[ the present ]
“Where are you going?” Jungkook looks up the second Taehyung gets up out of his chair, eyes tracking him as he makes his way across the room.
“Uh,” Taehyung stops mid-step and makes up the first thing on his mind. “To a...meeting. About the holiday album.”
It’s a lie, he really just wants to take a break from trying to hammer out some demos for his single—preferably alone, so he’s not distracted while he’s sorting out his thoughts. And the questionable reason why he lies is because it gives him an excuse against what he goddamn knows Jungkook’s next question will be.
“Can I come with you?”
“Uh,” Taehyung hesitates. “No?”
“Why not?” Jungkook blinks. “I’m part of it.”
“Um,” Taehyung makes up a reason. “Producers only.”
“Who else is going?”
“Um, Yoongi, Namjoon, Hoseok,” Taehyung starts rattling off names. “People...who, you know, uh, producing people.”
“Oh, I’ll ask them then,” Jungkook fishes out his phone. “It should be fine.”
“No, wait,” Taehyung’s fairly sure Hoseok and Namjoon would play along but Yoongi would expose his ass, guaranteed. “Uh—”
Jungkook looks up expectantly, thumbs poised over his phone’s screen.
Taehyung sighs, and racks his brain for another excuse, and finds nothing, “—fine, you can come.”
“Oh sweet,” Jungkook jumps up excitedly and pulls on his coat.
“Just kidding,” Taehyung says quickly, faking looking down at his phone. “Meeting’s been canceled.”
“Oh,” Jungkook frowns. “What?”
“I’m, uh,” Taehyung edges towards the door. ”Still heading out though.”
“Where are you going?”
“Convenience store,” Taehyung calls from the hallway, fast-walking toward the elevator.
Jungkook takes three steps and he’s already right by Taehyung’s side, striding down the hallway and sticking his foot in the elevator to stop it from closing, “Oh okay, can I still come with you? I need to buy something too.”
“Uh, no,” Taehyung says tapping his finger nervously as the elevator makes it’s way down to the lobby. He quickly slips out of the elevator when it lands, and pulls his hood over his head just before he opens the entryway door. “Producers only?”
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Jungkook shudders as a blast of cool air hits them. “Oh fuck it’s cold.”
“It, uh, makes sense if you think about it,” Taehyung glances quickly at both ends of the road before he quickly jaywalks.
“I’m thinking about it, and it still doesn’t make sense,” Jungkook keeps pace and hurries with him, boots crunching over the snow, as he follows Taehyung down the sidewalk to the convenience store sitting on the corner of the intersection, breath curling out in wisps of white. “And anyway, I’m here already, so there’s no point in going back now.”
“Do what you want,” Taehyung shakes his head as they pass through the doors, and beelines immediately for the soft drinks.
Jungkook trails him, a pace behind and wrinkles his nose as Taehyung pulls out a liter of Mountain Dew, “You actually drink this stuff?”
“Stop judging me,” Taehyung turns on his heel and brushes past Jungkook as he heads for the instant noodles. “I drink what I want.”
“Haven’t you heard of the phrase ‘your body’s a temple?’”
“Then it's built for the gods of caffeine and sugary drinks, and I’m the middle of prayer right now,” Taehyung grumbles. “So get out of my face, you’re disrespecting my religion.”
Jungkook snorts and starts to follow him, “Don’t tell me you’re buying ramen next. That’s so bad for you.”
“What if I told you I plan to boil it in this?” Taehyung holds up the Mountain Dew.
“That’s actually disgusting,” Jungkook pauses. “...wait. You’re not serious, right?”
“No. Just slightly insulted you believed me for a second.”
“I mean…” Jungkook eyes the snacks Taehyung rips off the shelf. “Is it a stretch?”
“Leave me alone, I need this for stress relief,” Taehyung hugs his stash to his chest and rolls his eyes. “And go buy your shit already, isn’t that why you came?”
“Oh,” Jungkook’s eyes flick towards the aisle. “Yeah.”
“I’ll meet you at the front when you’re done,” Taehyung says before striding towards the noodles. He picks up the cheapest package and then heads to the register, throwing his items onto the counter as he takes out his wallet. And when he looks up at the cashier, he nearly drops it on the floor.
It’s Fuckface McGee, plucked straight out of the past and placed in front of Taehyung like a bad dream.
It’s the first time Taehyung’s seen him since the moment they announced the final lineup. He looks worse for wear, bags under his eyes, hair not maintained, acne scars ripped across his face. Gone is the confidence and cockiness that defined him as a trainee, replaced with a slouch and an underlying tiredness that characterizes the way he asks Taehyung by contractual obligation, “did you find everything you need,” as he scans items without sounding like he remotely even cares.
It’s not clear if he recognizes Taehyung, he hasn’t looked up from the register yet as he waits for Taehyung to pay, but just to be sure Taehyung pulls his scarf tighter around his face and minimizes the number of words he says in response.
“Yeah,” Taehyung inserts his card.
“Want a receipt?”
Fuckface hits a button and boredly picks at a nail as he waits for it to print.
And it suddenly strikes Taehyung as odd that out of all the convenience stores in Seoul, Fuckface had chosen the only one that was right next to BigCube. It seemed borderline masochistic, really, being in the shadow of a place that ripped away his dreams.
In what probably really rubbed salt in the wound, a life-sized standee of Jungkook is propped up on the wall behind Fuckface holding the snack he was endorsing, a cheerily grinning cardboard reminder of Jungkook’s success that probably haunted Fuckface during his lonely hours.
“It’s in the bag,” Fuckface tosses the receipt in and holds it out for Taehyung.
“Thanks,” Taehyung takes the bag and pulls.
And Fuckface, staring at him, doesn’t let it go.
“Um,” Taehyung pulls again to no avail, hairs rising on the back of his neck, and repeats, “Thanks?”
“Long time no see,” Fuckface says, thin smile lining his lips. “How are things?”
“Um,” Taehyung tugs on the bag, a third time. His heart begins to pound and he glances out of the corner of his eye, searching for Jungkook. “What do you mean?”
“At BigCube,” Fuckface repeats. “How are things?”
“Uh, great,” Taehyung pulls again and Fuckface still doesn’t let go.
“I’m happy for you.”
“Because at least that makes one of us,” Fuckface continues smoothly, like he’s talking about the weather. “You ruined my life, you know.”
And he’s right, Taehyung knows deep in his heart. The fact that Fuckface was here, right now, manning a cash register on what’s likely a barely livable wage rather than partying it out with big names and models in Macau was probably, entirely Taehyung’s fault.
And because Taehyung’s always been too soft, even after all Fuckface had done, even as much as Jimin and Yoongi tell him it was justified, seeing Fuckface here dealing with the repercussions doesn’t make him feel vindicated.
“Oh,” Taehyung stammers, shrinking back. “I-I’m sorry. I really am.”
It makes him feel guilty to his core. Because even right up until the end, the difference in fortunes between Jungkook and Fuckface had nothing to do with fate. Taehyung had carefully set up the shot and pulled the trigger and he was very aware of the fact that—
“Are you? Really? Fantastic,” Fuckface sneers. “Because that’s the least you could do. Be sorry. I still haven’t forgiven you, I hope you know that.”
“And, I never fucking will.”
—that the onus of Fuckface’s misfortune was entirely on him.
“Hey Taehyung,” Jungkook’s voice floats. “Where are you?”
Fuckface suddenly looks up, eyes blazing in recognition, and Taehyung feels a wave of apprehension as he prays for Jungkook to go the other way. Clearly no one hears him, because heartbeat later, as Jungkook struts out of an aisle, head turned to the side as he raises his voice. “Do you know where—”
Taehyung doesn’t even dare turn around as Fuckface’s expression goes completely livid.
“Um,” Jungkook looks down at the bag and then up at Fuckface, expression blank. “Am I interrupting something?”
“No fucking way,” Fuckface lets out a startled laugh. “Of course. Of course you would be here, too, trailing Taehyung like a fucking dog. It’s like the good ol’ days again, I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia. Although, I’m surprised that you’re stupid enough to do it, especially after—”
“Huh?” Jungkook glances up, pure confusion scrawled across his face, “Do I know you?”
“Know me? What the fuck?” Fuckface looks about as stunned as Taehyung feels, “Stop fucking playing Jung—”
“Whoa, chill, man,” Jungkook suddenly shoots out a hand and yanks the bag out of Fuckface’s grasp, stepping in front of Taehyung and putting up his own hand defensively. “Not here to get into a fight.”
“As if you’d be able to take me on,” Fuckface sneers. “You look fucking weak.”
“Thanks man,” Jungkook grins.
“For the compliment.”
“It wasn’t a compliment.”
Jungkook continues like he doesn’t even hear him, “I appreciate it. All the love and support really does keep me motivated.”
Taehyung chokes and Fuckface immediately scowls, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I say it during interviews all the time, but I really mean it, even if it comes across as cheesy,” Jungkook scratches his head and continues rambling like he hadn’t heard a word. “Jin, my manager, is always telling me to knock it off, but I really want to let you know, sincerely, the rewarding part of this job, as in being an idol—“
Fuckface’s eyes narrow.
“—is receiving love from fans like you.”
Taehyung stares at Jungkook.
“What?” Fuckface looks at him incredulously.
“I love interacting with you guys.” Jungkook pauses for a moment and looks pointedly at the standee of himself behind Fuckface. “I mean...you are a fan, right? You gotta be, considering you brought that guy with you to work.”
Fuckface turns around, stares at it for a moment, “Holy fuck, what? That’s obviously the store’s—”
“It’s okay,” Jungkook fishes out a ballpoint pen out of his coat pocket, leans over and grabs the standee. “Don’t be ashamed. I understand. He’s a good looking guy. I’d do the same.”
Fuckface just gapes as Jungkook proceeds to messily sign the standee, patting it when he’s done and flinging it back towards Fuckface with a flick of his wrist.
“A gift,” Jungkook winks, and snaps a finger. “For being such a huge fan.”
And with that, Jungkook grabs Taehyung by the hand and dashes straight out of the doors on the store.
It takes Taehyung a minute before he finally has the sense to yank his hand out of Jungkook’s, and they hurry back until they’re safe within the confines of BigCube. It’s only when they’re in the elevator that Taehyung hunches over in the elevator to catch his breath.
“Oh my fucking god,” Taehyung huffs. “What just happened?”
Jungkook shrugs, jamming his hands into his coat pockets. “I made someone’s day?”
“I don’t think that’s, um...” Taehyung eyes Jungkook warily, “Wait, did you really not recognize him?”
And Jungkook breaks out with a grin, “Of course I did. I don’t remember his real name, but Yoongi tells me you call him Fuckface McGee.”
“Then what was that whole thing back there then?”
“I was just fucking with him,” Jungkook shrugs again. “Seemed funnier than taking him on. Especially pretending to not remember him, I think that part really got to him.”
“You were making him so angry that I thought he was going to punch you in the face for a second,” Taehyung snorts. There’s a feeling roiling in his chest, and he can’t exactly pinpoint what it is. It’s got hints of gratefulness and pride, oddly enough, and something else, and it’s got him wanting to—
“Yeah, he got pretty mad.” Jungkook steps out of the elevator as soon as the doors open. “Although, just for the record, I would have totally been able to beat his ass in a fight.”
“I’m sure,” Taehyung follows him out.
“I’m serious,” Jungkook says, trotting over to his side and easily keeping pace. “And honestly, if he had gone further than just grabbing the bag, I would have—”
“Sure,” Taehyung snorts. “Such a tough guy.”
“I’m serious,” all traces of a grin are wiped from Jungkook’s face, replaced by the beginnings of a frown. “I would have fucking punched—”
“Not with the headlines you would’ve generated,” Taehyung shakes his head.
“Maybe I would have thought about it a little more.”
“Maybe? That sounds like something Jin would be pleased about.”
“He would have been proud.”
“Would he? I know Yoongi would, but Jin?” Taehyung holds up his phone in a threat as they enter his studio. “I disagree, but we could always check.“
Jungkook pales, “Please don’t tell him about this.”
“Please,” Jungkook begs as he falls back onto the couch, his hands pressed together.
“Okay, fine,” Taehyung sighs as he closes the door and subtly locks it with a nudge of his finger. “I won’t.”
It’s clear Jungkook notices, eyes darting over to the door handle before flicking back at Taehyung, and full of questions as Taehyung strides over, hesitation curbing the likely clarification that’s resting on his tongue.
And Taehyung doesn’t know what’s compelling him to want to do this, or maybe more accurately he doesn’t acknowledge what’s making him doing this, the tension from the past few weeks combined catalyzed by a sense that he should thank Jungkook with more than just words, cascading into into a need he can’t ignore.
He stops just in front of Jungkook, aware of how close they are and how quiet it’s become as Jungkook looks back up at him uncertainty. Taehyung mumbles, “Yeah, um, I just want to tell you….”
And suddenly he’s leaning down, grabbing Jungkook by the shirt and kissing him, eyes closed, heart racing, mind surprisingly clear. The kiss gets deeper than he intends quicker than he intends, and maybe that’s helped by Jungkook pulling him down until he falls into an awkward straddle on top, and there are no words, just the sounds of lips and the rustling of clothes and the creak of the leather of the couch beneath them. Hungry, needy, desperate, are all terms Taehyung would say were fairly accurate qualifiers for how things were happening, as the cumulation weeks of skirting around avalanches them both into this: a pile of want, roaming hands and tongues and—
“Hey,” Jungkook suddenly breaks it, leaning back with eyes hooded and dark, and murmurs, “Can I ask you something?”
Heart racing, hair disheveled, hunched over Jungkook, Taehyung, in a bit of a daze, breathes back, “Yeah?”
“I’m just curious,” Jungkook reaches up and runs a through Taehyung’s hair, brows furrowing in thought, “Is there...is there something, um—” eyes flicking down before flicking back up to Taehyung, “—in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
Taehyung nearly slams his head into the wall as Jungkook dissolves into a bought of snickers, because this fucking guy.
“It’s my phone,” Taehyung says curtly, fishing it out of his pocket, holding it up for proof before chucking it on the coffee table.
“Um,” Jungkook bites his lip, hint a shit-eating grin peeking out at the corners, as he suggestively shifts his leg up just so, “Definitely not your phone.”
Taehyung feels his face flush and quickly scrambles off of Jungkook, also because honestly, he was kinda—
“No, wait—” Jungkook laughs, shooting out a hand and catching Taehyung by the wrist. “I was kidding, it was your phone. It was totally your phone. Sorry, it was just, digging into my leg and was starting to really hurt, so I—”
“Too late,” Taehyung rips his hand out of Jungkook’s grip. “You killed the mood.”
“I’m sorry, come back,” Jungkook grabs at Taehyung’s wrist. “I’ll bring the mood back.”
“Too late,” Taehyung yanks his arm back again. “You fucked up already. That was your one chance.”
“Wait,” the grin immediately slips off Jungkook’s face, “You serious?”
And Taehyung’s about to mess with him, until he sees how worried Jungkook actually looks, “...no.”
“Oh,” Jungkook’s grin spreads back like it belongs on his face. “So you’re saying there’s gonna be another—”
“So, um…” Taehyung quickly cuts Jungkook off, “What I meant to say earlier was, um, thanks. For the convenience store thing.”
“Oh, uh, yeah,” Jungkook runs a hand through his hair, bangs flopping back on his forehead as soon as his fingers pass through. “No problem?”
Taehyung lets out a weird ugly bark of a laugh that he immediately regrets.
“Oh yeah, also, uh,” Jungkook glances down at his phone. “I actually gotta go really soon to an endorsement photoshoot,” Jungkook rubs his nose. “But, um, would you, um…”
“Would you wanna come over to my place tonight?” Jungkook looks away, face beginning to bloom with red, “We can like, watch...Netflix or something, and uh, and—”
“Chill?” Taehyung says before he thinks about it. And then he thinks about it, “Oh, wait—”
“Um,” Jungkook’s almost blazing at this point. “You said it, not me.”
“That sounds like….” Taehyung starts scooting towards the door, mentally calculating how many steps it’s going to take him to reach the bathroom. “That sounds like a plan.”
“Cool,” Jungkook doesn’t look at him.
“And um, I’m just gonna, just, step out for a moment, and I’ll be back,” and Taehyung slips out the door.
[ rewind—T-3.5 months until debut ]
One unintentional benefit, Taehyung realizes pretty quickly, to getting close to Jungkook is that it really effective way to fuck with Fuckface.
And Taehyung knows this because even though nothing really changes with Jungkook in terms of his evaluation results, Fuckface starts paying particularly close attention when Jungkook performs, quieting down and calculatedly watching Jungkook’s performances with crossed arms and a thin frown on his lips.
Of course, Taehyung, the embodiment of empathy, takes advantage of that the minute he realizes and twists the knife as hard as he can, by rushing to hug Jungkook whenever he finishes and complimenting him excessively, lavishing him with undue praise as he ruffles his hair, arm slung around Jungkook’s neck, face really close to Jungkook’s as he whispers random shit in Jungkook’s ear like he's telling a secret (usually it's something along the lines of: “ Hey, Jungkook, did you know it’s cloudy with a 36% chance of rain today.” ), or talks about their weekend plans excessively loudly, especially whenever Fuckface is nearby.
It’s funny because it’s entertainment on two fronts, watching Fuckface grow stony and Jungkook get really flustered, stuttering and ears going red at any interaction that’s even the slightest bit intimate. It’s an absurdly fake and intentionally obnoxious show of skinship that starts with just sitting a little too close to Jungkook, squishing up against Jungkook (ears tipped with a light shade of pink) when there’s feet of wall space between them and the next bystander, working up to random koala back-hugs Jungkook (ears a nice shade of red) tries to shake him off of and finally turning high-fives into a death-grip of interlaced fingers that Jungkook (ears completely crimson) awkwardly yanks his hand out to break.
And maybe Jungkook's fluster would have caught Taehyung's attention if he hadn't seen it happen whenever Jungkook's placed even a centimeter outside of his element. For example, in Case Study 1, when Jungkook starts to make his first real group of friends, a clique of rowdy trainees his age from his vocal classes who look up to him as the 97-liner representational hope. And when they glom around him and shower him with friendship and compliments, they draw out the fluster, especially when some kid pulls Jungkook into a headlock and initiates a dogpile on top of him during a particularly wild practice.
It, being his new social circle, Taehyung suspects, starts to really build up Jungkook’s confidence in public, and pretty soon he’s showing the side of his personality during evaluations that Taehyung’s been privy to for a while, a competitive kid with an adorable smile who loves to mess around—which is objectively cute&and, well, as a result, plays into exactly what Taehyung needs, gaining Jungkook the attention of The Gatekeepers, as various evaluators begin to pay attention to Jungkook, multiple pairs of eyes beginning to routinely track him across the room as he plays with his friends.
With Fuckface, however, other than subtle glares, Taehyung doesn’t really realize how badly his strategy is affecting him, until Fuckface, on one unfortunate afternoon, decides to blatantly make moves.
“Hey, Taehyung, are you free this weekend? Because if you are, we should hang or something,” Fuckface squeezes himself nonchalantly between Taehyung and Jungkook one day right after practice, and leans against the wall like he’s hot shit.
“Sorry, I’m busy,” Taehyung immediately shoots him down for the third time that week and jerks his head towards Jungkook, who looks up from his phone and flashes a peace sign at Fuckface. “We’re hiking Bukhansan.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook nods, blissfully unaware of the underlying storylines taking place. “It’s going to be fun.”
“Oh,” Fuckface doesn’t even bother hiding his frown, and follows up without missing a beat, “How about next week?”
“I’ll let you know,” Taehyung pulls his face into a fakeass smile.
“Already got plans?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“There’s a party you should hit up if you’re around, I’m going and a few others, we got an invite. It’s mostly a bunch of currently promoting idols, but I heard G-Dragon might even show up. It’s gonna be sick, and you can take a break from—” Fuckface flicks his eyes towards Jungkook and whispers loudly like Jungkook can’t hear him. “— babysitting.”
“Yeah,” a satisfied smirk spreads across Fuckface’s face as he notices. “You should really start hanging around people going places for once.”
“What do you mean?” Taehyung narrows his eyes, but Fuckface doesn’t pick up on the cue and keeps going.
“I just feel just like,” Fuckface says, and Taehyung has a bad feeling about where this is going. “In terms of who you hang around, you could be doing—”
And Taehyung hopes either Fuckface has the sense not to say it or Jungkook’s not paying attention because he can just see all of his work unraveling in front of him.
“—so much better.”
Jungkook draws a sharp breath, and something in Taehyung snaps.
It’s beyond him and Taehyung’s ulterior motives now, it’s just an instinctual reaction spurred by the way Jungkook’s looking away, awkwardly scratching his head as his bangs fall in front of his eyes. And so Taehyung grabs Fuckface’s collar, yanks him close and whispers, semi-seductively, in his ear, “Hey, so like, can you answer a question for me?”
“Um, y-yeah?” Fuckface nervously bites his lip and goes slightly pink and Taehyung really wants to punch him in the face right at this moment.
“I’d really like to know..” Taehyung’s eyes suddenly flash and he hisses, shoving Fuckface suddenly with a hand. “...what the fuck your problem is?”
“Whoa, what?” Fuckface laughs nervously and puts his hands up. “Um, chill. I’m giving you a compliment, seriously, I’m just saying, you’re, like, super amazing and stuff, and you shouldn’t be wasting your time around kids like—”
“Hey,” Taehyung cuts him off. “Uh, how about you shut the fuck up . ”
“I mean,” Fuckface snorts and jabs a thumb at Jungkook. “Do you really think he’s worth your—”
“What part of ‘ shut the fuck up’ do you not understand?”
“The part where you’re saying that to me,” Fuckface sneers. “Though I should have expected it though, that your personality was trash, since you’re from a bumfuck-nowhere town. You’re lucky that you’re hot, because even if you’re completely unsophisticated, your face redeems you—”
“Hey don’t talk, d-don’t talk about him like that,” Jungkook suddenly interjects, eyes wide, voice low.
“—yo, kid. Fuck off,” Fuckface waves him off, and turns back to Taehyung, “Even though you’re like that, countrified and shit, I’m still willing to let it slide—”
“Let it slide?!” Taehyung narrows his eyes and laughs derisively. “That’s fucking rich, you’re making it sound like I want something from you .”
“You should, I’m the one with a future,” Fuckface looks incredulous. “That’s why I’m telling you to ditch this loser, I could show you a really fucking good time if you would just let me —”
“Do you, like—” Taehyung finally loses it. “—ever listen to yourself speak, or do you just vomit the first thing that surfaces in your mind? Because, for your sake, I hope it’s the second one.”
“Sorry...what?” Fuckface narrows his eyes. “You wanna say that again?”
“Sure,” Taehyung leans forward. “Or let me rephrase that, rather. Do you realize the shit coming out of your mouth right now sounds really fucking dumb . Because,” Taehyung drops the bomb and whispers. “I’m not into you. At all. Take the goddamn hint already.”
“Not into me?!” Fuckface scoffs and takes out his phone. “Who was one being fucking thirsty over text last week?!”
Taehyung laughs into his hand, “Jin.”
“Jin?!” Fuckface looks up, incredulous at first, until realization wipes the expression off of his face. He suddenly hits call on his phone, and the ring cuts through the silence until it hits voicemail.
“Heyooo, this is Jin, I’ve got places to go and people to see. So please leave your name and your favorite color after the—”
“Yeah,” Taehyung snorts. “So you get to decide what’s worse for you: the fact that I wasn’t the one you sent that picture of your dick to, or the fact that I still know it’s really small .”
Fuckface begins to sputter, “I’m going to, I-I’m going to fuck end— ”
“Hey, Jungkook, let’s go,” Taehyung gets up and nods towards the door. “This is starting to be a waste of time.”
“U-um, okay,” Jungkook carefully steps around Fuckface and scurries after Taehyung.
Just before they step out the door, Fuckfaces mutters, just loud enough for them to hear, “You better watch your fucking back.”
“How scary,” Taehyung laughs bitterly. “But what are you going to do? it turns out—” he should really stop, he thinks dimly, before he reveals all of his cards, but he can’t, he’s just so fucking angry and the words run away from him before he can catch them, “—after you fucking destroyed my future, I don’t have a lot to lose anymore.”
“Oh,” Fuckface smiles, no shame detected in his expression. “So you found out about that.”
And Taehyung wasn’t sure exactly what reaction he was expecting from Fuckface, or what reaction he even wanted out of him. But he knows it wasn’t this, Fuckface snickering with zero remorse and a tinge of pride. A wave of pure anger hits him in the chest, he sees red and staggers back, biting his lip and holding the verbal punches he wants to pull, because he’s not sure he can even form intelligible sentences.
“And anyway I’m not even talking to you, because yeah, like you said, you’ve got no future,” Fuckface turns to them, eyes livid once again and points at Jungkook. “I’m talking to him.”
Jungkook shrinks back and mutters weakly, “T-try it.”
“Don’t worry,” Fuckface calls after them, and Taehyung takes that as his cue to leave, racing down the hall with Jungkook following him at his heels, voice floating after them from the practice room. “I will.”
Taehyung’s back in the studio before he knows it, flinging the door open with a bang and slumping down in his chair, hands covering his face. Namjoon looks up for a moment, confusion in his eyes and Taehyung just shakes his head prompting Namjoon to frown and look back down, a sure sign he’ll ask about it later. His thoughts are racing as twin tides of frustration and anger ebb and flow, regret over so many things hitting him in a flood, and he forgets that Jungkook’s even there until he feels a tentative pat on his back.
“Are you okay?” Jungkook asks, hovering semi-awkwardly, clutching his arms to his chest like a t-rex as if he’s unsure how of what he should do with his hands.
“Yeah, sorry,” Taehyung slams his head on his desk. “I lost my temper back there, I really shouldn’t have. Sorry you had to see that.”
“Um, no, it’s okay,” Jungkook pats him on the back again. “Um, I wanted to say thanks, actually. I really appreciated it.”
“Don’t thank me,” Taehyung mumbles. “I just fucked up everything.”
“I don’t think you—”
“I put a giant target on your back,” Taehyung stares at the ground listlessly. “Tell me how that’s not fucking everything up.”
“Honestly,” Jungkook shrugs. “I’m okay with it. I think having people gunning for me is better than being underestimated. At least, now, they expect something out of me.”
“This guy is psychotic,” Taehyung glances at Jungkook. “I don’t know if you realized that.”
“I picked up on that,” there’s determination glinting in Jungkook’s eyes. “But, he’s on the shortlist right for BTD right?”
“Great,” Jungkook says, cracking his knuckles as he offers Taehyung a tentative grin. “Is it too late to ask about those private lessons? Because right now, I really wanna take him down.”
It’s a bit late to execute the entirety of Taehyung’s plan, but on last minute notice, he’s able to scrape together a pretty impressive motley crew of instructors.
It was the whole crew from BigCube: Namjoon for rap, Hoseok for dance, Jimin for a run-down of whatever special trainee training he gets that day, Jin for...confidence, and Yoongi for evaluation practice.
Most of the lessons go smoothly. Namjoon has the patience of a saint while trying to teach Jungkook the concept of ‘flow,’ Hoseok, who loves teaching, scares Jungkook a little bit at the beginning with how excited he is, Jimin becomes fast friends and bonds with him over the idiosyncrasies of trainee life, and Jin uses his unorthodox methods to draw Jungkook out of his shell.
(The one where Jin had Jungkook yell into a mirror “ Who’s handsome? I’m handsome ” fifty times until he was satisfied was especially memorable. The effectiveness was questionable, but it was hilarity was worth it.)
There was one exception. Yoongi.
And of course Taehyung knew it was going to be rough the moment he broached the subject with his friend, not heeding his “Go Away” RIPNDIP rug and barging straight into his studio one afternoon.
“Hello,” Taehyung annouces his arrival.
“What do you want?” Yoongi grunts as Taehyung grins nervously from the side.
“I was wondering if you could—”
“You don’t even know what I’m gonna ask.”
“I don’t have to,” Yoongi swivels around and narrows his eyes at Taehyung, who sticks his bottom lip out in an attempt at a pout. After a moment, Yoongi groans and waves his hand. “Fine, what?”
“Could you give Jungkook lessons? Like from an evaluation angle. It won’t take that much time, and I think he needs a lot of help with that, and since you’re on the committee, I figured…”
“So, honestly,” Yoongi twists the cap of his pen. “I’m leaning towards no. I’m already helping on the administrative side, and I don’t want to spend more time on this than I have to. But I’ll give you a chance to change my mind: what’s in it for me?”
“The altruistic feeling of helping out someone in need?”
“I donate to charity.”
“I can treat you to a meal?” Taehyung grins sheepishly as Yoongi shakes his head. “Meals?”
“I fucking hate teaching, so you’d have to compensate not only for the amount of time it takes but also for the unenjoyment I’ll be experiencing while doing it. That’d be about...” Yoongi looks up at ceiling. “A year’s worth?”
“Uh, yeah, no,” Taehyung bites his lip and thinks for a moment. Then suddenly, an idea hits him, “It’s a giant middle finger to Fuckface’s uncle.”
“Think about it, if he knocks down Fuckface, it’ll be a major blow against his uncle,” Taehyung jams his hands in his pockets. “And your part’s probably the most crucial, since we both know Jungkook’s fucking terrible at evaluations.”
Yoongi takes a sip of his coffee, and then mutters, “...I’ll think about it.”
Yoongi agrees by text an hour later, and Taehyung gets him to show up later that night. Jungkook, who was in the middle of practicing singing, gets visibly nervous when Yoongi strolls through the door with his laptop in his hand and immediately stops.
“Don’t mind me,” Yoongi slouches into a chair, and pops open his laptop. He waves a hand, “Keep going and just do your thing. I’ll give you comments as you go.”
“Oh, okay,” Jungkook lowers the mic. “Should I do anything specific?”
“Run through your evaluation set,” Yoongi buries his nose into his laptop. “That should be fine.”
“Oh, okay.” Jungkook sings a few notes, then slowly falters as Yoongi stares down at his screen. After a moment of looking awkwardly between Yoongi and Taehyung, he speaks up, “Don’t you need to, uh, see me?”
Yoongi looks up, “Aren’t you just singing today?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“I have ears.”
“Oh, but, um...“ Jungkook trails off as Yoongi narrows his eyes.
“I mean, I have—no offense but—real work to do,” Yoongi holds up his laptop. “So until you start doing something, uh, worthwhile, I’m going to multitask.”
Jungkook looks at Taehyung for help, who shrugs and crosses his arms.
“Alright,” Jungkook brings the mic back up to his face starts singing again.
“You’re flat,” Yoongi calls out immediately, still not looking up.
“Oh, uh, okay,” Jungkook lifts the mic back up and resumes singing.
“You’re still flat.”
“Oh,” Jungkook starts again for a third time.
“What I mean when I say you’re flat,” Yoongi looks up, incredulous. “Is fucking fix it. It’s a piece of criticism, not an fucking observation.”
“Oh, s-sorry,” Jungkook looks terrified out of his wits.
“He’s got perfect pitch, so it really bothers him,” Taehyung sighs his explanation and covers his face with his hand. “Hey Yoongi, can you tone it down a bit?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Taehyung jerks his head towards Jungkook whose eyes are so wide it looks like he’s having a crisis. “He’s just a kid.”
“So? When he pulls this crap during evals—“
Taehyung interjects, “Come on, you guys aren’t even close to being that in his face during the real thing.”
“No, but,” Yoongi looks directly at Jungkook and raises a brow. “Do you really think the other evaluators let him off easy because he’s younger? They’re harsh as fuck. And I know this because I read their comments. So,” Yoongi turns to Jungkook. “I’ll leave it up to you, whether you want me to sugar-coat things, but what I’m doing is giving the most honest feedback you’re going to get. If I were you, as in a trainee at the very bottom of the pile—”
Taehyung protests. “Yoongi—”
“N-no, it’s fine,” Jungkook cuts in, eyes still wide. “Um, I’d rather know what people really think?”
“See,” Yoongi smirks at Taehyung. “He gets it.”
“Yeah, I prefer this actually,” Jungkook continues, “I think it’ll be super useful. Thanks, Yoongi.”
“I think I like this guy,” Yoongi puts his laptop away and leans back in his chair, waving at Jungkook, “Go on.”
Taehyung coughs loudly into his fist. “He’s brown-nosing.”
“Well,” Yoongi leans back, raising his arms and clasping his hands together behind his head. “It’s working. Hey kid, actually, you know what, if you’re willing to stay late this week, I’ll teach you how to win some hearts on the Board.”
“Yeah. All you gotta do is say ‘Taehyung sucks.’”
“Taehyung sucks,” Jungkook immediately says, laughing slightly, before glancing apologetically at Taehyung.
“This kid is great,” Yoongi starts cackling and Taehyung frowns, strangely offended.
The rest of practice doesn’t go exactly smoothly, with Jungkook doing his thing and Yoongi cutting in intermediately to scold him with corrections, but by the end, Jungkook, while looking emotionally exhausted, shows marked improvement.
“You can leave, Taehyung. I wanna talk to Jungkook for a bit,” Yoongi waves a hand at Taehyung, who nods and starts packing up his stuff. Yoongi turns to Jungkook just as Taehyung steps out the door, “Do you have time tomorrow after practice?”
“Um, can we do Thursday? I was going to go watch a movie with Tae—“
“If you want my help, then cancel it. But if you’re going to half-ass this, that’s fine, but I’m out.“
“N-no, I’m not half-assing anything, it’s just that—“
“You don’t get it do you,” Yoongi rubs his face irritatedly, “Hey, so kid, so ima give it to you straight. Break it down in a way that’ll hopefully resonate with you. If you don’t want to do this, quit now. Because it’s only going to get harder.”
“I want to—”
“The reality is, even as naturally talented as you are, you’re not in a good place for two major reasons: your fucking abysmal scores and the fact there are currently nineteen other guys who want a spot way more than you. While there’s nothing I can do about the latter—that involves some soul-searching shit you're gonna have to do on your own time—I can help you fix the former.”
“Look, if you keep going the way you’re currently going, you’ll be out in a month, I guarantee it. There are some powerful people who are not your fans and you’re just throwing reasons at their feet every goddamn week to give you the axe,” Yoongi says. “Now, I know you might not care about this piece of news that much, because I’m not like Tae, as in, not a dumbfuck, and can tell you have your, um, motivations or whatever you wanna call them for sticking around—“
“No, i-it’s not because of, it’s not what you think—“
“Don’t even try. I have eyes and a working intuition, and—yeah, see, exactly, I’m right on the money.”
“Um, please d-don’t, um, say anything to—-”
“I’m not going to,” Yoongi snorts. “Honestly, I don’t really give a shit about it.”
“You’re probably wondering what my point is then?”
“My point is this: what I care about, what he cares about and what you should really be caring about is successfully getting you into BTD and taking Fuckface down. And to do that, you need to start taking this seriously and stop fucking around. You should be keeping your eyes on the real prize, because I can tell you right now, if you make BTD—and let me remind you that’s a big fucking ‘if’ right now—that’swhat’s gonna give you real leverage in winning what you really want, not this pointless—”
And Yoongi snaps the door shut.
Jungkook bcomes almost obsessive about practice after that, and starts holing himself up later and later in the practice rooms with Hoseok and Jimin (and occasionally Yoongi) until it gets to an hour where Taehyung, yawning wide, has to leave first. It strikes him just how used to heading home with Jungkook he had gotten when he rides the last subway home alone at midnight, hand clasping a pole as he distracts himself with his phone, a strange sense of something missing settling in his chest.
The improvement isn’t immediate.
Jungkook goes through two more weeks of disappointing evaluations before they begin to even glimpse progress. And Taehyung can tell it’s taking an even heavier toll on Jungkook, because nothing’s worse than continuing to decline even after you pull all the stops and give it your all. If there’s a silver lining, Taehyung learns how to quickly cheer Jungkook up, distracting him from his misery through playing Overwatch or arcade games. And even when Jungkook starts actually performing well, working through his nerves to deliver solid dances and stable singing, the judges have thick lenses crafted from preconceived notions built on months of less-than-stellar performances, and those prove to be more difficult to break through than Taehyung anticipated.
But, eventually it gets better.
The improvements start with a trickle, at first, when Jungkook gets the first real compliment in a monthly evaluation that he’s gotten in a while (“your footwork is really good,” a choreographer tells him) and he basically glows for the rest of the day, his smile is so wide when he chest bumps a recently-made trainee friend that Taehyung overhears a stylist noona whispering to her friend (“that kid over there, what’s his name? Look how happy he is, he’s absolutely adorable, what the heck”). Then the improvements arrive more quickly. As proof of improvement, Jungkook’s moved closer and closer to the center of formations for his subgroup, and by the end of the month, Yoongi tells Taehyung he’s been successfully bumped up from “marked for dismissal” to “has potential.”
And, with two months to go, it pays off.
“They moved me up to the top group,” Jungkook announces one Friday night after practice, slightly giddy as they’re heading to a ramyun shop that recently opened.
“Oh?” Taehyung raises a brow. “Congrats, you’re almost there. You made it to the Top 8, shit, that’s amazing.”
“We’ll see if I can stay,” Jungkook laughs. “And anyway, I wanted to tell you I’m supposed to start getting those special lessons starting Monday, so, uh—“
“We can stop the private ones,” Taehyung nods knowingly. “Yeah I was just about to suggest that.”
“Oh,” Jungkook’s face falls a bit. “I wasn’t gonna say that, but yeah, that makes sense.”
“What were you going to say?”
“I, uh,” Jungkook looks down at the table. “Wanted to celebrate before that, with you, and—“ Jungkook quickly adds, “—other people, since I’m not really going to have that much free time anymore.”
“We can do that when you actually make it, don’t celebrate too early,” Taehyung laughs. “I’ll pay for dinner today, that can be your reward.”
Jungkook’s eyes light up. “Okay.”
“Also,” Taehyung says as he shoves a bunch of noodles into his mouth. “Where did you wanna go next week? I was thinking an art museum.”
“Oh, um, about that,” Jungkook looks towards the side. “I want to, but, some trainees are gonna go to Jeju for the weekend, and they invited me. I was thinking about going with them. But, I can cancel—“
Oh. Jimin’s trainee clique’s thing. Right. Of course Jungkook would be invited.
“No wait, what? You should totally go,” Taehyung plasters a smile on his face as a feeling that’s an off shade of happiness swells in his chest. He quells it with a swallow, “It sounds super fun. I’ll still be here next weekend.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Taehyung waves a hand. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll figure out something.”
“Okay,” Jungkook starts eating happily. “Do you have an idea about what you’re gonna do instead?”
“Probably still gonna hit up the art museum, but don’t know yet.”
“By yourself?” Jungkook snickers.
“No,” Taehyung scoffs. “I’m not that lonely.”
“Who are you going with then?”
That was actually a good question. By habit, he had just assumed he was going to hang with Jungkook without thinking about it, Jimin was going to be on that Jeju trip too, and the rest of Taehyung’s trainees friends were all busy practicing. Namjoon, Hoseok, and Yoongi were all busy this weekend working on the debut album and he had already told Minho and a few others he wasn’t free, so that pretty much left—
“That YG model, probably? If he’s around. Speaking of which, I should probably ask,” Taehyung quickly shoots him a text. The guy responds almost instantly, and Taehyung blinks in surprise. “Oh, he is, that was fast.”
“You still talk to him?” Jungkook mutters into his noodles.
“Yeah,” Taehyung grins down at the sticker the guy sends.
When he looks back up, Jungkook’s frowning, “...I thought you didn’t like him.”
“He was better than I thought, and he just got casted onto his first drama—which, is honestly the only reason why I said yes to the second date.“
Jungkook suddenly looks up, frown creased on his face, “You went on a second date?”
“Yeah, like, two weeks ago? Been on a couple more since,” Taehyung shrugs. “But that aside, the more we, uh...hang out, the more I’m actually considering giving him an actual chance. Never thought I’d actually catch feelings for a fuckbud—”
Jungkook drops his chopsticks and they fall to the ground with a clatter.
“—I mean—friend. A-a friendbuddy? Sorry, language,” Taehyung laughs at how flustered Jungkook looks. Sheltered kids, they were really something else, “I keep forgetting how young you are.”
Jungkook stoops down to pick his utensils up, and he mumbles from the floor, “...I keep telling you, I’m really not that young. I know what a fuckbuddy is.”
“Sure, sure, I still don’t want to talk about it with you though, feels like I’m scandalizing you or something,” Taehyung glances down at his phone again and grins before flipping it around to show Jungkook, covering his smile. “Oh, jeez, look, he just wrote the worst pickup line: ‘we don’t even have to go to a museum, since you’re a work of art.’”
“I know. But shit, it works.He keeps sending these, and they’re like slowly chipping away at my heart.”
“He just sent another one,” Taehyung continues and reads. “Do you like raisins? Well actually that doesn’t matter, because it’s a date.” Taehyung snickers clutches his chest exaggeratedly and closes his eyes as Jungkook sits back down. “Jungkook, help, it was only supposed to be a one time thing, but I think I’m falling.”
“Gross,” Jungkook mutters.
Taehyung cracks an eye open, “Not a romantic, are you?”
“Not really, no.”
“You’ll understand when you’re older,” Taehyung sticks his tongue out.
“I won’t,” Jungkook grumbles, frown deepening. “And also, I don’t really wanna talk about your love life.”
“Sorry, sorry, I’ll stop,” Taehyung laughs and Jungkook doesn’t.
For the rest of dinner, Jungkook remains silents, eating quickly and just staring at his phone while he waits for Taehyung to finish. And they walk out to the subway station in silence, Taehyung awkwardly looking around as Jungkook remains mum. Taehyung chalks it off as typical trainee fatigue and doesn’t think much of it, spending the time planning out his Saturday date on his phone instead.
When they get to the station, slouching on the benches as they wait for their train, Jungkook finally speaks up.
“Would you have even considered him if he didn’t land that drama?”
And it’s kind of the last thing Taehyung expects Jungkook to open with, and he’s a bit taken aback, “What do you mean?’
“Would you still see that guy if he wasn’t famous?”
“I thought you didn’t want to talk about my love life.”
“I still don’t.”
“Don’t think about it too hard.”
“You’re weird,” Taehyung laughs as Jungkook’s frown deepens, before shaking his head, “But Honestly? Probably not, no. Fuck, I sound so superficial, but the fame makes him way more attractive.”
Jungkook’s silent for a moment before he speaks again, picking at the hem of his shirt as he mumbles, “I don’t think I wanna go to Jeju anymore.”
“Because I want to practice more,” Jungkook bites his lip. “And because you—”
“Because of me?” Taehyung laughs again.
“Yeah because I don’t want you to be—”
“By myself? That’s cute,” Taehyung ruffles Jungkook’s hair and Jungkook knocks his hand away. “But I’ll be fine. I have a date already, remember? Even if you don’t go it’s not like I’m going to cancel it, so don’t do it for me.”
“Honestly I should be thanking you,” Taehyung laughs. “I probably wouldn’t have followed up if this Saturday wasn’t free.”
Jungkook stares at the ground, “Oh really.”
“It’s turning out to be really cool day too, he just said he’s going to get me into a party that Bogum’s going to be at. Shit, if this is what it’s gonna be like dating him for real, I think I might actually go for it. I didn’t realize he was this connected.”
“...Bogum is last year's news.”
“Last year?!” Taehyung gasps in mock-astonishment. “Have you been watching Reply lately?”
“Bogum is the lead!”
“And still not impressed?!”
“Yeah, I know what I said.”
“Your standards,” Taehyung shakes his head and snickers. “Are too damn high. Jeez, after you debut, you better make it all the way to the A-list, anything less and no one around you is going to be good enough for you. Especially when you start dating.”
“It’s not that,” Jungkook stares at the ground. “It’s really not.”
“Sure,” Taehyung snorts, disbelievingly. “Says the kid not impressed by Bogum.”
“I mean, even though I know he’s a successful actor, it’s not like I’m attracted to him, one, he’s old, and two, that’s an entirely different—”
“So who would you? Wanna date that is, you never told me,” Taehyung, as nosy as ever, watches the way Jungkook starts fidgeting with his shirt. “Hypothetically. Pick anyone. Dead or—actually wait no. Definitely alive, just alive, it’d be weird otherwise.”
Jungkook’s silent for a moment. Then, “Why do you keep asking me?”
“Just curious,” Taehyung shrugs. “I wanna know who lives up to your impossible standards.”
“They’re not impossible. ” Jungkook immediately retorts. “It's a long shot maybe, but—“
“Oh shit,” Taehyung puts a fist over his mouth and grins. “Sounds like there’s someone specific. Wait, is it that trainee chick from the other day? I heard she’s slated for the next girl group, and she’s pretty cute—“
“No,” Jungkook suddenly snaps, pure irritation twisting across his face.
Shit, sore spot much? “Sorry, sorry,” Taehyung raises his hands cautiously. “You don’t have to tell me, I’m just teasing you, I’ll stop.”
“It fine, sorry, it was my bad,” Jungkook mumbles. “I still want to practice more, anyway. I need it.”
Taehyung doesn’t pry. “Forget about practicing, one weekend’s not going to make a difference. You should bond with the trainees, they might become your band mates in the near future.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says and sympathetically pats Jungkook’s back. “And I would take every chance to mess around while you can, because I hear from Yoongi, until debut, your life is going to be hell.”
[ fast forward—the present ]
It takes Jungkook twenty seconds, one crash, and nine swears before he successfully opens his door.
And Taehyung knows this because he hears it all, hand poised in mid knock, mildly concerned before Jungkook cracks open the door, leaning against the entryway frame and looking cool like a disaster didn’t just happen and Taehyung wasn’t aware of a thing.
“You okay?” Taehyung raises a brow.
“Yeah, just tripped over a chair,” Jungkook hobbles over to the kitchen, “so, um,” Jungkook fusses around with some cabinets as Taehyung hangs up his coat. “Do you want anything to drink?”
“Sure, what do you have?”
“Um, water and beer.” Jungkook opens his fridge a crack. Bottles clink as he pulls open a drawer with his index finger, “And, uh, more beer.”
“And what else?” Taehyung pads over and peeks over Jungkook’s shoulder. There’s little in the fridge, just skin products, a scattering of prescription medications, a dizzying array of alcohol and what looks like—
“Half a carton of banana milk,” Jungkook points and laughs. “I only opened that yesterday, if you actually wanted it. It’s probably still good.”
“Thanks, but I’ll pass,” Taehyung wrinkles his nose and backs away to lean against the counter. “Water’s good. Can I get hot water actually? If it’s not too much trouble. It’s kinda cold.”
“Yeah, sure, uh, how do I...I guess I can like microwave it or something,” Jungkook closes the fridge, and pulls out a mug. He almost drops it with a curse, fumbling as he catches it just before it hits the counter. “You can start watching something.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I know how to use a microwave,” Jungkook snorts as he fills the mug. “I’m not that detached.”
“Your fridge was pretty empty.”
“Just because I don’t cook anymore doesn’t mean I forgot how a microwave works.”
“Are you sure?”
Jungkook makes a face at him, and sarcastically gripes, as he opens the microwave, “No, you’re right, I don’t know how. You got me.”
“Sad,” Taehyung laughs and shuffles over to the couch, flops onto it and flips to a random drama. RTAOTY appears on the screen, expression over exaggerated as she talks to her love interest about her hopes and dreams.
Jungkook joins him a moment later, placing the mug on the coffee table with a caution, “It’s hot.”
Jungkook looks slightly offended, “Just a warning—”
“Yeah, sorry, thanks, you’re the best,” Taehyung snickers as he leans forward and takes the mug. He’s about to take a sip when what feels like liquid from a thousand suns meets the edge of his lip and he immediately splutters, “Oh fuck , that’s hot.”
“I mean,” Jungkook regards him unsympathetically. “I just told you—”
“Yeah, yeah, you were right,” Taehyung winces. “Ouch.”
“Do you need ice?”
“No, I’ll be okay,” Taehyung flicks his eyes back to the screen as he watches RTAOTY stalking away, her love interest chasing after her. “So what do you think about her?”
“She’s fine,” Jungkook glances at Taehyung. “Why?”
“I dunno,” Taehyung averts his gaze. “She’s, like, super into you.”
“Is she? I couldn’t tell.”
“At least from what I saw,” Taehyung grabs a pillow and hides his frown in it.
“Oh,” Jungkook grins. Then adds, raising a brow, “You jealous?”
“What?” Taehyung hugs a pillow against his chest. “No.”
“You seem like you are.”
“I’m not,” Taehyung throws the pillow at Jungkook’s face and he catches it easily.
“Really?” Jungkook lifts a brow again.
“Really.” Taehyung grabs another pillow and flings it at him.
“Okay,” Jungkook says, catching the second one while eyeing him. “Because...she is kind of cute.”
Taehyung feels a flash of annoyance, “So you did think she was cute.”
“Well, yeah, I mean, look at her.”
“Then don’t you agree?”
“No comment? It’s yes or no question. One that I would personally answer with—“
Taehyung suddenly gets up and straddles Jungkook, curling his fingers into his collar and blocking his view of the TV.
“Oh, um, hello .” Jungkook leans back and hesitates before tentatively looping his arms around Taehyung’s waist.
“How about you don’t talk about her like that,” Taehyung breathes, “When I’m right here. It’s kinda fucking annoying.”
“You started it,” Jungkook’s eyes flick over Taehyung’s shoulder.
Taehyung grips Jungkook’s collar a little harder, “And now I’m telling you to stop.”
“What are you going to do about it?” Jungkook leans forward, eyes darting down towards Taehyung’s lips.
“I’ll make you stop.”
“I just will.”
“How? Because she’s—“
“Hey,” Taehyung tugs on Jungkook’s collar and whispers with fake-menace, “What did I just say?”
“Wasn’t listening,” Jungkook blinks up at Taehyung innocently, although his spreading smirk immediately exposes his facade. “But she’s—”
And that’s when Taehyung kisses him hard enough to shut him up, picking up where they last left off, and accelerating things past that as he slips wandering hands under Jungkook’s shirt.
“Whoa, someone’s excited,” Jungkook pulls back to murmur.
”Yeah,” to deflect his embarrassment Taehyung goes on the defense and deliberately shifts on Jungkook’s lap. “You.”
“Shit,” Jungkook blinks and adjusts his pants. “Um, yeah, guilty.”
“I could, um,” Taehyung diverts his gaze to the upholstery just to the right of Jungkook’s eyes. “...I could take care of that for you.”
“Take care?” Jungkook’s eyes widen, “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I actually don’t. Because I’m slow,” the glint in Jungkook’s eye gives it away. “Spell it out for me.”
And Taehyung’s rolling his eyes as he untangles himself from Jungkook, heart pounding as he tries to keep a facade of calm. He nudges one of Jungkook’s legs with his own and waves a dismissive hand as he gets on his knees.
“Oh.“ Jungkook says without any real surprise.
“Yeah so hurry up,” Taehyung nudges at Jungkook’s knee.
“Um,” Jungkook cracks his legs open, suddenly slightly abashed, “You don’t have to—“
“So,” Taehyung pauses. “You don’t want me to?”
“No, no, trust me, I-I do, but, um, whoa—“ Jungkook’s eyes widen as Taehyung reaches over and yanks open his zipper. “Okay.”
And with a timely thump of his heart, Taehyung suspends rationale for a moment and just goes for it, removing the last barriers, closing his eyes and going down, taking in the taste of heat and salinity as Jungkook mumbles incoherent words in a lightly strangled voice in the background and carefully combs Taehyung’s bangs out of his eyes and clutches them with a gentle grip.
He knows he’s getting close when Jungkook goes quiet, the grip of the hand woven through his hair growing tighter, and so he keeps up the rhythm, and is slightly unprepared for when Jungkook to suddenly speaks, eyes dark, voice low, grip tight.
“Wanna move?” Jungkook jerks his head towards what’s probably his room.
“Yeah,” Taehyung lifts his head and breathes. “Sure.”
And he doesn’t know quite how they make it there successfully, a tangle of lips and limbs that somehow finds their way to their goal, Taehyung’s back hitting the sheets as Jungkook pauses for a moment to yank his shirt off over his head, tossing it to the side where it ends up draping itself over a row of neatly lined books and other assorted paper-based things standing on a shelf, an old, crinkled manila envelope peeking out just under the shirt's sleeve.
Then they’re back at it again, getting drunk off each other, working each other up into a frenzy as pieces of clothing incrementally fall to the wayside.
Jungkook’s peppering a series of butterfly kisses up his chest when Taehyung sees it, innocently minding its own business on Jungkook’s upper arm, a small snicker escaping as he tries to mute it with his hand to save the mood.
Jungkook murmurs into Taehyung’s collarbone, “Someone’s ticklish.”
Taehyung shakes his head, takes another glance down at Jungkook’s arm, snickers again, and tells a white lie, “No, um, I just thought of something funny.”
“Oh,” Jungkook works his way up to Taehyung’s neck and Taehyung shivers, his fingers digging into Jungkook’s back. “Wanna let me in on the joke?”
“Um,” Taehyung looks for a third time at Jungkook’s arm, and finally lets a true laugh explode, curling to his side with his hand over his face.
“What’s so funny?” Jungkook, looking amused, lifts himself up slightly and looks down at Taehyung expectantly.
“What the fuck is that,” Taehyung points to what’s got to be the ugliest tattoo he’s ever seen, a thin-line faded piece of ink that vaguely looked like what would happen if a bird got shitfaced and attempted to sketch a self-portrait while blindfolded.
“Wait what?” Jungkook’s expression morphs into confusion as he looks down at his arm and covers it slightly defensively. “I mean, I couldn’t make it to the gym this week—”
“No, no, no, your arm is fine,” Taehyung peels Jungkook’s fingers away from his bicep and taps the tattoo. “That. What the fuck is that. Has it always been there?”
“Oh,” Jungkook lets his hand fall and looks down at his arm. “Yeah. Since I was, what, 16?”
“Really?" Taehyung sits up, sheets rustling as he takes a closer look. “I guess it would be above most of your sleeves.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook shrugs. “And when it isn’t, they just cover it with a shitton of foundation.”
“What is it?” Taehyung tilts his head as he takes a finger and pokes Jungkook’s bicep.
“A seagull,” Jungkook says, regret threading itself across his face. “Supposedly.”
“Where did you get it?” Taehyung marvels at the workmanship. “More importantly, why did you pay for it? Who designed it? What the fuck, I have so many questions.”
“Um, a friend of a friend bought a tattoo gun and brought it to a party to try it out. And I was drunk enough to think letting him freehand something was a good idea. And yeah,” Jungkook points at his arm, lips thinned in a line. “This is the result.”
“Why don’t you just get it removed?” Taehyung snickers again. “Sorry, I’m just so—like—what even is that?”
Jungkook shrugs, “Reminder of simpler times, good party story, it’s funny, something along those lines.”
“Oh,” Taehyung flops back down onto the pillow, regarding Jungkook half-liddedly through his bangs as he reaches up and trails fingers down Jungkook’s chest. Then he lets out a shitty giggle. “That’s cute of you.”
A look flashes across Jungkook’s face, and when Taehyung blinks it’s gone, “Is that a good thing?”
“Sure,” Taehyung flicks the underside of Jungkook’s chin. “I appreciate it.”
Jungkook blinks, “I thought you said you didn’t like cute before.”
“What?” Taehyung’s brows furrow in amusement, “When did I say that?”
“Hmm,” Jungkook leans down and resumes working on Taehyung’s neck. He mutters unconvincingly after a bit, breath warm against Taehyung’s ear, “Don’t remember. It might have been someone else.”
Taehyung’s just about to retort when Jungkook tugs his waistband down with a finger. And heart revving in anticipation, he immediately decides closing his eyes and capturing Jungkook’s lips is a much better use of his time than investigating instead.
It’s mouth action first, a gripped hand second, then a bottle fished out of a drawer, followed by hesitation, a nod, and coaxing fingers, layered teasing until Jungkook’s got Taehyung propped properly on the edge.
Then they lock eyes and Jungkook, poised and ready, pauses, genuine question in his eyes as they dart back and forth in their search for an answer, which is enduring but dumb in Taehyung’s opinion, because obviously, wound up and sprawled out like this, all Taehyung’s thinking, rather, all he’s capable of thinking is—
“What are you doing? Don’t stop,” Taehyung breathes hard, bangs spilled over his eyes, gazing up at Jungkook with his heart thumping in his ears. He’s in a haze and has kind of got a one-track mind right now and he wants—no—needs Jungkook to, just, just, “Just fucking go—” and, like that, Jungkook’s got Taehyung’s back arching, brows furrowing, fingers scrabbling at the pillow behind him, “Oh fuck—”
And their prior conversation completely slips out of his thoughts a little later, but honestly, head thrown back, rocking against the mattress, gasps falling from his mouth in rhythm, Taehyung isn’t really in the best position to be thinking about much else at all.