We can fly around a bit. I know some pretty routes.” Jungkook rolled over, taking his hologram with him. Break up with him. Break up with him. Namjoon rested his chin his hand and smiled gently at the screen. “Please? I’ll pack a lunch and everything.”
“Hmm…” Jungkook said, grinning. What a romance, woken up to go on an interplanetary picnic with the bad boy of his dreams in a Patroller-level ship. “But I’m sleepy.”
Namjoon made a weak little groan of adoration. Breaking up could wait another week.
“Pick me up in an hour,” Jungkook said. “I’m gonna nap.”
He shut off the message as Namjoon’s face lit up, and made a beeline for the chamber to get out as much libido as possible.
Of course Namjoon would have a racer. He’d painted it to fit in with civilian ships, at least at a quick glance, but the sleek outside hid an interior of yellow edges and purple padding. Those were definitely beam guns.
“You still seem kind of sleepy, cadet,” Namjoon said as Jungkook buckled into a co-captain’s chair that felt more like a nest the way it adjusted to fit Jungkook’s body.
Jungkook, completely drained and sore from wildly fucking a silicon wall, smiled as sweetly as he could. “Just woke up.” Namjoon’s face squished into an overwhelmed little smile like he was trying not to squeal, and Jungkook heart swelled with joy and sank like a rock.
His floaty, golden shirt lost a lot of its careful shape and shimmer smashed up against the seat, but the harnessing outlined his body well enough to make up for it. He wiggled a little to get Namjoon to look. He did, smirk hungry. Jungkook felt like a Bellatrixian siren flower, all glitter and gleam to trap prey and eat it alive.
Namjoon took off easily, hands masterful on the controls as he swept them up to a porthole in the atmosphere. The main routes to neighboring planets were familiar enough that Jungkook didn’t have to look away from the blue light flickering over Namjoon’s face to know that they were sailing under Borealis’s icy rings. Open space passed by out the long front panel, and Jungkook gazed at the passing asteroids and path markers past a sleek dashboard of controls.
“Okay, going off map,” Namjoon said, sweeping away from the main route. Jungkook clutched the armrests and leaned forward, gazing up at the passing planet’s surface.
“You’re not worried about gravity?”
“Not on this one. That planet is all loose gas.”
“I know that,” Jungkook grumbled. “There’s still a field.”
“This ship doesn’t have an issue with it.”
“Oh!” Jungkook said, petting the armrest of possibly the nicest ship he’d ever been in. “Some college professor you are.”
Namjoon smiled proudly. “It was a gift for my years of service.”
Jungkook snorted. “How many years?”
“Ten?” Jungkook looked up in surprise. “You’re twenty-five.”
“Started when I was thirteen,” Namjoon said proudly. “Didn’t really have a choice and the Patroller Corps took advantage. Normally kids drafted at that age don’t live past a year, and I nearly sued them for it so this ship was part reward, part apology, part out-of-court settlement.”
Jungkook snorted. “How jealous is Yoongi?”
“Real fuckin jealous,” Namjoon said. They coasted gently around the bright teal and blue storms across the planet’s surface, smooth little clicks and hums audible within the ship’s hull. “I’m sorry about bringing him along the other day. It was a last-minute decision. I should have just cancelled.”
Jungkook shrugged, wishing that he’d let Yoongi do the hard part for him, that Namjoon would choose to leave him without it being directly Jungkook’s doing.
“He’s one of my best friends. He joined the corps five years after me, but he’s older, so he was always really overprotective. I don’t know what he didn’t like about you.”
“He could smell that…never mind.”
Namjoon’s face gave away too much. His eyebrows twitched down, carefree to penetratingly thoughtful in a moment, making Jungkook feel laid open in the inquisitor’s chair without even saying a word.
He didn’t ask, but the silence lasted too long and felt too tense. Jungkook wished he could curl up against the harness and put another defense between his slits and the outside world.
We’re going to one of the moons,” Namjoon said. “Have you ever been to Chrysanthemum?”
“Chrysanthemum? They named a planet after an element?”
“I think it’s an old Earth flower, actually.”
“Sounds like an element,” Jungkook muttered. “No, I’ve never been there.”
Namjoon landed the ship outside a big, orange-yellow formation of layered sedimentary stone eroded into big lips and curls by sand in the wind. Big streaks gleamed in the sky, the signs of an artificial bubble of atmosphere, safe to breathe.
“It’s a rock maze,” Namjoon said. He pulled a backpack out of the storage compartment and led Jungkook out.
“If I had known we were going exploring, I would have brought better clothes,” Jungkook said.
“Your clothes are fine, cadet,” Namjoon said, smiling at the low dip of Jungkook’s shirt, the flare tucked into his pants in front and drifting out behind him. He led the way into the maze of elegant, curving tunnels, smooth and sandy, none deep enough to be dark. Greenish-blue sky made the yellow rock even brighter. Jungkook left Namjoon’s side immediately to run a loop down a side passage. Namjoon physically jumped in the air when Jungkook stepped out of the passage in front of him.
“I thought you were behind me!”
“I love this place!” Jungkook darted down another tunnel, scrambled over an arch in the path, and thundered up a ramp in the rock. He came out on a narrow ledge over Namjoon’s head.
“Careful,” Namjoon said, grinning up at him. Jungkook took off down another path. “You’re going to get lost!” Namjoon said.
“Better catch me then!” Jungkook yelled back, and then looped down another smooth, undulating hallway. The quick tapping of his shoes turned into soft scuff over yellow sand, and Namjoon’s boots sent quick little clops through the rock to his upper right. Jungkook darted up out of the path, scared the shit out of Namjoon, and sprinted up another one.
Behind him, Namjoon snorted and the heavy backpack hit the ground with a jangle of buckles. Jungkook squealed and picked up speed.
Jungkook had stealth, agility, and strength to squeeze through small spaces and over high ledges. Namjoon seemed to have an intricate mental map of every passage in the rock. After a few breathless minutes of cat and mouse, Jungkook spun Namjoon around just as he began to look rather lost, pinned him against the wall, and kissed him hard on the mouth, then raced off again before his pumping heart could catch up with him, Namjoon hot on his tail.
The game changed. Jungkook ran in dizzying circles, learning the paths. Namjoon caught him around unexpected bends, captured him after long stretches, each time leaving a hot, heavy kiss on his lips, or his neck, or the bare skin of his chest over his low collar, and then sent Jungkook racing off again through a rippling world of yellow and blue. He grew breathless from running. Adrenaline and joy pumping through him with every quick pass, excited to be caught, hot and heavy love in every kiss.
He didn’t even notice the desperate hunger rippling deep in his belly until he hit the ground with tentacles already crawling across the inside of his shirt, body already shuddering with insatiable want. Namjoon ran down a passage beside his and he lay very, very still, hoping he would pass by, not making a single sound but the wet noises of his tentacles scraping against the inside of his shirt in a desperate search for something to dig into. The overpowering need felt worse than every recent urge that had driven him to the silicon room.
Don’t answer. Don’t answer. Let it pass.
“Kook, not funny. Where are you?”
Namjoon. So close. So good. Namjoon. Namjoon.
“Are you okay? Please answer me.”
Jungkook gave up and yanked the hem of his shirt up out of his pants, offering one blue arm for the tentacles to ravage, strong and insistent. He couldn’t pull it back. Dirty, scalding shame sluiced through every inch of him.
“Jungkook, seriously. I hear something. Please come out here. I’m about to call for help.”
He was so close. Jungkook could just grab him and have him, something hot and deep, slick and soft and so, so good.
Something clicked. Namjoon had stopped speaking. Jungkook forced his eyes open and saw Namjoon’s blurry feet standing down the corridor. His body lurched towards it and a blast of energy glanced off the stone in front of his face and threw a searing pain across his cheek. All the tentacles tightened at once and his captured arm popped pitifully, body yanked down another couple inches.
His lungs burned. He’d forgotten to breathe. His first gasp was a horrible, croaking, strangled lurch of air, bending his screaming body in half. He panted and blinked, forcing the sweat out of his eyes to look up and see Namjoon, eyes wide in shock, pointing a smoking pistol right at him.
Need. NEED. Namjoon. Jungkook’s panting turned into sobs, uncontrollable and ugly. A couple tentacles reached across the ground, dragging his body with painful strength towards Namjoon, who backed away a quick couple steps. Jungkook grabbed the tentacles and tried to pull them back in, horror snaking down his spine. He cried out, gasped, grotesque in the silence of the stone maze. The tentacles pulled him closer. Namjoon turned on his heel and walked quickly out of sight.
Jungkook gave the tentacles his other arm and both tight fists, and furiously rode out the pounding, swooping, demanding pleasure, letting it churn and twist him, draw groans and sobs from his throat, run every system of his body ragged until it crashed like an overheated computer, letting everything go and lying sore and rung dry on the sickly yellow stone, Namjoon long gone.
Namjoon came back nearly a half hour later. Jungkook’s ruined shirt lay open over the exposed slits in his stomach. Sand and dirt lodged in his used tentacles. Namjoon turned the corner, backpack back on his shoulder, expression cold. At least he’d put away the pistol, but the memory of it still hung heavily over Jungkook’s head.
“Get up. Let’s go.”
Jungkook chest burned with hurt. He closed his eyes and didn’t move.
Namjoon sighed sharply through his nose and Jungkook screwed up his energy and pushed himself upright, still needing to show Namjoon he could be good. His body shook violently. A splitting headache cracked suddenly into his skull. “Water?” he croaked, flinching at the growling low tone of his voice, the way his throat clicked, damp and swollen. Namjoon cautiously tossed a big canteen of water within his reach. Jungkook turned away to let the stinging tears slide hot down his face. He had no right to cry. His own fault. He was disgusting. He should have known.
Jungkook stood shakily, still clutching the water bottle in hands streaked with drying slime. Drool and tears coated his face. Blood from the blasted rock shard dripped off his cheek onto the back of his hand. His fingertips were still navy blue and his sore slits refused to close all the way. Namjoon walked stiffly ahead of him. Jungkook wanted his warmth, maybe even a small glance, something to alleviate the nervous fear. Namjoon led him slowly and he still struggled to keep up on his shaking legs.
He’d always recovered quickly. By the time they left the caverns, he could walk without leaning on anything, but Namjoon still didn’t look at him, a brown-purple spot against the sulfur-yellow sand. “J-Joon?”
“Is there more water?”
“Yeah, but you’re going to need it to clean up. You’re not sitting in my seats like that.”
He’d never been so mean. Jungkook didn’t even know he could he. He’d been less callous with the Elklichians. Jungkook sobbed quietly into the collar of his shirt.
Under the shade of the ship, Namjoon gingerly handed Jungkook a wet rag. “You didn’t tell me. Why not?”
Jungkook gestured wordlessly down at himself and then sobbed again. Namjoon gave him an unreadable once-over that hurt almost as much as the pistol shot. Jungkook turned away for privacy to try to scrub off some of the congealed slime, and so he could sob without Namjoon seeing. His hands trembled. An alarming amount of blood smeared away from his cheek and neck. Sand ground around in his insides and he wished he could wash his tentacles, but not with Namjoon behind him. He forced the last bits of blue from his fingers, from the skin around his slits, the black from his eyes. When he turned around looking a lot more like himself, Namjoon’s face softened.
“Sorry about your cheek,” he said. “For a moment I thought…um…that a creature was eating you. Didn’t know what was going on.”
Jungkook tried to laugh and just sobbed again, low and burning in his overused throat.
“This makes a lot of sense, actually,” Namjoon murmured lowly. “I feel like a bit of an idiot.”
Jungkook shook his head frantically.
Namjoon took a deep breath and looked away, trying to center himself. He stared at the side of his ship looking lost and hurt. “So, you frenzied.”
Jungkook nodded, still not quite able to look him in the eye but wishing he’d just say what he felt.
“Hm,” Namjoon said, pursing his lips. “You’re not done. Here’s another rag.”
Jungkook sat on towels on the way back, feeling like a pet that had jumped in an oil puddle. The cold, disappointed defeat in Namjoon’s expressive face was worse than anger or disgust. He dropped Jungkook off at the landing pad of his apartment, legs wobbly on the rubber.
“See you at the library, I guess,” Namjoon said with a tone of voice that suggested he’d rather not.
“Namjoon, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want you to find out.”
Namjoon bit his lip. He huffed in a little burst that sounded more like a hurt whine than an attack. “What the hell did you think was going to happen, Jungkook? Did you have any plans for if I figured it out? Did you want me too attached to let you go easily first? You nearly frenzied on me just now. Did you think about how dangerous this was for both of us?”
Jungkook hugged his ruined shirt to his chest and wished he could just run inside and hide from everything, that he could stop being such a wretched little slug. “I was going to break up with you.”
Namjoon’s eyebrows furrowed, hurt. “Were you going to tell me why?”
Jungkook shook his head. “I’m so sorry. I really, really wanted this to work. I knew it wouldn’t. I just…Can you blame me?” he said weakly. “I wanted it so much. I just wanted to try.”
“Sorry for being unsympathetic, but I'm still reeling from how close I just came to being violently raped."
The familiar violent, disorienting, shameful disgust swept hotly through Jungkook. His knees felt weak. That could have happened. He might have done that. Somewhere in his reeling mind was some relief. Namjoon was fine. By sheer luck, they'd at least escaped the worst.
"I should have paid more attention to Yoongi,” Namjoon muttered. “Why don’t you just date a Ceph?”
“Date a Ceph?” Jungkook squawked back, “Did you even see me? Do you think I want anything to do with that? Cephs are fucking disgusting! I’m a fetish! Not a viable romantic partner. Cephs don’t want anything to do with each other either. We’re fucking dying out as a species and we don’t even care. Would you have ever even thought about dating me if you knew?”
“I didn’t date you for sex,” Namjoon snapped. “I dated you because of how vulnerable and honest you always were. You’re—you were really sweet and unassuming, and I thought that was really precious. I can deal with some fucking tentacles. What I can't deal with is being shanghaied into a relationship under false pretenses by someone who isn't what they say they are, especially when that puts me in way more danger than I had any reason to think I was in.”
Hope bloomed sudden, hot, and horrible in Jungkook’s chest. Maybe it wasn’t the end. Maybe he could use that. Maybe the man he adored could be into his kind of sex. Then came the shame, frustration, and heartbreaking regret. He’d lied. He’d put Namjoon in danger. He deserved nothing less. He burst into aching sobs, hunched awkwardly over on the public landing pad in full daylight where anyone could see how appallingly stupid he was.
Namjoon stood uncomfortably in the open hatch, shifting towards the cockpit like he wanted nothing more than to leave. Jungkook turned and rushed for the door, not wanting to hear Namjoon’s response, not wanting to see him fly away. The smooth engine of his ship started before Jungkook could reach the door, and he stumbled down the stairs of his apartment, blind with tears.