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the time space continuum (or something)

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Time drags.

College is the best time of your life. It’s the time you discover yourself. That and get turnt.

It’s a Friday night. End of hell week. The start of the blessed weekend. Liquor dazed haze. Girls in tiny skirts. Heavy bass climbing up spines and sinking in, smoke pouring out of mouths, stumbling through someone’s wrecked apartment, fumbling for your dorm room keys at four am.

Except Jeongguk isn’t knocking back shots or blowing smoke into someone’s mouth. Isn’t sleep walking home after losing his shirt with a trail of hickeys kissed down his throat.

It’s a sad song clawing at his spine. His own bed he can’t sleep on. It’s eight pm and his brother is a liar, college is the worst because the only thing that Jeongguk has discovered is he’s been living in willful ignorance his whole life and all he’s done is waste time.

The turnt part is true. Except Jeongguk doesn’t call it that because he’s not a wannabe fuckboy but he’s also three miserable sojus in and he’s feeling the opposite of whatever the fuck turnt means anyway. They’re tiny bottles, he realizes, eyes squinty. Maybe that’s the problem.

His phone buzzes on his nightstand.

butthead

guess who haz all 10 epis of devilman cry baby q d up

guess who part deutch

has shitty freezer duple cheesy pizzaz in the oven

and a couch cushion with ur butt’s name on it

Jeongguk sighs.

butthead

by the by

pretty sure might be psychik. lowkey reading ur mind right now and know u wanna hang with at this bomb shindig

 

jus throwing that out there for u

 

 

Jeongguk stares at the messages longer than they really warrant, rereads them twice more that the content calls for. He sighs. Dumps his phone on the nightstand. Knocks over an empty soju bottle.

 

Typical Taehyung. Always inconveniencing Jeongguk and being considerate when he just wants some alone time. To not think. Nevermind Taehyung is the reason this stupid sad song is playing. Is the reason Jeongguk is in his dorm on a Friday night instead of getting shit faced and making stupid college induced decisions. Making those stupid decisions with Taehyung goading him on, plastered and as shit faced as Jeongguk in someone’s alcohol stenched living room.

 

The song starts over for the infinite time, something about wearing someone else’s clothes when they get lonely, and Jeongguk doesn’t pathetic groan pout into his pillow, doesn’t think.

 

(A few blocks away. Taehyung sits in his apartment. Just solo Netflix and chilling on his couch. Just casually waiting for a reply all casual and such because yeah Jeongguk takes forever to text back with everyone but he’s pretty fast with Taehyung. Usually. But Taehyung? Not worried.

 

He taps on his phone, the tv screen loaded with the deep red Netflix sign, casting an eerie glow in the living room. It makes his living room look creepy in cool way, like that Hitchcock movie Jeongguk made him watch once, like a devil’s about to jump out of the tv at him. Which. Whatever. Taehyung isn’t scared of creepy tv devils. And sure it’s a little weird but maybe Jeongguk fell asleep or went out with other friends or is studying because he’s a weirdly anal college student for someone who spent most of high school in the dance studio or getting convinced by yours truly to ditch his pre-calculus class in favor of extending lunch period because even back then Taehyung knew that pre-calculus would never be useful in Jeon Jeongguk’s life. Case in point: Jeongguk’s film major. What director uses calc? Meanwhile, Taehyung is a physics major and up to his eyeballs in calc. Taehyung never skipped a calc class in high school. Also? Taehyung is probably a psychic but that’s neither here nor there.

 

So Taehyung is the picture of the three c’s: casual, cool and calm. Not the fourth c: creepy. So no, he’s not being a freak and typing out a text to Jeongguk’s roommate Mingyu — who kind of hates him right now but whatever, Mingyu is a bitch ass anyway — asking him if Jeongguk died or something because Jeongguk never sleeps before midnight and who the fuck would he go out with without Taehyung anyhow and Jeongguk doesn’t study past 8 on Fridays and, man, when did they become such losers that they don’t go out on Fridays? Or at least, he thinks as his thumbs stab a little too forcefully at his phone screen, aren’t dicking around together.

 

Also? He’s pretty sure Mingyu would tell him if Jeongguk died. Mostly because Mingyu knows Taehyung would kill him if he didn’t.)

 

Jeongguk is considering turning out the lights, really wallow in this whole shit eighties teen movie piss pity fest he has going for him, when there’s a pounding at his door.

 

It stops.

 

Starts back up. More insistent.

 

Jeongguk makes a face at the door. Wills Mingyu to fuck off.

 

Mingyu starts kicking the door. “Answer your boyfriend’s texts, loser! He thinks you’re dead!”

 

Summoning all the life force he doesn’t have, Jeongguk rouses from his bed. Mingyu has ridiculous lungs. And strong feet. This could go on.

 

Door open, he stands there with his pillow held against his chest. “For the millionth time, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

 

Grimacing, Mingyu asks, “Are you listening to the Pixies again? He’s gonna make fun of you for that. Again.”

 

Jeongguk smacks him with the pillow.“Is there a reason you’re here?”

 

Mingyu rolls his eyes. Holds up his phone. There’s an alarming number of texts from Taehyung. Some really questionable emoji use. Even for Taehyung.

 

jeongguk’s stupid ass boyfriend

 

lol

 

hey know we’re on outs rn butt is gguk there?

 

jus wondering

 

don’t tell him i asked

 

Jeongguk raises his brows.

 

Mingyu shakes his phone.

 

jeongguk’s stupid ass boyfriend

 

jus wanna know he’s ok. ts w/e

 

com on man gyu don be a lil bitch cuz of the thing

 

k srry for calling u a btch

 

srs? m not even pissed bc of that shit u said last the last partyyy. in front of him. do be a dick

 

not sorry bout the dick

 

And it keeps going.

 

Jeongguk wants to be surprised but it’s so Taehyung he thinks he might cry instead.

 

He apologizes on Taehyung’s deranged behalf.

 

“He texted all that in the time it took me to make fucking cup ramen.”

 

“He probably mixed Monster with Bacchus again. His fluid mechanics final is next week. You know how he gets.”

 

Mingyu’s face goes blank. “Yeah. It’s the caffeine. Sure. That’s what it is.”

 

Mingyu doesn’t wait for a response, crossing the dorm suite towards his room with, “Just text him back. If he used up all my data plan you’re paying it.” He slams his door, muttering, fucking idiots as he goes.

 

Jeongguk sighs. He calls Taehyung.

 

Taehyung lets it ring. Eight times.

 

“Hey. Sup, man?”

 

Jeongguk snorts because Taehyung threatening to file a missing person’s report and harassing his roommate doesn’t warrant sup.

 

“Sup. Wow. And here I thought you had the cops on the other line. You know you’re supposed to wait 72 hours before reporting someone M.I.A.?”

 

Taehyung grunts. “Fucking traitor. You know he’s just butthurt I won’t give him my lit TA’s number? Like. That’s my lit TA, man. Can’t your dumb roommate get himself laid? We’re in third year. If he hasn’t learned how to flirt by now, sorry but, he’s gonna die a virgin.”

 

Jeongguk laughs. Kind of wobbly. Taehyung doesn’t sound like he’s hopped up on three liters of caffeine sugar. He sounds like he does when he just wakes up, voice deep and warm. “Is this how you’re gonna act when it takes me an hour to text back from now on?”

 

“An hour and forty three minutes but who’s counting,” Taehyung says, nonchalant. There’s a click on his end. Jeongguk wonders if he still has the show loaded. If he burnt the shitty frozen pizza again. It only makes him feel a little guilty.

 

The he adds, “And it’s not like you’ve been dodging me for the past three weeks or whatever.”

 

Jeongguk’s breath catches. Taehyung doesn’t sound bitter, just resigned, but before he can say anything Taehyung is talking again.

 

“Shit. I know you’re busy. School’s kicking your ass this semester. I’m not trying to be weird and clingy. But like- I know you hung out with Yoongi and Jimin last week when you said you were too busy. And it’s just. I just-”

 

“You just?” Jeongguk tightens his hold around his phone and it kind of hurts to breathe when Taehyung laughs, awkward and too light.

 

“I just. I don’t know. Is this that friendship ending bull shit people warned us about? High school friends going to college and growing apart? We skipped over that shit from elementary to middle to high school so I figured we were safe. Made it all the way to second year.”

 

There’s a pinching behind jungkook’s eyes because he never meant for his fucked up feelings to ruin everything. “Fuck, Taehyung. No-”

 

“Jeongguk? Are you crying?”

 

Jeongguk may or may not sniffle, and shit, he’s not drunk but it’s the soju. Soju always makes his tear ducts fucked. “No?” he says, voice strained.

 

“I’m coming over.”

 

Alarm striking his chest, he blanches. “Wait! Don’t-“ but the line’s already dead.

 

He sinks down on his bed and waits, feeling all sorts of dumb, throat clogged up. Turns the music off. He’s really not in the mood for Taehyung to make fun of his music taste for the billionth time.

 

There’s a flurry of noise from the suite ten minutes later and then Taehyung is standing in his doorway, breathless and wide eyed. He’s in his university sweatshirt and the ratty baggy tie-dye jeans he has the audacity to wear to class he still manages to get asked out in by all the smart dumb girls in the physics department because, fuck, are they blind. Those jeans are gross. There’s a pizza stain on Taehyung’s sweatshirt and it’s gross and his hair is a bird’s nest and that’s gross too. Taehyung looks gross and he is gross and he has this concerned frazzled look on his face that turns Jeongguk’s insides into goo and Taehyung needs to stop looking at him like that because. Because it’s whatever. It’s gross.

 

“Okay, I think Mingyu actually seriously hates me,” Taehyung announces, glancing over his shoulder. “He growled when he opened the door.”

 

“Just give him Namjoon’s number.”

 

“No way. He’s too good for your snaggle toothed roommate.”

 

Jeongguk smiles even though he should defend Mingyu. Roommates before lifelong best friends as Mingyu says because Mingyu has to deal with Jeongguk using all the hot water and stealing his sweatshirts and Taehyung doesn’t. His mouth curls on its own. Kind of can’t help it. Besides, he steals Taehyung’s sweatshirts all the time too.

 

It must come out wrong, a little dim, because Taehyung sobers. “You really are crying.”

 

The smile falls. “I’m not crying. It’s allergies.” His eyes are dry. It’s just the bad light in his room making them look wet.

 

Taehyung comes to stand by the bed. “You’ve been a cry baby and sinus free our whole lives but sure. Allergies.”

 

“Please. Like you don’t cry at every Ghibli movie we’ve ever watched.”

 

“Of course I cry at Studio Ghibli. I’m not dead inside, Jeongguk. But you.” Taehyung shakes his head. There’s a pencil stuck in the mess that is his head. Jeongguk wonders how many hours he studied today. If he forgot to take his eye drops again. “You cry all the time. I’m super concerned about your hydration levels.”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes because it’s such a fucking lie. But whatever. “Whatever. And no one is sinus free. God. How are you so dumb smart?”

 

Taehyung shrugs, scratches at his stomach, highlighter marks all over his hand. “Good thing I’m a physics and not a bio major. What’s a sinus? Just gotta figure out that pesky time space continuum bullshit instead.”

 

Jeongguk’s laugh is watery. Taehyung just stares, eyes drifting to his chest.

 

“What?” Jeongguk asks, laugh quieting.

 

“That’s my shirt.” He sounds surprised. Something else.

 

Jeongguk crosses his arms defensively, the front covered. “You left it here after you poured vodka all over yourself last pre-game. I was nice enough to wash it for you.”

 

Taehyung is still staring at his chest, hand gripping his sweatshirt. “Yeah and then wear it. Which, by the way, Jimin tripped me. And you always say Joy Division gives you the hives. Call them ‘pretentious sad boy music without any of the actual sad’.”

 

“Because that’s exactly what they are. College made you more of a pretentious fuck, Kim Taehyung.”

 

Which isn’t true because Taehyung doesn’t pretend to love anything. Not things or music or people. He loves wholeheartedly. With his whole gross self. With his whole not gross soul.

 

Taehyung raises his eyebrows, shitty dorm light catching on his cheekbones like they do for every attractive boy in every shitty eighties teen movie ever. “Is that why you’ve been ghosting me lately? My pretentiousness?”

 

“You can’t ghost friends.”

 

Taehyung smiles and maybe it’s a little bitter. “Yeah you can. You do it all the time. Except you always come back. You’re like Caspar come to life. Unlike most of your friends, I make a pretty shitty Wendy.”

 

Maybe it’s the self deprecation or the half smile on Taehyung’s face or the shitty joke. Whatever it is, Jeongguk’s eyes sting harder. It’s just the soju or it really is allergies because he’s not a cry baby, hasn’t been one since he turned twelve, and why would he cry about Taehyung of all people anyway?

 

Taehyung sits next to him. Toes his sneakers off that he forgot to take off in the suite. He isn’t wearing socks. His feet are tanner than Jeongguk’s, like the rest of him, bronzed and veiny.

 

Jeongguk’s shitty dorm mattress sinks under their combined weight. He should have moved in with Taehyung this semester but his parents were dead set against it. Said they’d get no work done if they lived together. His parents are pretty delusional about how much time they spend in each other’s living spaces. Taehyung’s parents aren’t. They bought Taehyung a blow up mattress for when Jeongguk stays over when Taehyung moved out. It’s sitting in a box in Taehyung and Jimin’s closet even though Jeongguk sleeps there as often as he does his own bed.

 

Taehyung says, “You wanna tell me why you’re pretending your life is a John Hughes movie? Mingyu said you were listening to ‘Cactus’ on repeat again. Remind me to make fun of you for that later.”

 

“Fucking traitor,” is all Jeongguk says.

 

Taehyung sighs. He flops down on the bed and pulls Jeongguk with him, bed springs creaking. He lets go of as soon as Jeongguk complies and they’re lying flat.

 

He groans because he knows where this is going. “Taehyu-”

 

“Indulge me. This used to work when we were kids. Remember when we were ten and I accidentally broke your iron man doll?”

 

“It was an action figure. And you mean when you threw him off my roof?”

 

In his peripheral, he sees Taehyung make a face. He doesn’t kick him for it though he wants to.

 

“Yeah that. An accident like I said. Anyway. Remember how you got so mad your face was all red and you wouldn’t talk to me? But you didn’t want your mom to find out we’d been out on the roof after she forbade us from last time and my mom wouldn’t be coming to pick me up yet to take me to the doctor. So you lied on your bed looking up at the ceiling for twenty eight minutes and thirty seven seconds. I counted them. Lost track a couple times but I’m pretty confident in that number.”

 

There’s no way Taehyung remembers the exact number. Jeongguk doesn’t interrupt. Counts the dents in his ceiling from the time he and Taehyung filled up condoms with salt rocks from the chem department, tacked them to the ceiling, and then shot them with Mingyu’s paintball gun. His room was a mess for weeks. They were at least six soju bottles in, hysterical laughter and encouraging shoving shoulders.

 

The room is somber in comparison now, Taehyung’s voice sounding so far away from him. Stuck in a memory. Closed shot. Blurry lense intimacy. The saturation of time washing over everything, faded and white toned.

 

Taehyung’s voice goes soft. “And your little face was all red and your jaw was so clenched I thought you’d hurt yourself. I kept trying to get you to say something. To at least yell or cry. But you didn’t. You wouldn’t talk to me no matter what I said and I thought the world was ending. Because you wouldn’t talk to me.”

 

“Taehyung-”

 

“I got kind of mad too. Because it was just a stupid doll-”

 

“An action-”

 

“But I was the older one-”

 

“Barely. By nine months-”

 

Taehyung barrels on. “So as the older, mature, and wiser one, it was my job to be patient. Even if I kind of suck at it. It wasn’t until I lied down with you and another seven hundred and twenty two seconds passed —where I counted every single one— that you finally spoke to me. Told me you hated me. But it didn’t matter. Because you were talking to me. And all of a sudden, the world wasn’t ending.”

 

It’s quiet for a few seconds. Jeongguk swallows loudly. The rustle of Taehyung’s hair on the pillow as he turns to look at him.

 

He doesn’t remember much of that. Just that Taehyung was already eleven while Jeongguk was still ten. Just that he was more hurt than angry at Taehyung’s carelessness. Just that he was probably too old to be playing with figurines still. Just that Taehyung used up most of his birthday money from that year to buy Jeongguk another iron man figure anyway, with a shinier suit and propeller jets.

 

“So did I do it again? Did I throw your iron man figure off the roof again?”

 

Do you hate me again?

 

Jeongguk closes his eyes, feels Taehyung’s gaze sweep over the bridge of his nose, the angle of his cheekbone as the minutes tick by and Taehyung sucks at being patient but he’s good at it when he has to be. Was good at it when Jeongguk was ten and so hurt-mad he could barely breathe, was good at it when he was thirteen and he’d sit through two hour dance recitals just to watch Jeongguk dance for ten minutes, was good at it when Jeongguk finally turned sixteen and he tried to teach Jeongguk to drive even after he’d sworn up and down to Jeongguk’s parents he wouldn’t let Jeongguk in the driver’s seat of the used Honda Taehyung’s grandparents had gifted him for his birthday after he passed his driver’s test, this ugly rusted green monstrosity Jeongguk almost rear ended. Twice.

 

He’s good at it for Jeongguk a lot.

 

And does he? Maybe. In that same way he hated being in the same room as Taehyung three weeks ago, dusty golden lights over their scattered textbooks at the diner halfway between Jeongguk’s dorm and Taehyung’s apartment, Taehyung busting a lung over a joke he wouldn’t get to the punchline of because he couldn’t stop laughing, headache causing homework and half eaten pie abandoned between them. Leaving Jeongguk breathless for it, always breathless, desperate for the next inhale that wouldn’t come because Taehyung was sucking up all the air in the room trying to tell his fucking punchline. The way he’s been doing for years. In that way Jeongguk hasn’t been breathing properly around him for a while now.

 

He blinks and his ceiling judges down at him in all its mediocre college dorm room glory. Probably witness to many a stupid college student moping to sad music about their best friend while wearing said best friend’s terribly pretentious band t-shirt.

 

He wonders if Taehyung has been counting the time. If he’s been counting it for three weeks.

 

When he rolls over to face Taehyung, he’s already waiting, smiles when Jungkook opens his mouth, and beats him to it.

 

“Seven hundred and eighty four seconds.”

 

“You’re making that up.”

 

“Basic math, Algebra II boy. Just multiplying by tens here.”

 

“It’s your fault I had to take remedial math as my college math credit. And you’re a showoff.”

 

Taehyung gasps, rolls himself closer. “I saved you from hours of boredom. You should thank me. And all that calc had to pay off somehow.”

 

“If that’s all you have to show for it, remind me to never walk into a building or train you build,” Jeongguk says, too soft for it to be mean. He pulls the pencil from the tangle in Taehyung’s hair, fingers softer.

 

Taehyung holds himself still, eyes half closed as Jeongguk works through a knot in his hair. He looks like he could fall asleep. Maybe that’s what they should do. Stop talking and just sleep.

 

“That’s not at all what I’m learning to do and you know it. I’ll be making the theories people will use to build shit. Maybe. Not really but- That’s a lot of buildings you won’t be walking into and trains you won’t be taking.”

 

Jeongguk sighs, teasing. “I’ve always thought we’d be better off going back to the stone age.”

 

Taehyung barks out a laugh. Jeongguk’s lips tug up in response, like they always do. The gust of Taehyung’s breath hits his face, pizza stained with something sugary and stale boy breath mixed in. Jeongguk scrunches up his nose, but for a tiny second, it’s easier to breathe.

 

“Oh, my breath stinks?”

 

“Yes, fuck. Get away,” Jeongguk complains, pushes him away.

 

But that just has the opposite effect. Taehyung slides forward closing the distance between them, his hands reaching for Jungkook’s face and pinning him down with his weight.

 

Jeongguk kicks him, fingers twisted in Taehyung's hair. “Gross. Fuck off, Taehyung, don’t!”

 

Taehyung yells, groans a laugh and jolts when Jeongguk kicks him again, presses his leg down with his knee. Jeongguk gags when Taehyung breathes on him, his musty pizza breath filling his lungs. He could easily push Taehyung off and he’s going to, he will, but all he does is try not to fucking giggle. He squirms under Taehyung’s warm weight, their legs knocking together, Jeongguk’s sock clad toes kicking up against Taehyung’s bare feet.

 

Then comes what Jungkook should have anticipated, the reason he should have immediately pushed him off but Taehyung has caught him off guard, weak and off his a-game. Taehyung pushes his face closer and rubs his jaw against the soft give of Jeongguk’s cheek, the faint barely there stubble brushing his skin yet still itchy as fuck. Jeongguk locks up and tries to get his hands between them but Taehyung is one step ahead, always is, and he grabs Jeongguk’s arms, holds them against the bed as he proceeds to nuzzle his scratchy face all over Jeongguk’s cheeks.

 

Like he’s fucking seventeen all over again and lording over the fact that he had shit to shave while Jeongguk didn’t despite the fact that it was barely a peach fuzz and all shaving it off did was give Taehyung dry and itchy skin. Itchy skin he made Jeongguk suffer with until one day, in the hallway after first period, Jihyo had given them a side-eye, called them puke worthy cute, and said her boyfriend used to do the same thing to her. After which, Taehyung proceeded to imitate a tomato and never did it again.

 

Jeongguk wheezes under the attack, chokes out from between the laughter, “Okay. Okay! You’re not gross. I’m the gross one. Super gross.”

 

Taehyung lifts up with a hum. He gives up a little too easily, slides off to Jeongguk’s side and lets his hands go without much of a fight.

 

Jeongguk’s brows pull down, confused. It’s why he doesn’t react when Taehyung touches his face gently, thumbs the corner of Jeongguk’s eye where his eyelashes are still wet.

 

“Couldn’t be gross if you tried.”

 

And his lungs are back to giving up on him. He wants to blame the aftershocks of the laugh attack. Wants to blame a lot of things. Taehyung’s elbow propped up on the pillow. The hard pull of his mouth. The soft brush of his thumb over Jeongguk’s temple. The pizza breath.

 

“I can be gross,” Jeongguk says. Because of course he can. He used to cover himself in mud in Taehyung’s back yard. Used to drink banana milk mixed with cola and grape juice and vodka until he puked his guts out at some party in year ten. He and Taehyung didn’t shower for a whole week their first year at college on a dare.

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “Not possible.”

 

“I could not shower for a month.”

 

“Musk is in. We’re all eco friendly nature freaks now.”

 

“I could not brush my teeth for a month.”

 

“That’s why man made tic-tacs.”

 

“I could- I could wear the same clothes for forever. Without washing them.”

 

Jeongguk grins, triumphant when Taehyung looks stumped.

 

Scoffing, Taehyung pushes Jeongguk’s hair off his forehead, pushes his head into the pillow until Jeongguk sqwaks. “You’d never do that. The first thing you did when you moved into your dorm was find the laundry room. Plus, that sexy body spray you use would cover up the smell.”

 

Jeongguk’s breath stutters. He sinks further into his bed, watches the way Taehyung’s words catch up to his brain. Taehyung freezes, eyes panicked. Hand barely cupping Jeongguk’s head.

 

For a second, Jeongguk wonders if he’ll pretend to be a tomato again. Or a strawberry. A papaya, maybe.

 

Voice flat, he asks, “You think my body spray is sexy?”

 

Taehyung’s mouth works, forms shapeless sounds before he clears his throat, eyes downcast, somewhere around Jeongguk’s nose. “It makes you smell sexy. It! It smells sexy. I- it’s, like, fruity. And sugary. Like mangos. And coconut. But kind of earthy, too?”

 

Jeongguk just stares at him, teeth digging into his bottom lip. There’s a weird feeling in his chest. The turnt feeling the soju was supposed to make him feel racing everywhere now.

 

Neck an attractive flush, Taehyung finishes weakly, “It makes you smell like a rainforest.”

 

“Rainforests are sexy?”

 

Teeth clenched, Taehyung mutters, “Yes, Jeongguk. Rainforests are sexy.”

 

He should back off, be nice and give Taehyung an out, but it’s rare to see Taehyung like this, unable to meet Jeongguk’s gaze, no longer touching him. Fingers fidgeting with Jeongguk’s college issued white sheets, like he’s the one who can’t breathe all of a sudden. Besides, they’re best friends. Taehyung doesn’t just get him when he’s nice. He gets Jeongguk when he’s mean and petty and ugly, and despite what Taehyung says, when he’s gross. Gets Jeongguk always.

 

“You think I smell sexy?” He asks, voice enough of a tease for it to be a joke if Taehyung wants it to be.

 

Taehyung sighs. He closes his eyes, breath shaky. And all of a sudden, Jeongguk doesn’t want to be petty or teasing or gross. He just wants to go back to how it was three weeks ago. To the punchline of Taehyung’s joke. To the blissful ease he’s known around Taehyung since he was five and Taehyung moved in down the block, front tooth missing and smiling at Jeongguk so hard his eyes disappeared like two tiny suns into his face.

 

Jeongguk is about to just laugh it off, push off the bed, convince Taehyung to go pilfer some ramen from the dorm floor kitchen, stuff their faces and then beg off sleep so he can go back to moping to angsty eighties alterno music. He’ll give back Taehyung’s t-shirt first though. He’s not that pathetic.

 

Taehyung breathes out through his nose, rough. “Come on, you know I- you know you do.”

 

Jeongguk narrows his eyes. “That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking if you think so.” And he can’t believe he’s asking this and that Taehyung is answering but here they are and Jeongguk still has dumb soju brain and Taehyung’s neck is getting redder by the second.

 

“Shit. Yeah. Yes. I do. You smell sexy. You are sexy. You’re so the furthest thing from gross that it’s the only gross thing about you. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows I know it.” And what? What does everyone know?

But Taehyung doesn’t elaborate, sits up so fast he throws the mattress off center. Why his parents insisted he suffer through another year of this shitty ass sleeping arrangement, Jeongguk will never understand. Taehyung finally meets his eyes, eyebrows furrowed so hard it looks like it hurts. “Is that why you’ve been- Because I. Is that why-“

 

He’s rambling now and a rambling Taehyung is a Taehyung that keeps Jeongguk up all night, an insufferable Taehyung but only because it gives Jeongguk flashbacks to being twelve when Taehyung fell ass over tits for Carl Sagan and wouldn’t shut up about him for months. And Jeongguk would fall asleep to the pale blue dot monologue like it was a bedtime story, his phone pressing indents into this cheek and squished into his pillow, Taehyung’s voice soft and low and a gentle mile a minute from his own bedroom under house arrest and banned from sleeping over for a month for sneaking out to Jeongguk’s house during finals.

 

“Mingyu calls you my boyfriend.” It’s out before he can think it better. How stupid it sounds. How stupid it will sound to Taehyung. How it won’t make the breath trip up in his chest the way it does to Jeongguk every time the words leaves Mingyu’s mouth.

 

“-and, okay, maybe sending him the eggplant and the twenty bomb emojis was a bit much, but- Uh. What.”

 

Jeongguk quirks a brow. “Twenty bombs?”

 

Taehyung is nonplussed, mouth hanging open, lashes fluttering. It should make him look dumb, gross, and it does, but Jeongguk shifts on the bed, heat in his belly at how wet Taehyung’s lips look, how dark his eyes look in the shitty dorm light.

 

Slowly, Taehyung says, “Yeah, your roommate’s a weak ass dick. What’s that other thing you said?”

 

“You think I smell sexy?”

 

“No.” Taehyung shakes his head for emphasis, hair more of a wreck than when he came in. It looks stupidly good on him. Like those stupidly gross tie-dye jeans. The pizza sweater can fuck off though. Preferably to Jeongguk’s dorm room floor. And fuck. Jeongguk is so fucked. “No,” Taehyung repeats. He’s no longer not looking at Jeongguk and oh, that’s why his lungs are choking him again. “The other thing. The Mingyu thing.”

 

He could play it off as a joke, for real this time, but Jeongguk doesn’t throw gauntlets he doesn’t mean to fight with. Not that this is a fight. Taehyung’s always been good at defense anyways, resolves to giving up and just playing dead if his mood suits him, has Jeongguk on his back quicker then he can blink if his mood suits that instead. Doesn’t keep him there for long but he can do it is the thing. And maybe that’s what Taehyung’s been doing tonight. Finally picking up Jeongguk’s gauntlet. There’s a reason Taehyung threatened Jeongguk’s roommate with twenty bombs just because Jeongguk went M.I.A. for a hundred and whatever minutes. For thirty thousand two hundred and forty minutes before that.

 

It’s a comfort almost, doing it like this, Taehyung sitting up and Jeongguk cocooned in the warmth of his crappy bed, limbs lax while his chest is in chaos, like his body could just sink out of time, leave his lungs and heart behind for Taehyung to poke and prod at it, lay them out under a microscope. Maybe help Taehyung solve that space-time-whatever-contention thingy.

 

The remains of a boy who always comes back, a boy out of time, a boy out of breath.

 

“Mingyu. When he talks about you. He calls you my boyfriend.”

 

Taehyung’s shoulders fall, like they’re being shoved down by the words. “Oh.”

 

“I thought he was kidding. Like a dumb dude bro joke. He’s not though,” he adds quickly before he loses his guts, before the lack of air knocks him out. “He thinks we’ve been together since middle school and are just too stupid to notice.”

 

“Oh,” Taehyung says again. Deeper this time. He doesn’t say anything else and Jeongguk wars between wishing to be sucked into a black hole and wanting to film this moment, Taehyung’s gloriously gross hair and his ugly gross outfit and his dumb gross beautiful face under the muted fluorescent lights of Jeongguk’s dorm, the tenderly confused slant of his brows at the center, the contrast saturated to really pack on the honey dripping from Taehyung’s eyes.

 

The boy who waits. The boy in time. The boy who steals all the air inside every room Jeongguk has ever been in.

 

Taehyung still doesn’t say anything and Jeongguk panics, as close to it as he can under the melting calm of the moment, because Jeongguk seems like the more outwardly calm one but Taehyung really is the patient one when it comes to them, when it comes to Jeongguk. Jeongguk can’t say the same when it comes to him about Taehyung.

 

So he half sputters, “It’s your name in his phone.”

 

“Oh.”

 

An inflection this time.

 

“Yes. Although it’s ‘jeongguk’s stupid ass boyfriend’.”

 

“Yeah, you need a new roommate.”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “You and Mingyu are friends. You were friends before he and I were.”

 

“I’ve seen the errors of my ways. My standard have risen. By association so have yours.”

 

“Oh really?”

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes right back, exasperation in the raise of his eyebrows. “Yes, really. Obviously. We’re a packaged deal. Two headed nightmare monster, my mom used to call us. Or one brain, as your brother still calls us. Half a brain for each.”

 

“I get the bigger half.”

 

“You get the bigger half,” Taehyung parrots dutifully back. He digs his fists into Jeongguk’s mattress, elbows bowed out. Jeongguk hadn't noticed his hands were so tense. He wants to reach out and soothe his fingers over Taehyung’s gripped knuckles, over the furrow between his majestically arched brows, couldn’t be thought of as gross if Jeongguk tried.

 

Taehyung asks, “Are we?”

 

Jeongguk looks away from Taehyung’s eyebrows. “Are we?”

 

“Are we that stupid?”

 

Heart hammering, he says, “You tell me. You’re the smart one.”

 

“Dumb smart,” Taehyung corrects. “You’re the one with the bigger half of the brain.”

 

Jeongguk shrugs, the wings of his shoulders pressing into his pillow. “Yeah but I’m the dumb dumb one. The bigger half is the dumber half, remember?”

 

“Jeongguk.”

 

It’s the tiny way he says it. Soft and careful, every sound Jeongguk’s name makes in Taehyung’s voice like a recording Jeongguk wants to loop over and over again, layered over a chillwave beat, pulsing shallow rhythms, Taehyung’s laughing face under neon blue lights on the screen. Maybe ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ or some other terrible Joy Division song mixed in because it’ll make the smile on Taehyung’s face realer.

 

He meets Taehyung’s eyes. Says, “I don’t think we’re that stupid.”

 

Taehyung’s shoulders go back at that. He tilts his head as he leans over Jeongguk, face determined. Not touching him anywhere, just his hands on either side of his waist, arms caging him in, the space between them hot in the warmth of Jungkook’s bed. “Yeah? Well, I’m the smart one and I say we are that dumb.”

 

Jeongguk’s eyes go half lid at that, this shuddery feeling climbing up his chest, and he wants to move, either him up or Taehyung down, but he wants to wait too. Wants to be the one who waits for once.

 

“Dumb smart,” he reminds him.

 

“Same difference,” Taehyung shrugs. Then, “Did you want him to be lying?”

 

“I-“

 

Taehyung stumbles over himself, the way he does when he’s sleepwalking Jeongguk home from a party at two am, somehow his hands still so confident, so sure. “What I mean. What I mean is. Did you want what he was saying to be true?”

 

And Jeongguk is about to say it, what’s been on the tip of his tongue since this whole thing started, since weeks ago or longer, some unidentifiable time ago, but maybe Taehyung is the one who’s tired of waiting because he answers himself.

 

“Because I did. I do. I want it to be true.”

 

The shuddery feeling gets worse, better? This sweet syrupy thing that wants to pull Jeongguk in too many directions, all of them towards Taehyung.

 

He doesn’t hesitate this time, curves his hand around the edge of Taehyung’s jaw, still mostly smooth despite Taehyung’s insistence to the contrary, only slightly dry to the touch. Taehyung will probably grow it out just to spite him. Jeongguk thinks about what the burn will feel like down the line of his throat, across his tummy, up the inside of his thighs and the shruddery thing threatens to cave his lungs in, body full of honey drenched heat.

 

Taehyung bows his head into his palm, lips against his skin in this instinctual movement that makes Jeongguk breath halt and he wonders how long Taehyung has been counting for. A couple hundred seconds, a couple million.

 

Breathless, Jeongguk says, “Ask me. Ask me again.”

 

Taehyung smiles, smug and coy and the most grossly beautiful thing Jeongguk has ever seen. “You like the fact that I think you smell sexy, don’t you?”

 

Jeongguk yanks his face forward and Taehyung hisses at the roughhousing, grunts when Jeongguk stops and has him where he wants him.

 

“Ow, motherfucker- Fuck. This love confession is more painful than I ever thought it’d be.”

 

Jeongguk frowns. Tries to. Mostly. His mouth isn’t really cooperating. “Love confession?”

 

Taehyung pretends to bite Jeongguk’s palm, teeth snapping, growling playfully. “Yes. Don’t make that face. Your inner thirteen year old just had a nosebleed that I called it that. Which by the way, I’m the only one who’s done any confessing. Feeling kind of one sided over here.”

 

“You wasted your chance by asking a dumb question,” Jeongguk says, hand smoothing up the side of Taehyung’s face, pushing his hair back and running his fingers through it, getting stuck on another knot.

 

Taehyung frowns. Very convincingly. “Hey. Talking about how sexy you are is never dumb. Take that back. You’re insulting my half boyfriend.”

 

And, shit, the shruddery feeling is going to kill him at this point. He’s pretty sure his eyes are as syrupy as Taehyung’s now. “Half boyfriend?”

 

“Yeah well. Half,” Taehyung breathes out, touches Jeongguk’s cheek, and his voice is so smooth Jeongguk kind of wouldn’t mind losing all of his time in it. “I’m pretty sure he’s liked me since we were twelve but he still hasn’t said anything. Need that verbal consent before I seal the deal.”

 

“Seal the deal?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“And you’ll do that how?”

 

“It’ll involve my mouth.”

 

“Hmmmm.”

 

“And his mouth.”

 

“Mhmmmm.”

 

“Our tongues probably.”

 

“Oh definitely.”

 

Taehyung is smiling now and that’s okay. So is Jeongguk. “A little over the clothes action. Under the clothes if I’m lucky. But it won’t matter either way. I mean. It will. But not right now.”

 

“No?” He asks, tugging a little on Taehyung’s hair, kind of wishes Taehyung would shut up already and do something else with his mouth.

 

“No. See the thing is I love him and I’m pretty sure he loves me too so I know we’ll get to the pants thing eventually.”

 

Jeongguk’s hand goes slack, mouth too, and he’s really glad Taehyung hasn’t stopped talking.

 

Taehyung’s eyes go wide again and on second thought there’s no way he didn’t chug half a liter of Monster today. Jeongguk can’t wait for him be done with his dumb fluid mechanics class. “Shit. Was that not how you wanted to hear it? Too much? Too fast? Shit.”

 

“How I wanted to hear it?” he asks, unsure, fingers smoothing through Taehyung’s hair.

 

Taehyung shrugs, tugs on Jeongguk’s earlobe gently, a comforting gesture. For both of them. “I mean like all romantic and stuff. Like a movie. The way people tell each other in movies that they love each other. Because you love movies. And I love you. So-” Taehyung swallows, throat bobbing and Jeongguk wants to kiss him a dumb amount. “But I guess I missed the mark. By a wide margin. Huge margin going by your face. Like enough to get me to fail statistics. Did I tell you that I’m probably failing statistics, by the way? Why am I taking statistics, again?”

 

Jeongguk tries to thinks though it’s a little hard to focus on anything that isn’t Taehyung. “Um. Methods of probability when you do your research work? Also it’s a requirement for the advanced cosmology course you’ve had a hard on for since you got accepted?”

 

“That’s actually part of why. Shit, I love you. Shit. Sorry I keep saying it. It’s just. I’ve just been saying it for a long time in a lot of different ways. So many different ways. But especially this one. Even before I knew how I meant it and I just. I love you.” Taehyung winces, face scrunching up so cutely Jeongguk is having a hard time not kissing his face off. And fuck ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. He’s going to set this to ‘La La Love You’, Taehyung’s dreamy eyes and sharp jaw in the bedroom light, lots of Godard inspired jump cuts, and Taehyung is just going to have to deal. “Shit, please shut me up before I say it again.”

 

A laugh bubbles up Jeongguk’s mouth. He swallows it and decides to kiss Taehyung’s face off the way he wants to, pulls him forward until their noses brush.

 

“Wait, fuck. Pizza breath,” Taehyung mumbles into his mouth, lips smushed.

 

And Jeongguk coaxes his mouth to press against his, hands in his hair, mutters kind of stupidly breathy, “Don’t care,” which is sort of a lie but he wants to kiss Taehyung more than he wants to care.

 

So he catches the stunned grunt Taehyung pushes into his mouth when their lips touch for real, and it is a little gross but so is Taehyung and Jeongguk loves him even if he hasn’t said it yet the way he means to, knowing the way he means to, so he’s going to kiss Taehyung, pizza breath and all.

Catches the stuttered, “Oh fuck,” Taehyung lets out before he melts into it, melts into Jeongguk’s mouth. Makes Jeongguk melt into it with a sigh too. And Taehyung’s lips are soft and his hands hold himself above Jeongguk until Jeongguk tugs him down. He groans softly when Taehyung’s weight pushes him further into the bed, his hot hands skirting up Jeongguk waist in a way that makes Jeongguk kiss him harder and, fuck, he can’t even think about breathing or time waiting or wasted, only Taehyung’s tongue against his and Taehyung’s teeth pulling on his lower lip in a sweet tease and Taehyung’s thighs between his and Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung. All he can think about is the slick heat of Taehyung’s mouth and the tangle of his hair between Jeongguk fingers.

 

“Mm, fuck.” Taehyung pulls away for a second, comes back to drop another kiss on Jeongguk’s mouth, sloppy and half on his chin like he can’t help it. Jeongguk’s fingers tighten in his hair, legs sliding with Taehyung’s in response, that heat in his belly suffocating. “Fuck. Both really glad and really mad I didn’t do that when we were thirteen like I’d originally planned.”

 

Jeongguk laughs, shocked and disbelieving, because was Taehyung waiting for that much time, those many seconds? He leans up, leaves a little kiss on Taehyung’s jaw. “Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung kisses him again, messily on his mouth, trails across his cheek close to his ear, gets him good on his neck, where it makes Jeongguk sigh, high and happily. “The pizza breath was a misstep but, a) you caught me off guard with your sexy rainforest body mist ways, which you’re not even wearing right now, which, what’s up with that, lame-”

 

“Taehyung.”

 

“-and b) thirteen year old me had booger breath probably so, man you dodged a bullet-”

 

“Taehyung.”

 

“Yes, babe? Is it too early for babe?”

 

Holding back a laugh, Jeongguk wrinkles his nose because he really doesn’t know how he feels about Taehyung calling him what he’s always thought of as gross couple names. He has Taehyung saved as buttface in his phone. Calling him babe sounds strange, doesn’t fit in his mouth yet.

His face probably isn’t as cute as Taehyung’s when he scrunches it though the kiss Taehyung places on his nose begs to differ. “I... don’t have an opinion on that right now. Wait. You were still eating boogers when you were thirteen? Taehyung, I don’t know how you felt about it and I’m sorry, but we’re not allowed to have children.”

 

Taehyung laughs, all the nervousness out of his eyes. “So babe might be off the table and I love you is too intense, but kid talk is a-okay? Kid talk we don’t have the proper equipment for.”

 

Jeongguk shrugs, runs his feet along Taehyung’s calves. He likes the feeling of their bodies together, heart calming at how easily they fit together, how easily it fits in his mind. “You were hitting all the big bases so I thought I should too. And we have half of the equipment so my sperm will have the babies. Your sperm will stay inside you. Or inside me. Whatever.”

 

Taehyung makes a sound like he’s being tortured, hiding his face in Jeongguk’s neck, lips moving against his skin as he talks. Jeongguk’s legs tighten around him on instinct, feeling like he’s about to melt right into his bed. “Fuck. Don’t talk about anything of mine being inside of you after I kiss you for the first time. I’m trying to fulfill thirteen year old me’s dream and you’re making it hard to keep it pg-13. And I don’t know if booger eating is a biological trait or a product of the environment.”

 

This time Jeongguk does laugh. He ducks and presses a kiss to Taehyung’s lips, close mouthed and sweet, the kind of thing thirteen year old’s dreams are made of. Taehyung’s features go lax, his face held in Jeongguk palms and Jeongguk kisses him again just because he can, just because he can’t not.

 

“A?”

 

Taehyung grins. “Yes, babe?”

 

“Your computer had viruses since we were eleven. And b?”

 

“Yes, babe?”

 

“I love you,” Jeongguk says and it leaves his mouth like he’s been saying it forever. Because he has. Ever since he was seven and Taehyung pressed his sticky muddy hands to his, promised he’d figure out a way to make them last forever. To make time not matter. “I have for a long time in a lot of ways but always this one. And I wanted what Mingyu was saying to be true.”

 

And Taehyung is already smiling into his mouth, says, “Yes, babe,” in the space between their breaths before he kisses him again, sweet and flying right by gross and into filthy, making Jeongguk pull him closer against him, heat burning and-

 

“Close the door next time, assholes!”

 

Mingyu stands at Jeongguk’s door, murderous expression on his face dampened by the spoon hanging out of his mouth. He grabs the doorknob and starts pulling. “Had to listen to your whole gross love confession.”

 

Jeongguk feels only a little bad, the tiniest bit embarrassed. His hair is probably as messy as Taehyung’s, cheeks as red as his neck. He wants to find the energy to muster up more of both if it weren’t for the way Taehyung’s hands are touching him, big and warm on Jeongguk’s hip under his t-shirt, the other curled around the nape of Jeongguk’s nape, sending a hot little thrum down his body, and yep, he’s definitely getting some under the clothes action. Just as soon as Mingyu closes the door.

 

Taehyung feels none of these things, frowning at Mingyu and flicking his chin in a ‘get on with it already’ gesture. Maybe he’s only patient with Jeongguk about some things. “Why’d you wait so long to close the door then?”

 

“Fuck you! Not your doorman.”

 

The door slams. There’s a pause. Mingyu’s head thuds against wood.

 

“Congratulations, dickhead. You too, Jeongguk. I guess.”

 

Then the sound of Mingyu’s footfalls. Another door slamming. Softer this time.

 

Taehyung turns to him and they both burst into laughter, Jeongguk’s chin colliding with Taehyung’s forehead when their bodies shift, clumsy and too unused to being like this, and then Taehyung is really laughing, falling over sideways on the bed.

 

“Now you really owe him Namjoon’s number,” Jeongguk says when he gets his breath back. He knocked over most of his pillow and the other soju bottles in the tussle, phone face down on the floor. He can’t muster the energy to care about that either.

 

“Fuck,” Taehyung says. He rubs at Jeongguk’s chin carefully, his head on the one pillow that survived the attack, legs still tangled. “Guess Snaggletooth deserves it after all this. Fuck,” he says again, no longer rubbing Jeongguk’s chin just holding his face, just because he can, just because maybe he can’t not. “We really are that stupid, huh?”

 

Jeongguk shrugs. He ducks half his face into the mattress because looking at Taehyung head on is a little much right now, Taehyung’s eyes doing that honey syrupy thing Jeongguk has never been able to decipher until a couple hundred seconds ago. Didn’t want to decipher it in case he was wrong, in case Taehyung decided not to figure out the time thing after all.

 

“Is that why you were being emo actually sad boy? ‘Cause I gotta say, that t-shirt isn’t really selling your image right now. They’re fake sad, you know.”

 

“Maybe,” Jungkook half admits because there’s no point in denying it. Not when he knows Taehyung has been waiting, counting down the seconds as patiently as he could since he thought about kissing Jeongguk for the first time when Jeongguk was thirteen and too gross to be wanted to be kissed by anyone except Taehyung in his own thirteen year old grossness.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Why?” Jeongguk asks quietly, turning on his side fully and letting Taehyung see his face because there’s no point in hiding. There never was.

 

Taehyung touches Jeongguk’s lower lip, the mole on his chin. “Because it took me so long to stop being stupid. Because it happened because of your stupid roommate. Because it didn’t happen like in some movie you love so much it makes you stupid cry.”

 

With a sigh, Jeongguk mumbles against Taehyung’s hand, “We would’ve stopped being stupid eventually. And this kind of is like a movie. A stupid one. A really really stupid one.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t try to hide his face. Looks at Jeongguk the way he did in that diner, under the blue neons, and he’s going to be in every film Jeongguk ever makes, even if his face will never grace a silver screen, stuck in a lab all day and shooting lasers at stars and trying to capture time and bend it to his will. “Yeah but you deserve a not stupid movie. You deserve epic love quests and fairy tales and all that shit you love. You deserve us waking up in each other’s bodies one morning and a bell only we can hear and you feeling everything I feel when I look at you. Drawing a dick on my face just to spite me. Trying to erase my memory before you remember how much I love you and if you tried to forget me you’d be forgetting yourself too. That’s what happens when you fall in love with the first person you eat mud with.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t want to think about what his face is or isn’t doing, can feel the softness melting it to fucking goo. “I don’t think that’s how body swapping works,” because anything else feels inadequate, doesn’t feel enough, won’t even be enough.

 

“How’d you know?” Taehyung asks, mouth quirking and fuck his smug face and fuck calculus or whatever it is figures out the theory of time travel. “It’s why I’ve been trying to solve the time space continuum. Just so I could tell you I love you the way you deserve.”

 

And it’s so sweet and nice and so fucking cheesy Mingyu will dry heave when Jeongguk tells him about it later while Jeongguk tries to suppress the dumbest smile in the existence of ever, but all he wants now is Taehyung and Taehyung’s mouth and Taehyung’s hands and just Taehyung.

 

He inches across the bed so their bodies line up everywhere, both their heads on the pillow, the distance between their mouths nothing but stupid.

 

“Kind of think I just deserve you,” he says, spells it out close to Taehyung’s mouth.

 

Taehyung grins and he only waits for nothing of a second, long enough to say, “Can’t believe I’m in love with such a cheeseball.”

 

Which is ridiculous coming from him but Jeongguk will take it, and he realizes he can breathe more than fine as he makes the distance vanish, and he kisses Taehyung stupid, kisses them both dumb.